Wasted Talent is a look at professional wrestlers and MMA fighters who are having their potential squandered for various reasons. Join us as we bitch and moan about how unfair life is because we don't get to see this people perform as often as we'd like.
Our first subject is one-half of TNA's Motor City Machine Guns, Alex Shelley.
Alex Shelley first gained a degree of exposure in Ring of Honor, as the mouthpiece of the brash faction Generation Next. Shelley, despite being the de facto leader of the group, was overshadowed by his stablemates. Jack Evans was the epitome of flippity-floppity, and the best Ricky Morton of 2004. Austin Aries was the breakout star being groomed for the face turn and ROH title. Roderick Strong delivered like ten million backbreakers per match. Since 2004 ROH audiences placed flashy in-ring performance over all else, the perfectly solid and exemplary wrestling that Shelley displayed was left in the wake of the jaw-dropping theatrics of his teammates. The fact that he was the only person out of the four who could string two dozen words together was met with relative indifference. "Yeah, yeah...but how many backbreaker variations do you know?"
The truth was that Shelley could do far more than string a few words together. He was actively GOOD on the microphone....one of the scant few on the independent circuit at the time who could hold his own. Go back and look at 2004 Alex Shelley. He makes the crowd yell at him angrily. He makes the crowd laugh in spite of themselves. Above all, he carries himself like a big deal. Unfortunately for wrestling fans, they wouldn't learn that he actually is a big deal until much later.
After being kicked out of Generation Next at the tail end of 2004 and suffering through an ill-advised heel turn, Shelley joined forces with Prince Nana's Embassy in mid-2005 and really started getting fans to take notice. "Hey, this guy is a fantastic dickhead." Of course he is.
Shelley started appearing on TNA television more and more around this time, and finally went TNA-exclusive in 2006. In TNA he has achieved varying levels of success. Sometimes kept off TV for long stretches of time, sometimes being stuffed in a turkey suit for no reason, sometimes holding a lower-level title. This is really par for the course of most anyone employed with TNA.
His first big break was as part of "Paparazzi Productions". This started out as Shelley bringing a video camera to the ring to videotape his own matches, and evolved into him being paid to spy on people. This in turn led to a recurring segment featuring some of TNA's up-and-coming stars competing for the affection and guidance of veteran Kevin Nash. I'll go ahead and share the video of the highlights of this angle, because it's easily the greatest thing that TNA has ever done.
TNA Best of Kevin Nash & Paparazzi Productions (via mrcpt316V3)
After the glory of the Paparazzi Championship Series which was too wondrous to last, Shelley joined forced with fellow Detroit native Chris Sabin to form the Motor City (nee Murder City) Machine Guns. The Machine Guns actually ended up being an amazingly cohesive unit, dazzling TNA audiences every time they were given a few minutes to perform in the ring. They are one of TNA's most popular tag teams to date. Despite this, they have been almost entirely absent from television since June. Recently they have been seen in the crowd holding signs that read "Conspiracy Victims" and "Yes, We Still Work Here".
Although Shelley is involved in an extremely popular tag team, you have to believe that he could be capable of so much more. He's still young. In fact, he's two years younger than Bryan Danielson, who just signed with WWE. There's still a lot of room for opportunity in his career. If you were to watch a significant sampling of his matches and promos, however, you may find yourself scratching your head and asking yourself, "Damn, why isn't this guy headlining WrestleMania against John Cena?"
Obvious answers aside (politics, no one creates new stars), it almost seems like something's up. Kevin Nash loves the guy and speaks of him positively quite a bit. However, given Nash's track record of his reputation, perhaps that's not such high praise. Does someone backstage hate the guy? Does he have a huge attitude? Is his dickhead persona so effective because that's just who he IS? I've never heard any rumblings one way or the other to confirm or dispute this speculation. He isn't really that small, especially considering how WWE has skewed recently. In fact, he's the same height as current TNA world champ Kurt Angle. Granted, Shelley hasn't taken nearly as much HGH as Angle, but regardless...
Shelley has all the tools. He obviously takes the time to improve both in the ring and in interviews, so it's clear that his lack of a significant push isn't due to a lack of motivation. He's innovative, and he has an almost painfully marketable look. If CM Punk and the Hardys and D-X have a look that yells "Money," Shelley fairly screams it from the mountaintops. Not bad for someone who looks like you mashed Freddie Prinze, Jr., Arnold Rimmer, and Bruce Campbell together.
The most important aspect of Alex Shelley is that he has the one thing that is invaluable in professional wrestling, and the one thing that can't be taught: charisma. Go see the guy wrestle live. Seek out as many DVDs as you can that feature him. He's going to be one of your new favorite wrestlers if he isn't already.
The one last possibility as to why Shelley isn't as big a star as he should be: maybe he's happy with his place in TNA and content with his role. Maybe he realizes he's got plenty of time to be a bigger star than he is right now. Maybe he's more interested in having a good time playing in his band with Sabin and Petey Williams.
Regardless of the reasons, I hope he ends up in WWE soon. He deserves to be in a big pond, and in front of a larger audience. If the focus of the professional wrestling world weren't tied up in politics and Vince McMahon's notions of what makes a star, you'd be looking at the natural heir to the void The Rock left in 2004.