Alex Shelley Becomes IMPACT World Champion

By Michael Weaver Jr. [E-Mail | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter]

Alex Shelley makes his way to the ring for the biggest match of his life.
Alex Shelley makes his way to the ring for the biggest match of his life.

Wrestling history was made this past Friday at the Ohio Expo Center in Columbus, Ohio when both members of The Motor City Machine Guns captured gold at IMPACT! Wrestling Against All Odds!  This would be the first time that both Chris Sabin would challenge for the IMPACT! X-Division Championship and then Alex Shelley would challenge for the IMPACT! World Championship on the same night.

“There’s absolutely no doubt that tonight is one of the most important nights in the careers of Chris Sabin and Alex Shelley,” Sabin told backstage interviewer Gia Miller before his match with IMPACT X-Division Champion Trey Miguel.

Last month at Under Siege Miguel, rolled Sabin up for the three count after spraying spray paint in his eyes to retain the IMPACT X-Division Championship.  And it appeared as if Against All Odds would be a repeat of Under Siege as Miguel would once again sprayed Sabin in the eyes with spray paint behind the referee’s back.  But this time would be different as Sabin kicked out of the champion’s pin attempt.  Sabin would then retreat to the outside where he would rinse his eyes out.  After nailing the champion with the Cradle Shock, Sabin pinned him to win the IMPACT! X-Division Championship for the historical ninth time.

One championship was now firmly in the camp of The Motor City Machine Guns and it was up to Shelley to bring the other championship home.

IMPACT World Champion Steve Maclin raises the IMPACT World Championship.
IMPACT World Champion Steve Maclin raises the IMPACT World Championship.

Before Against All Odds occurred, Shelley was interviewed by Tom Hannifan on Outside The Ropes and he was poised this question, “You win the 6-Way Match at Under Siege.  Now you’ve got another shot at the IMPACT World Championship in a little bit less than a year’s time.  And let’s not forget what happened at Emergence last year.  That was your first EVER shot at the IMPACT World Title.  How does it feel now that it’s come back around?”

Shelley replied with the following, “Uh, totally different.  Right?  Because the champion’s not the same.  The circumstances aren’t the same.  My life’s not the same and I’m not the same person.  So I felt ready then, to be totally honest with you.  I just got beat by the best.  Josh Alexander was the best.  He’s not the champion anymore.  Steve Maclin is.  But I have a grievance with that.  I truly, truly believe that I’m the top wrestler in the world right now and I’m gonna prove that.”

I’m not going to lie.  I have been a big fan of both Chris Sabin and Alex Shelley since I first saw them compete in Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA Wrestling).  I saw Sabin wrestle, for the first time, when he debuted for the company in April 2003.  Then I saw Shelley wrestle for the first time after he had returned to TNA for a second time in June 2005.  I didn’t watch Ring of Honor (ROH) back then, so I didn’t know a lot about either athlete or their achievements.  However; from the first time I saw both men compete – there was just something about both of them – I became a fan.  No scratch that.  I didn’t become a fan, I became an admirer of their craft.  Their performances inside the ring captivated me and kept me in awe.

It reminded me of when I saw WWE Hall of Famers: “The HeartBreak Kid” Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker perform for the first time.  When I saw HBK for the first time as 1/2 of The Rockers (with Marty Jannetty) on WWF Superstars of Wrestling in 1988, I just knew he would be a big star.  The same thing with The Undertaker.  I remember telling my Dad after seeing The Undertaker debut at the WWF 1990 Survivor Series that while I had no idea who this person was or anything about him, I just knew he was gonna be special.  Both men proved me to be correct as have Sabin and Shelley.  In fact, Shelley has held over 25 championships in his career including the IMPACT World Tag Team Championship and the IMPACT X-Division Championship.

But my admiration for Shelley isn’t just for what he does inside the squared circle.  After noticing that there weren’t any athletic trainers helping and stretching wrestlers in the backstage area in TNA like NJPW had, Shelley decided to go to college to become a physical therapy clinician.  This decision affected his wrestling career.  Back in July 2016, he signed a two-year contract with ROH.  He knew he would eventually be on clinical rotation for almost a year and he explained that to ROH management when he signed the contract.  So he knew when he signed his contract that due to his desire to become a physical therapist, he would have to step aside and temporary leave professional wrestling.  But he was willing to sacrifice his love for wrestling so he could eventually be able to help his friends who suffered from pain.  As someone who suffers from chronic pain, I can appreciate him putting his wrestling goals aside so he can help his friends who deal with pain.

During Shelley’s appearance on Outside The Ropes, he was asked the following by Hannifan, “What was astonishing to all of us at Emergence was that you never got a shot at the IMPACT World Title in all your years at IMPACT! Wrestling.  I think back to your early days, you’re often called an IMPACT! original.  I remember The Shelley Cam.  I remember Paparazzi Productions.  I remember the Motor City Machine Guns forming, lighting things up, revolutionizing tag team wrestling.  Looking back on those early years do you feel like you were ready for a world title opportunity?  Or did it take this much time for Alex Shelley to be ready for that?”

Maclin leapfrogs Shelley at Against All Odds.
Maclin leapfrogs Shelley at Against All Odds.

“I think being naive is a strength in certain instances and when you’re in your early 20s you don’t think about anything further down the line.  When I was in Paparazzi Productions, I was too focused on winning The PCS (Paparazzi Championship Series) and learning from my big buddy Kevin Nash.  When we first started the Machine Guns, it was a struggle because nobody wanted us to team – not even in this company.  We had to fight for every inch.  Going forward I had chances at the X-Division Title, and I did my best, and I secured that once.  And then life took over.  Right?  And I go to these different companies.  I go to CMLL (Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre) and I go to New Japan (NJPW) and I wrestle in Europe against legends like Robbie Brookside.  And I go back to college, go back to university, because I want to try all these different things in life.  And it took me a long time, if I’m being honest, to realize that I probably wasn’t a specialist – I was a jack of all trades.  And that’s something that’s hard to digest when you look at your peers and they focus on one thing, one goal, and they just never let that go.  Right?  They just kept their head down.  They burrow towards it and they got it.  Whereas with me, um…this plan’s not working therefore I’m going to try something else – not gonna complain about it – but I’m gonna deviate from the course.  This is the first time, professionally speaking, that I truly feel like everything’s lined up.  Everything is where it needs to be and I’m who I am and that person is a world champion and I can prove it.”

It was now the day for Shelley to back those words up with actions.  Speaking of actions, this is what Shelley told Miller when she interviewed him before his partner captured the X-Division Championship, “For 20 years I’ve been doing my talking with actions and every single moment in those two decades has led to tonight.  I’m walking out with that world championship!”

Before the IMPACT World Championship Match, Miller caught up with the IMPACT World Champion Steve Maclin to get his thoughts on the up coming match and here’s what he had to say, “I’ve made that clear since day one when I stepped foot in this place, that I have a strategy and I have a plan and I stick to it.  And that is why I am IMPACT World Champion.”

Shelley works on the neck and back of Maclin.
Shelley works on the neck and back of Maclin.

It was now time for the biggest match in Alex Shelley’s career.  The backstage interviews with the champion and the challenger had been conducted.  “Superstar” Chris Sabin had competed for and successfully obtained the IMPACT X-Division Championship.  The hype video for the championship match had aired.  There was nothing else left to happen except for two gladiators to step foot inside the squared circle.  One had the goal of walking out of the Ohio Expo Center with the championship he walked in with.  The other with the goal of becoming IMPACT World Champion for the very first time.

First the IMPACT World Championship Tale of the Tape was shown to the TV audience.  The current IMPACT World Champion Steve Maclin is listed at 6’1 and weighs 230 pounds whereas the challenger Alex Shelley is listed at 5’10 and weighs at 215 pounds.  Maclin’s finisher is the K.I.A. and his opponent has the Shellshock and the Border City Stretch.  Maclin’s accolades are that he’s the reigning IMPACT World Champion and has wins over KUSHIDA, Rhino and PCO.  Former X-Division Champion, former three-time IMPACT World Tag Team Champion and former four-time Tag Team Champion in NJPW (New Japan Pro Wrestling) are accolades for Shelley.

It’s now time for the entrances of the competitors.  First the challenger makes his way to the ring.  Then the lights go off and when they come back up the IMPACT World Champion makes his way to the ring.  Ring announcer David Penzer makes the ring introductions for both individuals and tells us Daniel Spencer is the referee.  The referee shows the championship to the fans before the bell rings.  At this point there are fans chanting for both competitors.  Early in the match, Shelley tries to apply the Border City Stretch and the champion immediately rolls to the ropes and then to the floor.  Shelley’s strategy seems to be on the arm of the champion while Maclin’s strategy seems to utilize his power and strength while using the ring and ringside area as weapons.

The champion nails the challenger with an Olympic Slam.
The champion nails the challenger with an Olympic Slam.

After nailing the challenger with a flying elbow drop, Maclin walks over to the commentators and stares at Matthew Rehwoldt and asks if he’s going to get involved and The Drama King tells him to focus on his opponent.  Once in the ring, Shelley continues to work on the arm of Maclin but the champion counters with an Olympic Slam.  The crowd begins to chant for Shelley to motivate him.  The champion and challenger begin to trade blows in the middle of the ring.  The challenger applies the Figure-Four Leg-lock but the champion crawls to the corner, grabs the middle turnbuckle and tugs on it so much that it comes off.  Maclin nails Shelley with The Psycho Knee and a brain buster.  Somehow Shelley kicks out of the pin attempt.  Shelley goes for the Shellshock but Maclin reverses it into the K.I.A. and Shelley puts his leg on the rope to stop the pin!

Moments later Maclin rams Shelly into the exposed turnbuckle before hitting a shoulder block.  After only getting a two count, Maclin puts the challenger in the Tree of Woe.  Maclin walks to the corner across from Shelley and runs towards the challenger but Shelley moves and the champion goes straight into the exposed buckle.  After going back and forth, Shelley drops the champion face first into the exposed turnbuckle.  And after a super-kick and Shellshock, Shelley covers Macklin for the 1…2…3!  The match is over!  And your NNNNNEEEEEWWWWW IMPACT WORLD CHAMPION…ALEX SHELLEY!

After the referee presents the championship to the new champion, Shelley hugs Spencer and kisses his new championship belt.  While Shelley is getting his hand raised, his tag team partner and new IMPACT X-Division Champion, Chris Sabin comes down to the ring to celebrate with the new IMPACT World Champion.

The Motor City Machine Guns - the NNNNNEEEEEWWWWW IMPACT World Champion: Alex Shelley and the NNNNNEEEEEWWWWW IMPACT X-Division Champion: Chris Sabin!
The Motor City Machine Guns – the NNNNNEEEEEWWWWW IMPACT World Champion: Alex Shelley and the NNNNNEEEEEWWWWW IMPACT X-Division Champion: Chris Sabin!

After the match ends, the new IMPACT World Champion Alex Shelley had this to say, “I couldn’t have done that without you.  You people, every one of you, who dropped a single red cent on IMPACT! Wrestling – you’re the lifeblood of this company.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart!  (The fans begin to chant “You deserve it!”.)  No we don’t deserve it, you deserve it.  You deserve our best and that’s what you get!  Every time you buy a ticket to IMPACT! Wrestling!  The best wrestling on the planet by none!  If anybody has a problem with that they can come challenge for this!  OR…they can challenge for that (Motions towards Sabin’s X-Division Championship.)”

Sabin closed with this, “Yes, I’m a record breaking nine time X-Division Champion but this night is special for this man right here because this is his FIRST EVER IMPACT WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP!  And I just want to say, my friend, my brother, I am so proud of you!  Congratulations!  I love you.”

I’ve learned since I fell in love with the world of professional wrestling in 1988 that you don’t always get what you want in a storyline.  The “right” guy doesn’t always get what he “deserves”.  Sometimes you see a guy compete on every show for a company and he has a “million dollar” body, he performs almost “perfectly”, but yet he still doesn’t become “the man”.  For some reason the company just doesn’t see in him what you see when you watch him.

But on Friday, June 9, 2023 in Columbus, Ohio at the Ohio Expo Center I was there when one of the most talented men in professional wrestling finally got what he “deserved”.  I was there when Alex Shelley, after competing off-and-on for IMPACT! Wrestling since 2004, defied the odds and pinned Steve Maclin.  I was there when Alex Shelley proved the critics wrong.  I was there when one man’s dream became a reality.  I was there when Alex Shelley became the IMPACT World Champion!

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