March 7, 2008
Machineguns motoring in TNA
By JASON CLEVETT - SLAM! Wrestling
Tag team wrestling is not dead, as shown by the Detroit's Motor City Machineguns Alex Shelley and Chris Sabin. The duo have become extremely popular in TNA, to the point that they were voted TNA tag team of the year in 2007.
"I was a little bit surprised, especially considering we weren't assembled as a tag team in TNA until halfway through the year, and even then we weren't featured as much as some of the other tag teams. I think it is a true testament to the fact that a lot TNA fans want to see wrestling and we present a style of wrestling that they are into," Shelley explained on a conference call. "I also think that we have the advantage of being younger than almost any other wrestlers on the roster. I think a lot of fans can relate to our sense of humour, our style and characters because we are the same age and appeal to that demographic. At the end of the day I hope we get a lot more tag team awards much like that one."
The teaming seemed like a natural fit from the beginning, with both men being from Detroit and trained at Scott D'Amore's Can-Am Wrestling School.
"Everything came together and seemed to work so well with us, which is what I was hoping for. We clicked so well as a tag team," said Sabin.
The Machineguns took part in the conference call to promote Sunday's Destination X pay per view from Norfolk, Virginia. When comparisons were made to the team to The Midnight Express, both men chuckled.
"It is pretty funny you said that as Jim Cornette has been coaching us. A couple of months ago he gave us this massive stack of Midnight Express matches on DVD and told us to watch them over Christmas break, which we did. We have been picking apart a lot of their matches, and have been influenced them quite a bit, more so than any other tag team as of late," said Shelley.
"We admire tag teams that are true teams -- they use their tag team partners as weapons. We appreciate tag team wrestling where you are always involving your partner," added Sabin.
Both wrestlers took a different path to their current team. Sabin is a four-time X-division champion while Shelley established his name in Ring of Honor, and had a brief run in TNA with Goldylocks as "The Baby Bear." SLAM! Wrestling asked Shelley about his return to TNA after initially asking for his release from the company in 2004.
"At the time I had completed a tryout with WWE and could have pursued things there. I was also wrestling full time in Japan. I wanted to come back to TNA so I would have something to do while I was at home. I figured between wrestling for Ring of Honor, TNA and Japan I could make some pretty good money, and I did for six to eight months before I signed my last TNA contract. Really at the time they had some great competitors, and Scott D'Amore was on the booking team -- he is one of my trainers and I trust him completely. The company on a whole just seemed like it was on an upswing having just finalized the deal with SpikeTV. I am really glad I came back because I have been able to learn from a lot of people and have some really great matches since my return."
"I definitely think we got a great rub from wrestling Team 3D as many times as we have, and I think Jay Lethal got a great rub as well. He looked like a million bucks and was a star in the blow-off match, and rightfully so, he is a tremendous talent and should be pushed to the moon," said Shelley.
The side effect of the feud however is that the X-division and its championship has become less important to the company then it did in TNA's formative years, a statement Shelley agrees with.
"Hopefully one day it does return to that. I think the X-division does have a lot to offer and is different than what any other company has. There is so much on TNA's plate right now with the Women's division and tag team division. I think a lot of the characters have transcended the X-Division almost. I think a good option would be to do like what New Japan did and have a U30 belt for wrestlers under 30. Or a TV title. There are so many young, talented wrestlers in TNA that aren't necessarily X-Division wrestlers and the title is almost obsolete to those wrestlers. I wouldn't mind a resurgence in the division either. There are a lot of great wrestlers like Jimmy Rave or ourselves, Homicide, people like that that are very talented and haven't had the opportunity to show that on TV."
Many fans point to Kevin Nash's involvement with the X-division as part of its burial. Nash's angle included Sabin and Shelley prior to their forming a team, and both men spoke positively of the experience.
"It was definitely beneficial inside and outside of the ring. Nash is such a cool guy and he always had really good advice. You have to learn from his experiences because he has been everywhere and done everything. He has a great sense of humour and is a great guy. There is a lot to learn from him," said Sabin.
"It was 100% positive and it definitely helped me a lot being put with him. I will always be grateful for TNA putting me with him. I learned a lot from him as far as how to work in the ring, cut promos and present myself. I really value all of the lessons I got to learn from him. It was cool that TNA did put him with a lot of younger guys because we all got to learn from him and that is what wrestling is all about," added Shelley. "It was a matter of Kevin elevating us to his level. If you notice in those promos Kevin treated us as equals, he didn't demean or talk down to us. I think us all being from Detroit, and that worked in our favour."
As most criticism of the product comes from the internet fanbase, as well as many comments about the Machineguns backstage behavior, the question came up about the internet and wrestling.
"I don't think it really has that much of an influence. If wrestling catered to just the internet wrestling fans it would be a lot different. TNA is more concerned about the larger population as a whole than just the internet fans," said Sabin.
Shelley added his own thoughts: "I do think internet fans have a place in wrestling, they're fans after all. They do spend money on the product. But you can't cater to just one audience, you have to make something for everything. As for what is written about us, I can't tell you what it is because I don't know. People are probably given information that aren't in the know. There are a lot of very upset, jealous people out there who are angry with themselves. Don't believe everything you read."
In addition to pay per view and TV events, TNA has been promoting house shows since late last year. It's another step in the growth of the brand, and an opportunity Shelley and Sabin relish.
"As of late some of my favorite matches have been on TNA house shows. You have complete wrestling freedom, the fans are fantastic to perform in front of, and they are a lot of fun and make you better. Those matches allow you to really think and try different things and I really enjoy that," said Shelley.
"The wrestling part is cooler because the matches are a lot longer. That would be great on TV, but you have to have storylines to make the matches mean something. I also really like the intimate settings of house shows, lately TNA has been running a lot of concert venues. It has an intimate look and a really cool feel and vibe. Even if we ran a TV taping at a house show venue would be cool," believed Sabin.
Sabin and Shelley will return to Ring of Honor April 18th in Detroit and 19th in Chicago Ridge. They are set to face The Briscoes in Chicago Ridge in a rematch from 2007, a match both men called one of their favourites.
"I am very excited about going to Ring of Honor. The Briscoes were one of our greatest opponents and I am looking forward to locking horns with them again and getting a win over them. ROH is a different atmosphere than we are used to at this point, with a different crowd. It is fun to challenge yourself and wrestle in front of different crowds and try and win them over," said Shelley.
Saturday March 8th will see the Machineguns on TV in a different light -- reality TV. They are featured on an episode of MTV's Made, a show that follows teens who wish to be made into something. The teens are joined by an expert in their chosen field, who try to help them attain their goals over the course of several weeks. Made documents the process the teens undergo as they try to achieve their goal. Saturday's episode is about Chris Hendricks, an openly gay Michigan High School student who is tired of being stereotyped as a weak guy. He decides he wants to be a pro wrestler, and that is where the Machineguns come in.
"The experience was pretty hectic, the schedule is brutal -- we had five days off in January between wrestling and the taping of the show. There were a lot of early mornings. Reality TV isn't as much of a reality as one would think," remembered Sabin.
Will Sabin and Shelley get a shot at the TNA tag team championship? Time will tell, but with their current momentum and loyal fanbase, you can bet the Machineguns will continue to blast their way through TNA.
Jason Clevett is from Calgary and has been a fan of Sabin and Shelley since 2004.