WWE Superstar and former color commentator Alex Riley recently returned to in-ring action during last week’s January 27 edition of NXT. Riley underwent knee surgery in May 2015 which kept him on the sidelines for approximately 9 months.
Riley’s career has been in a state of flux ever since the tail-end of 2011. He feuded with his former mentor The Miz and had a brief run competing for the United States Championship against the likes of Dolph Ziggler, John Morrison and Jack Swagger. Things went downhill for Riley after that as he suffered an injury and upon returning, pretty much lived on WWE’s second-tier shows like Superstars and Main Event. He also tried his hand at commentating for a while before eventually returning to the ring, only to suffer his aforementioned knee injury that kept him out of action until last week.
In a recent interview with WWE.com, Riley talks about what it feels like to be back in the ring again, dealing with all the adversity he’s faced in his WWE career thus far, and adopting a new attitude with the company going forward. The following are excerpts from that interview.
Last week, you finally returned to NXT after being sidelined for several months. How happy are you to be back in the ring?
“It is like being able to breathe again. Not being able to work is suffocating for me. I have another business I run, outside of WWE, but nothing replaces being in the 20-by-20. I tried to keep myself busy by staying in shape and building some other venture of mine, but the world outside WWE is so slow to me now. I felt the same way when I was done with football. I felt like everyone and everything was moving in slow motion, and I hated it. My senses began to dull and I became numb. I have always felt more alive in the line of fire with my back against the wall, and that is what I wake up to every day in WWE. I love it.”
Do you ever regret leaving your announcing career, given the setbacks that you’ve experienced since returning to the ring?
“Never. I am a wrestler. That’s what I came here to be, and that’s what I will leave as. I had plenty of very high-paying jobs thrown at me out of college, some in the field of broadcasting, and I left all of them. I took a $150,000-a-year pay cut, packed up my Jeep and, with no experience, headed south to become a wrestler. I challenge you to find one man on the roster that had earned himself a nearly $200,000-a-year job at 26 years old selling medical devices, who would leave all the money and security for the rest of his life to roll the dice in WWE. I don’t think one exists in the locker room. I have had my passion, my work ethic, and my love for this business questioned in the past and it infuriated me. I am not one to usually brag or boast, but that is the honest story of what Kevin Kiley gave up for just a chance to maybe one day be Alex Riley. As challenging as it has been for me to carve out a career here, I have no regrets.”
Has part of that infuriation contributed to the latest incarnation of Alex Riley that we’ve seen on NXT?
“What you see now wasn’t a choice. I was made this way by a lot of different factors, frustration being No. 1. That, plus being put in a situation where my survival instincts alone took over. If you have a canine and you love him, feed him and don’t ignore him, he will grow to be a sweet, loving, happy dog. Well, in my case, I was not being fed and I had been locked into what has been referred to as a cage and ignored for too long. I was poked and prodded. I need to eat, I need to drink and I need respect to survive. I will not live without these things, I learned over that time. I haven’t had, and still do not have, the respect from this business that I need to survive as a man. But I will get it or die trying. I believe a man has to be good at his job before he can enjoy the rest of his life. This is my job, and it is what I do. It’s now who I am, and the mark I leave here will define my life’s work.”
You’ve been on record saying that you “make no apologies from this point forward.” What does that mean?
“The ‘no apologies’ thing came from the fact that I have always been considered a nice guy and prided myself on that. I have always apologized when I thought I wasn’t being such. There is no room for that in my world as it stands now. I always say that for eight years, I was both Kevin Kiley and Alex Riley while I was in WWE. It became very obvious to me along the way that they couldn’t coexist in this world. Either Alex Riley would survive and take his rightful place in the company, or Kevin Kiley would be back in a suit and tie, selling medical devices.
“Right or wrong, for better or worse, Kevin Kiley is now dead and gone. The man that stands here today will never apologize for what circumstances and a basic need to survive have made him. This is not a game of laser tag or dodgeball. The world I live in is a game of life and death, and I won’t apologize for treating it that way. If you were left out in the cold for as long as I had been, and had to take someone’s comforter, food, or even their home to survive, you wouldn’t apologize either.”
Riley went on to talk about how his health-conscious girlfriend and trainer helped him remain in terrific shape, his feud with Kevin Owens and the moment he knew he injured his knee. You can read this interview in it’s entirety right here.
Mark’s reaction: SAY IT TO MY FACE!!! I’m sorry. It’s kind of become mandatory to type in any conversation involving A-Ry. I enjoyed Alex Riley during his initial run on NXT (when it was a competition show), as The Miz’s lackey and his split up feud The Miz.
Of course, the story goes that A-Ry’s push came to a big halt thanks to John Cena. Apparently the two had major heat between one another with Cena treating Riley in a way that was uncalled for all the time, for no-apparent reason. Former WWE wrestler Tyler Reks even talked about the heat between the two during a Reddit AMA he conducted in December 2015. He mentions a couple instances where Cena, as Reks says, seemed like he was looking for reasons for the WWE to fire Riley. Reks had some pretty interesting comments and information about Cena and Riley’s heat. If you’d like to check it out, you can do so by clicking here.
It’s nice to see Riley back in action and to read that he’s so passionate and driven toward achieving success in WWE. I found the interview interesting as it sort of gave me a new perspective on Riley and how much he cares about succeeding as a wrestler. I thought his backstage promo during last week’s NXT was very good. It felt real and that kind of emotion and attitude people can understand and get behind, even if he’s becoming a heel.
Were you excited to see Alex Riley competing again on NXT last week? Do you think he has potential to be one of the top stars on a talented NXT roster? Leave any of your thoughts in the comment section below.
Picture used above is courtesy of WWE.com.