Shane Strickland Talks MLW’s Locker Room Dynamic, Who Inspired Him to Wrestle, Has WWE Contacted Him?, More

Shane Strickland is one of the hottest talents in pro wrestling today, working for top promotions and winning titles all over the United States. However, for “Swerve” there is something special about holding the Major League Wrestling (MLW) heavyweight championship at a point when the company is building its own unique footprint within the industry. He takes pride as a franchise player for the brand and representing them to the best of his abilities.

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Ahead of the MLW Fusion television taping on July 12 from GILT Nightclub in Orlando and Battle Riot on July 19 from the Melrose Ballroom in New York City, here Strickland reflects on his reign thus far and what’s to come. Fans can catch the champ and all the stars of MLW on MLW Fusion 8 p.m. ET Friday nights on beIN Sports. Battle Riot will air as a two-hour special 8 p.m. Friday, July 27 on beIN Sports.

How would you sum up the last few months as the inaugural MLW Champion of this new era for the promotion? Does it feel different compared to any other title you’ve held?

Absolutely. This is probably the most challenging championship I’ve had. The type of competition that has coming at me for this championship has been extremely high for one. The second thing is the pressure of being the champion to a startup company on television. The pressure is high because of that as well because I’m the face of the company. The first performer the audience is going to see is me for the first time when they are watching the product. So, for me to maintain a high level of presentation to the audience and MLW fan base that we are trying to engage. For the new people that are coming into the company, as far as the new performers and guys who have been a part of other television products before. Guys who are the top talents on the independent wrestling scene coming into MLW for the first time. I have to be the standard barrier for that.

It seems there is a nice mix within the locker room too with veterans like Col. Robert Parker and emerging talent and guys like yourself who have been around a bit. What is the dynamic of the locker room like?

The thing about the locker room is the diversity. There are all different ages. The veterans of a Col. Parker. Then there is like a Low Ki, an MVP and a Sami Callihan. Then there is a Jack Swagger (Jake Hager). The variety of different veterans and the guys who are new to the business that are still making names for themselves around the world, it’s incredible.

Over the last few weeks you’ve been linked up to Barrington Hughes, explain the relationship there and how it came about. What is it that brought you guys together onscreen?

The fact we are good friends and a good supporter of mine being champion. He has definitely been one of the bigger supporters for me to coming in and when I won the championship. Us both being African American talents in pro wrestling, we have to support each other more than any other culture has to. Pretty much we weren’t integrated into pro wrestling culture wise. We pretty much came in, in different ways compared to the Latinos or luchadores and other races. The fact we bond together and support each other’s successes. We hang out on the other side of pro wrestling. We have a good bond and friendship goes. He has my back, and I have his.

Were you guys friends before MLW?

We actually met in MLW. I heard a little bit about him before MLW, but definitely became friends in MLW. Court Bauer linked us together.

You touched on the way you came into the business. For those who don’t know, what was it that inspired you to get into pro wrestling? What was the match or wrestler who got you involved?

Rey Mysterio without a doubt. He was one of the first superstars I really gravitated to incidentally. I first started watching wrestling in 2002. It was his debut match on SmackDown against Chavo Guerrero. That day in July is where I truly started watching matches and became addicted. I have watched everything he has done ever since. He is truly the one who inspired me to become a professional wrestling.

How much longer was it until you entered the business?

I didn’t start training until 2008.

When you did start, was it what you expected coming from a military background? What were your trials and tribulations? Was there a point where you wanted to give up and try something different or were you always steadfast with what you were doing?

I was determined like no other. I knew I wanted to pursue this other career as a job. I would definitely say there were times that were difficult, but I never wanted to quit. It wasn’t anything I expected when I first started training. There was a lot of new things I was learning as I started with professional wrestling. I didn’t do much research on the training aspect of it. I did have support from my mother when I moved from Pennsylvania to Richmond, Virginia to start training. It was a whole life transition to get into it. My first child was born at the same time. I started school, decided to get a job, and I was in the military at the same time. All at 19 years old when I first had my first match. Money wasn’t really good at the time. I wasn’t getting paid for wrestling at all for the first two, three years of it. I was determined I wasn’t going to quit.

Are you just wrestling right now? Is this your full-time job?

This is now my full-time career.

That has to be fulfilling for you to see all the hard work pay off the last 10 years or so.

It really is. I’m still looking forward with things I can do and accomplish, but as of now, everything came full circle and all the doubters were silenced. That’s for sure.

There was talk not long ago about MLW talents being approached by WWE to sign them away because of this whole TV deal the company secured. Were you ever approached about a deal with WWE during this period?

No, I wasn’t.

When you hear things like that, it’s got to be good for you because it shows MLW is doing something right, right?

It shows where we are on the ladder. That does mean we are doing something right, especially the fact we are in Orlando with the PC (Performance Center) right down the street from us and all this business going on around us. That shows we’re making noise and rattling some cages.

And you live in Orlando, correct?


So, has life changed a bit at all when you’re going out in public around town where people recognize you? You were known somewhat before this thanks to Lucha Underground and other companies, but the added exposure of MLW and as the champion. Has there been an increase in interactions?

That’s been happening. It is from MLW. We really created something new for the Orlando scene. The fact fans are adapting to it is exactly what we wanted, and it is happening quicker than we expected. They’ve been coming up to us at the mall or the gym or at the stores.

With the landscape of pro wrestling, there are so many options right now. What do you think makes MLW stand out?

The global competition that we have is incredible. You’re getting guys who came from the New Japan Super Juniors and the G1 Climaxes on our roster. These are guys who have come from other television products to MLW. It’s such a diverse roster. We have the level of uniqueness, as far as Mike Parrow. An openly gay performer that is such a presence in the ring and that no other roster has. Barrington Hughes being four hundred plus pounds, as an African American performer nobody else has that kind of talent right now. Then you have Rich Swann, the ACH’s and the two best luchadores in the world of pro wrestling with Pentagon and Fenix. We’re always introducing new talent as well like the Trey Miguel’s, the Koto Brazil’s. Then you have Zeda Zhang who just debuted with Su Yung. The diversity we have is unlike any other roster that you will ever see. It’s very unique, but the competition is very high as well.

You speak of being unique. They have the unique concept of this Battle Riot coming up in New York City. What are your thoughts on that and the company venturing out of Orlando in a matter of months?

It shows you the level of growth and talent we have to be able to do this in a short time span. It speaks volumes for us. To just be able to head over to New York City and within around eight months starting to run events after the One-Shot between me and Ricochet, it’s like nigh and day now. Then when you look at this rumble Riot match, it’s insane when you look at the talent that’s in it. There is Pentagon, John Morrison, Sami Callihan, it’s incredible. That match alone is something to look forward to and for fans to come out to Melrose to check out this event.

Are you jealous you aren’t involved in that match?

I have enough on my plate with a $60,000 bounty on my head with Low Ki in Orlando. Let me get through that, and then we can talk about me being upset about not being in a match like that or not.

And with that match with Low ki coming up on July 12, what are thoughts on working with him? What can fans expect?

I have worked with Low Ki before at the Orlando WrestleCon where we had our first match. So, I know what to expect as far as physicality. There is definitely more pent-up aggression in this match, especially with him jumping me after I pretty much defended my life against Brody King. There is a lot of pent-up aggression and danger because I know what he is gunning for. He is also looking to make a statement in MLW since his suspension a couple months back. He is trying to make an example out of me, which is not going to happen.