Ring of Honor fans rejoiced as the Motor City Machine Guns finally reunited at the 14th Anniversary show in February.
Chris Sabin was happy with the positive response he and his longtime partner, Alex Shelley, received in Las Vegas It was a moment the performer will never forget.
“I was a bit nervous and worried how people were going to react,” he said.
“When I finally went out there, it was a bit of a relief actually. Alex and I were talking about this, where fans have come up to us saying they miss the Machine Guns and asking when we were going to get back together. So it seemed like something the fans wanted to see. It turned out pretty well.”
The Detroit duo felt the timing was right to reunite one of the most popular tag teams of the modern era. In 2012, Shelley exited TNA in search of other opportunities and found them in New Japan Pro Wrestling. Forming the Time Splitters with Kushida, they won the IWGP junior heavyweight tag team championship. Sabin had a brief run as TNA heavyweight champion and worked regularly in a number of promotions before returning to ROH.
“We saw tag-team wrestling becoming more popular and that now was a good time to come back to it,” Sabin said.
“The fans hadn’t seen us for a long time. It was something that could be nostalgic, but also fresh because there are a lot of new fans these days. It’s strange, too, because a lot of people that are Motor City Machine Guns fans would go up to us and say they watched us when they were kids. It’s a craziest thing to hear because I kind of think I’m still a kid. I guess, when you think about it, we did start tagging almost 10 years ago — so I guess that could be true. Everything seemed right. We talked about it and it sort of happened.”
The ROH locker room is filled with familiar faces, but also some new young talent. These days, Sabin and Shelley find themselves on the experienced side of the roster.
“When we were really starting out we had teams like the Dudley Boyz and we were the young guys,” Sabin said.
“It kind of turned. Christopher Daniels and Kazarian, then us, we are kind of the veterans of the tag team division. So it’s a reversal of roles, but there is no ego involved. We are not the old-school veterans saying, ‘Hey, kid! Sit down and listen to me.’ We four are more constructive — we are like, ‘Hey, let’s come together and create something with all of our minds.’ We are more open.
“When we started working with the Addiction and the Young Bucks again it was almost as if nothing has changed. It felt like back when we were calling matches in 2010 and 2011.”
For Sabin, the bond between the two was always there, whether they were tagging or not. They respected each other’s respective decision to go their separate ways, and their flashy and coordinated style fits well in today’s business landscape.
“It’s a lot more athletic now than perhaps it has ever been,” Sabin said.
“It’s also a lot more interactive. The internet and social media have changed the game. If you are a wrestling fan now, Twitter has to be an absolute dream. I wish I had Twitter when I was a kid because you can follow and interact with all your favorite wrestlers. Every wrestler seems to have a Twitter.
“The WWE style seems to have finally caught up to the style that has been popular on the independents and other places for 10 years or more. Now they are finally seeing these guys are really stars and put in the work and developed these skills to get themselves over in front of large crowds. A while back I tweeted out that I felt like there is this new golden age of wrestling now. I think wrestling is becoming cool again. I think it will be even more popular in the next couple of years as well.”
Above all else, Sabin remains a fan of wrestling. He is also a fan of many of his friends receiving the opportunity to entertain on the biggest platform.
“I have enjoyed seeing Kevin Owens, AJ Styles, Sami Zayn and Nakamura and all those guys on WWE and NXT,” Sabin said.
“It’s satisfying in a way to see those guys make it after wrestling for so many years. I know the hard work they put into honing their craft, so it’s great they are being rewarded by making some good money and having good exposure. I’m really happy for those guys. I’m happy finally WWE is bringing in these stars, in addition to building stars within their own system.”
Sabin and Shelley have a similar background as many of WWE’s recent signings. One would think a beloved team like The Motor City Machine Guns would be on their radar.
“I’ve never heard anything officially from WWE ever since I started wrestling,” Sabin said. “Honestly, I have never had a tryout with them or an official phone call. Though, while we are freelance and don’t have a contract with any company, right now we are only really working exclusively with Ring of Honor.
“We have a handshake deal and both of us want to be there. Not only did we agree to be there, but both of us want to be there. We think that the Ring of Honor tag team division is the deepest in wrestling. We have the best tag teams. So we want to be where the best are, so we can prove ourselves. It doesn’t matter how long we haven’t been a team. We have this uniqueness and synergy and this tag-team style we helped make popular that is still fresh and new.”
Much of Sabin’s career was spent in TNA as one of the cornerstones of its no limits X Division, up until his run ended in 2013. He thinks about the caliber of names the company had over the years.
“It’s hard to think about the talent roster that TNA had at one time and look at what they went on to doing nowadays,” Sabin said. “If they would have realized the star power and potential that the guys actually had and put their resources and their TV time to getting these certain guys over — the guys who were pretty much over with the fans. I don’t think who the fans wanted to see mattered to TNA. I don’t think 100-percent. I think it influenced it, but it had to do more with what they perceived. It was what they perceived the fans wanted them to see, but not what the fans actually wanted to see.”
With the past behind him, Sabin is proud to be a part of Ring of Honor as it continues to grow and evolve.
“One thing I will say Ring of Honor has going for them is that they are a profitable company,” he said.
“They consistently draw good crowds on the road. We are regularly drawing 1,000 to 1,500 or more houses. That might sound like a small amount, but that’s actually al lot when you think of a wrestling company outside of WWE. To be able to do that in the United States consistently is a pretty big deal. They go everywhere in the Northeast with Philly, New York, Chicago to Florida to Texas to Vegas. They travel all over.
“I think that they have a lot going for them. They have built up this core following since 2002 that they draw really well. So they have this money coming in that they can utilize to help the company. It just seems like once you have such a core following as long as you don’t completely dump on them or make people angry so they don’t want to be there or come to the shows, there is the potential there to expand further. Ring of Honor does a good job giving people what they want and providing those dream matches. It’s a lot more wrestling based. That helps as well.”
After more than 15 years, Sabin’s drive and passion for his profession remains. He is gearing up for ROH”s Conquest Tour which is pulling into San Antonio’s Shrine Auditorium on April 23. The company’s burgeoning partnership with NJPW takes center stage for Global Wars 8 p.m. ET from the Frontier Fieldhouse in Chicago Ridge on pay-per-view.
“Basically my only thing right now is to wrestle as long as I can and save my money,” Sabin said.
“If I’m not wrestling tomorrow, I’ll go back to school and college. Then I’ll get a job and do what I have to do and persevere. Right now I still have goals within wrestling that I’ve had since I was a little kid. Those have always been there. My mindset is to be happy wrestling. I feel very fortunate that I’m able to make a living wrestling at 34 and doing this since I was 18 and [despite] all the injuries I’ve had.
“I still see it as my childhood dream of winning the world heavyweight championship at WrestleMania, of course. That’s everyone’s dream. I don’t take it for granted. I take each day as it comes and strive to be the best wrestler I can be. But don’t take it for granted because it can be taken away at any moment.”
- Watch ROH at Midnight ET Wednesdays on Comet TV or in syndication via Sinclair Broadcasting affiliates. The company also recently announced a new partnership with Fight Network in Canada, which will air ROH 11 p.m. ET Tuesdays beginning April 26.
- Follow me on Twitter @smFISHMAN.