Catching Up with New Ring of Honor Tag Team Champions Alex Shelley and Chris Sabin

Patty McCarthy/Ring of Honor

After more than a decade Alex Shelley and Chris Sabin defeated the Young Bucks to win the Ring of Honor tag team championship at Death Before Dishonor. Despite their previous success, the victory marked a milestone in more ways than one. It was the first time the duo known collectively as the Motor City Machine Guns won the gold.

Working for top promotions around the world, Sabin and Shelley quickly became a popular attraction. Their ability to work in sync helped bring attention and excitement to tag team wrestling. After spending years apart, the Machine Guns reunited in 2016. Since then Sabin and Shelley have more than held their own against emerging teams, many of which utilize a style they helped popularize.

The newly minted champions are part of the upcoming Global Wars Tour that starts October 12. The final show on October 15 has Sabin and Shelley teaming up with Jay White and Jonathan Gresham as Search and Destroy against Bullet Club. Fans can catch the event on Internet Pay-Per-View. Ahead of it, the ROH champs reflected on their storied history and success.

Do you remember the first time you teamed? How did it come about? 

Chris Sabin: The first time we teamed was an idea of Mr. [Yoshiyuki] Nakamura while we were on a tour for Zero1 in Japan.

Alex Shelley: I teamed with him was on a small independent show in Ohio against Jimmy Jacobs. Ironically, that was more circumstantial than anything. We just drove together, and that’s how indies function. As for the first time we teamed as the MCMG, that was in 01MAX in August of 2006. I had challenged for their tag titles twice before, once with Spanky [Brian Kendrick], and once with Sonjay Dutt. The company asked me who I wanted as my partner a third time, and the X-Division was fairly hot at the time, Sabin being the pillar of it for some years by then. We wouldn’t have teamed again I imagine, except we actually won the titles in our first match. So, at that point, the company asked us to take them to Canada and the United States and bring them back to Japan to defend every so often. I believe we took them to Germany as well.

Was there are a particular match that you remember saying, “This is the one where we really clicked.” 

AS: The first one, honestly. It didn’t hurt that we were wrestling Ikuto Hidaka and Minoru Fujita who, at that time, were the super hot Japanese tag team.

CS: I felt like we clicked from the very first time we teamed.

What do you attribute your longevity? 

CS: Probably a number of things, being very adaptable in the ring, working hard, enjoying what we do, and making an effort to stay healthy goes a long way as well.

AS: Honestly, I don’t think about it. My “career” in wrestling, as it were, is pretty different than most of my generational peers. This is neither here nor there, but I attribute that aspect of it to doing things on my own terms and pursuing outside the ring interests pretty heavily since approximately 2008. Let me put it this way: you won’t find too many wrestlers who spent as much time on their education WHILE wrestling as yours truly.

What did it mean for you to win the tag team championship after 10 years with each other? Did you do anything to celebrate? 

AS: I slept. Honestly, sleep is time that’s never wasted. In terms of winning the ROH tag titles, to me, that’s pretty cool. I’ve never won a title in that company, and the Young Bucks are on top with or without titles. And really, Sabin and I had to work our asses off together the past year in terms of finding our groove as a team again and changing gears to keep up with what ROH presents, if I am being transparent. And really, truly, I love ROH and consider myself very lucky to be contracted there in the first place. To achieve a higher position? Just super blessed, really.

CS: It did mean a lot to me. There’s a history that goes back to 2007 between MCMG and ROH, so it’s been a 10-year journey that has paid off.

Marvin Atwell/Ring of Honor

Are we seeing a rebirth of tag team wrestling? Do you feel like the Machine Guns are getting their due for their impact on tag team wrestling today? 

AS: No. There’s no rebirth in ROH because it never died there. That’s a fact, they have always respected that particular area of their company and kept it strong. There’s ebb and flow to the teams that come and go, but it’s not like ROH never put emphasis there. I honestly think that, as a team, we won’t get our due for quite a while. It seems to take people verbally stating influences for them to get recognized, and I certainly don’t expect guys who are currently working to do that because a: they’re working, b: it might not be in the same company, c: they need to focus on themselves as a product, so why mention anyone else, and d: all of the above.

CS: I don’t know if there is a rebirth of tag team wrestling happening. Tag team wrestling has been really good for a number of years now in my opinion, and I hope it’s popularity only continues to grow.

Speaking of tag teams, Alex, you found success with Kushida in the Time Splitters.  What do you make of your partner’s success as a singles star? 

AS: Not surprised. We gelled because we were the same, simply put. Like, I’ve had lots of opportunities I passed on, better or worse. Kushi took them all and ran with them, and timing is everything. They needed a new cornerstone. Why wouldn’t it be the guy who works his ass off, trains, studies, and is willing to do whatever you ask in addition to just being naturally gifted?

Now among the veterans of the locker room, what has it been like to be in the role of mentor for Jonathan Gresham and Jay White? What advice have you instilled in them? 

AS: They’re both really good to begin with. I don’t mentor people. I work WITH them. That’s the issue I loathe about “veterans”. First of all, no one’s better than anyone else. At the end of the day, this is one area of life. So as soon as you assume you’re a mentor, you immediately establish a relationship that’s a high to low gradient. You actually become a mentor when guys ASK for your opinion and help, which is what they did in very different ways years ago for both. At that point, I take a team approach. It becomes philosophical: I tell them what I think, why I think it, and how. They do the same for me. And together, you are able to basically create a new method, or adhere to the one both parties find superior. That’s real wordy, I know, but I hate hearing older wrestlers, or anyone, say “Do it this way, because of this.” If you are being told to teach them a specific skillset, I can understand that, but a mentor (in my opinion) works together with people that want to improve. And I learn from them too! That’s the beauty of it, they make me better!

CS: It’s been fun to watch Gresham and White grow as wrestlers. Both are super talented and have a strong passion for wrestling, and they will only continue to get better, and it will be fun to watch.

You have a big match at Global Wars coming up with these two emerging stars. What can fans expect when you work with them once more against Bullet Club? 

AS: Oh dude, come on. You know that answer. A sweet match.

CS: I think the fans expect an amazing, entertaining match and will get an amazing, entertaining match. The Ring of Honor roster strives to give every fan their money’s worth.

Watch the Ring of Honor Global Wars Tour wrap-up on Internet Pay-Per-View 8/7c on October 15

Ring of Honor television can be seen in syndication through Sinclair Broadcast Group affiliates, online and Sundays, 10/9c, CHARGE! TV.