July 23, 2011
@GaryMehaffy on Twitter
An interview with Cassidy Riley
How did you get interested in wrestling originally?
When I was 8 years old I was at my cousin’s house - he was a little bit older and I always kind of looked up to him – and he had some wrestling magazines. The first one I picked up I just kind of flipped open and there’s a picture of Abdullah the Butcher. As best I can remember he had a fork stuck in his head, or he had a fork stuck in somebody’s head, and he’s covered in blood. You have the 400lb black man who’s maiming somebody with a fork and automatically I was hooked. That night we watched Bill Watts’ Mid-South promotion the eventually turned into the UWF, and if you know anything about that promotion you know it had some of the greatest talent in the world and some of the best storylines ever, so immediately between Bill Apter’s Pro Wresting Illustrated and Bill Watts’ Mid-South Wrestling I became a wrestling junkie.
How did you get into it? Who did you train with?
Actually I started training with a guy who did some real local stuff in Louisiana. He didn’t have a ring, so he wasn’t able to show me a lot and then I moved back home. I’d gone down to do a little training with him, but I moved back home and ran into a guy named Lolly Griffin who was running a little territory in Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas and East Texas and he kinda helped me out a lot. They were having a show here in my home town and I was bar tending. A couple of the guys came into he bar that night and we got to talking. They asked me if I wanted to come down the next day and get in the ring a little bit, so I did and I was hooked. Terry Taylor was one of those guys, Tommy Rogers was one of those guys, Erik Watts was one of those guys and I went down and got in the ring the next day with those three. At the end of the day Terry kind of pulled me aside, him and Tommy Rogers both, and they told me to stick with it. They pulled Lolly aside and told him we really think – there were three of us who went down to train that day – they really that me and one of the other guys might have a chance of doing something. Lolly continued to train us. We used to have to drive 4 hours one way every Sunday just so e could go up and get in the ring. We were so beat up and sore after that, because we would spend literally 6 or 8 hours a week in the ring because that was the only time we got and then we’d have to make the drive back. At that time I was working full time bar tending. I was at the club until 2 o’clock in the morning and then I’d get up at 7 to drive 4 hours on a Sunday, and usually I’d had a few drinks the night before, but the point I want to make is that it wasn’t just handed to me – I had to work to get it. I appreciate it so much more because of that. Nowadays, I think, it’s so easy for guys to become trained, and I don’t wanna say ‘get in the business’ because even though they do small independent shows I don’t really consider….a lot of the guys who are actually calling themselves wrestlers these days on the independents, I don’t consider them real professional athletes. They’re like you’re neighbour – you can walk out your front door (and see them) at 7 o’clock coming out to his paper and they just look ordinary. They (the wrestlers) don’t have any official training; they’ve been trained by some guy who was trained by some other guy who had no business even starting people. It’s hard for me to even classify those guys as professional wrestlers, I just think today it’s really too easy for a lot of people to earn that title.
Taking a little offshoot for a minute – and not to make it sad – but you mentioned Terry Taylor. Obviously it was sad with his wife passing away.
Yea. I’ve known Terry literally my whole career. I’ve always thought a lot of him. We didn’t always…..there were times, I wouldn’t’ say we butted heads, but we had a difference of opinion on certain things. Throughout my career, in TNA, and sometime when he was in WWE when I went to work there too, he helped me out. But as far as knowing this business, he was one of my idols growing up. He was one of the reasons I wanted to get into the wrestling business. I was able to meet his wife Trudy, she was a very sweet lady, and my condolences go out to Terry. I saw him a couple of months ago (when) I went to James Storm’s wedding and he was there. We got to speak for just a few minutes but he was trying to get back home as quick as he could because his wife wasn’t doing well. So, yea, my condolences go out to Terry. He’s a great guy and I’m just praying for him and his family at this time – I feel really sorry for him.
You had a cup of coffee in WCW – how did you find the experience?
Man, it was awesome! I was so young when I was able to do it. At that time in my career I never thought that WCW might (sign) myself, so I was so happy just to be there and doing some of the stuff that I was doing. It was very bottom of the totem pole, low rung stuff, but I was grateful for that because at the same time I had such a wealth of knowledge I was able to learn from. Everybody was always very nice. All the top guys and all the boys in the back were always very nice to me, but I didn’t think that experience (WCW) would end as soon as it did. I really figured, being so young, within the next year or so I would have picked up a deal with them, but unfortunately that wasn’t the case because they ended up selling (to WWE). But it was great, man, it was awesome. To be on the road with that group of guys, to be able to say that I worked there before it was bought out is just an honour.
You worked for TNA on and off for 4 ½ years. You were involved in the tag team scene as well as singles. Which did you prefer – tagging or singles?
I love tag team wrestling. It’s probably one of my favourite things to do. I love singles wrestling too, but I’ve always been a big fan of tag team wrestling and so I always enjoyed that so much. I feel that’s that kind of where my niche is in this business, as a tag team wrestler. I’m barely under 6 foot tall, so I’m not gonna be one of the monsters who can go out there and get a huge push as a singles guy. I know my limits – I know I’ll never be Hulk Hogan! Could I be Intercontinental Champion? Absolutely. But tag team wrestling is where my heart and soul is. It’s a shame, it really irks me, that it’s not given the respect that it deserves. Back in the late 80’s you had The Hart Foundation, The (British) Bulldogs – those guys were selling out arenas! They would main event on the shows that Hogan wasn’t on. Now it’s just kind of thrown to the wayside. So many times you don’t actually see true tag teams anymore, what you really see is two single wrestlers thrown together in the mix just to do whatever angle they need to do. If they don’t have anything else for them they’ll throw two guys in – especially in WWE. I feel like it’s just two singles guys in together. TNA does a little bit of a better job, because it actually has some actual tag teams – Beer Money & The (Motor City) Machine Guns. They focus a little bit more on their tag teams. It’s such a big part of professional wrestling – I just wish that it was given the respect that it truly deserves.
On a personal note, I remember one of the first Pay Per View’s I remember – it was one of the Survivor Series, the year escapes me (1988) where there were 5 tag teams on each side. There were 10 tag teams, and each one had their own individual style, their own outfits, everybody knew who they were, but nowadays it does seem to have gone to the wayside, particularly in WWE.
Absolutely. You know, if you think about it, you probably wouldn’t have a Shawn Michaels if it wasn’t for tag teams, and he’s probably arguably the greatest performer of all time. That’s where he got his niche and that’s where he learned his craft was tag team wrestling, and that’s where he got his break with tag team wrestling. And Bret Hart in The Hart Foundation. That’s arguably two of the best wrestlers in the entire world. Then you go back to guys like Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard - The Brain Busters – and The Rock ‘n Roll Express. They’re some of the best workers in this business, and that’s where they learned & how hey got their breaks in tag team wrestling.
When you were in TNA you were linked for a while with Raven. Did you hope this would lead to a run near the top of the promotion?
I think everybody when we started the storyline had high expectations of something coming out of it, me especially. Raven, at first, he wasn’t really happy about it because the office just kind of put me with him and he didn’t have any say. But we kind of grew to become pretty good friends and I respect him a lot and what he’s done in this business. I think it was actually done to kind of give me a push, but a lot of things happened about that same time. If you know, Raven was the World Heavyweight Champion in TNA – he ended up losing the belt at a house show and never got a rematch. He was very vocal about not being happy about that & I think it got him sent home for a little while. There was the whole deal during the Larry Zbyszko angle when he was gone for a while, that’s hat all that was about. I was really a victim of circumstances when it came to that, but I really feel like the company going in had high expectations going in of making it something and taking me up a notch on the card with it. It did give me a rub but it didn’t quite take me to the level that we all hoped it would.
You signed for WWE in 2007. Looking back on it now do you think career wise it was a good choice or bad choice for you?
I think it was an excellent choice. Anytime you’re offered a chance to work for the biggest wrestling company in the world you can’t say no to that. I’m very thankful to Johnny Ace and Dusty Rhodes. You know, Dusty Rhodes is the guy went to Johnny Ace and went to bat for me and I’ll always be appreciative of that. In my time there I learned so much. I thought I knew a lot about the wrestling business, and I probably did because I’d been wrestling for about 13 years at that time, but what I actually learned while I was there just completely took me to another level. Guys like Al Snow and Robert Gibson, who were my trainers in OVW, taught me so much more about the business side of stuff and ring psychology, and how to do stuff at the right time to make it make sense. Not just to do big flashy moves to do big flashy moves, but how to do it and make it mean something. Instead of making people go “Ooh, ahh” they go “Ohhhhhh, wow!” They understand it, and that way you’re beating your body up but you’re beating your body up for a purpose, not just to be doing flashy stuff. So, yea, I would never trade my time there. How many guys in this world can actually say they’ve held a contract with WWE and TNA? There’s probably only a handful of guys, and they’re two of the biggest companies in the world, so it was definitely an honour.
At around the same time you were appearing on ECW and were in OVW, in which you were tag champ. Which did you think was better? Did you prefer tagging in OVW, and winning championships, or appearing on ECW and hoping for a push there?
That’s kind of a hard question to answer. I loved tagging, and I loved my time in OVW. I was grateful to be considered one of the top guys, and to have that spot with the tag team titles…….I think we had them 5 or 6 different times. That was an honour, but always your time in OVW – you want to make that step to the main roster. It’s a business & that’s where your money is, and where you’re going to get your notoriety and get your break. That was always the hope, to take that next step, get on the main roster & make it on the road full time.
Where you shocked when your release came about? Did you see it coming?
Actually, I was really shocked to be honest. I still remember it very clearly, but in hindsight, going back and looking at, I can kind of see it, but at the time it completely caught me off guard. I was seeing everybody start – after the close of Deep South Wrestling in Georgia, and the transition of moving to Florida. Unfortunately I had broken my elbow. We were supposed to go to SmackDown on a Tuesday, and that Sunday when we got the call I was in the Emergency Room getting my elbow casted up because I broke it at a house show for OVW. I was off TV for probably 6, 7, 8 weeks during that transition when they were moving everybody up to Florida. When it comes time for cuts to be made, here’s a guy you’re paying him every week, he’s not able to do TV right now, so I think that has a big part to do with it – out of sight, out of mind. Looking back, it doesn’t surprise me, I can kind of see the writing on the wall but at the time had no idea t was coming.
Are you still hopeful of getting back for another run in either WWE or TNA?
Yea, or Japan. I’m not going to limit myself to just the WWE or TNA. I feel like I still have a ton to offer this business. I’m probably in the best physical shape of my career right now. My body feels good, my mind is good. I’m doing quite a few independent shows in the U.S. but I would love to do some stuff in Japan. Anything overseas, I’m willing to go and travel anywhere, because I do feel like I still have a lot to offer this business and I’ve learned so much over the past couple of years that I feel like I’m better now than I’ve ever been in my career.
Who would you say you were tightest with within the business?
There’s probably a few guys. Chase Stevens is a good friend of mine – of course, we tagged for several years; we’re actually doing quite a bit of tag teaming on the independent scene. There’s so many guys. I was one of those guys who consider myself friends with everybody. Showtime Eric Young is a very good friend of mine, we actually lived together for a little while. It’s great seeing him get the break that he deserves. James Storm is one of my good friends. James and I are like brothers. When I moved to Nashville he actually drove me around and helped me find a house. He lived, probably, 2 minutes away & I ended up buying a house real close to him. That’s probably a few of the guys right off hand. As far as guys in WWE – Evan Bourne is a good friend of mine, Zack Ryder, I consider him a very good friend of mine. We had a good little run with The Major Brothers, which was Zack Ryder & Curt Hawkins, when we were in developmental so we became good friends. I feel like I’m leaving a lot of people out! I was fortunately, as I said, friends with so many people. Everybody was always so nice to me and in return………man, that list isn’t long and distinguished! (laughs)
What advice would you have for anyone who is trying to break into the business now?
Learn your craft. Go back and study old wrestling tapes. Keep yourself in physical shape, because at the end of the day in order to make it in one of the big companies and to be on TV you can’t just look ordinary, you can’t just have an average body. You’ve got to be able to sell yourself, to sell your personality, to sell your physique. And find somebody who is reputable to train you. Don’t just get some guy who tells you he’s a professional wrestler and you’re going to pay him ‘x’ amount of dollars to train you. Actually know that somebody was able to make a successful career for themselves. If they haven’t made a successful career for themselves how can they teach you how to be successful? That would probably be my biggest advice – do your research, find somebody. I’m not saying you have to be trained by Ric Flair or Shawn Michaels, but find a guy who’s had a reputable career and somewhat successful to be able to train you, because that’s the only way that you’ll learn.