Has Shane Taylor made you a believer? The gargantuan Cleveland native is a little over 100 days into his reign as Ring of Honor’s TV champion. For most, the first title reign is legitimizing, showing your elevated worth and faith a promotion has in your talents. But for Taylor, he feels his work to gain respect is just beginning. In this exclusive interview with BeatsBoxingMayhem ahead of his eight-man Champions vs. All-Stars match this Saturday in Atlanta, the outspoken Taylor pulls no punches in discussing black stereotypes in wrestling, “bandwagon hating” of ROH’s current product, and even what the Sweet Science needs to attract more fans.
BeatsBoxingMayhem: Let’s go back to your TV title win over Jeff Cobb in May. This is your first championship after being with Ring of Honor for several years. Do you feel the timing was perfect or could you have envisioned this happening sooner?
Shane Taylor: That’s a difficult question because any athlete in any sport will tell you they’re ready for their big moment on day one. My ability has always been there but it took a little bit of time for me to gel with who the company wanted me to be and what I wanted for myself. From there it was making sure I had the platform to showcase what I can do and not have it overshadowed by anything else.
BeatsBoxingMayhem: As African-Americans, we always have to be conscious of our image in whatever line of business we choose, particularly in entertainment and sports when it comes to stereotypical portrayals. Has it been a struggle over the years to create a black character with nuance?
Taylor: It was definitely a struggle to avoid those stereotypes but it’s something I take great pride in. I think who I am defies most of them. Where I come from, I could easily buy into them and be that guy.
There’s so much emphasis on where people come from and what they had to do to be successful, but not necessarily what they do now with the success. I want people to focus on that with my character and who I am.
Jay Z is one of the best examples of this. People don’t fear Jay Z because he used to be a gangster and sell drugs. They fear him now because of the power, influence and business acumen he has. That’s what’s scary in today’s culture more than anything, especially to people who feel you’re supposed to stay in those same stereotypical boxes you fought your way out of. You have to fit this mold and act the way that’s expected of you. When you go outside of that, you start to inspire others and you really build momentum. Showcasing that is what I’m about not just as a man, but also my character and performance in the ring as well.
BeatsBoxingMayhem: You’ve spoken before about growing up with your dad in the street life and having to decide what path you would take. We’ve seen throughout history, particularly American history, of crime being a pathway to social mobility from generation to the next. The Kennedy’s are the most well-known example of that going from bootlegging and organized crime ties to high-level politics.
For you, was there any survivor’s guilt in taking the “by any means necessary” approach to surviving?
Taylor: Not at all — for me, it was take the opportunities given to you. You brought up a great point — people forget history. People want to paint the world with this 1950s Mayberry feel with everyone that came before us were these great pioneers that did no wrong with great moral values.
No, 98% of them were criminals. It’s amazing to me how people will judge someone from the hood as being a gangster and drug dealer but having no problem with people in these pharmaceutical companies that sell drugs that kill millions of people daily. That’s completely acceptable? There’s no difference to me between gangsters on the street and CEOs in boardrooms. One is just an accepted profession.
For me, there’s no guilt about how I got out or my opportunities because some of the richest people in the world did the exact same thing. My job is not worrying about how the opportunity came but to do the most with it.
I’ll put our roster as being one of, if not the best in the world. To me, it doesn’t matter if you’re using cards from AEW or New Japan, I feel we’ll dominate every single time.
BeatsBoxingMayhem: I feel like there’s been a marked shift in ROH’s perception since the G1 Supercard. It feels like the criticism of the brand, from storylines to live attendance, has been more harsh and constant. I’m wondering how this is affecting the locker room morale…
Taylor: When dealing with wrestling fans, and people in general, you realize a lot of people don’t like to think for themselves. They’re wave riders and don’t bother to research and formulate their opinions. For a second, it’s felt like the cool thing to do is bash ROH regardless of the talent, match quality and atmosphere.
For us, there’s nothing we can do but continue to make sure the people loyal to us have a great time. We’ll let everything stack up when it does, we’ll compare. I’ll put our roster as being one of, if not the best in the world. To me, it doesn’t matter if you’re using cards from AEW or New Japan, I feel we’ll dominate every single time. People will love it or hate it, but hey, people hated the Beatles too [laughs]. You can find anything that’s great and you’ll also find someone who’s hating on it.
BeatsBoxingMayhem: That brings me to your big match here in Atlanta on Saturday (August 24). We’re getting an ROH staple in the Champions vs. All-Stars with you, The Briscoes, and Matt Taven taking on Jay Lethal, Kenny King, RUSH and Jeff Cobb. It’s interesting to note that I can’t remember the last time when we had all heels as champions. With all the potential storylines available, which adversary do you expect will get you the biggest reaction from fans?
Taylor: I’m really not sure. The frontrunner might be Cobb because he’s got victories over me, was the previous TV champ and had a great G1 performance. People might let their imaginations grow on what a potential third match will look like. You obviously have RUSH — we only mixed it up a little in a tag-team gauntlet. I’m anxious about standing toe to toe with him. I have my history with Kenny King as well.
Of course, there’s Jay Lethal, the man that’s been called the franchise of ROH. He’s been called the greatest of all time and he’s the guy I’m currently chasing to shatter every record he’s had with the Television championship. I hope he wants to throw hands just as much as I do.
We’ll see what happens [with having all heels as champs]. As long as people hate myself or Taven and the Briscoes, and it’s really hard to hate the Briscoes [laughs], but the company will be fine if we play our roles well. And if people get behind the title chasers, it makes the storyline possibilities even more dynamic.
BeatsBoxingMayhem: Following the Atlanta tapings, the winner of the three-way between PJ Black, Chase Owens and LSG gets a shot at your title. Any preference out of that trio?
Taylor: Not necessarily, since all three men present unique challenges. LSG is a high-flyer with a chip on his shoulder to prove people wrong. I respect that mindset because that’s also my motivation. With PJ Black, he’s an absolute daredevil with no fear. For a guy that’s willing to jump out of airplanes 30 times a week, you can just imagine what he’s willing to do to his opponents with a championship on the line. And of course, Chase Owens is a consummate pro and staple of New Japan. He’s from the Nashville area so it’ll be a hostile environment with people going for him.
My job, no matter who stands across from me, is to put this right hand on their jaw, put them to sleep and walk out of there with my Ring of Honor Television Championship.
This is for me, this is for the culture, this is for the people who’ve rode with me since day one. It’s a big middle finger to everyone who didn’t think I’d be here…
BeatsBoxingMayhem: Whether you’re talking horror movies or pro wrestling, people love monsters. We see with guys like Braun Strowman, the more you destroy guys the harder it is to consistently get heat. If your reign continues, do you foresee running into the same “problem?”
Taylor: Well, I live by “dominance creates dollars.” I’m also a loyal guy and a firm believer in you don’t ride with guys you didn’t walk with and you don’t eat with guys you didn’t starve with. So, for the people that have been behind me since day one, let’s do it! The people that want to get on the bandwagon? Sorry, it’s too late. Sorry about your luck!
This is for me, this is for the culture, this is for the people who’ve rode with me since day one. It’s a big middle finger to everyone who didn’t think I’d be here or have the ability to perform and do everything I’m doing now. My focus is doing what I do for the people who cared when they were supposed to.
BeatsBoxingMayhem: We recently had this big Twitter debate about whether wrestling is performance art or a sport. Is this a valid or silly argument to have in 2019?
Taylor: I think it’s silly because why divide the two? Wrestling is its own unique thing that has the ability to live in both worlds. The people who struggle to define everything are worried about this. As performers, we compete like any other sport. And we perform like any other art form. We are the rare athletes with the opportunity to do both. That should be celebrated and not picked apart.
BeatsBoxingMayhem: Staying on social media, there was also a heated debate about a website that posted their Top 50 Emcees. Switching that up, who are the Top 3 wrestlers you study to improve your own game?
Taylor: Ohh, that’s a great question. There’s so many since everywhere you wrestle is different. Far as big guys, you start with Vader because of his power, athleticism, and his ability to capture a room with his presence. Then you look at the athleticism of Bam Bam Bigelow and his ability to do things no one thought a guy his size could do. You look at the consistency of Terry Gordy, a guy that was technically sound night after night after night. That level of consistency is paramount when you’re regularly competing against the best in the world.
You can’t overlook the ruthlessness of a Stan Hansen. He’s a guy who didn’t care where he hit you — you were gonna feel every shot. And then you can take guys with charisma like The Rock or the athletic ability of a Shelton Benjamin. It’s so tough to name three because to build the perfect wrestler, you have to take something from everyone you’ve seen. Being able to do a little of everything is best.
BeatsBoxingMayhem: Total 180 topic change, but as a Cleveland native does MC Brains get the respect he warrants as a pioneer Hip-Hop artist from your area?
Taylor: Absolutely not. So many people get lost to history, especially those caught between eras. Kinda like boxing. Look at Larry Holmes — I rank him the greatest heavyweight of all time. But he doesn’t get the love because he came after Ali and before Tyson. He’s between two dynamic personalities and drastically different eras of society. People tend to remember the huge moments and not the moments in between.
So with Cleveland Hip-Hop it’s easy to forget the early guys who paved the way. MC Brains is absolutely underrated.
Boxing has steadied while the UFC has plateaued. Boxing has a steady fanbase. What could help is limiting the governing bodies…
BeatsBoxingMayhem: Being that you know your boxing, what’s your dream fight to make either this year or next?
Taylor: Ohh [pauses], maybe Spence and Crawford? If you have a guy saying he’s the best Pound 4 Pound, which I don’t think Crawford is, and another one close to his weight class saying “Nah homie, I’m the best!” then you gotta make that fight. Let’s figure this out.
Boxing has steadied while the UFC has plateaued. Boxing has a steady fanbase. What could help is limiting the governing bodies — way too many belts and weight classes. You shouldn’t be able to go up two pounds and completely change your division. Lower the weight classes and make the best vs. the best.
I was upset Keith Thurman lost to Pacquiao because I felt it was his time to take that superstar step. We need another guy to challenge Canelo and get those consistent big fights. Boxing needs to continue growing the fanbase and tradition.
BeatsBoxingMayhem: Not sure if you heard but Canelo is in talks to move up to light-heavyweight and face Sergey Kovalev if Kovalev wins his fight this weekend.
Taylor: Why?! He’s a middleweight! [sighs] I like Canelo, but I just don’t feel like he’s “that guy.” I think Floyd Mayweather exposed a lot of holes in his game when he’s presented with a slick, defensive fighter. This is why I think Errol Spence would give him huge problems. I don’t think he wants that fight.
BeatsBoxingMayhem: A lot of great competition for him remains at middleweight. There are unresolved issues with Golovkin plus a unification with Demetrius Andrade. Both I would say are better fights at this stage than Kovalev…
Taylor: This is that governing bodies thing I was talking about. They need to get these guys to match up with fighters around their weight class. If Canelo had cleared out his weight class, I’d be cool with Kovalev. But yeah, just jumping weight classes for no reason? Nah, that’s bush league.
BeatsBoxingMayhem: Shane, appreciate the time and look forward to seeing you perform in Atlanta this Saturday.
Taylor: Thanks, brother. Take care.
You can live stream Shane Taylor this Saturday by becoming a member of the HonorClub and see him join Matt Taven and The Briscoes to face Jay Lethal, Jeff Cobb, RUSH and Kenny King in the “Champions vs. All-Stars” eight-man tag elimination match. An HonorClub membership let’s you stream all live ROH events, including Taylor’s Sunday night (August 25) defense against the winner of the LSG-Chase Owens-PJ Black three–way. Check here for live ROH events in your area.