Former WWE and NXT Superstar Alex Riley was a guest on Jim Ross's podcast recently. He spoke about how he got his start in WWE, how highly he thinks of Dusty Rhodes, his lack of sympathy, and his mysterious backstage problems with John Cena.
Riley, whose real name is Kevin Kiley, played football for Boston College, and as many athletes do now, he found WWE once his playing career was over.
"I actually found them. I was watching the WWE product after I got done playing football. I chose to stop playing football, or stop attempting it, and I was considering another career path, and considered using that Plan B–that education that I had worked so hard for. I thought that going into the business world wasn’t for me, so I said that I would try professional wrestling. I love the product that WWE put out. When I would turn my TV on when football was over, there was something missing. I always tell people that my life slowed down, felt like my life was moving in slow motion after football was over, I didn’t feel the same, and was looking for something to replace it that I can feel passionate about. It’s hard for me to do things that I can’t put my heart and soul into, that can consume me. I obviously knew WWE. I started watching every single Monday Night religiously. The pyrotechnics, the athletes, and the product that they put on TV was spectacular and was very interesting to me. At that point, I believe I was 26 years old and I said, you know, I might be able to pull that off. It was intimidating when I saw it, for sure, but I said to myself, why not give it a shot? I don’t know how I ended up with John Laurinaitis's email address, but I emailed him for months and months and months, and then I kept sending him pictures until I finally received a tryout at OVW, which is how it worked. My father knew Greg Gagne, who was a college roommate of his in Wyoming. My father contacted Greg, and Greg had John Laurinaitis name and phone number, and I believe I sent the email, and when I didn’t hear back from him, Greg kind of took over and said, 'Hey, why don’t you give this kid a look.' I was actually doing sideline (reporting) for High School sports in Fairfax, and John wanted to see the tape. I sent him a tape of me doing a sideline report, and from there they got interested in me."
During Riley's time in NXT, he got to know The American Dream Dusty Rhodes, and found him to be a brilliant teacher and a good friend.
"To me, the most brilliant part about Dusty and why he was the perfect man who was in charge of developing the Psyche down in WWE ... I think a lot of WWE fans who are listening to this; a lot of stuff goes on before Alex Riley, Miz or R-Truth are running down with Pyro and get their name announced on Monday Night Raw. They started just as a kid; a kid will come through that door and want to become a professional wrestler–there is no book about how you become a WWE superstar. I still couldn’t tell you, standing here right now to tell you how to become one. There is no right or wrong answer, but what Dusty did was, he was so good and so compassionate to who the person was. He can watch somebody do a promo and he would see where you were; whether you were shaky or nervous, he just knew what to say. Sometimes he would yell at you, sometimes he would put his arms around you, and say it’s going to be okay, and other times he would break you down; whether you think you have it all down, and you go tell a story for a minute and people are clapping–he would say that it was really good, but next time I want you to go out there and talk about your mom, he was brilliant. He had a plan, he was brilliant. Sometimes people saw him as just kind of screwing around, but he wasn’t, it was almost like a message to his madness. He knew what he was doing, and again I can’t say enough about him. I just thought he was the perfect man. He really was responsible for everybody who came out in the past 8 to 9 years. He developed a lot of those characters for WWE. It started with him so he should definitely get a lot of credit for what he did over there."
The conversation turned to CM Punk's exit from WWE, something that Riley still can't fathom.
"I don’t understand, and I didn’t really keep up with much of the complaints. I know there was something about a medical thing or something, but that’s the gig, that is what you signed up for. I don’t know what he ended up making because that wasn’t disclosed, but he ended up making a lot. If somebody is going to pay me over a million, or it doesn’t matter, but I think if you’re making that kind of money, if you are breathing you are working. I was begging for somebody to give me work, I mean begging. Asking people everyday, why am I not being used? Why can’t I do this, and never really getting an answer, so only receiving the runaround, so to hear him push for other opportunities and get it, and then exit in the fashion he exited, I don’t know, I can’t sympathize with that because I wouldn’t do that, I don’t know the details of what he went through, but who knows."
There have been rumors about backstage tensions between Riley and John Cena for a while now, which Riley confirmed. He stopped short of discussing them in detail, though.
"I will put it this way; there was an incident, and it definitely changed the path in my career. I don’t want to discuss it right now, but I will one day for sure. It was a tough situation at times, we can leave it at that."
Guess we'll just have to wait until Riley is ready to divulge exactly what happened.
You can listen to the full podcast on the Ross Report at this link.