Shawn Spears rose to prominence as the “Perfect 10,” following years of chasing his dreams with WWE. Despite the character’s immense popularity, and a move to SmackDown Live, many pro wrestling observers felt that the grappler from Ontario, Canada was being overlooked, and so the talented performer seemed destined to be filed away as a “Great Hand” that would never reach his potential.
With the birth of All Elite Wrestling, Shawn has taken back control of his career and is once again all business. The 18-year veteran has weathered the ups and downs of life on the road, and recently brought the house down with his match against Cody Rhodes at AEW’s All Out.
Muscle & Fitness was lucky enough to catch up with Shawn as he prepared for the biggest match of his life at All Out. We talked about his approach to training, lessons learned, competition between WWE and AEW, and his goals for the future.
Thanks, so much for talking to us, Shawn. How do you approach training and conditioning?
The older I’ve gotten, and as much time that I have spent in the wrestling industry, coming on nearly 18 years now, and the taxing effect that has put on my body, it’s changed over the years.
I train pretty much daily now, and especially with opening a [pro wrestling] school in Florida, you know, we’re in the ring anywhere from three to five days per week. I’m also in the gym on a regular basis, and I have a gym inside my house as well, so I’m covered in all areas but every day I am doing some kind of physical activity.
In the last five years, pro wrestlers have become varied in how they approach diet and nutrition. Some of the guys and girls have become vegan, and some prefer a low carb intake. What are your preferences?
Yeah, it seems like every month there’s some different way of eating popping up, a better way of eating healthier, but the bottom line is to promote a healthy lifestyle. That’s important to me, not just for professional wrestling like I do for a living. But, you know, in the time after this is all done for me.
Travel becomes a big factor. When I’m at home its easy because it’s a simpler schedule to stick to. Pizza is very tempting (laughs).
Pro wrestlers have an intense travel schedule going from city-to-city, show-to-show, and then it’s late at night and you’re in the car and you’ve got gas stations and fast food and all that kind of thing. How do you make the right choices?
Nowadays with technology, the food apps, and companies [offering pre-prepared meals] that are making themselves available to all types of athletes, it is very accessible to eat right and get your hands on healthy foods.
For me, personally, I try to stay away from sugars and carbs after 8 p.m. It’s more protein and watching portion sizes, a lot of it just comes down to discipline and mind over matter.
How important is it for aspiring pro wrestlers to get legitimate training?
The key thing that I’ll tell our students, myself and Tyler Breeze have a school in Florida, is that it is very important to be trained by credible [pro wrestling] trainers that have put miles in their car and in their body. It is very, very important to be trained the right way for safety reasons first and foremost, and the fact that this is a very taxing business; mentally, physically, across the board.
If you are not trained properly, or not shown the ropes the right way, with the right people, you’re going to waste a lot of time and effort.
It is 11 years since you debuted on WWE’s version of the ECW brand. With so much coming up ahead of you now in All Elite Wrestling, what have you learned about yourself in those 11 years?
Wow, really? It goes by so fast. It’s wild to think about it. I think the biggest thing that I have learned about myself is that I don’t stop, I don’t quit. There’s been a lot of times in my career where if I did walk away from pro wrestling, many people would understand.
But I’ve always had this belief in myself, or this gut feeling, whatever you wanna call it, that if I hung on long enough, something would eventually roll my way, and that’s exactly what has happened with AEW.
You never know how close you are to actually accomplishing something. I feel a lot of people [in life], a lot of people let go or give up just before they really hit their moment and turn everything around.
That’s such an important message for anyone striving to achieve something in their lives. How excited are you to be part of AEW? There seems to be a lot of buzz associated with the newly formed alternative wrestling promotion?
You said exactly what it is, an alternative product. We are beyond excited to bring something new. The tide raises all ships, you know? AEW is that tide, whether anyone wants to admit it or not. I’ll say it loud and proud: AEW has raised the bar. Everyone is doing better, because they have come along. They are so excited to showcase their product, and their talent, to the loyal fan base that it has built to this point. We’ve already started, but we hit the ground running on August 31st, (with All Out) and then one month later we go worldwide (with regular television) on a worldwide basis. AEW is changing the game.
You are using the managerial services of the legendary Tully Blanchard. How is this relationship developing?
If you would have told me six months ago, a year ago that I would be in another company, that I would be standing alongside Tully Blanchard, that I would be in one of the co-main events for All Out, I would have said you are absolutely crazy.
But this is a crazy industry, and it changes. And now I find myself standing alongside arguably, one quarter of the greatest faction (The Four Horsemen). I went out to San Antonio about a month ago, and that’s where Tully lives. I was able to spend the day with him. I went to his house, we had dinner, and we actually went to the gym together as well. This guy is still a machine (at 65). He still does 500 squats per week, like he did back in the day with Ric Flair.
I heard a lot of stories [from Tully] about the Rhodes family, and their history and lineage, and about how Tully went to war with Dusty on a very regular basis, probably more than anybody else. This is why I enquired about his services to begin with, we are carrying on that tradition. I am carrying on the tradition, going to war with a Rhodes. That’s our focus and we are all business.
You’ve definitely picked up more of a serious attitude as of late. Now known at the “Chairman” of AEW, after blasting Cody Rhodes with a chair, it seems that it is finally your time to shine after making others look good for quite a while, something that is no easy task.
I take great pride in being able to work with anybody. Whether it be a brand-new talent, whether it be someone who has been in wrestling for four or five years, or even 15 to 20, I take pride in being able to cover the spectrum when it comes down to match preparation and execution.
But that can also pigeonhole you, and I was pigeonholed for quite a long time. On one hand, I was very reliable when they (WWE) needed something done. I was there and I got it done, but at the same time I couldn’t break through the glass ceiling that seemed to be placed over my head. Now, that has changed.
I have taken my career into my own hands, been given an opportunity to be on a worldwide platform (in AEW) with no restrictions.
Now, this is all on me. Now there’s no more “Oh, well, maybe you are being held back or it’s not him it’s creative.” I want all that out of the way, I want everything to fall on my shoulders now. Regardless of what happens, when I’m seventy years old, I can look back and say that I did this the way I wanted to, on my terms, and I gave it everything I got.
The war with Cody could spill over to AEW’s debut weekly broadcast beginning October 2. You are no stranger to live weekly television, what are your thoughts on being a part of weekly AEW TV?
It’s monumental, historic. I was watching TNT yesterday and I’m seeing commercial after commercial for AEW. It is amazing to me that after almost 20 years, we are going to have an alternative wrestling product on a major station and I get to be a part of this. You know, I haven’t gotten to do many firsts in my career, I’m excited about that and if you’re not excited about that? There’s something wrong with ya.
In terms of live TV, it is a different animal. It’s big and it moves very fast. It’s gonna be very interesting to me, and I’m excited to see how the young talent adapts to that. I do have quite a bit of television experience, as does Cody, and Kenny (Omega) and the Young Bucks. It will be a wonderful and very quick learning curve for a lot of young talent coming up in AEW. Sometimes it is better that way, to be thrown straight into the fire and find your way out, rather than just stand around. Overall, we’re feeling excited and we are ready, our audience is ready, and hopefully the world is ready.
It was recently announced that WWE will be putting its NXT brand head-to-head with AEW on Wednesday evenings. You have a long history with NXT, so we have to ask for your thoughts on this?
I think no matter who is on, on whatever timeslot, everyone is going to be motivated regardless. We are gonna do our thing on Wednesday nights, we’re gonna tear it up and if you watch, fantastic, we think you are in for one hell of a treat and if you don’t watch, you are missing one hell of a show, it is really that simple. But that is the beautiful thing about providing an alternative, it benefits the audience. Not just the audience of AEW, or WWE, or Impact, or Ring of Honor, it benefits the everyday casual wrestling fan. You now have another option.
I can’t speak for everybody, but we are not looking at it as a head-to-head competition, where we need to knock these guys out of the water, we are going to go out there and do our thing.
AEW’s brand new weekly show begins October 2 on TNT Drama in the United States. Check your local listings for airtimes in other territories. Shawn Spears can be found on Twitter: @Perfec10n or Instagram: @theshawnspears