Shawn Spears made an instant impact when he showed up in All Elite Wrestling, hitting Cody Rhodes with a massive chair shot that busted him wide open and ultimately required 12 staples in the back of his head.
After the attack on Rhodes, it appeared AEW was set to make Spears a star and give him a spotlight like he had never received before. He was instantly place in a red hot feud, but ultimately fell short in his match against Cody at last year's All Out pay-per-view. Since that time, Spears has struggled to regain his momentum and finds himself in an all-to-familiar place - being underutilized.
Spears was recently a guest on Sirius XM's Busted Open radio show and took the time to discuss his relationship with Cody and his current angle involving professional wrestling legend, Tully Blanchard.
"So when we were put together early in OVW, [it was] for one reason essentially. Cody was a brand new, young, up-and-coming baby that lacked experience but was adored by the fan base. I had about 4 or 4 1/2 years of experience under my belt, so I had the experience but was unknown, and no one cared. So it was a perfect pairing because I helped with the experience side of things and, by association, people liked me because I was Cody's friend.
"So, the tag team in itself worked. I remember one day when Dream (Dusty Rhodes) pulled us aside and was talking to us, and he was like, 'Just so you know, Cody is destined to be a singles star.' This was in the middle of our tag team run and I didn't understand at the time there, but looking back on it now, Dusty, obviously you can't say enough good things about that guy, but he knew exactly where Cody was going to end up which is where we are today. Now, seeing his progress through the years and seeing what he's done and overcome, the guy is destined to be a singles star. He's come into his own and has done everything that those top guys are required to do.
"The problem I have with him is I feel we had the opportunity to do something great together when I came over to AEW, and I feel he made one. I don't know if he slipped or did it on purpose, and I think that's the problem. The main issue I have with him is when he said I'm a 'good hand', but I've been hearing that for too long. You know, he didn't say sorry, and that's why I didn't say sorry for slinging the chair."
Spears has mentioned in the past that he is aware of the audience's perception that he's been underutilized his entire career, but the reason most people bring it up is because he is such a great worker in the ring. He checks all of the boxes when it comes to look, mic skill and in-ring work, so it doesn't make sense why he always seems to struggle getting in the spotlight. Nevertheless, Spears feels that he is one of the most talented wrestlers in the world.
"I don't know what you can chalk it up to. You just said it again - people have been saying my praises for years. I've never publicly said it myself. Tommy Dreamer just said I'm very talented, many other people have said that I'm very talented.
"I have never publicly, until now, said that I can say with conviction and confidence that I am pound for pound one of the best performers in the world, and I am one of the top performers AEW has right now. I check all the boxes. You have a look, in-ring ability, the ability to speak and communicate. I have all that, plus experience. So, I said it publicly and I believe that 'til this very day.
"Now, to your point Tommy, why? Why is it happening? Why does it seem like I was riding the pine before? Maybe some people think I'm riding the pine now. Again, I'm going to take it back to after almost 19 years. I'm going to focus on what I can control and that is the in-ring product. That is the part I'm in control of.
"When the bell rings in between the ropes, I'm in charge. No one can touch me. That's my time, no one can touch me. Behind the scenes, I'm not a politicker. I have a very hard time telling somebody they're right when I feel they're wrong, and I have a very hard time telling somebody they're good when I feel they're not. That's just me. I'm not disrespectful or unprofessional about it, but I'll always be honest, which is crazy in the wrestling world."
Spears finds himself in a story that has a ton of potential, with Tully Blanchard being his manager. That pairing seemed like a head-scratcher with no direction at first, but AEW has proven to be committed to long-term storytelling and it seems like the Spears and Blanchard story is one of those. Each week, it seems like we are getting a little bit closer to some sort of payoff, and Spears is still thrilled about being paired with the legend.
"It's insane! I was actually talking to a friend of mine last night, and Tully was sitting with us. And I'm not going to namedrop, but Tully was sitting with us. Tully got up and walked away, and I go, 'Tully - Tully Blanchard is my manager'. It still shocks me because, you know, when I left WWE, I couldn't even fathom what was going to happen, let alone paired with a legend, paired with a Hall of Famer. Being paired with a guy that, to this day, still teaches me some certain psychological aspects of the in-ring product that I would've never thought about.
"And there's a reason why Tully is who he is. He only had, I think, a 13 year career. I've been wrestling technically 6 years longer than he has, but his legacy has lasted over 30. That is a testament to his mind. That is a testament to what him, The Horsemen, that's what they did. They left a lifelong impression on the industry.
"The first time we hung out, I went to his house. I was at San Antonio for an independent show. I went to his house, I went to the gym, we went out to eat, and I thought like, 'Okay, this is kind of like one of the first times meeting. This is how we're going to hang out and, here on end, we'll be just here and there on the shows.' No, every time we hang out, we go to the gym. After this, I go in to pick him up, we go to the gym, and we're going to eat after, and we're going to the arena.
"So, he still lives at life. He's still very adamant about staying on top physically and being the best shape he can, and it's inspiring to me. Guy has got 30 years on me and he is still, I'm like, 'I can't keep up. I don't deserve to be around'. So, it's inspiring to me. But it's Tully Blanchard, man. It's Tully Blanchard."
Blanchard was unable to show up on AEW programming for quite a while when the pandemic hit and Spears felt the effects, as his already struggling act hit rock bottom in an embarrassing loss at Double Or Nothing. Tully showed up shortly after and questioned Spears about what he wanted his legacy to be, and their story began its upward trajectory. Since then, Blanchard gifted Spears with a black glove, which has a rich history in the professional wrestling business.
"Well, I think after what happened Double or Nothing, I think we had hit the lowest point that we could possibly hit. Tully hadn't been around in a couple of months due to the whole pandemic. So, you know, travel - I was kind of on my own. I was having a lot of fun. Too much fun to the point where I wasn't really dialing in, so to speak. I wasn't focusing on the end goals that we had talked about when we first paired up. So, when he kind of came back, he saw what happened at Double or Nothing against Dustin [Rhodes] and that was kind of the straw that broke the camel's back, and I kind of needed a stern father figure talking to, and it made sense. It made 100% sense, but he also thought there was something missing.
"So, the in-ring ability was there, like I said. The ability to speak, communicate, all of that jazz was there. He just felt there was something missing, something that needed to stand out amongst the sea of professional wrestlers. In AEW, there's a lot of great talent. There's not a lot of landscape. So, everybody is fighting for space, so to speak. We're not going to over-saturate a show with, you know, 15 different angles that people are having a very hard time keeping track of. You know, we're going to tell stories as best as we possibly can.
"So that means that some talent - you're going to have to wait your turn, if your turn comes. So the black glove was introduced, obviously as a throwback. Like you said, Ole wore it, Windham wore it, DiBiase wore it. I'm glad you said that because now people are familiar with it. Google! Go back and watch the history of the black glove. There's a reason that it's been brought back by a Horseman of all people. It's brought back for a reason, and the challenge in 2020, for me, is to get something that is 50-60 years old and bring that to prominence, or at least bring it to the forefront once again with very little television time.
"Normally, when someone is - I don't want to say saddled, but when you're given something to get over, or at least attempt to get over, usually there's some good backing behind it. Alright, well there's video packages, and there's vignettes, and there's television time, and all that kind of stuff. There hasn't been a lot of that with the introduction of the black glove, which is a challenge that I enjoy. So, now I have to find ways in a digital world of social media and these other ways to collect information out there, I have a way to reintroduce something that has a rich lineage, and hopefully people can kind of get behind it. Hopefully."
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Busted Open with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.
Mehdy Labrini contributed to this article.