The current Ring of Honor World Television Champion Shane Taylor hails from Cleveland, Ohio and always makes sure to take his city with him and represents it in and out of the ring. With a decade of experience in the wrestling business and having traveled the world, none of Shane Taylor’s professional or personal experiences have been lost on him.
Shane is defending his ROH World Television Championship against Dragon Lee at Ring Of Honor’s Final Battle pay-per-view on December 13th. Just one year ago, Taylor was looking to edge his spot in the champions bracket in Ring of Honor and this past May he secured that spot. While speaking to Taylor ahead of Final Battle, he explained to me that growing up, he didn’t think he’d make it to see the age of 30, let alone be on his way to breaking into the top five longest reigning ROH Television Champions of all time. This past May, Ring of Honor and New Japan Pro-Wrestling came together to present their G1 Supercard show and Taylor was a part of a six-man tag match and got the opportunity to wrestle inside Madison Square Garden. When asked about that moment in his career, here’s what Taylor had to say:
“The crazy thing for me is wrestling Madison Square Garden was never a goal, because growing up in Cleveland, I didn’t think I’d get to this point. I didn’t think I’d live past 30. So, for me, that’s just one of the perks of being in the right place at the right time and just one of those things you can look back on your career and go, ‘Wow, I got to do that too. That’s awesome.’ That’s a cherry on top thing, because for me, it was never, ‘I’m gonna wrestle in this venue or do this.’ I just wanted to be able to be successful and make this [a] career and provide for my family doing something that I love to do. Everything else on top of that is gravy so, having done it now and being able to look back on it now, it’s still surreal. Like man, I wrestled in Madison Square Garden. Of the hundreds of thousands of people that do this now, of the millions that have done it throughout the history of the sport, there’s very few that can say they’ve done that, and I get to be on that list so for me, that’s incredible.”
It was on May 9th of 2019 that Shane Taylor captured the ROH World Television Championship for the first time in his career. He was a part of a Four Corner Survival match involving Jeff Cobb, Brody King and Hirooki Goto. Taylor emerged victorious and has went on to successfully defend his title against Bandido, Chase Owens, Eli Isom, Tracy Williams, Dysfunction, Danny Jones, Joe Hendry and retained his title in a four-way match during ROH’s recent tour of the United Kingdom. Taylor feels that he is doing exactly what he said he was going to do from the start of his run and that is cement himself as one of the best champions in Ring of Honor. He said he wants to tie Jay Lethal’s record of 35 title defenses and if he can defeat Dragon Lee at Final Battle, Taylor will have locked in 13 successful title defenses in eight months.
“My thoughts on my title reign is I am doing exactly what I told people I’d do from the start. I told people that if I got the opportunity to show them exactly who I was, I would make history. That’s exactly what I’m doing. Nobody defends their championships in Ring of Honor like I do. Not the world championship, not the tag titles, none of them. You talking about when we went to the U.K. tour, all three nights, three championship defenses. I am the single longest reigning champion in ROH right now. Going into Final Battle, I’m going for the 13th defense of my World Television Championship. If I’m successful there and I get out into the new year as champion, I will already be top five on the list of the greatest Ring of Honor Television Champions of all time and the goal is not to be number five, or three or two, the goal is to be the absolute best. To be number one, and to do that, I have to beat Jay Lethal’s record of 35 championship defenses so, even though we’re on a good clip with twelve, to me, I still have 23 left to go, 24 to beat it, and to me that’s where all my focus is.”
The 6’0 big man wanted to take full control of his career so he announced the launch of ‘Shane Taylor Promotions’ which is his own promotional company. Under the Shane Taylor Promotions banner are the likes of Ron Hunt, Bishop Khan and Malcolm Moses. Taylor told POST Wrestling that he bought his contract out from Ring of Honor and doesn’t understand why some wrestling fans think it’s a storyline. He explained that he wants to take Shane Taylor Promotions worldwide and expand into Australia and the United Kingdom to further establish himself and his team as a brand.
“Worldwide expansion. As people know… if they don’t, I started my own promotional company. I bought my contract out from ROH so I’m no longer an employee of ROH but I entered into a fight-by-fight business venture with them. No different then if you were to look at boxers or MMA fighters. So now I have full control of my career. I don’t have any bosses. I’m my boss, and when you deal with wrestling and these things come out, a lot of fans think they know everything,” Shane said about fans thinking ‘Shane Taylor Promotions’ is a storyline. “So, for me to say, ‘Hey, I have the most unique agreement in all of professional wrestling’ is not a lie because I do, and that hinges upon me keeping the World Television Championship. That’s where the power is. That’s where all the negotiation leverage comes in. So, for me going forward, it’s continuing establishing my legacy, continue to be dominant, continue to help motivate my team with Ron Hunt, Khan, Moses, and present myself and my team as something we can be proud of, our families can be proud of, our culture can be proud of, and continue to be the example going forward and expand the brand into other countries as well. By 2020, by the end of next year I want Shane Taylor Promotions U.K., Shane Taylor Promotions Australia and the list goes on. Worldwide expansion. Worldwide domination. That’s what I want in 2020.”
Two of Shane Taylor’s close friends have found success in WWE over the past several months. Those two names are Keith Lee and current RAW Tag Team Champion Erik, formerly known as Raymond Rowe. Taylor said that he still communicates with them weekly and he recently visited Erik in Cleveland for his birthday and fellow WWE star Sarah Logan helped set that up. A decade ago, the accomplishments that they’ve achieved now seemed like a dream but those respective names have made their dreams a reality.
Taylor said he is extremely proud of the success that Keith Lee and Erik have found in WWE. Specifically talking about Keith Lee, Taylor made sure to get in contact with Keith after his Survivor Series weekend which included a WarGames match and being the sole survivor for Team NXT at Survivor Series and having a sprint with Roman Reigns.
“It’s fantastic, and yeah, we talk weekly. I’m always shooting them funny memes or messages or vice versa and we text back and forth. I just went to go see Ray [Erik] for his birthday in Cleveland. Shout out to his wife Sarah [Logan] as well who hooked that up for me. I’m extremely proud of both of them. When Keith had his big Survivor Series weekend, even though it was late, I made sure to send him a text just letting him know how proud of him I was. Both of us had our visions of what we wanted to be and where we wanted to go and what we wanted to do and how we wanted to take this sport over and separately, we are able to do that on our own terms the way that we wanted to do it. Sometimes that takes a little bit longer, but again, traveling down that road and doing it the right way makes it all much better in the end when you get to your goal, and with Ray, seeing him achieve just about every goal on his checklist that he wrote down years ago — winning championships all over the world. Winning championships at the very top of this sport. Winning championships in Japan and seeing everything that he’s done now from where we came from in Cleveland, man, I couldn’t be prouder of the guy. Both of them are like the big brothers I never had and I tell them that and words can’t do justice as to how proud I am of them, how much I wish for their continued success and I’m sure if you were to ask them, the same would be said to me about the things that I’m doing now so, much respect to them, much love to them and keep it going.”
Taylor and I continued speaking about his friendship with Erik. The former Ray Rowe appeared on an edition of WWE’s After The Bell podcast with Corey Graves. During his appearance on the show, he talked about his motorcycle accident from 2014 that nearly took his life. Erik has said during multiple interviews that doctors had no clue how he survived the crash. One of the people that took care of him on his road to recovery was his roommate at the time, Shane Taylor. Taylor would go to the gym with Erik, have food ready for him while he was going through financial struggles and Erik made it clear that he appreciates Taylor for what he did.
When I read Erik’s comments to Shane Taylor, he said that’s what brothers do for one another and added that there’s not many people outside of family that he’d take a bullet for and one of those people is Erik.
“That’s what you do for family. There’s very few people in this world outside of my kids that I would take a bullet for. He’s one of them so, to me, our families are extremely close. Blood couldn’t make us any closer so, if I was in the situation he was in, I can pretty much guarantee the same actions would’ve been taken. There’s no thanks that’s needed. Those are things that you do for family. His success is based off of his hard work and what he does and the pride he takes in his craft and he deserves every bit of it. That’s awesome.”
2019 has been a progressive year for African-American wrestlers. Shane Taylor is a part of that progression and feels that although strides have been made as far as black excellence in the sport, there are still ways to go. He talked about Kofi Kingston’s run as WWE Champion and brought up Keith Lee’s Survivor Series weekend as talking points. Taylor then explained that the days of being boxed in of what a black wrestling character should be are done and that shift is not only happening in wrestling, but it’s happening in media and television.
“It’s incredible to see the progress that’s come. I still feel that there’s a longways to go. So it’s fantastic to see people that I know well have success. Guys like Keith Lee who had an absolutely incredible Survivor Series weekend and now the world’s talking about him as they should’ve been. It’s amazing to see guys like Kofi [Kingston] have their run, who has been killing it the last decade-plus, and it’s inspiring to see not only the men, but the women do their thing as well because there’s so much talent out there. Again, in this sport, people like to put us in boxes and put us in stereotypes of what we can and can’t be and that reflects what society [thinks] and wrestling mirrors that, and so for me, to be able to be on a platform and turn that mirror around and go, ‘I am more than what you think I am. I am more than what you think I can be. I am more than what you want to promote me as’, and stick by that. That to me is how we continue to push this forward and continue to keep these doors open, and continue to let the next generation see that whether it’s wrestling, media, music, TV, whatever it is. You don’t have to be a character of black culture to be successful. You find what your talent is, find what you can do, do it well and then promote yourself that way. You don’t have to give into the pressure of doing whatever you need to do to make a dollar. You can earn income and be successful and keep your pride.”
Shane Taylor will be in action against Dragon Lee at Ring of Honor’s Final Battle pay-per-view. He’s aiming to break Jay Lethal’s record of 35 successful title defenses and if he defeats Dragon Lee, he’ll hit the 13 mark. Shane Taylor can be found on Twitter and Instagram @shane216taylor. The full interview can be heard on the Andrew Thompson Interviews YouTube channel.