Independent talent John Skyler has tallied up over a decade in the sport of professional wrestling. His time in the business has taken him to Ring of Honor, WWE, New Japan Pro-Wrestling, EVOLVE and more recently, All Elite Wrestling as a part of their ‘Dark’ program on YouTube.
Outside of working through a few minor injuries, Skyler’s career went without a hitch on the injury front until the Summer of 2020. While competing on AEW Dark, Skyler tagged with Brady Pierce and they took on Stu Grayson and Evil Uno of Dark Order. It was in that match that Skyler suffered tears in his ACL, MCL and PCL in his right knee. John returned to in-ring competition in January of 2021 on AEW Dark.
I had the opportunity to speak to John and he stated that his knee feels good and he hasn’t been thinking of the injury or possibly reinjuring his knee since those first couple of matches back. He mentioned that AEW took care of him financially the whole time he was out and he also got to rehab with their medical team in Jacksonville.
Well first of all, I feel great right now in terms of the actual — my knee in any kind of pain, I almost feel like it’s non-existent. I almost don’t even think about it anymore, which is probably good because the first couple matches I had back, it’s all I thought about and I was so conscious to not reinjure anything but, last June, so June of 2020. Probably 2020 will go down as I guess the worst year in the history of the world for everybody but, I was in a match with Dark Order and ended up tearing my MCL, my ACL and my PCL and I had to have surgery last June, two days before my mom’s birthday actually so that was a fun way to celebrate and I was out — I was projected to be out anywhere from eight months to a year and I got back in seven. It was definitely a mental struggle especially with everything going on in the world. You know, the world kinda [came] to a pause and everything kind of shut down, weren’t a lot of independents going on so AEW was gracious enough to continue to bring me back and pay me while I was injured. They paid me very well, every week there was a television taping and I got to work with their team of doctors. Doc. Sampson, Bryce [Ready], Brad, all those great guys that they have there on their medical team and they helped me rehab as well in Jacksonville so, they were great and I had my first match back-back in January when I was medically cleared against the Gunn Club and it’s kinda been off to the races since.
While the physical hurdles that one must overcome to get through a torn PCL, MCL and ACL are transparent, there are also the mental struggles that can creep into one’s mind. Skyler admitted that he faced those mental struggles and described the situation as a “tough pill to swallow”. Skyler said it was finding activities outside of wrestling that helped ease his mind.
For me, it was especially difficult because it was my first injury that I’ve had in my 13-year career. Yeah, I’ve wrestled hurt. I had little minor dings here and there in terms of getting hurt but this is my first actual injury and serious injury so, it was a tough pill to swallow, especially hearing that you’re not gonna be able to do anything upwards to eight months. So, it does kinda wear on you a little bit but I really tried to find new hobbies and kind of reignite some of the flames in the old hobbies that I used to have so, I spent a lot of time on the lake, a lot of time fishing, stuff like that to occupy my time outside of wrestling but also, the big one for me was the day I got cleared to get back in the gym and do a little bit of minor upper body training and stuff like that. I mean, pretty much as soon as I found out I was able to do that and was cleared to, I went straight there and started working out so that was a big out for me, especially because I knew I had to get in shape again for my return so I had to maintain what I had.
Back in early 2019, the South Carolina native John Skyler got his first shot at working under the New Japan Pro-Wrestling banner during their New Beginning USA tour. John worked with Colt Cabana, Lance Archer and Shane Taylor in a tag match in North Carolina and said it was a bucket list item for him to work for NJPW.
One of the reasons that made the experience enjoyable was the comradery amongst the talents on the loop. He said there were plenty of people who made him feel at home and on top of that, Skyler is hoping to work in Japan for NJPW specifically.
Japan and New Japan specifically have always been like a destination or a bucket list item for me in my career. I’ve always wanted to wrestle in Japan. I’ve wrestled in Asia, I’ve wrestled in Hong Kong, Singapore, China and I’ve never gotten the chance to wrestle in Japan but, I also don’t wanna just wrestle in Japan. I’d like for it to be with New Japan Pro-Wrestling and never been given the opportunity. In terms of The New Beginning loop, that was probably one of the more fun loops that I’ve ever been on in terms of the comradery. We were talking about riding in the cars with guys and just having a good time. That was an incredible loop and everybody that was on that loop of shows had a blast. We all just had a tremendous time. Charlotte [North Carolina] and I think the last stop on the loop was Nashville. That night in Nashville, I remember all of us just went out after and had such a good time celebrating the success that was that loop and I know that might not have lived up to some of the fans’ expectations because at the time there was something going on with work visas and I think — hopefully the fans that did give it a chance and came out and watched the show, despite all that, realized that you still got a great card top to bottom, incredible matches, talented performers. Some of the stuff that I was watching as a talent blew my mind. I saw Trent Beretta or Trent. I had seen him before at F.I.P. [Full Impact Pro] shows and WWN stuff, obviously stuff in WWE but I remember watching him in that loop thinking, ‘Man, this guy is a star in the making. Like he could be a total superstar’ and that’s when I kinda discovered that, that Trent was on The New Beginning tour.
Going back onto the topic of AEW taking care of John while he was injured, he wanted to reiterate that the injury was no one’s fault and it is something that likely couldn’t replicated if attempted. He shared that AEW President Tony Khan was one of the first people to check on him to make sure he was okay.
Khan assured Skyler that he would be taken care of through the injury and would also be brought back once he is cleared which was followed through on.
And right out of the get-go, the injury that happened was nobody’s fault whatsoever. It was absolutely a freak accident that I don’t even think could be replicated if we tried. That’s how crazy it was. Getting injured on a roll of all things out of all the things I’ve done in my career, doing a roll under a clothesline is what did me in so that’s — it’s just one of those freak things but, I was very, very blessed it happened when it happened and it’s tough to see it as you’re going through it but in hindsight, I could’ve blew my knee out at an independent show somewhere and then you know, I’m kinda up the creek without a paddle. There’s nothing that anybody can do for me except me at that point and as soon as I got hurt and I was being taken away to the trainers room to get checked out, one of the first people that was there in the training room to check on me was Tony Khan, and he rest assured me right away, ‘You have nothing to worry about. We’re gonna bring you back, make sure you’re taken care of’ and right away, my mind was kind of put at ease, as much as it could be at the time. I’m still thinking about this eight-month recovery I have ahead of me so, for them to be as gracious as they were, just inviting me back and to give me [a paycheck] every week I was there even though I couldn’t wrestle, that was, I mean, a huge blessing in disguise because especially during a pandemic where an independent wrestler doesn’t have the independents to rely on and in my case, I was a part-time teacher at one point and there’s no need for part-time teachers when everything goes virtual online in terms of classrooms. So, it was just a huge, huge blessing for me. It’s something I’ll never forget. The way that they’ve treated me and the way they’ve taken care of me especially during that injury. I mean that should speak volumes of Tony, his heart and really the way the entire company operates.
Dating back to eight years ago, Skyler has had a working relationship with the WWE as he has been brought back a handful of times throughout the years to work as an extra or enhancement talent. He has competed on the Raw after WrestleMania 34 in New Orleans, worked a number of NXT shows against FTR, the former Revival, American Alpha and has wrestled against the likes of Kane and Ryback on main roster shows.
Skyler stated that those opportunities would come about because he would make himself available when called upon. He mentioned that one of the more special moments came when he wrestled for NXT inside the building where he saw his first wrestling event in South Carolina.
It’s always been kind of a whirlwind. For the longest time, I was just trying to get booked as an extra talent. I would call the office and probably annoy the hell out of them on a regular basis. Finally got an opportunity. First time I ever go to TV, as an extra, I had a tryout with Ricardo Rodriguez who used to be the personal ring announcer for Alberto Del Rio. We had a tryout match and as soon as it was over — it went really well. As soon as it was over, they kinda told me, ‘Hey, you’re gonna be wrestling Ryback tonight’ and that was — the cool thing about that is that was my first time there, I’m doing something on television and it’s in my hometown, and so, because it actually took place in Columbia, South Carolina where I grew up so, it was pretty surreal, fun experience, and from there, they would call here and there to bring me back to do things so sometimes I wouldn’t do anything at all, sometimes I’d be in a dark match, sometimes I would be doing whatever and really when NXT became super popular there when it was taking off, that is when I started to get used more consistently because I think it was right at the time of the Cruiserweight Classic so I think they were taking a look at a lot of different smaller guys or cruiserweights so that’s when I started popping up more often and then I would dare say it kind of comes back around to Columbia, South Carolina, my hometown. It was the week of WrestleMania in Dallas. I had just gotten home from doing a couple things — more extra work during WrestleMania week. I had a match at [WrestleMania] Axxess with The Vaudevillians [Simon Gotch & Aiden English] and just things like that. As I got home from the week, I got a call from Matt Bloom, booking me on the live event loop in the Carolinas that week so I got to wrestle on the non-televised shows for NXT against Elias and Riddick Moss. I got to do it in Columbia, my hometown in the building that I first saw wrestling as a kid. Literally the first — went to my first show at. The Township Auditorium in Columbia, South Carolina is where I got to wrestle for NXT of all places. So it was just kind of, in a way, that was one of the nights where I could feel like, ‘If this ends tomorrow, I can stamp right here and say alright, I did good,’ and thankfully it didn’t end there. It’s been plenty more since. I could’ve died a happy man right then and there.
John’s last match took place in late March and prior to that, he was in action on AEW Dark as he and Baron Black teamed up to take on Miro and Kip Sabian.
John can be found on both Twitter and Instagram @TheJohnSkyler. To watch our full interview, click on the player at the top of this article or head over to the Andrew Thompson Interviews YouTube channel.