Out of the cage: Alex Riley speaks on in-ring return
Alex Riley has finally parted ways with the suit and tie of his commentary duties, opting instead to again don the trunks that were once a mainstay on WWE's flagship programs. Despite suffering a loss to NXT Champion Kevin Owens this week on WWE Network, Riley has stepped out of his cage, making it clear to the world that he is indeed ready to rage.
WWE.COM: In back-to-back weeks, we've seen you return to the ring. Most recently, you battled NXT Champion Kevin Owens. What is your take on the situation that led to Owens snapping at you while you were doing commentary, which itself eventually led to a match?
ALEX RILEY: I have said this from the start: All I can ever say to Kevin Owens is thank you. I had been looking for a reason to break free from the desk. I loved doing commentary for WWE, but at times I felt like a caged animal. Kevin Owens unlocked the door. He unchained me and now I will not be held responsible for my actions.
WWE.COM: Did you foresee things going down the way they have over the last couple weeks?
RILEY: In all honesty, no. I was unsure about everything, including the fact that I may never step foot inside a WWE ring again. You need to understand that I bleed WWE and when my time here is done, I will never put on another pair of boots again. I did not want it to end the way it did two years ago and I never want it to end now. If it was up to me, WWE would be the last thing I ever do with my life. Not knowing if you will ever regain your purpose in life is something that is extremely scary and it changed me forever.
WWE.COM: Up until last week, it had been two years since you had a televised match in a WWE ring. What was the reason for your long hiatus from the ring?
RILEY: The company asked me to play a role for them behind the desk as a commentator, which I was more than happy to fill. For me, it was an incredible opportunity. When WWE Network went live for the first Raw Pre-Show, I was a part of it and I was honored.
WWE.COM: You racked up quite the resume as a commentator from working the Raw Pre-Show, to “WWE Superstars,” Main Event and even pay-per-view panels. What did you take from all those experiences?
RILEY: Commentary and working as an analyst gave me a chance to stay as close to the product as I could. I love sports, I love competition and it is very easy for me to talk about it. I watched every moment of WWE programming for two years with an unbiased eye because I was removed from the ring. I learned a lot in the process.
WWE.COM: Your father has had an extensive career in broadcasting as well. Did you take a page out of his book?
RILEY: I grew up watching and listening to him. He always has been a good man, so I watched him closely to learn. The broadcasting was part of many more things that I took from my father.
WWE.COM: You had a very unique path to start your WWE career, from NXT Rookie in 2010 to The Miz's protégé. What goes through your mind when you look at those experiences?
RILEY: Growth. The Miz was great but I am not The Miz. For whatever reason, people thought we were similar years ago and I never understood why. It was frustrating. I believed I was something that the company did not. This time there will be no grey area. There will be no doubt or confusion on who Alex Riley is.
WWE.COM: You touched earlier on having doubts about the likelihood of returning to the ring. At any point did you accept that you would never possibly wrestle again?
RILEY: It was never over in my mind. Although I had people in WWE and in very high-powered, prominent positions telling me I was never going to wrestle again. I heard things like, “if you have anything in common with Alex Riley, you should be worried.” Honestly, hearing those things was more painful than I can put into words. But in my mind, I lived everyday like I was hours away from WrestleMania. That’s how you know you love something. It's when there is zero chance of you ever getting to see it, touch it, do it again and you go on faith and never stop pursuing it.
NEXT WEEK: Riley talks about the emotions of his first match back, staying in shape and the #FreeRiley social media campaign. You can follow Alex Riley on Twitter @AlexRileyWWE.