Riley Shepard talks becoming the Gladiator Of Geeks

JERSEY CITY, NJ - JUNE 03: Joey Ace and Joe Keys battle during Capitol Wrestling Live on June 3, 2017 at Cathedral Hall in Jersey City, New Jersey. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
JERSEY CITY, NJ - JUNE 03: Joey Ace and Joe Keys battle during Capitol Wrestling Live on June 3, 2017 at Cathedral Hall in Jersey City, New Jersey. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

Riley Shepard, also known as “The Gladiator of the Geeks,” started her independent wrestling career in 2018. Since then, she has become one of the biggest women’s wrestlers on the independent scene. Riley Shepard is based out of New Jersey and has since taken the whole world by storm.

The Beginning of The Gladiator

“I didn’t really grow up around it. It was nothing I really ever watched,” says Shepard. Shepard got into professional wrestling when she hit roughly 25 years of age. “At the time, my boyfriend got tickets to Wrestlemania when it was in New Jersey and didn’t invite me to that *laughs* so I kind of spitefully got into NXT because of him.”

Prior to getting into NXT, Shepard watched a little bit of the diva’s era but couldn’t get into it. However, during that time the NXT brand was gaining a lot of headway in the women’s division. NXT during that time was putting out women like Charlotte, Bayley, Sasha Banks, and Becky Lynch.

“They were really powerful and athletic women,” says Shepard. “I saw myself in that, that’s what made me fall in love with it.” That’s when Riley was able to see herself doing this and was really able to connect with it. “I remember watching Sasha Banks vs Becky Lynch, the moment when Becky lost but the crowd cheered her and sang her entrance music back to her, that’s when I knew.”

Becky Lynch, Sasha Banks, and Bayley really inspired the “Gladiator of the Geeks” to get into professional wrestling. “Bayley was so great with the crowd and had a strong connection with them,” says Shepard. “The way Bayley connected with the kids and inspired them, also inspired me as well.”

Riley Shepard On The Change In Women’s Wrestling

Women’s wrestling has thankfully come a very long way since the days of the “bra and panties” type of matches. This is in large due to a big thanks to the “Four Horsewomen” of the WWE. “It is incredibly important,” says Shepard. “Representation is incredibly important.”

“You need women of all types, sizes, abilities, everything because there are little girls who are exactly that and need to see that,” Shepard says. “You need to empower these little girls who look up to these women.” Shepard also notes that #GiveDivasAChance was the turning point of the women’s revolution. “The fans wanted more, and it just means so much to wrestling.”

Riley Shepard Begins Training

“I went to Monster Factory in South Jersey,” says Shepard. “I remember reaching out to Danny Cage at the time and he helped me to get into the school.” Shepard recalled emailing him and checking out training prior to signing up. “I remember watching it and seeing what it took. Then when I spoke to Danny, he told me this isn’t just a hobby, it’s something you have to give 110% to.”

From there, Riley Shepard signed up for training and achieved the first step in her career. Shepard also credits Danny Cage for asking her spouse at the time if he wanted to sign up as well. “My husband trained with us the first few months and he saw everything that we had to do. The first day was overwhelming but it clicked that I had to be there. The rest is history.”

Another coach that Shepard had at the time in Monster Factory was Damian Priest. “Priest was my coach. I was so lucky to learn from him,” says Shepard. “I stood at Monster Factory until he got signed to NXT. He really gave me a lot of inspiration about the story-telling aspect of professional wrestling.”

Growing up as a kid, Riley Shepard loved reading stories and still does to this day. “I love the story-telling aspect of this,” says Shepard. “Priest would come in an hour early to help me and a few others. He took time out of his day to do that and I’m extremely grateful to him.”

Shepard said that the first time she met him he was incredibly intimidating but just remembered that Priest treated her like a “little sister.” “He’s an extremely great person and he deserves everything he gets.”

Shortly after Priest got signed to NXT, Shepard decided to go check out a new school headed by Damien Adams. “He is known to be the women’s coach and it’s so true,” says Shepard. “Seeing who he produces and the amazing people who come out of his school, I knew I needed to go here.”

Adams ended up finding out that Shepard looked into going to his school and reached out to her to invite her down. “I knew I wanted to find a new place to learn in order to learn a different style,” says Shepard. “Learning from Adams, it’s not about the moves, it’s about the in-between and the authenticity.”

The Gladiator Makes Her Presence Felt All Over The World

Riley Shepard so far got to wrestle all over for a lot of different promotions. One of the notable companies that Shepard wrestles at is Rise Wrestling. “Rise was really cool,” says Shepard. “I got on that event because I did a seminar and it was in conjunction with Impact and I got to learn from the likes of Gail Kim who is a legend.”

“Also meeting people from all over the world too was awesome,” says Shepard. “I was a year and a half in when it happened and it was an awesome day.” Rise is a wrestling company that is contained of mostly women. “The whole locker room is pretty much women and you’re surrounded by this energy. It’s awesome.”

Riley Shepard also got to wrestle on national TV, on Ring of Honor Wrestling. “I made my debut on TV for Women of Honor in New York,” says Shepard. “I remember having all of the butterflies. I was having a tag team match against Sumi and Stella Grey with Gabby Ortiz.”

Origins of The Gladiator of The Geeks

Riley Shepard is professional wrestling’s resident “Gladiator of the Geeks.” But, how did Shepard come up with this gimmick? “I’ve always been a geek and been an awkward person,” says Shepard. “This is truly me with armor and a sword. I knew I wanted to create a space for people like me that I would have wanted as a kid.”

“I want people to see themselves within my character and also know they can be strong,” says Shepard. “Geeks are strong. I knew I wanted to bring this character. When I was young because I was geeky, I got bullied a lot. Back then I had a voice when I spoke about things I loved but when it came to standing up for myself, I lost my voice and it took me years to find that voice.”

Famous Rivalries of The Gladiator of The Geeks

Riley Shepard has had some incredible matches with incredible talents such as Tasha Steelz, Tina San Antonio, and Darius Carter. “With Tasha and Tina it was great because I was able to train with both of them,” says Shepard. “Tasha is just so smooth. She has such a great personality and is a phenomenal wrestler. To see her doing her thing in Impact is amazing to me.”

“For Tina, we bonded a lot because we are older and for us, we feel like we need to keep proving ourselves and why we are still here, in a younger person’s game,” says Shepard. “For both of us that match meant so much and we felt we had to show them what brought us to the table”

“When it comes to Darius Carter, he is the person I love to hate the most,” says Shepard. “When I tore my ACL, BCW allowed me to be on commentary and allow me to learn that side of wrestling. While I was on commentary and couldn’t wrestle, Darius would mess with me and be in my face talking meanly and pulling antics.”

Darius Carter vs Riley Shepard was one of the best intergender feuds in recent memory. This is a big deal. “For me, intergender wrestling means a lot,” says Shepard. “There are wrestlers who are non-binary because they don’t identify with one division. So, it’s helpful to them as well. Also, I train with men, I do everything they do, and yet I am not strong enough to be able to face them? To have people tell me it’s not believable is such a weird thing to hear because it’s wrestling.”

What’s Next For Riley Shepard?

This month, Riley Shepard has a few shows this month that you can see her at. She will be at NYCW on August 7th, when she looks to put a stop to “The Madness of Tripp.” Shepard will also be in a tag team match with Kennedi Copeland taking on Jordan Blade and the Notorious Mimi at Grapple-Hers on August 14th.

Later on, in August, Shepard will be at WWR+ taking on Little Mean Kathleen on August 22nd. The night before though, you can see her take on “The Kryptonian” Darien Hardway at Intergender Bonanza.

As for the future, “Kimber Lee is someone who I really want to face,” says Shepard. “I also want to face Jordan Blade in single’s competition. Trish Adora in singles, Willow Nightingale, Deonna, Nyla Rose. At this point, really everyone, I want to fight everyone. Give me everyone.”