So… it’s been a bit of a moment since I’ve updated all my fellow geeks about the going-ons in my life. As of now, I am a little over 5 months into my recovery from the ACL reconstruction surgery on my knee. The reason I’m writing is not only to keep everyone updated, but to also talk about a part of recovery that gets swept under the rug & kept in the dark: the mental side of rehabilitation.

The first couple of months after surgery was probably one of the toughest things I’ve had to deal with (and that’s coming from someone who had to put up with police academy drill instructors screaming in their face for 5 months to get on their back and be a “dead cockroach”, NOW switch to push-up position, then back to “dead cockroach NOW!” You get the point…) While I’ve always prided myself on having the grit to push through any obstacle, this recovery fell squarely outside of that realm. Before, I was always able to find that “zone”, the place where I could mentally almost check-out & force my body through enduring painful situations. Sure, there were times in the past where it was a bit harder to find that “zone”, but I always was able to get there eventually.

There is no escaping recovery and rehabilitation. There is no escaping the knowledge that your body, which you use to push to the limit in various athletic pursuits, now had the limitation of being unable to walk correctly (let alone run). There is no escaping that the simple task of bending and straightening your leg, a task that you completely took for granted not even days before the surgery, made you want to howl in pain & frustration. And there is no escaping the feelings of betrayal and loneliness that can consume you if you don’t take steps to deter it.

I’ll be honest, I spiraled for a good couple of months. I became a spectator to the sport that I loved, watching from the sidelines while no longer having any active role in the business. And I think that was probably my first mistake. Abruptly removing myself from the world and people who I had surrounded myself with for the last two years made it feel like I had lost more than just my knee mobility. I felt utterly betrayed by my own body because it had failed to support me the way I knew it was capable of. Yet it was so much worse to isolate myself with those feelings and have no real outlet that could fill the void left behind by wrestling.

Luckily for me, there are several promotions that I gladly call “home”. One such promotion, Brii Combination Wrestling, reached out to me with an opportunity to be a part of their commentary team for their June show. I jumped at the chance to expand my repertoire and work alongside AJ Pan & Pete Rosado in this new role. I didn’t know when I accepted the position just how much it would help my recovery. While I was slightly nervous (for those who’ve had verbal conversations with me, they know I’m a teensy bit of a socially awkward turtle), just stepping back into that gymnasium while the ring was being built filled me with a sense of euphoria. I was prepared to work my booty off to excel at anything thrown my way because this was where I belonged, no matter what role I step into. And I was done sabotaging myself or holding myself back in ANY way from returning to that ring stronger & better than ever!

I KNOW 2020 is going to be the year of The Gladiator of the Geeks. There is a bright light at the end of this tunnel, and I’m working extremely hard at physical therapy and with my personal trainer Sydnee Weinberg every week to be prepared for it. I keep actively reminding myself that every single step in this recovery (no matter how small) is positive progress. A few weeks ago, I was able to get back into a training ring at Worldwide Dojo just to do some rolls (with Cheeseburger and Sumie Sakai keeping me in check, of course). This wasn’t just positive progress, it was a greatly significant moment for me.

When the time comes to *safely* step back into the ring, I’m going to take the wrestling universe by storm (and bring the reckoning to quite a few individuals)! In the meantime, I have a place where I can continue to be a part of the world that I’m completely passionate about!

Below is a list of the upcoming events where I’ll be on commentary. Please come support these phenomenal promotions, and be sure to say “Hi!” to me on intermission!!
9/14/19: New York Championship Wrestling (Whitesboro, NY)
9/21/19: Atomic Championship Wrestling/ Rogue Women Warriors (Stevens, PA)9/27/19: Brii Combination Wrestling (Bronx, NY)
10/12/19: New York Championship Wrestling (Whitesboro, NY)
11/1/19: Brii Combination Wrestling (Bronx, NY)

***If anyone is going through an ACL recovery (or any knee surgery/injury, really), I would HIGHLY recommend checking out https://www.theaclclub.com/ and listening to “Show Your Scars” podcast. These both were great tools that helped me tremendously because they connect you to people who are going through similar journeys.***

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Riley Shepard

Riley Shepard is a former gymnast, 911 dispatcher & police officer turned professional wrestler. Riley has trained at The World Famous Monster Factory with Damian Priest & Danny Cage. She currently trains with Damian Adams. Riley is located in the East Coast and has wrestled for many promotions such as Ring of Honor, Rise Ascent, Atomic Championship Wrestling & many more!

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