Injuries. They happen all the time, especially in a business where you put your body on the line numerous times a week. You’ll be hard pressed to find a pro wrestler who is without some sort of injury or is physically 100%. As wrestlers, we are fully aware the toll that is taken on our body when we step into the ring. For us this is a small sacrifice in the grand scheme of things.

What most wrestlers do not tell you, and what most people don’t see behind the scenes, is the toll these injuries take on a wrestler mentally. Being away from the ring, barred from training or performing on shows, because your own body “betrays” you. There is literally nothing we wouldn’t do to be back in the ring. So many wrestlers, including myself, push past what we deem small injuries (because we know so much better than actual doctors *sarcasm*) to keep fighting and competing. Whether this is due to others’ expectations or our own, we believe we are tough, we are determined, & we are indestructible!

I’m no stranger to pushing past injuries or the discomfort they cause. Between my background with gymnastics & policing, I’ve had quite a few over my lifetime. I graduated the police academy with a fracture in my left knee because I refused to let the pain stop me from completing my goal. So when the MRI results for my knee came back after a recent battle in the ring that I not only tore my MCL (medial collateral ligament) but that my ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) was torn completely from  my femur, my initial reaction was “what do I have to do to get back into the ring asap.” The orthopedic patiently explained to me that my ACL would have to be reconstructed by undergoing surgery and a rehabilitation period of 9 months to a year. The only other option was to wear a hefty, hinged brace (what most affectionately call the “Steve Austin” brace) and hope that would be enough to keep my knee from giving out while wrestling since I no longer had an ACL to stabilize it. And of course I chose option B.

I returned to the ring less than 2 months after my initial injury with my purple glittery brace appropriately named “Defiance”. I wrestled 3 matches in 2 days on the weekend of my return. I battled my way back to Future of Honor (Ring of Honor/ Women of Honor) and crossed swords for the Women’s Championship at Warriors of Wrestling. The following weeks I made my debut at SHINE 57 and put my knee on the line for the #1 contendership to the Women’s Championship at Brii Combination Wrestling. I was determined to keep fighting instead of heeding the warnings from my orthopedic.

I. Am. An. Idiot. Despite how strong my heart is, despite whatever motivation I carry, my knee is incapable of supporting myself or others in the ring long-term. Fear looms over my head with every match that my knee will give out and cause injury to myself or, even worse, to somebody else. I want to be a part of pro wrestling for years to come. And if I want longevity, I need to take care of the very important support system in my body.

So this is a very long-winded way of saying I’m going for ACL surgery in 2 days. I will unfortunately be out of the ring for an indeterminate amount of time. I feel guilty for letting down the promoters who trusted me to be a part of their shows and the people who believed in me enough to support me. I will be going completely bonkers while recovering & rehabbing. But it needs to be done.

I will be fighting a very different fight, but this one is no less important. I vow that I will be back, surgically enhanced knee and all!!

The moral of this story: Take care of your body. You only have one to last you an entire lifetime.

“Shadows fall
And hope has fled.
Steel your heart
The dawn will come.

The night is long
And the path is dark
Look to the sky
For one day soon
The dawn will come.

Bare your blade
And raise it high
Stand your ground
The dawn will come.”

– Dragon Age Inquisition

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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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