By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
AC Mack reflects on his IWTV Title win against Alex Shelley and becoming first openly gay male to win a world title in pro wrestling: What’s so funny is that I have really bad anxiety when it comes to performing and that whole week leading up to that match [IWTV Title match against Alex Shelley] was really rough on me. I had a few attacks, was hard for me to keep food down, I found out I was gonna win, I found out I was gonna be the first openly gay world champion. It was just a lot all in one week so once they counted three, I just remembered burying my face in the mat, just crying to myself, just saying to myself, ‘It’s over, it’s over, it’s over’ and I was just telling somebody else the other day how ironic is it that I kept saying that because oh my God, it was just the beginning [Mack laughed].
“It was just the beginning but the beginning of something great but the beginning for sure. I always tell people, all of it has been overwhelming in the best way possible. This is the type of overwhelmed that you wanna be. To be able to cut that promo right after the match, everything felt great, everything just kind of fell into place. I personally think that’s the best time for any wrestler to cut a promo, right after your match and you’re still fired up and zooted from the match itself. You still have that post-match high. It’s not cold as some would say so I think it’s the best time and the stars were aligned, they gave me a few bullet points to hit during the promo and the rest was up to me so, I just kind of had some fun with it, put some sugar on it and we went from there. My boyfriend was in the ring with me along with everybody else and at the time, we were dating for a few months. We weren’t even official right there in the ring. I kind of asked him, I don’t wanna say privately, because everybody can see. It was kind of a whisper like, ‘Hey, you ready to do this? We talked about it but, now seems like a good time to make it official.’
Mack is glad his IWTV Title reign consists of more than just the initial win, has had 20 defenses of the belt since January: “We’re almost at 2023. I have to look at the stats again but I think I’m either the second or third highest most defenses in the belt’s history… There has been so many more moments outside of the win. So many more opponents that I’m so glad I’ve gotten to get in the ring with, so many promotions I’ve gotten to defend the belt at, so many regions now that we’re taking it to. We had a whole season of Uncharted Territory that was kicked off by this reign and we were able to put the spotlight on so many guys from the southeast who deserve to be seen on a national scale, you know?
“So I love that when people look back at this reign, they’re gonna think of the ‘Southeast First’ movement, they’re gonna think of storytelling, they’re gonna think of promo work, they’re gonna think of the big national, civil rivalry between the northeast and the southeast so, and I just had a defense in LA. That was my first time taking the belt on the west coast so doing a lot of firsts here with this and I’m very, very proud of that. So proud of that and like you said, we’re still going. I still got the belt. It’s not over. We just announced more… We got Alec Price coming up, we got Hoodfoot coming up. We got some big, big things happening. Man, I’m so excited. Easily the best year of my career so far.”
Mack on blending reality and storyline with his back and forth on social media with Beyond Wrestling promoter Drew Cordiero, feeling like the southern independent scene was overlooked: “It was so important to me [to spotlight the southern independent scene] because I started training in 2016 and everybody down here that has been making moves, it’s kind of like in the independent scene… they don’t acknowledge it and it’s not seen as equal to what’s happening in the northeast. It’s like, ‘Oh, what you’re doing is cool. But if you wanna be seen, if you wanna get some exposure, you need to go up north.’ Not only was that the attitude but people were explicitly saying that and after a while, I kind of resented it. I’m like, why should I have to bust my ass and screw up my car and spend money on flights and take all this time off of P.T.O. from my job every weekend just to go up there and do the same thing I can do down here, if not better, you know what I’m saying?
“We have the talent, we have the promotions. Why is it that the independent scene is seen as the northeast? That’s the premiere region that you think of when you think of independent wrestling. You think of Beyond, you think of these places that are great, that do have great talent but they’re not the only ones. So, you know, it became a situation to where the storyline and reality were kind of blurred to the point where we had the championship win, I cut the promo, Drew Cordeiro responded… immediately and there were so many people in the southeast region, wrestlers and fans who were up in arms about it. Really, really upset that Drew made those comments because like I said, it’s a blurred storyline, you know? It’s a storyline but it’s real. It comes from a real place. A lot of us feel like that down here so once Drew responded [Mack laughed], I ain’t gonna name any names but I had some people ready to go. Like, let’s get in the car and pull up. Like what’s up? I was like, ‘Yo chill, chill, chill, chill.’ But that’s what it means, that’s how real it is for us so for me to make that statement, it rejuvenated us once again and we were able to go and do something special with Uncharted Territory and I made the promise that the belt was being held hostage and I’m not defending it anywhere else and then on July 1st, we had the press conference and I made the announcement that we’re no longer holding this hostage because with Uncharted Territory, we’re able to bring that needed exposure that we fought so hard for. So in a way it was like, okay, we’ve completed the mission, now what? So we completed the mission and I’m like, okay, y’all been talking sh*t this whole time. ‘Oh, he’s not a real world champion because he’s not going nowhere,’ blah, blah, blah. Okay, bet, let’s open this up. Let’s send out some contracts, let’s see who accepts. So now I gotta defense in L.A. like I said, I got one in Houston, I got one in Indiana, we got one in Jersey. I’m a man of my word. I am a world champion but we have to get the point across first. That was the whole point so, that’s why it’s been so important. It’s like, hey, we’ve been saying X, Y and Z and nobody’s listening. Now I got the belt. Okay, now you have no choice but to listen to me and that’s why it was important. I like microphones and I needed to get the biggest microphone on the indies and that way, everybody could hear me.