Beyond the Detroit Underground: A Motor City Machine Guns Retrospective

Ashley Rose Nova highlights moments from the tag team with some subcultural history.

Brief History: Detroit

Detroit is considered one of the largest cities in Michigan. The city was founded in 1701. Detroit does unfortunately have a negative reputation to some people, being called a murder city or people highly focusing on the crime rate. However, some choose to recognize the city for its musical history. Very few cities in America have a strong musical background. Detroit’s musical heritage is rich with rap, rock, blues, and is the home for Motown. In 1968, The Stooges played the Grande Ballroom in the city. They were originally billed as the Psychedelic Stooges, creating the or one of the early sounds of punk.

Also known as Motor City. The nickname was given to the city when it was the home or center of the automotive industry. The innovators and pioneers of the automotive industry, Henry Ford and Ransom Olds lived there. Allowing the three major car companies- General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler to be based in Detroit by 1924. 

In pro-wrestling, the city is recognizable to the fans because of one of the most inspirational and skilled tag teams, known as Motor City Machine Guns.

Photo: Mike Kalasnik @Flickr 2010

In the Beginning…

In 2006, Chris Sabin and Alex Shelley began teaming in the independent circuit. They would win the Zero-1 Max International Lightweight Tag Team Championship. The team defeated Ikuto Hidaka and Minoru Fujita.

Pro-Wrestling Zero1-Max, now known as Pro Wrestling Zero1 is a Japanese puro promotion founded in 2001. At one time they were affiliated with National Wrestling Alliance | NWA up till 2004. They then regained partnership or affiliation in 2011.

Sabin and Shelley retained the titles for close to 2 years. The titles were then held by Sugawara and Fujita. 

The team would be introduced under Murder City Machine Guns and then would become what we would know as Motor City Machine Guns.

Photo: Mike Kalasnik @Flickr

TNA-Total Nonstop Action Wrestling

MCMG debuted on April 2007 at TNA Wrestling. When beginning their start at the company. Both Shelley and Sabin were listed as singles competitors for the X-Division. (For more info on the X-Division read article)

Memorable Moments:

At the Lockdown pay-per-view, they both became regulars in the tag team division. The team continued to work indie promotions that would work with TNA. This would allow the team to hold the All-American Wrestling Tag Team Championship from September 2007 – January 2008. From there MCMG would begin a feud with Team 3D. One of the most memorable feuds in TNA. This would lead the teams through a series of special style matches such as Ultimate X and a Street Fight. The feud also included Jay Lethal, allowing Lethal to become X Division Champion again.

MCMG vs Generation Me

In 2010, Motor City Machine Guns would face Generation Me (Young Bucks) at Destination X. They would defeat Generation Me in an Ultimate X match. This earned their spot as #1 contenders for the World Tag Team Titles. In April of that year, MCMG sadly were defeated by Amazing Red and Matt Morgan.

MCMG vs Vacant

Sometime in 2010, the TNA World Tag Titles became vacant. At the event Sacrifice, Motor City would defeat two teams. Those teams were Beer Money and Team 3D.  It was at Victory Road of that year that MCMG would win the vacant titles against Beer Money.

Motor City Machine Guns would hold the titles for around 182 days. They would lose the titles at Genesis to Beer Money.

Due to unfavorable circumstances, Motor City would be inactive for three months. Alex Shelley at the time was reported with a collarbone injury. Chris then continued to the X-Division as a singles competitor. In April 2011, Shelley made his return to save Sabin in a match. However, Chris Sabin received an injury during that match to his knee. Sabin was out for the rest of the year due to an ACL injury.

In 2012…

At the event Victory Road, Motor City Machine Guns were announced as the team that would be returning. The tag team returned on April 5, 2012 on an episode of Impact Wrestling. They would disband in May of that year.

The King of Sports

MCMG would become the second Gaijin team to win the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Championship. The event was Wrestle Kingdom III in the Tokyo Dome. Two of the title defenses took place at TNA. Motor City Machine Guns were defeated by No Limit in December 2010. The tag team returned to New Japan Pro-Wrestling on July 31, 2016. They challenged the Young Bucks (Generation Me) for the titles.  Young Bucks retained the titles.

Between 2007 up to 2018 Motor City also competed and won gold at Ring of Honor.

As a team, Chris Sabin and Alex Shelley have held gold at All American Wrestling, New Japan Pro-Wrestling, Pro Wrestling Zero 1-Max, TNA (IMPACT), and Ring of Honor.

The High Crusade

The High Crusade is a band based in Michigan, formed by both members of Motor City Machine Guns. The band also includes Petey Williams, Adam Tatro, Chris Plumb, and Rob Kaminski. Others have contributed to the band’s post-progressive 1970s punk-influenced sound. The 7 track EP is a solid release from the band. If you enjoy the sounds of bands like Agent Orange, Dead Kennedys, or Cock Sparrer. It is worth the listen.

Motor City in 2020…

Shelley and Sabin returned to IMPACT Wrestling on July 18, 2020, defeating The Rascalz. The Rascalz issued an open challenge after a victory over The North. 

Motor City Machine Guns are a technically gifted team, that has a working bond that can only be achieved through years of working together. In the ring, they are also greatly influenced by their accomplishments as singles competitors.

Final Thoughts

In a future where anything is possible and in an industry that keeps developing. All those years with a team surpassing expectations. Surviving and redeveloping after injuries. Alex Shelley surviving a crack on his head, that he received in Japan. Continuing the match and impressing people with his quality move set in the ring. Chris Sabin returning to the ring, stronger than ever after 3 ACL injuries. These are the stories, the ones that should be shared in the future beyond pro-wrestling. Some will share the story, about the tag team that returned unexpectedly. Others will choose to have it another way.

Photo Credit: TNA Impact Wrestling

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