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FULL TRANSCRIPT: WWE NXT CRUISERWEIGHT CHAMPION SANTOS ESCOBAR DISCUSSES DEFENDING AGAINST CURT STALLION TOMORROW, NEGRO CASAS MEMORIES, CARRYING THE LEGACY OF LUCHA LIBRE INTO THE 21st CENTURY, RAISING THE CRUISERWEIGHT TITLE'S PROFILE, CHOOSING TO GO WITHOUT HIS MASK IN NXT, LEGADO DE FANTASMA, HOW HE'S EVOLVED THE MOST SINCE COMING TO NXT & MORE

By Mike Johnson on 2021-01-27 11:44:00

WWE NXT Cruiserweight Champion Santos Escobar will defend his Championship against Curt Stallion on tonight's edition of WWE NXT on the USA Network.  Yesterday, in advance of the title defense, Escobar sat down with PWInsider.com to talk his journey to World Wrestling Entertainment and much more.

 

Mike Johnson: Today is Tuesday, January 26, 2021, which means we are 24 hours away from a stacked edition of WWE NXT on the USA Network. Among the top matches that are going to be taking place - Curt Stallion will finally get his shot at the WWE NXT Cruiserweight Championship and we're here with the reigning and defending Cruiserweight Champion, Santos Escobar, who has had an incredible journey throughout Mexico and the world before landing in WWE NXT. We're very happy to be sitting down and talking to him. Sir, how are you doing today?

Santos Escobar: I'm very good, Mike, and thank you very much for this opportunity to address the NXT Universe and the WWE Universe.

Mike Johnson:  So let's dive into the obvious. Last week we saw Curt Stallion and yourself get into a bit of an altercation on NXT to set up this match. Stallion has been saying that he is in line for a championship match for some time. What can fans expect when Santos Escobar and Curt Stallion finally face off on NXT?

Santos Escobar: Well, Mike, I gotta tell you this - Curt Stallion made a huge mistake, it's almost a career-ending mistake, because I was addressing the NXT Universe when he interrupted me, and I gotta tell you, he wanted to embarrass me. So tomorrow night, this rookie, and I gotta say he is a rookie, I've been here for 20+ years doing this, and this kid comes and interrupts me? Well that's not going to happen and tomorrow night I'm going to make an example of Curt Stallion. So NXT Universe, WWE Universe - tune in because I would love to destroy this guy for you tomorrow.

Mike Johnson: So you mentioned he's a rookie, but you've got 20 years of experience. Fans who have been around and have been following lucha libre and have been following your exploits all over the world have seen you under many different ring names and know the history of your family. When you came to NXT, you made the decision to remove the mask instead of retaining it as a big piece of your persona. It's still part of your entrance and who you are as a person. What led to the decision to remove the mask that we've all known you under as El Hijo Del Fantasma or King Cuerno before WWE as you let people know you as Santos Escobar? What was that decision-making process like?

Santos Escobar: Well I had already lost my mask in Mexico in a high-profile match a couple of years ago. When I first came to WWE, to NXT, I was presented with the opportunity to participate in the cruiserweight tournament and I thought to myself "A good move would be to introduce me as a luchador, because I am a luchador above anything and wearing the mask was certainly a good way to do it. Of course, down the line I took the mask off because I wanted to evolve and I wanted to present a new character and something different, so that's how Santos Escobar came about. But to me it was always important to put lucha libre before anything I do.

Mike Johnson: You spent some time in the WWE Performance Center before we got to see you on WWE television. How difficult or how easy was it to get out of the lucha libre mindset of the ways things are done in Mexico in the ring and the way WWE presents their product? Was it a hard transition doing pro wrestling WWE style?

Santos Escobar: Well this wasn't my first time in America, so I had been around wrestling for many years but of course, WWE is a different animal but being at the Performance Center with all the knowledge that's there, it wasn't that difficult.

Mike Johnson: We've seen you with Joaquin Wilde and Raul Mendoza as Legado Del Fantasma. What has it been like having talents that you mentor and how has that helped you present yourself on WWE television?

Santos Escobar: I think Joaquin and Raul are two amazing talents. The main thing we share is that the three of us love and respect the true roots of lucha libre, the tradition of lucha libre, and we practice it every time we go out there. I think that is the most important thing for the NXT Universe to note is that we are luchadores and that's what we do. Of course that's the main thing that unites us - lucha libre, and to me, it's been a ride, it's been a journey of course, but I'm glad that we are together and that we are this cohesive unit and that we're advancing. 

Mike Johnson: The Cruiserweight Championship has been around for a few years now.  Do you think the Cruiserweight Championship is a bit under-represented in the eyes of the WWE audience? Is there something that you feel can be done to bring the Cruiserweight Championship back to some greater heights and do you think maybe it's unfair that some fans kind of overlook it in the collection of all these championships that WWE and NXT have?

Santos Escobar: I think that since I became the NXT Cruiserweight Champion I have brought the title and the division itself to a whole different level. I managed to defend the title for the first time at NXT Takeover. I like to say, and I say it every chance I get to do it, I took the title and the division from the side show to the main show and I will continue doing so because that's how I work, that's how lucha libre inside me is. I always try to be the best, I always try to steal the show, to communicate and connect with the audience and the cruiserweight division is the perfect vehicle for me to do it.

Mike Johnson: Since you've come to WWE, you've had a lot of chances, as we saw last week, to speak directly to the WWE audience. How do you think you've grown the most as a performer since coming to WWE after so many decades? How do you think you've evolved the most since coming to WWE?

Santos Escobar: I think that's just it. Of course, I have to learn the roots of American wrestling, but I think one of the most important things that I had to adapt for the American audience was my mic skills. I think it's very important for any international talent to have a way of communicating with your audience, a way to connect with the audience, and the best way to do it is by talking. Just grabbing a mic and speaking your mind. I think that has been very...it has been fun, it has been interesting...that's a journey that I cherish.

Mike Johnson: You've had the chance to wrestle in all these historic buildings in Mexico against all these famous luchadors, so I wanted to throw one name at you - favorite memories of wrestling Negro Casas.

Santos Escobar: Ooooh Negro Casas, wow, memories...he was a mentor to me, and I think the most important match that I had with him was the World Middleweight Title that I lost to him in Arena Mexico. I learned a lot that night.

Mike Johnson: The Capitol Wrestling Center has become a very unique place for NXT. What's it like preparing to wrestle in such a unique environment like the Capitol Wrestling Center where you can hear the audience but except for a few fans, they're not present. How different is that in terms of your mental preparation in matches?

Santos Escobar: It's quite a different environment. The CWC has a small amount of fans and of course that changes the atmosphere a little bit because you do see some people and you do hear some voices. Of course it's a very different atmosphere and you have to understand it. Now, I have wrestled in Japan many times and the crowd there is silent so I kind of went there and tried to emulate those days but yeah, it's certainly not easy.

Mike Johnson: So we've seen a number of stars on WWE 205 Live and NXT who are vying for the Cruiserweight Championship. Is there anyone that you haven't had a chance to step in the ring with that you look around and you go, oh a Tony Nese or a Tyler Breeze, that you know when that moment happens it'll be something special for the audience?

Santos Escobar: Well you know, the Cruiserweight division is packed, it's big, and there's a lot of talent in there. I certainly would like to face some old cruiserweights like Mysterio for example, that to me would be interesting, not just for me but for the NXT Universe because some people think he's one of the most important Cruiserweight champions in WWE history - I think of myself as one too, so that would be one that I would love to have.

Mike Johnson: What were your thoughts on the Lucha House Party coming to NXT? Did you think it was a great way to kind of spice things up and kind of surprise the fans or do you feel like, "stay over on Raw this is our territory"?

Santos Escobar: Yeah, pretty much that. This is my empire, I am the emperor of lucha libre and I call NXT my empire for a reason and that reason is - I'm the best luchador in the house. To me, lucha libre is not a party, it's something serious, it's a way of living, it's a discipline, it's culture, it's tradition. It's not just a party, and for these guys to come and insult me and Joaquin and Raul the way they did, again - wrong time, wrong place, wrong people.

Mike Johnson: When you say Legado Del Fantasma, you're carrying the legacy of your family as well as lucha libre itself. There's an audience that's learned about lucha libre watching WWE - what do you think is the most important part of carrying that heritage and bringing it to a worldwide audience?

Santos Escobar: I think what I represent are the true roots of lucha libre. Wearing a mask is the most important attire that you can have. We show the tradition, the culture, the discipline, of course the maneuvers, the high flying maneuvers, the technical aspect of lucha libre, but mainly it's the tradition - how I present, how I wear a cape, how I wear a mask, how I walk in the ring, how I present the luchador image. To me, that's the most important thing.

Mike Johnson: Wrestlemania is coming in a couple of months. Who would you like to face in a Wreslemania ring?

Santos Escobar: I would like to defend the NXT Cruiserweight Title at Wrestlemania. Absolutely.

 Mike Johnson: Perhaps Rey Mysterio?

Santos Escobar: I'd love to, of course, yeah. And not just for NXT Cruiserweight Title, but for the lucha libre empire.

Mike Johnson: Well before we get there you'll be facing Curt Stallion tomorrow evening.  When fans watch NXT tomorrow, what can you predict about your title defense?

Santos Escobar: Well I gotta say this about Curt - either he's very brave or he's insane to do what he did last week. Tomorrow night I'm just going to go out and do lucha all over the place and destroy Curt. I hope he's ready, I think he said he's ready but we'll see tomorrow because I am very, very angry, I am livid about what he did last week and tomorrow night I'm going to show to the world what an angry luchador looks like. 

Mike Johnson: If you've got a message to your audience in Mexico who are waiting for WWE to be able to tour there again or just a message to everyone who's followed you through Lucha Underground and AAA and Mexico and Japan and all points in between before you came to WWE I'd live to give you that forum to kind of close us out.

Santos Escobar: Well I want to thank all my Mexican fans, my Latin American fans. The one thing I want to say is that I hope I am making justice to our culture in WWE.

Mike Johnson: All right. Tomorrow evening, WWE NXT returns to the USA Network. Santos Escobar will be defending the WWE NXT Cruiserweight Championship against Curt Stallion and you can be sure Legado Del Fantasma will not be far behind, not just tomorrow evening but in the weeks ahead as NXT heads to Takeover on February 14th on Valentine's Day. We want to thank everybody for listening and sir, I hope this is the first of many conversations we get to have and I thank you so much for giving us a couple of minutes of your day to sit down and talk to us.

Santos Escobar: Thank you, Mike. 

If you enjoy PWInsider.com you can check out the AD-FREE PWInsider Elite section, which features exclusive audio updates, news, our critically acclaimed podcasts, interviews and more by clicking here!

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