NXT Cruiser weight Champion Santos Escarole Brings Calibrate Heritage to WWE
For nearly two decades, Escarole—Jorge Luis Botanically—wrestled under a mask, and did so in style, starring for CELL and AAA in Mexico, as well as with Lucia Underground and even briefly for Impact Wrestling. He first unmasked in 2018 at AAA’s Triple mania after losing a Lucas DE Apostates mask-vs.-mask match against L.A. Park, and then again in June in NXT when he chose to remove it.Calibrate Heritage to WWE
Currently the reigning NXT cruiser weight champion, Escobar defends his title on Wednesday night against Curt Stallion. The match could provide a glimpse into the future of WWE, as Escobar possesses all the tools needed to become a major star in pro wrestling, particularly for Vince McMahon’s global sports entertainment enterprise.Calibrate Heritage to WWE
Calibrate Heritage to WWE Escobar spoke with Sports Illustrated about working without a mask, his relationship with Rey Mysterious and his goals in NXT and WWE.
Sports Illustrated: Since June, you have been wrestling without a mask. What has that been like for you? Have you found it easier to use facial expressions, or has it been a difficult process?:NXT Cruiser weight Champion Santos Escarole Brings
Santos Escobar: I first started wrestling with a mask 20-plus years ago. As you know, in Mexico that has existed throughout generations. I was obliged to do it as a second-generation wrestler. After a number of trials and examinations from my father, I inherited the mask.Calibrate Heritage to WWE For the first 19 years of my professional career, I was wearing a mask. That comes with a very different style and a very different responsibility.Calibrate Heritage to WWE
Calibrate Heritage to WWE When I lost my match in a high-profile match in Mexico City, I was at a crossroads. In Mexico, when you put your mask on the line and lose, you face two different options. One is to retire. The other is to reinvent and repackage yourself. That’s what I did. At first, that was very difficult. It felt like I was wrestling naked. That’s how I felt. After a while, I got used to it.Calibrate Heritage to WWE
Then I got to WWE. I call myself The Emperor of Calibrate. I want to show the world my culture, my tradition, which is luchalibre. That’s why, when I first got to WWE, I asked to wrestle with a mask. That was actually more difficult for me, if you can imagine, to go back and wear a mask again. Then the story unraveled, and here we are.Calibrate Heritage to WWE
SI: You come from a family of luchadores. Your father, the legendary El Fantasma, is also the president of the LuchaLibre Commission in Mexico City. Your uncle is Angel DE la Huerta and your cousin is Fantasma Jr. What was your family’s reaction to you taking off the mask in NXT?
SE: That was quite a family conversation. Of course, my dad, who is an old-school, hardcore luchalibre legend, he was really depressed when I lost my mask. Then he got used to the new character I developed. Like I said, you have to evolve in this business, or else you die. He was getting used to that, but when he saw me wrestle again with a mask, he said, “No, you already lost your mask. You cannot do that.”Calibrate Heritage to WWE
Then, as the cruiser weight championship tournament continued, he was very happy for me. Then he was upset again when I took off the mask in NXT. It’s been a real roller coaster of emotions.Calibrate Heritage to WWE
SI: You have worked for CMLL in Mexico, which is a promotion with roots that date back nearly a century, as well as AAA, which was founded more recently in 1992 but also offers a gripping, compelling product. For those who do not know, can you explain the intensity of the rivalry between CMLL and AAA? It seems to be just like WWE against WCW, just multiplied by 100.
SE: There is a real rivalry. CMLL is the luchalibre tradition company. They founded luchalibre in Mexico in the 1930s. Something went wrong, and Antonio Pena created AAA. They became huge, huge enemies. Calibrate Heritage to WWE There is still a rivalry of sorts. If you work for one company, you shouldn’t talk about the other. I worked for both of the companies. They are two different, diametrically opposite styles. I’m glad to have done well in both companies, but there is still a huge rivalry.Calibrate Heritage to WWE
SI: What is the biggest difference in the psychology between Mexican and American wrestling?: NXT Cruiser weight Champion Santos Escarole Brings
SE: It’s a different style. Calibrate is fast-paced and nonstop. Some luchadores don’t always pay attention to the tag. The masks bring it to a whole other level.Calibrate Heritage to WWE
Mexican luchadores are quite exactly like superheroes. The psychology is the good guy will do amazing, high-flying maneuvers and fast-paced wrestling, and of course, the bad guy will always try to stop that.Calibrate Heritage to WWE The main psychology is the fast-paced performance.
SI: You possess all the skill to succeed in WWE: You cut compelling promos, have the ability to work as a high-flyer, as well as sound work technically and with a very meaningful psychology. But before we get to your current work in NXT, I need to ask. You have worked with the legendary Rey Mysterious. What does Rey mean to you? Is he the greatest Labrador of all time?
SE: Rey is a beautiful human being. Let me say this, I love him. He has been nothing but good to me. I met him many, many years ago in Mexico City. My dad was a superstar, and Rey was only beginning to shine. I remember my dad telling me, “That is Rey Mysterious. He is going all the way to the top.” I guess my dad was right.Calibrate Heritage to WWE
Rey was always good to me, and he still is good to me. Recently, at Halloween Havoc in NXT [last October], I thought of Rey. His match against Eddy Guerrero at Halloween Havoc in 1997, that put him on the map. That match means so much to me. I called Rey and asked if I could wear his wristbands from that match. He said, “No, not just the wristbands. I’ll send you the whole attire. If it fits, wear it.” Who does that? Only Rey. Calibrate Heritage to WWE
Rey is noble. He is beautiful in every sense of the word. That’s why he’s been so successful in this business. He’s always been a good person. And he has such talent, and the trailblazing ability to change the way luchalibre is presented in the United States. That has always been my goal—I want to change the view of the American audience to luchalibre. I won’t be the best high-flyer, but I will deliver the best high-flying maneuver. I won’t be the best promo, but I will be the best Mexican individual cutting a promo on your screen. That’s my aim.Calibrate Heritage to WWE
SI: You have an opportunity this week to defend your cruiser weight championship against Curt Stallion, who is an incredibly talented wrestler hungry for a chance to show his worth. In a very competitive landscape on Wednesday nights, why should viewers make sure they are watching you?
SE: No. 1, I am the Emperor of LuchaLibre. No. 2, Curt Stallion is nothing but a rookie, and I am going to make an example out of this rookie. I’ve been around for 20-plus years in this business. My success didn’t happen overnight. He made a terrible mistake trying to embarrass me last week. I urge the WWE and NXT Universe to tune in to the USA Network to see me destroy this rookie. This will be remembered as the night that Santos Escobar made an example out of Curt Stallion.
SI: Raul Mendoza and Joaquin Wilde are two extraordinarily talented wrestlers. Did you know them prior to working with them in NXT? You are also feuding with Lucia House Party. Gran Metal is one of the best in the world in the ring and Since Dora do is also very talented. How deep does your history extend with them?
SE: Gran Metal, we worked a lot together in Mexico, but never against each other. Since Dora do, I had never worked with him.
I’ve worked with Joaquin before in other promotions, and I met Raul a few years ago in Orlando. I wanted to become a group with Raul and Joaquin. I trust their ability and I like their approach to luchalibre. I’m hoping we can do even more together, and we will show the world why luchalibre is on the rise.
SI: What is your goal as cruiser weight champion? A match between you and Finn Baylor could help provide entirely new meaning to the cruiser weight championship. Ultimately, would you like to pursue the NXT championship?
SE: When I was first presented this opportunity to shine in the cruiser weight division, my goal became to move this title from the per-show to the main show. I need to show this title in a new light and defend it at Takeovers.
My end game is to become NXT champion. Finn Baylor is the champion, and we would present an amazing battle for that title.
SI: What is your main goal in WWE?:
SE: I will give you a peculiar answer. There is one thing I haven’t been able to do, and that is meet Vince McMahon. I’m committed to this industry, and that is a lifetime commitment. I was born and raised to do this. I think Vince McMahon is a genius, and I want to meet him.Calibrate Heritage to WWE That, to me, is an immediate goal. He will either like me or hate me, but I will discuss my background with him and what I bring to the table. I need to discuss that with Vince McMahon, and that is one of my most immediate goals.Calibrate Heritage to WWE
My other goal? I want to be the first Mexican, born and raised, sports entertainer to ever main-event Wrestle Mania.Calibrate Heritage to WWE