Santos Escobar Repackaged Himself After He Lost His Mask, Sought To Honor Lucha Libre Tradition
WWE NXT Cruiserweight Champion Santos Escobar is proudly bringing the lucha libre tradition to NXT, both with a mask and without one.
In an interview with Justin Barrasso of Sports Illustrated, Escobar reflected on his journey in NXT. He shared the difficulty that came with putting a mask back on after he lost the right to do so in Mexico.
“‘When I lost my match in a high-profile match in Mexico City [at Triplemania in 2018], I was at a crossroads,'” said Escobar via Barrasso. “‘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.
“‘Then I got to WWE. I call myself The Emperor of Lucha Libre. I want to show the world my culture, my tradition, which is lucha libre. 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.'”
Escobar then explained how his father, legendary Mexican wrestler El Fantasma, was intiially quite unhappy with him when he competed with a mask in NXT.
“‘Of course, my dad, who is an old-school, hardcore lucha libre legend, he was really depressed when I lost my mask,'” said Escobar via Barrasso. “‘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.””
Escobar stated that his father came around when he excelled in the Cruiserweight Tournament and became the division’s leading star.
The NXT Cruiserweight Champion continues to honor lucha libre, and he specifically tipped his cap to two of the greatest legends of all time at NXT Halloween Havoc. He revealed that he wanted to pay tribute to Rey Mysterio and Eddie Guerrero, and “The Master of the 619” gave him his blessing.
“‘Recently, at Halloween Havoc in NXT [last October], I thought of Rey,” said Escobar via Barrasso. “‘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.'”
Escobar continues to stand out among a talented group of cruiserweights on WWE NXT, and his lucha libre style makes him one of the most distinct stars on the roster.