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By Mike Johnson on 2021-05-27 12:29:00

This Sunday, AEW returns to PPV with the second ever Stadium Stampede bout at Double or Nothing in Jacksonville, Florida.  Competing in that bout for the second time will be Inner Circle member and tag team specialist Santana, who sat down earlier this week to discuss the PPV, representation, his first action figure, his excitement about AEW eventually hitting NYC and tons more as he heads towards the ten year anniversary of his in-ring career and team with Ortiz.

Mike Johnson: Hey everybody. It's Mike Johnson in the audio section of It is All Elite Wrestling Double or Nothing week.. Friday will be AEW Dynamite, which is going to be airing on a very special night this week. There'll be a Double or Nothing gathering at Daily's Place in Jacksonville, on Saturday, as well as a Double or Nothing countdown show airing on TNT on Saturday evening. And of course, Sunday, the 2021 Double or Nothing pay-per-view, which will feature the pinnacle against the Inner Circle in the second ever Stadium Stampede match.

Mike Johnson: We're very happy to have one of the few gentlemen who can now say that he will be have competed in every Stadium Stampede match that ever existed after this weekend. That being Santana of the Inner Circle, who is rapidly coming up on his 10 year anniversary in about six months, 10 years in the business. Of course, anyone's in the Northeast knows he and Ortiz ran as EYFBO, and then as LAX, and are now card carrying members of the Inner Circle. So sir, from one NYCer to another, how are you?

Santana: What's up? What's up? How you doing?

Mike Johnson: I'm good. So Stadium Stampede this weekend, obviously last year, that was one of the more memorable experiences that wrestling fans got over the course of the year, and it was a match that was kind of created due to the circumstances of the world we were living in. Thoughts on entering into that sort of environment again for yourself and the other members of the Inner Circle?

Santana: I mean, firstly it's going to be great, like you said, to be a part of both Stadium Stampedes. And like you said also, last year was just critically acclaimed and everybody was talking about it and it was just something that 10 guys with similar mindsets and creativity and stuff just putting together some of the best stuff we can, and just hitting on all aspects of the spectrum and giving something serious, something funny, and just mixing it all up and having some fun, but this year is definitely going to be something totally different. As a lot of people have seen the story with the Pinnacle and the Inner Circle has been something that's pretty violent and pretty intense. So of course you could expect the same thing from this year's Stadium Stampede. Don't expect a lot of funny and haha stuff to be going on. This one is going to be a totally different world and a totally different attitude. And the good thing is that we're bringing a different style to the Stadium Stampede. So just keeping it fresh, and keeping it entertaining and exciting, and that's our goal, man.

Mike Johnson: When you look back at last year's match, obviously there was a lot that went into taping that, a lot that went into it from a creative standpoint, from a physical standpoint, when you were done with all the production on that, and everybody was done, there was nothing left to be completed. And you had gone through that process, could you ever have imagined how well it would have been received? Did you think it was going to be that well received when you were in the moment going through that match?

Santana: Actually, to be honest, me personally, I definitely felt like it was going to be something special. It was something totally different. And we all just kept saying to each other, "Man, this is going to be something very special because it's something that's never been done, of course." And we were giving wrestling fans, like I said, something different with every scene that took place in the match. You know what I mean? And hats off to production honestly, because they were literally editing the match as we went on through the night. One scene was finished, the production team was already on it, editing it and putting it into place, so huge hats off to those guys. They're the true MVPs of it, and it was something that the day before, all 10 of us got together in the middle of the stadium and we started shooting ideas and seeing what we wanted to put out, and yeah. Then the next day, we all met up that night and he filmed from, I think it was 9:00 at night till about 6:00 in the morning...and then we had to take a short break because it started storming, and all the cameras and everything, we had to pack up really quick. And then we were also racing against time and the sun coming up. So it was pretty intense and pretty exciting at the same time. And yeah man, everyone did their part, everyone put in work. And again, it was 10 guys with the same mindset of wanting to do something special and something different. And man, we gave them exactly that, and just the validation of seeing how well it did and everyone talking about it and how excited everyone was for it. It was definitely a humbling moment.

Mike Johnson: You mentioned validation. I feel like your entire run this far in all elite wrestling kind of validates the hard work that you and Ortiz have put in on the independents and touring around the world. When you look at that locker room and you see all these different veterans who were there, and you've been there for a couple of years now, but what's it like going from the guy who was the vet in the independent locker rooms and places like Beyond and House of Glory, to being the guy who now, you can be mentored and have been mentored by Chris Jericho, or you can have a chance to pick Christian Cage's brain, or Paul Wight's brain, or Dean Malenko's brain? What's that life experience been like?

Santana: I think it's been the greatest experience of our careers. Like you said, we were the top of our game on the Indies and we were those guys that were offering our advices, and trying to help the younger generation step up and get to where we were, but now, just going back down... Because as everyone knows, wrestling is constantly evolving and there's always something new to learn and something new to figure out. And man, the beauty of us having so many veterans at our disposal that are so willing and giving, to give their knowledge and they want to see the business grow and they want to see the younger guys grow, and I think it's just been amazing. And like you said, you named Christa Cage, and Jericho, and Paul White.  These are guys that have cemented legacy. These are Hall of Fame names, and the fact that we all get to have these guys with us and teaching us,, and guiding us, and showing us how to create a legacy the same way that they did, I think it's been amazing. I never want to stop learning. What we have always told ourselves that no matter how old we get, no matter how far in the business we get, we constantly want to keep learning because that's what's going to keep you fresh and that's what's going to keep you motivated. There's always going to be younger guys coming up that are smarter or faster, and you want to learn from that as well. Everybody has something to learn from somebody, and that's been the beauty of all this.

Mike Johnson: Last week, WarnerMedia announced that AEW is going to be sliding over to TBS starting in January of 2022.

Santana: Yep.

Mike Johnson: Obviously pro-wrestling and TBS are like peanut butter and jelly for old school fans and fans who grew up in the 1980s. Thoughts on the fact that you'll soon be wrestling on TBS, which was the home of World Championship Wrestling and Nitro and all those other wonderful things for so many decades?

Santana: 605 baby!  Man again, it's amazing the fact that we're getting to almost relive those times. It's definitely a special moment in professional wrestling. And at the end of the day, it's not only just the wrestlers that wins, but the fans, man. The fans are winning on all aspects of all of this. I feel like wrestling today, there's just so many options. There's so many things to watch, and I think it's beautiful because it not only gives the fans something fresh constantly to watch, but it gives a lot of the wrestlers opportunities and options as well. It's awesome. The fact that we're living this. I grew up channel switching from USA to TNT, and I remember watching with my dad where we would be watching USA and then he'll switch over to TNT and I'm like, "Oh, what are you doing?" And we're going back and forth. It's slowly going back to that. I think it's going to be awesome.

Mike Johnson: So you have written a lot on social media about how important it's been to be a representative of the Latin culture, but also representative of your family. You had a great... I believe it was on Twitter, a great Twitter post a while back about being able to give your daughter the first ever action figure that was ever made of you. When you think about everything that we've been through as a society and a world in the last year, what does it mean to you to be there on national TV and be representing New York City, be representing Puerto Rico, be representing the Latin culture, especially in uncertain times where there's a lot of people scared. There's a lot of people who have been through turmoil in their lives, but you get to kind of be the modern day representation of the same type of talents that you saw a generation before on Nitro and Raw. What does that all mean to you?

Santana: Yeah. I said this the other day, "What we're doing and what we're representing is much bigger than just wrestling and much bigger than us." We've always said that. And you've known us since the beginning and you've known that representing our people and culture and where we come from has always been a priority to us, and has always been very important to us. We come from neighborhoods where a lot of people don't get to make it out, and a lot of people are just stuck in ruts and feel like they have no hope, and we want to be those guys that people look at it and be like, "If they could make something of themselves coming from where we come from and have gone through what we've gone through, then impossible is nothing."  It all depends on the work that you put in, but going back to what you were saying, our representation... When our figure first came out and I saw that mine came with an actual Puerto Rican flag, which I believe is the very first action figure in the history of wrestling to come with the Puerto Rican flag. I mean, what more can I say? For me, that's the mountaintop. The fact that Latino kids coming from whatever from gets to see that and get to have that kind of inspiration and motivation, it's huge. It's surreal. Honestly, back then when I was coming up and going through a lot of the things that I went through and stuff, I didn't think that I would make it this far.  I didn't think that I'd see 25. And the fact that I had the opportunity to change my life around and dedicate my life to this sport and to showing our people that it is possible no matter what your dream is, that to me is everything. And again, with my daughter, it was such an emotional week when I received those figures for the first time and just seeing her face. I don't even know what else to say. It was truly surreal and humbling, and it's something that'll be with me forever, and Ortiz and I will continue being that representation for people always. I've always said we don't want to just be characters in wrestling. We want to have purpose, purpose much bigger than just wrestling, and I feel like we've done an amazing job at it and we're going to continue doing so. We have some of the best fans in the world, and we're truly thankful of that.

Mike Johnson: Obviously, you also represent NYC. As things start to open up, there is still a Dynamite date for Newark at the Prudential center, which is the NYC metropolitan area technically, but you have to think that there's a countdown clock ticking. And some point, either this year, or probably next year, there will be a Dynamite or a pay-per-view in New York City proper. If, and when, that happens... Or even just going to Newark, which it's not New York, but it's close enough.

Santana: Close enough.

Mike Johnson: Close enough. As we say here, "It's close, but it's not New York." When you think about that and having the chance to represent NYC inside NYC on such a massive level, what are your thoughts and what are your excitement levels for that possibly?

Santana: Insane. My family got to go down to the first ever Dynamite where we had an event with Jericho and the Bucks and Kenny. And getting to have my family there was insane and amazing and such a special feeling, but know and believe that you're going to have at least 150 Puerto Rican's going insane in that arena. But yeah, man we're so looking forward to it and when it does happen, it's going to be a huge party. It's going to be insane. And again, going back to what I said, the fact that kids in New York City are going to get to see us on such a major stage and in such a huge building and representing them is truly going to be a special moment for us. So we can't wait, man. It's going to be awesome.

Mike Johnson: Well, obviously we've got Stadium Stampede this weekend, but in general, AEW's tag team scene is so stocked. Obviously you've been involved with the Pinnacle of late and FTR is a part of that, but there's such a great wealth of teams. Is there anybody that you're dying to get in the ring with that you feel a Santana and Ortiz could make something really special moments with, or a great program with that we haven't had the chance to see yet? Is there anybody on the horizon that you look at when you're past this segment of your career that you're like, "I want that. I know we'll have something meaningful with that combination."

Santana: Honestly, Ortiz and I have had this conversation recently, and our entire careers, we've always just wanted to wrestle everyone, and we've been blessed with the opportunities to have wrestled so many people that we've looked up to and some of the best tag teams from all around the world, but I think we just want to wrestle everyone. We want to show and bring out the best in everyone, not just ourselves. Like you said, the tag team at AEW is just so stacked and there's so many talented guys, man. I can't even really pinpoint off the top of my head who exactly we want to work with, but I can definitely say that our plan is to work with every tag team on the roster. That's the goal. And yeah, of course everyone is dying for us to wrestle the Lucha brothers again and continue that.  A couple of years back... I think there was one year where we rested each other at 23 times all around the world. And it was amazing. We had such an amazing run with them. I know for a fact that fans have been dying to see that at AEW. And of course, to see us against the Bucks now that the roles are reversed and we're facing the inner deals. That's been a big thing that people have been wanting to see. But honestly, man, we just want to mix it up with everybody and bring out the best in everyone and have everyone bring out the best in us. That's the key, everyone working together for the common cause of elevating each other and elevating the company. Once everyone has that same mindset man, forget it. It's unstoppable.

Mike Johnson: So as we start to head out of here, why should fans make sure that this weekend they are either heading to Jacksonville to get one of the last remaining tickets for the show or ordering the show on pay-per-view or Bleacher Report? [Note: Internationally on FITE.TV]

Santana: Well, the pay-per-view itself is stacked. You have some amazing matches. The show itself is going to be amazing. I think AEW has done such an amazing job that at continuing to give the fans exactly what we've been hyping up for the past two years and a half. And even through the pandemic, I feel like we have been on top of our game that at continuing to bring out the best in our roster, and bring out the best in professional wrestling. Everybody has been working so hard from the top guys at the office, to the production team, to all the boys and girls in the locker rooms. Everyone has just been putting in so much work and dedication to continue building this company and trying our best to make it number one, so everyone needs to continue supporting and continue watching.  This weekend is just going to be a continuation of exactly that. Everybody has the same mindset and everybody's ready to kill it, so definitely continue supporting and check out this weekend. Like you said, we have a huge meet and greet, I think on Saturday, the day before the pay-per-view where you can get to meet your favorite AEW stars, and we're just getting back in the groove of giving the fans exactly what they want. Yeah, this weekend is definitely going to be special and a continuation of that.

Mike Johnson: Well everybody, you can check out at AEW this Friday night at TNT. Saturday night, they'll have the pay-per-view preview show on TNT. And if you're in Jacksonville, there are still limited tickets available for Friday, and it's Dynamite broadcast as well as the Double or Nothing pay-per-view, but it is literally maybe dozens of tickets left. So if you want them, you should jump now.  Saturday will be the meet and greet featuring all of the stars of AEW, including our guests at this time, Santana of the Inner Circle, who you can follow on Twitter @Santana_proud and proud is something he should be given the body of work he has created in the last nine and a half years. And I'm sure that we'll continue this Sunday night with the Stadium Stampede. Sir, always a pleasure to see you, always a pleasure to talk to you. I look forward to when we can see each other in the streets and actually not have to wave from across the Grand Concourse. And I wish you nothing but the best for you and Ortiz, and the rest of your family. And I thank you so much for sitting down with us. I look forward to when we get a chance to do it again.

Santana: Hell yeah, Mike. Hopefully we could see each other and grab some Katz's Deli sometimes.

Mike Johnson: It'd be beautiful. All right, everybody until next time here on, you can find all the AEW  Double or Nothing coverage right here on the site.

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