WrestlingINC: You started out playing pro football. Were you also a wrestling fan growing up?
Ricky Ortiz: Oh, yeah. I grew up in a third generation football household but professional wrestling was always a big part of it. My great grandmother was a big influence on my grandfather growing up through the depression. With those real rough times, that was always their outlet and their source of bonding. It was interesting because she was the woman of the household, but that was a different time and whatnot. But it got passed down to my father and then from my father to me. But that was something that was also a staple in our house, just watching some professional wrestling.
WrestlingINC: So, when you started your pro football career, was a wrestling career also something in the back of your mind as something you wanted to do?
Ortiz: I talked to my old man about that. I asked him, "Did I mention anything [about being a wrestler] when I was younger?" He said, "Yeah, when you were 10-years-old, you told me that you were going to do that." It was also in my blood, watching it and being around it. I always felt like football was the big distraction keeping me from it. But, when I was in the CFL up there in Canada, I ran into Bruce Hart and he was running Stampede Wrestling at the time. We did some little interview back there with him. So, I was trying to get involved in pro wrestling in -- I think -- [in] 1998 but didn't really know how to go about doing it. And, at that time, I started making some money and paid for my school with football. There's where that dichotomy started.
WrestlingINC: Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think you're also the only wrestler who also competed in the XFL.
Ortiz: Yeah. That was one of those stats that popped up. I don't know if that's something to brag about or something I should give you some heat for bringing up. [Laughs.] But, no, that was actually a really good time in Orlando. I'm back in Orlando and that was about 8 to 10 years ago. It was a shame that league didn't last longer but, in the same breath, I'm not complaining because we were making on average $7,500 a week.
WrestlingINC: What did all the players think behind the scenes? Did you guys think it was going to last?
Ortiz: Yeah. I mean, I had a strong handshake with Dick Butkus and he said, "Hey. You've got my word that this is going to go at least two years." But, I've learned in watching the NFL when they bring them in, anytime you have an expansion team, they don't do so hot the first season. It takes a couple of season to go to .500. Here, you have an entire league that's an expansion team. So, you're not going to have a solid product for a couple of years, at least.
Of course, Vince [McMahon] was trying to put his own, unique wrinkle in there. Being a fan of wrestling and football, I enjoyed it. I mean, come on. I was in heaven, brother.
[After playing in the XFL] I headed back to my roots, where I was making money bouncing around from different professional football leagues at that time. Just enjoying it while I could. I was thinking, you know, how do I get into this wrestling and sniff it out? The Rock was blowing up at that time and some of the guys from Miami were friends with him. They said, "This guy's got a book. You should take a look at it. He ended up going to Florida, there's some wrestling down there. You can learn how to do pro wrestling."
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