Back in June, El Hijo del Fantasma changed his identity entirely to become Santos Escobar. Now the current NXT Cruiserweight Champion, he continued building his legacy by hiring Joaquin Wilde and Raul Mendoza as his henchmen to become “El Legado del Fantasma”. With their foot in the door on the NXT brand, this faction has stopped at nothing to gain respect and leadership.
In his interview on WWE’s The Bump, Escobar explains why exactly he chose Wilde and Mendoza to be his right-handed men.
“Both Raul and Joaquin have the right attitude and attributes. They both respect Lucha Libre,” he answered. “To me, Lucha Libre culture is the most important element in sports entertainment nowadays.”
For those who study the Lucha Libre culture, a mask is the most sacred thing a luchador can have. It builds their identity while also creating a buzz on who it is that’s underneath the mask. In Mexico and other traditional Latin American countries, once the mask is taken off, there is no guarantee that you’ll ever be granted to wear a mask ever again as a performer. When El Hijo del Fantasma transformed into Escobar, he knew that his career as a masked prodigy was over. While some, like Escobar’s parents, might see that as a career-low, he saw it as a career-high.
“It shocked my dad and my mom,” he replied. “But it’s true, the mask is one of the most important aspects of Lucha Libre culture and tradition. To be fair, I had already lost my mask in Mexico, and once you lose your mask, you’re not supposed to re-mask again.
“But what I wanted to do was be El Hijo del Fantasma – this big feature at the Cruiserweight Tournament. It gave me a way to reintroduce Lucha Libre to the WWE Universe because I think they’ve been misled by masked men jumping all over the place; Lucha Libre is not like that. Putting the mask on again, I managed to capture the attention of the WWE Universe.”
Now that he’s held the NXT Cruiserweight Championship for nearly 125 days, Santos still stays humble and hungry to defend his championship among other worthy contenders.
“Lucha Libre 101 is [to] always stay humble, respectful, hungry and willing to learn, that’s rule number one,” he began. “I know I have this dominant facade, and I know everyone thinks I’m the number one Superstar because I am the number one Superstar. I am the NXT Cruiserweight Champion, and no one can touch me. But I also know that I have to stay humble and hungry.”
Being a multi-generation wrestler can be extremely hard, especially when the pressure is on you to be as good as your family was. Being the son of El Fantasma, a former IWL Independent Heavyweight Champion, the stakes have always been high for Santos to push the boundaries further in his career. As an international star who has worked for AAA and Lucha Underground, Santos is more than ready to introduce new concepts of Lucha Libre that haven’t been seen yet, as well as make his family and his mentors proud for how far he’s come in this industry.
“Well, first and foremost, I’m a second-generation luchador, so I was born into the Lucha Libre world,” he noted. “It took me 20 years to get to WWE and when I got here, the first thing that happened was I hurt my leg. So, that gave me even more time to prepare.
“I was just waiting for the right opportunity and the right moment to step into the squared circle and show everybody what Lucha Libre is all about. This isn’t about me; it’s about Lucha Libre culture.”
You can watch Santos Escobar’s full interview here. If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit WWE’s The Bump with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.