Santana and Ortiz were on a recent episode of the AEW Unrestricted podcast with Aubrey Edwards and Tony Schiavone. Santana and Ortiz were becoming big names in the U.S. as part of Konnan’s LAX stable on Impact. They revealed when they were contacted by AEW.
“Funny story, I was in the movie theater. I forgot what movie I was watching, and I got a text on my phone,” Santana recalled. “This was after the first Jericho cruise. The text was from from Cody, and he was just like, ‘Yo, when are your deals up?’ At that point, we had maybe a few months left. And he was like, ‘Alright, so when it’s up, this is the deal. It’s real,’ and this was before the company was even announced.
“There was that, and I was like, okay, I guess the ball is rolling and let’s go. The first Jericho cruise was the first time that we got to work with The Bucks, and we always like to say that that was pretty much our job interview for getting here, and it was a great match and we had a good time. Those guys are really cool, and Cody hit us up. Once our deal was over, we knew what was up.”
“[Chris Jericho and the Inner Circle] was one of the deciding factors for us actually coming into the company because right before we went in, we had offers to go to WWE or AEW,” Ortiz noted. “We were on the fence, initially. Many other factors but one of the swaying decisions for us was Chris specifically wanted us to be a part of the Inner Circle. We were like, wow, man. He’s a huge, not to get so long winded about it, part of our bonding experience.
“When we started to become a tag team, we both read Jericho’s first book, Lion’s Tale. We were like, this is the blueprint to be a wrestler. This is it right here. He was a journeyman. He wrestled everywhere. This is what we want to do. Watching guys like him, Dean [Malenko], Eddie [Guerrero] and we wanted to be a true journeyman, and we bonded over his first book. So fast forward to us. Cody’s just like, ‘Yeah, Chris asked for you by name. He wants you to be in his stable.’ We’re like, what? What’s going on right now?
“It was just one of those real weird full circle moments where we bonded over his first book and now we’re a part of his journey and a part of his his legacy. It was just crazy when you look at it. We grew up watching him and all these guys, and this whole experience, the past two years has been insane. With everything that’s gone on personally in my life, with everything professionally and the whole pandemic, it’s just been crazy, insane.
“Yes, we knew about the Inner Circle, and it was awesome,” Ortiz added. “And we just heard about this group that he wanted, and we heard Sammy [Guevara] was going to be in it. And we didn’t we didn’t hear about Jake [Hager] until the day of. We all get along, and we definitely, obviously over the two years, have developed a legitimate friendship, and it’s awesome. I love working with those guys.”
Santana and Ortiz have been a tag team for nearly a decade having gone through many iterations as EYFBO, LAX and now Proud N’ Powerful. They discussed how their in-ring style has changed over the years.
“I would say very early on, obviously, with anything, we were just trying to throw things to the wall and see what would stick,” Ortiz said. “We definitely, over the years, have condensed our sequences, the way we move. Our niche in tag team wrestling is moving as one unit. We do a lot of combinations to go into things and a lot of steps and stuff like that, and that’s really our bread and butter when we’re really rocking and rolling, but over the years, we’ve noticed, and we get better reactions and it’s also better for the match and pacing to condense some of it because if you do too much like bah, bah, bah, bah, bah, bah, bah, bah, then it’s gonna be all jumbled up. You kind of have to break it up.
“So the way I look at it is kind of like putting together a song or beat. You need a good tempo to a match, and then you kind of bring it up. Ideally, you want to end the match at the highest note, but that came over time. At the very beginning, we were just watching stuff from Japan and Mexico and be like, that’s cool. Let’s do it in a match, and we would do 50 moves in a match, and then some of it would work, and we’ll go back now and watch the matches and we would cringe at some of the things. We were more inspired with lucha and Japan vs. when we started going to LAX, when we got the TV, we were like, okay, we need to be not characters but we need to learn how to tell a story differently. We were more brawlers and brutes, and we really got, I don’t want to say pigeonholed, but we really got into the groove where we would do matches the parking lot match.
“And I think that’s a testament to why the parking lot match came out so good because in Impact we had to do it a lot as LAX. We were always doing these blood feud blow-offs, all these huge gimmick matches. We really got to cut our teeth. It all added up to the parking lot match, and we were very comfortable in doing so. And then here, we’ve tried to go back to our roots and do more lucha stuff. We’re trying to mix it all up together, and we’re still finding ourselves. I feel like we’re still growing as performers, and we’re still learning on how to do stuff because we pride ourselves on being hybrid wrestlers. You want us to brawl, we can brawl. You want us to do a very technical match. We can do it. You want us to do a hardcore match. Let’s rock and roll. I would say very early on though, it was very high flying, and that’s why he has bad knees and gets destroyed. He’s toned down a lot. He used to do Phoenix splashes, shooting star press. 450s.
“But now, I don’t need to,” Santana pointed out.
As part of LAX, Santana and Ortiz were brought on by Konnan. AEW has brought back that on-screen relationship recently, and Santana and Ortiz talked about influential Konnan is to their careers.
“He taught us how to be TV wrestlers because we were independent wrestlers when we first came into Impact, and he really taught us a lot about how to do business backstage, ways to improve our characters,” Ortiz explained. “As LAX, I can channel that angry side, that serious side of me, but I came off the independents being a clown character, and really just being myself, and just letting loose and being very flamboyant.
“I kind of had to do a switch and be more of the angry teenage me but find a way to make it, and he was obviously more comfortable in that role because he was already the straight-laced guy. For me, it was a learning curve to kind of go into a more serious route, which I’m still struggling with now today, and I’m still trying to work on that. He was a huge influence and still continues to be influence. We still talk to him.
“Obviously, he’s been with us on TV recently, but even before that, we were in contact with him. We’ll hit him up, and he’ll yell at me about getting pictures for my son, and he’s very much a part of our lives, and still continues to be an influence, and we’ll still ask him for advice. We’ll be like, hey, did you watch our match? Can you go back and let us know this, this and that. And obviously, he’s one of the true greats on the mic. He’s impeccable on the mic.
“He’s the one that got us TV ready, pretty much,” Santana added.
If you use any quotes from this article, please credit AEW Unrestricted with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.