This past Friday, Santos Escobar followed in some of the most mercurial footsteps in Lucha Libre history. The former El Hijo Del Fantasma betrayed the trust and brotherhood of Rey Mysterio, leaving the Hall of Famer in agony in a manner even the late, great Eddie Guerrero would have been proud of.
As Escobar departed SmackDown, he even cast a glance at a WWE production truck emblazoned with Latino Heat’s face. Eighteen years ago, it was Guerrero who was turning his back on Rey. Their summer-long feud in 2005 would play out like a telenovela, with the custody of Dominik Mysterio infamously being contested in a ladder match at that year’s SummerSlam.
Given the popularity of the pair’s bond within the Latino World Order, this was a heel turn that felt as if it was punctuated with more gravitas and drama than usual.
Escobar’s alliance with Mysterio, combined with the reformation of the LWO back in April, has seen the 39-year-old become a prominent part of the blue brand. Ahead of WrestleMania 39 this year, Escobar and Mysterio famously traded masks in a backstage segment that drew a plethora of plaudits from fans and fellow wrestlers alike.
The acknowledgement of Lucha Libre heritage between the two luchadores was a piece of cultural identity that has so often been lacking from WWE programming in the past. A recognition of another wrestling culture’s traditions. And one which succeeded in positioning Santos Escobar as an act the WWE Universe would care enough about to see paired with Mysterio full-time.
ESCOBAR SEASON BEGINS
During ‘Mania week in Los Angeles this past April, Escobar explained exclusively to SPORF just how much that moment meant and highlighted it’s importance not just to himself and his partners in Legado Del Fantasma at the time, Cruz Del Toro and Joaquin Wilde, but to Lucha Libre as a whole.
“A huge moment between two luchadores is when you take off your mask and give it to the other one. Not when you lose the mask, but in the locker room. As a sign of respect. When I came here, I wanted to take Rey’s legacy. When we first crossed paths and had our first match together, I realised what I have for him is respect and admiration. Which is why I lowered my guard, I took my mask off and I presented it to him. The ultimate sign of respect.
“It was much like I did with my dad last year in Mexico City. To my surprise, Rey gave me his mask. That’s a bond. I would equate it with family. We bonded in that moment and from that moment on, Legado Del Fantasma decided we were going to protect what Rey represents. I don’t think he needs protection. He’s a legend. He’s a badass. But he’s Lucha Libre and we will defend that with our lives.”
Across that same weekend in Los Angeles (where Mysterio was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame and faced off against his son Dominik in one of the event’s most heavily hyped marquee matches) and Backlash in San Juan, Puerto Rico, the pair were welcomed as heroes, generating gigantic pops and solidifying the re-established LWO as a can’t miss act on the blue brand.
And while it appears that Escobar and Mysterio will now be sharing the squared circle as opponents rather than partners from now on, betraying the trust of a beloved stablemate does not mean Escobar will betray his love and dedication towards the principles of Lucha Libre, and all that entails.
“FIGHT, FIGHT, FIGHT FOR WHAT YOU WANT”
During SPORF’s two exclusive interviews with the former WWE Cruiserweight Champion earlier this year (ahead of WrestleMania and Money In The Bank), Escobar laid out why Lucha is and always will be so important to the Mexican people.
“In Mexico, Lucha Libre is everything. Lucha Libre is family, tradition, heritage, culture. It’s art, it’s society, it’s politics, it’s geography. Every household knows and respects Lucha Libre. Ask around. This is how we live. The reason for my existence in WWE is Lucha Libre.
“For someone who’s not familiar with Lucha Libre, I could get into the specifics of what I do, what Rey does, what Cruz Del Toro, Joaquin Wilde and Zelina Vega do. That’s the how. How we do it. But Lucha Libre is a lifestyle. I’m always the best dressed person in a room. Well that’s the Lucha Libre way of living. Represent who you are everywhere you go.
“I’m not saying Mexico is Lucha Libre Town, no, but it’s embedded in the culture. Fighting for what you want. The grit, the desire, the will, the determination. Waking up every single day with that neverending hunger of winning and succeeding in life, when everyone else thinks that you shouldn’t win. That’s what Lucha Libre is. Fight, fight, fight for what you want, for your desires. To succeed. That’s Lucha Libre.”
The respect Santos Escobar once talked about having for Mysterio will no doubt shine through in the quality of the matches the one-time allies will undoubtedly have against one another over the coming months. However, with Mysterio and the LWO seemingly a part of his past rather than his future, Santos Escobar will now be looking to command his own respect, with or without la familia.
Featured Image Credit: WWE
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