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Santana and Ortiz: why they turned down WWE to join AEW, Chris Jericho, The Briscoes, being part of LAX in Impact, and much more

Lee South/All Elite Wrestling

Lee South/All Elite Wrestling

Chris Van Vliet spoke with Santana and Ortiz in Chicago, IL. They discuss almost signing with WWE and choosing AEW, their job audition for Chris Jericho, being part of LAX in Impact Wrestling, joining The Inner Circle, and much more.

Here are the transcribed highlights and scroll down to watch the full interview.

Ortiz on their AEW debut at All Out in Chicago: Right before we loaded up to get into position to go out and go do the thing, we looked at each other and we were like 'we're not gonna get any reaction.' and we're just gonna get crickets...obviously, it was the exact opposite. It was awesome. That crowd, you feel it in your veins. To take something from The Rock, it's like electricity and you just feel it in your veins. that's why we wrestle, for that hit. That's our drug as a wrestler.

Ortiz on how the most recent version of LAX was formed in Impact Wrestling: Konnan reached out to us ... we got recommended by a friend to him that was doing Lucha Underground [Shane Strickland aka Isaiah "Swerve" Scott] ... Swerve recommended us to Konnan and Konnan saw some of our stuff on YouTube and we were just on the indies. We had no TV exposure at that point [or] maybe one pay-per-view underneath our belt ... Luckily we had a relationship with Homicide being that he's from New York and Homicide kind of gave it the stamp of approval and we got brought in as LAX.

Ortiz on joining The Inner Circle: Cody reached out to us and was like 'hey, what's your status, what's going on?' He kept in touch with us all the way up until the point that we joined [AEW]. Almost from the beginning, we did weigh all our options of course. Once it was kind of known that we were going [to AEW], Jericho found out and since Jericho got to see us perform on the [Jericho] cruise, he was like 'I want those guys on my team.' So it was kind of like everything kind of working together. Then once we found out Jericho found out [we were like] how are we gonna go anywhere else?

Santana on the Proud N Powerful name: We got together with this rap group from New York, shout out to Bodega Bamz ... it was a crew from New York named the Tan Boys and we all got tother. In hanging out and talking so much we connected because we are very proud people. We represent our culture, we represent our people and stuff like that. We had this common idea of Proud N Powerful. If you're proud it makes you powerful. It doesn't matter who you are, where you're from or what you do, be proud of who you are and where you come from. We were like 'yo, what if we went with this' and not even as our name or whatever but just our motto and what we represent and what we put out. That's just our brand. I always said if I never got into wrestling I always wanted to do something that was gonna help people. Now with our following and what we do, I figured this is the best time to do it and the best way to do it. We have a lot of people from where we come from that look up to what we do and see these two dudes that look like me doing something positive.

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Santana on who he looked up to as a wrestling fan: My number 1 was always Bret Hart. He was the first person that I saw. He just always attracted me because, during that time where wrestling was all about gimmicks and having some wacky character or whatever, he was the only one that was himself ... I was always attracted to realism in wrestling.

Ortiz on his favorite tag teams: Number 1 is The Briscoes. I think The Briscoes are the GOAT. There's a million other tag teams. I don't think tag team wrestling is as relevant as it is today without teams like the Rock N Roll Express. For me, I just go with The Briscoes. We always scream and I always say we're the best but honestly, we have to try to surpass The Briscoes and I think that's hard. I think they're the best tag team of all time. I just think their style, the way they wrestle and the way they've been doing it for so long and they can still go. Mark is still doing insane dives to the floor and I just don't know how his body he takes it.

Santana on the benefits of AEW's schedule: I've been feeling really good lately since we've had a lot more time at home and time to recover and rest our bodies and do what's necessary to make ourselves feel better. This is probably the best I've felt in a very long time and I've been super consistent with working out and stretching. Of course, you still got your aches and pains but for the most part, I'm actually getting out of bed comfortably now so that's a good thing.

Ortiz on his health: I have severe lower back pain. That's my biggest thing and I went to the PT guys in AEW. I just have really bad hip and lower back issues and I've been working on it and it's been getting better but I always wake up every morning with my lower back and my hips always shot.

On turning down WWE:
Ortiz: When we came here, we had a long conversation. Our career goes hand in hand with each other so we were like 'alright, what do we wanna do?' ... We were about to turn down WWE and we sat down and we were like we don't want to burn a bridge ...
Santana: Pretty much, they were like 'write your own ticket and we'll make it happen.'
Ortiz: It was for NXT to eventually go up to the main roster. The ultimate decision was do we wanna be part of something that's already established or do we want to be something new and make history because no matter what happens with AEW, we will always be part of the first ever main event of the first ever television of AEW. Do we want to be part of history or do we want to fade to black? Best case scenario we would be the small fish in an ocean. There's so many people there and it would be an uphill battle. Not saying that we wouldn't be able to do it because we're confident in our abilities but we can be a part of history and we can be a part of change. It's changing wrestling for the better. No matter what happens with this company, wrestling has changed for the better and it's continually changing for the better. We were like, man, we want to be part of history.
Santana: Another huge part of our decision making is that we both wanted to be dads. They were offering the NXT thing and then going to TV.
Ortiz: Best case scenario is we take off, they push us, they use us on TV all the time and we're doing house shows and we're making good money but guess what, the time that we're home we're gonna be mangled.

Ortiz on WWE's offer: Before [AEW] was a thing, we were kind of already in talks with them so we were like alright we either gonna stay in Impact or we might go to WWE or maybe Ring Of Honor ... They were interested enough to offer us something and we had people pulling for us there to bring us in but I feel like we would have gotten lost in the shuffle. Then we first got an offer it was like 'eh, we're not gonna get in a bidding war with anyone' and then it ultimately went down to 'alright, what do you want' and it was only because AEW existed.

Check out the full interview below: