Interviews

Published on August 5th, 2015 | by Marc Madison

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KONNAN: His Career and Hopes for Lucha Underground

Author: Marc Madison

konnan

Lucha Underground’s Konnan discusses his time with the US Navy, working with Kevin Sullivan and his experience with Lucha Underground

Lucha Underground’s Konnan recently took some time to participate in an interview. Konnan opens up about his work with Kevin Sullivan, the WCW faction that he was a part of in WCW, his role in Mexico, and what he looks forward to with Lucha Underground. Check out the complete interview below.


Super ASTRO, Negro Casas, Eddie Guerrero and Rey Misterio Sr. are all synonymous with your training. Describe your experiences with each and what you walked away with?

“Super Astro was the first superstar to ever come out of Tijuana and he trained me with the fundamentals, and he used to train Rey Mysterio (Jr), Psychosis. Whenever he would come into Mexico from Tijuana, he would go in there and he would help us train and he would prepare me for what I was going to confront once I came into Mexico City because it was a whole different world there. Mexico City was like New York. That was where all the media was, and where they filmed soap operas and everything like that. He wanted to get me ready for that.

Rey Misterio Sr. was the guy that you could say discovered me. He was one of my first trainers, and he basically taught me how to wrestle the Mexican style, Lucha Libre. And he would make all my outfits for me, he was an incredible designer. He had a very creative eye and made all my early outfits for me. He made Rey Mysterio’s first outfits too. He also made a lot of outfits for the wrestlers that came out of Tijuana. The group that came out of Tijuana before and after me were always known for having really cool outfits, really investing money in their presentation, and that was because of him. He always thought that you had to look like a star.

Eddie Guerrero basically helped me fine tune whatever I was still missing in the wrestling game. I would cross the border from Ciudad Juarez in the state of Chihuahua, which was where I was wrestling for a long time, and he was from El Paso (Texas) which was on the other side, and I would cross this international bridge. He would take me and I would teach him how to do weights and shit and he would teach me everything there was to wrestling. He even had a wrestling ring in his backyard. His dad, Gory Guerrero who is considered maybe the greatest Mexican wrestler of all time would tell me old school stories of wrestling of how to respect the business. He actually had a library that was full of wrestling books and I would be reading them. I would ask him, ‘Can I take this and read it?’ and he goes, ‘Well, you have to check it out,’ like a library card. So I would have to check out these books and bring them back and he would actually ask me questions about what I read. Eddie Guerrero really showed me how to separate personal from business, and how to always be in character. Once I left to go into the arena, he really helped me a lot. They all did in each way that I just demonstrated.”

Prior to wrestling, you served your country as part of the US Navy. Was there any decision to want to further pursue the military in the event that wrestling didn’t work out?

“No, absolutely not. I went in either at 17 or 18 years old, really to stay off the streets of Miami. I had really gotten into a lot of trouble, and I was basically told to go by a judge. So when I got in there, I was actually like a Republican. I was a big fan of Regan, I believed in the American propaganda, the American ideology. I never questioned anything my country told me. I went in there really blind. When I got in there I started to find out the true politics. Who really ran the country?

I will give you an example. I went to the Iran/Iraq war and I remember being out there, and there was a ship that wasn’t too far away from us (that) had gotten blown up by mistake by an Iraqi plane, which is ironic because the same country we sided with, Iraq, we went to war with 20 years later, for 8 years, for the flimsiest reasons. I started to question, what am I doing out here? When I started to investigate, you know, actually, in the Iran/Iraq war, (we were there) to make sure that the Strait of Hormuz, which is a very narrow channel where a lot of oil (that) came from the Arab states, travels to get to the United States. I didn’t join the service to be protecting big oil companies’ interest. I just began to become very disillusioned with it. Even though I was given the choice to go there or spend time in jail, I was very patriotic and I left there very disillusioned at the way our country had lied to so many of its citizens. There was just no way I could be there anymore.”

During your time in WCW, outside of the success of the nWo, was there a faction that you felt you were a part of that was underrated?

“I think the one that comes to mind is the Filthy Animals. Imagine this in the same faction: you had Torrie Wilson, Billy Kidman, Eddie Guerrero, Rey Mysterio, Disco Inferno, Konnan, and then for a while there we had Juventud (Guerrera). So there is a lot of talent right there, and they just didn’t do anything with us. The problem with WCW was, and we all know and it’s been well documented, and I know this is going to sound redundant, but you had an owner that was a mark for the stars and the stars dictated what they wanted, and they made sure that none of us got through. So none of us did. A lot of these guys there had to go to WWE. I give Vince credit for that. Chris Jericho and Rey and (Chris) Benoit and Eddie had to leave WCW to become stars, (which) would never have happened had they stayed.

The funny thing about that group was, I’ll tell you how it was formed: I had actually gone to Vince Russo, who had just taken over and I said, ‘Look, they’ve been burying us since before you got here, and I don’t know if you have any plans to do anything with us, but let me get a bunch of my friends, put us together and let us have fun, and if you want to bury us then at least we’ll be together and we’ll get buried together.’ So I basically got a bunch of my friends, which were the people I just named. Torrie was actually going out with Billy, so we just brought her into the fold. That’s basically how the group came about. We did some angle where we buried Ric Flair in the desert, somewhere in Vegas I believe, and nothing ever happened after that. We just knew they weren’t going to do anything but at least we were having fun being together.”

Your brief time in ECW allowed for an opportunity to compete under Paul Heyman. Describe the experience & AAA’S relationship with ECW at the time.

“What had happened was I had known Paul E from WCW, like in 1990 I was actually there for a little while, and he was a commentator there at the time. We got along and when I saw him in Singapore at some indy show that we were on, he told me, ‘Listen, I’m starting a company and you know I’m bringing in Public Enemy and these guys, and that guy, and I’ve heard a lot about Rey Mysterio.’  Look how on point Paul E was back then. He goes, ‘I’ve heard a lot about Rey Mysterio, Psychosis, Love Machine and Eddie Guerrero. What can you tell me about them?’ I just put them all over. He said, ‘Alright, let me bring in Rey Mysterio and Psychosis first.’ And then I said ‘With all due respect to the rest of your roster, they are going to blow away anything else you are going to do that night’. They went in and they killed it. Paul E is not the best at calling back, but he called immediately, you could tell he was still in the venue and he goes, ‘Oh my God, you got to bring these guys back, and when can you come in?’ Then we brought other stars in and I’m sure we would have done more of a talent exchange if WCW hadn’t called us.”

Discuss your time in WCW working with Kevin Sullivan as part of the Dungeon of Doom.

“It was excellent because Kevin was the one that had originally called me. Woman (Nancy Sullivan) was working at the time, which you remember was his wife at the time. I think that she was the one that told him, ‘Look, this Konnan, I believe you can do something with him especially since you don’t have any Latinos’. He called me, and when I got there he really helped me out a lot. I was actually going to do a program with Hogan at one point, for Mexico and the United States. I think what happened, and I’m not sure, I have asked him about this, this is what I really think happened: I got there and they really had big plans for me, but I don’t think they realized I didn’t know how to wrestle the American style, which, Paul E made that same mistake. When I went in there, he put me in there with some American guy and we had some terrible match and I told Paul E, I don’t know how to wrestle American style. They think just because you speak English, that you could also wrestle the style, and I think the same thing happened with Kevin. So I had to be deprogrammed. I had to learn how to wrestle American style. By the time I learned, I think my stock fell in their eyes. But Kevin was always like a mentor to me there.”

Within TNA, you were part of 3 Live Cru & LAX. How was one experience different from and/or similar to the other?

“Well, they were two different groups. Ron Killings, Road Dogg and I did the same story I did with the Filthy Animals. We went to Jeff Jarrett and said, ‘You’re not doing anything with us so put us together’. We hung out outside of wrestling, so we were friends and so basically, we did a lot of funny skits because we had one black guy from the hood, we had one Latino and we had a redneck. It was funny because we went one time into the hood where Ronny is from and Brian James dressed up as a pimp and he was walking through the hood of Nashville, Tennessee dressed up as a pimp with a big multi-colored rainbow afro and they were loving it. Then we did this thing where Road Dogg brought us back to his neck of the woods in a trailer, but a double-wide trailer, and then I brought them to a Mexican restaurant. So that was funnier, it was more on the comedic side.

Then LAX (Latin American Xchange) was the extreme opposite. I was a radical Latino who hated anything that wasn’t Latin. It was reverse discrimination, and for some reason, it hit a pulse. Some people loved it, and some people really hated it. But that group was very near and dear to my heart. I was kind of the author of the whole idea, and I brought it to Dutch (Mantel) and he liked it, he was a booker at that time and he convinced Jeff Jarrett, and we were on it immediately. It touched on really strong political viewpoints, and we one time hung Uncle Sam in effigy and we burned it up.

Another time, I tasered Spike Dudley and I said, ‘I’m just like the cops. I shoot first, ask questions later’. Which is very prevalent now, ten years later. We had Orlando Police Department call up actually call up Dixie and say, ‘You know, we don’t like Konnan going out there and making light of us. We go out there and put our lives on the line,’ and all this other bullshit. I was just basically touching on a lot of sensitive issues that in wrestling, they don’t usually touch on. I wanted people to think, you know what I’m saying? That’s why I liked LAX a lot. I think when I left it kind of lost the heart of the group. Dixie allowed us the creative freedom because her dad liked it, and he’s the guy that owns the company. So he actually came up to me, and he’s some white guy from Texas, at a pay per view and he goes, ‘Man, you guys are my favorite act on the show’. So maybe he was thinking, ‘Wow, this guy isn’t just going out and cutting a wrestling promo about bullshit, he’s going out there and he’s talking about sensitive issues which people don’t usually talk about on a wrestling show.”

After leaving TNA, you returned to AAA in Mexico. Explain your time there, your role and was there ever an option to transition there sooner?

“There was an option, I just felt that in WCW I was held back, and I wanted to prove myself in TNA, and in TNA, in the beginning, I was held back without a doubt, but then when LAX exploded they couldn’t do anything but go with it because we were selling more t-shirts than anybody. So now they are making money off of us and see us in a different light, and I had complete creative control to do whatever I wanted, I will give them credit for that. I left because they wouldn’t pay me, due to racism, and I wasn’t going to put up with either one.

So I got to Mexico and I was really in a lot of pain from being in the business so long. When the company started, the owner, whose name is Antonio Pena, I used to book everything with him. I used to write shows with him, everything. So I said, can I take a stab at this? I’ve been here since day one back in the day with Pena, and they gave me a stab and I’ve been there ever since. So what I do backstage is help with the finishes, I help put together matches. It is just what a booker and a writer would do, and I produce vignettes, I am having a great time. Our ratings are actually up so we are doing really well. I remember when WWE was there about five years ago, they were doing four times the numbers we were doing. It took us three years but we surpassed them in the ratings. That’s something that I’ve always been proud of.”

The unfortunate death & passing of Perry Aguayo Jr affected the Mexican wrestling community. For those in North America unaware of his loss to the industry, could you speak of his significance?

“He was that charismatic bad guy that everybody loved. It was like when Ric Flair was a heel, you know what I am saying? And everybody loved him. He was oozing with charisma. He was a tremendous worker, and he was loved by everybody in the dressing room. There wasn’t a lot of guys his age that would help some of the younger guys. They were more like, learn for yourself. That’s how I learned, learn for yourself. He was there to help anybody and he loved the industry. His dad was my biggest rival in Mexico, so I’ve known Perrito since was twelve years old. We were very close, he was probably my best friend in the dressing room. The main thing for me at the time of the incident was, I was trying to wake him up. I thought he had been knocked out, so I’m trying to wake him up.”

I recently spoke to Matt Striker and he credited you with a lot of success in today’s Luchadores with an heir of legend about you along with Blue Demon & Mil Muertos. What are your thoughts on his comments?

“I am very flattered. You know Matt Striker is a student of the game. He respects the business so much. He has a very high work ethic and so I respect him a lot and that coming from him. Thank you very much man, I appreciate it. I have nothing but respect for Matt anyway.”

The birth of Lucha Underground has provided a great opportunity for several talent. What has the experience meant to you?

“It’s incredible because you know what Rey Mysterio and Juventud and Psychosis and all those guys did, Hector Garza did, back in 1997 in WCW. That to me was the forbearer of what we are seeing here today in Lucha Underground, fifteen years later. The most beautiful part for me is, when I came to WCW and I talked to Kevin Sullivan and Eric Bischoff about bringing in Luchadors, it was an all Mexican thing. They were all Mexicans. And when you look at Lucha Underground, you have Puerto Ricans, Blacks, and white boys, you’ve got everybody now doing Lucha Libre. That is so beautiful to me. The thing is, Chris DeJoseph, Eric Van Wagenen, John Fogelman, the guys that run the show, I don’t think they have ever done anything Lucha related and they aren’t Latino, which was a huge concern for me. But unlike Bischoff, Dixie, Jarrett and Vince, they have a profound respect for the Mexico heritage and Lucha Libre, and they are very open minded and great to work with. Plus I would be remiss if I did not thank the behind the scene Latinos who support this 100%: Dorian Roldan, Antonio Cue and Alex Garcia.

What we do is straight Lucha in Mexico. What I do is straight Lucha in Mexico. What they are doing in Lucha Underground is a hybrid, and they are taking chances. These are things that we don’t even do in Mexico. They have taken chances. If you don’t take one step forward you are always going to be in the same place. If you don’t ask questions, the answer will always be no. They have gone out there and done a lot of cool, different things that have never been seen before, and you have an incredible cast of wrestlers. And of course the production staff from El Rey. It’s just a product that’s never been seen before.”

 What are your aspirations and hopes for Lucha Underground going into season two?

“Just growth. The product speaks for itself. So my whole thing is, we need to get out there so more eyes can see us. I know they are trying to do stuff with Netflix or Hulu or something like that, which is obviously the right path to go. I think that we’ve got a great product and it isn’t just for Latinos. It has a Latino sensibility to it, like most of Robert Rodriguez’s movies, but it’s a wave of the future without a doubt. You can see NXT doing a lot of stuff now, starting to go to that type of wrestler.

I’ve always been a prominent advocate of the smaller, quicker, more creative wrestler. You never saw a lot of monsters in Mexico, because I was always of the mindset, yeah, it’s good to bring in a monster every now and then if he can work, but Lucha Libre at its best is just guys going balls to the wall. You can’t do that with many big guys. So I’ve always been for the smaller wrestler, and the vision that I had back in the day, without sounding vainglorious, it’s coming to fruition. Rey Mysterio and Eddie (Guerrero) and all those guys opened the door for Bryan Danielson and all the other smaller great workers that you are not just seeing in WWE but in ROH and some of them are in TNA.”

Of those in Lucha Underground and on the trajectory to be there, who would you encourage fans to keep an eye out for?

“That’s tough bro, because they all have such incredible talent and attitudes and they bring such good ideas. That’s the good thing about Chris DeJoseph and Fogelman and his group, in most companies when you come up with ideas people are threatened; ‘I’m the booker here now, not you’ or they think you’re trying to take their spot, they are paranoid by nature. You can go up to them and give them ideas and stuff like that, which makes the match even better because you’re contributing and sometimes they don’t have all the answers.

Just like me in Mexico, I’ll go to a guy and when I go over his match, I’ll say ‘Do you have any suggestions or anything that you think we could do better, or are you happy with the way it’s laid out?’ That way, people come up with things that you wouldn’t have thought of, and it helps the match to be even better. It’s hard, bro because there is so much great talent there that any of them could really be the man. So we could go with Angelico, we could go Jack (Evans,) with Fenix, Prince Puma, Drago, or Aerostar. There is Willy Mack, who’s awesome, Brian Cage. So much talent there, all of these guys I think are going to blow up, really. To tell you the truth I wouldn’t pick one over the other.”

Was there anything you’d like to promote, encourage or make fans aware of?

“You can hit me up on my twitter which is @Konnan5150 and I have a podcast that’s on MLWRadio.com. There are detailed archives there of other shows. There are other people that have shows there too. Kevin Sullivan talks about who he booked for WCW, and he covers each TV week by week while he was there. Jim Cornette has his own show and you know how wild he can be, but always entertaining.

Then we have our show which is me, Court Bauer, who used to be a writer for WWE, and we also have MSL as well. I’m not sure who he is or what he does, he is just there like a guy on the couch from the movie “Half Baked” or the gimp from “Pulp Fiction”. We don’t just talk about wrestling, we talk a little bit about current issues and it’s a very controversial show, very unfiltered, very funny, and I think people will like it so check it out.”


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