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Adapt or die: Santos Escobar on NXT Vengeance Day, Bron Breakker and more!

Santos Escobar looks to dethrone Bron Breakker at NXT Vengeance Day.

Santos Escobar could very well be the NXT Champion by the end of the night Tuesday. He’ll challenge Bron Breakker for the gold at NXT Vengeance Day, in a match that has ramifications beyond winning a Championship. For Santos Escobar, it’s all about the bigger picture. Building his legacy.

The next stop along his path to greatness is someone whom many see as a can’t miss, blue chip prospect that has future main event star written all over him. Breakker has been nothing short of spectacular in his brief pro wrestling career. It took the 24 year-old all of 14 matches before he claimed the top prize in NXT - defeating Tommaso Ciampa for the NXT Championship at New Year’s Evil.

I had a chance to sit down with Santos Escobar on the Bleav in Pro Wrestling Podcast, and he agrees with the critics. He believes the future is bright for Bron Breakker, but says the present belongs to him.

“He’s got a lot of potential. He’s a very strong candidate to be a superstar, a main eventer, a top guy. In my eyes, in my opinion, he’s not ready. He’s too young. He’s too unexperienced. I see a lot of me in him. I once was a young champion. I once was unexperienced. I once was with that mentality where I was ready, and I knew everything, and I could go through everyone. And guess what? I was wrong. I was wrong and he’s wrong, but he doesn’t know it yet. I’ve been telling him that. I think he shouldn’t be the face of NXT 2.0. That’s a very ugly face. This should be the face of NXT 2.0.”

Escobar was channeling a little of his on-screen character in that answer, but the former NXT Cruiserweight Champion meant it when he said he sees a lot of himself in Bron Breakker.

“We share a lot. He’s a second-generation wrestler. So am I. He’s got a big legacy on his shoulders. So do I. I think when the time comes, his legacy versus my legacy, I’ll pick mine. I’ll pick mine and I’ll defend mine.”

“I want to establish myself as the best Latino in this company. And I think the perfect way to do it is this spot, this main event. This place is where you can show up and shine and tell everyone, ‘this is me.’ And I’m gonna do it this Tuesday. And unfortunately, I’m gonna have to do it through the prospect Bron Breakker.”

As the son of lucha libre legend El Fantasma, Escobar is trying to carve out his own path forward in WWE. He spent years working for Lucha Libre AAA Worldwide and Lucha Underground before signing with NXT in 2019. And he’s been navigating an ever-changing landscape since he walked through the door.

The branding switch from NXT to NXT 2.0 brought in a crop of fresh, young talent. A changing of the guard as WWE seeks to find the next generation of stars. For Santos Escobar that meant one thing - adapt or die. He adapted.

“Younger doesn’t just mean the age, it means they’re hungry. They’re ready to go. They’re ready to risk everything, every single night. And that my friend is something hard to match. But I come from a place where you had to do that every single day of the week and sometimes twice on Sunday. So, I’m ready for that. My mentality is that of a fighter. I like fighting. I never conform myself. So instead of fighting myself with opposition, with this new era of NXT, I found it welcoming. I love it. I love the fight. I love the spirit of these youngsters, because I can match them in the ring. But the thing is I have more experience. So, it’s always a fun experience to find myself in the ring with Solo Sikoa, who is an amazing talent, Xyon Quinn and of course, Bron Breakker.”

Win, lose or draw Tuesday night, Escobar promises to make the most of this opportunity and prove to everyone that he should be the face of NXT 2.0. Or any brand in WWE for that matter. His ultimate goal is to headline WrestleMania. He’ll take another huge leap forward this Tuesday on NXT Vengeance Day, airing once again on Syfy.

Please watch my full interview with Santos Escobar in the video above, or check out more of the Q&A below:

Bleav in Pro Wrestling: What would winning the NXT Championship mean in the grand scheme of building toward your ultimate goals in WWE?

Santos Escobar: You have to keep working every single day. I think you’re only as good as your last match. And this match should cement me, should cement and solidify the position I have. Not only on NXT, but in the company. When all eyes are on you, that’s when you have to shine. I’ve been giving great matches since I got here. But now I have all the eyes on me. And so, I’m gonna take advantage of that, make it mine, and seize the moment.”

This kid (Bron Breakker) is good. He’s more than good, but he’s not better than me. And I’m about to prove it this Tuesday. And when I do, then not just NXT who they already know, but everyone in the company will say, ‘Oh, this guy is the guy.’

BPW: You signed with WWE in the Summer of 2019. Nearly three years later, what has been the biggest difference in your expectations and the reality of your journey in WWE so far? It’s not very often that those two things match up.

Santos Escobar: I knew what was coming. The most difficult thing is that when you are an international superstar, and you’ve been doing this and everyone knows what you’re about and you walk into a place for the first time, you’re supposed to learn what this place is about. And my mentality was like that. I was not accomplished. I was not deserving. I got here, I humbled myself and I started learning. Learning our product. Learning what I would need to add, to give more, as opposed to taking.

That was my mentality and it matched perfectly. I haven’t worked like this in my entire career, and I love it. I love it. I love challenges. I love being challenged by the coaches. I love being challenged by the show itself, because this show has been evolving. It’s been growing and if you don’t evolve, then you die. And baby I’m right here. I’m right here, ready to go. I transformed my body. I’m ready to throw down with whoever you want me to throw down. I can tell you a story. I can show you a story. So, I’m checking all the boxes.

BPW: I’m looking at that beautiful NXT Cruiserweight Championship behind your shoulder right there. You had a fantastic run with that belt, nearly a year before Kushida took it off you last April. Now less than a year later, it’s been retired. What was your reaction when you heard about that unification match with the North American Championship? Were you sad to see it go?

Santos Escobar: I was sad because, it was a big and important part of my career. My career as a whole and my tenure here in WWE and on NXT. I think me and my familia, we did an amazing job with the Cruiserweight Division. But you know, like I said before, things evolve and things change. And now, as opposed to having just the Cruiserweight Division, as you can see, the NXT 2.0 roster is rich in not just cruiserweights, but heavyweights. So as opposed to secluding them in one division, I think it was the right thing to do. To just have an even more open range with the North American Title and have everyone just fight and go.

BPW: Evolution seems to be the theme of this interview. When I think back to the days of the old WCW Cruiserweight Division, Rey Mysterio, Eddie Guerrero, Juvi, Kidman, Dean Malenko, Chris Jericho, that division stole the show seemingly every Monday night. But you fast forward to today and you see guys twice as big pulling off some of these insane, amazing moves that the cruiserweights were known. Do you think the evolution of today’s athlete, and I hate to use this term, but has it kind of made cruiserweights obsolete in a way?

Santos Escobar: Not Obsolete. Being a cruiserweight is always challenging. You may not have the weight, you may not have the size, but you sure have the talent. And it’s challenging because you have to evolve and think of new maneuvers, think of new stuff that you can throw in and steal the show. But now that everyone else is replicating the style, then now you have to double down and show me, what else can you do? What else is out there that you can offer to the show, to the roster, to the WWE universe, to the audiences at home? Come on, give it to me. And that’s the challenge the cruiserweights have, because let’s face it, if you’re 285 pounds, 6’4” guy, pure muscle, maybe all you have to do is flex and you capture the audience. But the cruiserweights have got to do a little more.

And if you have this big guy doing stuff that a cruiserweight does, then the cruiserweight has to do even more. I love that because it makes you be creative. It makes you think on the move and just grasp the love. And what we want from the audience is the ultimate investment, which is time. Time, the only resource that you will not get back. So, if I’m on TV for two minutes, one minute or 25 minutes, I will capture your attention. A cruiserweight is gonna die in the line for that.

BPW: Is that what Rey Mysterio does so well to have that kind of longevity? He’s 47 years old. He’s like the Tom Brady of WWE, the older he gets the better he gets. Is that what makes him so special?

Santos Escobar: Correct. Spirit, heart and talent and ability of course. But heart. Heart. Always be there. Always show up. And always be willing to give everything. Are you willing to do that? Cause if you are, then you can match Rey any given night. But if you’re not, you’re gonna come up short. That’s what I see in Rey. He’s ready to give everything and you see it. And once you see it, you have no other option than to embrace this guy. Which I do by the way.

BPW: Dominik Mysterio recently named you as one of his dream opponents. You admire a guy like Rey Mysterio and that’s your dream matchup. And now his son is naming you as one of his dream matchups. What does that mean to you?

Santos Escobar: It means the world to me because, I think that speaks volumes of the work I’m doing. If I can get to inspire someone that has so much inspiration at home with his dad, and he can find inspiration in me, then I’m humbled. I’m honored. And I see there’s a bit of tension between them… I could help him. Because that’s exactly the story that I lived with my dad 20 something years ago. He would tell me stuff. I wouldn’t believe it. He would give me advice. I wouldn’t follow it. And it’s pretty much what they’re having. And if Dominik finds some inspiration in me, I’ll be there for him any day.

Rick Ucchino can be reached at Rick.Bleav@gmail.com. You can follow him on Twitter @RickUcchino and make sure to subscribe to the Bleav in Pro Wrestling YouTube Channel.