Donald Wood: While many wrestling fans know you from your time in the ring, you are now the lead color commentator on Lucha Underground every Wednesday at 8 p.m. on the El Rey Network. As someone who gets to sit front row for all the action, what has it been like seeing the growth of Lucha Underground and what are your expectations for Ultima Lucha on August 5?
Vampiro: I would like to say hello first of all and thank you for having me on your show. Real quick, I’m not the lead anything, I’m part of a phenomenal team and my partner Matt Striker kind of carries the ball a lot more than I do. I am just really glad to be there. Sometimes it’s really frustrating to me watching it because it’s so exciting and I wish I could still be in there. The whole experience is pretty exciting for me, everything from the talent, the phenomenal athleticism of the guys, the crowd reaction, and the whole vibe. I’ve been around the wrestling business since 1984 and I have never seen anything as cool and smooth as this. I think it’s just scratching the surface of what’s to come and it’s only going to grow. The whole concept of how they do the TV show and how we are going to take a break, nothing like this has ever been done before. You know very well that in this stage of the game it’s very hard to do something new. The way we do wrestling and the business is going to catch a fans eye and bring new people into the game. I think Lucha Underground is breaking ground and we won’t know the impact just yet since its just starting.
Donald Wood: How about Ultima Lucha? We think of PPVs in the traditional sense as wrestling fans, but Ultima Lucha seems to be almost the culmination of a season of wrestling. What are fans in store for with such an event?
Vampiro: Devastation. It was a wild night man let me tell you. I have seen and done a lot in this business all over and in different countries since 1984. That show we did was a pretty insane night. For me personally, I would say it was the top of the game and definitely number one. For the fans, holy shit, that was the first time you could actually feel a building shake from the response of the fans. It was pretty intense.
Lucha Underground has really taken the wrestling world by storm and there are a lot of fans sitting on pins and needles waiting for a definitive announcement with regard to a second season. What are your impressions of how things are progressing on that front, and what’s your confidence level that a second season is going to happen?
Vampiro: My response would be that wrestling people are pretty paranoid and insecure as a group. Pins and needles, gossip, and paranoia, it’s all unfortunately part of the game. The he said, she said, oh my god you do this, you better watch out, you’re going to get heat for that, it’s like fucking relax dude. I have never seen anything like this from the dressing room, office, staff, writers, camera people; this is just such a fucking cool thing. The season style is just such a cool and innovative way to do it you know what I mean? What other wrestling company takes a break when they are at their peak? It’s never been done before. If you were an investor, don’t matter if you’re a fucking billionaire dude, if you had 28 or 38 million dollars invested in something, would you do that because you’re a wrestling fan, or would you do it because straight up you have a 7 to 12 year plan that’s going to school it? I think I would put my vote on the 7 to 12 year plan. I think guys with 28 million dollars would have something better to do with it than just throw it away because they want to see a couple of guys take bumps. That’s just me though. So my confidence is pretty high is what I’m trying to say.
Where did you draw the inspiration from to create the Vampiro character?
Vampiro: It was the mid 80’s, and I had always been a fan of the book Dracula. I liked the character, the fact that he was different, and the fact he was misunderstood by people. People treated him different and that was a huge thing for me in my life. I was a bigger guy when I was younger, I was one of the only kids that liked alternative music in my hometown, I was really passionate absolute life, but I felt like an outsider. When I would read the Dracula book and saw things from his point of view he became my superhero. At the time, everyone was into sports or comics, but he was someone I could really identify with. When I was living in LA in the mid 80’s, the scene was dirty, leather studded jackets. The Anne Rice vampire books just came out followed by the Lost Boys movie. The music culture from bands like LA Guns, Faster Pussycat, Guns N Roses, and hardcore punk was the thing. The street vibe and vampire culture was exploding. I remember the book the Vampire Lestat, he was a street musician and performer, he always told people who he was, and he was really rebellious. I absolutely feel in love with that character and that is where the Vampiro character came from.
Donald Wood: As a huge WCW mark, you were one of the best in the latter years of the company. From memorable feuds against Sting and Eddie Guerrero to your tag team championship win with the Great Muta, you had some unforgettable moments. What are your fondest memories of WCW and what was it like being there as the company was going under?
Vampiro: I don’t have anything good to say unfortunately, I wish I did though. I was newly married at the time, I was a kid from a small town and I made it to the big leagues I had finally made it. I felt in my heart and soul that the biggest mistake of my career going to WCW. I was at the point of hitting my peak, I was still an innovator, I was hungry, and I think I could have been somebody. I had the chance to go to All Japan and make a career there since I had spent some time because of my years working in Mexico. Something was telling me at the time to try the American style so I did and went to WCW. The fans there were really cool, but it was the most depressing time of my life there. It kind of ruined the business for me and I never was really happy in the business since. All the drama, bullshit, lies, manipulation, the abuse, it was a horrible, horrible experience. The only highlights were the cool relationship I had with the fans and when I got the championship belt with Muta who was my hero in wrestling. Everything else was fucking brutal, I hate it, I regret it, and I wish it didn’t happen. I really think that is what ruined my career. You know it could have been better but they just didn’t get me and I was just ahead of my time, I really believe that. I was in the wrong place with all the old school Carolina people at the time. I was a punk rock kid and they kept telling me I had to be a heel. I told them let me go and you will see. When I started to and they saw me they saw the people loved it. Then they tried saying to me that I was Mexican. No, you fucking guys I have been doing this for 18 years, I’m Canadian, I have been everywhere, give me a fucking chance. I really hated it and have nothing good to say about it. One other good thing that comes to mind now, I really enjoyed my time learning and making a friend out of Terry Taylor. That person really helped me out a lot. Because of my time with him is why I am able to do what I do today behind the scenes with the younger guys.
One of the most entertaining parts of Lucha Underground commentary is your constant disdain for Konnan. I understand there is or was some real-life heat between you guys stemming from your time in Mexico. For those who are unaware, what did your issues stem from, and how would you describe your relationship with Konnan currently?
Vampiro: When we were younger and wrestling back in the early 90’s, it was Beatlemania. Mexico in the early 90’s was total chaos. There used to be maybe between 50 and 60 shows a week and 4 or 5 a day. Thank god a majority of those shows back then were attended by really young and beautiful women, which was not a problem in my book. There were a lot of guys that didn’t like Konnan and myself so they tried to pit us against each other a lot and with stupidity it did get really bad. I will say this; he took it a lot more personal and serious than I did. He hated me; I disliked him. We talked about it in WCW; we squared it up, and bumped heads a few times. We made a promise to each other back then that we wouldn’t let people infiltrate and provoke that hatred to come out again. We aren’t best friends, we don’t hang out and go to the movies together, but we are definitely cool with each other. Every time I go off on him, well maybe 90% of the time I go off on him on TV I ask his permission first. I tell him what’s going to happen and if he is not cool with it he will tell me and I won’t do it. I always ask permission. I say that out of respect, but if he is listening, fuck Konnan.
We’ve really enjoyed your backstage interviews with the Lucha Underground superstars and we’re also a fan of the work Konnan has done as a manager. Was there any thought into you being a manager instead of a commentator for Lucha Underground, or perhaps even wrestling regularly?
Vampiro: I really like the interview thing and kind of came up with that idea. I like being behind the desk and its thanks to Matt Striker I am able to do what I do. Matt is really artistic and pro. I have enough confidence to go out there and wing it thanks to his professionalism. I feel like I got something going almost like a second life. I asked them if they remembered Piper’s Pit, and I asked them if they would let me try something like that and update it. I feel I have more to give, I am just so energetic and I have so much to say. They just let me go and I just make those interviews up on the spot and they turn out pretty good I would say.
Donald Wood: Thoughts on a possible match against Pentagon Jr.
Vampiro: I don’t know, maybe, yes, no, I don’t know dude, probably, why not? I feel and I feel I shouldn’t. I am not in the best shape, my health isn’t the greatest. Part of me says I didn’t finish my career the way I wanted to. The other part of me says don’t go in there because of your ego because you will fuck the product up. Not a lot of guys have that mentality. I don’t know dude, fuck give me some Jägermeister I might do it.
You’ve carved out a great career for yourself both in the United States and Mexico, so if you were to have a retirement match at some point I assume you’d have a pretty difficult decision to make in terms of the venue. With that said, if you had to make a decision, where would you like your last match to be, who would you like to face and what type of stipulation would you like to have?
Vampiro: I don’t know dude. I am so into music, I got that rock n roll thing in me. I grew up in that fast generation of punk music. Look at Lemmy in Motorhead, there is no way he should still be touring the world. Fuck man, he is Lemmy, and I feel the same. Will Vampiro ever go away? I can’t. This is what I do and I have tried other things. I have TV working and my gym going, but the more I try to get away from Vampiro I can’t, it’s who I am. In or out of the ring, shit is going to go down.
You were one of the few stars that I would tune in to see in WCW, but I always wanted to see you work with WWE. Is there any particular reason you never joined WWE?
Vampiro: Yea cause they didn’t want me. I ain’t a superstar brother; you got to remember wrestlers are full of shit. Don’t let those ego maniacs think they are more special than they are. I didn’t go because you have to sign your persona away. I worked too hard to make Vampiro and I made a living off of him. I bought my mother a house, I have a beautiful daughter that lives with me, I’m a single dad, I have a social life because of Vampiro, he was an inspiration to a lot of people. I just couldn’t see giving him away to go to WWE. They are a great product and good for them, but at the same time I don’t think they would have gotten me. When WCW folded, they basically fired me and said there was nothing they could do with me. They said creative couldn’t come up with anything for me. So I just laughed it off and said alright, see ya.
Donald Wood: When I first saw Lucha Underground, I immediately thought about Wrestling Society X. You, along with many other Lucha Underground wrestlers, made that show a cult sensation in just a short time. Who do you feel about the comparisons between WSX and Lucha Underground and what are some of the improvements you see that made this product better than WSX?
Vampiro: Oh man, you ain’t got enough time. That MTV thing was an awesome idea and that was Kevin Kleinrock’s baby and he put his heart and soul into it, it was his baby. I think it was a great idea but it was ahead of its time. It didn’t have the right people but I’m not speaking bad of Kevin. It didn’t have the right people in charge, it wasn’t run right, the management wasn’t run right, and it was on the wrong network for sure. MTV was changing program directors at the time and they didn’t see how we fit in. They wanted to do the Teen Mom thing and the Jersey thing and we just didn’t make the cut. You can’t even compare it. It’s like having sushi at McDonalds then having sushi in Japan. Lucha Underground is Burnett and its Rodriguez, forget about it. That’s like Justin Bieber and the Rolling Stones, you can’t compare it. I wouldn’t watch wrestling if you fucking paid me. I can’t watch the shit it drives me insane. I have done it for 33 years but I just don’t want it. I am assuming people are wanting something new. You look at WWE, it’s like McDonalds. You go in and you know what you are going to get, a fucking hamburger, there is no change, it is what it is. Lucha Underground is like a buffet, you make your own plate, and every day is a different feel. WWE is like going to grade school and high school, Lucha Underground is like when you are finally free to do what you want. As far as a fan, Lucha Underground is fucking dope. It’s different as in the talent is allowed to have their input. Although we do have agents, writers, producers, all that bullshit like WWE, if the talent has an idea or want to express themselves they are allowed to do that. The staff we have, the camera crews, the people behind the scenes, the people running the show, they are just so much hip and laid back. They don’t give a fuck about the politics. You’re not allowed to be a dick, there is no drama, the people are just cool. You get treated cool, just put your head down, go out there and blow the roof off, and that’s what were allowed to do. It’s fun as fuck and you guys are getting the benefit of that. Ask anyone in WWE, besides the ones that are making 10 and 12 million dollars, they are pretty fucking happy. Ask anyone else making 75 thousand a year, paying their own expenses, don’t see their wife or kid, edge of divorce, fucked up on pain pills, ask them if they are having fun.