We had a lot of big stories this week to cover things such as the fallout from Summerslam, the return of Bryan Danielson to WWE, ROH’s latest booking change and the latest hijinx in TNA but there is only one story that really stood out to me. Something that many of you don’t know about, won’t know about and probably won’t even care about but it’s something that is near and dear to my heart so I am going to sacrifice a week in mainstream wrestling to give thanks to none other than Diablo Santiago…you’re reading “Wrestling Rumblings.”
Before I go any further I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say that many of you are not familiar with the name Diablo Santiago and well I wouldn’t expect you to be as he is one of the many long time independent stars that most casual fans never get to hear about. Diablo has been toiling away on the independents since the late 90’s showcasing his talent against the likes of many stars that you are now extremely familiar with such as Jay Lethal, Samoa Joe, Homicide and Team 3D. Was he the best worker? No, but he wasn’t bad. Was he the best talker? No but again he wasn’t bad at that either and at the end of the day he was tons better than some of the guys I have seen in the past few months grace our TV’s every week. That’s just in the ring though and it’s really such a small part of things when you add up all the cards. At the end of the day Diablo Santiago may not be John Cena, Randy Orton or Kurt Angle in the ring but they should all hope to be of the caliber of man that Diablo is outside of the ring as there is truly no human being walking the face of this earth that I respect more as a man than Diablo Santiago.
So again why should you care about this independent wrestler that 99% of fans never heard of? Well Diablo Santiago is the reason I am involved with everything you read today. You see Diablo Santiago is better known to me as my cousin Luis Santiago and has officially retired from the world of professional wrestling. Let me backtrack that just a bit, you see Diablo is my cousin but he might as well be my brother as he is the closest thing to a older brother I have. Even saying he is my brother is just not giving him enough credit. I grew up looking up to him and even as a 28 year old man still sort of do. Growing up I would get my original education in wrestling through my older brother Luis with his wrestling magazines and VHS tapes. I would see any WWE or NWA PPV because of my piggybacking his outings and anything I knew at the time I could attribute to him. He fed off of my love for wrestling because well we were the only ones in the family who were into it hardcore and I of course fed off of his love for it as well and it became our life’s passion. I’ve been married and divorced, Diablo is married and thankfully not divorced but wrestling has always been our mistress and it is a love we have always shared together.
As I said before earlier in the column I would not be writing this column today if it wasn’t for Diablo not because of growing up with him but because it was literally an injury he suffered that led to me writing columns on the internet. Who would’ve thought my initial break in wrestling media would be a literal breaking of Diablo’s ankle and skull? While it is not something we talk about fondly for obvious reasons when we do talk about it one thing that is always mentioned was he was happy that I could somehow break into wrestling by him breaking something himself. If he indirectly helped me there it would be more than enough but I haven’t had a more constructive critic or better soundboard in the last 6 years doing this than him. It was he who helped introduce me to certain people, opened doors for me that I have kicked my way through and gave me advice that I still use to this day. You see anyone who does this can talk out the left side of their face like they have a clue but oftentimes I have used Diablo to get the wrestlers perspective when I couldn’t necessarily talk to other wrestlers taking advantage of our familial relationship and of the fact that I know his responses will always be 100% honest.
Diablo is the reason I started keeping track of certain independent groups first as a mark just trying to keep up with my cousin’s career and now as an aspiring professional trying to keep my hands in everything. I have had 3 proud moments in my short “career” in wrestling media and 2 of them are attributed to Diablo.
The first one was my first independent show I ever attended live. You see I always wanted to remain professional and had a long standing policy of watching whatever came my way but never attending a show because he was there. For the first few years of me doing this I didn’t even let it out publicly that we were related as I wanted to stand on my own name not his. It was during one summer conversation though that we were sitting and chatting and he told me “You know you really should start coming to shows” and when I explained why I didn’t I was immediately told to attend his next show and do the show review. I balked because of the conflict of interest. After all I watched matches of his before and wasn’t necessarily thrilled with them. We even had a big argument about it once not so much because of what I said but how I said it and he was 1000% right I was a jerk in that instance and it’s a lesson that I hold to this day when I criticize things. I didn’t want a repeat of that, but he insisted that he trusted me and knew I wouldn’t let relationships cloud my opinions and felt that I grew enough as a writer and person to know the correct way to do business. So I went to his show and saw him have a very good tag team match in which one of the combatants he was against was Jay Lethal. Afterwards we went out to dinner and there wasn’t a bigger critic of the match than Diablo as we shared thoughts on the nights show and as I went match by match and gave my thoughts he gave me more insight as to why something’s occurred. You see I was getting put under the learning tree again. Still at the time it was my most proudest moment doing this as here we were the two kids who would beat the snot out of each other in their grandmothers living room (OK so he beat the crap out of me but this my column damn it) and one of them is wrestling in front of 1000 people getting ready for a WWE tryout and the other one is writing a review on the show and people care about both. It may sound very stupid to some of you but it was very humbling to me at the time.
My other moment that is probably the proudest moment I have in this line of work occurred a few years ago. You see Diablo officially retired this week but he has been semi retired the past few years not actually competing but keeping the door open to return. Well we knew that time was coming when he had to hang it up. We talked about it often but well he is a wrestler and you never tend to take a wrestler at his word when he talks retirement, although in Diablo’s defense he never used the “R” word as much as talked about taking a break but I knew what he meant. Diablo made me a DVD of some of his matches and called me up asking if I watched some of them wanting to get my thoughts. First off considering how far we both came it was very humbling to me that he wanted and respected my opinion on the match as someone who may have trained and took a few bumps in the gym but never actually worked, needless to say I gave my opinion and one of the things I criticized was a manager he had at one particular show. I am always careful when I write this column to not be so disparaging in my words of talent but when I am out with friends I pretty much armchair quarterback it like all of you and one of the comments that came out of my mouth that day was “I could probably do a better job than that guy”. It’s a throwaway comment and one that you usually get away with except the very next day I got a phone call saying “Remember when you said you could do a better job than that guy? Would you like to try?” At first I didn’t think he was serious and just laughed it off but again he insisted that I should try it and mentioned again thinking of taking that break and having just one more booking coming up for a charity show and wanted to know if I would be interested in managing him for what we felt at the time was going to wind up his last match. Knowing this was going to be his last match or at least one of the last few (he actually did do one more because he forgot he had an extra booking) I declined because I didn’t want to ruin his last match but again he insisted and told me “I trust you, trust me, it’ll be fun”. So I did and he was right.
After months or promoting the show on my own and with him for the Alexis Cross Foundation which was whom the charity was for and throwing around my crazy ideas Jose Cool was born and I was honored to manage him, Sledge and Jeff Libolt his trainer who had multiple bookings in WWE as an enhancement talent in what would actually be his last match in the main event for TSW’s Big 30. To just say I managed him would be enough but it was more than that as I got another education on the long car drive to Rutland, Vermont from him and as someone who is an aspiring booker got to sit under the learning tree of his trainer Jeff Libolt who was booking the show and get a handle for how that side of the business works. It was also the first time I got to see how truly smart to the business Diablo was as I saw him basically put together the main event match himself and saw the respect he had amongst all the participants and how he was able to get what he needed from everyone without a problem and put together a pretty decent match. I even got to cut a promo. I’ll never forget going out there with him for the main event. It was not only the highlight of my wrestling aspirations but one of the highlights of my life itself as it was truly an honor. I wasn’t the best manager and probably didn’t do better than the manager I criticized as some things are just not as easy as they look but of course Diablo and for that matter everyone else in the locker room was full of praise for the first timer who had an open door invitation to come back and do it again (I’ll stick to writing thank you) and Diablo was right as all he kept asking me when it was over was “Did you have fun?” and the answer was a resounding “YES”.
I’ve always told Diablo that he would never truly understand how much that meant to me. Not just because I got to fulfill a personal dream and be out there in a main event situation in wrestling but because it was me and him and he trusted me. That meant a lot as those who know Diablo know that his trust doesn’t come easy with anything and few ever attain it. It meant so much to me that I have no problem confessing here that I actually called my ex wife who I was still on speaking terms at the time with and cried because it just touched me so much that I earned that trust, that respect from someone who I love and respect so much. I’ve talked to many wrestlers and wrestling personalities throughout the years guys like Bret Hart, Les Thatcher, New Jack, Mick Foley and others and as much as I have enjoyed and respected them throughout their careers no one in wrestling’s respect means more to me than Diablo Santiago and there is no one in my life whose respect means as much to me as Luis Santiago’s. I had a picture taken of us that night which I have proudly framed in my home and even kept the tights he wore that night for my own memorabilia as well as my own outfit that night. It’s my favorite moment of me and him together and by far and away my proudest moment in wrestling.
Diablo wasn’t just a ham and egger on the indies he had a pretty decent career. Some of you ROH fans may remember him as one of the founding members of the Embassy with his partner Oman Tortuga or maybe even remember him as one of the wrestlers the Insane Clown Posse wrestled in ROH when they were booed out of the building. Some of you mainstream fans may have seen Diablo also but in a non wrestling role as he was on Monday Night Raw as a security guard in a pull apart between Kurt Angle and John Cena during their feud while he was there for a tryout. Believe it or not Diablo was good enough to get into WWE and didn’t by circumstance really and you know what? That’s okay, while I love wrestling and I love that me and him share that passion together I never really was in love with him in wrestling. It’s a harsh business and it corrupts even the best people sometimes and I didn’t want to see him broken down with nothing to show for his time in the ring. I am thankful to say that’s not the case as he is doing very well and leads a very fulfilling life. It’s good to have him make that announcement formally and go on his own terms as we have talked for years about angles and ideas for one more match or run and while it was fun I know my brother is healthy and I want to see him stay that way at least now I know he will.
Diablo would probably get mad at me if I didn’t at least try to mention some of the titles he won titles such as the NWA Upstate Tag Team Championships, NMW Tag Team Championships, WOHW Tag Team Championships, DPW Tag Team Championships, BPW Tag Team Championships, Fusion Wrestling Tag Team Championships, JAPW Tag Team Championships and Diablo would get mad if I didn’t mention he was the longest reigning TSW TV Champion ever and once selected by TSW fans as the “Wrestler of the Year”. These are just a few of the titles he won as I know for a fact I could probably list all of them on a single page and maybe still be missing a few.
It was a good run and it’s not over, just onto the next venture in life and if I know Lou he will be just as successful with that as he is everything else because he may not be the most brightest, charismatic, or talented person around but he will outwork anyone around. It is his work ethic that has earned him so much and there is no one that outworks Lou…anyone. Lou if you’re reading this and I know you are, I just want to take this time out to say congratulations on a career in a business that few get into and even fewer can maintain for as long as you have. I love you, wish you all the best and know that you’ll still be there to be my Yoda, my soundboard and mentor for everything not just in wrestling but in life.
On that note I am going to wrap up this column but of course I have to give you guys something to do for the weekend and what those of you reading this may not know now is Wrestleview has added blogs to the VIP section (vip.wrestleview.com/blogs) which means more “Outside Interference” blogs from yours truly. I have a few up already and am planning to be active in the VIP section so be sure to check it out. Now if you need more reading I have been reading former NWA President Howard Brody’s autobiography “Swimming with Piranhas” and have found it to be quite the read. I am halfway through it and if it wasn’t for being busy with everything else I wouldn’t be able to put it down so I encourage everyone to check it out.
Of course I am always answering email at firstname.lastname@example.org and look forward to your feedback each and every week so please keep it coming and well that’s it, next week I will try to do better and until then, I am out.