Unsung Heroes will cover people and personalities whose work doesn’t always get talked about as much as it could be, such as Amazing Red. In an industry rich in stars, the supporting actors don’t always get their just desserts. This series will strive to shine a light on those who fall into that category. Our next subject was trained by ECW alumni and former champion Mikey Whipwreck, Amazing Red.
Sometimes, a once-in-a-generation talent comes around and demonstrates such phenomenal ring skill that it is impossible to ignore. Rey Mysterio Jr is such a talent, someone that fans simply watch in awe because of what he can do in and around the ring. Puerto Rican Jonathan Figueroa developed a name for himself long before the likes of Ricochet became household names in WWE. His career began when he trained under former WWF star Savio Vega as part of the International Wrestling Association. When Figueroa’s career started, he was simply known as ‘Red.’ However, it was Vega that made ‘Amazing’ a part of his name. Red’s career in the IWA spanned for nearly half a decade.
It is very different in Puerto Rico than it is [in the United States]. The heels [in Puerto Rico] get hit with batteries. If you’re a heel, they really believe that you’re bad. I was on the bad side. You have to curse at them. They hated me more because I was a small wrestler, and my hair was in a fro. They told me to take it off, and I’d be fighting with the crowd. There was no security there. Fans would come right over. One guy almost went to hit me. They won’t even say anything to him. It’s not like over here where [security] stops them. There, I would get beat up. In Puerto Rico, Red had to be more concerned with those outside the ring than inside. The fans pulled my hair a couple of times.
Amazing Red on his time in Puerto Rico
Red was first trained by Aguila but then later by former ECW star Mikey Whipwreck. It was under the mentorship of Whipwreck that his potential became evident. Whipwreck shared what he could see in Amazing Red as a 15-year old:
Red was a natural. He was so young, and he absorbed everything like a sponge. I would show him something once, and he would pick it up immediately. The only thing I ever had to repeat over and over was to `slow down.’ When I first met [Red], I used to think he couldn’t talk. He would never say more than hello and goodbye. Little did I realize that once you get him talking, he doesn’t stop. He would be the same way in the ring. (Red) He would train for hours and hours at a time without a break. He loved wrestling and wanted to be successful. I can’t say enough good things about him. I love him like a son, and I’m very proud of him.
-Mikey Whipwreck on his student Amazing Red
After coming to the United States, Figueroa would travel around the independent wrestling circuit. In 2002, he joined Total Nonstop Action Wrestling and quickly became a must-see talent in the promotion. He was one of the must-sees up and coming talents in the emerging young promotion. During his initial time in the promotion, which was still under the NWA umbrella, Red was a co-holder of the Tag Team Championships alongside former ECW star Jerry Lynn. In fact, Amazing Red held that title and the promotion’s X Division title simultaneously. His short time in TNA saw Red ascend to the top of the company in two separate divisions.
However, the demand for Red couldn’t be contained to one promotion, and so he ended up performing for Ring of Honor as well. While he was in Ring of Honor, he teamed with his cousins Joel and Jose Maximo as part of the triad The SAT (Spanish Announce Table). However, his most significant achievement was his time alongside AJ Styles as part of Amazing Phenomenon, when they captured the Ring of Honor Tag Team Championships.
Red’s light continued to shine brightly in 2003. During a tour of Japan as part of All Japan Pro Wrestling, however, his skyrocketing career came to an abrupt halt. He suffered a tear to his ACL, putting a stop to his ascent to the top.
I tore my ACL and my meniscus while wrestling in Japan against Jimmy Yang. I continued to wrestle for the rest of the tour, two weeks. So I ended up doing more damage to it, and I was going to take eight months off, but I came back early after six months. I really missed wrestling. It was feeling better, but it wasn’t smart to come back early. So I took some more time off, got the proper surgery done, and it’s doing good today.
-Amazing Red on his torn ACL
After returning to the ring, Red faced former WWE Champion CM Punk in a non-televised match in 2005. However, as quickly as he seemed to be regaining momentum, it came to a stop once again. Red reinjured his knee in his hometown of New York during a match. It was at this time when Red stepped away from the ring. Then, when he appeared to be ready to make his return, his wife was expecting, and he chose note to do so.
In late Fall 2008, Amazing Red made his return to the ring. This time it was for Jersey All Pro Wrestling’s Best of the Light Heavyweights. Despite not coming out victorious in his match, that meant little. He had returned, and the revolutionary high-flier was doing what he was renowned for in the ring.
The following year, Red’s on-screen career resumed where it had left off four years earlier. He was back with TNA, coming in as part of an invitational tournament, and then soon after, he challenged for the X-Division Championship. Red defeated Samoa Joe to regain the belt he had held several years before. He held the title until Genesis, where he lost it to Doug Williams. During this period, Red was both a singles and tag team competitor. He wasn’t isolated to one specific role.
One of the most interesting evolutions of Red as a performer was the inclusion of the Sangriento character. This offered a new outlet for Red to showcase himself creatively in the ring. His fluent movements and skill could not be ignored. In the Summer of 2011, Red and TNA once again parted ways. Still, by that point, Red’s Ultimate X and X-Division matches against the likes of Chris Sabin and Alex Shelley had shown how talented he was as a competitor. Some considered him the Rey Mysterio of a new generation.
What would the future hold for Red after he departed TNA? By the Spring of 2012, he returned to Ring of Honor. While he gained a great deal of notoriety during his time in TNA, his time in ROH cannot be ignored. It was during this brief stint that he teamed with the likes of TJP. He also had a try out with WWE during this period but was unsuccessful.
For all Red’s achievements in the ring, one could argue that they pale in comparison to the contributions he has made to other aspiring talents. His knowledge and wisdom in the ring found a new creative outlet with the House of Glory training school. The names of those that walked through the school’s doors and sat under his learning tree speak for themselves: performers like Party’s Isiah Cassidy & Marq Quen, not to mention Sasha Banks, are only the tip of the iceberg, and their accomplishments speak for themselves.
“Anytime I have any big matches, he is the guy that I go to,” Banks said. “He is my guru. He’s someone I go to and say ‘Is this possible?’ and he tells me ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. All my biggest matches, I’ve come to him. I met Amazing Red in 2014 for NXT (TakeOver) Brooklyn. And my husband use to wrestle him, and I told him I needed a place to train, and so I came here, and I had so many ideas of what I wanted to do in my match against Bayley, but I didn’t have a ring to train in, and so I approached Amazing Red, and I told him my ideas and said ‘Am I crazy?’ ‘Can I do this?’
He said, ‘let’s do it, let’s try it, and lets see if it works. My relationship with him is to see if these things are possible, and I go to him for advice. He is crazy. He’s done it all. And this is a place where I go to where I know I have to pull out all the stops.
– Sasha Banks on how Amazing Red has helped her career
His time as a trainer led to him becoming a founder of the House of Glory promotion. With the promotion, he has co-held the tag team championship and captured the Heavyweight Championship. While many might believe he would typically be a babyface, his stunning betrayal of his students (Marq and Isiah) showed that he was once again capable of showing his villainous side.
In the Spring of 2019, Red announced that he would be retiring as an in-ring performer due to a neck injury. However, that decision was short-lived as he would compete for NJPW as part of their Super J Cup that Summer. In fact, he would compete another twelve more times before the end of the year. It has been a year since House of Glory ran a show due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, so his last documented match was as part of Warrior Wrestling 7 in a tag team match alongside Rocky Romero.
Though this may or may not be the end of Red’s in-career, given he hasn’t competed in roughly a year, it doesn’t mean the 38-year old’s career hasn’t left a lasting impression on those he either trained or stood in the ring with. Whether it is sharing the ring with his cousins, the Maximo’s, or supporting his cousin Thea Trinidad, Red has left an indelible mark on the industry.