Konnan reveals his work with Kevin Sullivan, the faction that he was a part of that was underrated in WCW, his role in Mexico, and what he looked forward to with Lucha Underground. Check out the complete interview below. (originally conducted in June 2015)
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.
Konnan: “Super Astro was the first superstar to ever come out of Tijuana. He trained me with the fundamentals, and he used to train Rey Mysterio (Jr), & Psychosis. Whenever he would come to Mexico from Tijuana, he would go in there.
He would help us train, and he would prepare me with what I was going to confront. Once, I came into Mexico City because it was a whole different world there in Mexico City. Mexico City was like New York. That was where all the media was and where they filmed soap operas. 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. He would make all my outfits for me.
Misterio Sr 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. Misterio Sr also made a lot of outfits for the wrestlers that came out of Tijuana.
The group that came out of Tijuana that came before and after me were always known for having really cool outfits. They really invested money in their presentation. It was because of him. He always thought that you had to look like a star.
Konnan: Eddie Guerrero basically helped me fine-tune whatever I was still missing in the wrestling game.
I would cross the border of Ciudad Juarez in the state of Chihuahua, which was where I was wrestling for a long time. He was from El Paso (Texas), which was on the other side and I would cross this international bridge. Guerrero would take me, and I would teach him how to do weights. 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. He would tell me how to respect the business. Gory 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. He would actually ask me questions about what I read.
Eddie Guerrero really showed me how to separate personal from business. He showed me how to always be in character. Once I left that car door to go into the arena, he really helped me a lot. They all did in each way that I just demonstrated.
Prior to wrestling, Konnan 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?
Konnan: “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 Republican.
I was a big fan of Regan, and I believed in the American propaganda, the American ideology. I’d never questioned anything my country told me, and 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. When I went to the Iran/Iraq war, and I remember being out there, there was a ship that wasn’t too far away from us. It had gotten blown up by mistake by an Iraqi plane which is ironic because of the same country we sided with. Iraq, we went to war with 20 years later for 8 years for, again, 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 to make sure. The Strait of Hormuz which is a very narrow channel where a lot of oil came from the Arab states 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 and spend time in jail, I was very patriotic. 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 Konnan felt you were a part of that was underrated?
Konnan: “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 (Guererra). 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. I know this is going to sound redundant, but you had an owner that was a mark for the stars. 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 had there 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. It 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. Konnan, describe the experience & AAA’S relationship with ECW at the time.
Discuss your time, Konnan, in WCW working with Kevin Sullivan as part of the Dungeon of Doom.
Konnan: “It was excellent because Kevin was the one that had originally called me because 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’s, I believe you can do something with him, especially since you don’t have any Latino’s’.
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, and it is something that I want to ask him the next time I see him. This is what I really think happened.
I got there, and they really had big plans for me, but I don’t think they thought 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, Konnan was part of 3 Live Cru & LAX. How was one experience different from and/or similar to the other?
It touched on really strong political viewpoints, and we one-time hung Uncle Sam in effigy, and we burned it up.
After leaving TNA, you returned to AAA in Mexico. Explain your time there, your role, and whether was there ever an option to transition there sooner.
Konnan: “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, and I think 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 now they 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 and 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 for 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 give 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 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 to those affected?
I 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?
Konnan: “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 anyways.”
The birth of Lucha Underground has provided a great opportunity for several talents. What has the experience meant to Konnan?
Konnan: “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 to me was the forbearer of what we are seeing here today in Lucha Underground, fifteen years later.
This is what happened, and the most beautiful part for me is when I came to WCW, and I talked to Kevin Sullivan and Eric Bischoff about bringing in Luchadores it was an all-Mexican thing.
Konnan: 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, and 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 profound respect and pride in 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 foot forward, you are always going to be in the same place.
If you don’t ask that 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 by El Rey. It’s just a product that’s never been seen before.”
What are your aspirations and hopes for Lucha Underground?
Konnan: “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 way of the future without a doubt. It’s something 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 was, 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 Konnan encourage fans to keep an eye out for?
Konnan: “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 Stollman and his group is that 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 either 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 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 to Jack (Evans) with Fenix, Prince Puma, Drago, or Aerostar. There is Willy Mack, whose awesome Brian Cage is. So much talent there that 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.”