Fighting

PRO WRESTLING: Konnan, Rey Mysterio ready for WaleMania in Santa Clara, Calif.

The worlds of rap and wrestling collide with WaleMania.
The worlds of rap and wrestling collide with WaleMania. Photo Courtesy Court Bauer

Konnan is excited for WrestleMania Weekend, but it’s not because of WWE’s biggest show of the year.

The entertainer, currently seen on El Rey Network’s “Lucha Underground” wrestling show, looks forward to WaleMania. This unique event hosted Thursday, March 26 at Taste Nightclub in Santa Clara, Calif. will feature rapper Wale and Rey Mysterio, who is participating in a question-and-answer session.

It’s an opportunity for Mysterio to speak candidly in a public setting about his career via MLW Radio personalities Konnan, former WWE creative writer Court Bauer and Florida indie talent Mister Saint Laurent.

Konnan couldn’t be happier the popular masked dynamo is no longer with WWE.

“First of all he is my best friend inside and outside the business,” said Konnan during a phone interview on March 9. “He is somebody that I discovered when he was 14 years old. Even though a lot of people at that time didn’t believe in him because the blueprint of what a wrestler looked like wasn’t exactly his size and weight, he was able to surpass all those obstacles including racism. Being WWE, even though it’s the most well-known company in the world, there is a lot of backstage politics which are finally coming to the forefront in the past few years.

“You see a lot of people complaining about racism, sexism, favoritism. It’s basically a place that stifles. If they don’t feel you are a star, they can really mess with your mind. Rey wasn’t motivated the last few years there. So for him to leave, he is very happy to get out of there because they weren’t doing anything with him. The writing was on the wall. They didn’t plan to do anything with him. Now he can finally reach his full potential because I feel he was being held back in WWE.

“You are seeing all the problems they had with Alberto Del Rio. Del Rio was a guy that was fired. You saw how CM Punk left. You see the problems they are having with Brock Lesnar. You are seeing so many wrestlers leave that place complaining. It’s because the way they are treated. The wrestlers there at the time aren’t going to complain because there will be consequences for them to speak out. You saw Dolph Ziggler spoke out about certain things. He got punished. Even when they leave, people don’t speak out because they are hoping to get a job with WWE one day.”

AAA (Asistencia Asesoría y Administración) jumped at the opportunity to sign Rey Mysterio when he became available. Del Rio, working these days as Alberto El Patron, and the original Sin Cara (Myzteziz) also returned to the premiere Mexican promotion post-WWE.

“I don’t think I ever saw them coming back to Mexico, especially Rey and Alberto,” Konnan said. “I thought they would all retire there. AAA is where they both started. They are both Mexican. They are happy to be back. I think there is going to be a resurgence in business because you have the two biggest stars today from Mexico in Rey and Alberto coming back home.”

Konnan believes Mysterio would fit well in Lucha Underground, a California based promotion that has ties to AAA.

“The network is called El Rey, so Rey Mysterio would be perfect for it. He is lucha libre, and that is what he does and what WWE didn’t let him do. You got a diluted version. Alberto, one of his best friends is there. I’m there. It’s something I can see happening in the foreseeable future.”

After reaching superstardom in Mexico, Konnan gained a worldwide following working for ECW and WCW. He helped broker deals to bring in other lucha stars to the United States, which changed the business as a whole. The former Miami resident is proud to be part of Lucha Underground, which he believes gives this style of pro wrestling the respect it deserves.

“Lucha libre has always taken a backseat to American wrestling when it was presented in the United States,” he said. “The mid-1990s when Rey Mysterio, Juventud Guerrera, Psicosis, La Parka and myself came to WCW, people were just mesmerized by lucha libre, yet we always took a backseat. In WWE, lucha took a backseat. They didn’t understand lucha libre. They didn’t understand Hispanics. It’s pretty hard to understand Hispanics when nobody in TNA or WWE is in a position of power. How can you write for a Latino fan base when you don’t have any of them in a position of power?

“Lucha libre does not take a backseat to nobody. We are called Lucha Underground. It’s been a great experience because you have people like Robert Rodriguez, who is a Latino himself who is behind the project. You have the expertise o Mark Burnett, executive producer Eric Van Wagenen. He has worked with WWE ‘Tough Enough’ and is from LA. He understands how the Hispanic culture is there.

“The writers are big lucha fans. I think we are presenting lucha in a different way. There are pros and cons to people not being in the wrestling business. The guys behind this project, whether it’s a John Fogelman or an Eric Van Wagenen, none of these guys are guys who grew up in the wrestling business. So they don’t have that mentality that this is the way it has been done, so it has to be done this way. They’ve taken chances and thought outside the box. That’s brought freshness to the project.”

On camera Konnan has appeared in a managerial role for the inaugural Lucha Underground champion Prince Puma. He serves as mentor, similar to how it was with Mysterio when he was starting out.

“Puma doesn’t listen as much as Rey did; I have to say right off the bat, but it’s a very young locker room at Lucha Underground,” Konnan said. “It’s a very talented locker room. A lot of them there tried out for WWE or were in NXT and never got the chance they thought they deserved and are getting the chance here. There is nothing better than a motivated element or athlete or performer. Everyone is motivated, from the guys who went to WWE and were told they weren’t good enough to the guys coming from Mexico and AAA who want to prove lucha is way more exciting than anything on the American scene. So you have a really motivated locker room.”

The outspoken veteran has an optimistic outlook when it comes to Lucha Underground and its place in the marketplace. In his eyes, they have only scratched the surface.

“When people saw lucha 15 years ago, it had a huge influence on everyone from the Hardy Boys to everyone that came after us,” Konnan said. “It just revolutionized wrestling. I think we are going to do that again. Now we are the center stage. We aren’t the side attraction or the undercard. We are the main event. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive in a business where people are very jaded and pissed off at the way they are treated by TNA or WWE, who also at times seem like they don’t give a s--- what fans think.”

Those attending WaleMania can expect candid conversation such as this and a festive party atmosphere.

“It’s going down,” Konnan said. “There is going to be an open Don Julio bar. You can drink all the tequila you want, chilling out with Rey, myself, and a lot of our wrestling friends who are going to be there. We will have a live podcast with fans where people can ask questions to the panel…Wale, Grammy-nominated rapper is doing an album release party and doing songs from his new album. It’s going to be off the chain and an event for sure.”

- WaleMania presents an evening of rap and wrestling with Wale and Rey Mysterio on Thursday, March 26 at Taste Nightclub in Santa Clara, Calif. Their rap and wrestling concept comes from Every Blue Moon http://everybluemoon.com and Court Bauer.

Event kicks off with a VIP cocktail party at 6:30 p.m., followed by the Mysterio interview with MLW Radio and fan Q&A at 8 p.m. The after party gets started at 10 p.m., headlined by Wale performing songs from his upcoming new album “The Album About Nothing.”

Buy tickets at www.WaleMania.com and www.TheTicketGroup.com

- Catch Konnan, Johnny Mundo (John Morrison), Prince Puma, Son of Havoc (Matt Cross), Ivelisse, Alberto el Patron (Alberto Del Rio) and more on “Lucha Underground” 8 p.m. EST Wednesdays on El Rey Network.

Listen to him on MLW Radio www.MLWRadio.com.

Follow him on Twitter @Konnan5150

- Follow me on Twitter @smFISHMAN

PRO WRESTLING ON THE WEB

http://www.miamiherald.com/sports/fighting/

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