AEW ‘Grand Slam’: Sammy Guevara on His Journey from Working at Taco Bell to Facing Chris Jericho
Sammy Guevara has been one of All Elite Wrestling’s emerging stars since the company’s inception. Aligning with the legendary Chris Jericho early on certainly helped raise his profile. However, the 30-year-old is still hungry to truly break through. A massive step in that direction could come by facing his mentor at AEW’s Grand Slam episode of Dynamite on Wednesday, September 20.
Among the marquee matches on the card at the Arthur Ashe Stadium, in New York’s National Tennis Center, the battle between “Le Sex Gods” is based on mutual respect. This is pro wrestling though, so one can expect fireworks. Speaking of expecting, Guevara and his wife fellow AEW star Tay Melo are becoming first-time parents with a daughter on the way.
Here the exciting young performer opens up about his pro wrestling journey and how life will change after having a child.
Those familiar with your story know you’ve definitely paid your dues. Working at places like Subway and Taco Bell while chasing your dream. Now you’re gearing up for this big match against Chris Jericho.
Sammy Guevara: Any fast food place I’ve pretty much worked at them all. I feel like everything has been a slow grind. I’ve been doing this now for 13 years. Along the way on the independents I would find whatever part-time job I could and go and use that money to drive on the weekends to try and make it. Along the way, you never know what is going to happen.
You have the tough days you wonder if this is ever going to work out. To look back at it now, in the grind and moments, you never really know. Do I have these delusional self-beliefs? But in my mind, I knew I was going to make it. I remember working at these jobs that had these old principals and school teachers come in and say, “So what are you doing?” I go, “I work here and wrestle.” They would then ask me when I was going to get my life together. I tell them to just wait, and it will happen. They are like, “Sure.”
You showed them.
It’s funny now because people hit me up and say, “We knew you could do it.” You really don’t feel that. It’s funny how success works. If you make it, you’re right all along. If you don’t make it, whatever that means, you’re all of a sudden looked at as this crazy person. At any moment something can happen. Wrestling changes so fast. Some dude right now who has no money in his bank account and, barely afford to live, all of a sudden in the next few months could be the next hot thing in this world of social media and the internet. You never know. You have to keep trying and keep going.
On AEW All Access, audiences were able to see more of your story and how much your career means to you. What kind of impact do you think the show had in developing a deeper connection with fans?
I think it definitely helped a lot. It was something I was already trying to do with the vlogs, trying to show myself and my coworkers who we were because there was only so much TV time. Sometimes you don’t get to show your personality and what you go through. That’s what I try to do on social media, YouTube, the vlog. That’s how we got my buddy Fuego, a job is built this momentum behind him. With the show itself and the bigger platform, it definitely helped. Especially last year when people absolutely hated me. People have their reasons for it. You can’t fight them on that. You just gotta keep doing your job.
I tried to show I’m very passionate about professional wrestling. There was a time when I was going to shows and dreamed of doing this. That show allowed me to take a second to take it all in because I’m always thinking of what is next. There should be a moment to say, “Dude, you came a long way from Wrestle Circus in Austin, Texas.”…It can be a really surreal feeling when you see it all paying off, especially when you are in there with Bryan Danielson. Having the respect of one of the best wrestlers in the world is a dream. It’s real though even though it doesn’t feel that way sometimes.
Do you find your career mindset has changed with a child on the way? With you and your wife Tay Melo both wrestlers, talk about the challenges you might face in regards to scheduling. Have you gotten advice from others in the locker room?
It’s not so much at turning to anybody for advice as it’s people coming up to offer advice, which I think is super cool. I’m more to myself for the most part, so it’s nice people are going out of their way to help. People like “Hangman” [Adam Page]. Him and I have known each other in AEW for four-and-a-half years. We talked the longest we’ve ever talked in a long time. Not about wrestling but about babies. I asked him a million questions about what he went through with him and his wife, about the birth and afterward.
What the future holds for Tay and us? We both work at the same place. I think it will be a learn-as-we-go sort of thing. We’re trying to get her family here from Brazil, which isn’t easy with the visa issues. But if anything, it’s going to be the traveling baby. I think it will be a fun journey. Last year we got two kittens. That was a whole thing when you’re gone for weeks at a time. So we brought them with us. If we start the kid off young traveling, they are not going to know anything different.
That and you have a lot of potential babysitters in the locker room.
It’s true. It’s cool when Renee [Paquette] brings her kid or other people bring their babies. It’s always a cool vibe with everyone trying to help each other. I’m excited for this next chapter. I don’t know what to expect, but that’s being a parent.
Despite coming off AEW’s biggest show in All In, Tony Khan has had to face some tough challenges, especially in talent relations. He had to let CM Punk go. Knowing him as well as you do, how do you think he has handled things?
Tony, I feel doesn’t get enough credit he deserves. He, The Young Bucks, Kenny Omega, Cody Rhodes. They all changed everyone’s life and wrestling. Without them, especially Tony, there would be no AEW. There would be a bunch of people doing something completely different. I don’t know anything regarding the behind-the-scenes decisions he makes, but he is such a caring guy. What I will say is that he has a lot of balls. I have a lot of respect for him. He went out in front of the Chicago crowd to address them personally after he made the decision to let Punk go. He didn’t have to go in front of everyone. He could have just played the video. But he went out in front of thousands of people. He is getting booed. He understood how they felt. He is an upfront guy.
True. He could have also waited until after the Chicago shows but took it head-on. It was an interesting decision. I can also see how he wanted to be open and honest with the viewers on Collision before they shell out money for a pay-per-view expecting CM Punk.
I watched him make the announcement thinking, “Wow, he doesn’t have to do this.” I get it from a wrestling fan’s perspective. You went to the show expecting to see someone, and now this guy is telling you he isn’t going to be there. It’s almost like killing the messenger. But when you think about it, this man did not need to go out there. He could have easily also had someone else do it. Mad respect. I told him that too. I told him he had a lot of balls for him to do that. He said, “It had to be done, and I had to be the one to do it.” He wasn’t going to get the heat on any of the boys or anyone that night. He wanted to take the heat, which I thought was commendable.
We’re now in Hispanic Heritage Month. As a lifelong fan watching the likes of Eddie Guerrero and Rey Mysterio, how far do you think we’ve come on diversity?
The beautiful thing about wrestling is it kind of evolved over the years. You see it on your TV screen. You see all sorts of people wrestling each other. I think it’s cool because wrestling is for everyone. There is something for everyone. It’s one of the reasons I wanted to do it. Wrestling gets you feeling all of the emotions, so I think it’s cool to see it evolve. People are more judged on their talent rather than anything else. If you’re the best, you get to perform. A young guy like me, whatever spot I’m placed in, I’m going to do my best to reach the next level. It’s what I’ve been trying to do my entire time in AEW. I’ve tried to excel in everything they’ve put me in regardless, I’m going to do my best to get people to talk about me. I was Jericho’s sidekick for four years. Now I’m here headlining an event against him. It shows their faith in me.
Jericho mentioned in a promo that he saw you on a show and encouraged Tony to sign you to AEW. Is that a shoot?
That’s a shoot. The first press conference I was a part of. Cody brings me into a room with Jericho and says, “You know he is the reason you’re here. Chris saw you on NWA 70 and told Tony that he had to bring you in.”He watched this random event and happened to see me. It’s unbelievable to a certain degree. I’m like, “Thank you.” That was a brief interaction. It turned into this real story we are telling.
How are you looking at this Jericho match? We’re left wondering if you’ll be teammates after this or creates a rift.
I don’t feel like anyone knows where we’re going with this. I don’t even know if I even know. People have their theories. That’s the great thing about wrestling. It’s a really big moment in my career to go against Chris Jericho. We’ve been together since day one of Dynamite. Fans know me as Chris Jericho’s guy. My goal has always been to not be the next this guy or that guy. No, I”m the first Sammy Guevara. I don’t want to be a junior. I want to be an equal or go above that. I have a lot to prove on Wednesday, and I intend to do it.
AEW Dynamite Grand Slam, September 20, 8/7c, TBS