AEW's Santana & Ortiz Plan to Show Up and Show Out at 'Fyter Fest'
All Elite Wrestling has made a conscious effort to bring tag teams back to the forefront of the business. Helping accomplish the company’s mission are Santana and Ortiz, who came on the scene after building a solid body of work for Impact Wrestling. The duo are an important part of the division as members of the Chris Jericho-led group the Inner Circle.
“Ortiz and I have been tagging for almost 10 years. It’s something we have dedicated our lives and careers to," Santana said. "To see a company come together and truly put so much time into tag team wrestling, building it and helping make it what it is today is awesome. A lot of guys are even coming together to form tag teams and learn how to work the style. There is so much creativity when it comes to tag team wrestling. I think AEW has done an amazing job since the start. They continue to put their best step forward in consistency.”
Ortiz added that it was AEW’s promise to effectively spotlight tag teams that led to the New Yorkers joining the promotion last summer. He is happy to see head Tony Khan, executive vice presidents the Young Bucks and others in leadership keep their word.
“Tag team wrestling can be the main event, which in the history of wrestling doesn’t happen very often,” he said. “It’s great to see tag team wrestling get the spotlight it deserves. In a tag team match you just have more colors to paint. The possibilities are endless. That’s what we love about tag team wrestling.”
Next up for Santana and Ortiz is a prime-time match against the emerging Private Party, mentored by Matt Hardy. The encounter is part of night one for Dynamite’s themed Fyter Fest event on TNT. We sat down with the stars to preview the big showdown.
You’ve been able to really show a different side of yourselves in singles outings. What has that been like?
Ortiz: Coming up on the independents I feel, especially in this day and age, wrestling is more about what you can do in the ring versus character. It’s different when you are on television. We had the experience doing television, but now I feel it’s more about us standing out as individuals. In that, it makes us stronger as a unit. It’s definitely more challenging because television is a different beast compared to what we are used to. We love the challenge. It’s always what has gotten us to become better performers. Having to do something new was good because if you don’t have these new opportunities, you become stagnant. I feel AEW has done a good job keeping us on our toes.
Santana: It has been great because it has allowed a peek into what makes our tag team work with our personalities. We’ve shown we can be serious ass-kicking dudes that aren’t going to take crap. Also, we’ve been able to show a comedy side and our sense of humor. Especially working with someone like Chris Jericho, the man of man faces. He is a true artist putting together characters and portraying certain things. Getting to learn from him overall has been a good experience. What is scary is we have just scratched the surface.
You mention Chris Jericho. When the Inner Circle was first put together, many weren’t sure what to think. The group has proven to be a cohesive unit, finding creative ways to entertain fans with the “Bubbly Bunch” and “Stadium Stampede.” How do you feel the faction has gotten closer, even during challenging times?
Ortiz: It’s like with anything when you work with someone more. There is a bond. We had the opportunity to know Sammy Guevara before we got to AEW. We teamed up with him once before we joined. We ran into him maybe once on the indies. The first time we met Jericho was on the first Jericho cruise. When we got together, it was insane how we all clicked. We’re very fortunate that we are like-minded individuals and meshed really easily. With that, it kind of steamrolled. Jake Hager is at times more excited to wrestle than we are. We have six-man matches or any multi-man matches where we are ready to go.
I think it works because we are all willing to do what it takes for the betterment of the team. It has been a blessing because you sometimes have to work with people you don’t exactly get along with. Sometimes that can make great television. For us, we all got along well from the start. We have a big group chat where we all talk and joke and shoot ideas around. We have an open door to keep it going. I couldn't ask for a better group of guys.
Santana: Another great part of the group is we have similar outlooks on pro wrestling. We share ideas. I feel like everything we do is a collective idea from everyone. When something is brand new and not familiar, it takes people a while to latch on to see what we’re trying to do. Up to now, it has been great. I feel like we found our flow. We’re still climbing and elevating not just the company, but what we’re doing as a team and brand. We are all here to put in the work.
At Fyter Fest you’re facing Private Party, who earned their slot on AEW as relative unknowns on these concept shows. What do you think it will be like to work in this kind of environment on a themed event such as this?
Santana: A lot of people don't know we have a lot of history with Private Party. We were one of their first matches when they first came together on the independents. We wrestled each other up and down the East Coast. Their trainer is one of our mentors. The history and chemistry is there. They’ve had these breakout moments, so we are looking forward to working with them here. We’re looking to bring out the absolute best. We’re looking to show up and show out like us New Yorkers like to do. We’re looking forward to it.
They are going to be seconded by Matt Hardy. You’ve been able to work with him since his arrival in AEW. What have you taken from that?
Ortiz: We grew up watching the Hardy Boys, the Dudleys. They were definitely huge influences when we started tag team wrestling. Honestly, to us that is tag team wrestling. They were doing it in the main event on cards any time they were against one another. Matt has been working for 28 years. It’s insane to sit under that learning tree of his and Jericho’s. Hear them speak and talk about wrestling. From their stories, every time they open their mouth you learn something. Unfortunately, he is going to have to get these hands and have to see his guys lose on Fyter Fest. I’m fortunate to be in our position. There would be people who would give their left arms to be in our shoes. We don't take it for granted.
AEW has continued programming through the pandemic. Filming shows in Florida, how safe have you felt ? A lot of other companies have come under fire with how they’ve handled the situation, but AEW has been given credit for their regular testing.
Santana: Honestly, when everything first happened we were sitting at home for two months wondering what was next. Doc Sampson [AEW head physician Dr. Michael Sampson] and the entire company as a whole have done an amazing job of making sure we all have a safe working environment and everyone is being taken care of. The company has taken so many extra precautions to make sure we are all safe. A lot of the higher-ups and Doc, they know a lot of us have families at home. They don’t want us risking coming to work and then taking something home. Everyone has done an amazing job. I feel comfortable coming to work every single week. I know I’m going to be taken care of and don’t have to worry when I come home. I’m truly grateful that everyone has taken necessary precautions. Even when we are at TV, we’re all being safe wearing a mask and keeping our distance. I feel like I haven’t seen anyone uncomfortable. Everyone has been positive coming to work to continue the task at hand. When AEW first blew up on the scene, we said we were going to give you an alternative and great action and pro wrestling. Despite everything going on, we’ve continued to maintain that. I look forward to our future.
Ortiz: You feel super safe. Honestly, I feel more safe because we get tested on a weekly basis. There is definitely a piece of mind in that. I feel safer because I know the steps they take and precautions they are taking are top notch. Shout out to Doc Sampson for creating a great working environment. We just want to continue presenting good wrestling, and they are continuing to allow us to do that.
Fyter Fest airs over two weeks (July 1 and July 8) of AEW Dynamite Wednesdays, 8/7c, TNT