I sat down with wrestling legend, Tito Santana. He’s been the Intercontinental Champion, Tag Team Champion, King of the Ring and is forever immortalized in wrestling through his induction into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2004. On top of that, he’s starring in an upcoming sitcom called Wrestling with Joeylicious.
So you filmed an episode for Wrestling with Joeylicious, how did you connect with Joey Cassata and his project?
I think I ran into Joey just from doing the Comic Cons, New York and New Jersey.
How did you feel about the filming of the episode?
I thought it was fun. He emailed me a final copy when they got done with the project, it looked great. I saw quite a few of them and I think he’s got something good going.
As it goes for present-day wrestling, do you keep an eye on WWE?
No, I’m just too busy. I just don’t watch it and I don’t follow it. It’s a different sport, totally entertainment now. I like other sports. But I do know they have Cena there and I know he’s very talented. I know Bob Orton’s son is there and he’s very talented. I know they have a lot of talent, but I just don’t follow it.
What do you see in the wrestlers that are on the independent shows you’ve been on as of late?
From time to time, you run into some talent that has a lot of potential. They need to meet the right person and be in the right place at the right time, that’s the way everybody gets started. You gotta learn somewhere.
How you feel about these second and third generation wrestlers out there? There’s been a lot of sons and daughters of legends making names for themselves.
Just because you’re second and third generation doesn’t mean that you’re gonna be successful. Look at the Million Dollar Man’s kids, both those boys had talent, but they just never got the big break. But then you have Orton’s son, he’s doing fantastic. I believe some of the second and third generation pick it up a lot quicker than some of the guys that don’t have any experience. Again, it’s being at the right place at the right time and being what the WWE’s looking for. I do seminars and some of the guys that aspire to be wrestlers, they don’t train and don’t have a body that Vince might be looking for. I tell them “If you’re eventually gonna make it big, you have to stand in front of Vince and say ‘This is what I have to offer.’ Is he gonna buy what you’re offering?” I do believe it’s a one time shot, you can’t show up out of shape and think you’re gonna get another chance.
Do you see wrestlers picking up bad habits on the independents?
Not necessarily bad habits, but if you come to the WWE, it’s totally entertainment. They’re gonna tell you what they want. In professional wrestling, there’s basic fundamentals that you gotta learn and you can learn them in the independents.
How you feel about all of the promos being scripted word for word on WWE programming now?
It’s a different ballgame. They brought me back into do a RAW and I had to introduce Alberto Del Rio, but I had to memorize a few short lines. There was an exact way I was supposed to introduce him and I was nervous as hell doing it. We used to ad lib and just create our own interviews, it’s all different when you have to memorize what they want to say.
What was the environment backstage like at RAW that night?
Definitely a different environment. When I was wrestling, it was very loose. We would play cards in the back. Now it’s all business and everybody’s memorizing their lines and thinking about what they’re gonna be doing.
I was pleasantly surprised to discover that you faced Shawn Spears on an independent show in 2012. He is currently doing very well for himself as “The Perfect 10” Tye Dillinger on NXT.
Good for him. That makes me happy. Whenever I wrestle somebody, I try to teach them as much as I possibly can about the business. You can pretty much spot talent when you wrestle somebody who’s got it. You tell them. And there’s a lot of guys that have talent that never get a chance.
When you do seminars, what do you want the wrestlers to take out of it?
If you truly want to make it in this business, you gotta go a hundred percent. You gotta give it all, everything you got. To me, the most important thing is to follow through and get a good education. It’s something to fall back on. If you have a good job, don’t quit until you’re ready to go and know that you’re gonna be making some big money with the WWE. Learn as much as you possibly can, have fun and see where it takes you. But when you have a college education, you’re likely to find a pretty decent job if you don’t make it there.
On the topic of education, you are currently a teacher. At the start of every school year, do you tell your students that you are a wrestler and were a part of the WWF?
I work in the town that I live in, so everybody knows Tito Santana. When the kids come in, they know of me. I talk a little bit about wrestling, but not much. I tell them that in the classroom, I’m Mr. Solis.
Do you see that some of your students currently watch WWE?
Some of them are.
And then are they like “Do you know John Cena?”
“Can you bring John Cena here?” “Can you bring some of the guys, some of the good-looking girls that are on television?”
In closing, what do you have to say to wrestlers who are trying to find themselves through their promos?
When you’re doing a generic promo and talking about yourself, you gotta talk about your qualifications without bragging about yourself so much, unless you’re gonna be a dominant heel. The heel can get away with just bragging and talking about how good they are. If you don’t believe in yourself, nobody else will.
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Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated
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