Professional wrestling has had countless promos that pushed boundaries far beyond the usual threats of injury or assurances of victory. Fans have heard it all, from wrestlers pledging to use objects in unexpected ways to suggesting lewd actions involving opponents’ loved ones. Once, Nikki Bella went so far as to tell her twin sister Brie that she wished Brie had died in the womb.
Yet somehow, Santos Escobar delivered perhaps the most vile promo in wrestling history as he explained why he attacked his former idol, Rey Mysterio, one week ago.
And it was outstanding.
On the Nov. 17 edition of SmackDown, Santos Escobar stood in the middle of the ring, serenaded with “You suck” and “What” chants from angry fans gathered in the Ford Center in Evansville, IN. But the técnico turned rudo powered through and gave what may have been the best monologue of 2023.
Escobar began by reminding everyone that he comes from a rich lucha libre tradition and how his family had been labeled heroes. Yet it was Rey Mysterio whom Escobar adored and patterned himself after. He hoped fans would one day see him as he saw Mysterio, whom Escobar said had become a father figure to him.
But when Mysterio seemingly aligned himself with Carlito and Carlito’s claims that Escobar was responsible for costing Mysterio the U.S. title at Crown Jewel, Escobar was devastated. Suddenly, everything Dominik Mysterio had said about his legendary father became true to Escobar. He then accused the elder Mysterio of stealing his title opportunity and hijacking his group, Legado Del Fantasma, which Rey rebranded as the Latino World Order (LWO).
Worst of all, Mysterio welcomed Carlito, whom Escobar called an outsider, into their family.
Addressing Carlito, Escobar grew angrier. He removed his sports coat and spoke in Spanish, claiming to be Carlito’s worst enemy and vowing to punish him like he punished the WWE Hall of Famer. He then turned his rage back to his former hero, saying he hoped Mysterio’s pain reminded him of the misery he caused Escobar by siding with the outsider.
From there, Escobar didn’t just cross the line; he obliterated the ground where the line was drawn.
Earlier this week, Mysterio underwent knee surgery to treat a legitimate injury that WWE has since incorporated into his storyline with Escobar. Taking credit for injuring the iconic luchador, Escobar said:
“I apologize for not doing more damage. And Rey, this one is from the bottom of my heart. I hope the surgery didn’t go well. I hope you catch an infection and they have to amputate your leg! As a matter of fact, I hope you never come back!”
That reprehensible statement was more than the LWO could take, with Zelina Vega coming out to confront Escobar.
Vega, in tears, slapped him and said the only person she hated more than Escobar was herself for trusting him. Then, Joaquin Wilde and Cruz del Toro, who have been by Escobar’s side since their NXT days, took up for Mysterio. Escobar responded by calling them deadweight before attacking them. Carlito arrived to make the save, but Escobar exited the ring.
As promos go, this didn’t surpass Austin 3:16, CM Punk’s Pipe Bomb, or Hulk Hogan’s explanation for joining the nWo at Bash at the Beach in 1996. However, Escobar’s speech was an all-timer, as he perfectly accounted for his actions while revealing what’s in store for the likes of Carlito.
But more than anything, Escobar felt real. He spoke as one does when legitimately hurt by someone they care for, which is why he went to the darkest place possible by wishing for the amputation of Mysterio’s leg.
And as disgusting as that line was, it was refreshing. Pro wrestling, or more specifically, WWE, has played it safe with its heels for too long. Because of corporate sponsorships and network deals, WWE rarely allows its bad guys to sink to the bottom of the barrel to get audiences mad.
Living in that safe zone has often made for a tame product, which is the antithesis of pro wrestling. Villains are supposed to push buttons. Their job is to make people angry and, occasionally, make them squeamish. The bad guys need to make fans uncomfortable to get them to rally behind the good guys or babyfaces.
Therefore, the evil-doers — in their words or actions — need to cross the line once in a while. Escobar did just that, reaching into the crevices of his wounded soul to spew a visceral hate one would only use to mask disappointment and sadness. And as vile as it was, it’s a refreshing shot of reality that makes Rey Mysterio’s return and eventual showdown with Santos Escobar much more appealing.