WWE Superstar Kalisto was “Stone Cold” Steve Austin’s guest on The Steve Austin Show podcast. The luchador opened up about wrestling with a mask, finding inspiration in ballet, overcoming severe depression, and learning from Rey Mysterio. Highlights appear below.
On The Importance Of His Mask:
My mask is everything. It means everything to me. It brings back the ways of the Aztecs and the Mayans, when they would wear masks right before battle. I always tell people that don’t understand, ‘Put it this way. I’m a knight. My mask is my sword. If you take my sword away, I’m nothing. I can’t battle without that. I need my sword. I need my mask, so I am a knight with my sword, which is my mask. I need my mask to make myself a knight, to be a warrior: a luchador.’
On What It’s Like Wrestling Without A Mask:
[Working without a mask] lasted like three months. It was very different. I felt like a part of me was missing. I’ve always loved – and I still love – Lucha Libre. I just didn’t find the proper mask that fits me. There’s always a saying, ‘The mask makes the luchador, not the other way around.’ I believe that, definitely. A great high flyer and a great fighter makes the mask. A good knight having a sword; that sword is sacred. The sword makes the knight. That’s what I’m saying….the mask is everything.
On Debuting As ‘Manny Ramirez’:
I debuted under the name Manny Ramirez and they were like, ‘Why Manny?’ Manny, because people call me Manny [Kalisto’s birth name is Emanuel] and Ramirez because it’s my mom’s maiden name. They were like, ‘Oh, look at this kid, he’s gonna hit a home run.’ I was like, ‘Oh man, I’ve got to change the name.’ I don’t want to get similarities with this baseball player.
On Finding Inspiration In Ballet & Cirque Du Soleil:
I love watching ballet and Cirque Du Soleil, the circus. I’ll tell you why. They base; the way they base and the way they throw people. I’m like, ‘Wait a minute. If I throw this person a certain [way], I can make them twist,’ so it’s very funny because I had a match with Ricochet one day. I think it was in PWG in Cali, here. I had some ideas…I was watching on YouTube like some ballet stuff or some Cirque Du Soleil stuff. I’m like, ‘Hey, if I throw you this way, do you think you can twist?’ Im like, ‘Oh yeah. All I got to do is just look for you and I’ll throw myself this and that.’ We just started being so creative. It just makes me think…..I’m always constantly thinking….I’m always creative and I like doing things that are different that make people go, ‘Whoah! This is cool. I’ve never seen this before.’
On Learning From Rey Mysterio:
Right now he’s [Rey Mysterio] giving me so much advice. I was even talking to him about Eddie [Guerrero], ‘I wish I could have met him and picked his brain.’ He taught him so much….he was just giving me advice and I’m still picking his brain. Eddie and Rey, I think they set the world on fire and they made some noise, especially in the latin community. That inspired me to actually follow my dream. It’s very funny because when Rey won his world title, he did a book signing at my college in Chicago. It was called Robert Morris College and I met up with him. I was 5 months into wrestling. I saw him and Shelton Benjamin. He was Intercontinental Champion at the time. I still remember. When I saw him, I said, ‘Hi. I’m in the process of being a luchador and I’m learning so much and you’re a good inspiration.’ At the time, I didn’t know he was gonna win and that kind of sparked something in me. When I met him, he was a little shorter than me, but that gave me such inspiration because if he can do it I can do it.
On What Advice Mysterio Is Giving Him:
Right now, he’s telling me to just keep grinding no matter what, to keep making noise and have people turn their heads, no matter what, like, ‘This is new. This is entertaining. This is fun.’ That’s exactly what I’m doing with my team: Lucha House Party (Gran Metalik and Lince Dorado). Right now, we’re having fun bringing noise makers with pinatas. We’re just having fun, but hey, you want action? We’ll give you action. I’m always telling Rey, ‘Hey, what did you think of my match?’ ‘You did good. You did real good. Just keep grinding. Just keep doing you and make some noise.’ That meant a lot to me because coming from him, man, that’s pretty cool. He’s always telling me, ‘One day we’ll do something.’ That’s pretty cool….it’s just really really nice to hear his words and inspiration. It’s motivation that he’s giving me. Man, that’s pretty cool, coming from him, you know?
On Suffering From Post-Concussion Syndrome & Overcoming Depression:
I was diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome. I was supposed to be there for the weekend and I ended up staying in Mexico for two and a half months. They didn’t let me fly because of my brain. It was so swollen and that changed my life forever. I was in pain; I was always dizzy. I was throwing up. I couldn’t even go to the bathroom, so good thing I had family in Mexico. I was staying with my aunt. Imagine a little bag with a couple gear and not even enough clothes and there for almost three months. I lost my job.…..finally, I can get back to Chicago, so I get back to Chicago and my dad’s diabetic and I’m always worried about my dad, God forbid, having a heart attack. So, I get there and my mom’s really stressed out, ‘No, we’re gonna check you into the hospital and double check to see if your head’s OK.’ ‘OK, cool.’ I get there and it was one of those county hospitals. We really didn’t have good insurance, so I get there and usually the wait – you could be there all day – 12 hours or whatever. Two hours later, I got there and then my mom got checked in, same thing, right away. I’m wondering why my mom’s here. She ended up having a heart attack [and passing away]. It’s like a double whammy for me. I’m like, ‘You know what? I’m done with wrestling. That’s it for me.’ I really hit bottom. For me my world is over. I lost my job. I’m done with wrestling. Me worrying about my dad, surprisingly, was like a curve ball. My mom ended up having the heart attack and I was worried about my dad having the heart attack. So that happened and I was telling my wife, ‘I’m done. That’s it. I’ll try to get my job back and we’ll make it work.’ I was booked for the Expo Lucha that year and I told my wife, ‘Let me just get better. My plane ticket is already bought. I’m already set. Let me get all my masks, all my gear. Let me get everything ready, so I can sell everything at Expo Lucha because it’s a huge expo [in Mexico City]. Let me work at least one match, before we go.’ My first match was against El Generico at the time. I always wanted to work El Generico because I’ve known his name and seen him in ROH. I was like, ‘This is pretty cool. It’s a good start. It’s a nice atmosphere to work with him.’ So much good chemistry….with my first match with him, I’m getting a little dizzy, but let me keep practicing because either way I’m gonna be done. I’m over it. I’m already set, retirement, that’s it. I’m done. I had my bags and everything’s ready. My wife’s flight was later. I was gonna fly first and she was gonna fly a day later. When I landed [in Mexico]….somehow I left my phone at my house…depression mode. I was in depression mode. I’m like, ‘Screw the phone.’ [The depression] was very heavy, very very heavy, very severe. My cousin that picked me up answers his phone and turns around and looks at me and says, ‘It’s your fiance.’ I’m like, ‘My mom had a heart attack. My dad had a heart attack. What’s going on? Not right now.’ I’m holding myself together trying to breathe and have a moment. ‘Keep talking. Give me a couple minutes.’ They’re laughing. Why are they laughing? ‘Hey, what are you doing? You had a whole bunch of voice mails from WWE.’ I’m like, ‘Get out of here. Really? From WWE? Get out of here. What do they want?’ ‘They want to have you for a tryout.’ I’m like, ‘For a tryout? When?’ ‘I think it’s Money in the Bank, Monday Night RAW, and SmackDown….’ [With depression] I think I just kicked out in a good way.
On What He Learned In WWE Developmental:
I learned to slow down because I was so fast. One of the trainers that taught me so much to slow down and be me was Norman Smiley. He always told all the trainers and it’s really cool coming from him – because we get evaluated – he tells me, ‘You’re the only person that tells me what are my weaknesses, not my strengths.’ ‘Yeah, because I want to get better. Why would I want to know my strengths? I want to know my weaknesses. I want to know what I need to work on.’ ‘Man, Manny, you’re gonna be good in this company.’ I still need a lot of work, but he taught me not just the basics of slowing down, but just to be myself and not to be too stiff or nervous. He helped me relax. I’m always too hard on myself. I’m my worst critic. People tell me, ‘You had a good match.’ I’m like, ‘I could have done this. I could have worked on this or I could have done great facial expressions.’ Right now my obsession is, ‘OK, but did you get a good camera angle on my facial expression?’ That’s my main priority right now. [Even working under a mask] my body movement is my whole facial expression. You can see my eyes and my mouth. The masks that I wear, some of them are a little more open, so you can see my face….that’s my obsession right now.
(Transcription Credit: Michael McClead, WrestleZone)
Readers can listen to Steve Austin’s Kalisto interview in its entirety HERE.
Kalisto On Depression, Ballet, & Being Mentored By Rey Mysterio