We enjoyed an extensive chat with AEW star Angelico, who was born in South Africa and has travelled the world honing his craft.
The 33-year-old let us in on how he became verse in Yaveo style wrestling and dispensed some advice for aspiring professionals from South Africa.
What makes AEW special
Angelico told us that AEW has been a unique experience for him despite having travelled the globe, wrestling in Japan, Europe, South Africa an Mexico.
“Yeah, to me the experience of being completely unique, because I haven’t really been a part of a mainstream American wrestling promotion. But as you said before, AEW, this, this sort of unique original atmosphere where it’s a melting pot of wrestlers from all over the world wrestlers who spent most of their careers travelling the world. So yeah, you get this. And then you got Japanese wrestlers, Mexican wrestlers. I’m South African, you have got British wrestlers and the Americans. I mean, you really got a bit of everything in there. And I think that makes for a really diverse and great TV show.”
The Hybrid 2
Angelico struck up a partnership with American high-flyer Jack Evans while the pair were employed in AAA, a wrestling promotion in Mexico.
What started out as a partnership of circumstances grew into what Angelico describes as one of his closest friendships.
“So Jack and I met for the first time wrestling in Mexico for a company called AAA about six to seven years ago now. Probably about six actually. And we’d never met before we had no intentions of wrestling together at the time, we were just sort of stuck together. I guess, just you know, we were two foreigners in the company. So they just sort of stuck us together. And yeah, I mean, who would have known, Jack’s one of my best friends in the whole world right now. And will be you know, from here on forth me and Jack will have a friendship for the rest of our lives. And that just sort of translates from our personal lives into the ring. Not all tag teams are real life best friends like we are. But yeah, so we got together about six years ago, and I’ve never really looked back. I always wanted to be a tag team wrestler. I’ve always loved the dynamic of wrestling and tag team wrestling. And to be able to do it with someone as uniquely talented as Jack is just a dream come true. I mean, he’s out of this world talented. And every time we get to wrestle together, it’s just a great time for me.”
Facing the Young Bucks
The Hybrid 2 enjoyed a fantastic match with AEW’s flagship tag team, the Young Bucks, and held their own with arguably the best team in professional wrestling at the moment.
When asked what it was like to step into the ring with Matt and Nick Jackson, Angelico said: “It’s amazing. I mean, they’re two of the best professional wrestlers in the world, probably, you know, undeniably, or undoubtedly, the top tag team of this generation. but me and Jack, you know, seeing them wrestle for years, we the first time we arrested them was in a small promotion called PWG in Reseda, here in California, about three or four years ago, and that was at a time when me and Jack were AAA tag team champions for a third time we’d been we’d broken the record for the most days as a champion in Mexico in the history of Lucha Libre. And at that time, the Bucks were world famous, you know, breaking records winning all the belts in Japan, and me and Jack at the time kind of felt, you know, like, we kind of feel like we’re on the level of these guys that we could really you know, have a good match within that we could, we could beat them. So we had that matching PWG. It was a magical night and magical match, one of the best matches of my career. We didn’t win the match but right there and then me and Jack, I mean, as good as the Young Bucks are, we’re just as good. So being able to have this match on Dynamite with them as well. Like, coming back to that same feeling that we had at Reseda where we have to prove to the world again that we’re on the same level as these guys. And I think we did that. I think it was, you know, one of the highest-rated episodes. And, you know, that must have something to do with how it started, I’d say.”
AEW puts out a weekly ‘dark show’ programme which is available to watch for free on YouTube, greatly increasing the exposure the programme receives and allowing South African viewers to connect with Angelico.
The South African star says that he has noticed an increase in contact being made from back in Mzansi due to those appearances and AEW’s highly-active Youtube channel.
“I’ve had a lot of contact from South African fans more than ever before in my career. And I’d say it’s exactly down to that what you just mentioned, it’s the fact that they have this access to it so readily, and so easily every sort of Tuesday and Wednesday on YouTube. So yeah, I’ve received more messages than I’ve ever received, mostly South Africans, who I think are aspiring or considering taking up professional wrestling. So now that they’ve can see a South African out there sort of doing it and living it that maybe gives them a bit more motivation to sort of have a go at it. So I get a lot of messages about where I trained, where can they train? How do they get started in South Africa? And I usually try and answer anyone that messaged me from South Africa, I always to answer back. But yeah, that’s in large part down to being on YouTube, I’d say.”
Yaveo style wrestling
Angelico credits Negro Navarro, his trainer and father-figure while at the Último Dragón’s wrestling school in Mexico, with imparting many of the hundreds of submission holds and moves in his arsenal.
He says that he wound up developing a photographic catalogue of the moves to help him remember the hundreds of manoeuvres he learned from the Lucha Libre legend.
“So when I started wrestling, I was completely obsessed with submissions. So any wrestler, I met that experience to me, which was everyone, when I started, I just asked them ‘hey, what submissions Do you know, can you just show me one or two’. And they’d always, you know, be kind enough and show me one or two submissions. So I always had that, like, weird obsession, where I just want to be as technically adept as possible. And all the rest is that I looked up to, were sort of well-travelled technical wrestlers, you know, like Eddie Guerrero. And guys of that standard. So I want to emulate that. And to emulate that I knew that you had to travel the world dominate all the world styles, and then sort of build your own style upon that. That’s exactly what I tried to do from the start. And then just by coincidence, at the Último Dragón’s school, the dojo by having Negro Navarro the as my head trainer, he is just one of the world’s most extraordinary wrestlers. I mean, he is a book that he has written down 600 to 700 different submission techniques that he’s learned over his 48-year career. And to be able to train with him every single day, someone who was already obsessed with submissions. It was just, you know, this, I could never have asked for something like that. It was just this dream come true. And then we got along so well, he almost became like a father figure to me in Mexico helping me out so much. When I was in, you know, really, it not in the best way financially and things like that, or experience-wise in wrestling. And then yeah, he allowed me to write down all the submissions. Eventually, I had so many submissions written down from him that when I go back and read them, I couldn’t stand what I’d written. It’d be like, grab opponent’s left arm and then his right wrist with Your left wrist and then roll through with right leg going through his right leg and end in submission. And I try and do it and nothing would happen, it would just be a mess. So my last few months training with him, I asked if I could photograph every submission and almost in sequence, you know if it had a funny way into it, and then I’ve still got it. I’ve still got my stack of 400, 500, 600 submissions, however many there are. And I still, you know, read through them all the time and practice them all the time. And then that Yaveo or Negro Navarro style of wrestling, wrestling ‘a ras de lona’, which is one of the oldest styles of wrestling in the world and to Lucha Libre in Mexico, and then by training in Japan for some months and wrestling in Europe and in Africa, I sort of took a little bit of the techniques of the other styles that I liked, and then put them together. But the fundamental of my style is this Lucha Libre Yaveo style, which now has become like a hybrid Lucha Libre when I perform it with everything else that I’ve learned.”
The Angelico entrance
Angelico deploys visual story telling through his entrance to the ring, making his way down in a relaxed fashion complete with dancing to his entrance theme.
We asked how he developed the entrance which entertains as much as it seems to rile up his opponents and some fans.
“It kind of it’s just developed naturally over the years, I never used to particularly come out to the ring dancing like that, or moving I dont know if you can call it dancing. But, it definitely comes from now that I’ve got more experience, and I’ve been wrestling for 13 years, and I’ve wrestled everyone from all over the world, it’s almost got to the point now where I feel so confident in my abilities, especially my technical abilities, that it doesn’t matter who’s in the ring. It really doesn’t, it could be anyone. But I know that when it comes to hold for hold wrestling, I can hold my own. And I could probably beat the guy. And so when I come out, as soon as the music hits, I can just, I didn’t have to come out like fired up like other guys and get into the mood, I gotta smash him stuff. Because I don’t I feel like this inner peace, this confidence, I’m like, cool, like, I gotta go out and wrestle do what I’ve always wanted to do, the thing I’m most passionate about in life. So I enjoy it from the moment my music hits, I just go out and I just feel it. And I just get in my own head. And I just get confident and no-one else even exists in that moment when I’m coming out. And yeah, that just comes from being confident in my abilities, and specifically my technical wrestling abilities, I just feel that on a technical level, I can hold my own against absolutely everyone. And that just gives me an extra confidence when I walk down to the ring. And that’s when the dancing and all that comes out.”
Angelico’s advice to aspiring South African wrestlers
Angelico also imparted some pearls of wisdom for anyone from South Africa who might be keen on becoming a professional wrestler.
“I would say to any aspiring wrestler from South Africa, just be ready to work hard. It took me you know, easily seven to eight years before I could fully live just off wrestling. So all those other years, I was always doing other jobs at the same time. So just, you can’t be afraid of time you got to be patient, you got to believe in yourself, you got to keep working hard. It’s not going to happen just over one or two years. And then don’t be afraid to have other jobs work, save, you know, buy an international flight, go to Mexico train there for two, three months. If things go well, then you’ll probably stay and keep wrestling. If they don’t, then you go home and you can get another job. Keep working, save up and then get yourself to Japan, get yourself to Europe. I think that you just got to be ready to move. You got to be ready to get out of your comfort zone get out of South Africa. Because I think it’s extremely hard to make a career for yourself as a professional wrestler if you’re staying in South Africa is the home base, at least for now. So I’d say yeah, they just got to be ready to to work hard to move abroad for a little bit of time. And then just don’t be afraid just attack it once you start once you decided on, this is what you’re going to do, just go for it. Just believe in yourself, believe in the universe and just just be positive about it and just work really, really hard and be very, very patient.”