Who Is That Masked Man? Getting to Know AEW’s Excalibur (Part 1)
In this first installment of an exclusive two-part interview, AllEliteWrestling.com sits down with Excalibur, one-third of AEW’s broadcast team. Herein we discuss Excalibur’s pro-wrestling roots, the pay-per-view that got him sucked back into the sport, his background with the Bucks, and the deal behind his distinctive mask. So pull a chair up to the commentators’ booth as we ask, “Who is that masked man?”
ALL ELITE WRESTLING (AEW):
You bring something very unique to AEW’s broadcast booth: before embarking on your career as a play-by-play commentator, you were a competitor in the squared circle. Who trained you as a pro-wrestler? What do you recall about your in-ring debut?
I began training in pro-wrestling in December of 1998 at Revolution Pro’s Rudos Dojo in Anaheim, CA. While I learned from everyone, my primary trainers were Super Dragon and Mr. Excitement. Since it was Southern California, there was an emphasis on Lucha Libre, but I also trained in American and Japanese styles as well.
My in-ring debut, a six-person tag team match, was fairly memorable because it ended with a trip to the hospital - I thought it would be a good idea to attempt a Fosbury Flop-style running backflip dive to the outside without ever having actually tried it. Needless to say, it didn’t end well for my team generally or me specifically.
What was the catalyst behind making the transition from active pro-wrestler to full time commentator?
The catalyst was a number of injuries in a very short period of time - I was banged up and as a result not performing at the level I wanted to, so I figured it was best to take time off to heal up. After taking a step away I felt I had more to offer in the booth than inside the ring, so that more or less sealed it. I still get the itch from time to time, but I’m at peace with the decision. Especially because the worst injury I’ve had since retiring has been laryngitis.
Let’s backtrack for a moment. When exactly did the pro-wrestling bug bite you? Was there a certain pro-wrestler, feud, or era, that got you hooked?
I was a pro-wrestling fan as a kid, but around age 11 I lost interest in it. The event that reawakened my interest and started a lifelong love of wrestling was AAA’s When Worlds Collide pay-per-view in 1994; it was so unlike anything I had seen before! Shortly after, a friend gave me a VHS copy of the 1994 Super J-Cup and my mind was completely blown. I was totally hooked; I started trading tapes online, newsgroups, AOL, forums, and began accumulating a large collection of wrestling from all over the world, though I was always drawn to Japanese wrestling most of all.
The late 90’s in Japan, particularly All Japan Pro-Wrestling and Michinoku Pro in that era, is what made me want to become a wrestler. In the US at that time, everything was driven by long promos or pre-taped vignettes; All Japan featured tremendously physical matches where all the storytelling took place inside the ring. That was such a breath of fresh air, not to mention that some of the best matches ever, anywhere in the world, took place during that time period.
Japanese Junior Heavyweight wrestling was also booming during that time, and I was totally in on that, as well. The aforementioned Super J-Cup lead to me finding out about New Japan Pro-Wrestling’s Juniors, which then lead to me finding out about smaller, regional promotions such as Michinoku Pro. Their style was a perfect mix of the athleticism and high-flying of Lucha Libre combined with Japanese influences, it was a true sweet spot for me. My mask is an homage to The Great Sasuke, the founder of Michinoku Pro, and one of the major stars of that generation.
Like many of us watching AEW’s debut pay-per-view event, Double or Nothing, you became visibly emotional after the bout between Cody and Dustin Rhodes. What was it about that match that resonated with you?
It’s an unfair answer, but literally everything. The match was so much more than brother versus brother, it was generation versus generation, ideology versus ideology, every classic conflict rolled into one. But then to see it actually happen before your eyes, knowing that pro-wrestling has come to define both Cody and Dustin Rhodes’ lives in very different ways… It sounds silly to say since people all over the world watched it, but there was an intimacy to it that you rarely see anywhere. Seeing all of those things play out in the ring was magical.
You earned a cult following over the years calling matches in Reseda, California, for indie fed Pro Wrestling Guerilla (PWG). Essentially, you had a front row seat to observing the evolution of many of today’s top talent, including AEW EVPs Matt and Nick Jackson, the Young Bucks. What are some of your early memories of the Bucks?
I actually met the Bucks for the first time in late 2003; I was assisting Super Dragon at a class at the Rudos Dojo when “Mr. Instant Replay” and “Slick Nick” came sauntering in to class. Instead of doing the drills like everybody else, they were showing off, doing cartwheels instead of rolls, backflips instead of elbow drops, etc. I turned to Dragon and said, “Who do these assholes think they are?”
Luckily our relationship has improved since then.
The funny thing is, I don’t think the Bucks would have become who they are today without that early period of overconfidence. Some guys are like that from the outset and never realize they’re not as good as they think they are. Fortunately, in 2007 after the Bucks began competing in Pro Wrestling Guerrilla they had a huge realization. They found out firsthand that just maybe they weren’t the best tag team in the world, and used that as motivation. Without that, I feel like the Bucks would have remained at the level they were at in 2007, good but not great. They’ve continued to improve ever since.
(Catch part two of our exclusive interview with Excalibur only at AllEliteWrestling.com…)
AEW & CEO GAMING Present Fyter Fest Saturday, June 29th Daytona Beach, Florida. Visit the official Fyter Fest website for tickets and info. This event will also be streaming on the B/R Live app FREE OF CHARGE when it takes place on June 29th!
Fyter Fest Card:
• Michael Nakazawa vs. Alex Jebailey (Hardcore Match)
• Cody vs. Darby Allin
• Adam Page vs. Jimmy Havoc vs. Jungle Boy vs. MJF
• The Elite (Kenny Omega, Matt Jackson and Nick Jackson) vs. The Lucha Brothers (Penta El Zero M and Fénix) and a mystery partner
• Jon Moxley vs. Joey Janela
ALL ELITE WRESTLING PRESENTS:
Saturday, August 31st, 2019
Sears Centre Arena