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An Ode to Sammy Guevara

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The time was February 2017. I had just moved from West Texas to the Dallas/Fort Worth area for graduate school and for the first time, I was attending an independent wrestling show in the area. The company, VIP Wrestling, then and now one of the best wrestling companies in the state. To this day they are one of the few places in the entire state of Texas where local talent can cross paths with nationally and internationally recognized talents, and their shows are never a disappointment.

Going back to the first night at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Arlington, I was very excited. I had gone from living in a region where there was no credible Indy wrestling to be able to see a card that was filled with oodles of talent. The main event featured War Machine, the team now known as the Viking Raiders on Raw, facing the Pretty Boy Killers, Keith Lee and Shane Taylor, in a cage match for the tag team titles. It was as violent as you imagine (they also had rookies holding up the cage so it wouldn’t break). For whatever reason, New Jack of all people was on the card, teaming with local stalwart Action Jackson to face some of his adversaries in what turned out to be a WILD Fans Bring the Weapons Street-fight.

ACH (now Jordan Myles in NXT) was there, with his “I pay my bills with this” spiel coming from the gimmick table. It was the first time I saw Thunder Rosa, who is one of the best female wrestlers in the country not signed to a major company, along with a lot of local Texas talent, some of which you will all see soon…

But there was one person on the card I was especially excited to see, a twenty-three year old dude named Sammy Guevara. At this time, he had popped on a few Evolve cards, at a time before that promotion was NXT’s little brother and he had started to appear on some gifs on Twitter. It’s still rare for a Texas talent to get that kind of spot, and it may have been even less common two years ago. Plus he had gotten endorsements from some friends of mine on Twitter whom I trust implicitly when it comes to identifying new talent.

I was not disappointed that night, nor have I been since.

That night I saw this ripped, clean-cut looking dude with that kind of smirk that either makes you wanna knock his block off-or smirk yourself. He was supposed to wrestle Matt Cross this night, but Cross broke his leg and DJZ replaced him. These two had already worked together several times and they had great chemistry. It was a fun, athletic brawl that went around the building and Sammy did several moves that night I had never seen before. There was his Double Moonsault into his standing shooting star press spot, his one-man standing Spanish Fly followed by a short super-kick and most of all, a standing shooting star leg-drop, which I believe he is still the only person I’ve ever seen pull off.

I connected with Sammy right away because I identified with the character he was playing that night and has refined to this day. As a young person who works in an industry where almost everyone is older, Sammy’s schtick of “I don’t care how old you are, how experienced you are, I’m the Best and I’m gonna kick your ass,” resonated with me in a real way. Being in a world where humility is mandatory, someone who can say “Fuck being Humble” and do it believably is likely to get my vote.

And then Sammy’s T-shirts at the time had a Panda Bear dressed as Piccolo from Dragon Ball Z. I thought it was the coolest shirt I had ever seen in my life and still do. I’m always nervous when I meet wrestlers but coming up to Sammy and buying a shirt was the easiest interaction I’ve ever had with a wrestler, even though I had serious traps envy that night. This egomaniac in the ring turned out to be such a nice kid. He could easily be that athletic little brother that you can’t help but be proud of, and I knew than I would be a fan of this guy for life.

Sammy’s career has skyrocketed since then. While Evolve didn’t work out, Sammy debuted later that same year for PWG at the Battle of Los Angeles and was undefeated there for several months, until clashing with Walter for the PWG World Title. He soon found himself booked in the Crash in Mexico and DDT in Japan and after appearing in the fourth season in Lucha Underground, he found himself working in AAA, where he won their cruiserweight title at the promotion’s biggest show of the Year, TripleMania. Two years after I first saw him, he was clearly one of the best independent talents in the country, and a no brainer signing for the new All Elite Wrestling.

There are two main keys for me is Sammy’s ascent. The first has been the way his home promotions, VIP in Dallas, Gulf Coast Pro Wrestling in Corpus Christi, and most of all WrestleCircus in Austin booked over a three year period. Whenever a top name talent came into the area, it was likely Sammy Guevara they were wrestling. In VIP it was Zack Sabre Jr or Matt Cross or Brian Cage. WrestleCircus put him against Ricochet, Jay White, and Colt Cabana, and while everyone hates how it ended for the Circus, Sammy was part of the reason they were the hottest Indy promotion in the country for a short time, and they put him in position to be their Ace, which was invaluable to his career.

In a strange twist of fate, it was Gulf Coast in Corpus that put him in the ring nearly three years against Cody Rhodes, the man he will face tonight in the first match in the history of AEW Dynamite. And like all of his opponents, Sammy flipped him off before the match.

The second factor has been his YouTube vlog, which now has over 32,000 Subscribers. Simply put no one currently in the wrestling world has put in the kind of work and expertise into such an enterprise in many years, and Sammy’s dedicated fanbase, known as the Panda Fam, have been able to follow Sammy from Texas to Mexico, Canada, the UK, Japan, Pakistan, and all over America. We have watched him through all the bumps, bruises, trips to the CyroSpa and UPS Store. We know his cats Peebs and Benji, his girlfriend Pam, and the much loved Mama Panda. We’ve seen his antics with Jack Evans, Puma King, and whatever wrestler he is pranking that week.

We know he is ready for this moment tonight, and while many are surprised to see him in such a marquee spot, to quote the great philosopher Nathan Diaz, we are not surprised.

Frank has been a wrestling fan since he was two years old. (Don't worry, he's got proof.) He's also a huge boxing and UFC fan and has a long standing love affair with Popeyes Chicken. He still owns a VHS copy of the first Ring of Honor show ever and was watching NXT before it was cool (or good). Bret Hart > Shawn Michaels. You can follow him on Twitter at @FightFanaticPod and on Tumblr at FrankTheFightFanatic. He's also starting his own podcast soon!

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