‘Snakeman’ has been a staple of AEW Dark in 2020, competing under two different monikers since back in March, and as Serpentico exclusively since May. While becoming a mainstay of AEW Dark, Serpentico and Luther – also known as CHAOS PROJECT – have found a home on AEW Dynamite, even sharing the ring with Chris Jericho! The pair would take on the inaugural AEW World Champion and Jake Hager on Jericho’s 30th anniversary celebration show. Serpentico also made his AEW pay-per-view debut recenty, taking on Joey Janela at the All Out Buy-In.
So, Serpentico, you’ve had a monumental rise in AEW of late – even being in the ring with the legendary Chris Jericho! Firstly, how did you wrestling in AEW come about?
The last few months have been quite surreal. I was actually contacted in March to come in and do an enhancement match for AEW Dark. I honestly thought it would’ve ended up being my last match ever considering the state of the pandemic and its effect on professional wrestling at the time.
In all, I thought it was a poetic way to go out – being able to wrestle one of my friends in QT Marshall & the legendary Dustin Rhodes. If that was my last match, then it would’ve been pretty cool. One match lead to another, then another and another and now here we are, six months later; I’ve been able to say I’ve had a lot of career highlights in such a small timespan that I’m still trying to wrap my head around them.
Leading on from that, how did the Jericho match come about? And just what was that experience like?
It was great! There are only two people on the planet that can claim they wrestled Chris Jericho on his 30th wrestling anniversary; those two being Luther and myself.
That, in itself, is one of the coolest things ever to me. Luther and Jericho have a storied history and Chris wanted his 30th anniversary to be really special, so he wanted Luther involved in it. With Luther and I recently forming CHAOS PROJECT, I was added to the match due to that association. Here’s the thing about Chris; he’s one of the most giving people I’ve ever met in wrestling. This night had absolutely nothing to do with me and he still wanted me part of the match because Luther and I are trying to get this team off the ground.
He could’ve easily told me to sit this one out – which I would’ve happily done – but he wanted to go through with the tag match and I couldn’t be more appreciative. The entire thing was special for them because these guys have known each other for so long and were able to wrestle on national TV together, and it was special for me because I literally just got here and I’m thrown into the mix with these guys in the main event of AEW Dynamite. It still doesn’t feel real, honestly. None of this does.
The burning question, of course, is what is your status right now? Are you All Elite? Are you signed to AEW?
SNAKEMAN is ALL ELITE! I’ve been under a deal for a few months now. This is going to sound like I’m playing favorites because I work for the company now but I’m beyond grateful to work for a company that cares so much for the people that work for them. Before signing I was already made to feel at home.
Everyone has been very welcoming and you can practically go to anyone for advice/pointers/critiques and they all have been so helpful. It never comes from a negative place; they really want the company to grow and I’m glad to be part of the team.
Now, one of the coolest Serpentico things that didn’t actually involve Serpentico was the Sammy Guevara unmasking. Did you have any say in that?
I actually found out the night before but, even then, wasn’t sure what was going to happen. I received a text near midnight asking if I had extra gear with me that Sammy could wear the next day. I always bring backup gear just in case and it turns out this was a perfect reason to.
AEW is pretty cool ’cause they didn’t just message me and told me to do it. They asked me if I was okay with Sammy using the gear and that kind of respect goes far with me. I think it worked out great and it made for a fantastic TV moment.
Now, I believe you grew up in the business with a certain Dexter Lumis! Can I ask your thoughts on what he’s doing just now?
He’s great! He’s always been great. I’m so glad he’s able to show the world what a lot of us already knew.
To see him from the first time he walked into Team 3D Academy to now on TV every week, in prominent spots no less, is a real treat. He’s always been one of the good guys. We’ve had some fun experiences coming up together so seeing him succeed is really special and cool to me. I wish him nothing but the best. He deserves it.
Of course, you mentioned it there. I did a bit of digging and I realised you were trained by the Dudley Boyz! What was that experience like, and how did they set you up for success?
I would 100% not be here without their training and guidance.
Before moving to Florida, I trained under Ricky Banderas [Mil Muertes] in Puerto Rico. There, I was taught moves and how to protect myself – especially always being the smallest guy in every class. Once I decided to move to the mainland to give myself a better chance in wrestling, I stumbled upon their school by complete happenstance. I didn’t really have a plan or a place to train but I did join a gym near where I lived to stay active. One day, I see a banner go up inside the gym that said “Team 3D Academy coming soon!” It just so happens that’s where their school was being built!
I walked my 135lb frame to the back to inquire and that’s when I met Bully Ray. He gave me a brief rundown of how it was going to operate and I signed up then and there. I believe I was their first actual student.
Attending that school was like going from high school to Harvard. They made me see wrestling in a ton of different new ways. They broke down everything and explained the ins and outs of the business. I learned my in-ring psychology, selling, foot work, presence, etc, all from them. Every day I’d walk out with a new understanding about wrestling – in ring and business-wise.
If it wasn’t for them, I would absolutely not be able to do what I do now. The best part of training under them was that even always being undersized and usually the smallest guy there, they always treated me with respect and as an equal. They made me feel like I belonged and that helped with my confidence. Being a smaller guy, I would sometimes have to put up with the “he’s too small to even be in this match with me” mentality and people would constantly write me off, and it messed with me a lot. It was at this school where I learned to work on how to complement my size as opposed to viewing it as a hinderance.
Once I got my confidence, there was legitimately nothing that could stop me and that carries on to this day in AEW. And once the bell rang and I find myself cross the ring from Chris Jericho, I felt said confidence and I knew I could not only hang with a guy like him, but that I belonged.
Obviously I’d assume you take a lot of inspiration from those two, but who else would you count as Serpentico’s inspirations?
Being a smaller guy, that’s who I would always gravitate to. Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart, Eddie Guerrero and Rey Mysterio are the first four that come to mind.
I like to take bits and pieces from anyone I look up to and try to make things my own. The WCW Cruiserweight division was a huge inspiration for me because it was always smaller guys stealing the show with all of those amazing moves and high risk spots. My favorite match of all time is Eddie vs Rey from Halloween Havoc. I know it sounds cliche, but that match cemented what I wanted to do for a living. It still holds up to this day!
I liked watching HBK and Bret Hart, not cause of their size or moves per se but more for their showmanship and storytelling. They had 100% different styles but both kept me glued to the TV in their own way. Once I started broadening my horizons the internet eventually lead me to Hayabusa and FMW and that’s when it got even more interesting. I became so obsessed with Hayabusa that I bought any and every tape I could just to see his matches. From his maskless early days, his trek through Mexico, becoming Hayabusa, Darkside Hayabusa, H and up until his unfortunate final match; I was enthralled! Still am!
I also take inspiration from other entertainment mediums such as films and comics and take what I like from them and try to incorporate it into my work. All those things are an amalgamation into what I am today.
Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always been drawn to masked wrestlers. I love masks. Did you always know you’d be wrestling under a mask, and where did that decision come from?
Before I even knew I wanted to wrestle, I always wondered what it would be like to be under a mask – thanks in large part to consuming all the Hayabusa content I could get my hands on. His mask was an iconic extension of his character and personality and I wanted nothing more than to imitate that. It didn’t quite turn out that way as my early career took off and took me through a different route and I didn’t start using the mask until later on, but all those feelings and goals came full circle once I did.
I love your mask because it’s incredibly unique, where did the inspiration for the mask design come from?
The mask came into play when a really talented artist by the name of Chris Parks from PALEHORSE Design wanted to create a living lucha libra exhibit; his inspiration coming from the spectacle of every lucha libra show he’s ever seen.
His goal was to bring the culture and pageantry to life. It first started with one character, then two, then three and it eventually morphed into PALEHORSE Lucha and two shows/living exhibits were ran with these created characters. I was cast as Serpentico, who was the main villain in these shows and it all took off from there. Once those two shows took place I was given Chris’ blessing to use this character elsewhere and turn it into my own. I’ve been able to take Serpentico to Impact Wrestling, ROH, Mexico, Canada and now AEW.
I love the design due to my entire face being covered and since that’s what we use to invoke emotion in wrestling, its forced me to use my body and mannerisms to sell said emotions. It’s truly helped my character evolve and has made me think outside the box.
Final question. Might we ever see ‘Serpentico’ unmasked in AEW?
Nope. Never. Nunca. Never going to happen. Zero chance. Zilch. Zero percent. No.
Thanks to Serpentico for taking the time, and to All Elite Wrestling. You can follow Serpentico here and check out his Pro Wrestling Tees store here, and check out the official AEW CHAOS PROJECT shirt here.