Proud N’ Powerful: The Ascension of Santana & Ortiz

Santana and Ortiz
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While it was heavily suspected that Santana & Ortiz, formerly LAX in IMPACT Wrestling, would be making the jump to All Elite Wrestling once they announced their IMPACT departure a few weeks back, they surprised everyone when they showed up – initially under masks – to attack The Lucha Brothers and Young Bucks after the two team’s hellacious ladder match on Saturday at AEW All Out. Ripping off the rubber masks, Santana and Ortiz were revealed as the mystery assailants and suddenly AEW’s tag team division – already stacked and arguably the strongest tag division in the world – was put on notice. For Santana & Ortiz, it was another day at the office, but now the office has changed. And a lot has changed for the long-time tag team, who have been competing together since 2011.

Angel Ortiz started his pro wrestling journey in 2008. Hailing from New York City, Ortiz started off in his home turf, in the hustle and bustle of the New York indie scene, with the likes of 2KW Pro Wrestling, Fight The World (FTW) Wrestling, Impact Championship Wrestling (ICW New York), and Fighting Spirit Wrestling (FSW), where he eventually won the FSW Heavyweight Championship. Several years later, he ran into an old friend of his from high school who had also been training to become a wrestler. Wrestling as Mike Draztik, his old friend was looking to get his break and Ortiz helped get him bookings at the same New York indies he was working for. “We randomly bump into each other about 3 years into our training and he was in need of the job at the time and I was able to help him,” Ortiz told PWP Nation in an interview in 2016. “Being co-workers and seeing each other every day, our friendship grew, and we began to joke around about starting a tag team. We were both like “why not? Let’s give it a shot!”. The rest is history.”

They hooked up together in 2011 and together as Angel Ortiz & Mike Draztik they became a hungry young tag team on the tough New York indies. They adopted the tag team name EYFBO (which stands for Entertaining Your F**king Balls Off) and continued to work with FSW, as well as Warriors of Wrestling (WOW), New Jersey’s Global 1 Pro and in Philadelphia with CHIKARA. In 2013, they began working with Beyond Wrestling, where they hit a new level.

Championships began to follow them early. They tasted tag team gold for the first time in the summer of 2014, winning the WOW Tag Team titles, as well as branching out further into the US indies, working with Jersey Championship Wrestling (now Game Changer Wrestling), Combat Zone Wrestling (CZW), Rhode Island’s Xtreme Wrestling Alliance (XWA), and New York City’s House of Glory (HOG). By the end of 2016, they had collected tag team gold in CZW, HOG, and JCW. They were also part of a larger indie faction, Team Pazuzu, that also featured the Doom Patrol (Chris Dickinson & Jaka), Pinkie Sanchez, and Larry Legend.

They had emerged as one of the hottest tag teams on the East Coast, adding routine runs with Maine’s Limitless Wrestling, Pennsylvania’s International Wrestling Cartel (IWC), Ohio’s Absolute Intense Wrestling (AIW), and even across the border into Canada, with Ottawa’s Capital City Championship Combat (C4) and Hamilton’s Alpha-1. Their stock became so high that they were regularly facing some of the best tag teams in the indies and the world, including The Hardy Boyz, The Dudley Boyz, American Wolves (Davey Richards & Eddie Edwards), Dezmond Xavier & Zachary Wentz, The Beaver Boys (John Silver & Alex Reynolds), and #DIY (Johnny Gargano & Tommaso Ciampa) to name but a few. They routinely feuded with a young upstart team in New York called Private Party, who have since gone on to become new stars with AEW.

By 2017, the buzz was out and it was IMPACT Wrestling who landed the talented duo. With new ownership in place in Anthem Sports & Entertainment, IMPACT was looking to bring in hot new stars and they found them in EYFBO. They debuted as the new Latin American Exchange (LAX), headed by manager Konnan, and immediately made their mark. As part of a Global Force Wrestling (GFW) invasion angle, LAX quickly became GFW Tag Team Champions and unifying them with the IMPACT World Tag Team titles. While they were initially faced with some mistrust from longtime TNA fans as being poor substitutes for the original LAX – Homicide & Hernandez – by the time the new LAX had completed their first reign as IMPACT World Tag Team Champions at 169-days, the crowd was sold on the newcomers. Their hustle and passion were as infectious as their smiles.

As their global presence with IMPACT Wrestling became more noticeable, LAX found themselves working more and more indies around the world, including The Crash Lucha in Mexico, Westside Xtreme Wrestling (wXw) in Germany, and the West Coast with Bar Wrestling, Pro Wrestling Guerrilla (PWG) and DEFY Wrestling. They even made their way into the UK scene, working with Revolution Pro (RevPro) and PROGRESS Wrestling, and briefly worked with Ring of Honor as part of Chris Jericho‘s inaugural Jericho Cruise, where they faced off against the Young Bucks in what was considered a dream match at the time. Following a physical feud with the original LAX, Santana & Ortiz entered a lengthy feud with The Lucha Brothers (Pentagon Jr. & Fenix) in IMPACT Wrestling, that spilled into the rings around the world. Soon the two tandems were fighting in Chicago with AAW, in Los Angeles with PWG, in England with Fight Club: PRO, and in Mexico with IMPACT Wrestling.

As LAX, they held the IMPACT World Tag Team titles on four occasions, one shy of Beer Money (Robert Roode & “Cowboy” James Storm) and American Wolves. Their combined reign of 662 days shattered the previous record of 514, held by Beer Money, making them the greatest tag team in the 17-year history of TNA/IMPACT Wrestling. With the tag team division of IMPACT Wrestling conquered, it was time for Ortiz & Santana to seek new battlefields and new challengers. Which led them to Chicago this past Saturday night, where a new chapter in their decorated careers begins anew. Former 4x IMPACT World Tag Team Champions, 3x HOG Tag Team Champions, AAW Tag Team Champions, CZW World Tag Team Champions, Wrestling Revolver Tag Team Champions, Wrestle Pro Tag Team Champions – they’re also the reigning World Wrestling League (WWL) Tag Team Champions out of their ancestral home in Puerto Rico.

Ortiz & Santana are now sporting a new name for their tandem on their Social Media – PNP (Proud-n-Powerful) – a nod to their heritage as “Loud & Proud Nuyoricans” as well as of their accomplishments in only eight years together. And with AEW set to start a tournament to crown the first-ever AEW World Tag Team Champions, it may not be long before they add more gold to there trophy cases in New York City.

Stay tuned to the Last Word on Pro Wrestling for more on this and other stories from around the world of wrestling, as they develop. You can always count on LWOPW to be on top of the major news in the wrestling world, as well as to provide you with analysis, previews, videos, interviews, and editorials on the wrestling world.  AEW All Out aired on PPV on B/R Live and