Santos Escobar Unveils A New Cartel In NXT

Back in the summer of 2019, Mexican superstar El Hijo del Fantasma signed with WWE and headed to NXT to begin his WWE career. A veteran of the Mexican lucha libre scene, having competed with Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre (CMLL), AAA Lucha Libre, and Lucha Underground, the former AAA Latin America Champion, AAA World Cruiserweight Champion, CMLL World Middleweight Champion, and LU Gift of the Gods Champion (as King Cuerno) was ready to bring his abilities to a grander stage. A knee injury delayed his debut with the company, however, and it wouldn’t be until February of 2020 that he’d finally get clearance to compete again. He would initially hit the NXT Live Event circuits under his real name, Jorge Bolly, before returning to his Mexican persona for his NXT TV debut in the NXT Cruiserweight Championship Tournament on April 22. Oddly, he returned under his famous mask, which he’d actually lost at AAA TripleMania XXVI back in August of 2018.

Fantasma would go on to win the tournament to become the new interim NXT Cruiserweight Champion, defeating Drake Maverick in the final. But this past Wednesday on NXT, Fantasma showed his true colors to the WWE Universe. As Drake Maverick was congratulating Fantasma on his victory, the ring was surrounded by two masked men, seemingly the men who had been behind past abductions in NXT. While Fantasma initially appeared to be on Drake’s side in preparing to fend off the two assailants, he quickly turned and attacked Maverick with a vicious headbutt, before leading a beatdown on the recently re-signed NXT Superstar. Following the attack, Fantasma removed his mask and declared he was now Santos Escobar and revealed not only that he was the mastermind behind the abductions, but that those who were abducted – Raul Mendoza and Joaquin Wilde – were in on the entire plot.

The Abductions: Raul Mendoza

Photo: WWE

The abductions began on NXT television shortly after Fantasma’s debut on the NXT Live Event circuit, beginning in March with the kidnapping of NXT’s Raul Mendoza. Raul Mendoza joined NXT in June of 2016, initially as part of the WWE Cruiserweight Classic. Prior to joining WWE, he was a veteran of the Mexican circuit, working as the masked luchador Jinzo. He primarily worked for the hardcore promotion Desastre Total Ultraviolento (DTU), where was a former DTU Alto Impacto Champion, but he also worked for AAA on occasion and in 2014 did a tour with Pro Wrestling NOAH in Japan.

Following his appearance in the WWE Cruiserweight Classic, Mendoza was signed by WWE and joined NXT, unlike many of the competitors who instead stocked the newly rebooted WWE Cruiserweight division. He would workly mostly as enhancement in NXT, but in 2019 was finally added into the Cruiserweight division and began to appear on 205 Live as well, forming a short-lived tag team with Humberto Carrillo. And then on March 11, 2020, after suffering a loss to KUSHIDA on NXT television, Mendoza was seemingly forced into a van by two masked men and never heard from again. Until now.

The Abductions: Joaquin Wilde

Photo: WWE

Joaquin Wilde signed with WWE in May of 2019 and made his TV debut in June as part of the NXT Breakout Tournament. Wilde had come into NXT as a hot commodity, as he was a longtime veteran of the scene under the name DJ Z and Shiima/Zema Ion. A veteran of the indie circuit since 2004, he’s most well known for his seven-year run with TNA/IMPACT Wrestling from 2011 to 2018, where he was 2x IMPACT X-Division Champion and IMPACT Tag Team Champion.

DJ Z would work primarily the NXT Live Event circuit for the majority of 2019, before heading to 205 Live in December. In February, he briefly formed a tag team with Raul Mendoza to face NXT UK’s Grizzled Young Veterans (Zack Gibson & James Drake), before then feuding with Mendoza on 205 Live for several weeks. In what may have been the ultimate foreshadowing, in early March of 2020, Wilde teamed up with both Santos Escobar (then still Jorge Bolly) and Raul Mendoza in victory over KUSHIDA, Tyler Breeze, and Tehuti Miles in a 6-man tag match that served as a dark match before the March 4th broadcast of NXT on USA. On April 1, oddly enough also following a loss to KUSHIDA on NXT TV, Wilde was being interviewed about his loss and soon found himself the next victim of the masked kidnappers, never to be seen again. Until now.

The Leader Revealed: Santos Escobar

Photo: WWE

Shedding his lucha libre heritage to reveal a new destiny as Santos Escobar – a name that features tribute to the legendary El Santo and the infamous drug cartel kingpin Pablo Escobar – and given the new NXT Cruiserweight Champion a new story to dictate. Is his new cartel just a trio? If so, who were the other two masked men who initially brought in Mendoza? Were Mendoza and Wilde in on the abductions from the start or are the new formerly frustrated NXT Superstars suffering from a heavy dose of Stockholm syndrome? One thing is certain. Santos Escobar is willing himself into the very fabric of NXT now and he’s bringing back-up.

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.  You can catch NXT on the USA Network every Wednesday at 8pm EST, with replays on the WWE Network.