AAA is coming to the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden this Sunday night, and famous Spanish commentator Hugo Savinovich couldn’t be more thrilled with the upcoming Lucha Invades NY card. Still Real To Us caught up with Savinovich in an exclusive interview before the company’s historic pay-per-view event. Set to feature the Latin American Xchange, Taya, Tessa Blanchard, and MMA legend Cain Velasquez, New York City is pumped for a thrilling wrestling event which will showcase the absolute best in lucha libre.
“I love the business as much as I did when it was my first day in it. I think that’s the key,” Savinovich tells Still Real To Us. “When it’s not fun anymore, that’s the time you should quit.”
Savinovich On Wrestling Saving His Life
The charismatic 60-year-old commentator hasn’t slowed down since he entered the professional wrestling industry. His dedication to his profession shows in his enthusiasm for the forward direction that pro wrestling is headed in. He doesn’t mind sharing his age with his fans, either. To him, it’s a testament of his longevity and impact in the sport.
“A lot of people would not tell you their ages. Carlos Cabrera, my former WWE play-by-play partner–we were together for 17 years. He would say, ‘Don’t tell them how old you are because they will figure out how old I am!’ I broke into the business when I was 14,” laughs Savinovich. “I come from Guayaquil, Ecuador. In my book, which is coming out in English soon; I tell the story of a kid at 5-years-old who fell in love with lucha libre when he saw it on TV, and being a survivor all these years later.”
Mesmerized by the colorful luchadores as a child, Savinovich eagerly told his mother that’s what he wanted to be when he grew up. The seed was planted, and the dream would later become a reality for Savinovich. Before Savinovich got his start in wrestling, he moved to the mean streets of the Bronx, and unfortunately found himself getting into trouble with local gangs in the area during the late 60s as a young adult. Crimes involving robberies and drugs surrounded Savinovich, and he was going down a road that wasn’t going to end well for him. At 14-years-old, Hugo managed to stay alive and debuted as a lucha libre star.
Working with the greats in the business, including Andre the Giant, Jose Lothario, and a young Bob Backlund, Savinovich became a go-to competitor to help others get better in the ring. Savinovich even helped train future wrestling legends “Gorgeous” Jimmy ‘Jam’ Garvin and “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff. The current AAA commentator explains what it was like working with Orndorff.
“You knew he was going to be a big star,” Savinovich says of Orndorff. “But boy, to train with him in the ring–you were putting your life on the line.”
The Current State of Wrestling
After connecting with Steve Keirn and Mike Graham from Florida Championship Wrestling, Savinovich quickly learned about the trying lifestyle of being a professional wrestler. He thinks the current generation of superstars needs to take a look in the mirror and reflect on how blessed they are.
“Right now, you have a lot of guys who look good, but everything is given to them,” Savinovich tells Still Real To Us. “Not that they need to suffer, but a lot of them take it for granted. They go, ‘Oh, I deserve this.’ And then the fans chant, ‘You deserve it.’ No! That is crap. What they deserve is to give 100% to the business. When you feel like you can’t do it anymore, you get out. Then, people can applaud and do all of that crazy stuff.”
Savinovich stresses that in his day, when he was grinding on the road, he wouldn’t get the airfare reservations in order to take him to the next town where he needed to wrestle at. Packed in a car with other wrestlers, they would have to drive over 400 miles to get to the arena to wrestle that same night before hitting the road again.
“Unless you were the biggest star in the company, everybody would pay their own mileage. Whoever was driving, the riders would pay him for the miles,” Savinovich nods. “There was so much respect. It didn’t matter if you were in the first match or in the main event–there was so much respect. Right now, I think that is lacking in wrestling. Not everyone is that way. I see some young guys who are really good.”
Passion and Savinovich is like peanut butter and jelly: it’s the ultimate combo. The AAA commentator believes that it is a privilege to be able to entertain the audience. He doesn’t want that to be lost on the guys who step foot inside the ring in 2019.
“The audience is going to respect you if you respect yourself, and the business,” he nods.
How AAA Is Changing The Business
With AAA taking over The World’s Most Famous Arena, it is a game changing moment that sent shockwaves through the industry when it was first announced. Savinovich notes that AAA was the first promotion to get a date at MSG that wasn’t WWE. After it was decided that the company needed more time, that’s when New Japan Pro-Wrestling and Ring of Honor stepped in, and put on a groundbreaking show.
WWE recently hosted Raw and Smackdown Live at MSG on Monday and Tuesday, and Savinovich speculates that the timing isn’t a funny coincidence. WWE will soon go head-to-head with upstart promotion AEW in October.
“This is done as part of the war that’s going on,” he tells Still Real To Us. “[Vince McMahon] might not be saying it, but that’s why [NXT] will be airing on Wednesday nights. I think that when you’re too worried about other people, and aren’t worried about your own creative problems, your product gets weaker.”
Not wanting to see upset fans who ultimately decide that pro wrestling is no longer for them, Savinovich feels that AAA will be a true alternative for those who are seeking something that they can’t normally find on Monday nights. Building Lucha Libre Online with his partner, Javier Gonzalez, Savinovich encourages fans to talk about their love for the wrestling business, including the upcoming AAA show. He wants to continue to build a platform that encourages positivity in the industry, while not shying away from the realities of the current climate.
“I believe that wrestling should be for everybody, and that there doesn’t have to be any backstabbing,” Savinovich says. “Competition is great, but it should be done the right way. If we don’t put the fans first, we’re missing the entire picture. If we’re not careful, we are going to lose our teenage fans to video games forever.”
This Sunday, Savinovich wants to create new fans. He says that people don’t have to worry about their Playstation games when AAA takes NYC at 6 PM EST. Savinovich sees the potential of AAA as a brand, as it continues to grow its presence in the United States.
“Raw and Smackdown were here, but the show that’s going to kick butt is the one on Sunday. You have legends Blue Demon and Dr. Wagner, UFC heavyweight champion Cain, the Lucha Brothers. You also have Taya against Tessa. There’s going to be so much fantastic wrestling. These are wrestlers who are so good that it’s scary,” concludes Savinovich.
Photographs were provided by Kevin Jackson Jr. You can find more of Kevin’s work by clicking HERE and following him on Instagram. To read more exclusive interviews on Still Real To Us featuring your favorite wrestlers, click HERE.