Santana and Ortiz of the Inner Circle were on a recent episode of Talk Is Jericho where they discussed the end of their IMPACT Wrestling run, as well as their decision to sign with AEW over WWE. Ortiz revealed that AEW EVP Cody Rhodes contacted them to ask how long they would be with IMPACT, and Ortiz discussed the conversation they had on their next move in their careers.
"Cody had contacted us, and it was just like, 'hey, how long do you have left at IMPACT?' Based off that, we already knew we had another option," Ortiz recalled. "At the time, we were trying to negotiate with IMPACT. We were like, 'hey, we need a little bit more money,' and they were kind of going back and forth with us, which I understand. They're running a business, so they're not going to just outright give us exactly what we want. Just going back and forth with that and knowing that, we had other options, and also, WWE was an option at the time because [Jeremy] Borash now works there. That was our in, so we were just like, 'okay, what are we going to do?' It was a couple of weeks out from leaving IMPACT and we still didn't know.
"We were really sitting there and trying to make the decision, and they were like, 'alright, just stay for one more year. Just do one more year and we'll figure something out.' We were going over it in our heads. 'What are we going to do? We're going to just stay here? People are going to turn on us, and if we stay here and they kind of feel like we're going to leave, maybe they bury us or something shi--y happens.' It was like, 'hey, we're willing to do business the right way. We'll lose on the way out. We'll put over whoever you want to put over.' We just felt like it ran its course, and we love the people there.
"We loved working there. We just felt that we needed to grow; we felt like we were a big fish in a small pond. Not that we weren't being challenged, but we wanted a challenge to try to work our way up."
Santana revealed that they had many conversations with William Regal to join WWE. He and Ortiz noted that their work at Progress and WXW helped get them on WWE's radar since those promotions have a partnership with WWE.
"We were talking with Regal back and forth for a few months," Santana revealed. "They had told us they were really interested in having us and all this stuff, and they had seen what we were doing at IMPACT and on the indies because we were also working a lot with Progress Wrestling and WXW, which are two sister companies now with the WWE. We're doing a lot of work there.
"And the guys at Progress put in words for us," Ortiz added. "Whoever they had contacts from WWE, they would constantly put us over to the office.
"We kept it real with Regal, too," Santana pointed out. "We were like, 'this is what it is.' He knew what was up, but I also appreciate that he kept it real with us. He told us straight-up, 'no decision is a wrong decision right now for you guys. You guys are in a prime spot, and just be smart about it. Whatever you feel is the best - do what you need to do for yourselves and your family.'"
Chris Jericho pointed out that Santana and Ortiz are from New York, a place that WWE has a lot of history in. He asked if it was a hard decision to turn down WWE. Santana and Ortiz recalled a conversation they had with Regal after they decided to join AEW.
"100%, it definitely was a tough decision. And it's funny because we made our final decision in Puerto Rico," Santana recalled. "We were sitting in a Walgreens parking lot.
"We were working for this company WWL in Puerto Rico and we were champs at that time," Ortiz noted. "We were doing the loop. I think we were losing the titles because we already knew we were going somewhere, so we had to finish up, lose, drop the titles. We had this whole spiel. So, we made the decision. We sat there and made the decision. We drank a couple of beers that day, and we were like, 'alright, what what are we doing?' I was like, 'alright, we're going with AEW.' Alright, cool. We're going with AEW, and then he has this whole spiel. He was like, 'we don't want to burn a bridge. We got to do it the right way.' He has this whole spiel in this head.
"He goes to start saying this spiel to Regal. He has him on speaker phone, and Regal just already hears it off the back. He's like, 'pause, stop. Stop right there. Listen guys, if you haven't signed anything, put to pen to paper yet, then just keep me informed, just weigh out your options. But if there's something else that you want or you need from us and we can make it work, let us know.' Like, man. That's what we wanted to say to you guys.
"Then what's funny is that the conversation before that, we had told them what we wanted," Santana said. "Pretty much, 'hey, if we ever decided to come here, this is what we want. This is how we want it to go,' and they said yes to everything. So I was like, 'come on.'"
Santana and Ortiz said that the deciding factors for them was to take a chance on something new, and the schedule AEW offered. They noted that they wanted to be there for their kids, and AEW's schedule would let that happen.
"Taking a chance, and the schedule was a huge thing because we both have young children," Ortiz stated. "We know back in the old days, you didn't see your children grow up.
"We wanted to be dads," Santana admitted. "We wanted to raise our kids and also still continue doing what we love to do.
"That was the biggest thing - just how we knew the schedule was going to be here, and that was a huge decision," Ortiz reiterated. "Also, to get the chance to work with [Jericho]."
Santana said that once they made their decision, Matt and Nick Jackson of The Young Bucks came to them with a plan that would eventually be them joining the Inner Circle with Jericho. He noted that if they did join WWE, they would eventually be split apart based the track record of tag teams in WWE.
"Once we had made the final decision, Matt and Nick were like, 'this is what's the plan and what you guys are going to be doing.' And we were like, 'let's go.' Also, tag team wrestling, it's something that we've dedicated our careers to. We were like, if we go to WWE, more than likely we'll have our tag run and they'll split us up. That's the reality of their system and what they do. So we were like, 'let's go to AEW and just do the whole tag thing. But mainly, being able to raise our families, the tag team thing, and the schedule. We were like, 'hell yeah.'"
If you use any quotes from this article, please credit Talk Is Jericho with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.