“How Can You Not Be Romantic About Wrestling”? The Papo Esco Interview

We Talk To The King Fat Boy!

Papo Esco is somebody you may have heard of, you may not; but he deserves respect on his name and if he carries on wrestling the way he has been, he’s damn well going to get it.

Oh, you didn’t know? Let me fill you in on Papo Esco.

Papo Esco is mean, vicious and starving, and he comes from The Bodega, where you can get anything you need—including a beatdown!

Currently wrestling for David Marquez’s United Wrestling Network, ‘The King Fat Boy’ Papo Esco is one-third of the United Wrestling Network Tag Team Champions The Bodega, whose ranks also include Slice Boogie, who can also be seen currently in the NWA, and a certain Mr Danny Limelight. Known for his hard-hitting classic big man style, Papo is gaining a buzz in the wrestling community and is someone you should definitely be keeping your eye on.

I spoke to Papo to find out more about his style, his goals in the business, his opinions on the wrestling community and his love for the NWA.

Sports Obsessive: Thanks for joining us today, Papo. You’ve been creating a buzz since you’ve been appearing in (Championship Wrestling from) Hollywood since September last year. Obviously, you’ve been tagging as The Bodega with Danny Limelight, who’s creating a buzz of his own at the moment as well. You’ve won the United Wrestling Network Tag Team titles. How have the last few months been for you with all that happening?

Papo Esco: Oh man, it’s been good. I mean, obviously, we’re still in a pandemic so there’s not a lot of work going on out there, but the United Wrestling Network, the entire umbrella, has been doing a great job at trying to give people some form of wrestling, an alternative, and s**t, I’ve been lucky to be a part of that.

So, you know, for the last couple of months we’ve been able to do some really good things with The Bodega; Me and Danny starting off right, starting off strong, and bringing in Slice Boogie later. Now people are branching off; Danny’s doing tremendous in AEW; Slice Boogie is doing really well in the NWA, and I’m holding down the fort at United Wrestling Network, Championship Wrestling from Hollywood and the entire umbrella. So, it’s pretty busy.

SO: Absolutely. Like you said, Danny’s been making regular appearances in AEW. Is that something you’d like to do yourself? Could you see The Bodega uniting in AEW at some point?

PE: You never say never. Anything can happen at any given time. I would be lying to you if I didn’t say that I have some form of aspirations to go do some things. Is it AEW? I don’t know. I mean, I don’t really live too far off into the future. I kinda live in the moment. Sometimes I can’t see past my own nose. And right now, I’m just happy being a part of the United Wrestling Network, David Marquez Productions, and just doing the Championship Wrestling from Hollywood. Soon enough, I’ll be at Championship Wrestling from Memphis. Soon enough, I’ll be at Arizona, Gulf Coast. We’ve got Atlanta coming. There’s just so much stuff going on at United Wrestling that, right now, it’s really not even a thought in my head. But if AEW comes knocking, MLW comes knocking, Ring of Honor comes knocking, NWA…I mean, I’m definitely gonna indulge the conversation, I’m gonna talk to them and see what they’re talking about.

SO: Of course. As a fan of the United Wrestling Network, it’s so exciting now with Memphis, being 10, 11 weeks into Memphis, the Grind City Rumble’s coming up, Atlanta’s happening. I’m constantly checking Twitter for updates on Atlanta It’s such an exciting time. But what’s it been like working with David Marquez? He always strikes me as a very passionate promoter, (and) a very unique character in a lot of ways. What’s it been like working with David?

PE: Well, the thing about these promoters, man, is that each one of them is, I would say, equally passionate; they just have different ways of expressing it. Working with David Marquez, I don’t really work directly with him too much, but the interactions that I do have with him are positive. He’s a real stand up guy. He’ll look you straight in the eye and tell you what’s what. He’s not afraid to speak his mind and he’s passionate about putting out the best product that he possibly can. I like that, I like working with people like that. It makes my job that much more easier when you actually get somebody who is so engaged that he wants to give you little tidbits and ideas of what he wants to see on his own TV programming.

So, yeah, working with David has been great. The people that have been working for him to do, you know, the executive producing and stuff like that, those guys are awesome. Everybody from Aron Stevens to Nicholas Bonnano, Jon Roberts and a bunch of guys like that that are doing some of the backstage stuff. It’s a well-oiled machine, man. I’m not going to sit here and say it’s entirely perfect because everything can go wrong at any point in time. But for the most part, it’s real seamless and it’s near-perfect if that’s what you want to call it. Yeah, I enjoy working with them.

SO: It sounds amazing. I think with David Marquez, you can tell he’s got a real pride about his work.

PE: Yeah, absolutely.

SO: I wanted to ask you; with David Marquez, it appears that he’s got a vision of the United Wrestling Network as a modern-day territory system, but instead of it being all different promotions, it’s all under his company’s umbrella. What do you think of that kind of system in the modern day? With there now being Memphis, Arizona, soon to be Atlanta as we said, could we see The Bodega as the champions appearing in other companies? I mean, personally, I’d love to see you take on The Crowleys or The Yung Goats in Memphis, and I know the Yung Goats were in Hollywood this weekend (Editor’s note: May 8th & 9th) with Brett Michaels.

PE: Yeah. So, it’s important to know, man, that Danny, Slice and I, as The Bodega, we’re the United Network World Tag Team Champions. That don’t mean we’re just in Hollywood all the time. Once we get back going, once Arizona opens up and Gulf Coast opens up, once Atlanta gets started, once we let a couple of more weeks go by for Memphis, we’re gonna be travelling champions. We’re the United Wrestling Tag Team Champions. We’re the umbrella tag team. So yeah, you’re gonna see us in Memphis, you’ll see in Gulf Coast and Arizona and Atlanta when it comes. We’re gonna hit all those territories, we’re gonna cause a ruckus wherever we go. And yeah, you’re probably gonna see us in the ring throwing hands with The Crowleys or The Yung Goats or The Posse or just about any of them guys. The reality is, we’re the United Wrestling Tag Team Champions. We don’t have to go to them; they gotta come to us. And yeah, The Yung Goats were in Hollywood over the weekend. I can neither confirm nor deny that you might see a Bodega-Yung Goats match in the near future on television.

Papo Esco throws his fists up for action
Would you disagree with this man? (Credit: Justin Cotterell)

SO: That’s a good tease; I like it! What do you think about the United Wrestling Network as a kind of territory system almost? A lot of people have said, with so many promotions around now, it almost feels like a territory system again. But, in a way, the United Wrestling Network really is its own little territory system. It’s got its promotions in Memphis, in Hollywood, in Atlanta. Do you see that as something that can really work in the modern day?

PE: Yeah. I mean, the thing about professional wrestling is, it’s real subjective, right? It can be whatever it is that you want it to be, and that’s in wrestling as a professional wrestler or a promoter. There’s so much wrestling going on right now. You got MLW, Ring of Honor, you got NWA, you got AEW, you got WWE, you have NXT, New Japan. You even have All Japan, Dragon Gate, DDT—I could go on and on and on. You got so much wrestling all across the globe that, in my mind, even something as territorial like a conglomerate like United Wrestling is welcome. There’s room for everybody. It creates more places for people to work. In my mind, it’s a really, really cool thing, and it’s a really, really cool thing to be a part of. That set-up under the United Wrestling umbrella, with a bunch of different factions of Championship Wrestling, and we can go to any one of them at any point in time and not have to worry about being something different, or acting a certain way here versus there. The Bodega can be The Bodega. ‘The King Fat Boy’ Papo Esco can go anywhere he wants under the United Wrestling umbrella and be the same person each time. I think that’s awesome.

I mean, I may not know what I’m talking about, you know, I may know what I’m talking about, I don’t know, but to me, it seems like what David Marquez has got going on with the United Wrestling is kinda like the early 80s, Vince McMahon where he was just trying to reach out and touch all these different areas and just bring his brand to those areas and try to let people know that we’re here. I’m excited about it and I hope it continues. I hope all the promotions continue. I hope the success of all the promotions continues. That way, there’s more places to work.

I rambled a little bit, my bad, man, my bad!

SO: No, I apologise. Some of my questions might end up rambling (laughs).

PE: It’s all good.

SO: It’s all good. It’s interesting like you say as well, as a wrestler, it gives you that potential to move around and have more places to work which, obviously, is a great thing. But as a fan as well, you’re almost spoilt for choice in that there’s so much wrestling now. I mean, I review the weekly wrestling shows for the site and I’m having to pick and choose the best because I’m literally spoilt for choice. Do you think you can have too much of a good thing? Or do you think, as long as there are fans out there and they’re finding what products they can that they enjoy, that it’s all good?

PE: I think with anything, there’s a little bit of too much and there’s a little bit of not enough, right? So, it comes in waves. Who’s to say in five-seven years from now, wrestling takes a dive and some of these places go away, you know. Who’s to say that WWE doesn’t decide to get into bed with a couple of small promotions and decide to swallow them up? I mean, you’ve seen what happened with Evolve. And now I’m hearing that there might be some type of working relationship with MLW at some point in the future. And if that’s true, then who knows what’s going to happen with MLW.

My point is, right now we go the most wrestling for people to watch. I mean, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, even the weekends. You’re watching wrestling, wrestling, wrestling. Luckily, there’s DVR’s and ways you can record these things so you can watch them later. But who’s to say that’s not gonna decrease tremendously in the next few years? Who’s to say that we’re not gonna hit another low point?

So, I would say that as a wrestling fan, you gotta appreciate these times, watch as much wrestling as you can. This is definitely a good opportunity for the fan to watch as much wrestling as they can, but it’s also a good opportunity for the professional wrestlers and the referees and the ring announcers and the managers and the commentators and the colour commentators and all those guys like that to kinda ply their trade on different platforms. Right now, for me, I’m slowly starting to gain ground in terms of notoriety and popularity. I’m starting to get friends on social media all the time, just following and following, and I’m able to get my name out there. So who’s to say that by the time I, God willing, go to Ring of Honor or MLW or AEW, people have seen me on United Wrestling, so now, people know who I am coming in. I’m not really a nobody no more.

So, it’s a great time. I think people should just appreciate it and take advantage of it, until the day it decreases.

SO: Absolutely, yeah. I agree with that. And from a fan’s perspective, one of the most disheartening things about the wrestling community at the moment is that there seems to be so much fighting on social media between fans of different styles, or you’ve got WWE fans—

PE: I hate that too.

SO: Yeah! It’s ridiculous, isn’t it?

PE: Yeah, I hate it too. I mean, hey man, take football; you got guys that love the Raiders. You got guys who love the Cowboys. And they’re gonna talk their mess. ‘My team’s better.’ Well, it’s like that now. It’s a ‘my team’s better’ mentality. But the reality is that there are no teams. I mean, there’s different companies to work for, you know, and rather than fighting about it, why don’t you just enjoy it, enjoy the wrestling? I’m gonna say it until I’m blue in the face, wrestling is subjective; it’s what you want it to be.

So WWE is putting out a product that they want to put out, the way they want to do it. Same for AEW, same for all the other promotions. So take that at face value, man. These guys want to put out this type of product, let’s enjoy this type of product. This type of product over here, let’s enjoy that type of product. Why argue about it? Why even go there? Why do we have to complain so much about the stories that are going on, and why not just enjoy it for what it is? You know, it’s getting to be a little bit too much sometimes. So much so to where you kinda just want to back away from social media and not worry about wrestling Twitter or wrestling Instagram or anything like that for a little while. It just gets disheartening sometimes, you know? Everybody should just enjoy the wrestling—

SO: You should, yeah!

PE: —there’s so much of it, just enjoy it for what it is, man: entertainment.

The Bodega pose with the gold
You’ve got to pay The Bodega with gold! (Credit: Justin Cotterell)

SO: Just to take a sidestep and give you a personal example, I started watching wrestling in 1991 in England. So, then, unless you had Sky satellite TV, which not as many people had then because of the cost, you only really had WWE or WCW that you could watch. So I’d be reading in magazines about USWA, Smokey Mountain Wrestling, ECW, all these different things. And I’d almost build them up to romantic levels in my head because I’d be reading about all these wild matches and whatever.

And I think people don’t realise how lucky they are now with things like YouTube, Fite TV, different streaming networks as well—

PE: Absolutely.

SO: —how much availability there is. You know, I’m sitting here on a Saturday on You Tube watching you on Hollywood. I’m sat here in Manchester, England, you know, that’s crazy to me but it’s brilliant, it’s a wonderful thing. It’s something that we should celebrate, I think.

PE: And hey, that’s crazy to me too, man. To be doing this interview and you’re in England, you know. I’m over here right now in Northern California, that’s where I stay right now. So to be able to reach people overseas is wild to me because I don’t feel like I’m at a level to where I should be seen by you out there or by people, say even on the other side of the pond.

So it’s definitely a really cool thing, and it just keeps coming back to, man, it’s a great time for wrestling, you know? I mean, I’m even able to watch stuff out your way. I was watching PROGRESS for a long time, and now, with NXT UK, I mean, NXT UK is one of my favorite wrestling shows to watch. And the wrestling that they have, the talent that they got, real interesting and compelling storylines, it’s just great wrestling, I love it.

I just keep coming back to it, man, it’s a great time for wrestling. Like you said, YouTube, Fite TV, all those little small platforms that you can use to watch just about anything—man, how can you not be romantic about wrestling? It’s awesome.

SO: It’s interesting that you say it’s subjective because it is, it is subjective. It can be whatever you want it to be. I saw you responding on Twitter to someone recently who was talking about the Canadian Destroyer—

PE: Yeah.

SO: —and they were saying that it’s a move that takes them out (of the match) completely, and you said, respectfully, you can understand why people might not like that move but actually, it seems to get a large reaction from people, so actually—

PE: And that’s it! I’ve said this before on another podcast, I’ll say it again. My job is to create a reaction. My job is to get the fans to react to me. If I’m not doing that, I’m not doing my job. That wrestling move is set up to do the same. The Canadia Destroyer is as ridiculous as a lock-up, you know, a leapfrog. Whose gonna leapfrog in a fight, whose gonna drop down in a fight? Whose gonna grab your leg and O’Connor Roll you into a superkick in a fight? Whose gonna do that, right? But the wrestling fan who doesn’t like the Canadian Destroyer will accept those other moves that I just rattled off as great wrestling. So why not the Canadian Destroyer, why not the moonsault off the top rope, why not the Spanish Fly off the top rope? I just don’t get that. And it all just goes back to, just take wrestling for what it is, man. Enjoy it. I hear a lot of people say ‘spot monkeys’, ‘spot fest’. Like, it’s all a part of the art, it’s all a part of the entertainment. And yeah, hey, I like action movies but I don’t like romantic comedies. It’s the same thing. I just have my preference. But I’m still gonna enjoy life, I’m still gonna enjoy wrestling.

SO: Absolutely, yeah, I agree. For example, if you’re not interested in that kind of high-flying, athletic style, I’ve got alternatives. There’s Ring of Honor doing the pure style, for example, which is fascinating to watch. There’s all sorts of different alternatives, absolutely.

PE: And here’s the thing. There’s all types of different alternatives of matches in wrestling programmes, period. I mean, I can watch an AEW show and I can watch a slow, 1980s, 1990s, style wrestling match with QT Marshall and say, Cody Rhodes. Or I can watch a big spot fest, you know, high-flying, ridiculous Canadian Destroyer match with The Young Bucks and The Lucha Brothers. I can have a comedy match. There’s so many different types of matches that you can have in one programme, why even take the time and energy to down-talk the matches that you don’t like. There’s like thirty matches on a three-hour program now. Why are you even wasting energy to crap all over just one little move or one little match that you don’t like. Just enjoy it for what it is, man. I know I keep saying the same thing (laughs) but it’s true, man, it’s true.

SO: No, I agree! It reminds me of being a teenager in the late nineties and the Attitude Era, and you look back on it now and you think, actually, some of those cards, the undercards, weren’t so hot. Matches with Viscera, for example, maybe, might not have been so hot. But I don’t remember ever thinking, ‘Oh, I’m bored’, or ‘I don’t like this’, or ‘this is rubbish’, or ‘this is s**t. I remember thinking…you got invested in either the characters, or it was made up for by the top of the card maybe when you had Stone Cold and Mankind, or The Rock, whoever. So yeah, it just feels like people are very hard to please nowadays, which is a shame…but we’re not going to fix it on this podcast, I’m afraid (laughs).

PE: We’re not, we’re not (laughs).

SO: I wanted to say, when I see you in the ring, you remind me a bit of guys like Vader and Bam Bam Bigelow in particular. They were big tough guys who had a real physical presence but they were also versatile in what they could do as well. So for those of our readers who have never seen you in action, how would you describe your own style? How do you see your style?

PE: I mean, you pretty much hit on the nail. I’m not what today’s professional wrestler is supposed to look like, right? I’m not Brian Cage, I don’t have all these big muscles. I’m not some high-flyer guy like Ricochet, or like Zack Sabre Jr, just tying people in knots and everything like that. I’m just an overweight guy who’ll punch you in the mouth for any reason, you know? I think a lot of my style is a throwback to a time when the big men were a big part of wrestling. You had Bam Bam Bigelow and King Kong Bundy, you had Akeem, One Man Gang, Big Boss Man, you had ‘Big Cat’ Curtis Hughes, you had all these big guys, Vader, Scott Norton, all these big guys that were just, you know…they didn’t have no special moves to jaw drop about. They’d punch you in the mouth, they’d kick you in the gut, they’d throw you around the ring, and they’d just be vicious and mean and nasty, and that’s really been my M.O. My mannerisms, some of the things I do in the ring, you might look at that and see Bam Bam Bigelow. Some things, you might see One Man Gang or whatever.

I try to incorporate all of that into my body of work, just to kind and pay homage to them guys. Because there’s not too many of us big fat boys around, and the one’s that are around, no disrespect to them and I don’t want to sound like I’m down-talking them or anything like that, but they’re trying very hard to be something that they’re not. Huge dive outs, some of them trying to big dropkicks and huricaranas and all these other things that big men don’t normally do. And yeah, visually, it looks really cool. But, you know, there’s an art form to being a big man. And a lot of us need to get back to that. Hopefully, I can lead that charge. Hopefully, I can run with it. You know, I call myself the ‘King Fat Boy’ for a reason: because I know who I am, I’m comfortable in my own skin. I’m not afraid to say that I don’t have the body that these guys have and I’m not afraid to get on camera and show you that I don’t have the body that these guys have. You know, my belly’s just a little big, like Dusty Rhodes said, and I don’t have all the cardio in the world. But I can go in there and I can give you something that you’ll remember. I just wanna pay my respects to those big guys that came before me by doing so.

SO: And I’ve seen with your jacket as well, you’ve got ‘The One Man Lucha Gang’, which is a nice little tribute to the One Man Gang. And he’s one of those wrestlers who doesn’t get talked about much anymore really. When people kind of celebrate the big men, Vader…quite understandably, Vader’s usually at the top. But One Man Gang usually gets forgotten. But at one point he was really good, he was a really good talent.

PE: Yeah, at all points. They all were. Like I said, they knew their bodies, they knew what they could and could not do in the ring and they went out there and they made the best of it. They entertained. There’s a reason why King Kong Bundy wrestled in the steel cage. There’s a reason why every other month, Big Boss Man or One Man Gang or somebody was either tagging or wrestling Hulk Hogan back in those days. It’s because these guys looked like monsters. They were very appealing; they were an alternative villain to this muscled-up guy. I mean, even in movies back then, the big man was popular. There’s this old movie back in those days called Over the Top, it was an arm-wrestling movie with Sylvester Stallone. His villain in that movie was Bull Hurley. He was a big fat guy, you know what I mean? It’s time to come back, man. It’s time to bring it back. I hope to help with that.

SO: Sounds good to me! One of my colleagues spoke to Calvin Tankman for the site not so long ago, and he was very much of the opinion that he very much wanted to change the idea of what a super-heavyweight can do athletically. Which I can understand, and it’s interesting like you say, to see big men do moves where you think, ‘a big man shouldn’t be able to do that’. But sometimes, it’s good just to see a big man be a big man and just pound people. If nothing else, it’s variety as well on the card.

PE: Yeah, and like I said before, no diss to them guys, I’m not trying to talk down on them or anything like that. I’ve seen Calvin Tankman work. He’s definitely a very interesting persona, an interesting character and a very talented wrestler. And that just goes back to me saying before, it’s subjective. You can be anything you want. For me, my preference is paying homage to the way that the old-school big dude worked. As time goes on and you guys see me and you’ll see that I progress and I incorporate certain things, and I will incorporate certain things that will surprise people, but for the most part, it’s just that old-style, it works. It still works, it still has a place in wrestling.

SO: Absolutely, yeah. Don’t disagree at all. So, outside of Championship Wrestling from Hollywood and the United Wrestling Network, where else have you wrestled? What kind of experiences and successes did you have?

PE: So, I really cut my teeth in Northern California, the San Francisco bay area. There’s a promotion out there called All Pro Wrestling. They were featured on Beyond The Mat, that’s an old wrestling documentary from the late nineties/early 2000s. I got my chance to cut my teeth there. I got my chance to hold their All Pro Wrestling World Tag Team Title. My brother Sin, the tag team was The Bully Gang, we were able to hold those. But I really got my start at Pro Wrestling Revolution. Pro Wrestling Revolution has a training academy in Northern California. That’s where I train now and that’s where I continue to train. If you’re a wrestler, never stop training. It’s not a good idea. Keep your body loose and keep yourself fresh.

But the promotion, Pro Wrestling Revolution, is a Lucha promotion, probably one of the best Lucha promotions in North America, to be honest with you. I can make that argument. I really cut my teeth there. Ezekiel Jackson, Big Ryck, he has a promotion out in Northern California called Bryckhouse Pro. I was able to work there. And through those places, we were able to do a lot of really cool things and I think that what got me on the radar for United Wrestling Network.

I haven’t really worked too many places, to be quite honest with you. I’m very selective about where I work, I mean, that’s another story, but…yeah.

Papo Esco holding the flag of Puerto Rico
The One Man Lucha Gang (Credit: Justin Cotterell)

SO: I remember reading about you recently, it might even have been on the Pro Wrestling Revolution website. You were talking about how you found wrestling, you were talking about growing up; you might have had some experiences which were quite difficult maybe in the local neighbourhood with gangs or other kids or what have you. And you found wrestling; it was Arn Anderson, I think you saw, on the television first. Do you remember what show that was?

PE: Yeah, ‘The Enforcer’ Arn Anderson, he’s like my all-time favorite wrestler, period. I mean, there’s no one better than him in my opinion. Man, I was young. I was young, watched Saturday morning television, saw him, and I kinda got hooked. And then I started watching all kinds of wrestling.

Yeah, I didn’t grow up in a good neighborhood. I grew up kinda rough. My dad was never around. My mom worked so much that when she was home, she was asleep. Not to say that she wasn’t there for me. When she was engaged, she was the greatest mom ever. But you know, being left alone, no dad around, you’re sitting there in parks thinking ‘why is this kid with his dad and I’m not with mine?’ It kinda irritates you a little bit, kind of makes you think a little differently. For some people, you lash out, and I lashed out. That was kinda like the core for me to get into some trouble. I wanted to get into wrestling early but, you know, life and trouble…met my wife and she kinda steered me in the right direction and then, sooner rather than later, I just thought, ‘man, I always wanted to do it, let’s give it a try’. I found Pro Wrestling Revolution training academy and the rest is history.

SO: What age were you when you first started training?

PE: I was in my early thirties. I’m not a young dude (laughs).

SO: (laughs) I’m in my mid-thirties now myself. What would you have ended up doing, do you think, or what were you doing just before you took the plunge into wrestling. What would your life have been if you hadn’t had got involved in wrestling?

PE: Oh yeah, man, look, my wife saved my life. My two kids that she gave me saved my life. That was able to steer me on the right track. I was able to go into the electrical field for construction. I was able to ply my trade there just to kind of support my family. Wrestling came back around…

I’ll tell you what, if you don’t mind me telling you this story, I’ve told this story on a podcast before but for those of you guys who don’t know, wrestling came about for me through a personal challenge. I had my son and my daughter young, so they’re teenagers (now). And I’m sitting there and I’m talking to them about how you can do anything you want in life if you put your mind to it, right? And it’s a true statement. I don’t care how old you are, I don’t care how young you are. Whatever it is that you want, if you want it bad enough, you’re gonna figure out a way to get it. You could do anything you want in life, you just gotta put your mind to it. You gotta put pen to paper, cluster it out, figure out what the branches are and the avenues are to get there, and just get there. Work your ass off for it.

So, my kids, they just decided one day that they want to make fun of dad, and they’re like, ‘nah, whatever dad, we don’t believe you’. So I said, ok, challenge accepted. I’m gonna do something so far-fetched—no disrespect to wrestling—but Im going to do something so out there and so far-fetched and I’m gonna make it happen for myself, that you’re gonna see that if you do put your mind to it, you can just about do anything. So I found a training academy, I started training. My first goal was to train, my second goal was to work a match, my third goal…and just progressively, one goal after enough, just to prove to these kids that you can do what you want in life if you put your mind to it.

Lo and behold now, I’m on television every weekend for the United Wrestling Network and they’re seeing it. Now, they’re out there doing what they want to do. They’re making a way for them to do what they want to do in life. Hey, if anything, if I leave wrestling tomorrow, my greatest achievement in wrestling isn’t even a wrestling achievement, to be quite honest with you. My greatest achievement in wrestling will always be that I did this to make sure my kids are as successful as they wanna be, and they’re on their way now because of it.

SO: That’s amazing! You’ve literally led by example.

PE: Yeah, always. Always.

SO: Going back to when you first started watching wrestling, what was the moment, if you can remember, that made you realise, “yep, I’m a fan, this is for me, I’m a wrestling guy’?

PE: Man, it goes back to watching old NWA and early WCW, with ‘The Enforcer’ Arn Anderson and other guys of his stature, which were all over the place back then. You had the Rock and Roll Express, you had The Midnight Express I mean, these guys were wrestlers and they were stars but they were normal people if that makes sense. Like, I can walk past Hulk Hogan or The Road Warriors or Nikita Koloff and guys like that who are just big and larger than life and they look like somebody, and I can walk past them and say, ‘ooh, who’s that? Who’s that?’ But then, I can walk past Arn Anderson or Ricky Morton or Robert Gibson or somebody like that and just see them as some random guy in a Safeway. And I don’t mean to say that disrespectfully. But the point that I’m trying to make is, I’ve always been about the regular guy. I’ve always been about the average person. And to see these guys who look like anybody off the street get in there and work their asses off and become stars and become legends and Hall of Famers, there’s something to be said. That’s really what hooked me, just the fact that it gave the impression that, not anybody can do it, but if you wanted it bad enough, you could, and I like that, you know. After that came the athleticism and the fights, the stories, all the different characters, you know, all the different ways that they would engage you. There’s a whole laundry list of things that I could probably rattle off and ramble off about what hooked me, but just the fact that I could see that ‘I can do it’, because I was a little kid, I wasn’t no big muscle dude. I was just a regular kid, even back then. But just to see that I could do it kinda hooked me.

SO: And the guys that you mentioned as well, like Arn Anderson, The Rock and Roll Express, Midnight Express, they were all phenomenally talented as well. To this day, you can put on one of their matches and still be blown away.

PE: Absolutely.

SO: Arn Anderson especially was incredible. I mean, he does get so much respect, but you almost think, ‘if only he’d had one World Heavyweight title reign.’ Because he deserved it, he was that good.

PE: Yeah, I agree, I agree.

SO: I was going to ask you, I saw you on social media, I think it was Fite TV, and they were asking about what were favourite people’s favourite promotion, and you said the NWA—

PE: Yeah.

SO: There’s something about those three little letters, NWA, that seem to have a magical effect on people almost, again it’s that romance thing. But the letters NWA seem to have meaning to everyone who’s a fan, and they seem to have different meanings to different fans. What does the NWA mean to you?

PE: So, the NWA to me is history. The NWA pre-dates any promotion that’s out there right now. And when they decided that they wanted to bring it back, when Billy Corgan said, ‘Hey, I’m going to buy this, we’re going to keep this going’, it was an exciting time. For me, all I could think about was how I grew up watching the NWA, and I didn’t know how it was going to go but I knew that I was excited. And when they brought back the old Georgia Championship Wrestling, old NWA studio environment, I was even that much more excited. Man, it’s history. It’s tradition. It’s one of the oldest promotions in the world, and to not hold it in high regard would be foolish of anybody.

And for me, I think that it’s one of the greatest promotions that there ever was in history. And just to know that it’s there, and just to know that I could have a chance of potentially one day working there is everything to me, it really is. If I had my choice, if tomorrow United Wrestling Network and everyone under that umbrella was to say, ‘Papo, good luck in your future endeavours (laughs) and I end up having to go somewhere else, I would say if I had to choose, if I have my choice of the litter, I would choose NWA. I think I fit there. I think I do fit there. Just my whole mentality and my whole thought process about how this world of professional wrestling works. I think NWA would be solid for me.

SO: Definitely. I could see that. Especially at the moment, they’ve got that focus on presenting wrestling more realistically as a fight or as a sport, not to take away from the more athletic kind of wrestling, but they’re more focussed on looking more realistic and  more old-school, which actually stands them well because it looks different, it stands out in the market, which is not a bad thing at all. But when you’ve got guys like Trevor Murdoch—I know there was a bit of banter on Twitter between you and Trevor Murdoch. And he lost the (National Heavyweight) title before you got there Papo! What’s he doing?

PE: Yeah. Hey, you can’t win them all. I think the competition is more important, so just because he lost the title doesn’t mean we can’t get in the ring and sort out the business we were gonna have.

SO: I think that would be a great match.

PE: They got a lot of guys, man. All those guys are tremendous athletes. You know, Trevor Murdoch, Pope, JR Kratos, who’ve had a lot of run-ins with back in our day, he’s from Northern California. Slice Boogie’s there, and we’re a part of The Bodega. And there’s a lot of guys there that still have a lot of worth to produce and contribute to wrestling, like Tyrus, Nick Aldis, Chris Adonis and guys like that. Yeah, I like the NWA, man. It’s a really cool product and I hope that I get a chance to be part of it one day.

SO: Absolutely. I think, speaking to different NWA fans, there’s a really cool fan called Jay Cal who runs the Alliance Blog, I don’t know if you’ve come across the Alliance blog, but I know for a fact he would love to see you in the NWA. A lot of people would love to see you in the NWA. If Billy Corgan should ever see this, there’s definitely fans out there who want to see it, who’d pay their money to see it, so…

PE: Yeah, Billy. I’m ready, Billy.

SO: (laughs) Come on Billy, what are you waiting for?

PE: Gimme that call, man.

SO: That’s it. That’s it, exactly. So, Alexander Hammerstone put out a tweet recently where he told podcasters off for doing this, but as I’ve never seen you answer this question before, I’m going to ask it.

PE: Ok.

SO: If you could pick a dream match, any opponent, past or present, who would be your dream to wrestle?

PE: Hmm, that’s a tough one. That’s a tough one because there’s a lot of guys I would like to…I mean, one obviously would be, man, me versus Dick Murdoch, or me versus Dick Slater, or me versus Buzz Sawyer, or me versus Arn Anderson. Let’s see…me versus George ‘The Animal’ Steele, me versus ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage. I mean, there’s so many guys that I could match up with, and I know that I’m rattling off a lot of those 80s/90s guys but I think I would fare well in that environment. I mean, now…I’ve wrestled Jacob Fatu before; I’d like to wrestle him again. I’d like to wrestle JR Kratos. I’d like to wrestle Tyrus. I’d like to wrestle Nick Aldis, the Pope. I’d like to wrestle Luchasaurus, Cody Rhodes. I’ve wrestled ‘Powerhouse’ Will Hobbs before, I’d like to do that again. There’s a laundry list of guys I’d like to wrestle. Even some of the guys that are on the independent scene in North America like Wrecking Ball Legursky, like Barrington Hughes, like The Crowleys, guys like that. Tell you what, my dream match is to wrestle as many people as I can now before I can’t do it no more.

Jacob Fatu vs. Papo Esco title card at All Pro Wrestling
Could a rematch be on the cards one day?

SO: Sounds good to me! It’s cool to hear you mention people like DIck Slater and Buzz Sawyer because, I’ve noticed with modern wrestling fans, there’s certain names from the past that still will ring a bell and will still get recognition and respect, whether that be Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan, or going more up to the Attitude Era maybe, Steve Austin, or Sting as well. Obviously, Sting got a big reaction when he got to AEW. But there’s people like Dick Slater, Buzz Sawyer, who were brilliant but they seemed to have not translated to the modern audience, and they seem to be only remembered by old-school heads. Which is a shame in a way, because they were brilliant, they were absolutely brilliant at what they did.

PE: Yeah, they were. And that’s the thing. I think that Arn Anderson is probably the leader in all the guys that I’m about to say, where, you know, you just had good mechanics, you had great hands that could have been World Champion, that could have been huge stars but they just never, for whatever reason, really got that chance. And I don’t know if it’s something that they did that hindered that, or if it’s just personal preference because it’s the promoters who make the decision on whether or not they want you to be one of their top guys. I mean, it’s just the reality of it, right? Maybe it’s something of that nature. But you can’t escape the fact that these cats were just great in the ring. And I can’t help as a wrestler to think ‘well, what if’, you know, so…and my what if’s always come with those guys rather than… I’m sure everyone would tell you, ‘Oh yeah, I wanna wrestle Stone Cold Steve Austin or Razor Ramon, or I wanna wrestle Diesel or I wanna wrestle Shawn Michaels’. Nah, man, it’s not like that for me, man. I like all those down to earth, nitty-gritty, like just salty guys that I feel like I can have a great match with.

SO: You and Harley, that would have been something to watch.

PE: Oh yeah, Harley Race, that would have been, yeah, absolutely.

SO: It’s good to hear these kinds of things as well, just because I love that era of NWA as well. When you posted on the Fite TV Twtitter post about NWA, the wrestling nerd in my loved Levi Shapiro’s response, which was, specifically, Mid-Atlantic, 1982. As if he’s singled it down to this particular company, this particular era; one golden era.

PE: Yeah, and I agree. Shout out to Levi Shapiro, man. He’s a real good friend of mine, I love that guy so much. He’s an old-school guy like I am. You wanna talk NWA? Selfishly, I can say I deserve it (laughs) but if anybody deserves to be part of the NWA, and really ply his trade under that umbrella, that banner, that would be Levi Shapiro. He’s a throwback. I’ve told him before, because he lives probably, I don’t know, twenty minutes down the road from me. I;ve told him before, ‘you remind me of Barry Windham in a lot of ways.’

SO: Yeah, I can see that.

PE: He’s a workhorse. I enjoy watching him in the ring and I hope that he can shine on the brightest platform real soon. Don’t tell him I said that though (laughs).

SO: (Laughs) Your secret’s safe! No, but he is, he’s very talented. Yeah, I agree. He would be a perfect fit for the NWA now. He’s just got that NWA feel.

PE: Yeah, absolutely.

SO: There’s just a feel about certain guys where you go—‘NWA’, and he’s one of them. Absolutely. Well, is there anything you’d like to say to our readers at all, any last words you’d like to say, is there anything you’d even like to plug, any merchandise? Can we get any Papo Esco merchandise, anything like that?

PE: Yeah, merch has always been one of them things that I need to get on. Man, I’ve been so lazy about it, so procrastinating about it. I’ll get some merch up real soon, and once I do, hopefully, people will still be interested in it, so look out for that. You can follow me on all forms of social media. Snapchat, my kids wanted me to do it so I got one up. If you wanna follow, it’s papoesco. But I really function on Twitter, that’s @papo_esco, and Instagram, papoesco, Facebook, Papo Esco. So just follow me out there, more so Twitter than Instagram if you don’t mind. Just talk to me, I’ll talk back. I’m not one of those guys that will shine you on. If you say hi, I’ll say hi. If you end up being a creep or some type of just inappropriate person, I’m not even going to give you the time of day so don’t do it. But if you wanna say hi, you know, say a couple of words to me, I’ll say a couple of words back.

I wanna thank everybody that actually is a fan of ‘The King Fat Boy’ Papo Esco. I don’t do this for me, I do it for you. I’m big on entertainment and I want everybody to know that every time I get out there, I’m trying my best to entertain you guys in the best way possible. I’m always going to do so. And I hope that you always just give me a chance. Nothing too serious.

Thanks, everybody overseas. Thanks everybody all across the globe, in America and otherwise. I’m just going to continue to bang it out, you know.

SO: Absolutely awesome. We’re definitely fans here at Sports Obsessive of ‘The King Fat Boy’.

PE: Yeah, right on.

SO: You’ve definitely got support here and personally it’s been a pleasure to talk to you.

PE: Yeah, anytime.

SO: Thank you so much, ‘King Fat Boy’, we really appreciate it and we wish you every success. And hopefully we’ll see in Memphis at some point too, because that would be interesting.

PE: Yeah, hopefully, we can get back to it, man. You know, the pandemic is still going on…hey, I’mma say something that might get me in trouble but I’m going to spin it into a positive. I hate wearing a mask. I hate what’s going on now. But I do it. And I do it because I want everyone to stay safe. I don’t wanna get sick. I don’t want you to get sick. Just wear that mask. Social distance, keep your hands clean. Just do what you gotta do to try to get us out of it. And once we get out of it, we’ll be able to get right back to what we were doing, because I know everybody wants to be in the stands. I know I want to look to my left and my right or behind me or in front of me and see just fan after fan after fan. I want all these promotions that have been stagnant and asleep to wake back up and get right back to business sooner than later. So just everybody stay safe, man, and hopefully, I’ll see you guys in person sooner than later.

What’s clear from talking to ‘The King Fat Boy’ is just how refreshing and positive an attitude Papo Esco has. He’s completely correct in identifying the current era of wrestling as a golden era and that, rather than ripping at each other’s throats, the wrestling community needs to celebrate the diversity of what we have because that bubble might just burst one day in the future.

Complete with his can-do, hard work philosophy, Papo is a genuine student and fan of the game and it was fascinating to hear him wax lyrical on some of the great talents of the old-school and his love for some of the great workhorses. Papo is a genuine talent, bringing a touch of old-school to the modern ring without being retro about it, and with such an intricate understanding of and passion for the business, it’s hard not to wish him every success as he looks to get to where he wants to go.

So come on Billy; pick up the phone. ‘The One Man Lucha Gang’ would be a brilliant asset. You know it makes sense.

Written by Chris Flackett

Wrestling obsessed since '91. Lived through the Monday Night Wars and is still here to tell the tale. Major fan of Strong Style, technical and Super Jr. Wrestling, as well as big versatile hosses smacking the hell out of each other. Lives in Manchester, England.

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