By the time Sammy Guevara wraps up a weekend of working independent wrestling shows, he’s ready to head back to his place in Houston and just crash. But just because he’s done working, doesn’t mean the work is done.
Guevara, a rising star on the indies, gets back to his apartment in Houston each Monday and after catching up on an hour or two of sleep, starts putting together his vlog from that weekend. While the 24-year-old wows crowds from WrestleCircus to Mucha Lucha Atlanta to Pro Wrestling Guerillawith his high-flying style, he uses the six to ten minute long videos on his YouTube channel to expand the Sammy Guevara Brand beyond the butts in the seats at those shows.
He’s come a long way from the being the skinny half-Cuban kid in Booker T’s wrestling school in Houston over five years ago. Guevara made his way there as a teenager with high hopes – and no real understanding of how the pro wrestling world worked.
“I knew nothing. I was like, ‘Aw yeah, I’m going to get signed by TNA, I’ll win all their championships, and the I’ll get signed by – it might have been FCW at the time – and I’ll win all their championships and then I’ll go to WWE, and I’ll win all their championships,” said Guevara.
From the time he was 10 or 11 years old, Guevara wanted to be a wrestler. He saw Shawn Michaelsdo a moonsault on TV once and was hooked. His mom was nice enough to encourage him to do whatever he wanted. His stepfather? Not so much.
“He was always very much, ‘You’re going to go to college’,” said Guevara. “My mom was kind of like, ‘Hey, if that’s what you want to do, do whatever makes you happy’.”
Even though his stepfather was looking for Guevara to go the cap and gown route, Guevara found his way to Reality of Wrestling, Booker T’s wrestling school. The fact that it was local helped, but it also had the allure of a guy who had been to the top of the business before.
“It’s a good school. It’s definitely kind of pricey, luckily I didn’t have to pay for it. I was fortunate enough that my mom paid for it for me,” said Guevara. “Booker T – five time, six time champion. He knows how to get there. He’s been there.”
Not too long after he started training, Guevara was called into Booker T’s office and asked the question that every wrestler has been asked at some point early in their careers.
“Are you ready?”
“Honestly, I don’t’ know if I was ready, but I was in the belief that you never say no to an opportunity,” said Guevara. “You’re never going to be ready until you go out there, but one of the things I remember Booker telling me, which I’ll remember forever, is ‘the worst that you’re going to do out there is you’re gonna mess up.”
That first night he didn’t have too much of a chance to mess up. He was seated in the front row as a plant who would be ‘randomly’ chosen to wrestle in the opening match. All of his friends and family came to see his debut. As soon as he had the first match out of the way, Guevara started looking for other places to get himself some action.
“Booker tells everybody, he gives you the tools to go and make it and it’s up to you use them,” said Guevara. “So I tried to go and get booked other places and even random shows in Houston. I was messaging everybody, but you know, no one knew who I was, so they were ignoring me or they’d see the message and not reply.”
Eventually promoters did start getting back to him. Guevara didn’t own a car, but he wasn’t going to share that info with out of state promoters willing to give him a spot on their card. That’s how Guevara, Erik Ortiz and Low Rider ended up getting to know the Greyhound route from Houston to outposts in Pennsylvania really well in 2014.
“We would take a bus 30 hours, or we would drive from Houston straight there. Just trying to get the opportunity, trying to get more eyes to see us. It was definitely a journey,” said Guevara, who admits he lost money on those trips but gained experience and exposure at a crucial time of his career. “We were just so happy to get the opportunity to show more people who we are. That’s just always been my goal is just to keep growing the brand of Sammy and get more eyes on me.”
That strategy paid off early for Guevara, even if he wasn’t ready to believe it. Late one night in January 2015, Guevara was hanging out at home when his phone rang. He answered it and the voice on the other end was some guy claiming to be WWE’s Sin Cara.
“I thought it was a prank. He’s like, ‘Can you be in Laredo, Texas?’. I didn’t have a car at the time and I was like, ‘Yeah, okay, I’ll be in Laredo, Texas, Sin Cara’,” laughed Guevara. “I was trying to keep him talking, and I was on my computer at the time just looking up videos to see if the voices matched.”
“I was like, ‘oh shit, I’m actually talking to him right now,” said Guevara. Sin Cara was booking extras for a Smackdown taping the next day in Laredo and they needed him there by Noon. It was 2 a.m. and Guevara still didn’t have a car of his own. “I called everybody in my phone book and I looked up busses to take and there was no way I was going to make it in time.”
Having to tell the WWE “no” the first time they called felt like a wasted opportunity at the time. It also forced him to realize that he needed to get himself a car, just in case they ever called again. Still, Guevara took a step back and found a silver lining to the situation.
“They know who I am. I have Sin Cara’s number now. There’ll be another time,” said Guevara.
He was right. A few months later, his phone rang again and this time he made the show. He and Laredo Kid were amongst a handful of local talent given the chance to impress WWE road agents one afternoon with the promise of a dark match that night for one pair. They stood out and that night worked a tag match against Los Matadores before the taping began.
“The Matadors were really cool guys. They told us, ‘What do you guys want to do?’,” said Guevara. “I was like, ‘I’m down to anything’ and they said, ‘No, no, no. What do you want to do? What would you like to get in?’”
While that match put him in front of the biggest live audience he’d ever worked, Guevara has spent the better part of the last year working on getting as many eyes on him as possible through his vlog. On a nearly weekly basis, Guevara shoots, edits and posts the videos to his YouTube channel. Each one is anywhere between six and ten minutes long and is designed to give fans an inside look at the life of an independent wrestler.
“I’m showing (them) what’s going on through my day and there’s people out there that find that interesting,” said Guevara, who films short segments at the gym, at events, handling the merchandise sales from his website, and even driving from event to event. “I think that’s kind of amazing to me, that someone cares what I’m doing.”
When he first launched the YouTube channel, the idea was for him to post full length matches from his shows so promoters thinking of booking him could see his work. As more and more promotions began using YouTube on their own, he found himself limited in what he could post. Promotions wanted the matches for themselves. It was around the same time that he discovered Casey Neistatand PewDiePie – two of the godfathers of the vlogging world.
“I watched all those guys and I was like, ‘What if I turned their vlogging style and just put into wrestling?’,” said Guevara. “Maybe there’s other wrestlers that do the same, but I feel like I’m one of the first ones doing it.”
Being at the forefront of the wrestling vlogging world is a 180 degrees turn from how he felt about the work required to build a brand just a few years into his career.
“I hated social media when I was first getting into the business. I was like, ‘I fucking hate Twitter” and “Instagram? Who cares what you’re doing throughout your day?’ And now it’s my life,” said Guevara. “It’s so important now to use social media. It’s a tool and you can use it to to your advantage, and if you don’t use it, you’re missing out.”
He’s also forced himself to spend some money to make sure the content he’s putting out there is something people are going to want to consume. After shooting the videos on his phone at first, eventually Guevara did some research and bought himself the equipment that some of the best vloggers use to create their product.
“I used to do them on this shitty Sony or a flip camera and I was like, ‘yo, if I want to be legit about this, I need get a better camera’,” said Guevara, who now travels with a Canon camera that handles most of the footage he shoots.
It does take a considerable amount of his time though. In a dream world, Guevara would simply hire a video editor to handle that part of the process for him, but for an independent wrestler, that’s still very much a dream. For now, he’s taught himself – through YouTube videos no less – how to do the editing and graphics and publishing work.
“It takes me anywhere from five to ten hours to edit them,” said Guevara. “I’m not doing anything else during the week, so I might as well just do it.”
Creating his own exposure and developing the brand is already paying off. He’s a regular at WrestleCircus and in July he made his debut with Pro Wrestling Guerilla.
“WrestleCircus definitely helped a lot of people see me,” said Guevara. “And they’re putting me in the ring with top talent, you know?”
Guevara has worked with the likes of Ricochet, John Morrison, Shane Strickland and even battled for the WrestleCircus Ring Master title against Brian Cage. While WrestleCircus has certainly developed an amazing reputation for putting on quality shows and bringing in nothing but the best talent, many who follow the indie scene closely recognize that PWG invite as a sign of having arrived. Guevara sees it differently.
“A couple people messaged me and they were saying, ‘Hey, you’ve made it! You’re wrestling with PWG!’. I don’t feel like I’ve made it at all. I feel like this is just another step into where I’m trying to get to,” said Guevara.
This opportunity turned out quite differently than that first phone call from Sin Cara, but getting to step into the ring at the American Legion in Reseda, California almost didn’t happen. While on the road in Sherman, Texas, Guevara found an email in his inbox from the PWG promoters, checking on his availability.
“‘Hey, are you available on July 7?’ and I was actually booked for another show, VIP Wrestling. So I was like, ‘No, I’m available.’, because I knew (VIP) was going to let me off. I called them right afterwards and he said, ‘Oh, definitely, you’ve got to take that booking,” said Guevara.
So on July 7, Guevara wrestled Ray Horus at PWG Pushin Forward Back and picked up a win. His trip to California made for great vlog fodder and had those who heard his name or saw him perform for the first time at that show, searching YouTube and tuning in. He’s also acutely aware that some of wrestling’s old guard might not appreciate Guevara showing some of the stuff that goes on backstage or taking fans into a normally heavily guarded world.
“I try not to show too much, you know? I think a couple people don’t like it because I’ll talk about a match I just had and instead of being upset that I lost, I’m just like, ‘yo, I killed it and I sold a bunch of t-shirts’,” said Guevara. “It’s a different generation. They’re an older generation, they’re going to find something to complain about, but the business has changed.”
While giving wrestling fans access to some of the behind the scenes stuff is part of the mission for Guevara, he’s also hoping to provide inspiration to others out there who might have big plans of their own – wrestling or otherwise.
“It’s definitely about growing the Sammy name and showing people behind the scenes, but I also want to motivate others,” said Guevara. “There’s a bunch of teenagers that watch my videos and I just want to show them, ‘hey, I was you at one point and I believe in myself so much that no one really thought I would be doing this but I’m doing it now and this could be you too’.”