I had the pleasure of interviewing Jesse Hernandez, promoter of Empire Wrestling Federation and The School of Hard Knocks wrestling school, based out of San Bernardino, Calif. EWF is one of the longest running independent wrestling promotions in Southern California.
In talking with him, he told me of his long history with and being the ‘pioneer’ of the WWE, the wrestler’s he’s trained over the years and he also gave me his thoughts on the recent news of WWE signing Sin Cara (Mistico) and his success, as well as Alberto Del Rio’s success in the WWE.
On his history with WWE:
I worked for the old Mike Lebell promotion (with his brother, Gene, they ran NWA Hollywood from 1968-1982), and Mike Lebell is the one who sold the rights to Vince McMahon, to run his promotion in Southern California. He owned the territory.
I was an employee of Mike’s, and when he sold the territory to Vince, he pretty much got rid of everyone that worked for him. He just kept an office to be the California promoter for them [WWF(E)] and I was the only employee he kept in the office to help him out with all of the things he had to do for the WWF(E).
Because of that, I was able to work for the WWF(E) from 1984 to 1997. Every time they were out here in the West Coast, I was apart of it. Whether as a referee or as a wrestler or whatever.
(Lucha Lucy note: For those wondering, Mike’s brother, Gene, is the Lebell referenced to in Daniel Bryan’s Lebell Lock.)
On wrestlers he’s trained:
I’ve trained a lot of people over the years. I’ve trained Rico, Melina, as well. I helped when they brought in Layla El, she was just a Diva, I don’t think the plan was to use her as a wrestler, but you know, that girl has such a heart and such love for the business. Her, along with Eve Torres, they both decided to come out to my school, just to learn, to learn the basics, and to learn as much as they could. they were able to take that back to WWF, or WWE, I should say, and say ‘hey, we’ve been training a little bit’ so it showed they really had that fire. I’m very proud of those girls, they’re amazing. And there’s so many others I’ve trained and have made it.
On WWE signing Mistico and finding other talent:
I would ask to help out in locating some latino talent for WWE, the announcer they have for Alberto Del Rio, he was one. That was through me and I helped them get him.
I suggested they look into Mistico, but they weren’t really interested because they thought he was under contract with CMLL. I did my homework and found out that he was not under contract with CMLL. So I pushed them, said ‘hey, let’s go after this guy.’ And we did. And well, the rest is history. He was eventually signed.We’ve known about this for a number of months, but we tried to keep it hush-hush. I’m very proud of that accomplishment. And I’m very happy and very proud of Mistico, now under his new name of Sin Cara.
On the success of Albert Del Rio and Mistico:
Some people may say that Alberto [Del Rio] is not very happy about Mistico coming in, but I tell them, he should not be. I think the future is very bright for him, Alberto, in WWE. He’s worked very hard to get to where he’s at right now. The sky’s the limit for him. He’s going to be very successful himself.
And Mistico, under his new name, Sin Cara, will be very successful. He’ll have his own glory in WWE. They’re a big promotion and there’s plenty of room for everybody out there to grow.
It was a great honor to talk to Jesse Hernandez, who is a real wrestling legend here in California.
Jesse has also trained and worked with a number of other wrestlers like Kaz, Christopher Daniels, Chris Jericho, as well as Alex Koslov and Awesome Kong, who are both signed with the WWE. EWF wrestlers, like Ryan Taylor, are also featured in WWE’s SyFy commercials and Smackdown!’s opening video.
For more information on EWF and Jesse, you can visit http://www.EmpireWrestlingFederation.com. You can also find Jesse Hernandez (here) and EWF (here) on Facebook . Jesse is also on Twitter, you can follow him at @EWFJesse.