Mike Santana opens up about AEW departure, relationship with Ortiz, being told they would win AEW Tag Titles

Photo Courtesy: All Elite Wrestling

Mike Santana tells all. 

Alongside his now-former tag team partner Ortiz, Mike Santana arrived to All Elite Wrestling in the summer of 2019 at the first-ever All Out pay-per-view. After a decade of teaming together, the duo’s run came to an end after Santana’s injury at Blood & Guts 2022

Santana wrapped up with the company in 2024. He spoke about his decision to leave during his appearance on Insight with Chris Van Vliet. He shared that his decision to part ways was made before his knee injury. He stated that he had a lot going on personally and professionally and wanted to take a break. 

Well, like I was telling you, my decision to leave AEW came well before my injury actually. I got hurt in June of 2022 and at that point, I was just dealing with so much in my life personally and professionally at work, and I was just burnt out. My contract was coming up in September I believe and I had already made the decision that I’m not going to re-sign and I need to take a break and deal with the things that I needed to deal with… then the injury happened. So, that was a lot. A lot of that was going on during that time for me personally.

Santana continued speaking on that front and expressed that he needed to get away. He does not know if AEW was looking to re-sign him, but it was not something he was actively pursuing. He is sure a new deal could’ve been agreed upon if that was something he was seeking out. 

I’m not sure (if AEW was looking to re-sign me). But I wasn’t really actively pursuing — the time was coming up. Like I said, it was June I got hurt. Our contract was up August I think… At the end of August and I wasn’t really actively pursuing, oh, are you guys going to re-sign us? Because already in my head, I was like, yeah, I need to get away. I need to take a break. But I’m sure something would have worked out and they probably would have re-signed us. But yeah man, during that time, it was a very dark time for me.

He went on to further explain what was going on at the time and he reiterated that he was not happy professionally nor personally. 

Santana was dealing with an addiction vice. He stated that when he got hurt in 2022, there was a moment when he was glad it happened because it needed to happen. 

Unhappiness personally in my life, outside of wrestling and then professionally, things weren’t really going good. I was just miserable to say the least, I was unhappy. My partnership was falling apart. Things at work just weren’t… a lot of things were just very stagnant and I’m the type that I’m a go-getter and I’m very goal-oriented and again, in this business, I treat it as such. I treat it as a business and if you’re not striving to be at the top and to be a champ and grow yourself then what are you doing? And that’s with anything I feel like. But also, I was also dealing with my addiction issues during that time. At that point, they were getting pretty bad… when the injury happened, I remember it happened and laying there in the ring and I was like, damn, I got hurt but like, thank God I got hurt. Yeah. It was a weird time.

Moving over to the topic of him and Ortiz never becoming AEW World Tag Team Champions, he said the reason he was told that did not come to fruition is because there were too many people fighting for that spot and that upset him. 

He remembers being told by The Young Bucks (Matthew Jackson & Nicholas Jackson) that they would win the AEW World Tag Titles from Frankie Kazarian and Scorpio Sky but when that program was set to launch, Santana got the call that his father passed away. He said he stepped away for two weeks and everything shifted. 

Your guess is as good as mine (as to why Proud & Powerful didn’t win AEW Tag Titles). I’ma be real, I’ma shoot straight with you. The reason I was given was that there was too many other people fighting for that spot, and that pissed me off more than anything… Yes! (it feels like we would also be fighting for that spot) And I understand that when you get to a certain level in this business, if you don’t fight for yourself, if you don’t advocate for yourself, you ain’t getting nowhere, and that was a big part of my fight within my team and when I heard that, it just validated everything that I was like, alright.

There was in the beginning (talks of Proud & Powerful getting the AEW Tag Titles). It was right before the pandemic. We were feuding with The Bucks, we were ending our feud with The Bucks and they both told us, they were like, ‘Hey, after this, you’re gonna go and start working a program with Frankie and Scorp’ — at the time that they were still champs — ‘and then you guys are gonna grab the belts from them’ and whatever. So that was the week of New Year’s Eve and then we were supposed to have a match New Year’s Day and then start the program with them. We were gonna go into some promos and then that morning, I woke up and got the call that my dad passed away. So I had to leave. So I left and then I was gone for two weeks and in those two weeks, everything changed and then that was it. 

Following up on that, he opened up about his relationship with Ortiz. He feels they grew apart and just had different visions for their future as a team.

Santana stated that he wanted more for the duo and when he eventually leaned into wanting to be a singles talent, it sparked friction and was not received well. It was during that time that he realized Proud & Powerful could no longer be intact. He does not think there’s heat between them and shared that after their match on the 10/27 Rampage, he wished Ortiz well. 

Well, we (Proud & Powerful) were together for 10 years I think and you know, when you’re together with someone that long, it’s like a married couple, right? There’s good, there’s bad and I think, honestly, for the most part, it was like, I think we just grew apart over time and also, our visions for the tag team and its future and, you know, its success, we weren’t on the same page when it came to a lot of those things and it is what it is. Everybody has their thoughts, everybody goes about things differently. But yeah, like I told you, I’m a go-getter. I like to create opportunities for myself. I’m more than willing to fight for our spot. But also, I’m not gonna be the only one.

I wanted more for the tag team and that was the main thing and again, it just wasn’t… how do I say it? Our visions just weren’t the same… Yeah, yeah, for the most part (I am saying that Ortiz was happy with what we were being given & I wanted more for us), and then that’s when I was like, yo alright, well, this is gonna drive me crazy. I refuse to be miserable. So I think I wanna start doing more single stuff, start challenging myself as a performer, start growing. I’m not one that likes to stay stagnant… It wasn’t met with a lot of support and it created like a friction and I was like, ‘Man, you’re my brother’ and that for me, it was like, ‘Alright, we can’t do this anymore.’

I wouldn’t say (there’s heat between myself & Ortiz) — I mean, for me, I don’t hold any — I told him after the match, I was like, ‘Yo, I hope the best for you, I hope you do well and there’s no hard feelings.’ I hold no hate, no grudge, nothing. Again, I’m in a different place in my life in general and I’m good. I’m chilling. 

Looking towards the future, Santana was asked if discussions with WWE could come back up and he said he’s had some discussions. He does not want to be another guy on the roster. 

He added that he’s been smart with his money so he’s taking his time with things. When asked about a return to TNA, he said everything is on the table and thinks the company is doing great.

I’ve had some discussions (Santana responded when asked if discussions with WWE could come back up). I’ve been very open with everybody. Right now, it’s just going where I’m gonna be able to grow the most and yeah, I don’t wanna just be another guy on the roster. I already did that. I wanna be part of something, I wanna do something special. Thankfully, I’ve been smart with money and I’m not hurting and I’m taking my time with things and you know, I just wanna have fun.

Everything is on the table, everything, yeah, and they’re doing great (Santana said in response to if he’d go back to TNA). They are doing amazing at TNA.

Ortiz gave his recollection of Proud & Powerful’s AEW run and not winning the tag titles along with his viewpoint of the relationship with Santana. To read that, head over to this POST Wrestling article.

If the quotes in this article are used, please credit Insight with Chris Van Vliet with an H/T to POST Wrestling for the transcriptions.

About Andrew Thompson 8478 Articles
A Washington D.C. native and graduate of Norfolk State University, Andrew Thompson has been covering wrestling since 2017.