Wrestling takes Sin Cara from El Paso’s Segundo Barrio to WWE stardom

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 El Pasoan Jorge Arias has been called by many names.

The name the masked professional wrestler goes by now is Sin Cara, or without face in English. Before he was able to settle on his current moniker, there was Mistico – his original masked luchador persona that attained a measure of fame across Mexico in the early 2000’s that seemed downright meteoric.

Then there was Mistico and Mistico de Juarez following the first of many harsh professional wrestling lessons for then 27-year-old Arias. While working for Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre (Consejo) in Mexico City, the company trademarked the name Mistico, meaning that the only name that Arias had ever wrestled under, the name that he created – “Mystic of a religious nature” – was no longer his. He now had to settle for less popular names.

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Sin Cara takes a breather while training in a small building, not far from his childhood home in South El Paso. Photo by Jason Green, Borderzine.com

Arias became Incognito when he made it to Lucha Libre AAA Worldwide, the top level of Mexican professional wrestling, and Consejo’s main rival. Soon afterward, as the kid from Segundo Barrio worked his way back to America, there was Incognito in Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA) – his first foray into televised American wrestling.

One of the most important names at TNA during this time, for Arias at least, was not even one of his it would turn out. It was the name of Sean Waltman.

It was Waltman, a former World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) star, who sent the email that would land Jorge the tryout match which would change the course of his life.

On Dec. 14, 2009, Arias wrestled under his birth name – for the first time in a long time – and was signed immediately to join the WWE. Arias stayed in Florida to train and wrestle in Florida Championship Wrestling, a “farm league” of sorts for the WWE, to wrestle as Hunico; once again donning the familiar luchador mask of his youth.

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Sin Cara and trainer Cinta de Plata pose following a workout during downtime from the WWE touring schedule. Photo by Jason Green, Borderzine.com.

In 2011, almost eight years after stepping foot in a professional wrestling ring, Arias was finally called by the name that would define the now 40-year-old Mexican-American WWE star. While fellow luchador Luis Urive was out of the WWE line-up following a “wellness program” suspension, Arias stepped into the Sin Cara mask that Urive had filled for almost two years since joining the WWE.

It would not be long before Arias would take over the Sin Cara character full-time upon Urive’s exit from the company; ironically enough, closing the circle for the man who once was Mistico. Arias was now Sin Cara at the pinnacle of the professional wrestling world.

The boy from 618 Tornillo Street

He was simply Jorge Arias when he was born in 1977 at what is now the Houchen Child Development Center in the heart of El Paso’s Segundo Barrio, second neighborhood in Spanish.

His parents lived in what he calls the projects at 618 Tornillo St., now Father Rahm Ave. His first-generation immigrant parents were still crossing the bridge frequently to visit grandparents in Juarez, enabling Jorge to help in his grandfather’s funeral home growing up.

“As I got older and I became more involved in the business, I realized how hard it is for people,” said Arias, reflecting on the lessons learned from his grandfather.

“You can’t tell people, ‘OK, what color casket do you want?’ They don’t really care. The people that they love just passed away. I had to learn how to talk to people.”

Eventually Arias’ father opened his own funeral home north of the border and he found himself more often dealing with customers. He would talk them through the funeral and embalming, all while filling out the necessary paperwork. It was not long before Arias was doing the embalming himself, until school began to take up more time.

Soon, work began to take up more of Jorge’s father’s time and the young man found himself alone in the neighborhood more often. That’s when other names began to come into frame, familiar names to anyone who was in El Paso in the 1990s – Southside Locos, Latin Kings, BGF, PRM and 19th Street.

The man who made it out of Segundo Barrio

“If I got out of there, then I can get out of anywhere or make it anywhere,” said Arias with a big smile sitting at a desk in the den of his El Paso home.

He reflects on his middle school years fondly, but notes that there was a time in the mid-1990s when El Paso was known for its gang problem – years before it would take its annual position near the top of the list for safest cities in America. For an undersized kid like Arias, navigating the barrio was a daily challenge.

“Every block there was a gang and you had to learn to defend yourself to survive,” Arias said.

Arias would get in fights often through his middle school and early high school years, sometimes simply as the small kid trying to prove a point, sometimes as a way of just getting home from school in one piece.

“I was always conscious that if I did something really bad, it was going to have a consequence later in my life,” Arias said about the choice to steer clear of major gang activity. “My Dad would always tell me, ‘No matter what you do, good or bad, remember, it always has a consequence; that consequence is up to you.’”

Perhaps it was his father’s words that stuck with him in his father’s absence when it came to the tough choices that most teenagers make in high school.

“I never did drugs, never smoke, never drank,” said Arias, even though he admits to hanging out with the “bad crowd” mainly because of geographic reasons. “It was funny because they see somebody who doesn’t do that stuff and they would be like, ‘Hey, leave him alone, he doesn’t do that.’ They would protect you.”

It was not drugs, alcohol or gangs that ever got Jorge into trouble. He says he did fight a lot. Initially in the street, but eventually his prowess on the wrestling mat would even put a stop to that.

 

From nothing to champion, for the first time

“I was always the skinny kid and one time I got in a fight,” said Arias with a chuckle. “I kicked the guys butt and he was like, ‘You should’ve told me you knew how to wrestle!’”

Eventually Arias’s parents moved and he began attending Burges High School. That is when amateur wrestling became his life, more than just a small kid’s professional wrestling dream.

“When I started wrestling in the beginning, I had no idea what this kind of wrestling was, amateur wrestling,” said Arias, who has admitted before to asking his first high school coach where the ring ropes were. “I thought they were going to teach us how to (take a hit) and all of this stuff, but it was totally the opposite.”

Arias was coached by Ron Dentinger, a former Wisconsin state wrestling champ who was trained by former U.S. Olympian David Schultz.

Still, nothing came easy for Arias in amateur wrestling – or life.

As high school began, Jorge’s parents went through a divorce, which derailed his sophomore wrestling season. Midway through the season Arias says he stopped caring about the sport all together; the competitive Arias still points out however, that in his half season, he beat the wrestler who would eventually become state champion.

In his junior season, Arias finished third in the state. In his senior season, he went into the year ranked number one in Texas.

Down 8-4 with 26 seconds to go, Arias scored four points to force overtime, then quickly scored one more for his lone state title – handing his opponent from Irvin High School his only loss of the season.

Arias finished his senior year 35-0, despite missing two weeks early in the season after the death of his grandfather in Juarez.

 

The El Paso kid heads to college

Arias was offered a wrestling scholarship to a military school in Missouri after high school and went to visit.

“It was horrible. There was no beds … it was dirty,” Arias said. He quickly rejected his only scholarship offer.

Arias eventually received a call from Pete Maldonado of Western New England College in Springfield, Mass. Maldonado had already recruited two high profile Latino wrestlers from Burges and wanted to offer Jorge a scholarship.

Arias was not in Massachusetts very long.

After tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in the middle of the season and seeing his coach fired at the end of the year, Arias was on his way back to El Paso. Being one of “two Latinos in the whole school” just did not work for him.

Soon, Arias was working in his father’s funeral home and training in Lucha Libre in Juarez. It would not be long before a very big name change would take place for him.

Back and forth across the border

Before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Arias utilized the ease with which American citizens could cross the border back and forth in order train in Lucha Libre in Juarez from 4-6 p.m. Monday through Thursday every week.

But, despite what Arias thought going in, an amateur background did not allow him to jump right into the ring and begin professional wrestling like television stars.

“The first day, it was neck exercises for two hours. The second day, it was just doing little rolls,” Arias said. “The third day was conditioning like crazy, doing stadiums and running and all kinds of cardio stuff for two hours. The fourth day, we started doing a little bumping, a little tumbling – stuff like that.”

After 18 months of training just to get in shape, every Friday became a day to train in actual Lucha.

Professional wrestling/Lucha Libre is a choreographed form of entertainment in which the outcome is predetermined, but the moves in the ring are not – apart from perhaps a scripted ending or several big “spots” or stunts.

It is up to the performers to “call” the match as it progresses, telling each other what moves to perform when, without the audience becoming aware. It is also up to the performers to “fake fight” in a convincing manner, which often means taking realistic “bumps” or hard slaps, punches or falls. It is usually up to the receiver of the contact, not the initiator, to maintain his or her own safety during the performance of each set of moves.

After two years of training, Arias was told before a Friday evening show that he needed to get a costume and get ready because the rest of his learning would be done in the ring.

Arias debuted in Ciudad Juarez on Nov. 21, 1999, and MIstico was born. The older wrestlers would help him the more they saw the desire in him. The better he got, the quicker he went from smaller arenas to bigger arenas; from undercard to main event.

Arias credits the current mayor of Juarez as the catalyst for what would become the biggest success of his young career – and ultimately the biggest failure.

“They saw something bigger in me than anybody else,” said Arias in reference to Armando Cabada’s XHIJ Canal 44 in Juarez. “I started working with all the top guys from AAA in Mexico.”

Cabada’s weekly Lucha Libre shows on channel 44 brought in top talent from around the country.

As MIstico, Arias wrestled Luchadors from AAA who had spent time in the WWE. This made Arias feel as if he had already made it. Then the travel really picked up for him. Mistico had been noticed on channel 44.

He traveled to Mexico City to wrestle for Consejo, where his Mistico character was a hit. Arias was 22 at the time and although he may have felt like he had made it, he was about to come back to the borderland without something very important; his name.

 

“What’s in a name?”

In the second half of Shakespeare’s famous line from Romeo and Juliet, he establishes that there is not much to a name because a “rose by any other name would still smell sweet.”

Unfortunately for Arias, a Mistico by any other name, just did not work – especially when Consejo had called every other promotion in Mexico and threatened them.

After Mistico performed in Mexico City and wowed the crowd, Consejo wanted their own and even loved the backstory that Arias had created for him.

“Mistico means something that doesn’t have an identity or when you pass away, the Misticos are the ones that take you to the presence of God,” Arias said. “Back in the day I was very involved in church and missionary trips and my character was something I was living in my life. It wasn’t just a gimmick, like they say.”

Arias was young and a first-generation luchador. Unaware that he needed to register his character and backstory with the proper authorities, he saw it stolen out from under him by one of the biggest wrestling promotions in Mexico.

It is pretty important to smaller wrestling promotions, like the one on Canal 44 in Juarez, to be able to use wrestlers from Consejo and AAA on their local shows. To make matters worse for Arias, Consejo made sure to notify almost every small promotion that if they hired what they considered to now be the “imposter” Mistico, they would no longer be able to work with Consejo stars.

The kid from Segundo Barrio who grew up fighting and was just beginning to make a living in another type of “fighting,” did not have the money to fight against the Mexico City promotion.

Fighting under a different name

Instead of spending money to fight against the power of Consejo, Arias found a better way to spend his money.

Ironically enough, it was Arias’ time in Mexico City that improved his ability to the point that when he returned to America – after a brief time of depression and contemplating quitting wrestling after the loss of his name . He was able to ascend to televised wrestling with Ring of Honor and TNA, both very big promotions.

After wrestling as Mistico de Juarez and Incognito for a while, Arias met a man at TNA with a few names of his own.

Waltman is a professional wrestler who has wrestled as the 1-2-3- Kid, Syxx, and Syxx-Pac. The name he may be most known for is X-Pac, the name he used in the WWE while wrestling with one of the most storied factions, Degeneration-X, in the late 1990’s. As part of Degeneration-X, Waltman often teamed with faction member Paul Levesque, otherwise known as Triple-H. Levesque has been in the WWE since 1995 and since 2013 has been the vice president of Talent, Live Events and Creative for the company.

When Waltman told Arias that he had put in a call to WWE for a tryout, it was hard for the now 32-year-old Jorge Arias to believe.

“A lot of people promise you a lot of things, then nothing really happens” said a suddenly pensive Arias, looking down at his young son playing on the floor of the family’s den. “I didn’t want to get my hopes up. People have said they’re going to do this for me and they never did. I didn’t want to be heartbroken.”

When the call came in from WWE headquarters in Connecticut, Arias knew it was real. He also knew that he needed to find the money to travel to Corpus Christi for the tryout.

“I didn’t really have the money, London (Arias’ son) was already born,” Arias said. “I ended up selling a couple of my (wrestling) outfits to be able to get the money to do my tryout to travel. That’s how I ended up – me and my Dad – travelling to Corpus.”

After the drive across Texas, Arias’ wrestled – as Jorge Arias for the first time ever – and was signed almost immediately. He went back to the borderland to scrape up the money for the move to Florida to join FCW, the WWE’s farm league and train in the WWE, and perhaps more so, the American style. Arias and his wife sold almost everything that they had in order to make the move to Florida. He hoped that if he moved back to El Paso with his young son and wife, it would be to a much bigger house and with brand new things.

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Sin Carito hurdles his father as Cinta de Plata yells, “Brinca!” Photo by Jason Green, Borderzine.com Photo credit: Jason Green

An American kid, learning the American style

Despite his years of experience, it was almost like going back to square one for Arias – now known as Hunico again – after moving to Florida. Wrestlers in FCW were required to plaster the city with fliers promoting the upcoming shows, as well as assembling and disassembling the wrestling ring. On top of all of this, Arias was trying to overcome what could best be defined as a “wrestling language barrier.”

“I would write the moves in English and then in Spanish,” said Arias, sitting in front of a large curio cabinet full of wrestling memorabilia. “I didn’t know what a leap frog was… a drop-down, take-down, headlock, hip toss, nothing like that. My first language was Spanish, so when I learned wrestling language it was casadora, salta, brinca, plancha.”

Not only did Arias find that the language was different at the world’s most successful wrestling organization, even the most basic activity of “locking up” with your opponent was different.

“In Mexico, everything is right handed, the rest of the world, it’s left handed,” Arias said. “I never knew that because I was always a luchador and most of the time I would wrestle, the guys would adapt to me. When I got to (WWE), I had to learn how to wrestle left handed … but, it took me about two or three months to adapt.”

Two years into competing and learning in FCW, Arias had teamed with Tito Colon – known as Epico – to form “Los Aviadores” and had held the Tag Team Championships twice.

Just as Arias was beginning to make the jump to NXT, the WWE’s televised developmental program, a familiar name popped up.

Luis Urive was signed by WWE and sent straight to the promotion’s flagship TV show, Raw. Urive had left Consejo in Mexico City where since 2004 he had performed by a name very familiar to Arias – Mistico.

 

What goes around, comes around

From the start, Arias was told by WWE that if he did not want to work with Urive, he would not have to. For his part, Arias was willing to do whatever the company needed, although it looked like their paths may not even cross.

It was not long before Arias had no choice but to deal with the Mistico/Urive situation.

Urive was performing as Sin Cara in 2011 when it was announced by WWE that he had been suspended as part of the organization’s “wellness program.” In an interview with record.com.mx, Urive blamed a knee injection received in Mexico for testing positive for steroids.

Whatever the reason for the failed test was, Arias received the – first – call of a lifetime before a taping of the WWE Smackdown TV show on August 12, 2011. Arias headed to Sacramento, Calif., and for the first time, he was the one using Urive’s character’s name.

“I ended up coming in and substituting for 30 days, it was crazy,” Arias said. “After that, we ended up talking a little about what happened (with the Mistico name).”

Arias found out that Urive had joined Consejo and was given the Mistico name, unaware that the name had ever been taken from him to begin with. He also found out that the name was very close to Urive’s heart because it was the one that he used to become a star in Mexico.

After Urive returned and took over the Sin Cara character yet again, there was a brief story line involving both men playing Sin Cara and competing for the opportunity to be the “real” Sin Cara – perhaps a case of art imitating life. It was at this time when Arias and Urive travelled together and things really went south.

“I tried to be his friend, but he’s selfish,” Arias said. “We tried to help him out and unfortunately, he’s just one of those guys that doesn’t care about other people.”

After the writers decided that Arias would lose the Sin Cara name, he adopted Hunico yet again, this time staying at the top level of WWE – albeit without a mask. Soon, Arias would be out for almost a year with an injury and that is when he says that Urive began developing questionable injuries.

“He would always be injured or always come up with excuses not to wrestle,” Arias said. “They gave him all the opportunities you can imagine. The last one I heard was that he lost his passport to come to the states. He was traveling from Mexico City to wrestle up here every week. They don’t do that. He had a great deal.”

Arias says that not many wrestlers get the chance to live outside the country and travel back and forth to wrestle weekly for the WWE. He did not like to see Urive taking advantage of the company.

“Then they called me one day and were like, ‘Hey, you want to take over the Sin Cara character,’” Arias said. “I was like ‘What, are you talking to me?’”

Arias said that immediately his life flashed before his eyes – in a good way. Segundo Barrio. The name that was taken from him, Mistico. His Dad.

Since 2013, Arias has been Sin Cara in the WWE, competing four nights a week – sometimes six – at the highest level of his chosen profession.

As for Urive, Arias says that the night he returned to the ring in Oklahoma City in 2013 as Sin Cara, the former Sin Cara tweeted that he was eating tacos in Mexico City. He cannot help but to laugh when he throws that anecdote in.

Urive now wrestles as Caristico across Mexico, because Consejo still owns the name Mistico and he will never be able to use it again.

Arias became Sin Cara permanently in 2013 and signed a new three-year contract with the WWE in 2017.

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Sin Cara and Sin Carito play in the ring prior to a wrestling workout. Photo by Jason Green, Borderzine.com.

The most important name of all

Although Arias has moved out of Segundo Barrio, he often finds himself back there when he is home from his WWE commitments.

On a recent Wednesday night, following a 30 -minute ride from his impressive two-story home on a quiet cul-de-sac on El Paso’s west side, Arias walked into a stark gym where several older men waited for him to train. Tagging along with Arias this night was his nine-year-old son.

In the ring was regionally famous wrestler Cinta de Plata who spent the next hour running through tumbles and falls with a deftness that belied his advanced age – and weight. Arias listened to his former instructor just as intently as he must have as a 22-year-old in the empty arenas of Juarez. Also listening – and running through every move near flawlessly – was London, known to many of his father’s WWE co-workers as “Sincarito” (little Sin Cara).

“He’s done amateur (wrestling) since he was six years old, but his love is professional wrestling,” Arias said. “But, I want him to learn the basics. This is a sport where you’ve got to be able to train well and start at the bottom.”

Of course, it can be hard for someone named “Dad” to say no when London wants to jump off of the top rope on to him, also. Then again, with the life that Arias has led, he has a lot more important advice to give than just wrestling safety.

“When you become a father, everything changes,” Arias said. “You realize, all of the stuff I did when I was young, ‘man, what did I do that for?’ Hanging around with the wrong crowd. Getting in fights – for nothing. I wasn’t even getting paid.”

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Sin Carito “pins” Sin Cara while being watched by his trainer, Cinta de Plata, and a friend. Photo by Jason Green, Borderzine.com.

With the strenuous schedule of a professional wrestler, the time in the ring – even under the watchful eye of Cinta de Plata – can mean a lot for both father and son.

“It’s just father-son time. We both love wrestling,” Arias said with a smile.

After both Arias and London were sufficiently sweaty and tired, Arias loaded his car with his instructor and fellow trainees to drive them back to the familiar bridge that connects El Paso and Juarez.

Two students discussed who Arias was in Spanish out of earshot of the highly successful WWE star.

“He’s in what?”

“The WWE… on TV.”

“Mistico?”

“Sin Cara.”

“Oh, Sin Cara.”

“His name’s Jorge?”

“Yes.”

“Where’s he from?”

“Right here. Segundo Barrio.”

 

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