Emanuel Rodriguez (November 14, 1986) is a Mexican American professional wrestler better known by the ring name Kalisto. He made his professional wrestling debut in 2006, working under a mask on the Midwestern United States independent circuit as Samuray del Sol (Spanish for "Samuray of the Sun"). Having established himself as one of the top high-flyers in the area, he began working for larger national and international promotions in 2011 and was signed by Dragon Gate USA in 2012. The same year, he made his debut for Mexican promotion Asistencia Asesoría y Administración (AAA), where, in November, he was repackaged as Octagón Jr., the storyline protégé of well-known luchador Octagón. He has also worked for promotions such as Combat Zone Wrestling (CZW), Independent Wrestling Association Mid-South (IWA-MS), National Wrestling Alliance (NWA), Pro Wrestling Guerrilla (PWG) and Resistance Pro. In May 2013, he signed a developmental contract with World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), where he was renamed Kalisto. He is a former WWE Cruiserweight Champion. He is a two-time WWE United States Champion.

Early life

Rodriguez was born in Chicago, Illinois, United States, but spent his first years living in Mexico City, Mexico. In the mid-90s, when he was still in primary school, Rodriguez's family moved to Chicago, though they also kept making regular trips to Mexico City. In Chicago, he attended Curie Metropolitan High School. Rodriguez grew up a fan of Mexican professional wrestling, or lucha libre, especially workers like Tinieblas, whose mask and physique caught his attention, and Octagón, whose in-ring style caught his attention. As a child, Rodriguez bought both Tinieblas' and Octagón's replica masks. After moving to the United States, Rodriguez started watching World Wrestling Federation (WWF), World Championship Wrestling (WCW) and Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW), taking influence from the likes of Rey Mysterio, Rob Van Dam and Sabu. In high school, Rodriguez started watching independent promotions like Ring of Honor (ROH) as well as Japanese promotions. Rodriguez has a sports background in gymnastics, taekwondo, amateur wrestling and football.

Professional wrestling career

Early career

Rodriguez was initially trained in professional wrestling in 2006 at Windy City Pro Wrestling's (WCPW) training school in Chicago, where he was trained in not only American professional wrestling, but also lucha libre by a former Asistencia Asesoría y Administración (AAA) luchador. Rodriguez has later noted that because of his youth, his trainers were strict on him, leading him to contemplating quitting the school. Rodriguez made his debut for WCPW after only three weeks of training. Combining his Mexican and Japanese influences, he adopted the ring name Samuray del Sol, choosing to use the spelling "Samuray" in order to differentiate himself from several other workers using the name Samurai. Much like his childhood idols, Rodriguez also began wrestling under a mask. During his first years in the business, Samuray made a name for himself on the Chicago and Midwestern United States independent circuit.

During 2010, Samuray began branching out of the Midwest, making his debuts for Pennsylvania-based International Wrestling Cartel (IWC) and New York-based East Coast Lucha Libre (ECLL). On September 25, 2010, Samuray worked in a dark match put together by Berwyn, Illinois-based All American Wrestling (AAW) for Dragon Gate USA (DGUSA), where he unsuccessfully challenged Silas Young for the AAW Heavyweight Championship in a three-way match, which also included Gran Akuma. During 2010, Samuray made his first wrestling tour of Mexico. During another tour of Mexico in April 2011, Rodriguez suffered a serious injury at an event held by independent promotion Desastre Total Ultraviolento (DTU), when he landed on the concrete floor and hit his head on a guardrail, when diving out of the ring onto his opponents. In the aftermath of the injury, Rodriguez began suffering from post-concussion syndrome and fell into depression and contemplated quitting professional wrestling, before receiving a call to take part in a three-day tryout camp for WWE.

Asistencia Asesoría y Administración (2011–2012)

During mid-2011, Mexican luchador Crazy Boy, who saw Samuray during his Mexican debut, got him a spot in Asistencia Asesoría y Administración's (AAA) reality television program ¿Quién Pinta Para La Corona?. While taking part in the program, Samuray also returned to Crazy Boy's DTU promotion. During the taping of the program, he also underwent further training under veteran luchador Gran Apache, whom he credits with "perfecting [his] career". Although he did not earn a contract with AAA through the program, Samuray was able to make his AAA main card debut on August 19, 2012, when he teamed with Joe Líder and Juventud Guerrera in a six-man tag team match, where they were defeated by the villainous La Sociedad trio of Daga, Dark Dragon and Psicosis. During September, Samuray worked several multi man tag team matches against Los Inferno Rockers (Devil Rocker, Machine Rocker, Soul Rocker and Uro Rocker), losing all of them.

While training with Teddy Hart in Canada, Samuray received a call from AAA booker Konnan, who offered him a regular spot on the promotion's roster. On October 7, 2012, at Héroes Inmortales, Samuray was placed in his first storyline in AAA, when he, not identified, referred to only as a "mysterious fighter", approached Octagón backstage after a match. Shortly afterwards, AAA revealed that the fighter had been Samuray del Sol and he had requested for Octagón to start training him, which Octagón, having been impressed by the newcomer ever since noticing him on ¿Quién Pinta Para La Corona?, accepted. On November 15, Octagón was ambushed during an in-ring interview by El Consejo members Silver King and Toscano, who, however, were quicly chased out of the ring by Samuray del Sol. Afterwards, Octagón gave Samuray a new mask similar to the one he was wearing himself and officially adopted him as his protégé, renaming him "Octagón Jr." Prior to making his in-ring debut as Octagón Jr., Samuray wrestled one final AAA match under his old name and mask, when on November 18 he teamed with AAA World Heavyweight Champion El Mesías to defeat El Consejo members El Texano, Jr. and Silver King via disqualification. Octagón Jr. made his in-ring debut on December 2 at Guerra de Titanes, where he, Octagón and La Parka defeated his debuting storyline nemesis, Pentagón Jr., La Parka Negra and Silver King in a six-man tag team match. In May 2013, it was reported that AAA was looking to replace Samuray del Sol as Octagón Jr. due to his busy independent schedule preventing him from appearing for the promotion.

Combat Zone Wrestling (2012)

After returning from his ¿Quién Pinta Para La Corona? stint in Mexico, Samuray, looking to showcase the "new Samuray del Sol", made his debut for Combat Zone Wrestling (CZW) on February 4, 2012, in a match, where he was defeated by AR Fox. Samuray credits the match as opening him doors to bigger promotions, including Dragon Gate USA. On March 10, Samuray and Uhaa Nation survived an eight-man elimination match to qualify for the Best of the Best 11 tournament. The tournament took place on internet pay-per-view on April 14 and saw Samuray defeat Chuck Taylor and Johnny Gargano in a three-way first round match. Later that same event, Samuray was defeated in his semifinal match by AR Fox.

Dragon Gate USA and Evolve (2012–2013)

In March 2012, Dragon Gate USA announced that the promotion had signed a "mystery luchador" to a contract. On March 29, Samuray made his Dragon Gate USA main card debut at an event co-promoted by DGUSA and CZW, appearing as Masato Yoshino's surprise opponent and defeating him in the following singles match. The following day, Samuray made his pay-per-view debut at Open the Ultimate Gate 2012, defeating Johnny Vandal. On the third and final day of the triple shot weekend, Samuray wrestled in a six-way match at Mercury Rising 2012, which was won by El Generico. On April 13, Samuray made his debut for Evolve, a promotion closely affiliated with Dragon Gate USA, losing to Chuck Taylor in a three-way match, which also included Johnny Gargano. Samuray then had two singles matches against El Generico; the first on June 28 at Evolve 14 was won by El Generico and the rematch the following day at Evolve 15 was won by Samuray. Samuray returned to Dragon Gate USA on July 28, when he and El Generico were defeated in a tag team match by AR Fox and Cima. Samuray and El Generico finished their trilogy of matches against each other on September 8 at Evolve 17, where Samuray was defeated in a main event. On November 4 at Dragon Gate USA's Freedom Fight 2012, Samuray teamed with El Generico in a tag team match, where they defeated Genki Horiguchi and Ryo Saito. The two continued their winning ways on December 8 at Evolve 18, where they defeated the Super Smash Bros. (Player Uno and Stupefied). Samuray then qualified for the Evolve Championship tournament, but was eliminated by Sami Callihan in his first round four-way match, which also included Jigsaw and Rich Swann. On June 2 at Evolve 22, Samuray unsuccessfully challenged Johnny Gargano for the Open the Freedom Gate Championship, submitting after being unmasked by the champion.

Other promotions (2012–2013)

On December 14, 2012, Samuray del Sol entered the 2012 Jeff Peterson Memorial Cup, defeating Eddie Rios in his first round match. The following day, he defeated Jonathan Gresham in the quarterfinals, Jon Davis in the semifinals and finally AR Fox in the finals to win the entire tournament. On January 18, 2013, Samuray del Sol worked on the Hart Legacy Wrestling (HLW) promotion's inaugural event in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. In the opening four-way elimination tag team match, he and El Generico were victorious over the teams of Cam!kaze and Pete Wilson, Brian Cage and Trent Barreta, and Andrew Hawkes and Ryan Rollins. As a result, the two earned a spot in a main event ten man tag team match, where they teamed with Barreta, Davey Boy Smith, Jr. and Jack Evans in a losing effort against the team of Teddy Hart, Brian Cage, Cam!kaze, Flip Kendrick and Pete Wilson. On March 15, Samuray del Sol made his debut for Full Impact Pro (FIP), unsuccessfully challenging Jon Davis for the FIP World Heavyweight Championship. On March 22, Samuray del Sol made his debut for Southern California-based Pro Wrestling Guerrilla (PWG), teaming with AR Fox in a tag team match, where they were defeated by the Inner City Machine Guns (Rich Swann and Ricochet). The following day, Samuray was defeated by T.J. Perkins at another PWG event. On March 24, Samuray del Sol defeated Paul London, AR Fox and Ricochet during a one night single-elimination tournament to become the 2013 King of Flight. On April 21, Samuray del Sol, as Octagón Jr., appeared at Puerto Rican promotion World Wrestling League's (WWL) inaugural pay-per-view, Idols of Wrestling, unsuccessfully challenging Sicodélico Jr. for the Zero1 Mexico International Championship in a four-way match, which also included Axel and El Hijo de Rey Mysterio. On May 25, Samuray del Sol appeared at English promotion Southside Wrestling Entertainment's (SWE) Speed King 2 tournament, losing to Marty Scurll in his first round match. After signing with WWE, Samuray del Sol wrestled his farewell match for his longtime home promotion, AAW, on June 28, where he and Colt Cabana were defeated by The Irish Airborne (Dave Crist and Jake Crist).

World Wrestling Entertainment

WWE NXT (2013–2015)

In May 2013, it was reported that Rodriguez was undergoing pre-contract signing medical tests for World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). On May 26, it was reported that he had signed a developmental contract with WWE. On August 29, Rodriguez's new ring name was revealed as Kalisto. Kalisto made his NXT debut at a live event on September 20, defeating Baron Corbin. In April 2014, Kalisto formed a tag team with El Local, which led to him making his television debut on the May 8 NXT, where the two defeated the Legionnaires (Marcus Louis and Sylvester Lefort) in a tag team match.

The pairing with El Local only last for a few weeks and then in August Sin Cara was moved to the NXT roster and paired with Kalisto. The duo would win the #1 contender NXT Tag Team tournament. As the winners of the tournament they would face The Ascension for the NXT Tag Team Championship at NXT Takeover II. Kalisto and Cara would upset the record holding duo of Konnor & Viktor to capture the titles. After the match they announced their team would be known as the Lucha Dragons. They would continue to hold the titles until Blake & Murphy defeated them, ending their reign at 126 days

Main Roster and United States Champion (2015–present)

On March 30, Kalisto made his WWE television debut on Raw, where The Lucha Dragons and The New Day (Big E and Kofi Kingston) defeated then-WWE Tag Team Champions Tyson Kidd and Cesaro and The Ascension in an eight-man tag team match. On May 31, at Elimination Chamber, The Lucha Dragons competed in the first-ever tag team Elimination Chamber match for the WWE Tag Team Championship, but failed to win.The Lucha Dragons received another title shot on August 23 at SummerSlam in a Fatal 4-Way match, but were once again unsuccessful. In November, after Seth Rollins vacated the WWE World Heavyweight Championship due to a legitimate injury, WWE held a tournament to determine a new champion.After defeating Ryback in his first round match on the November 12 SmackDown, Kalisto was eliminated in the quarterfinals on the November 16 episode of Raw by Alberto Del Rio. On December 13, at TLC: Tables, Ladders and Chairs, the Lucha Dragons received another shot at the WWE Tag Team Championship, but were defeated by The New Day in a triple-threat ladder match, which also included The Usos. The Lucha Dragons once again failed to win the WWE Tag Team Championship on the December 22 Super SmackDown Live!, where they were defeated by The New Day.

After Sin Cara had been sidelined with a shoulder injury, Kalisto defeated United States Champion Alberto Del Rio in a non-title match with John Cena in his corner on the January 7 SmackDownFour days later on Raw, Kalisto defeated Del Rio in a rematch to win the United States Championship, his first championship on the main roster and his first singles title in WWE. However, Kalisto lost the title back to Del Rio on the January 14 episode of SmackDown, following a distraction from King Barrett. Kalisto regained the title from Del Rio on January 24 at Royal Rumble, making him a two-time United States Champion. On the January 28 SmackDown, Kalisto made his first televised title defense against Neville, where he was successful in retaining the championship. On February 21, Kalisto defeated Del Rio two falls to one in a two-out-of-three falls match on the Fastlane pre-show to retain the United States Championship. Kalisto then accepted a challenge from Ryback for a title match at WrestleMania 32 over the question of whether a "good little man" could beat a "good big man". The match ended up taking place on the WrestleMania 32 pre-show with Kalisto retaining the title. On the April 11 Raw, Kalisto and Sin Cara entered a tournament to determine number one contenders to the WWE Tag Team Championship, but were eliminated in the first round by the Dudley Boyz. On the April 21 SmackDown, Kalisto was defeated by Ryback in a non-title rematch. With Ryback's win, a United States Championship match was set between the two, taking place on May 1 at the Payback pre-show, where Kalisto retained the title. The next night on Raw, Rusev won a battle royal to earn the right to feud with Kalisto over the title, which they would settle it at Extreme Rules.

Personal life

Rodriguez is married to a woman named Abigail.

In wrestling

  • Nicknames
    • "The Most Agile Warrior in the Ring" / "El Guerrero Más Ágil en el Ring"
  • Entrance themes
    • "Cyboid" by Andrew Spuur (NXT)
    • "Lucha, Lucha" by CFO$ (NXT / WWE; September 11, 2014 – April 24, 2017)
    • "Fearless Warrior" by CFO$ (WWE; April 24, 2017-present)

Championships and accomplishments

External links

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