The current EWF World Champion discusses his career, inspirations, recent travels all over Southern California and more…click below for the full article. The Empire Wrestling Federation’s “School of Hard Knocks” has contributed many talented stars to the world of pro wrestling. Wrestlers that first graced Jesse Hernandez’s mat have ascended to the glitzy ranks of WWE, such as Rico Constantino, Melina Perez, and Keiji Sakoda, while others such as the Havana Pitbulls have become internationally renowned on the independent scene. The next EWF star who is poised to hit these elite levels is Bino Gambino. The 21-year-old EWF World Champion is currently making waves all over SoCal, competing regularly in PWG and NWA Pro while also appearing recently in UPW and HPW. Bino was kind enough to discuss his career thus far with SCU’s Jay Doring.
Were you a fan of wrestling growing up? What first hooked you in?
I was first a fan of pro wrestling when I was 3 years old. It caught my attention really early and I watched until I was around 10 or 11 and got tired of it because all I ever watched was WWE and at that time, and it got really predictable when they put guys like Macho Man against no namers like Bob Johnson or something. Then when I was about 14 I got hooked back in with the whole “Attitude” era. What hooked me in originally… Hulk Hogan!
Who were your favorite wrestlers when you first started watching?
I really enjoyed watching Hulk Hogan when I was little, as he was always fun to watch because he had so much charisma and looked like a superhero. Jake “the Snake” Roberts was another wrestler I was a fan of because he was interesting to watch for some reason. But if there was one wrestler I idolized and impersonated as a little kid, it was Bret Hart, because he wasn’t huge and jacked, he was just believable to me as a badass who knew what he was doing inside the ring.
What inspired you to become a pro wrestler yourself?
I never ever thought I’d be a pro wrestler. Sure, I’ve always fantasized about it growing up but never thought I had a chance in hell with all the 6 foot whatever giants that were wrestling at the time. I’ve never been the best athlete when it came to sports. Most the time growing up if there were team captains in school I’d always be picked close to last. Never did I think I could actually pursue being a wrestler. What inspired me was that as I was getting older I saw a lot of wrestlers who were my height, and I thought there might be a chance to chase my dream so I went to School of Hard Knocks 3 days after getting my driver’s license, and have been training ever since.
You chose to train at EWF’s School of Hard Knocks, run by Jesse Hernandez – what led you to choose that school to learn how to wrestle?
I’ve lived in Santa Monica so my first choice at the time was the Inoki Dojo, because it was a couple miles away from me and where I went to high school, but I found out that you had to be accepted-so I believe it or not, I found out about the School of Hard Knocks in a book called “Pro Wrestling for Dummies.” I don’t think at the time there was a better place to learn the basics and what it takes to be a pro wrestler. I got trained over the years by a lot of great wrestlers including Jesse himself, Cincinnati Red, Ricky Reyes, TJ Perkins, and so much more. Jesse Hernandez is a very patient trainer and a good guy that really wants to help his students out so they know what’s important when making a match. I had faith in him to train me correctly and he had faith in me to listen to his advice and to use it.
What was your training experience like?
Training was tough. It puts a lot of punishment on your body to bump around on your back and neck for hours but you get used to it after a while. The day after my first training, it literally felt like I was in a car wreck. What’s tough is that I had to drive over 2 hours there in traffic, train for 3 to 4 hours, and then drive about an hour and a half to two hours back so my body would get stiff in the car. But all in all Jesse helped me get basics down so I could start doing matches and that’s when I would learn how to put different moves I wanted into my arsenal.
You debuted for EWF in 2003, what were your thoughts on the early matches in your career? Most memorable moments from your first year as a pro?
My early matches were a blast. Ever since coming to EWF I really wanted to work the Covina shows because they seemed real fun and special to do. I had my first 2 matches in a parking lot so it wasn’t anything spectacular, but the first match I was really proud of was my third match against Liger Rivera in Covina and it was a big accomplishment for me. The most memorable moments my first year were that in 2004, Jesse helped me and Alex Koslov break into Mexico to work at the Auditorio de Tijuana. It was crazy to work in such a huge venue, with large crowds, and that had prestige. I saw the Rey Mysterio DVD and he talked about how he and a lot of stars today have wrestled there, so to wrestle there was a huge honor. We got over with the fans really well there and I’ve been working there on and off ever since.
When did you debut the beanies as a part of your ring attire? Do they hold any special significance?
The beanies are just a part of the gimmick. For some strange reason the only thing they signify is my confidence to prove people wrong and be the best wrestler to my ability. It sounds cheesy but the real me has always not been the most coordinated or the best athlete, so by putting on the beanie, it gives me a fresh start. When I look in the mirror and I see myself in my gear and the beanie, I don’t see the guy I was when I was growing up, I see Bino Gambino, the guy that strives to be the best at what I do and won’t except failure. The guy that eats, sleeps, and breathes pro wrestling. Kinda like nerdy Clark Kent putting on his tights and cape and becoming badass, take no prisoners, Superman.
How much of the real Bino Gambino comes through in the ring?
A lot of my friends in this sport will say that the Bino Gambino in the ring is the Bino Gambino outside the ring, for the most part. I’m definitely not as goofy or obnoxious outside the ring but I am pretty hyper and like to mess around. The real me has never stuck with a particular anything in life because most everything gets old to me real fast. I will always be a part of the sport of professional wrestling one way or another because I love it with a passion. I’ve never cared to be the best in anything in life but wresting is one thing that I strive day by day to be the best. I refuse to settle for anything less and strive to be one of the most well rounded wrestlers out there.
What do you feel have been your most memorable feuds in the EWF?
I had really one memorable feud in EWF and that’s with Jason King. Jason and I wrestled more matches than I can count and I really liked all of them. It’s weird because he and I have totally different styles and psychology but for some reason we have really good chemistry in the ring. I can say that Jason King has made me push myself to have the better matches and I am a better wrestler because of our feud. Now that we don’t wrestle each other much anymore, every EWF show we compete with each other to have the match of the night and I think we both have better matches because of it. I’d say he is one wrestler in SoCal that is really underrated and he has a ton to offer.
You have collected a great deal of honors during your stint in the Empire Wrestling Federation – 2003 Rookie of the Year, 2-time Cruiserweight Champion, Tag Team Champion, and you are the 2-time and current World Champion. How does it feel to have a promotion have that much faith in you to be their top star?
It feels pretty awesome! Like I said earlier, I’ve never been the best or top pick in any sport in my life so to accomplish all that in the EWF is pretty crazy to me. It’s kinda funny, because the first indy show I ever watched was while I was beginning my training and after the show I set a goal that one day I would be the EWF American Champion. I never ever in my wildest day imagined myself winning the World title. It’s kinda ironic, because the only belt I have never won in the promotion, was the one I set out to win originally, but having the fed have that much faith to give me the World title is one of my biggest accomplishments to date and to wrestle in Mexico and defend it in the Auditorio is really cool as well.
The Guerrero family has had a heavy involvement in the EWF in the past year. What impact has their presence had in the EWF?
To me, it’s surreal that I have someone like Mando Guerrero helping the EWF out. Eddie Guerrero has been the biggest inspiration in my career, to be my height and to have it all. He had the look, the ability, the charisma, the everything. His passing was tragic and I still can’t believe he has passed. But after he passed, Mando Guerrero made his presence in the EWF as the commissioner, and I have the opportunity every show to gain some of the same knowledge from him that Eddie knew, and that itself is amazing. I recently had the opportunity to wrestle Chavo Guerrero [Sr.] and that is a huge honor because since I’ll never get the chance the wrestle Eddie, it doesn’t get much closer than wrestling his older brother so I’m very thankful I got that opportunity.
What factors made you decide to make a concerted effort to take other bookings outside of the EWF?
What made me take other bookings outside EWF was simply exposure. I was training at the Inoki Dojo when Bryan Danielson was training the class about a year or so ago, and he told me that I could train every day, but if I work as many shows as possible, that’s the only way I can really learn what to do and what not to do. The EWF is one of my favorite places to work but I checked out a PWG show one time, and was blown away by the wrestling. I looked at the talent there and said to myself that by wrestling these people, I can really up my game as a pro wrestler, and push myself more than ever before. I love pushing myself and I love challenges so I knew the night I checked out my first PWG event that that’s where I needed to be.
You debuted for Pro Wrestling Guerrilla at Card Subject to Change 2 teaming with TJ Perkins and Fergal Devitt against Disco Machine, Ronin and Nemesis. How did you first get booked with PWG?
I got booked because I have been wrestling in EWF for 3 years exclusively and then I went to the PWG shows and offered to help out. They knew I was trying to get work so when the time was right I got the opportunity. It was really exciting to be booked with PWG because it was such a challenge for me branch out and explore the wrestling scene and PWG is where its at if you’re a young wrestler hungry for exposure. It has some of the top indy talent from around the country, and I look at that as an opportunity to up my game and become the best wrestler I can be. To wrestle alongside TJ Perkins was awesome because he helped train me and I never got the opportunity to work in a match with him, so to debut in PWG tagging with him was really cool. Fergal Devitt is another wrestler that I never worked with until then, but is a hell of a wrestler and I would love to work with him again some day.
You have formed a regular tag team with TopGun Talwar in PWG, what has it been like working with TopGun and Tits McGee?
TopGun is a great guy and a lot of fun to work with. Its been fun working with him because I’m used to working singles matches and working a tag match is much different, plus I’m tagging with the nuttiest wrestler on the roster so it’s a challenge. Tits McGee is a skank and Ill never trust that b*tch again!
Your biggest match in PWG was no doubt May 6th in La Habra in a 6-man tag, when you faced off with Super Dragon. What was it like to go toe-to-toe with the most well-known and feared wrestler in Southern California?
I was really excited to go against Super Dragon in La Habra. Like you said, Super Dragon is very well known not only in SoCal, but also all around the wrestling scene. I really liked that the match got some hype, because it put extra pressure on me and I’m all about stepping up my game and overcoming challenges. Super Dragon is a great wrestler but I wrestle a little different style, so it was interesting to see how it would turn out. Even though I have yet to see it, the match felt great and I’m happy I got to opportunity to square off with him.
You have appeared on several NWA Pro shows at the Inoki Dojo in recent months. How did you get hooked up with the dojo?
Well I have been training at the Inoki Dojo for the past few months, along with training at School of Hard Knocks. It’s just that the dojo is about 15 minutes away from where I live as opposed to 2-3 hours. Plus I get trained by Rocky Romero, along with Durango Kid, Shinsuke Nakamura, Minoru Tanaka, and many other great wrestlers at times, so I learn a lot of aspects necessary to hopefully get me into Japan one day. I work the dojo shows as much as I can unless I have other obligations to wrestle elsewhere but I really enjoy working the shows and I learn a lot from them as well.
You were a part of the AWS/WPW Best of the West tournament this year, squaring off against Junior and TJ Perkins. How did you feel about your matches and the show itself?
I was excited to work the AWS/ WPW show because I was wrestling for 2 promotions I never worked for before, and on top of that it was the Best of the West. I worked Junior in the first round and everything turned out relatively smooth and I was happy with it. Wrestling TJ was something I wanted to do for a while, because he’s helped train me at the School of Hard Knocks and I’ve learned a lot from him. He’s been in the business for a long time and deserved to win it. I’m just happy I got the chance to work him and I was happy with how our match turned out.
You teamed with fellow EWF star Jason King at the most recent UPW show, “Powerplay,” against Evan Jelik and Andrew Hellman. What did you think about UPW and was it different from your experience in other independents?
Working for UPW was really cool and has been something I’ve always wanted to do. I enjoyed the working environment and wrestling there was lot of fun. Plus I got to tag with Jason King who I have great in-ring chemistry with so it made the match that much easier. Its always different working at a place with a new promoter, new talent, and new crowd because you have to make a lasting impression on everyone but overall I was happy with my performance and hope to be back there soon.
Who in the wrestling business has had the biggest influence on your career?
I’d say the 2 biggest influences in my career are Chris Jericho and Eddie Guerrero, for the simple fact that they are around my height, they have it all, and they’ve done it all. They have the wrestling ability, the look, the charisma, the psychology, and are the most well rounded wrestlers of all time if you ask me. They’ve wrestled in Mexico, Japan, ECW, WCW, WWE, and anywhere else that matters because they know how to lock horns with anybody and have a great match and that’s what I aspire to be.
Are there any wrestlers, past or present, whose matches you study to gain new knowledge?
I try and study a lot of Chris Jericho and Eddie Guerrero tapes. Like I said before, they have the traits I want to have to someday make it big so I watch a lot of their matches. I also watch a lot of Bret Hart, because I used to love watching him growing up and he has so much that I can learn from watching his matches.
What do you think is the quality or character trait you need the most to succeed in professional wrestling?
I’d say you would need to have determination to succeed in pro wrestling. I never knew coming into this sport/business how much competition there is and how harsh this business can be. I’ve only been wrestling over 3 years now and I cannot explain to the normal person how much pain is involved in this sport- not just in the ring but when you’re trying to sleep and do other activities outside the ring. So I’d say if you have any chance to make it anywhere as a wrestler, you have to be willing to put it all on the line everyday, have a “never quit” attitude, and be determined to make it.
Are there any wrestlers in SoCal or other places in the US you’d especially like to wrestle?
I’d like to wrestle a lot of people in SoCal, preferably PWG because I’ve wrestled everyone in EWF and PWG has a lot of top talent. Out of the people I haven’t already wrestled with, I’d like to wrestle Scott Lost, Davey Richards, Chris Sabin, Chris Hero, B-Boy, Frankie Kazarian, Chris Daniels, and AJ Styles along with many more I can’t think off the top of my head- but yeah, there are a lot of wrestlers I’d love to lock horns with that I have yet to. As far as wrestling elsewhere in the US, I just want to keep working for PWG as much as possible and hopefully work for ROH soon enough.
Who else in SoCal do you think is poised to become a major star in the future?
I think there is a lot of talent in SoCal today that is poised to be major stars. SoCal probably has some of the best wrestlers in the business today and I’m fortunate that I get the chance to wrestle with a lot of good talent on a regular basis, because there is nothing worse than trying to have a great match with someone that doesn’t know what they’re doing and thats hardly ever the case when working in SoCal. Basically, what I’m trying to say is that SoCal talent is destined to take over the wrestling scene.
What are your long-term goals in professional wrestling?
I hope to wrestle in Japan as soon as possible. I’d love to wrestle for ROH some day as well. But my major long-term goal in wrestling is and has always been to wrestle for WWE. As much as it pains me to sometimes watch the product nowadays, that is my dream. I want to wrestle on TV. I want to wrestle at Wrestlemania one day. I want to even earn a championship there. It sounds like a stretch and unrealistic for my size but I say that if you’re going to dream, you might as well dream big and WWE is the top of the mountain to me. If I didn’t think I had a chance to make it to the dance, I would have never put on my dancing shoes to begin with.
Finally, is there anything else you’d like to say to you fans in Southern California and beyond?
Yea just keep watching my matches, keep supporting pro wrestling, and thank you for supporting me by watching my matches in pro wrestling!!! -Peace-