During his residency in San Diego, Konnan became a bodybuilder, later a wrestler, after meeting promoter John Roberts. Konnan is impressed by Mexican wrestling, made up of masked wrestlers and a different culture from the US one. He begins training with Psicosis, Rey Mysterio, Halloween and Damian 666.

He Debuts for the Universal Wrestling Association under the name El Centurión. Later, he left UWA to go to Empresa Mexicana de la Lucha Libre, where he was immediately pushed into the main event.

Here he assumes the name of Konnan El Barbaro, but loses his mask against Perro Aguayo in a Lucha de Apuesta, mask vs. hair. On June 9, 1991, Konnan became the first CMLL World Heavyweight Champion by winning a tournament in Mexico City, however he lost the title in his first defense against Cien Caras on August 18, 1991.

In 1992, Konnan was spotted by World Wrestling Federation talent scout Pat Patterson after the Mexican had served in the federation as a jobber under the name of Max Moon.