Santana at an independent show in 2011
|Birth name||Merced Solis|
May 10, 1953 |
|Resides||Roxbury Township, New Jersey|
|Professional wrestling career|
|Ring name(s)||El Matador
|Billed height||6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)|
|Billed weight||234 lb (106 kg)|
|Billed from||Tocula, Mexico|
|Trained by||Yasuhiro Kojima
Merced Solis (born May 10, 1953 in Mission, Texas), better known by his ring name Tito Santana, is a Mexican-American semi-retired professional wrestler whose heyday spanned from the late 1970s to the early 1990s, though he continues to appear on the independent circuit. He is best known from his time in the World Wrestling Federation where he competed almost exclusively from 1979 to 1993 (missing part of 1980 and returning in `83). Solis was twice WWF Intercontinental Champion and twice co-holder of the WWF Tag Team Championship and helped bridge the gap between the 1980s "Rock 'n Wrestling Connection" era to the 1990s "New Generation" era. During his time in the WWF, Santana, despite being born and raised in Texas, was billed as hailing from the Mexican town of Tocula. Tocula is actually the town of Toluca, Mexico.
- 1 Career
- 1.1 Collegiate and professional football
- 1.2 Early career
- 1.3 World Wrestling Federation (1979–1993)
- 1.4 International World Class Championship Wrestling (1991)
- 1.5 WrestleMania
- 1.6 Eastern Championship Wrestling (1993)
- 1.7 International World Class Championship Wrestling (1994–1995)
- 1.8 American Wrestling Federation (1994–1996)
- 1.9 Return to The World Wrestling Federation (1997-1998)
- 1.10 Regional Championship Wrestling (1997-2013)
- 1.11 World Championship Wrestling (2000)
- 1.12 Sporadic appearances
- 2 Personal life
- 3 Film
- 4 In wrestling
- 5 Championships and accomplishments
- 6 References
- 7 External links
Collegiate and professional football
Solis played tight end for West Texas A&M University, where he was a member of Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity. The team was quarterbacked by future professional wrestler Tully Blanchard, who would introduce him into the world of professional wrestling. After graduation, Solis was cut by the Kansas City Chiefs during training camp. He played one season for the BC Lions of the Canadian Football League, appearing in 13 regular-season games.
He pro debuted in Championship Wrestling from Florida in 1977, also worked in Georgia Championship Wrestling in 1977-78, until he joined the World Wrestling Federation in 1979. After a near 3 year run in the American Wrestling Association from 1980 to 1982 he returned to World Wrestling Federation in 1983.
World Wrestling Federation (1979–1993)
Debut and Tag Team Champion (1979–1982)
Santana had his first taste of WWF success in 1979 when he teamed with Ivan Putski to defeat Johnny Valiant and Jerry Valiant for the WWF Tag Team Championship at Madison Square Garden in October 1979. The duo held the titles for close to six months before losing to the Wild Samoans in April 1980.
Intercontinental Champion (1983–1986)
In 1983, he engaged in a lengthy feud with Intercontinental Champion Magnificent Don Muraco. Santana finally won the title on February 11, 1984, becoming the first Mexican-American wrestler to win the WWF Intercontinental Championship. Shortly before winning the Intercontinental Championship, Santana fought The Iron Sheik to a double-disqualification for the WWF World Heavyweight Championship at the Philadelphia Spectrum. After successfully defending the Intercontinental Championship against Muraco, Santana would be targeted by Greg Valentine, and in September 1984 in London, Ontario, Valentine defeated Santana to win the title. Soon after, the plot had Valentine injuring Santana's knee and putting Santana out of action for several months.
Santana returned in December 1984 and set his sights on getting the Intercontinental title back from Valentine. During this time he started using The Hammer's finishing hold, the Figure four leglock and also wrestled in tag-team competition with Blackjack Mulligan. Santana wrestled at the first ever WrestleMania at Madison Square Garden in March 1985, and in the opening match defeated a masked wrestler known as The Executioner ("Playboy" Buddy Rose), making him submit to the figure four in 4:05. Santana made an appearance in the ring later in the card during the IC Championship match between Valentine and the Junkyard Dog, Santana's friend. Wearing street clothes, Santana rushed to the ring to inform referee Dick Kroll that Valentine had used his feet on the ropes to help pin JYD. Despite having already called for the bell, Kroll restarted the match and Valentine was counted out as he didn't get back into the ring to continue.
Santana and Valentine went on to wrestle a memorable series of singles and tag team matches with neither gaining the upper hand. They wrestled in a variety of different types of matches such as regular title matches, No Disqualification matches, and Lumberjack matches.
Santana recaptured the Intercontinental title from Valentine in a brutal steel cage match in Baltimore on July 6, 1985. Valentine, incensed over losing the belt, destroyed it by repeatedly bashing it against the steel cage. This forced the WWF to get a new Intercontinental title belt (in reality, the WWF had made a new IC Championship belt to go along with the new image they were trying to promote and 'smashing' the old IC belt was seen as a way of moving forward with Santana being the first to wear the new belt). Tito would hold onto the title until February 8, 1986 when he lost it to Randy Savage at the Boston Garden after Savage knocked him out with a foreign object that went unnoticed by referee Danny Davis.
Although Santana lost the IC title before the WWF's storyline that Danny Davis was a corrupt official who clearly favoured the heels, the WWF used Santana losing the belt because of Davis' bias to include him in a six-man tag team match at Wrestlemania III on March 29, 1987 where he teamed with The British Bulldogs against The Hart Foundation and their 'new' partner, former referee "Dangerous" Danny Davis. Davis had also been the assigned referee when the Harts 'stole' the WWF World Tag Team Championship from the Bulldogs in January 1987. The story for WM3 being that the Bulldogs and Santana wanted revenge on Davis as the one responsible for losing their respective titles. The Harts and Davis won the match when Davis used manager Jimmy Hart's megaphone to 'knock out' and pin the Bulldogs Davey Boy Smith.
Strike Force (1987–1989)
Santana formed the popular tag team Strike Force with Canadian Rick Martel in the late 1980s. They defeated the Hart Foundation for the WWF World Tag Team titles and held them for five months before losing to Demolition at Wrestlemania IV. Due to a neck injury inflicted on Martel (kayfabe) shortly after the loss, the team was inactive for several months. Immediately after the injury, Santana introduced a new tag team to the WWF, the Powers of Pain, whom he briefly managed. The Powers were introduced as mercenaries to help Martel and Santana gain revenge on Demolition for both the title loss and the injury to Martel. The Powers would later find more permanent management with The Baron before finally turning heel at the 1988 Survivor Series by stealing away Demolition's manager Mr. Fuji, leaving the champions as babyfaces.
Martel returned at the Royal Rumble in 1989 and reunited with Santana. However, in their WrestleMania match against the Brain Busters (Tully Blanchard and Arn Anderson), Martel turned on Santana during the match after accidentally being hit by Santana's Flying forearm smash. Martel refused to tag in and walked back to the dressing room leaving Santana to face both opponents alone (the Busters then easily defeated Tito with a Spike piledriver). In an interview with "Mean" Gene Okerlund immediately following the match, Martel called Santana a loser and said he was sick and tired of carrying him. His feud with the newly heel Martel would last throughout 1989, with both men on opposing teams at both SummerSlam and Survivor Series and Santana defeating Martel in the finals of the 1989 King of the Ring tournament. Tito even allied with his former archenemies Demolition against Martel, defeating him and The Fabulous Rougeaus in a six man tag match on June 22, 1989 in Hartford, Connecticut.
Various rivalries (1990–1991)
After the Ultimate Warrior won the WWF Championship from Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania VI and vacated the Intercontinental Title, Santana took part in an eight-man tournament to name a new Intercontinental Champion. Santana made it to the finals, where he lost to Mr. Perfect. Following that loss, Santana occasionally teamed with fellow fan favorite, Koko B. Ware.
At the 1990 Survivor Series, he teamed with Nikolai Volkoff and The Bushwhackers. He was the winner and sole survivor in the elimination-style match against Sgt. Slaughter, Boris Zhukov, and The Orient Express. As a result, Santana advanced to the final elimination match, teaming with Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior against Martel, Ted DiBiase, the Warlord, and Power and Glory. Santana would eliminate the Warlord before being pinned by DiBiase. Santana would then wrestle at WrestleMania VII, losing to The Mountie in a little over a minute.
International World Class Championship Wrestling (1991)
While taking a short hiatus from the World Wrestling Federation, he wrestled in IWCCW briefly where he held a feud with Tony Atlas. On an IWCCW card in Brooklyn, New York, Atlas defeated Dusty Wolfe. After the bout, he openly challenged any of his fellow wrestlers to try and beat him. Tito Santana immediately responded, charging out and dropkicking Atlas out of the ring. Following the event, Santana and Atlas scheduled a match for June 15 in Nassau, Bahamas for the IWCCW title, where Santana sought to avenge his former tag team partner Ivan Putski, whom Atlas had hung over the ropes previously. Santana had the upper hand in the bout until Atlas' manager Tony Rumble interfered by distracting and enraging Santana from the ring apron. During the verbal altercation between the two and then Santana going after Rumble, Tony Atlas took the opportunity to blindside Santana with a pair of brass knuckles from behind. The referee saw this illegal attack, and disqualified Tony Atlas.
El Matador and departure (1991–1993)
Santana then adopted a Spanish bullfighter gimmick and the nickname "El Matador" in 1991. Under this gimmick, he faced Shawn Michaels in the opening bout of WrestleMania VIII at the Hoosier Dome in Indianapolis, Indiana. Santana claims that at the time he was being considered for a run with the WWF Championship but says that the spot was given to Bret Hart; the WWF was considering expanding into South and Central America, and felt that having Santana, its most high profile Latino wrestler, as champion would aid its cause. The plan was eventually scrapped and the decision was made to expand into Canada, thus making the Canadian-born Hart a more viable option as champion. In any case, Santana wrestled under the "El Matador" gimmick through 1993, mostly as a jobber to the stars. This included a loss to Papa Shango at SummerSlam (1992). In his final in-ring WrestleMania appearance, he defeated Shango at WrestleMania IX in the untelevised opening match. In his final appearance on WWF programming, Santana defeated friend and frequent tag team partner Virgil on a 1993 episode of Wrestling Challenge. As a sign of mutual respect between the two, both men embraced after the match.
Santana, along with only Hulk Hogan, holds the unique distinction of appearing in the first nine WrestleManias, accumulating a 2-7 record during that time. Officially he is recognized only for the first eight Wrestlemanias and a 1-7 record as the match against Papa Shango at WrestleMania IX was dark. On Right After Wrestling, hosted by Arda Ocal and Jimmy Korderas, Tito stated that he was somewhat disappointed with being in the first match at the original WrestleMania in 1985. Vince McMahon told Santana that his reason for putting him in the opening match was to kick the show off with a quality match, something he knew Tito, as a solid fan-favorite and former Intercontinental Champion, would produce. Unfortunately for Santana, despite winning the IC title later in 1985 and two years later winning the Tag Team title as part of Strike Force, he would never again win a televised match at a Wrestlemania event.
Eastern Championship Wrestling (1993)
Santana played a role in the formative years of ECW. Then known as Eastern Championship Wrestling, he won the ECW Heavyweight Championship in August 1993 by defeating former WWF rival Don Muraco but forfeited the championship later that year to Shane Douglas.
International World Class Championship Wrestling (1994–1995)
After leaving ECW, Tito Santana returned to IWCCW where he wrestled some of his old WWF rivals such as Hercules Hernandez, Rick Martel, and Greg Valentine. During his second stint, he won the vacant IWCCW Heavyweight Championship (a title which had been vacated by Tony Atlas a man Santana first feuded with during his first stint in IWCCW back in 1991, Tony Atlas had left IWCCW for WCW back in 1992) with a tournament victory over Greg Valentine who later claimed the title in a rematch. In IWCCW Santana resumed his feuds from the WWF with Rick Martel and Greg Valentine. Santana also agreed to a title vs title match with Valentine when Valentine was IWCCW champion and Santana was AWF champion.
American Wrestling Federation (1994–1996)
During 1994 and 1996 Santana wrestled in the short-lived American Wrestling Federation. He was both the first and last AWF Heavyweight Champion, defeating Bob Orton, Jr. in a tournament final for the inaugural belt in November 1994, and losing and regaining the title from Orton on the same night in October 1996. Santana was slightly considered the top babyface of the company, and its major champion along with Orton (who was the top heel)
Return to The World Wrestling Federation (1997-1998)
Santana returned to the WWF as a Commentator in the Spanish Broadcast table, He called on Monday Night Raw, as well as PPV events, he was last doing Spanish commentary at WrestleMania XIV.
Regional Championship Wrestling (1997-2013)
July 19, 1997 in Morgantown, PA. Tito Santana lost by DQ to "Playboy" Jonathon Luvstruk w/Bodacious Pretty Boy in the finals of the United States title tournament at RCW's Battleground event. Aug. 8, 2009 in Leesport, PA. Tito Santana defeated Jerome Hendrix at RCW's Rumblemania 6 event. May 6, 2012 in Reading, PA. Tito Santana beat Tokyo Dragon w/Rich Rogers in tournament final to become RCW champion at RCW's Rumblemania 8 event. May 10, 2013 in Reading, PA. Tito Santana & Tokyo Dragon beat Mad Russian, Jack Molson & Rich Rogers in a title vs. hair match, Tito cut Rogers's hair at RCW's Megabrawl 6 event.
World Championship Wrestling (2000)
Tito Santana continues to make appearances on the independent circuit. On March 13, 2004 he was inducted to the WWE Hall of Fame, with an induction speech by his WrestleMania VIII opponent Shawn Michaels. In September 2008, he was inducted into the Spanish Hall of Fame of Pro Wrestling (Salón del Catch).
On the November 15, 2010 "Old School" episode of Raw, he ring-announced Alberto Del Rio.
On April 14, 2012 he made an appearance wrestling a match for Pro Wrestling Superstars against Shawn Spears defeating him with an inside cradle
In July of 2012, Santana embarked on a 3 day tour of Saskatchewan, Canada with High Impact Wrestling Canada. He wrestled and defeated Jumpin' Joe by pinfall in Yorkton, SK on July 16th, lost by disqualification to Rex Roberts at Pile O' Bones Rumble XVII in Regina, SK on July 17th, and then on July 18th defeated King Kash by pinfall in Saskatoon, SK.
On September 14, 2012, Santana made an unadvertised appearance for Chikara, when he entered the 2012 King of Trios tournament, teaming with Mihara and The Mysterious and Handsome Stranger, with the three losing to the Spectral Envoy (Frightmare, Hallowicked and UltraMantis Black) in their first round match.
On December 4, 2012, The Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum announced Tito Santana will be inducted into their Modern Category. The PWHF Induction took place on May 18, 2013 in Johnstown, NY.
On April 19, 2014, Tito Santana competed in a match with "The German Menace" Kraig Stagg on ECPW's iPPV "Super Showcase Saturday".
While attending West Texas A&M University, Solis was a member of Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity. He is now a Spanish teacher and basketball coach at Eisenhower Middle School in Roxbury Township, New Jersey where he lives with his wife Leah and their three sons Matthew, Michael, and Mark. His wife operates Santana's Hair Salon in Succasunna, New Jersey. He also teaches wrestling classes at the New Jersey-based Independent Wrestling Federation. He still wrestles at least a dozen matches per year. He was also a physical education teacher for Smalley Elementary School in Bound Brook, New Jersey.
His autobiography, Tito Santana's Tales From the Ring (ISBN 978-1-59670-325-4), was released in 2008.
Behind the Ropes: The Greatest Fraternity in the World
Santana will be featured in the professional wrestling documentary Behind the Ropes: The Greatest Fraternity in the World, which is currently in production with executive producer Alycia Kaback and The It Factor Productions.
The documentary is about that sense of fraternity and brotherhood in the world of professional wrestling. Behind the Ropes will follow Andrew “The Reinforcer” Anderson's path to becoming East Coast Pro Wrestling (ECPW)’s current heavyweight champion.
- Finishing moves
- Signature moves
Championships and accomplishments
- American Wrestling Federation
- Eastern Championship Wrestling
- House of Pain Wrestling Federation
- HoPWF Tag Team Championship (1 time)
- International World Class Championship Wrestling
- NWA Western States Sports
- National Wrestling Council
- NWC Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- New England Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame
- Class of 2011
- Northern States Wrestling Alliance
- NSWA Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame
- Pro Wrestling Illustrated
- PWI Tag Team of the Year award in 1979 – with Ivan Putski.
- PWI ranked him # 51 of the 500 best singles wrestlers in the PWI 500 in 1995.
- PWI ranked him # 93 of the 500 best singles wrestlers during the PWI Years in 2003.
- PWI ranked him # 70 of the 100 best tag teams during the PWI Years with Rick Martel in 2003.
- Renegade Wrestling Alliance
- RWA Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- USA Pro Wrestling
- USA Pro Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- Unified Championship Wrestling
- UCW Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- Universal Superstars of America
- World Wrestling Federation / World Wrestling Entertainment
- Rio Grande Valley Sports Hall of Fame
- Class of 2007
- Other titles
- CWA Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- EWA Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- GWA Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- IAW Television Championship (1 time)
- USA Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- UWS Tag Team Championship (1 time)
- "Tito Santana Profile". Online World Of Wrestling. Retrieved 2010-06-04.
- Santana, Tito (2008). Tito Santana's Tales From the Ring. Sports Publishing LLC. ISBN 978-1-59670-325-4.
- "Tito Santana Hall of Fame profile". WWE. Retrieved 2011-03-31.
- http://www.thehistoryofwwe.com/89.htm WWF Results: 1989 - WWF @ Hartford, CT - Civic Center - June 22, 1989 WWF Tag Team Champions Demolition (sub. for Shawn Michaels & Marty Jannetty) & Tito Santana defeated Rick Martel, Jacques, & Raymond Rougeau
- Inside Wrestling and Pro Wrestling Illustrated.
- Inside Wrestling, Pro Wrestling Illustrated, Wrestle America.
- "Past results". Chikara. Retrieved 2012-09-14.
- Namako, Jason (2012-09-15). "9/14 Chikara "King of Trios: Night 1" Results: Easton, PA". WrestleView. Retrieved 2012-09-15.
- "Former Hall of Fame Pro Wrestler". 2008-11-01. Retrieved 2008-11-03.
- "Santana relishes relaxed schedule". 1998-07-20. Retrieved 2008-06-09.
- "More on the Upcoming Autobiography of Tito Santana". WrestlingEpicenter. 2008-06-09. Retrieved 2008-06-09.
- Indy Reporter (February 2, 2007). "INDY NEWS: Stevie Richards & Tito Santana Clinics @ IWF Wrestling School". Impact Wrestling. Retrieved 2009-02-26.
- Winerip, Michael (2009-02-21). "Generation B: The Ram vs. Tito Santana". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-08-12.
- "Tito Santana Profile". CageMatch. Retrieved 2011-08-04.
- "The Name on the Marquee: The History of the Intercontinental Championship #9". 411Mania. Retrieved 2010-06-28.
- "The Wrestling Review Experience: Best Of Randy Savage 1985-1986". 411Mania. Retrieved 2010-06-28.
- "Dark Pegasus Video Review: The History of the Intercontinental Championship (Disc One)". 411Mania. Retrieved 2010-06-28.
- "PDRwrestling Review: The Wrestling Classic". 411Mania. Retrieved 2010-06-28.
- Royal Duncan & Gary Will (2000). Wrestling Title Histories (4th ed.). Archeus Communications. ISBN 0-9698161-5-4.
- Meltzer, Dave (2012-12-10). "Mon. update: Major Spike announcement tomorrow, Aces & 8s identity, TNA injury updates, Hall of Fame inductions announced, WWE two PPVs this weekend, Jericho schedule, Amateur wrestling hits MSG first time ever". Wrestling Observer Newsletter. Retrieved 2012-12-10.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Tito Santana.|
- Official website
- WWE Hall of Fame Profile of Tito Santana
- WrestlingEpicenter.com Interactive Interviews (2004 & 2008) with Tito Santana
- Tito Santana Interview