Tito Santana: Wikis

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Tito Santana
Ring name(s) Tito Santana
El Matador
Tino Santana
Merced Solis
Billed height 6 ft 2 in (188 cm)
Billed weight 244 lb (106 kg)
Born May 10, 1953 (1953-05-10) (age 56)
Mission, Texas
Resides Roxbury Township, New Jersey
Billed from Tocula, Mexico
Debut 1977

Merced Solis (born May 10, 1953) better known by his ring name Tito Santana, is an American 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. Competing almost exclusively in the WWF from 1979 to 1993, Solis helped bridge the gap between the 1980s "Rock 'n Wrestling Connection" era to the 1990s "New Generation" era.

Contents

Career

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Collegiate and Professional Football

Solis played tight end for West Texas A&M University. The team was quarterbacked by future professional wrestler Tully Blanchard. 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.

Early career

He worked briefly in the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) and the American Wrestling Association (AWA) beginning in 1976 until he joined the World Wrestling Federation in 1979.

World Wrestling Federation / Entertainment

1979–1980

He 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.

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. He quickly entered into a feud over the Intercontinental Championship with Greg "The Hammer" Valentine. Valentine captured it from Santana in September 1984 in London, Ontario. Soon after, Valentine injured Santana's knee and put Santana out of action for several months.

Santana returned at WrestleMania, and in the opening match defeated a masked wrestler known as The Executioner. 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.

In July 1985, Tito Santana regained the Intercontinental Title in a steel cage match in Baltimore, Maryland. When both men tried to escape the cage, it appeared that the champ would retain his title; Tito went over the top while Valentine went through the door. However, Tito was in a position to kick the door closed into "the Hammer" as he tried to escape; he was able to climb to the floor and win the match. Valentine proceeded to throw a tantrum and smashed the title belt repeatedly into the cage, destroying it, which led to the creation of a new belt design that would remain until 1998. Santana held the title for another seven months before losing it to "Macho Man" Randy Savage in a hard-fought match at the Boston Garden. Savage would win the title by hitting Santana with a foreign object, which led to a series of rematches where Savage intentionally got himself disqualified in order to keep the belt. This resulted in a series of no-disqualification matches where Savage barely managed to escape with a win.

Between 1985 and 1987, Santana would also feud with Terry Funk, Dory Funk, Jr., and Butch Reed.

1987–1993

In August 1987, Tito Santana formed a tag team with former AWA World Champion Rick Martel named Strike Force. The team quickly won the Tag Team championship from The Hart Foundation (Bret Hart and Jim Neidhart) in October. They successfully defended the titles until WrestleMania IV in March 1988 where they lost to Demolition (Ax & Smash).

Due to a neck injury suffered by Martel shortly after WrestleMania, the team was inactive until the Royal Rumble in 1989. In their WrestleMania match against the Brain Busters (Tully Blanchard & Arn Anderson), Martel turned on Tito during the match, leaving Tito to face both opponents alone. 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.

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 undercard 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.

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 expend 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. This included a loss to Papa Shango at SummerSlam (1992) In his final in-ring WrestleMania appearance, he defeated Papa Shango at WrestleMania IX.

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.

In 2004, Tito Santana was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.

WrestleMania

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.

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 WWE rival Don Muraco but forfeited the championship later that year to Shane Douglas.

American Wrestling Federation (1994–1996)

Santana finished his full-time career 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.

World Championship Wrestling (2000)

On January 10, 2000, Tito Santana made a one time appearance in WCW. He defeated Jeff Jarrett in a Dungeon Match on WCW Monday Nitro.

Semi-retirement

Tito Santana continues to make appearances on the independent circuit. On March 13, 2004 he was elected 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).

Santana is also said to have had a hand in training independent wrestler, Vin Gerard.

In wrestling

Championships and accomplishments

  • Northern States Wrestling Alliance
    • NSWA Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
  • 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)
  • 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)
    • NWC Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
    • UCW Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
    • USA Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
    • UWS Tag Team Championship (1 time)
    • HoPWF Tag Team Championship (1 time)

1Tito Santana's reign occurred while the promotion was an NWA affliate named Eastern Championship Wrestling, and was prior to the promotion becoming Extreme Championship Wrestling and the title being declared a world title by ECW.

Personal life

While attending West Texas A&M University, Solis was a member of Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity.[1] He is now a Spanish teacher 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 owns Santana's Hair Salon in Succasunna.[2][3] He also teaches wrestling classes at the New Jersey-based Independent Wrestling Federation.[4] He still wrestles a dozen or so matches per year.[5]

References

External links


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