Tito Santana

Tito Santana

Santana at an independent show in 2011
Birth name Merced Solis
Born (1953-05-10) May 10, 1953
Mission, Texas, United States[1]
Residence Roxbury Township, New Jersey, United States[1]
Alma mater West Texas State University
Spouse(s) Leah Solis
Children 3
Professional wrestling career
Ring name(s) El Matador[1]
Merced Solis
Richard Blood[1][2]
Tino Santana[2]
Chico Santana[2]
Tito Santana[1]
Billed height 6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)[1]
Billed weight 234 lb (106 kg)[1]
Billed from "Tocula, Mexico"[1][3]
Trained by Yasuhiro Kojima[2]
Bob Orton[2]
Debut 1977[2]

Merced Solis (born May 10, 1953), better known by the ring name Tito Santana, is a Mexican-American semi-retired professional wrestler.[4]

Santana has stayed a babyface (fan favorite) his entire career[5][6] and he is best known for his appearances with the World Wrestling Federation between 1979 and 1993 (missing part of 1980 and returning in 1983)[7] where he held the WWF Intercontinental Heavyweight Championship and WWF Tag Team Championship, won the 1989 King of the Ring tournament, and wrestled at all of the first nine WrestleMania events, as well as helping bridge the gap between the 1980s "Rock 'n Wrestling Connection" era to the 1990s "New Generation" era.

Santana was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2004. During his time in the WWF, Santana, despite being born and raised in Texas, was billed from "Tocula, Mexico", which may be a misspelled reference to the city of Toluca. Santana still appears on the independent circuit.

Collegiate and professional football career

Solis attended West Texas State University, where he was a member of the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity. Solis played tight end for the West Texas State Buffaloes. The team was quarterbacked by future professional wrestler Tully Blanchard, who would introduce Solis to the world of professional wrestling.

After graduating, Solis was signed by the Kansas City Chiefs but cut during training camp. He played a single season for the BC Lions of the Canadian Football League, appearing in 13 regular season games.[2]

Professional wrestling career

Early career (1977–1979)

Solis was trained to wrestle by Yasuhiro Kojima and Bob Orton. He debuted in 1977, working for Championship Wrestling from Florida. Later that year, he joined Georgia Championship Wrestling, where he wrestled until 1978.

World Wrestling Federation (1979–1980)

Santana joined the World Wrestling Federation in 1979. 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. Santana left the promotion later that year.

American Wrestling Association (1980–1982)

Santana wrestled in the American Wrestling Association from 1980 to 1982. Matches he had in the AWA include two matches he had against Nick Bockwinkel in St Paul Minnesota on March 1, 1981 and in Winnipeg Manitoba on May 13, 1982 (Bockwinkel won both matches by cheating). Santana also wrestled Blackie Guzman, and teamed with future tag team parnter Rick Martel against the The High Flyers on Aug 29, 1982 in St Paul Minnesota. Santana and Martel lost the match.[8]

Return to the WWF

Intercontinental Heavyweight Champion (1982–1987)

Santana returned to the World Wrestling Federation in 1982.

In 1983, he engaged in a lengthy feud with then WWF Intercontinental Heavyweight Champion Magnificent Don Muraco. Santana finally won the title on February 11, 1984, becoming the first Mexican-American wrestler to win the Intercontinental Heavyweight Championship. Shortly before winning the Intercontinental Heavyweight 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 Heavyweight 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 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 Intercontinental Heavyweight 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 Junkyard Dog. 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 Heavyweight Championship 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 Heavyweight Championship belt (in reality, the WWF had made a new Intercontinental Heavyweight Championship belt to go along with the new image they were trying to promote and smashing the old championship belt was seen as a way of moving forward with Santana having the honour of being the first to wear the new title belt). Santana would hold on to the title until February 8, 1986 when he lost it to "Macho Man" Randy Savage at the Boston Garden after Savage knocked him out with a foreign object that went unnoticed by referee Danny Davis.

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.[9] He also said that Vince McMahon later 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-favourite and former Intercontinental Champion, would produce.

Although Santana lost the Intercontinental 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 (who had previously wrestled for the WWF as a masked jobber named "Mr. X"). Davis had also been the assigned referee when the Harts 'stole' the WWF Tag Team Championship from the Bulldogs in January 1987. The story for WrestleMania III 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)

Main article: Strike Force
Santana making his way to the ring in the late 1980s

Santana formed the popular tag team Strike Force with Canadian Rick Martel in August 1987.[10] They defeated The Hart Foundation for the WWF Tag Team championship 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 V 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.[11]

Various storylines (1990–1991)

After Ultimate Warrior won the WWF World Heavyweight Championship from Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania VI and vacated the Intercontinental Heavyweight Championship, Santana took part in an eight-man tournament to name a new Intercontinental Heavyweight Champion. Santana made it to the finals, where he lost to Mr. Perfect. Following that loss, Santana occasionally teamed with 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 to 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 Atlas.[12]

El Matador and Wrestlemania Legacy (1991–1993)

Later in 1991, Santana adopted a Spanish bullfighter gimmick and the nickname "El Matador". His first WrestleMania match under this gimmick is when he faced and lost to Shawn Michaels in the opening bout of WrestleMania VIII at the Hoosier Dome in Indianapolis. Santana claims that at the time he was being considered for a run with the WWF World Heavyweight Championship, but says that the spot was given to Bret Hart;[2] the WWF was considering expanding into Central America and South 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 appearance on WWF TV, 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 then was never mentioned or seen again on WWF TV again, but he continued working on the WWF Summer tour in Europe and the international house show circuit through the course of August–September. 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 matches. In his final in-ring WrestleMania appearance, he defeated Papa Shango at WrestleMania IX in the untelevised opening match called a dark match. Because of this he is later recognized as having a 1-7 record. 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.[9] He also said that Vince McMahon later 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-favourite and former Intercontinental Champion, would produce. Unfortunately for Santana, despite regaining the IC title from Greg Valentine later in 1985, and two years later winning the Tag Team title with Rick Martel as part of Strike Force, he would never again win a televised match at a WrestleMania event. Santana continued to wrestle through the first half of 1993 following WrestleMania IX, facing Razor Ramon, Adam Bomb, and Papa Shango. His final match was on August 13, 1993 in Wildwood, New Jersey when he defeated Damian Demento.[13]

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 on August 8, 1993 by defeating former WWF rival Don Muraco but forfeited the championship later that year to Shane Douglas.

Return to IWCCW (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 World Championship Wrestling 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, and again wrestled Tony Atlas, who defeated him in a match in Yardville, New Jersey.[14] Santana also agreed to an interfederation title vs title match with Valentine when Valentine was IWCCW champion and Santana was AWF champion.[15]

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)

Second return to the WWF (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. In November 1997 he made on-air appearances as El Matador in the Karate Fighters Holiday Tournament, facing Carlos Cabrera and Jerry Lawler.

Regional Championship Wrestling (1997–2013)

On July 19, 1997, Santana lost by disqualification to "Playboy" Jonathon Luvstruk w/Bodacious Pretty Boy in the finals of the United States title tournament at RCW's Battleground event.

On Aug. 8, 2009, Santana defeated Jerome Hendrix at RCW's Rumblemania 6 event.

On May 6, 2012, Santana defeated Tokyo Dragon w/Rich Rogers in tournament final to become RCW champion at RCW's Rumblemania 8 event.

On May 10, 2013, Santana and Tokyo Dragon defeated Mad Russian, Jack Molson and Rich Rogers in a title vs. hair match. Santana cut Rogers's hair at RCW's Megabrawl 6 event.

World Championship Wrestling (2000)

On January 10, 2000, Santana made a one-time appearance in World Championship Wrestling. He defeated Jeff Jarrett in a Dungeon match on Nitro.

Independent circuit

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. Santana later appeared in the "Legends Roll-On"

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 2012, Santana embarked on a three-day tour of Saskatchewan, Canada with High Impact Wrestling Canada. He wrestled and defeated Jumpin' Joe by pinfall in Yorkton, SK on July 16, lost by disqualification to Rex Roberts at Pile O' Bones Rumble XVII on July 17, and then on July 18 defeated King Kash by pinfall.

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.[16][17]

On December 4, 2012, the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum announced Santana would be inducted into their Modern Category. The PWHF Induction took place on May 18, 2013.

On April 19, 2014, Santana competed in a match with "The German Menace" Kraig Stagg on ECPW's iPPV "Super Showcase Saturday".

Personal life

While attending West Texas A&M University, Solis was a member of Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity.[18] 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.[19][20] He also teaches wrestling classes at the New Jersey-based Independent Wrestling Federation.[21] He still wrestles at least a dozen matches per year.[22] 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, was released in 2008.

In wrestling

Santana delivering a Flying forearm smash on his opponent in 2011

Championships and accomplishments


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 "Tito Santana Profile". Online World Of Wrestling. Retrieved 2010-06-04.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Santana, Tito (2008). Tito Santana's Tales From the Ring. Sports Publishing LLC. ISBN 978-1-59670-325-4.
  3. 1 2 "Tito Santana Hall of Fame profile". WWE. Retrieved 2011-03-31.
  4. Beaston, Erik. "Full Career Retrospective for Tito Santana". Bleacher Report. Retrieved 2016-02-13.
  5. "TheBurningHammer.com • View topic – Tito Santana's time to heel?". www.theburninghammer.com. Retrieved 2016-02-13.
  7. Tito Santana, shoot interview YouTube video, posted Aug 4, 2012.
  8. YouTube videos posted, June 2, 2013, Dec 31 2013, Nov 7, 2015, May 7, 2012
  9. 1 2 http://radio.thescore.com/episodes/tito-santana-interview-mar-14-2011
  10. http://www.thehistoryofwwe.com/superstars87.htm
  11. 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
  12. Inside Wrestling, Oct 1991 article "Tito Santana's violent vendetta against Tony Atlas", and Pro Wrestling Illustrated, 1991.
  13. http://www.thehistoryofwwe.com/93.htm
  14. "Matches « Tito Santana « Wrestlers Database « CAGEMATCH - The Internet Wrestling Database". www.cagematch.net. Retrieved 2016-10-27.
  15. Inside Wrestling, Pro Wrestling Illustrated, Wrestle America.
  16. "Past results". Chikara. Retrieved 2012-09-14.
  17. Namako, Jason (2012-09-15). "9/14 Chikara "King of Trios: Night 1" Results: Easton, PA". WrestleView. Retrieved 2012-09-15.
  18. "Former Hall of Fame Pro Wrestler". 2008-11-01. Retrieved 2008-11-03.
  19. "Santana relishes relaxed schedule". 1998-07-20. Retrieved 2008-06-09.
  20. "More on the Upcoming Autobiography of Tito Santana". WrestlingEpicenter. 2008-06-09. Retrieved 2008-06-09.
  21. Indy Reporter (February 2, 2007). "INDY NEWS: Stevie Richards & Tito Santana Clinics @ IWF Wrestling School". Impact Wrestling. Retrieved 2009-02-26.
  22. Winerip, Michael (2009-02-21). "Generation B: The Ram vs. Tito Santana". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-08-12.
  23. "Tito Santana Profile". CageMatch. Retrieved 2011-08-04.
  24. "The Name on the Marquee: The History of the Intercontinental Championship #9". 411Mania. Retrieved 2010-06-28.
  25. "The Wrestling Review Experience: Best Of Randy Savage 1985-1986". 411Mania. Retrieved 2010-06-28.
  26. "Dark Pegasus Video Review: The History of the Intercontinental Championship (Disc One)". 411Mania. Retrieved 2010-06-28.
  27. "PDRwrestling Review: The Wrestling Classic". 411Mania. Retrieved 2010-06-28.
  28. 1 2 3 4 Royal Duncan & Gary Will (2000). Wrestling Title Histories (4th ed.). Archeus Communications. ISBN 0-9698161-5-4.
  29. 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.
  30. http://www.pwinsiderxtra.com/ViewArticle.php?id=31790
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