These Are The Legendary Wrestlers From The Golden Age In Mexico
Most of the legendary wrestlers come from a time and age when heroes were not as flashy as the ones we see in the top grossing movies. Rather, when disguised under the mask, they could’ve been our next-door neighbor. Many of these gladiators live in the hearts of the people who grew up in the ’60s and ’70s. Funny enough, most of this phenomenon developed in Mexico from where it was exported to the rest of South America, the US and even East Asia.
1. El Santo
If there ever was a legend, this was him. The elegance of a plain silver mask was all it took to launch Mr. Rodolfo Guzman into legendary status as El Santo. Although he was a swift and agile athlete, comic book and cinema executives saw the endless potential of Santo as a hero. He filmed dozens of movies, with some of the wackiest scripts ever written, but nonetheless they became classics and still are today.
2. Blue Demon
Alejandro Munoz was another legend of the cinema. Following the same path as Santo, he made the jump from the ring into the movie screens with great success.
Producers and scriptwriters really didn’t break their heads back then trying to make elaborate plots. They simply followed what worked, made some little adjustments here and there, and produced an endless stream of films designed to entertain the masses.
3. Dr. Wagner
Manuel Gonzalez traveled back and forth to the U.S. to work as a migrant worker while saving up enough money to pay for his apprenticeship in a wrestling gym in Torreon.
His trainers saw great potential in the young man who adopted the name Dr. Wagner in honor of the German composer. Wagner’s best years were the late ’60s and ’70s where alongside Angel Blanco he formed an almost invincible tag team that filled arenas all over the world.
4. Rayo De Jalisco
With movie titles such as “Robbery at The Mummy’s Tomb,” one can easily imagine young and old people like flocking to the movie theaters. From the mid ’60s until well into the ’80s Max Linares captivated audiences with his impressive body, agility and dexterity.
One of the most memorable fights he had was against Blue Demon, in 1974, who had come out of retirement just to face the newcomer in a loser-removes-mask match. To the amazement of many, the old-timer prevailed and Rayo had to show his face for the first time.
5. Mil Mascaras
When a major movie executive in Mexico didn’t have the availability of his regular stars for another wrestling movie, the hunt was on to find someone capable of filling those shoes. Then he stumbled onto this quirky character that changes masks for every presentation, thus the moniker Mil Mascaras, or 1000 Masks.
Featuring some very interesting designs, his masks became trademarks, and kids during the ’60s couldn’t keep up with all the new designs that were showing up in shops. Aaron Rodriguez enjoyed a great string of popularity in the ring and the movie theaters imposing fear on rivals and fans with his impressive biceps.
6. Huracan Ramirez
After overcoming many difficulties, including opposition by his family to become a wrestler, Daniel Garcia from Mexico City, was the first ever wrestler to star in a movie. The plots and scripts really are nothing to write home about, but the almost magnetic attraction it had on audiences had producers scrambling to keep up.
Nobody really thought much of him as a wrestler because of his svelte physique, but he had speed and would dart away from his opponents leaving audiences in awe because of his pirouettes. Like many wrestlers of his day, his children continue the legend.
7. Tonina Jackson
Also known as “Babyface”, he may have not had the agility of his peers but just one smack of his powerful fists would send his rivals asleep for a while. He also took part in many movies, not as the central figure, but more in a supporting role. His popularity extended into the USA, South America and Asia. Unfortunately, he died at a relatively young age in 1969.
8. Perro Aguayo
Some guys really didn’t need a mask to arrive at superstar status, and Pedro Aguayo was definitely one of them. He enjoyed a great string of success from the ’70s and well into the ’90s. His fights were almost always sanguinary blood fests, simulating ancient Roman sacrifices at the Coliseum, which in turn created expectation among fans. We all know now that most of the blood is really fake, but don’t tell that to a raving fan in the stands. He retired in 2002 and, like many, was followed by his sons perpetuating the legend.
9. Ciclon Veloz Jr.
He may have been the first Mexican pro wrestler to use the “Jr.” after his name, honoring his father, the original Ciclon Veloz (Fast Hurricane). Though he did hold his own as a top-notch athlete in the 70s, his greatest contribution to the sport was as tireless promotor in his hometown of Monterrey.
He would defeat many of the stars of his day and stripped the masks of several rivals and also shaved the heads of others after winning “mask vs mask” or “hair vs hair” matches, thrilling audiences with his elusiveness.
Felipe Estrada started like many, as a fan, but developed the physique and skills necessary to jump into the ring. And he created quite a splash! In the early 70s several promotors saw the potential in the young man and brought him under their wing because of his colorful persona and wonderful dynamics in the ring. He won several World Titles and he’s been inducted in the Wrestling Observer Magazine Hall of Fame.
Another super star both on and off the ring, Manuel Leal, coming from Mexico City, was a body builder discovered by Black Shadow because of his impressive musculature and swiftness.
After Santo, he was the second pro wrestler to have a comic book named after him. Dubbed the “Wise” wrestler because of an intellectual aura, he was one of the first Mexican wrestlers to conquer the Asian market becoming a legend also in Japan. His filmography is also quite remarkable, with around 10 feature films under his belt.
Although his ring name was a word play on the legendary Bismarck battleship, on the canvas he was anything but play. Having recently lost the battle to heart ailment, Lizmark was an admirable star of worldwide wrestling, even becoming tag team world title holder alongside Atlantis. He introduced new forms of grappling his rivals, including some aerial moves that delighted spectators during the 70s and 80s, his heyday.
13. Cavernario (Caveman) Galindo
There are some wrestlers feared by their foes for their strength, and other because they were just plain ugly! Caveman Galindo was one of them. Al old timer in the Mexican market, his scars from an auto accident during his youth became his trademark aspect of ruggedness in the arena, and then an injury to the vocal chords gave him his raspy voice, scary also. He was part of the “rude” gang, and many of his fights were true bloodbaths that kept fans glued to their seats. He died in 1999 at the age of 76.
14. Rey Mysterio
One of the newest idols in the ring, this Mexican-American athlete, he is considered the best Mexican wrestler to work under the WWE. His flashy style, flying all around the ring with elegant and acrobatic moves, has thrilled fans all over the world. Originally from San Diego, he’s still active, albeit in a lesser degree, but fans still clamor for his presence in different venues. Three times he’s held wrestling titles.
15. Fray Tormenta
Call it bizarre or what, but a priest as a wrestler? Only in Mexico! The story of “Friar Storm” is worthy of admiration. He started life extremely poor, 17th out of 18 children, he was a pickpocket, addict and into petty theft to feed his addictions.
One day a priest kicked him out the church and he thought that if clergy were really more interested in troubled youth, they might have a chance, so he turned to religion. And from there on, it’s been quite a story. Father Sergio became a hero to many kids needing someone who’s been in their shoes to help them get back up.
16. Espanto Brothers
They were one of the first trios of “bad guys” gracing the arenas in Mexico, these guys were the embodiment of badass since their origins in the border town of Juarez. Originally comprised of two, childhood friends Jose Vazquez and Fernando Cisneros, they began fighting in the late 50s, joined later by Jose’s kid brother Miguel forming a dynasty of rude, no-holds-barred, dynamos that people loved to hate because of their antics and plain silliness. As expected, they have been succeeded by their offspring forming the “Sons of Terror”.
17. El Solitario
The lonely guy was anything but with his enormous popularity beginning in the early 60s and well into the 90s. His moniker is a take on old-time TV character “The Lone Ranger”, with his mask an adaptation of the ranger’s mask.
He switched sides, becoming a “good guy” and that was when his fame skyrocketed with fans. Unfortunately, all the bruising, blows and acrobatics took a toll on Roberto Gonzalez, who after sensing abdominal pain, was taken to the ER where he died of internal hemorrhaging in the stomach, and he didn’t endure the surgery.
18. Super Muñeco
The whimsical Super Doll was a fan favorite for many years with his crazy maneuvers and high-pitched cries in the ring, wreaking havoc with his opponents, some of whom disliked losinmg to someone dressed as a clown. His most famous move is a complicated leg trap that renders rivals to a mere pulp, while always laughing and, of course, clowning around enticing the fans to cheer more enthusiastically. He is still active in spite being over 55 years of age. He’s a loveable foe!
19. Gory Guerrero
Born in Arizona, initially raised in California, but residing most of his life in Guadalajara, Salvador Guerrero was one of the very first internationally acclaimed Mexican wrestlers. His bouts with Caveman Galindo in the 40s became blood fests that attracted fans from far away. Later, he tagged team with Santo to fight against Galindo and Black Panther in an oversized version of the original fights. His trademark grapple, “Camel Clutch” was popularized later by Santo. He passed away in 1990, at 69 years of age. A true legend…
20. Rene Guajardo
Copetes, or “the one with bangs in his hair” was more than just a great wrestler in the 50s and beyond, he, alongside Ray Mendoza and Karloff Lagarde, were instrumental in demanding that athletes receive better wages for their efforts in a time when promoters were getting the lion’s share of the revenue stream in a sport that was the largest money maker in Mexico.
He always fought on the bad guy’s side, but was nonetheless admired by all for his elegant moves, among them his signature “body-slam”. Many consider him a plus for the sport and its athletes. Died in 1992 at a relatively young 59.
21. Ray Mendoza
Jose Diaz was instrumental in creating, along with Rene Guajardo, the UWA – Universal Wrestling Association, spearheading a movement in favor of better working conditions for his colleagues. But, politics aside, he was fierce like few ever!
After deciding boxing wasn’t for him, in the late 50s Diaz was invited to practice wrestling, and it was an instant fit! He held many different world titles defeating the cream of the crop of his time. His kids, in spite of Dad’s advice to rather become lawyers or doctors, also turned pro wrestlers. Diaz died in 2003 after a prolific life.
22. Vampiro Canadiense
Ian Hodgkinson may not sound too Mexican, but the Canadian Vampire owes his career to the country South of our Border. From Thunder Bay, Ontario, he started doing most every and anything, even becoming a bodyguard for the infamous pop band Milli Vanilli. But with a body like his, and all that ink, he was a natural fit for wrestling and Mexico practically adopted him as one of its own. The flamboyant and somber personality that were his trademarks captivated fans that flocked to the arenas where he fought. He held several titles during his wrestling years, and now works as paranormal reporter for TV.
23. Mano Negra
“Black Hand” had an interesting reason behind his professional moniker: he didn’t want his face to be seen in photos, so he covered it with his hand, always appearing as black, thus “the black hand”. Born in Northern Mexico, his Dad worked as reporter for a local paper and would take his kid to the matches, turning his attention to the sport itself.
Jesus Reza began fighting in the early 70s after an apprenticeship in Monterrey with legendary instructor Rolando Vera. He held many world titles and stripped a few rivals of their masks and hair. Nearing 60 years of age, he does still appear now and then in support of a function.