This Latino WWE Legend Now Works As A Spanish Teacher
Throughout the ’80s and ’90s, there was a Latino wrestler who cemented his place as a WWE fan favorite. His name was Tito Santana.
The 6-foot-2 Santana, a former football player, was known for his athleticism, his Spanish-language catchphrase (¡Arriba!) and his awesome mullet.
Santana was a two-time intercontinental champ and two-time tag team champion. Despite his undeniable talent, Santana never won a heavyweight title.
Toward the end of his WWE career, Santana was given a new gimmick — El Matador — that Santana says he was never quite happy with.
Santana said he accepted the gimmick because he was promised higher-profile matches, but they never materialized.
Santana said it felt like a “missed opportunity” to neglect his El Matador gimmick when he remained popular with fans.
In 2004, Santana, who appeared in WrestleMania I through WrestleMania IX, was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.
Santana, whose real name is Merced Solis, says he’s grateful for what pro wrestling gave him. The son of migrant workers, Solis says he worked in the fields and didn’t receive a full time education until he was a freshman in high school.
Solis, who played football at Mission High School, received a scholarship to play college ball at West Texas State University. It was there where he met the team’s quarterback — and future wrestling legend — Tully Blanchard. Tully’s father, Joe, was a wrestling promoter and helped Solis make a career out of wrestling.
After quitting pro wrestling, Solis wasn’t sure what he would do with his life. After trying his hand at Spanish-language announcing in the late ’90s, Solis eventually became a Spanish teacher.
Solis has been a Spanish teacher at Eisenhower Middle School in New Jersey since 2001.
Solis said he quit wrestling because he missed his wife and family. And unlike other wrestlers who played their characters 24/7, Solis said he kept the two separate to avoid falling into the lifestyle that has claimed the lives of so many pro wrestlers.
His wife, Leah Solis, told the New Jersey Star-Ledger: “When he was home he was just a regular guy. He could definitely separate it and so could we.” Santana’s rejection of the “rockstar” lifestyle allowed him to save money and put his three children through school. He also opened a hair salon that is run by his wife, Leah.
It appears that Solis has made a seamless transition from popular wrestler to popular teacher. Take a look at YouTube videos of Tito Santana, and you’ll likely find comments from former and current students:
The 63-year-old Santana, who has continued making special appearances for small wrestling organizations, is confident he made the right choice.
“I know I’m making a difference and it feels good,” said Solis to CBS News.