Viva La Lucha Libre! When it comes to Mexican professional wrestling, there’s one man that reigns supreme: El Santo! Sept. 23 would have been Santo’s 99th birthday, so get to know more about this lucha libre legend!
1. He was a natural athlete.
Born Rodolfo Guzman Huerta on Sept. 23, 1917, the man who would become El Santo grew up playing American football, baseball, ju-jitsu and then classical wrestling. After moving to Mexico City, he fell in love with lucha libre, the fast-paced, Mexican version of professional wrestling. He made his debut in the 1930s as Rudy Guzman, a rudo (aka bad guy.) It was the beginning of a legendary career.
2. The Saint was almost The Bat.
While El Santo’s trademark silver mask is known by wrestling fans around the world, but it wasn’t his first. After trying to wrestle as El Hombe Rojo, El Demonio Negro, Santo tried to be El Murcielago II (The Bat II) but the original El Murcielago complained to the Mexican boxing and wrestling commission! Forced to find a new name – and face – El Santo took the name and character from Alexandre Dumas’ novel, The Man In The Iron Mask, according to Slam! Sports. The rest is history.
3. El Santo was also a movie star!
Saying El Santo was popular is an understatement, as he became the biggest name in lucha libre. That’s why his 99th birthday is being celebrated by a Google Doodle. His popularity wasn’t restricted to just the ring. After El Santo was turned into a comic book character in 1952, a movie career was not that far behind. He would star in more than 50 films, including Santo Vs. The Zombies, Santo Faces Death, Santo Vs. Frankenstein’s Daughter and Santo Vs. The Vampire Women.
4. He died just days after revealing his face for the first time.
Losing a mask in lucha libre is the ultimate defeat, so much that a mask vs. mask match is often the pinnacle of a feud. Santo, who took many rudos mask, never lost his. Yet, he took off his mask for the first time in public during a 1984 episode of the talk show, Contrapunto. He would die from a heart attack 10 days later, per the International Business Times.
5. El Santo lives!
Santo married María de los Ángeles Rodríguez Montaño in the 1940s. They had 10 children together, including a son who would wrestle under the name El Hijo del Santo. Jorge retired in 2014, but one of his sons has begun wrestling in Japan as El Santo Jr. So, while the original El Santo has passed, his legend lives on!
Happy Birthday, El Santo! HollywoodLifers – is El Santo your favorite luchador? Do you have a favorite El Santo movie?