Name: Tito Santana
Year Inducted: 2013

Tito Santana

Arriba! Tito Santana, one of pro wrestling’s greatest heroes, has arrived to fight the good fight, combat evil in all its forms and make the world a better place.

Still active on a very part-time basis today, Merced Solis can look back at a remarkable life. Born as the son of migrant workers on May 10, 1953 in Mission, Texas, Solis would be pulled out of school in the fall and spring to help pick crops. It wasn’t until his freshman year at Mission High that he actually completed a full year of education. At 6-foot-2, 234 pounds, he excelled in football as a speedy tight end. West Texas State came calling, and after a stint with the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs and a season with the BC Lions of the CFL, Solis accepted the invitation from his old West Texas quarterback, Tully Blanchard, and his promoter/father, Joe, to give wrestling a try.

He debuted in Florida in 1977 under his real name. After runs in Georgia, Amarillo, and the Mid-Atlantic (as Richard Blood), Solis went to the WWWF, where he was renamed Tito Santana and won the territory’s tag titles with Ivan Putski. After three years in the AWA, Santana was back in the nationally-expanding WWF, adding color, depth, and international flavor to the babyface roster.

In the WWF, there were times he was the number two babyface to Hulk Hogan, holding the Intercontinental title and the tag belts.

For all the fame, trading cards, and action figures, Santana, who was also known as El Matador (learning some bullfighting techniques for the role), was never given a chance with the WWF World title. “At the time, the reigning champion was Hulk Hogan. Back then, they didn’t put a good guy against a good guy. I would have loved to have wrestled Hulk Hogan,” he said, recalling a few matches they actually did have back in 1979. “At one time my popularity was pretty high up there with him. I think people would have enjoyed a match, me against him.”

Post-WWF, he has been sharing his knowledge on the independent scene, content to work weekends and help youngsters learn a little about putting on great performances.

Away from the ring, Solis has run a hair salon with his wife in New Jersey—Santana’s—and taught gym and Spanish and coached basketball. He even tried his hand, unsuccessfully, at politics in 1999, running for Roxbury Township Council. Married for 30 years, with three boys who all have advanced degrees, Solis can take a lot of pride in his family. “I took over the kids the very little time that I was home. I wanted to be a father and play with my kids,” he recalled. “If you come into my house, you hardly see anything of wrestling in my house.”

 

 

- Greg Oliver



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