The most popular latin wrestler of his time, he never received the opportunity to claims the top titles in the business. He was, however, a multiple-time champion and the hero for millions of his fans.
Real Name: Merced Solis
Stats: 6′ 1″ 245 lbs.
Born: May 10, 1953
Tito Santana was a major player in the WWF during its ascension to the top of the wrestling industry. He won numerous individual and tag team championships and was constantly one of the favorite performers throughout the United States. Unfortunately, he never had the opportunity to challenge for the WWF Heavyweight championship, and thus never reached the levels that many felt he should have.
Tito Santana was born Tocula, Mexico but grew up in mission, Texas where he was an outstanding athlete growing up. He excelled football in high school and was good enough to make his way to West Texas Sate University where he played as a tight end. Tito may have been destined for a future career in professional wrestling as played along side a number of future grappling greats including quarterback Tully Blanchard and offensive lineman Ted Dibiase. After completing his college career, he ventured up to Canada where he played briefly in the Canadian Football League. After his football career stalled, he was persuaded to give professional wrestling a try.
Santana began his wrestling career in 1975 in Texas but soon moved North to Verne Gagne’s American Wrestling Association. In just a short time he skyrocketed towards the top of the promotion and ultimately got a shot against A.W.A. title champion Nick Bockwinkel. Although he handled himself well, he was not successful in taking away Bockwinkel’s belt. With his top-level experience, however, he had gained enough momentum to travel to the World Wrestling Federation where he teamed with Ivan Putski to defeat the Jimmy and Johnny Valiant to capture the WWF tag team championship on October 22, 1979. Santana and Putski successfully defended their belts for six months before they were defeated by the Wild Samoans in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Still riding high on this success, Santana moved back o the AWA and teamed with the popular star Mil Mascaras. He also wrestled in singles bouts in the AWA and in the southeast regions before returning to the WWF in 1983.
Upon returning to the WWF, he immediately got a shot at the newly crowned World champion the Iron Sheik in January 1980 but rebounded by defeating Don Muraco to gain the WWF Intercontinental title one month later. After defending the belt for more than seven months, he lost it to Greg Valentine with whom he had been feuding. Having suffered a knee injury in the match, he recuperated and began the task of trying to reclaim the title. He found that success on July 6, 1985, defeated Valentine in a brutal cage match in Baltimore, Maryland. Now enjoying great success and even greater popularity, he quietly yearned for a shot at the WWF World title, held by Hulk Hogan. Unfortunately, WWF owner Vince McMahon decided not to pit the two babyface champions against one another and Santana remained relegated to the Intercontinental division. After seven months of holding the belts, Santana was defeated by Randy Savage who employed the use of a pair of brass knuckles to known Tito out cold.
Over the next year, Santana competed in both the singles and tag team ranks without much notoriety. This changed in 1987, however, when he was teamed with Canadian Ric Martel. Martel was running on a hot streak until his tag team partner Tom Zenk abruptly left the promotion in late 1987. Martel and Santana formed a team known as strike force and captured the tag team belts from the Hart Foundation on October 27, 1987 in Syracuse, New York. After defending the belts for several months, Martel was injured in a match against Demolition and Strikeforce lost the titles. After briefly reuniting in 1989, Martel abruptly abandoned Santana, leaving him in the ring in the middle of a match. This led to a hot feud between the two but it seemed that the WWF now had other stars which they were more interested in pushing. Santana thus left the promotion in 1990 and journeyed to Mexico for a year.
Tito returned to the WWF with a new gimmick of El Matador. The new gimmick did not help to boost his career much and he left the WWF to enter Eastern Championship Wrestling and captured the promotion’s world title belt in August of 1993. After leaving ECW a month later, he toiled for several years as an undercard performer. The high point for him was capturing the AWF heavyweight championship in 1997. He later performed in a number of independent shows and was brought in for a one time only performance in WCW where he defeated Jeff Jarrett.
Tito Santana enjoyed a very successful career in professional wrestling. Much of his popularity was based on his push as an ethnic draw. Unfortunately, his ethnic background, along with other instances of backstage politics prevented him from ever getting the chance to carry the World title belt. Nevertheless, he is remembered for his enthusiasm and energy in the ring and his love for the fans outside.