Lucha Libre Legend El Santo Would Have Been 100 Years Old Today

By: Karl Stern (@dragonkingkarl, @wiwcool, karl@whenitwascool.com)

  El enmascarado de plata- El Santo

El enmascarado de plata- El Santo

Today, September 23, is the birthday of Rodolfo Guzmán Huerta better known in Mexico as the legendary luchadore and action movie hero El Santo.  For those of you who follow my classic wrestling audio shows know I am a huge fan of Lucha Libre, especially classic lucha libre.  I have recorded podcasts on El Santo in the past.  I even, here in 2017, frequently wear an El Santo t-shirt.  In my wrestling mask collection I have- not one- but two El Santo masks.  El Santo is the ultimate culture super hero of lucha libre.

The cultural impact of El Santo in Mexico simply can not be overstated.  He is less like Hulk Hogan (What 'Cha Gonna Do?) in the United States and better compared to Elvis (That's All Right Mama), Muhammad Ali (He who floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee), dare I say even Coca-Cola (have it and a smile).  He is a gigantic figure.  

Born in Tulancingo, Mexican in the state of Hidalgo, he was the fifth of seven children. He practiced baseball and American football, and then became interested in lucha libre. El Santo had a brother who wrestled as well, Miguel, who was known as Black Guzmán.

 Black Guzman, the brother of El Santo.

Black Guzman, the brother of El Santo.

 Blue Demon, Mil Mascaras, El Santo

Blue Demon, Mil Mascaras, El Santo

The trinity of Mexican wrestling was El Santo, Blue Demon, and Mil Mascaras.  All three were gigantic lucha libre wrestling stars and all three did multiple action movies.  The lucha libre Mexican action films could sort of be compared to the Hong Kong Kung-Fu films of the 1970's.  They were often low budget tripe involving monsters, time travel, and science fiction with lucha libre being the backdrop for the adventures.  

The enmascardos never took their masks off during the course of the movie.  Even if they were swimming, showering, eating dinner, of making love to their women, the stars of these movies always stayed in their masked personas giving the movies and often comical and somewhat creepy under tone.

 'sup ladies?

'sup ladies?

 Wind In my Mask. Shifting and drifting. Mechanical music. Adrenaline surge...

Wind In my Mask. Shifting and drifting. Mechanical music. Adrenaline surge...

 I am a man who would fight for your honor.

I am a man who would fight for your honor.

There isn't a ton of surviving footage of El Santo wrestling.  Most of what you will find on YouTube is either clipped from an El Santo movie or his retirement match in the early 1980's.  El Santo, by many accounts, wasn't the greatest in-ring worker you've ever seen but he played the underdog who almost always came back to win.  He wasn't an unbeatable monster like Hulk Hogan.  He appealed to the common man.

 El Santo had his own comic.  In this photo he wore a leather belt with a knife, a "S" symbol added to his mask... and oh yeah, that isn't the real El Santo.

El Santo had his own comic.  In this photo he wore a leather belt with a knife, a "S" symbol added to his mask... and oh yeah, that isn't the real El Santo.

El Santo was born on September 23, 1917 and died on February 5, 1984.  I have always found it eerie that just weeks before his death he spontaneously unmasked for about a second on Contrapunto, a Mexican television program.  It was one of those weird "did he know something?" kind of moments in time.  Weeks later he would be buried in that same mask.

Rodolfo Guzman debuted in either 1934 or 1935 depending on which source you believe. He used the names Rudy Guzmán, El Hombre Rojo, El Demonio Negro, and El Murcielago II. Jesus Velazquez, the original "El Murcielago" (The Bat), objected to the Mexican boxing and wrestling commission,  and the regulatory body ruled that Guzmán could not use that name.

Guzman and his wife María de los Ángeles Rodríguez Montaño (Maruca) had ten children; including his youngest child Jorge, who also became a famous luchadore- El Hijo del Santo.  On June 26, 1942 Guzman wrestled at Arena Mexico for the first time as El Santo.

In the early 1980s El Santo slowed down his wrestling schedule leading up to his retirement. His farewell tour ran through August and September 1982. The first of three events took place on August 22, 1982 at the Palacio de los Deportes in Mexico City when El Santo teamed up with El Solitario to take on Villano III and Rokambole in a match where Santo's team won. The following Sunday El Santo appeared at Arena México where he teamed up with Gran Hamada to defeat Villano I and Scorpio Jr. Santo's final match took place on September 12, 1982, a week before his 65th birthday.  El Santo teamed up with Gory Guerrero who came out of retirement to reform "La Pareja Atómica" as they teamed up with Huracán Ramirez and El Solitario. Their opponents were Perro Aguayo, El Signo, Negro Navarro, and El Texano with Santo's team winning.

grave.jpg
 Early el santo photo.

Early el santo photo.

El Santo unexpectedly takes his own mask off on television.  He was a mega-star in another time and place and a true cultural icon.

The movies of El Santo:

  • Santo contra el cerebro del mal (Santo vs. the Evil Brain, 1958)
  • Santo contra hombres infernales (Santo vs. the Infernal Men, 1958)
  • Santo contra los zombies (Santo vs. the Zombies, 1961) a.k.a. Invasion of the Zombies 
  • Santo contra el rey del crimen (Santo vs. The King of Crime, 1961)
  • Santo en el hotel de la muerte (Santo in the Hotel of Death, 1961)
  • Santo contra el cerebro diabolico (Santo vs. the Diabolical Brain, 1962)
  • Santo contra las mujeres vampiro (Santo vs. The Vampire Women, 1962) a.k.a. Samson vs. the Vampire Women
  • Santo en el museo de cera (Santo in the Wax Museum, 1963) a.k.a. Samson in the Wax Museum 
  • Santo contra el estrangulador (Santo vs. the Strangler, 1963)
  • Santo contra el espectro del estrangulador (Santo vs. the Ghost of the Strangler, 1963)
  • Blue Demon contra el poder satánico (Blue Demon vs. Satanic Power, 1964) (Santo has only a cameo appearance here)
  • Santo en Atacan las brujas (Santo in "The Witches Attack", 1964)
  • Santo en el hacha diabólica (Santo in "The Diabolical Axe", 1964)
  • Santo en los profanadores de tumbas (Santo in "The Grave Robbers", 1965)
  • Santo en el Barón Brakola (Santo in "Baron Brakola", 1965)
  • Santo contra la invasión de los marcianos (Santo vs. the Martian Invasion, 1966)
  • Santo contra los villanos del ring (Santo vs. the Villains of the Ring, 1966) (Santo's last B&W film)
  • Santo en Operación 67 (Santo in "Operation 67", 1966) (Santo's first color film)
  • Santo en el tesoro de Moctezuma (Santo in "The Treasure of Moctezuma", 1967)
  • Santo en el tesoro de Drácula (Santo in "Dracula's Treasure", 1968)
  • Santo contra Capulina (Santo vs. Capulina, 1968)
  • Santo contra Blue Demon en la Atlántida (Santo vs. Blue Demon in Atlantis, 1969)
  • Santo y Blue Demon contra los monstruos (Santo and Blue Demon vs. the Monsters, 1969)
  • Santo y Blue Demon en el mundo de los muertos (Santo and Blue Demon in the World of the Dead, 1969)
  • Santo contra los cazadores de cabezas (Santo vs. the Headhunters, 1969)
  • Santo frente a la muerte (Santo Faces Death, 1969) a.k.a. Santo vs. the Mafia Killers
  • Santo contra los jinetes del terror (Santo vs. the Terror Riders, 1970) a.k.a. The Lepers and Sex (a separate adult-rated version)
  • Santo en la venganza de las mujeres vampiro (Santo in "The Revenge of the Vampire Women", 1970)
  • Santo contra la mafia del vicio (Santo vs. the Mafia of Vice, 1970) a.k.a. Mission Sabotage
  • Santo en la venganza de la momia (Santo in "The Mummy's Revenge", 1970)
  • Las momias de Guanajuato (The Mummies of Guanajuato, 1970) (co-starring Mil Mascaras and Blue Demon)
  • Santo en el misterio de la perla negra (Santo in "The Mystery of the Black Pearl", 1971) a.k.a. The Caribbean Connection
  • Santo contra la hija de Frankenstein (Santo vs. Frankenstein's Daughter, 1971)
  • Santo en misión suicida (Santo in "Suicide Mission", 1971)
  • Santo contra los asesinos de otros mundos (Santo vs. the Killers from Other Worlds, 1971) a.k.a. Santo vs. the Living Atom
  • Santo y el tigresa en el aguila real (Santo and the Tigress in "The Royal Eagle", 1971)
  • Santo y Blue Demon contra Drácula y el Hombre Lobo (Santo and Blue Demon vs. Dracula and the Wolf Man, 1972)
  • Santo contra los secuestradores (Santo vs. the Kidnappers, 1972)
  • Santo contra la magia negra (Santo vs. Black Magic, 1972)
  • Santo y Blue Demon en las bestias del terror (Santo and Blue Demon in "The Beasts of Terror", 1972)
  • Santo contra las lobas (Santo vs. the She-Wolves, 1972)
  • Santo en Anónimo mortal (Santo in "Anonymous Death Threat", 1972)
  • Santo y Blue Demon contra el doctor Frankenstein (Santo and Blue Demon vs. Dr. Frankenstein, 1973)
  • Santo contra el doctor Muerte (Santo vs. Dr. Death, 1973) a.k.a. Santo Strikes Again, a.k.a. The Masked Man Strikes Again
  • Santo en la venganza de la llorona (Santo in "The Revenge of the Crying Woman", 1974)
  • Santo en Oro negro (Santo in "Black Gold", 1975) a.k.a. La Noche de San Juan
  • Santo en el Misterio en las Bermudas (Santo in "The Bermuda Mystery", 1977) (co-starring Blue Demon and Mil Mascaras)
  • Santo en la frontera del terror (Santo at the Border of Terror, 1979) a.k.a. Santo vs. the White Shadow
  • Santo contra el asesino de televisión (Santo vs. the TV Killer, 1981)
  • Chanoc y el hijo del Santo contra los vampiros asesinos (Chanoc and Son of Santo vs. the Killer Vampires, 1981) (Santo has only a cameo appearance)
  • Santo en el puño de la muerte (Santo in "The Fist of Death", 1982)
  • Santo en la furia de los karatekas (Santo in "The Fury of the Karate Experts", 1982)


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