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El Santo: 6 Things To Know About The World’s Most Famous Luchador

El Santo in Santo and Blue Demon vs the Monsters

To some, the biggest name in professional wrestling is Hulk Hogan. To others, it’s Stone Cold Steve Austin. And even though both of those WWE Hall of Famers have more than earned a spot on the Mount Rushmore of wrestling, they pale in comparison (like so many others) to the legendary Mexican luchador known as El Santo.

Born in Tulancingo, Mexico, on September 23, 1917, Rodolfo Guzmán Huerta, the man who would take on the persona El Santo (The Saint in English), spent his life entertaining fans with tens of thousands of wrestling matches, more than 50 movies, countless TV appearances, and even comic books featuring the grappler-turned-icon defending the defenseless and fighting everyone from Blue Demon (who would later become an ally) to Dracula. In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month and what would have been the luchador’s 104th birthday, we’ve put together a list of six things to know about El Santo.

El Santo in Santo vs. the Evil Brain

Rodolfo Guzmán Huerta Began Wrestling At The Age Of 16 And Had Multiple Personas Before Adopting El Santo

Like many wrestlers that came before him and the countless others that have followed in his footsteps, El Santo tried out various characters and personas before donning the iconic silver mask. In 2017, The Undefeated published a glowing tribute to El Santo on what would have been his 100th birthday. In addition to talking about his movies, impact on Mexican culture, and place in the annals of professional wrestling history, the piece also shared information on the early days in the career of Rodolfo Guzmán Huerta, the man who would become El Santo.

As a teenager, Huerta moved to Mexico City where he fell in love with lucha libre. At the age of 16, Huerta began training and wrestled his first match as the rudo (heel) Rudy Guzman. Huerta then reinvented himself as the masked luchador El Murciélago II (The Bat II), but not for long. After reading The Man in the Iron Mask, the young wrestler came up with El Santo.

Blue Demon and El Santo in Santo and Blue Demon vs the Monsters

El Santo Wrestled 15,000 Matches And Starred In 53 Movies Throughout His Career

From his in-ring debut in 1934 until his retirement nearly 50 years later in 1982, El Santo wrestled approximately 15,000 matches, teaming up with and facing some of the biggest luchadors and inspiring future generations, according to the New York Times Magazine. Wrestling that many matches over that extended period of time would be something to marvel even if El Santo’s career was limited to the ring, but he also starred in 53 movies throughout his career.

Starting with 1958’s Santo contra el cerebro del mal (Santo vs. the Evil Brain), El Santo took on everyone and everything from grave robbers to martians and mafia killers to Dracula. These B-movies were massive hits in Mexico and have since become cult classics in English-speaking countries even though only a handful of them were dubbed into English. One of these movies — Santo vs. las mujeres vampiro (Santo vs. the Vampire Women)— even found its way into a 1995 episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Eddie Guerrero at WCW Halloween Havoc

Eddie Guerrero Once Said El Santo Was “Bigger Than Hulk Hogan And Stone Cold Steve Austin Combined”

WWE Hall of Famer Eddie Guerrero was one of the greatest hispanic wrestlers to ever step into a ring and thrilled millions of wrestling fans around the world with in-ring ability and charisma. But even the late WWE Champion had heroes like El Santo. Back in the day, Eddie’s dad, Gory Guerrero was El Santo’s tag team partner and so the younger Guerrero got to spend a lot of time around the legendary luchador. In his book, Cheating Death, Stealing Life: The Eddie Guerrero Story, Guerrero wrote something that best summed up how much of an impact Santo had on the wrestling world:

Calling him a legend doesn’t even do justice to how big he was. In his heyday, Santo was bigger than Hulk Hogan and Stone Cold Steve Austin combined.

These comments say a lot about El Santo’s place in wrestling lore especially when you consider the fact that Hulk Hogan and Steve Austin are arguably two of the biggest names in history of the sport.

El Santo removes his mask on Contrapunto

El Santo Did Not Remove His Mask Publicly Until A Week Before His Death In 1984

A luchador’s mask is much more than a costume and is something that becomes a part of their personality and identity. This is why it’s such a big deal whenever a luchador takes part in Luchas de Apuestas and puts their mask on the line. And though wrestlers like Rey Mysterio have lost their mask and gotten it back, El Santo spent the vast majority of his career without ever showing his face. In honor of what would have been El Santo’s 99th birthday, The Guardian published a profile on the legendary luchador that included some strange facts about his iconic mask including mention of a special mask for eating and that Santo would wear a mask even when he was meeting with politicians.

El Santo only revealed his face publicly one time. This shocking moment came on a January 1984 episode of the Mexican TV talk show Contrapunto when the luchador randomly pulled up his mask and looked at the camera. And though there is no proven connection, El Santo died of a heart attack a week later on February 5, 1984.

El Santo in Santo and Blue Demon vs the Monsters

El Santo Was Buried Wearing His Iconic Silver Mask

The death of El Santo sent shockwaves throughout Mexico, and as the legendary luchador was carried to his final resting place at Mausoleos del Ángel in Mexico City in February 1984, his funeral was attended by tens of thousands of fans and mourners who all came out to see him one final time. In September 2016, Google dedicated the “Doodle” on its landing page to El Santo and included a brief history of the iconic figure that shared information about his funeral, which is considered one of the biggest in the history of Mexico. But the most fascinating detail revealed here is the fact that El Santo, who only took off his mask in public once before his death, was buried in the silver mask that helped turn him into a real-life superhero decades earlier.

The WWE Hall of Fame Legacy logo

El Santo Was Inducted Into The WWE Hall Of Fame In 2018

El Santo never stepped foot into a WWF/WWE ring throughout his career, but the company still honored the iconic figure in 2018 when he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame “Legacy Wing,” which consists of wrestlers who made an impact on the sport in one way or another throughout the 20th Century.

It is easy to see why El Santo remains such a prominent figure in the world of professional wrestling nearly 40 years after his passing. Now all there is to do is queue up Santo and Blue Demon vs. the Monsters and marvel at the masked wrestler in a sport coat and turtleneck.

Philip Sledge

Philip grew up in Louisiana (not New Orleans) before moving to St. Louis after graduating from Louisiana State University-Shreveport. When he's not writing about movies or television, Philip can be found being chased by his three kids, telling his dogs to stop yelling at the mailman, or yelling about professional wrestling to his wife. If the stars properly align, he will talk about For Love Of The Game being the best baseball movie of all time.