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This Day in Wrestling History (February 5)

31 years ago today, Rodolfo Guzman Huerta, best known to wrestling fans as the legendary El Santo (The Saint) dies of a heart attack in Mexico City. He was 66. He is credited with popularizing wrestling in Mexico, much in the way Rikidozan did in Japan and Hulk Hogan would later do in the United States.

Born September 23, 1917 in Tulancingo, Mexico, Rodolfo was the third youngest of seven children. He and his family moved to Mexico in the 1920s. As a child, he was interested in baseball and American football before trying his hand at ju-jitsu and wrestling. In the mid 1930's, Guzman began his career (some accounts put it at 1934, while others put it at 1935), but he would be established by the end of the decade, wrestling under the names Rudy Guzman, El Hombre Rojo, El Demonio Negro, and El Murcielago II.

In 1942, Don Jesus Lomeli, Guzman's manager, wanted to put together a team of wrestlers dressed in silver. Given a choice of one of three names, he went with El Santo (later just Santo), and it stuck. In 1952, he took on Los Hermanos Shadow (Blue Demon and Black Shadow) and won, unmasking Black Shadow. Blue Demon and Santo would have a legendary rivalry that spanned throughout 1952 and 1953, culminating in Blue Demon defeating Santo.

Around this time, his popularity began to grow away from the ring. A comic book series was created in his name and would become one of the most popular comic series in all of Mexico, running continuously for 35 years. Beginning in 1958, Santo appeared in 52 lucha libre films, many of them in starring roles. The B-movie style flicks usually revolved Santo fighting aliens, evil scientists, criminals, secret agents, and other tropey bad guys. Just four of his movies were ever dubbed into English, including Santo vs. Las Mujeres Vampiro (Santo vs. The Vampire Women) in 1962, featured on an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, and The Mummies of Guanajuato, released in 1970, which co-starred lucha legends Mil Mascaras and Blue Demon. Santo's final match and movie both came in 1982. His last film, Fury of the Karate Experts was filmed in Florida. His final match was just a week before his 65th birthday. Wrestling for Empresa Mundial de Lucha Libre (EMLL), he had won the National Middleweight Championship four times, the Light Heavyweight title once, the Welterweight title once, and was a two-time tag champion. He had also won the NWA World Welterweight and Middleweight Championships. He had also put his hair or mask on the line 35 times, never losing once.

In January 1984 while appearing on a Mexican talk show, Santo unmasked for the first and only time in public. He died in the evening hours on February 5, just a week after his brief unmasking.

He was buried wearing his famous silver mask. At the time of his death, he was survived by his wife and ten children, but only their youngest son Jorge broke into the wrestling business. He wrestled for over 30 years as El Hijo de Santo before retiring in 2014 due to a spinal injury. Surely enough, one of his sons has recently started wrestling too, as El Nieto de Santo. In the years since El Santo's passing, numerous statues have been erected in his honor. The legacy of El Santo lives to this day, as he had become a folk hero and a symbol of justice for the common man throughout Mexico.

27 years ago today, WWF presented The Main Event (WWE Network link) (not to be confused with the WWE show of the same name, THE Main Event was the Friday night version of the Saturday Night's Main Event series. Only five episodes were produced.) from the Market Square Arena in Indianapolis, Indiana. The show, highlighted by the first singles match between WWF Champion Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant since Wrestlemania III for the title, garnered a 15.2 television rating, or an audience of about 33 million people. No, that is not a misprint. 33 million people watched the historic rematch, making it the most watched wrestling program in American television history. The mark still stands today and will likely never be broken. Also of note, this was the first time a wrestling show aired on primetime network television since 1955. There was actually a full card for the people in attendance, so the results are included below.

  • Dark matches:
    • Demolition defeated Billy Jack Haynes & Ken Patera.
    • Ron Bass defeated Koko B. Ware.
    • The British Bulldogs defeated The Islanders.
    • Jim Duggan defeated The One Man Gang.
    • The Ultimate Warrior defeated Sika.
    • Randy Savage defeated The Honky Tonk Man by countout in a WWF Intercontinental Championship match.
  • Main Event matches:
    • Andre the Giant defeated Hulk Hogan to win the WWF Championship. There's a lot of information to digest here. The pin came off a double arm suplex by Andre, but Hogan's shoulders were clearly up before the three count. DiBiase (in storyline) paid off a referee to get cosmetic surgery to look like WWF official Dave Hebner. Moments after the win, Andre the Giant per a pre-match agreement sold the championship to Ted DiBiase. Then the real Dave Hebner showed up. That other guy? Dave's real-life twin brother Earl Hebner making his WWF debut. Hogan threw Earl over the top rope onto DiBiase and Virgil. The loss for Hogan ended his run at a staggering 1,474 days, or just over four years. DiBiase was actually announced as the WWF Champion in a few house show events following The Main Event, but on WWF Superstars on February 13, DiBiase's title reign was stricken from the record and the title declared vacant, with a new champion to be crowned via a one-night tournament at Wrestlemania IV. This is the first time the WWF Championship was vacated for a significant period of time in its 25-year history.
    • Strike Force (Rick Martel & Tito Santana) defeated The Hart Foundation Bret Hart & Jim Neidhart) (w/ Jimmy Hart) to retain the WWF Tag Team Championship The match was still in progress when the show went off the air.

21 years ago today, ECW presented The Night the Line Was Crossed from the ECW Arena in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The show featured what is believed to be the first three-man world championship match in professional wrestling history.

  • 911 defeated Chad Austin
  • Mr. Hughes vs. Sal Bellomo.
  • The Sandman & Tommy Cairo defeated Rockin Rebel & Pit Bull #1 in a double dog collar chain tag team match.
  • The Public Enemy (Johnny Grunge & Rocco Rock) defeated The Bruise Brothers (Don Harris & Ron Harris) in a no rules tag team match.
  • Jimmy Snuka defeated Tommy Dreamer.
  • Pat Tanaka & The Sheik defeated Kevin Sullivan & The Tazmaniac.
  • JT Smith defeated Mike Awesome.
  • Terry Funk, Sabu, and Shane Douglas went to a one-hour time limit draw for the ECW Heavyweight Championship. Sabu and Shane Douglas started one-on-one; if either man could defeat the other within 15 minutes, that person would get Terry Funk for the title. Neither man defeated the other, and Funk joined the match at the 15-minute mark. Douglas and Funk would get into a post-match brawl.

7 years ago today, Bobby Lashley announces in a statement that he had left WWE, less than a year after being part of the highly promoted Battle of the Billionaires match at Wrestlemania 23. Per his website:

"Circumstances, which are out of my control left me no decision but to leave the WWE. I can't go into details of this now but like I said before, sometimes people will hate you personally and try to destroy you, which has happened here. Evil has prevailed.  However like I said before, if you continue your struggle, doors will open around these people. You have not seen the last of me, so please don't stop your support. Add Bobby Lashley to the list of RECENTLY RELEASED!"

Lashley would have two stints in TNA and have a brief career in mixed martial arts. His latest TNA stint has seen him win the TNA World Heavyweight Championship twice.

2 years ago today, WWE announces they have surpassed one million subscribers on their Youtube channel. Today, the channel has uploaded over 20,000 videos and has over 5 million subscribers.

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