the referee's commands. Over the next 40+ years, El Santo would turn out to be an icon that transcended the wrestling business. Born in Hidalgo as Rudolfo Huerta, he began his career at age 16 without a mask. An audio recording of El Santo himself explained that after a while, he began to wear different masks and try out different names. Finally he came down to three that he liked: The Saint, The Devil or The Angel. Obviously, he chose the first option. As El Santo, promoters didn't know what he had to offer so he was first booked into a battle royale. Despite being a rudo, he impressed the promoters and the fans heavily with his aerial offense. The character immediately took off. The turning point was a 1952 match against hated rival Black Shadow, where the loser would have to unmask. After a 70-minute match, El Santo was victorious.
From this point on, the El Santo Express rolled nonstop as he became lucha's first true superstar. Comic books featured El Santo. TV commercials featured El Santo. Even movies featured El Santo, as he starred in over 50 of them, usually in the role of an action hero. The biggest surprise of all this was he still wrestled as a rudo until 1962, when he finally altered his style to tecnico. Many statements were made by wrestlers, historians and culturists, and they all raved about El Santo's generosity. Fame never went to his head. One anecdote shared by Cymet is that El Santo wrestled at an event that didn't draw well for whatever reason. The promoter handed El Santo his pay. El Santo asked if everyone else got paid as well. The promoter said unfortunately, the house was bad so he couldn't pay them outside of buying them dinner. El Santo handed the money back and said to split it amongst everyone.
El Santo retired in 1982, and passed away two years later. His death was a national event with tens of thousands attending the public service, and many world media outlets covering the passing. His son wrestles today with the same silver mask.
A funny story is told about audience interaction to segue into the second featured story. Fuerza Guerrera was getting verbally hammered one night during his match by an older woman. She was cursing him out, talking about his family, saying he was a bum, etc. Finally, Guerrera had enough and went over to the woman. She continued to scream at him, so he grabbed her purse and just dumped all of its contents onto her. Fans were both laughing at his antics, but at the same time booing him mercilessly. This type of interaction has always been very common at lucha events, with women being especially vocal. Lucha has always been family-oriented and it's not abnormal to see a large crowd being made up of over 50% women and children.
The second story then began and focused on Mascarita Sagrada. Midget wrestling, as it was called in the 1930's-1980's before the term became viewed as derogatory, was popular mostly in the States. Lutteroth saw this and decided he should bring this to Mexico as well, so in the mid-1940's he did just that. They were never the star attractions though until the 1970's. In early years it was considered more of an afterthought to most fans. However, a 1970 film featured several little people as criminal henchmen, and they actually employed lucha libre as their fighting style. Several of those actors even continued training after the movie and wound up in the business, one of the most famous being a man who went by Gulliver. Antonio Pena introduced these "minis" as smaller versions of the full-size characters, and fans ate it up. This practice continues today with Mascarita Sagrada being a smaller version of Mascara Sagrada.
Mascarita Sagrada was one of 14 children, born in Zacatecas. His sister, Rosa, stated that he never let his small size bother him even though he wound up having to fight obstacles growing up because of it. One time a teacher told him to fetch some folders from a high shelf. His friend said to the teacher that he wouldn't be able to reach it, and the teacher simply replied, "That's his problem." Sagrada never hesitated though, he just got a chair, climbed on it and retrieved the folders. He explained to not get the folders would be admitting defeat and stunting himself. Sagrada ultimately grew to be 4'5". He said there were times when he'd ask himself why God was punishing him, but nowadays he wouldn't have his life any other way. "You don't have to be big to do big things." Clips are shown of Sagrada being absolutely mobbed by fans, mostly children, as he makes his way to the ring for a match. Sagrada said as he was growing up, he got into martial arts and actually thought that lucha libre was demeaning. However, once he decided to try it out, he found himself to be completely wrong about the sport.
We see several minutes of Gulliver and Mascarita bantering as they tell stories to the camera, and the camaraderie is hilarious. Gulliver's biggest thrill is to still be recognized today and to be accepted by wrestling fans as not just a sideshow, but as legitimately athletic and entertaining. Sagrada ultimately enjoys showing that any adversity can be overcome.
The third and final story is of Solar, who we were introduced to earlier in the hour. Solar is called one of the few remaining active and living legends of the Silver Era of lucha libre. Clips are shown of Solar wrestling in Austin, Texas, and also we see Solar with his wife and grown son at home. Both men are wearing their masks as they head out for an arena show. Born in Jalisco, Solar grew up on a farm where, as his wife explains, he had to survive quite literally. Resources were scant. Finally, the family moved to Guadalajara, and his father took him to a lucha event. Solar wound up enamored with the spectacle almost immediately and he took a particular liking to a wrestler named El Solitario. The look, the wrestling, the colors...it all spoke to him. Solar told his father at that moment that he would be doing this... (Continues on next page)