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Wrestling / Tito Santana

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Merced Solis (born May 10, 1953) is a semi-retired professional wrestler from Mission, Texas best known for his work in WWE in the 1980s as Tito Santana. He started his career in Florida in 1977 and also worked in Georgia, WWE, the American Wrestling Association, Southwest Championship Wrestling in San Antonio, and the Funk family's Western States Wrestling promotion in Amarillo, TX before making his home in WWE. Santana is a 2x WWE Intercontinental Heavyweight Champion, a 2x WWE World Tag Team Champion, holding the belts the first time with Ivan Putski and the second time with Rick Martel as Strike Force and a 1x NWA ECW Heavyweight Champion (see below under The Cameo). He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2004.

"Tropo Santana":

  • Arch-Enemy: Greg "The Hammer" Valentine, Slick, Rick "The Model" Martel (after Strike Force's split at WrestleMania V), Demolition
  • Bash Brothers: Rick Martel, Ivan Putski, Junkyard Dog, Pedro Morales
  • The Cameo: He's made several since his regular WWE run ended.
  • Catchphrase:
    • "¡ARRIBA!"
    • "Strike Force!" (with Rick Martel)
    • "¡Olé!" (as "El Matador")
    • His pointing up and then spinning his hand around was often a signal to the crowd that he was going for the figure-four leg lock.
  • Character Tics: When Tito was about to do the figure-four leg lock, he would often point in the air and spin his hand around to signal it to the crowd.
  • Combat Commentator: He acted as a commentator in WWF's Spanish Announcers table in the late '90s.
  • Continuity Nod: He and Rick Martel never quite got over the Strike Force split. From then on, whenever they were in a situation against one another, like a Royal Rumble, one would always make a beeline for the other, to the exclusion of everyone else.
  • Everyone Went to School Together: He and Tully Blanchard were on the West Texas State University football team together.
  • Face: One of the very few wrestlers to be a babyface for his entire career.
  • Finishing Move: Flying Forearm, figure-four leglock; (as "El Matador"): El Paso de la Muerte
  • Genius Bruiser: Teaches Spanish in New Jersey.
  • Gratuitous Spanish: Inverted since Spanish really is his first language. He doesn't always do this, but near the end of promos he can be heard speaking a little Spanish before ending with his catchphrase.note 
  • Legacy Character: WWE has repackaged Primo and Epico Colon, who are Puerto Rican, as "Los Matadores."
  • Mistaken Nationality: From Texas, billed from Mexico, though not even from an actual city in Mexico. See below.
  • Parts Unknown: He was billed from "Tocula, Mexico", which apparently was a misspelled reference to the city of Toluca, Mexico, making Santana possibly the most normal wrestler to be billed from a nonexistent place.
  • South of the Border: His "El Matador" gimmick.
  • Start My Own: A slight aversion in that Santana's Hair Salon in Succasunna, New Jersey is operated by his wife. As noted in "Genius Bruiser", Tito himself is a high school Spanish teacher.
  • Still Got It: As this clip from CHIKARA 2012 King of Trios Night 1 proves.
  • Tag Team: Strike Force, with Rick Martel
  • The Worf Effect: Acknowledged by Jim Cornette in his commentary on the Tito Santana-Kelly Kiniski match on Volume 5- Beat Me If You Can of the Wrestling Gold series that if you faced Tito and beat him in WWE in the mid-80s that meant that you were on the way up and if you faced Tito and lost that meant you weren't. This also contributed to his status as the sort-of Bizarro World version of The Undertaker, with a WrestleMania record of 2-7.
  • Throw the Dog a Bone: By the late 1980s, it was more common to see Santana on the losing end of matches, although he did have plenty of non-televised (at least on terrestrial television) victories that, until the Internet and YouTube eras weren't commonly known. These include a major push toward the WWF Intercontinental Championship in 1990 (although losing to Mr. Perfect), a King of the Ring championship-round victory over Rick Martel, and a rare victory (in Spain) over The Undertaker. The latter victory, which came in 1991, in the midst of Undertaker's push as an unbeatable Monster Heel, and also came a time where the WWF was pondering which direction to find its new face of the 1990s — Canada (and Bret Hart) or Mexico (and Santana). While they ultimately settled on Hart (and American Shawn Michaels), Santana's reliability and workmanship in the ring gave the WWF a solid option and a solid wrestler to build around had they decided on a lucha libre direction.