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Monday, July 7, 2008

Interview With Tito Santana

Courtesy of Piledriver Online's Steve Ashfield:

Who trained you and how difficult did you find that process?

I was trained by Hero Matsuda and Bob Ortan Sr. It was difficult physically and mentally, because I did not grow up a wrestling fan. Terry Funk talked me into not giving up. So, I guess I owe it all to him.

You joined WWE in 1979, what were your first impressions of the company and the way the McMahon family ran the business

Vince Sr. was first class. Coming from the south where wrestling was really protected, and seeing how in New York good guys and bad guys could hang together really threw me of, but I did not mind it. Business was better here than anywhere else in the country, so I figured it works. The fans were loyal regardless.

You won the WWE tag titles twice, once with Ivan Putski and then with Rick Martel. How did those two tag partners compare?

Rick was young and had similar style to mine, where Ivan was a powerful man who also had lots of carisma. Rick was my friend who I ran around with, Ivan was kinda my mentor, older and a man who kept to himself more. Both were respected by me equally.

Back in the 80s WWE had a really strong tag division, that’s not the case today, why do you think the tag division has struggled in recent years?

I believe that you do not have the luxury of having enough polish workers helping the young wrestlers. The business has changed and it will never be the same. Story lines are impossible to continue more than a couple months. We had a wrestling program, now it's a TV program. Big time.

Your feud with Greg Valentine over the IC Title lasted nearly a year and a half, did you expect the series of matches between the pair of you to last so long and how difficult was it to keep the feud fresh?

I do not think anyone thought it would last besides Greg and I It was not difficult because it was like magic. The fans believed our feud, because we used to make it almost real. I would always tell Greg after a match that I had EASIER STREET FIGHTS.

How did you feel about going back into the tag division after your success with the IC Title?

I always felt that I was a better single wrestler, but again, I knew that if the company needed me in a tag-team, that's what I would do. Tag team matches were much easier on your body.

How did you feel about adopting the ‘El Matador’ character?

I never liked the gimmick, but if I was going to be pushed I knew I could make it work. It did not take me long to figure out that there were no plans for El Matador. I called to find what kind of merchandising would be coming out, I was told only the figure was planned. That gave it away.

In 2004 you were inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. I watched that ceremony again recently and it obviously meant a great deal to you. Some wrestlers though don’t have the same feeling about the ceremony, why do you think that’s the case?

I believe that a lot of wrestlers expect for Vince to continue to take care of them, I don't. I appreciate it every time I receive a royalty check ever quarter. I never imagined that being inducted into the HOF was going to mean so much to me. I am glad I was not stupid enough to turn it down.

You continue to wrestle matches but now teach Spanish, how do your pupils feel having a WWE Hall of Famer as their teacher?

I believe the kids love it. Our students received their year books today, and they all want me to sing as Tito Santana.

Was it an enjoyable process writing your  autobiography?

It was great to tell my story. Being a minority, I felt that if I could influence one person and give them hope, it would all be worth it. I dedicated it to my mom and family. My mom is 89 and well. I know she is proud of me.

How did pro wrestling change during your career?

It went from earning a living from what you drew of the gate proceeds to a TV show and merchandising being a big part of your income.

For more about Tito’s autobiography ‘Tales from the Ring’ go to www.sportspublishingllc.com To read more from this interview go to http://www.piledriver-online.co.uk/ccount/click.php?id=17 where you can also read interviews with Bruno Lauer, Mascarita Sagrada, El Ligero, Lucy Clayden plus nearly 50 pages of news. Also in the download section of http://www.piledriver-online.co.uk there’s another 15 free mags to download.