The 50 Greatest Wrestlers Of The Last 50 Years: Who Is #47?

#47 El Hijo del Santo

Wrestling is a family industry, if you are a famous wrestler, a competent wrestler or even just a jobber, the chances of your father being a wrestler or your child ending up becoming a wrestler are impressively high.

Nowhere is family more important in wrestling than in Mexico, where everyone seems to be related. In WWE, it seems like half the roster is related to The Rock. South of the border in Mexico, sprawling families litter the wrestling landscape. If you are a wrestler, chances are not only your father is a wrestler but your uncles, your cousin and all of your brothers are as well.

Perhaps no role in wrestling is more difficult than being the son of a legendary performer. No matter how talented they are or how much they accomplish in their career, they are always going to be compared to their father. Contrary to popular opinion, not all of the sons of famous wrestlers end up being terrible talents. Sure, there are talents like Erik Watts or Wes Brisco who probably should have never become wrestlers and wouldn't have sniffed a major promotion if their last name was different. But a majority of them, such as Goldust, turn out to be solid pros that make out good careers for themselves. A few of them, such as Randy Orton, become even bigger stars than their fathers.

Nobody in wrestling had bigger boots to fill as a second-generation wrestler than El Hijo del Santo. His father, El Santo, is not only the most popular luchador of all time, he is arguably the most famous Mexican entertainer to ever apply their craft in the country. And unlike Goldust, who was able to create a gimmick that distanced himself from his famous father, there was no hiding that for Hijo del Santo. His name literally means "The Son of El Santo."

El Hijo del Santo was never able to be his father, but how could he be? For many fans, El Santo WAS lucha libre. If El Santo never came along and worked for Salvador Lutteroth, it is entirely likely that wrestling would have never stuck in Mexico and the concept of lucha libre wouldn't be universally known like it is today. There is no parallel to El Santo in American wrestling, he is culturally more like Babe Ruth or Elvis Presley.

El Santo, whose real name Rodolfo Guzmán Huerta, had 10 children, but El Hijo Del Santo was the only one to enter professional wrestling. Originally, Santo didn't want his children to enter the industry, so when El Hijo del Santo was breaking into the business he went by the name "El Korak" when he made his debut in 1982. Eventually he graduated from Universidad Iberoamericana, which was a promise to his father, Santo gave "Santito" his blessing and he made his debut as El Hijo del Santo later that year.

El Hijo del Santo shared many of his father's trademarks, including his iconic silver mask and used many of the same maneuvers in the ring. While he never reached the same iconic status as his father, he did surpass him in in-ring ability. While Santo was a star with no parallel, he was recognized as a sub-par worker in the ring, who relied on his talented rivals, most notably Blue Demon, to carry him to respectable matches. El Hijo del Santo was recognized as one of the top in-ring performers in all of lucha libre and he could always be counted on to have a high-quality match, regardless of opponent.
El Hijo del Santo got his start working for the World Wrestling Association, which was based in Tijuana, before moving up to the Universal Wrestling Association, which was based in Mexico City, and also wrestled for Empressa Mexicana de Lucha Libre, the company which would change the first word in its name to Consejo and still exists today as CMLL. In 1983 the Mexican wrestling press voted him as the Rookie of the Year.

El Hijo del Santo won the UWA World Lightweight Championship in October of 1985, and began to feud with Espanto Jr. in what would become a long-running storyline for El Hijo del Santo throughout his career. Espanto Jr. was obviously the son of Espanto, who was a rival of El Santo. Throughout El Hijo del Santo's career, he would often face the sons of his fathers rivals, including Eddie Guerrero, the youngest son of Salvador "Gory" Guerrero. El Hijo del Santo took Espanto Jr.'s mask in the first leg of their feud, but Espanto Jr. would exact his revenge when he took the title away from El Hijo del Santo. Finally in 1988, El Hijo del Santo took his championship back, along with Espanto Jr.'s hair.

During the same time period, El Hijo del Santo would begin his rivalry with his most significant opponent, Negro Casas. Negro Casas had debuted around the same time as El Hijo del Santos and was the son of popular wrestler Pepe Casas. El Hijo del Santo and Negro Casas engaged in a memorable feud that drew favorable reviews from critics and fans alike in the mid-1980s. It all began when El Hijo del Santo took the UWA World Lightweight Championship from Casas after Casas had held the championship for nearly a year. They would launch into one of the fiercest feuds in lucha libre history, culminating in a legendary Hair vs Mask match at the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles in 1987, which saw El Hijo Del Santo take the hair of his hated opponent. The feud is widely recognized as one of the best in Mexican history, for its dramatic storytelling and world class in-ring action.

As the 1990s began, El Hijo del Santo played a pivotal role in the development of wrestling in Mexico. From day one he was a big star because of who his father was, but through heated feuds and great in-ring work, he had propelled himself to being arguably the most popular wrestler in all of lucha libre. In 1992 the UWA was fading, and El Hijo del Santo decided to jump ship to the upstart promotion Asistencia Asesoría y Administración, or AAA. His arrival in the new company helped immediately established the company as a legit top-level competitor in lucha libre. By 1995, AAA would be the biggest promotion in Mexico and the UWA would be out of business.

After working a long and critically acclaimed feud with Heavy Metal, the youngest brother of Negro Casas, El Hijo del Santo engaged in a feud with the legendary tag team duo of Eddie Guerrero and Art Barr, collectively known as "Los Gringos Locos." Eddie's father, Gory Guerrero, had been a tag team partner with El Santo most of his career. The feud began with Eddie and El Hijo del Santo teaming up, but soon Eddie turned on his partner, which launched a vicious feud between the two. The feud culminated at the AAA PPV "When Worlds Collide" where El Hijo del Santo and Octagon defeated Guerrero and Barr in a Masks vs Hair match that was awarded a perfect five stars from the Wrestling Observer.

Unhappy with the way things were going in AAA, El Hijo del Santos jumped to CMLL and restarted his feud with Casas. In 1996, Casas had turned babyface and became one of the company's biggest stars. During a six man tag team match, Casas was blindsided by his own teammates and was beaten down. Standing across the ring on the heel (or rudo) side of the ring was a masked wrestler named Felino, who was another one of Casas brothers. The fans expected Felino to help his brother, but Felino instead removed his mask and revealed himself to be El Hijo del Santo. El Hijo del Santo then proceeded to beat the hell out of Casas, turning himself heel in the process. The audience in the crowd went insane, bottles peppered the ring and fans and security exchanged fisticuffs as they tried to storm the ring and tear at El Hijo del Santo. The unspeakable happened, the son of the greatest Mexican babyface in history had turned heel.

The ensuing feud between Casas and El Hijo del Santo popped the company and helped them get back in the game after losing ground on AAA. El Hijo del Santo stayed a heel until 1998 when he went back to the light and engaged in a successful feud with Villano III and Fuerza Guerrera. Following the face turn, Casas and El Hijo del Santo began teaming together as a top babyface tag team.

After tagging with Casas and wrestling on and off for several years, El Hijo del Santo returned in 2004 for one final tour with the company, working mainly with younger stars. His most notable feuds were with Perro Aguayo Jr. and Mistico, both of whom would go on to become two of the biggest stars of the next generation of Mexican wrestlers. He continued to wrestle on and off for the rest of the decade, officially retiring in 2014, although he still does wrestle the rare match.

Coming into the business, El Hijo del Santo was put in an almost impossible situation, filling the boots of an icon. Although he never reached the iconic status that his father did, when it came to wrestling in Mexico over the last 20 years of the century, few stars could claim as full of a career as El Hijo del Santo. He was involved in some of the best feuds in lucha libre history, was a top draw as a babyface and as a heel, as a tag team and a singles wrestler. When it was time to work with younger stars, he prepared the next generation for continued success. He wasn't the second coming of El Santo, but he was the first El Hijo del Santo, and that guy was pretty damn good.

Next week, #46 will be revealed, a big Canadian with great athleticism who became a decorated world champion.

The Top 50 so far:

50. Ted Dibiase
49. Superstar Billy Graham
48. Akira Maeda
47. El hijo del Santo

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