Every country’s professional wrestlers have a story to tell, and El Salvador is no exception. Although their names aren’t widely known, these stories of perseverance, triumphs, and even near-death are worthy of any wrestling fan. Here are some incredible testimonies from three of El Salvador’s finest ring gladiators.
Professional Wrestling in El Salvador
Professional wrestling is everywhere if you know where to look.
A year ago, I befriended José Guzman, the current owner of El Salvador’s most stable and respected wrestling company: Arena Gladiadores.
Guzman, a roughened ring veteran who debuted in 1997 with the legendary Argentinean Coloso Colosetti, has become the link between the older generation that paved the way for the Salvadoran wrestling scene and the new breed that is trying to restore it to its past glory. Through him, I had the privilege of interviewing and hearing unforgettable tales from three former Salvadoran wrestlers.
Al Copetes – The Premier Heel of El Salvador
José Guzman insisted that I meet the infamous Al Copetes — El Salvador’s most unpredictable and charismatic rulebreaker.
He is nicknamed “El Locadío,” a variation of the Spanish word "crazy," and Copetes in English translates to “pompadour.” While annoying people with his peculiar hair, he’d brutalize his opponents and was a habitual user of unusual foreign objects such as lemons, onions, spoiled raw chicken, eggs, car tires, and even assorted garbage.
With his stiff blows and unrelenting ring savagery, Al Copetes forbade anyone from contemplating the possibility of wrestling being fake. Despite often being a challenge to work with, Copetes was money at the gate and a standout amongst his peers. You never knew what to expect when he was on the card.
He was never much of a talker, but José Guzman told me he could get the fans wanting to tear him to shreds with just one look. He is still revered amongst the wrestling and sporting circles of El Salvador, even though there is sparse footage remaining of his antics.
With Al Copetes’s reputation preceding him, I didn’t know what to expect while waiting for him at El Café de Don Pedro restaurant situated in the El Salvador capital of San Salvador.
Struggling to climb the stairs and using a cane, I saw an unimposing, undersized man who didn’t look at all fearsome or dangerous approach me. I wondered if he was Al Copetes or a senior citizen looking to have a meal at one of San Salvador’s oldest and well-known restaurants that started as a drive-thru in 1958.
José Guzman and former babyface wrestler The Rayman, who also accompanied us, confirmed that it was our guest when they immediately stood up and allowed him to sit wherever he wanted.
Both at a loss of words, they just stared in awe. Was it fear and apprehension I sensed from The Rayman after Al Copetes sat and glanced at him?
I tried to put myself in their shoes but couldn’t; I did not know him.
Copetes proceeded to show pictures of his wrestling career. With a very unassuming soft voice from a man long retired from the grappling wars, he related several stories that helped me understand how important this man was to El Salvador’s wrestling history. It is shameful that he isn’t more well-known outside of Central America.
Soon, a large, still muscular man that wrestled under the name Huracán (Jorge Canizález) joined us.
After briefly introducing himself and apologizing for running a little late, he squeezed into one of the chairs, sat down, and let Al Copetes continue recounting his journey into professional wrestling.
As Al Copetes spoke, I couldn’t help but notice how unusually large Huracán’s hands were. I’m sure with an open hand slap, which is common in Lucha Libre, those paws could light up someone’s chest and set off a raw crimson color not to disappear for a week.
As a young child growing up in the mid-’50s, Al Copetes (real name Medardo Perez Menjivar) remembers that he and the other neighborhood kids used to wrestle and fall on banana leaves they’d lay on the ground. They were imitating wrestlers like El Apache, El Mongol, El Lucero, El Diablo Rojo, and El Gran Chema.
Where he lived, people paid five cents (Colones) to watch wrestling on a single TV because most people in El Salvador couldn’t afford to have one of their own. Once inside, they’d sit on benches and root for their heroes and jeer the villains. Classic confrontations lost over time and hopefully, if possible, brought back to life through these here words.
Coming from an impoverished family, Capotes often had no money and often struggled to find his next meal. One afternoon, he found himself peeking through a gap in the wall where the people gathered to enjoy wrestling. Soon the owner noticed, and he wasn’t going to allow any freeloaders.
“He told another kid a few years older than me, who they called ‘El Rompo,’ to kick my ass because I was watching TV and hadn’t paid. I was skinny, poor, and not used to sticking up for myself,” recalls Al Copetes. “So this older kid, who was also a Lucha Libre fan, started doing moves on me like he’d seen on TV! He really went to town on my mouth, my nose… just terrible.
“I just lay there weeping and bloodied. That’s when I was determined to learn Lucha Libre when I grew up, and all my training was hell-bent on getting revenge on this guy. Perhaps that’s when my mean streak in the ring began.”
Al Copetes, like many old school wrestlers, had to go through demanding obstacles before even stepping foot inside the squared circle. There was no such thing as instantly becoming a wrestler. It took years to turn pro.
“I’ve seen military training. It wasn’t even half as demanding as when I started to train to be a wrestler,” affirmed Al Copetes, cracking the end of his cane on the floor to emphasize his point.
“To be athletes like we were, we needed to train very hard over many demanding hours.”
I wrongly believed that the conversation between Al Copetes, The Rayman, Huracán, José Guzman, and I needed a little levity, so I jokingly told him that he seems to have later taken out all his frustrations on The Rayman, who was sitting next to him very quietly and not interrupting any of his stories. Al Copetes barely acknowledged my comment and certainly did not smile. He was polite enough to listen to it, but if he didn’t find it humorous, he certainly didn’t feel the need to fake delight for my sake.
Working in an era when kayfabe was wrestling’s bread-and-butter, Lucha Libre to him was still serious business and not to be taken lightly. And even less so by someone who isn’t “one of the boys.”
“I never forgot that incident,” he continued in a solemn tone.
“I grew up and debuted in 1964 at only seventeen years old and was already wrestling at la Arena Metropolitana (now a school). I was about 200 lbs, and the heaviest I got was 220 lbs. Well, I was constantly looking for that kid that beat me up. He lived in the same neighborhood, but he was always bigger. One day, I finally ran into him and forcibly told him, ‘Now you’re going to hit me like you did when I was just a kid.’ He quickly declined and seemed fully aware that I was already appearing in newspapers and known as a rising star, but he didn’t escape what was coming to him on that day! He pleaded with me and reminding me that, ‘We were just kids, and that’s why he beat me up, but not anymore and to please accept his apologies.’
“At the time, the brash young man in me answered, ‘No. Now we’re going to kill each other. It’s either going to be you or me.'”
While listening to this story, Copetes admitted, “When we are young, we can be very dumb.”
I learned my lesson from beforehand and nodded in agreement.
“My father-in-law tried to stop me, but to no avail. Eventually, other people calmed me down. Strangely though, he and I ended up as friends. But that fury within me for what he had done years before drove me to become a professional wrestler.”
Huracán then wanted to add his story on how he entered the sport. He made eye contact with me and later addressed everyone else when speaking.
Huracán liked wrestling because his father, Vikingo II (named by El Diablo Rojo), was a wrestler. But he tried to dissuade him from entering the sport and took him through the wringer their first training sessions.
“I’d get hit hard. My chest took such a beating that I couldn’t even cough because it hurt so much. My mom urged me not to continue and would exclaim to my father, ‘Look what you’ve done to our son!’
Huracán continued, “My dad did this so that I’d quit and forget about wrestling, but once my dad saw that he couldn’t get rid of me so quickly, he took me to a place where I could get formal training. I remember El Bucanero, Ringo El Mercenario, and Bill Martinez ‘El Tigre Colombiano’ was waiting for me.
“‘Here’s my son. You know what to do with him,’ said my father to the awaiting luchadors.
“Just because I was his son, it didn’t mean they were going to take it easy on me, of course!
“My first wrestling lesson with them wasn’t wrestling. It was what they call physical conditioning, but it was closer to torture! They made me vomit until yellow phlegm came out. It was horrible. Bitter. We used to train four hours daily, and it was two years before I had my first match.
“I debuted in 1981 with Capital Sports Promotions in El Salvador, but then I went to Guatemala. When I came back, I planned to wrestle as a Spiderman character because I saw how well it got over with the fans, and back then, I was thinner and could walk on the ropes and do the acrobatic stunts he was doing. But when I arrived in El Salvador, the promoter already had a name for me. He showed me a mask, and it was identical to Huracán Ramirez Jr. (a very famous Mexican luchador), and people thought I was the real deal. When I lost the mask, my name got shortened to Huracán.”
Dangerous Fans, Huracán Speaks about Bruiser Brody and Invader 1
Al Copetes continued leading us down his journey into wrestling by recalling a time he and his partner El Maldito (then calling themselves “The Dobermans) beat the local team Los Corsarios in Guatemala. The fans and other Guatemalan wrestlers were so upset that they were going to fight them in the locker room, but he told Los Corsarios, “If you guys want to fight, then let’s do it, but get these other people out of here.”
“They wanted to lynch us and then kill us,” he told me. “And because I was a rudo (rulebreaker), many times people wanted to hurt me. Fans chasing me with machetes was not as strange as you might think!”
He took a sip of the soda he had barely touched, leaned back in his seat after propping his cane against the table, and continued.
“I’ll tell you a funny story,” he began. “When I was fighting (he’d use the word fight instead of wrestle) with that guy [pointing to The Rayman sitting adjacent to him], he was good with karate, and he gave me a couple of good kicks that dropped me on my butt out of the ring. But when he chased me outside, I surprised him, hit him back, and got him into a Full Nelson hold. I had him synched in real tight and ignored the referee counting us out; he was useless anyway! But then a fan got a wooden board from somewhere; it was more like a 2X4. She held the chunk of wood in her hands and yelled at me to leave The Rayman alone, to let him go.
“Remember, many fans loved The Rayman around here. Well, when she saw that I wouldn’t yield, she held the 2X4 high and tried to lay the lumber on me, but I raised The Rayman instead. She accidentally cracked the slab right on his skull, splitting him wide open! He just crumbled to the ground, and there was blood everywhere. The lady screamed in panic after she saw what she’d done and fled the arena.”
“I, unfortunately, remember that,” added The Rayman meekly, rubbing his head as if remembering something he wished he could forget.
José Guzman then added a story that involved Al Copetes, too.
“As Big Manager, I once managed him in the former Arena El Salvador (now a Super Repuestos specializing in auto parts), along with The Spoiler from Puerto Rico (not Don Jardine).
“The Spoiler was a large man at almost six foot seven inches tall, and some idiot fan threw a glass bottle that broke on his head. He always carried a chain, so he got mad and reacted rather unthinkingly by taking it out and swung it in the direction of where the bottle came from. He wound up hitting a guy who happened to be a lawyer and a police inspector’s brother. Suddenly, the guy found a hacksaw from God knows where so now Al Copetes was kicking him and trying to keep the guy at bay so he wouldn’t come into the ring. It was a mess.
“A version of SWAT called UTO came in looking for The Spoiler. We had to disguise him by putting him in another outfit and gave him another mask so he could escape the arena. People told the UTO, ‘They were two big fat guys dressed in black; they’re probably in the back.’ And one of those guys was me! Because of that crazy Spoiler guy, they wanted to take Al Copetes and me to jail, too!”
Huracán went off on a tangent, speaking about his experiences in Puerto Rico and WWC.
"Fans can be tough. I worked in Puerto Rico from 1990-95 and was known for many years as Cyclone Salvadoreño. I was fortunate that the fans in Puerto Rico accepted me. Just because you’re a foreigner, it didn’t automatically make you a heel in Puerto Rico. I made a lot of friends over there. Plus, the weather was very comfortable and similar to El Salvador. We went to the adjoining island of Vieques for a couple of shows, too."
Of course, when speaking about Puerto Rico, the tragic death of Bruiser Brody usually comes up, and Huracán offered his perspective on the incident after meeting José González known as Invader 1.
“Something strange I noticed about José González when I met him in the early ‘90s was that he always had a small ball he’d bounce around and squeeze. Or he had these nails you had to take out and put back in their place. I asked Vikingo 1 (a Salvadoran but who has lived in Puerto Rico most of his life), and he told me it was therapy because of what he went through. I also heard that he was envious of Brody or the other way around.
“I heard he had a kitchen knife wrapped inside a towel when arguing with Brody. But still, today, he is an idol in Puerto Rico. I heard he had a friend who paid a lot of money so there wouldn’t be a trial. But then you have karma. One of his daughters drowned in a pool. I think that’s what affected him most, not the Brody incident."
When speaking about several subjects including his book, When It Was: My Life on Both Sides of The Camera, photographer Scott Romer claims that he didn’t include photos showing how popular José González, Invader 1 was in Puerto Rico because author John Cosper felt that it might be too controversial.
But Huracán assured us that José González was very well-liked.
“He’d just stick his hand out of the curtain before making his way to the ring, and the people would stand up. He had a way with the people.”
Huracán then went on to show us pictures of wrestlers he met and worked with in Puerto Rico such as Dutch Mantel, Ricky Santana, Carlos Colon, Pretty Boy Doug Masters, Rex King, Miguel Perez, as well as a young Kane. He also had photos of several Mexican luchadors from the time he did spot shows at the Grand Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles, California.
Huracán remembers wrestling against Greg Valentine, saying, “I don’t wish those forearms strikes to the chest on my worst enemy. He was a tough guy in the ring.”
He also remembers Eddie Guerrero as “a jokester and one of the nicest people he’s known.”
And then, a picture of Huracán with Abdullah the Butcher caught my eye.
“Abdullah seemed to me a very humble man,” admitted Huracán, “but when he got inside the ring, it was a whole different deal. He’d transform himself into the Butcher!”
In mid-interview, we snapped a shot of his photo with Abdullah The Butcher and sent it to him, asking Abby if he remembered the Salvadorian Cyclone. A couple of minutes later, Abdullah affirmed and wrote back, “Yes, sir!”
I later helped send him another message.
Al Copetes, A Tiger Never Loses its Stripes
José Guzman continued telling more stories about the unpredictable Al Copetes while he had our attention. Of course, we were all ears.
“Once, he brought a very realistic looking rifle to the arena and started pointing it to the crowd. The people were just frozen with fear. Al Copetes was so convincing. After a good several minutes, he lowered it and just smirked. The people hated him for that!
“Aside from wrestling, Al Copetes had a vegetable stand in San Salvador’s downtown marketplace. He’d put lemon juice in his opponent’s eyes and frequently used rotten vegetables, spoiled raw chickens, and cracked raw eggs into an opponent’s mouth. Perhaps most famously, he’d hide onions in his trunks to later use them on his hapless opponents earning him the chants of ‘cebollero,’ which translated to ‘onioner,’ a slight towards people who sell vegetables for a living. I also saw him throw sand into a greenhorn’s eyes and almost blinding him.
“On another opponent, he scraped a rock across his chest and later even tried to make him swallow a dead rat! And just as hard as he’d hit you, he expected you to answer him two-fold, or he’d strike you so hard, you’d curse the day you decided to become a wrestler.”
I looked toward Al Copetes and asked, “Is that true? You seem like such a calm fellow there sipping your soda.”
After hearing all of this, Al Copetes, always the heel, casually said that his sport certainly has rules that need to be respected, but he “sometimes had to break them.”
“I got things done to me as well,” Copetes offered, “but there was nobody better than me. Nobody.”
Looking through the many pictures neatly protected in a photo album that Al Copetes carried, the inevitable question of “Is he still with us?” would arise. The most common answer was a foreboding “No.”
When I asked who trained him, there was a long pause until he responded, “I had several trainers.”
I believe he wanted to kayfabe me, keeping mum some aspects of his career instead of pulling back the curtain on everything in just one conversation. And that’s okay, and his right to do so.
Going through more photos, Al Copetes proudly showed me a bloody encounter at Arena Metropolitana that he had with The Rayman, where although Al Copetes lost and got his head shaved afterward, he proclaimed that he left his rival “a little less handsome than before!”
The Rayman just sat in silence, looking at the menu to see if he might order something to eat or just not wanting to look at Al Copetes more than he had to.
Several wrestlers’ names long gone continued to come up in the conversation as all of us perused Al Copetes’ cherished album. I tried my best for the interview not to sound like an obituary and feel like a funeral by quickly changing the subject. But inevitably, I unwittingly asked about someone else in a photo that had passed away to that ring in the sky.
He showed me another picture of when he lost his hair once again, but this time in a match against one of the best foreign technical wrestlers who for many years called El Salvador and other Central American countries his second home. His name was The Tempest (real name Delfino Espíndola Serrano), a legendary high-flyer from Mexico who passed away in 2011.
Known as El Caballero Blanco (The White Knight), his look was similar to El Santo with his silver mask and cape.
Before becoming The Tempest, for many years, he wrestled under the name Ulises. One of his main rivals other than Al Copetes was El Diablo Rojo and El Bucanero, arguably one of El Salvador’s most hated heels after Al Copetes, of course.
It turns out that The Tempest was The Rayman’s trainer. He was who inspired him to become a professional wrestler.
“I wanted to get into wrestling after I saw The Tempest. He was like a real live superhero in the ring, an idol to the people. He had charisma, presence, wrestling ability, and everything a successful wrestler needed. Fans gifted him cars and motorcycles!”
Other than the previous comment, The Rayman continued to be conspicuously quiet while I spoke with Al Copetes. While their rivalry was what seemed ages ago, there was a palpable tension where he chose to agree with what Al Copetes said and added little more to his stories.
The restaurant patrons were shocked at seeing the bloody photos of the two mild-mannered-looking senior citizens that were now at the same table together acting civilized.
“Time has passed,” explained Al Copetes. “We are retired now. We are professionals.”
The Rayman just nodded in agreement with his arms folded across his chest.
Someone briefly mentioned Rayo Hondureño as one of Honduras’s most popular stars.
Finally, after asking Al Copetes again, he told me that one of his last trainers before turning pro was El Aguila Azteca, a Mexican luchador. Gory Medina, too, who was Capulina’s (Mexican comedian and entertainer) stunt double. And El Centurion.
Al Copetes firmly proclaimed that he never backed down from any opponent and is proud that he separated his family life from his wrestling career. When it was time to step into the ring, nothing else mattered because the fans expected everything from him.
Copetes believes that he had a high pain threshold because he remembers a wrestler called Super Cipote ran over his stomach with a bike, and some opponents dug coat hangers into his ribs or hit him with a belt, and he’d barely flinch.
When it was time to part ways with El Salvador’s most notorious rulebreaker, I told him, “Thank you for sharing your stories and your photos. You are a national treasure. Thank you for being authentically yourself.”
He wanted me to take pictures of him with a large trophy he’d won. I think I saw him crack a small smile, and he said goodbye to everyone at the table, but not before doing a collar and elbow lock up with The Rayman for the first time in years after I politely asked them.
I saw Al Capotes three months later at a legends tribute show hosted by Arena Gladiadores in December of 2020. He came up to me and struck up a conversation. I patted him on the shoulder, and I told him that he looked great. He exclaimed that he felt tremendous but is finally accepting that his career was over after breaking his hip many years ago.
“I love Lucha Libre so much and gave up so much for the sport. I cried when I realized I could no longer fight in the ring. But I’m happy to thank my fans one more time. I did everything for them for so many years,” he said.
The Rayman – Beloved Salvadoran Technical Wrestler
The Rayman (real name Ernesto Godoy) was already proficient at Judo and Karate when he started training to become a professional wrestler in 1973. He’d make his in-ring debut in 1975.
The name “The Rayman” comes from him being fast like a “rayo” or “hombre rayo,” which is a man as quick as lightning.
Now retired, he is known by many as “The Professor” and still referees for Arena Gladiadores. He has his own business where he manufactures clothes, including wrestling outfits, and masks. Even though The Rayman has been retired for almost ten years, people still recognize him on the street.
“Once, I didn’t have to make a long line in the bank because the head executive recognized me. I never have to make a long line at that bank again,” he chuckles. “It’s very humbling.”
Once Al Copetes left the restaurant, The Rayman became more talkative and eagerly showed me a sizable scar on his right wrist that his watch was hiding.
“This was from Al Copetes. He used a broken bottle where I almost bled to death. This is one of the many permanent memories, literally scars that remind me every day of the wars we engaged in. Sometimes he won, and sometimes I won, but they were all blood baths, and the people loved them. We would sell out buildings.”
Now I understood why he’d just let Al Copetes talk. The rulebreaker’s unpredictable nature could’ve possibly led to another unwanted confrontation after all these years. It was best not to contradict his stories. When Al Copetes talks, you listen and agree.
“He was crazy, with his hair, and he always wore different wacky outfits. Once, he even had Christmas lights on his boots, and another time I remember he came out of the dressing room, and as he approached the ring, we all noticed he wore a woman’s panties over his trunks. The people just busted out laughing and couldn’t stop. He acted like he didn’t know what was so funny.”
“But he was so charismatic,” added José Guzman. “Even though the fans loved to see him suffer and get beat up, he had such a gift that afterward he’d gain their sympathy! It was amazing to see him so over with the fans as they’d help him leave the ring while he was bloody and beaten. During the day, they’d pass by his vegetable stand, harass and yell at him. Then they’d come to the shows hoping that he’d get beaten to a pulp. It was the ultimate love/hate relationship!”
Brushes With Death Outside of the Ring
When talking about El Salvador, the conversation often shifts to its decade-long civil war, and The Rayman remembers some spine-tingling close brushes with death during the early ’80s.
“During the war, we had to travel caravan style. All of the wrestlers piled inside a couple of cars, and the ring was ahead of us. Sordomudo Cruz, Taboo, El Lucero, and I were in one car and on our way to Honduras. We sometimes couldn’t differentiate the guerillas and the soldiers because their uniforms were a very similar green olive color. Our driver misunderstood the officer at the checkpoint. He mistakenly assumed that a sign meant for us to stop indicated that we could continue. Our car got pumped full of lead. I saved Sordomudo Cruz because I instinctively pushed his head down. One of the wrestlers ended up covered in glass shards. We still have nightmares from that.
“In another incident, we were all told to get out of the car. The guerillas had the gasoline to burn the vehicle. We even saw cattle they’d slaughtered and left on the side of the road. We thought we were next and about to end up with the cow carcasses. But one of them wearing a bunch of bandoliers recognized us from TV. We thought death was upon us, but we were able to breathe easy again. That was a real close call!
“Another time we got stopped by the military, and one wrestler called Cyclone Cuscatleco, who was a guard for the National University, couldn’t get rid of his ID card that signified that he was a guerilla sympathizer. I told him to stay close to me and to put the ID card in his mouth. Sordomudo Cruz was again with us, and he was deaf-mute as his name implied. I told the soldiers that Cyclone Cuscatleco also had speech problems like Cruz, which probably saved our lives. I don’t know how we got out of that one or how they believed me.”
God’s Warning, According to The Rayman
Once The Rayman says he heard a voice he claims was God that told him not to turn onto a particular street. Right when he turned the corner, two trucks cornered everyone and started searching them. A fellow wrestler named El Dragon got incarcerated for five days for questioning for having what looked like a ski mask but was actually the mask he used to wrestle. The soldiers either didn’t or chose not to believe him.
Come Monday, when both The Rayman and Vikingo 1 were in Arena Santa Anita (now a warehouse for Petrov Vodka) working on the weekly schedule and looking to see how much money they’d made over the weekend, they noticed El Dragon was missing. When they finally located him through underground sources, he had been tied up for five days and beaten to near unconsciousness. The Rayman still carries an ID card that identifies him as a wrestler to avoid any problems.
The Rayman has wrestled in countries like Columbia, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Mexico.
When in Mexico, he remembers stars like El Solitario, Dr. Wagner, and Angel Blanco, known as La Ola Blanca faction. Even though he had an opportunity to wrestle in Japan during the early ’90s, he preferred to get a degree to use once his wrestling days were behind him.
“After your wrestling days are over, nobody is there to give you a helping hand,” said The Rayman. “I learned this by seeing other wrestlers and their hardships, so I decided to study and get my degree to have something to fall back on.”
“Yeah, you’re absolutely right about that,” added Huracán, who had been listening to The Rayman speak alongside me.
“Speaking of Guatemala,” Huracán added, “I wrestled Dr. Wagner Jr. there and lost my mask after he defeated me. You mentioning where you’ve wrestled reminded me of when I was in Bogotá, Colombia, which is at 2,640 meters (8,660 feet) above sea level. The wrestlers had towel-carrying seconds who helped the wrestlers when they cramped up. Also, small bottles filled with ammonia were used to revive weary wrestlers — mostly not from Colombia — gasping for air due to the thin air. I won championship belts in Colombia, Ecuador, and one in the Caribbean against a tough Panamanian wrestler called Rambo. Those were battles, let me tell ya!”
Huracán continued, “In Mexico, I remember meeting Hijo Del Santo, Pierroth, Baby Face, El Satanico, and Shocker. Mascara Año 2000, Cien Caras, and Universo 2000 treated me very well when they didn’t have to. I got lost many times in Arena Mexico when training with the CMLL. The local boys often helped orient me to where I needed to go. That place is huge! I always found Negro Casas and Black Warrior very arrogant. But sorry to get you off track there!”
“Nah, don’t worry about it!” answered The Rayman with a chuckle. “I like your stories, you know I do. We were tag partners on many occasions, and your stories always helped pass the time.”
Injuries Adding Up
“I’d love to keep on wrestling forever,” admits The Rayman, “but injuries really pile up. My spinal column, nerves in my lumbar region, and knees are too beat up now. I even use a cane in the shower. But I’m happy still being able to referee a couple of matches per card with José Guzman’s Arena Gladiadores.”
I cringed when The Rayman spoke about the injury that almost ended his career and another gruesome accident involving his arm.
“I was going to die once, and this is the truth. I was teaming with The Robin, or was it Chamaco Gomez? Anyways, my opponents double-teamed me and kicked me behind the back and below the waist. Then, while dazed on the mat, one came off the third rope and landed with his legs on my head. I went back to the locker room and was walking like I was drunk. I laid down on a bench for what seemed like a few seconds, but everybody had left except my partner when I came to. I asked him to get me a cab, but the driver didn’t want to let me in because he thought I was drunk! I felt like my head was swimming.
“After sitting in a public hospital called Hospital Rosales for hours and with nobody ever attending me, they took me to a private clinic. It turned out that my inner ear had lost its fluid and was affecting my balance. I felt like I was going to die. The next day, the doctor gave a more specific diagnosis and told me that I had CFC (Cerebrospinal Fluid Leak) probably due to the head injury.
“I was discharged on a Thursday and told my family that I would go to the arena to check the schedule. My family was incensed that I was even out of bed! When I got to the arena, they asked me what had happened and explained what I knew. After paying me, they told me I was scheduled for Sunday, just three days after I almost killed myself! So come Sunday around 1 pm, I couldn’t find my tights or boots, and I thought that I’d hit my head more seriously than I’d thought. But in reality, my family had hidden all my gear.
“I went to a friend to borrow some tights and boots that were a size too small. Once in the ring, wearing these painfully small boots that hurt my toes, my fellow wrestlers had to help me stand up. They told me to do a couple of kicks and then to get out. Once outside on the apron, I looked out into the crowd. My family was in the stands. I guarantee you there was no cheeriness in their faces.
“For several months I couldn’t regain my balance.
The Rayman continued, “Once I got such a deep cut, the doctor gave up and told me to call a family member because he planned to cut my arm off! I’m not even kidding you.
“I told him, ‘What the hell are you talking about, doc? Just sew me up! How the heck am I supposed to wrestle with one arm?’
“He refused, saying that the cut had pierced more than skin and that the damage was irreparable. The best thing was to chop it off.
“Thankfully another doctor did take a chance, and I didn’t get my arm amputated after all, but I was never the same in the gym when lifting weights. Just another scar that marks my career, I guess!”
Huracán added stories of his near-death experiences in the ring that made me wince while sipping the beer I’d just ordered.
“Once, in El Salvador, they had fire around the ring, but they used jet fuel. My tights caught fire thanks to Two-Face. When they tried to put it out, the material got stuck to my skin and burnt my legs. They were third-degree burns, so I needed skin grafting afterward. That was horribly painful! It was pure charred meat and skin getting scraped.
“Nobody told me I would get burned, but you have to expect anything and everything when you step into that ring. I didn’t expect my burning tights to stick to my skin like they did, though. The worst part is that they tried to put it out with water, which made it worse. I had terrible blisters and came down with a very high fever afterward.
“In Guatemala, I almost took my last breath after running the ropes. Many years ago, a Mexican luchador gave me advice that probably saved my life by telling me to always put my hand on both the top and middle rope. It was just in case the top one broke; I’d have a chance to break my fall. Well, I was running the ropes, and the top one broke off. When I felt that something was wrong, I indeed saw death coming for me! I landed hard on my stomach outside of the ring. People thought I was dead. Everyone approached, asking if I was okay. I could hear their voices far away, yet they were all around me. When I finally got up, the people started applauding, thinking that what they had seen was planned and they thought it was so great!
“After 2000 I remained in El Salvador and retired a couple of years ago. My forehead is all scarred, my fingers are all bent out of shape, I had surgery on my clavicle, one of my ribs is popped out permanently, but what suffers the most is the back and spinal column. I have pain every day, but mostly my knees are all shot. Wrestling is an art, and even with all my injuries, I enjoyed my career very much and have no regrets. If you enjoy something, you keep going!” concluded Huracán.
In 1982, with El Santo’s permission, The Rayman wrestled as his son Hijo del Santo in Guatemala.
In December 2020, he returned for one last match, and I witnessed his brief return.
He’s still got it. He ran the ropes at full speed and took several slams like a champ. I could almost envision that it was 1975 all over again. I couldn’t speak with him before or after his match, but we still chat in private, and I anticipate making it to the next Arena Gladiadores event.
Gracias! Que Viva El Salvador
We hope that this article provided an entertaining and unique glimpse into the unique and storied wrestling scene in El Salvador.
We would like to give a special thank you to José Guzman of Arena Gladiadores for opening the doors to myself and Pro Wrestling Stories. The privilege was all ours when speaking with these wrestling legends.
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