The Strange Case of Manny Fernandez vs. Invader 3

Two months before the slaying of Bruiser Brody, something very bizarre occurred in Puerto Rico. Decades later, fans are still talking about it. This is the strange case of Manny Fernandez versus Invader 3.

On May 11th, 1988, Manny Fernandez faced off against Invader #3 in Puerto Rico. Decades later, fans are still talking about what happened.
On May 11th, 1988, Manny Fernandez faced off against Invader #3 in Puerto Rico. Decades later, fans are still talking about what took place.

Manny Ramirez and Invader 3: What Happened in Puerto Rico?

Incredible underwater caves, spectacular waterfalls, 270 miles of stunning sandy beaches, forts dating back to the sixteenth century, and an exciting nightlife infused with that Caribbean and Latino energy await on the island paradise of Puerto Rico.

But underneath Puerto Rico’s unspoiled natural beauty lies a seedier side. It is infamous for some of the most passionate and rabid wrestling fans who, throughout history, often take things a little too far.

Pick up any wrestling biography or peruse the hundreds of articles available here at Pro Wrestling Stories, and you’re bound to run across some crazy tales of Puerto Rico.

Still today, wrestling in Puerto Rico inhabits a strange yet fascinating world where many fans are not entirely convinced that what they are watching is scripted.

This colors their shows with a throwback feel also found in countries like Mexico and Latin America. For example, when one wrestler strikes the other in Puerto Rico, you’ll hear the fans enthusiastically chanting, "Fua! Fua!" echoing throughout the venue.

The fans don’t just watch wrestling; they live it!

Unfortunately, the most egregious event that has forever blackened the reputation of what people outside of Puerto Rico think about their wrestling was the murder of Bruiser Brody in July of 1988. And this tragic real-life event is also somehow involved in the Manny Fernandez versus Invader 3 angle.

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"Raging Bull" Manny Fernandez

Two-time NWA Tag Team champion "Raging Bull" Manny Fernandez always prided himself as one of the business’s toughest wrestlers.

Claiming to be a veteran who served in Vietnam, the native from El Paso, Texas, shared a brotherhood with wrestlers like Hercules Hernandez and Dick Murdoch, along with fellow West Texas State football alumni Terry Funk, Stan Hansen, and Bruiser Brody.

The violent "Indian Strap Match" he engaged with the hard-hitting Wahoo McDaniel at the AWA’s Super Clash III is the stuff of legend. Manny Fernandez could be as aggressive and unforgiving working face or heel.

But after his match with Invader 3 in Puerto Rico, he’s gained an infamy few wrestlers would long to carry.

Manny Fernandez was a key player in various NWA territories, especially Jim Crockett Promotions, during their heyday in the ‘80s.
Manny Fernandez was a key player in various NWA territories, especially Jim Crockett Promotions, during their heyday in the ‘80s. [Photo: Pinterest]

Who is “Invader 3” Johnny Rivera?

Johnny Rivera is considered one of the premier Junior light heavyweights to come out of Puerto Rico.

Not to be confused with Invader 1 (José Gonzalez), Johnny Rivera worked in the WWWF and later the WWF, NWA Hollywood, AJPW (two tours), and WWC in Puerto Rico.

In Southern California, he faced the likes of Moondog Mayne, Roddy Piper, The Great Goliath, Black Gordman, Ron Bass, Colosso Colosetti, Ringo Mendoza, and Victor Rivera.

On tour for All Japan Pro Wrestling (AJPW) in 1977, he saw action against stars such as Jumbo Tsuruta and "The Destroyer" Dick Beyer.

In the WWWF, he was nicknamed "The Little Giant" for his small stature, tenaciousness, and fire demonstrated.

In 1979, he even challenged Tatsumi Fujinami for the WWF Junior Heavyweight title, a match available on the WWE Network and Peacock.

Rivera would join forces with Andre the Giant in 1977. Although there was a huge contrast in styles and body types, tagging with the Giant was his fondest wrestling memory.

He was a WWC Universal Light Heavyweight Champion. In Mexico, he refined his technical skills even more, and as is the custom with most luchadores, he was given a mask. However, he was not Mexican and considered a foreigner or an "invasor," to be more precise (which in English translates to "invader")

Johnny began using a mask design containing scattered stars and a planet resembling Saturn on each side even before his future tag team partner Invader 1, did. And in 1983 and 1984, both teamed as The Invaders in the newly renamed WWF.

In 1986, wrestling as Invader 3 in Japan, he faced many greats in AJPW, including Tiger Mask (Mitsuharu Misawa incarnation), Giant Baba, Animal Hamaguchi, and Masanobu Fuchi.

A couple of years after the infamous Manny Fernandez match, he left wrestling.

Later in his career as Invader 3, Johnny Rivera found much success in Mexico, Japan, the WWF, and his native Puerto Rico for WWC.
Later in his career as Invader 3, Johnny Rivera found much success in Mexico, Japan, the WWF, and his native Puerto Rico for WWC. [Photo: Johnny Rivera/Invader 3 Facebook fan page]

The Incident in Question

A disturbing incident occurred in Puerto Rico’s WWC between Manny Fernandez and Invader 3 on May 11th, 1988.

Amongst all the shocking theatrics of that evening and decades later, there is still much debate about what happened.

Was it work, a shoot, or a combination of both?

Who’s lying, and who’s telling the truth?

That evening at the Coliseo de Cataño in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Manny Fernandez was scheduled to wrestle an unknown opponent but insisted on a ranked one like Carlos Colon or the Invader 1. However, Manny seemed to think it through when the Invader appeared and hesitated. Instead, Invader 3 stepped up to the challenge.

Their "unsanctioned" match was on.

At first, there was nothing out of the ordinary about the Fernandez and Invader 3 bout until about the 5-minute mark.

After slamming him, the 275 lb Fernandez climbed the nearest corner post and launched himself onto his downed opponent.

He landed flush with his right knee above Invader 3’s stomach.

Soon, his downed foe reeled and went into an almost fetal position while safeguarding his stomach area.

Then, like something out of a horror movie, out came a geyser, projectile vomit that looked like blood!

What was happening?

The startled referee seemed agitated and frantically called for the bell. Now extremely animated, he implored Manny- already on the top rope again- to cease the brutal onslaught.

Too late.

Two more knees came crashing down onto Invader 3- this time closer to the sternum. More blood, more panicking, and the screaming fans now on their feet made their presence felt.

Meanwhile, through all the histrionics, the announcers were either playing their role to the hilt or unaware of where all this was going.

In the English commentary version (which was not recorded live), the always energetic Hugo Savínovich, who witnessed and commented on the gory affair live in Spanish, handled the English commentary.

"Did Manny have something hidden in his knee pad? It’s been so long since I’ve seen so much blood on the mat like that!” Hugo would claim.

“Apparently, Invader 3’s having convulsions! It looks like he’s going to pass out with all that blood loss. I don’t want to look anymore; I’ve never seen anything like this.

“I think Manny injured him; how disastrous! I really have no words to describe what I’m seeing!"

Color man "Hangman" Bobby Jaggers added to the pandemonium.

“Invader 3 has been severely injured. His cavity and stomach area have been ruptured. Manny Fernandez is going to put this man out of wrestling permanently! He’s just done what he came to Puerto Rico to accomplish.”

After the third knee, wrestlers Miguelito Perez, TNT (Savio Vega), Huracán Castillo Jr., and The Youngbloods stormed the ring to aid their fallen comrade.

Manny quickly made himself scarce and was no longer seen as Invader 3 began swimming in blood, with the bottom of his white mask turning a dark crimson.

In what felt like an eternity, the others finally managed to lift Invader 3 and exit the arena.

Once outside, the cameras and some concerned fans looked on and followed the group of wrestlers as they looked to place Invader 3 in a car instead of an ambulance. All of this was taped on a Wednesday and broadcast that weekend.

Hugo Savínovich interviews Invader 3 at his home while recuperating from his injuries.
Hugo Savínovich interviews Invader 3 at his home while recuperating from his injuries.

"When I saw that he was going to land on me, I couldn’t move. I felt death and thought the end was near, but God saved me."

– Invader 3


Manny Fernandez Claims Payback For Bruiser Brody

Over the years, Manny Fernandez has changed the timeline of events claiming that he was avenging Bruiser Brody.

And Invader 3 sticks with his side of the story, insisting that the injuries he sustained were 100% legit and confirmed by his doctor.

Welcome to the crazy wrestling world in Puerto Rico, where kayfabe and truth still intermingle!

In a January 2014 interview with longstanding wrestling journalist and photographer Bill Apter, Manny addressed the controversial incident with Invader 3.

Was it an eye for an eye, as he firmly claims?

BILL APTER:

“The knee drop incident with Invader 3-where he spits up blood- what’s the story behind that scenario? To this day, they look at it and say, ‘Geez, what happened with that? It looked like the guy was going to die.’”

MANNY FERNANDEZ:

"Yeah. Well, that goes back to the Bruiser Brody story- I’m sure a lot of people know what happened to Bruiser Brody."

APTER:

"This incident with you and Invader [3] happened before that."

FERNANDEZ:

"No. It was after."

APTER:

"It was after?"

FERNANDEZ:

"Yeah. I was in Japan when that Bruiser Brody incident happened when they came and told me. Me and Bruiser Brody were very close. Bruiser took me everywhere in Japan so that I didn’t have to spend money. He just took me under his wing."

APTER:

"But this happened afterward because there’s a YouTube video of that up where it says that it happened several weeks before that."

FERNANDEZ:

"No. It’s not true. I was in Japan."

APTER:

"So, you were just exacting revenge…"

FERNANDEZ:

"Yeah, because I was notified in Japan by Masao [Tiger] Hattori (referee, manager, and foreign liaison for NJPW at the time). I know you know him."

APTER:

"Yes, very well."

FERNANDEZ:

"He’s the one who came up to me and told me the sad story of what happened to Brody. [Antonio] Inoki and Riki Choshu suggested I don’t go to Puerto Rico anymore.

APTER:

"So you went. You know, I rarely do interviews other than wrestling storylines, but of the questions, I got, probably 35 of them asking if it was a work or a shoot."

FERNANDEZ:

"Right. To me, it’s a shoot. Everybody’s trying to say the thing was worked unless you were there, haha! Unless you were the one getting hit with the knee!"

APTER:

"Yeah. Well, you cleared it up because it was afterward."

One of the foremost reasons Bill Apter has lasted five decades in this business is his consummate professionalism and respect towards the wrestlers. You could tell in the above interview that Bill wanted a clear answer from Manny but didn’t want to lean on him too hard and pressure him to say something he wasn’t comfortable with.

Believe it or not, kayfabe still exists to a degree in wrestling.

In another interview, this time with TMPT, Manny was more explicit in his explanation of what happened against Invader 3.

"I dropped three knees on his sternum," Manny described. "You know where the chest cavity is- it caused him to bleed in the chest cavity, and he spit it out. It’s the only way it’s going to come out.

“It was payback. The Japanese, they changed my ticket around. They didn’t want me to go to Puerto Rico. They knew what I was going to do. Especially Masao Hattori, who has known me since ’79. I tried to tell him not to change my ticket."

"Was there a backlash from WWC for injuring him and making him throw up [blood]?" asked the interviewer.

"I went back,” Manny explained, “and a couple of fishy things happened when all the dressing room lights went out, and I was by myself. And I had a bottle of shampoo in my hand- whatever I could do with that! Because those guys had big ole knives. I guess they were watching me.”

He continued, "I had that mindset already, going in there. To this day, it affects me when we talk about Frank [Brusier Brody]. It affects me big time. I loved that man dearly. Just like I love Terry [Funk], Dickie [Dick Murdoch], but the way they did it just ate me up, so I knew I had to do something.

“So, my mindset was, ‘One of these guys is going to pay for it one way or the other.’

“I got back, and I said, ‘This has got to be done.’

“I planned it out; my wife was a flight attendant for U.S. Air; I had my ride, did my thing, and got the hell out of there."

"Was this a spontaneous thing? You said you had a plan going into it. Were you afraid of a full-scale riot breaking out?" the interviewer prodded.

"First of all, I think they were more shocked,” Manny added. “Brother, I started a full-scale riot with Carlos Colon, ended up with stitches right here that almost lost my lip. They threw a daggum rock with barbed wire wrapped around it, hit me right here, and almost jerked my whole lip off.

"Then one of them idiots stood over a bridge or overpass, and as I came in my little rental Toyota, they threw a cinder block through the window. They hated me in Puerto Rico! So, I knew I had to get in there and get out as fast as I could.

“I went on to the airport and walked onto the airplane with my wrestling gear. Can you imagine the look? Payback’s a brother’s way. Payback. You take one of ours; we’ll take ten of yours."

How Was It Done?

There are a few somewhat accepted theories on what happened between Manny Fernandez and Invader 3.

One theory is that Invader 3 had a condom full of blood and bit into it when needed.

Another theory suggests that he supposedly drank either pig’s or goat’s blood with vodka and somehow was able to regurgitate the nasty concoction on call after Manny’s knee dropped.

In a 2021 interview with ewrestling.com, Manny defended his supposed shoot on Invader 3 and the theory that Invader 3 drank blood with vodka beforehand.

"If you don’t know by now, people are so stupid. There are people who say we never went to the moon. Some people still think there is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. I’ve never seen so many stupid people in my life. People will believe anything. How are you going to satisfy all the stupid people? It’s like what old Forest Gump used to say, ‘Stupid is what stupid does!'”

Fernandez let out a hearty laugh.

“I dare anyone who says that to you to go drink a gallon of pigs’ blood and Vodka and go chase them around. How long do you think that person is going to last without puking?"

Longtime wrestling commentator Hugo Savínovich (WWF/WWE Spanish Announcer table 1994 to 2011 with Carlos Cabrera, and now with AAA) was a former wrestler and WWC’s longstanding English and Spanish commentator for years. [Photo: mediareferee.com]
Longtime wrestling commentator Hugo Savínovich (WWF/WWE Spanish Announcer from 1994 to 2011 with Carlos Cabrera, and now with AAA) was a former wrestler and WWC’s longstanding English and Spanish commentator for years. [Photo: mediareferee.com]

What do Invader 3 and Hugo Savínovich have to say?

Long since retired, Johnny Rivera, in a 2015 interview, assured that the injuries sustained were real.

"After (a recent) procedure, my doctor asked me, ‘What happened to you? Because when we opened you, we saw some damage on your ribs, and we didn’t dare touch any of that.’

"I explained that it was from a match I had with Manny Fernandez. He was about 275 lbs, and I was around 170 to 180 lbs. My mom always told me to take care of myself, and I did, but some things are inevitable."

In a 2020 interview with Lucha Libre Online – a page managed by Hugo and Carlos Cabrera, who, after 30 years with WWE, was released in February of 2022 – Savínovich tiptoes around the incident.

"We’re in 2022, and fans, even wrestlers, still wonder about this. This happened at a small venue in Cataño where Capital Sports Promotions, now known as WWC, had their TV tapings."

"Many quote Manny Fernandez saying that he did this to avenge what happened between Invader 1 and Bruiser Brody. I don’t want to get into all those details, but I think this is a case where storyline and reality crossed paths.”

Hugo continued, "What happened was very dangerous. And like a magician, I won’t reveal completely what happened. We tried to protect [Invader 3]’s life, Johnny Rivera, who I love, he’s of my people. A total professional, the ‘Little Giant of Mayaguez.’ He sacrificed himself for the good of Capital Sports Promotions.

"It was more real than many [fans], and even wrestlers think. Why? Because what he did, affected his future health, I think this also shortened his career. The high risk he took was incredible.

"I still watch this incident, and I get goosebumps. Knowing that there is a man named Johnny Rivera, the Invader 3, who dared to sacrifice himself for the good of lucha libre was something.

“And although I can’t reveal everything, just imagine what his heart was feeling when he was going through all this? Our body has a defensive mechanism that reacts to certain things. It was like a water pipe that exploded; it was grotesque!

"People today still tell me, ‘Hugo, reveal how they did that.’ I can’t. You have to respect what people do. But I confess that it was dangerous."

A Doctor’s Opinion

And lastly, a medical opinion.

Sending the footage to a non-wrestling fan, an unsuspecting friend who also happens to be a surgeon, his honest opinion on what he thought happened was solicited.

“What was that?! He turned a circus act into a homicide! That knee must have broken ribs, perforated a lung, maybe even his liver or spleen! And he does it two more times! This is a horror movie. I want to erase from my mind what I just saw.”

While reading his reactions, an unavoidable wry smile came upon this author’s face; wrestling can still solicit such reactions.

And he concluded, “I’d be interested to see the actual medical report. I’ve witnessed broken legs and knees in kickboxing; teeth knocked out, but nothing like this.”

The attack was so convincing he asked if Invader 3 had survived.

Conclusion

The spectacle that night between Manny Fernandez and Invader 3 was both horrific and unforgettable.

Although Bruiser Brody died two months after the above-discussed match, Manny either purposefully distorts his timeline when speaking about the match, or he believes all of this happened after Brody’s death.

The confusion of Manny’s timeline of events is either on purpose or by accident, as demonstrated throughout this piece.

With that disclaimer, we have strived to provide relevant information to help you, the reader, decide what really happened during this notorious encounter.

How Manny Fernandez and Invader 3 got that ring to become drenched in blood is still a kayfabe secret, not ready to be exposed just yet.

But theories indeed abound!

Watch the match in question, Manny Fernandez vs. Invader 3:

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https://www.thelogbook.com/popcultureretrorama/author/javierojst/

Javier Ojst is an old-school wrestling enthusiast currently residing in El Salvador. He's been a frequent guest on several podcasts and has a few bylines on TheLogBook.com, where he shares stories of pop culture and retro-related awesomeness. He has also been published on Slam Wrestling and in G-FAN Magazine. He can be contacted by e-mail at jojst1@gmail.com.