Tito Santana Talks About the Racial Comments he Faced in the WWE, his New Book, and More

Dec 19, 2019 - by Steve Gerweck

Tito Santana was recently a guest with Ken Resnick and Bruce Wirt on VOC Nation’s Wrestling with History program. Tito talked about the evolution of pro wrestling, the WWE Network lengthening careers, and the racial overtones that ultimately helped his character. Here are some highlights:

On his new book, “Don’t Call Me Chico”: “The preorders are coming in and the numbers are growing. I’m very happy with the results and I hope that they keep growing. Everyday we get a few preorders, and I have promised the fans that I will be Santa Claus and I will be making a call for everyone that preorder the book before Christmas.”

On what is he doing today: “I’m a school teacher and that takes up a lot of my time, and I go out and do appearances on the weekend. The reason I keep doing appearances is that it’s amazing how many fans come up to me and thank me for childhood memories, and talk about things that they remember about my career that I had forgotten. It’s always so cool to see the satisfaction.”

On the WWE Network helping legends get booked: “With the (WWE Network) a lot of the young kids are (classic) wrestling fans, so we’ve got a second or third life in professional wrestling. I would have never thought that I’d still be on the road making appearances and meeting fans. It’s great.”

On the title of the book: “It was a combination decision that Kenny (Cassanova, co-author) and I made…I talked to him about how Jesse “the Body” (Ventura) used to call me Chico. I was never one to watch wrestling shows; when I started getting to arenas and the fans started calling me Chico, I thought they were being insulting and it kind of pissed me off a little bit…then one day I was watching it and I saw that Jesse “the Body” calling me Chico and I realized that (the reason they were calling me that) was because Jesse was over so big on TV as a commentator. In reality Jesse and I were good friends and Jesse was really trying to help my career…so we (Tito and Kenny) both decided that would be a good title. As far as I’m concerned, when Jesse “the Body” and Gorilla were going the commentary on TV it didn’t get any better than that.”

On whether he was offended by racial insults in the 80s: “No…professional wrestling was a fraternity….those guys were saying things; the more they knocked you, I think it was the more they liked you. Bobby Heenan used to say, ‘I met Tito Santana selling hot dogs in Mexico living with his family in a 56’ Chevy.’ I don’t think you could get away with it nowadays, but back then it helped my career. Neither one of them had a racial bone in their body.”

On whether Bobby Heenan and Jesse Ventura could be successful today: “No, those guys were so smart and so intelligent about the business, they would figure out a way to get the wrestlers over in the ring. That’s what it was all about. They were there to get heat, and Gorilla Monsoon was the babyface. They could do it (if they had to today) without being racial. At the time you could get away with it so they used it to their advantage. Those guys were so smart that there is no doubt in my mind that they could pull it off today just like they did back then.”

On the difference in pro wrestling booking and production: “I remember when I went in to introduce Alberto Del Rio on one of the Raw (shows) several years ago, they gave me a script and I was nervous and hell because I had to memorize it. We used to talk from the heart and the fans could feel what we were trying to get across. They felt what we were saying, and then in the match we would even make them feel it more. We were able to continue the story from our interviews with the match, and the story could go on forever and ever and ever. Me and Greg Valentine wrestled each other for a year and a half pretty much every night. You couldn’t get away with it now.”

Link to the interview here: https://www.podomatic.com/podcasts/vocnation/episodes/2019-12-11T19_37_11-08_00
Embed the interview to your site (credit to VOC Nation) here:

Wrestling with History is live every Wednesday night at 930pm ET on the VOC Nation Radio Network. Former WWE and AWA broadcaster Ken Resnick and VOC Nation Founder Bruce Wirt take listener calls, emails, and tweets, and talk to pro wrestling’s most interesting personalities.

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