Tito Santana says he nearly became WWE Champion rather than Bret Hart, looks back on working the first WrestleMania match

The Two Man Power Trip of Wrestling Podcast with Tito Santana
Hosts: John and Chad
Interview available at Tmptow.podomatic.com

Initially leaving the WWWF under Vince McMahon Sr. and coming back when Vince Jr. was ready to expand and his longevity in the company: When I came back from Louisiana Vince Sr. was still in charge. The only difference when I was working for Vince Sr. it was a much smaller territory. It was regional and when he eventually got sick and he passed the company over to Vince Junior, Vince (Jr.) immediately had big plans and I guess he didn’t dream them overnight and he had been thinking about it for quite a while. But they were different experiences. I had good experiences with both of them and God what a run I had. I think at one point I had been in the WWF in a single run longer than anybody else and up until I left you had Bret Hart follow the time that I did. But for a time I had the longest longevity in the WWF and both Vince Sr. and Vince Jr. treated me good.

Being in the first ever match on a WrestleMania and not being in a marquee title match: I never realized it and I was kind of upset because at the time WrestleMania 1 took place I was involved in a really hot feud with Greg “The Hammer” Valentine and we were selling out and we were the Main Event in big buildings and selling out shows that Hulk Hogan wasn’t on and that hadn’t happened too often in the WWF because Hulk Hogan was usually the headliner. So I felt that we had such a hot match that I was very disappointed to not be one of the matches for WrestleMania and I was feeling upset up to about a half hour before we went on. Vince Jr. came up to me and said the reason that you are the first match is because this is the biggest match in the history of the WWF and we need someone to get the people off their ass and I don’t think there is anybody else that can do it better than you can. That made me think that maybe he did appreciate my work and was giving me a bigger position than I even thought I was going to be in and I went ahead and wrestled, did my job and later on interfered in JYD’s match with Greg “The Hammer” Valentine and it turned out to be pretty good. As the years go by I realize just how important the first match of WrestleMania 1 was.

Does he think Greg “The Hammer” Valentine vs. Tito Santana for the WWF Intercontinental Title should have been on the show: Well yeah I did and we would have got a pretty good payday but I realized we were still doing monthly shows all over the country and all over the world so if they would have put one match on WrestleMania it would have taken away from going to L.A. and every big town all across the country. I think they were thinking about that also. Valentine and I was a long feud and from what I understand Howard Finkel has made statements that it was the longest feud in the history of the WWF and now there is definitely not going to be any feuds longer than that. We wrestled against each other for a year and a half.

Did he ever expect WrestleMania to grow to the level it has reached now and his favorite WrestleMania match: I don’t think outside of Vince and maybe his family that anyone knew where this was going. I know myself, I had no idea the path that it was going to take and where it is now is unbelievable. I think it was WrestleMania 2 when we wrestled in L.A. and I teamed up with The Junkyard Dog and we went up against Terry and Dory Funk. That was a thrill for me to wrestle a guy in a big match who had a part of me getting into professional wrestling in the first place.

His history with Hulk Hogan & being a part of the Hulkamania craze: Hulk and I started together in 1977 and he was right behind me and at the beginning he was a really humble guy and I think that I was really blessed because everywhere that Hogan went the territory just seemed to be on fire. The guy got over like a million dollars. We were together in New York in 1979 and both of us went to Japan and then both of us went to the AWA and he went and did the Rocky movie and when he came back Verne Gagne was trying to turn him into a heel and the people just weren’t buying it and the people just kept cheering him because the guy just looked so good. He was the best body in Professional Wrestling and he hit it at the right time and he got over. I made a lot of money throughout my entire career just because I was lucky enough to be in the same territory that Hulk Hogan was in.

Other topics include his IC Title matches with Randy Savage and his personality beyond the ring, being in multiple successful tag teams, Strike Force, loving his matches with Paul Orndorff, becoming El Matador, leaving the WWF, still working indy shows today, and so much more.


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