The 10 Greatest: Puerto Rico, Part 1

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Puerto Rico is a rich territory in terms of wrestling. The island had one of the hottest wrestling territories in late 70s and the 80s, and even in the 2000s, having a soar in the wrestling industry with the fame rivalry between International Wrestling Association and World Wrestling Council. Drawing big crowds in baseball stadiums, bringing the best workers of the United States territories – and Canada-, also being accredited for innovating and even creating the deathmatch revolution that followed in the 1990s, Puerto Rico’s wrestling history will be forever printed in the books of the business.

But – What about the workers that came from the island? Few is known about the island’s best wrestlers. There’s always mentions about Carlos Colon run in Puerto Rico or a little spit by WWE about Pedro Morales as WWWF Champion, but very little is known about the greatest workers in Puerto Rican history. That’s why, in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, Last Word on Pro Wrestling brings you a 2-part list about the top 10 greatest Puerto Rican wrestlers of All-Time.

10. Hercules Ayala
Hercules Ayala started as most natives in the island did in those times, in the United States. By the hand of Angelo Savoldi, Ayala started a very fruitful wrestling career which peak from the 70s till the late 80s. He wrestled all over the territories, to Canada to Germany and even being a stable in the mid-card for Stampede Wrestling – he won the Stampede International Tag Titles with Jim Neidhart. In Capitol Sport Promotions – now the World Wrestling Council – he was a solid babyface, feuding with the likes of Randy Savage, Tim Brookes, among others. Maybe his most notable place in Puerto Rican history was his subsequent heel turn and feud with Carlos Colon. Having Chicky Starr – more about him later – as his mouth piece, Ayala headlined alongside Colon the most infamous of matches to ever make the covers of those years wrestling magazines. From barbwire to ring surrounded by fire, the deathmatch aspect was big in their feud in the late 1980s. Ayala is a 3-times WWC Universal Champion and a 5-times Puerto Rican Champion.

9. Jose GonzalezInvader I
Probably the most polarizing figure in Puerto Rican history and in wrestling in general, and for good reasons … Jose Huertas Gonzalez brought to the island glory and entertainment, but at the same time, he is credited for one of the most savages murder in history of the business and bringing down the whole territory down in the late 80s. Starting his wrestling career in the states and even in the WWF as Jose Gonzalez, it wasn’t long for Gonzalez to head to the island and formed one of the most beloved tag teams in Puerto Rico. The Invaders – Jose was Invader I – were a unit that won a whopping 13 tag team championship in total – World Tag Team Championship, North American Tag Team Championship and Caribbean Tag Team Championship – in WWC. In the 80s, Gonzalez was the #2 babyface in the old Capitol Sport Promotions – behind Carlos Colon – and was in times the head booker backstage. Nobody cut a better promo in that era, than the “El Jibarito de San Lorenzo”. Ultimately his legacy will forever be tarnish, he is credited for the murder of Frank GoodishBruiser Brody – and his actions and later release will make the Puerto Rican territory a hole that most likely, will never be fixed.

8. Ray Gonzalez
“Mr. Raytings” Ray Gonzalez, always imitated, but never duplicated. Starting in the early 90s, Gonzalez was as pure as a babyface can come. The man started as a Jr. Heavyweight wrestler, making some waves and even in 1994, winning the WWC Universal Championship, but it was at the end of the century, were Gonzalez will make his impact in Puerto Rican History. He insulted and betrayed the then known “Ejercito de la Justicia” – Carlos Colon and Jose Gonzalez was one of the names in that stable – and became one of the best heels in the island’s history. Creating his own faction – La Familia del Milenio – Gonzalez claimed throne in Puerto Rico as one of the best wrestlers to ever touch the ring. His technicality, his fluent voice on promos and his famous “Maldita Sea” (God Damn it), made him a ratings magnet for WWC. Even in the 2000s, when everyone though that Gonzalez couldn’t reinvent himself, he made the jump to the International Wrestling Association-Puerto Rico and quickly rose to the top with his infamous “Rey Fénix” character, capturing in the process the IWA World Heavyweight Championship 7-times. In the process, he helped build the legacies of Carlito and Ricky Banderas (Mil Muertes), while also working in Japan and Mexico.

Photo: WWE

7. Savio Vega
No…not WWF Savio Vega, but New Japan Savio Vega. Maybe one of the most underrated workers in the island, Savio Vega is responsible for a dozen of careers and has on the most interesting runs in Puerto Rican wrestling history. Starting in the mid-1980s, Vega was amazed by the notorious “Titanes en el Ring” show. Jose Rivera – Savio’s real name –started as an enhancement talent for CSP. He would the get experience by going to Mid-South Wrestling, were he wrestled as El Corsario. Vega would come back to the island with a fresh gimmick, knowns TNT “El Hombre Dinamita” (The Dynamite Man). His mysterious aura and vivid red and black face paint would gather the attention of Puerto Rican audience. Deemed as the #3 babyface – behind Gonzalez and Colon – TNT would have feuds against the likes of Leo Burke, Mr. Pogo and Rip Rogers. But it was in the early 90s that his character would explode, turning heel against Carlos Colon and having a series of epic matches, especially in the Anniversary of those years – Puerto Rico’s version of WrestleMania. Vega would be a regular in All Japan Pro Wrestling and later in New Japan Pro Wrestling, teaming with the likes of Scott Norton and The Great Mutah. He would then have a run in the World Wrestling Federation, starting as Kwang, but then gaining the Savio Vega character, even being a key part of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin’s rise to the wrestling world. Vega would later transition to his own promotion, alongside Victor Quiñones, forming the IWA Puerto Rico and beginning a “boom” in the island that wasn’t seen since the fall of the industry in the late 1980s.

6. Chicky Starr
When your name becomes synonymous with the word cheater, you know that you’re doing the best heel work of your life. Dubbed “El Rey de la Lucha Libre” (The King of Pro Wrestling), José Laureano – Chicky’s real name – has a special place in most fans heart. His heel tactics were hated, his talk was the most fluent of all and his convincing method made the best babyfaces of that era turned heel in the most despicable ways. Remember Hercules Ayala’s heel turn? Chicky Starr was hugely responsible for that being a success. Starr started in Vega Alta alongside another old legend of the business El Profe, they would team regularly in Canada for the Stampede Promotion. It was in Puerto Rico, when Starr would surge out of the mid card with a betrayal to huge babyface at the time Invader I. With the biggest heel turn of that decade, Starr will ascend as the top heel of the Capitol Sport Promotions, responsible – in kayfabe – for bringing the top North American heels to the island like Stan Hansen, “Sadistic” Steve Strong, Abdullah The Butcher, and putting them against his nemesis Carlos Colon and Jose Gonzalez. Even in his heel managerial role, Starr found success in the tag team division with his “kayfabe” cousin Ron Starr, both would end up winning 4 Tag Team Championships in the WWC – 2 North American Tag Team Championships and 2 World Tag Team Championships. Starr heel tactics would start a phrase in Puerto Rico, whenever someone deal you bad or played you dirty, “Estás bregando a los Chicky Starr” (Your dealing Chicky Starr) was a recurring expression. After WWC, Starr would have other runs with his famous Starr Coporation – alongside decease legend Victor the Bodyguard – with the American Wrestling Federation and the International Wrestling Association. Many fans in the island and historians of the business consider Starr as the greatest heel in Puerto Rican wrestling history.