Supporting Cast

El Santo: The Man, The Myth, The Mask

by Darren Watts

"In a world without rules, where wickedness reigns, appears a force for good in the form of a man with the power to defeat all that is evil. Santo, the Man in the Silver Mask, as vulnerable as any mortal, fights against beings from beyond the grave -- fantastic creatures that surge forth from the legends and overflowing imaginations of man and his fears. Always surrounded by beautiful women and intrepid allies, the Masked Man carries us into an unlikely world, defying the limits of reality . . . "
-- From the Legend of Santo, by El Hijo del Santo (translated by Darren Watts)

Pit your heroes against El Santo, the king of the Mexican masked wrestlers, or aid him in his never-ending battle against B-movie menaces! Below you'll find a brief history of Lucha Libre and a complete write-up of El Santo, the Man in the Silver Mask, suitable for GURPS Atomic Horror or any campaign with a taste for the extreme.

Lucha Libre and the Legend of El Santo

In 1933, a Mexican promoter named Salvador Lutteroth saw several exhibitions of professional wrestling while traveling in Texas. In some ways very similar to the modern melodramatic spectacle familiar to cable-viewers, wrestling then was already a fixed "exhibition" rather than a sport, with heroes, called "babyfaces," and villains, or "heels." Though wrestling in the USA wouldn't reach its heights of national popularity until television spread it across the nation in the 1950s, it was already a popular attraction live throughout the southwest. Lutteroth, who'd promoted boxing and races, brought the idea to Mexico City. He loved the broad, operatic action, and encouraged his heels, known in Mexico as rudos, to play to the crowd even more dramatically than the Americans, and the local fans ate it up. Crowds of tens of thousands would attend the weekly matches, screaming and cheering on their heroes. Lutteroth called it Lucha Libre, or "free fighting."

Lutteroth introduced ongoing storylines from week to week. Personalities were developed for the rudos, frequently representing the various afflictions the Mexican poor suffered from. Every week the "good guys" were menaced by rudos in the form of bullies and devils, tax collectors and Texas Rangers. The good guys, or tecnicos (so named because a hallmark of the heroic wrestlers was skill over strength, with an impressive array of complicated holds and acrobatic maneuvers allowing them to defeat the thuggish rudos), became national heroes and their fame spread across the country. And the greatest of all the tecnicos was El Santo.

El Santo was not the first masked wrestler; individual wrestlers had been hiding their identities as part of the ongoing drama since the earliest matches, most notably the villainous Murcielaga ("The Bat"). But El Santo was a hero, a tecnico. Born Rudolph Guzman Huerta somewhere around 1917, he was one of three wrestling brothers in the early 1940s. After limited success early on in his career, he drew inspiration from the Dumas novel The Man In The Iron Mask (and the 1939 movie, which was tremendously popular in Mexico) and developed a masked heroic persona. With his easily identifiable silver mask, flamboyant style and natural charm, El Santo became far and away the most popular wrestler in Mexico. He traveled across the nation, wrestling in large arenas and small-town fairs, always mixing with the people, never revealing his true face. He gave countless public speeches about fair play and courage, and stood with his brother tecnicos like El Rayo de Jalisco ("The Jalisco Thunderbolt"), Mil Mascaras ("The Man of A Thousand Masks") and El Demonio Azul ("The Blue Demon") as a sort of wrestling Justice League, battling the nefarious rudos.

It's difficult to explain to Americans the size of his cultural impact; perhaps the public persona of John Wayne comes closest. El Santo crossed generational and cultural boundaries, representing in the Mexican mind the greatest virtues of their national character. There were TV and radio specials, comic books, and, beginning in 1958, over fifty movies starring El Santo. In most of these he was portrayed as not only a wrestling champion, but an all-purpose patriotic crimefighter, taking time out from his busy schedule of matches to thwart mad scientists, vampires, mummies, werewolves, and mobsters. Though some are difficult to find today, many of these movies remain bizarre treasures, with wild and woolly action sequences, wooden acting, improbable plots and ludicrous dialogue. (In many of the American dubbed versions of these, El Santo's name is changed to "Samson.") El Santo finally retired from active wrestling in 1982, unmasking on a television special and turning his mantle over to his son, El Hijo del Santo (who still wrestles today). El Santo died in 1984, but left a brilliant legacy.

El Santo in GURPS

"He's not only a wrestler, he's kind of a crimefighter."
-- Cop, in Santo vs. the Zombies

El Santo is described in GURPS terms below at the height of his career, in the late 1950s and early 1960s, when the best of his movies were released. El Santo can be used as a campy action hero battling the supernatural in any Horror or Atomic Horror campaign. (Although he frequently fights the undead of various stripes, frequently the zombies and mummies come from a scientific background, having been raised as an unholy army by a mad scientist of some sort using bizarre technology.) Certainly agents of the TSF from Atomic Horror should be entertainingly nonplused by a gigantic masked Mexican already on the scene pummeling aliens left and right when they arrive on the scene.

A campaign where the PCs are all masked wrestlers fighting crime and monsters can be a hoot; the popular tecnicos frequently guest-starred in each other's movies, and some of the best featured the unique team of El Santo, the suave Mil Mascaras, and the grouchy Blue Demon. It's important to capture the feel of these movies -- there is an easy camaraderie among the heroes reminiscent of the Rat Pack days of Sinatra, Martin, and Davis. The heroes drive great cars (El Santo has an excellent Aston-Martin in several movies, and a Bentley in several others), live in splendid mansions (frequently with secret cave headquarters beneath), and think nothing of entering a bar in three-piece suits and wrestling masks, ordering a drink and having the most beautiful women approach them . . . and neither does anyone else! The police who aren't corrupt in these movies (and not a few of them are) gladly welcome the assistance of these noble crimefighters. As for the villains, any horror types will do, heavy on the mad science, and keeping in mind that, much like the world of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, straightforward physical violence works remarkably well against the undead. A slightly beefed-up version of El Santo might fit well in a Supers campaign as well.

The other possible use for masked Mexican wrestlers is to spice up a more realistic campaign. It's frequently entertaining in the right sort of game to introduce a character who believes he's in another genre entirely, like the costumed superhero who used to appear on Hill Street Blues. Though the PCs in an Illuminated game may think The Masked Phantom is insane when he tries to tell them about the zombie menace he's battling, they'll have to struggle with the inevitable paranoid question, "What if he's right?"

El Santo (Rodolfo Guzman Huerta)

Born 1917 (?); died 1984.
Presented here in his early 40s, at the height of his popularity but slightly before most of his movies. Despite his advancing age, Santo remained a successful and popular wrestler well into his sixties. El Santo is never seen in public without his trademark silver mask, which covers his entire head and laces up the back. The eyeholes are teardrop-shaped. When he knows he'll be eating in public, he wears a special version of his mask with an open chin. When wrestling, he wears full leggings but leaves his massive chest bare, and wears a silver cape to and from the ring. Otherwise, he dresses in stylish suits or leisure wear.

ST 16 [80] DX 14 [45] IQ 10 [ - ] HT 15 [60]
Move 7   Speed 7.25
Dodge 7   Parry 12 (h-t-h)

Advantages: Wealth (Comfortable) [10], Reputation (Wrestling Champion and Hero of the People, +3 to all Mexicans) [7], Charisma +1 [5], Composed [5], High Pain Threshold [10], Night Vision [10], Strong Will +3 [12], Trained By A Master [40]

Disadvantages: Code of Honor (Tecnico -- Never break your word; Never allow yourself to be unmasked; Always defend the weak and helpless; Never use questionable tactics in combat, like low blows, attacking from behind, etc., unless your opponent does so first) [10], Enemy (Rudo wrestlers, 9-) [15], Honesty [10], Sense of Duty (Common people of Mexico) [10]

Quirks: Always wears his silver mask, even in socially inappropriate settings; Has an eye for the ladies; Loves items of luxury despite neo-socialist tendencies; Especially loves convertible sportscars and expensive food; Prone to melodramatic speeches. [5]

Skills: Acrobatics-15 [8], Brawling-18 [16], Wrestling-20 [40], Karate-14 [4], Guns-13 [1/2], Cooking-11 [2], Mechanic (Gas Engines)-11 [4], First Aid-10 [1], Carousing-13 [default], Leadership-14 [default], Performance-9 [1], Escape-12 [1], Electronics Ops (Super-TV)-12 [6], Occultism-11 [4], Shadowing-10 [2], Stealth-13 [1], Streetwise-10 [2], Driving-13 [1], Lucha Libre Rules & History-15 [10], Maneuver: Arm/Wrist Lock-21 [1/2], Breakfall-15 [default], Drop Kick-18 [1], Head Butt-14 [1], Jump Kick-14 [6], Stamp Kick-15 [4]

Points: 350

Description: El Santo is the foremost Lucha Libre wrestler of his time. He never appears in public without his mask, despite the fact that his real name and identity are public knowledge. At different times he holds various championship belts, including the National Middleweight title throughout most of the 1950s, and the Tag-Team belt with his partner Gory Guerrero under the name of Pareja Atomica ("The Atomic Duo.") He has a son, born around 1955, but his mother remains unknown. Presumably she raised him, since the son's existence is not made public until the late 1970s.

Apart from his responsibilities as wrestling champion, the fictional El Santo is an unofficial aide to the local police of Mexico City and occasionally also the Army. Both will frequently turn to him when they are stumped by bizarre occurrences, reports of supernatural creatures, or threats by the occasional mad scientist (of which Mexico seems to have more than its fair share). El Santo also has a wide range of friends, any of whom may involve him in a strange adventure; it frequently seems that his entire social circle is made up of wrestlers, beautiful actresses and scientists!

El Santo maintains a cave beneath his mansion for his battles against evil, equipped with an impressive television system years ahead of its time that gives him a direct line to Police Headquarters.

El Santo has little use for tactical thinking most of the time; he tends to charge headlong into situations counting on his physical ability and resolute courage to see him through. He is always willing to face any menace, no matter how dire, if it threatens innocents.


Article publication date: June 22, 2001

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