Saluting Tito Montez
by Dr. Mike Lano
Tito Montez was a west coast legend in the late 50 into the 70′s in Phoenix, Los Angeles, San Francisco, in Washington state, and most of the west coast during that time. He was a regular at both Cauliflower Alley and Dean Silverstone’s Seattle Reunions where he loved seeing his friends like Tito Carreon, Tough Tony Borne, Roddy Piper, Woody Farmer, Bill Anderson and others.
In his primary territory of Phoenix at their colorful venue called Madison Square Garden (yes you read that right, and sadly it was razed recently after a long battle trying to save it as a historic landmark building), where he held all the belts like the World Tag Title and AZ state title. Like Blassie in Los Angeles, he was known as the circuit’s “King of the Cage Matches” where he beat many, including Jody Arnold, The Spoiler, Cowboy Buddy Rose (not Pershman), the Von Steiners, Duke Keomuka, Bearcat Wright, Bobby Mayne/Jaggers, Tony “L.A.’s Frankenstein Monster” Hernandez who passed away 2 years ago, Bulldog/Kangaroo Don Kent, Jimmy Kent, Chuck Karbo, Don Fargo, and many others. He also feuded with Don Arnold, who recently also passed away from Alzheimers. Don was the masked Dr. Death in Los Angeles, who held the America’s Tag Titles with a masked Gordon “Mr. Wrestling” Nelson, who sadly just passed away as well, so all these legends are linked. Tito was extremely loved by the fans and all the boys and was known by promoters as “Mr. Reliable.”
Tito had a series with Superstar Graham that’s still talked about to this day there in Phoenix, although he also jobbed for him in Los Angeles in March of ’72 when Billy first came in. My boss, promoter Mike Lebell, just had no clue with some of these out of area talents, who’d get a win or two coming in, and then very often would job, which was a waste of Tito’s talents and ability to draw all audiences and demographics beyond Hispanic people. Also in my L.A. home base territory, Tito teamed with La Pantera Negra, Raul Mata, Salvador (Jose’s hermano) Lothario and Dory Dixon, typically jobbing to our top tag team, America’s Tag Title Holders in Killer Kowalski and Kenji Shibuya (sort of a dream team for us then), and the masked makeshift ’73 duo of Dr. Death (Don Arnold) and Mr. Wrestling (Gordon Nelson) as mentioned. In some of the smaller L.A. house shows, Tito was teamed with Don Carson in losing battles to Kowalski/Shibuya and even the colorful dream team of Kowalski and Superstar Graham in the first half of ’72. Wow, great memories of San Bernardino, El Monte Legion Stadium, Bakersfield, San Diego, etc.
Totally unrelated, but check out the surf/punk rock band Los Straightjackets (Los Angeles legends) who wear full-on Atlantis, etc. lucha libre masks at all times, and do the mysterious Residents thing of not revealing their identities. I think one of the band members is my former Los Feliz, SoCal neighbor Pat “Larry Rivera” Hoed who’s a longtime Lucha/Puro historian. Pat, as Larry, played heel announcer in the great old XPW tv shows for Kevin Kleinrock. Every time I’d see Tito at a function back in the 90′s he knew I shot a lot in Mexico, and asked me how lucha libre was doing, specifically EMLL/CMLL (Paco Alonso/Luterroth). We’re losing great folks left and right, very nice and giving people in the biz, which is a rarity.
– Article and photo by Dr. Mike Lano