Beloved Georgia favorite El Mongol leaves lasting legacy
– Mike Mooneyham
Few pro wrestlers made as big an impact in the talent-laden Georgia territory during the late ‘60s and early ‘70s as Raul Molina.
While that name probably wouldn’t ring a bell with most longtime fans, his mat alter ego, El Mongol, was one of the biggest stars on the Atlanta circuit during an era in which wrestling was held on a weekly basis in towns such as Savannah, Augusta, Columbus and Macon.
Molina, 86, passed away last Sunday at his home in Lawrenceville, Ga. His oldest son, Raul Molina Jr., said his father had been hospitalized for several days after breaking four ribs and puncturing his lung due to a fall inside his home. Molina, who was in the beginning stages of dementia, also suffered a seizure. With two blocked arteries, his weakened condition and advanced age dictated that open heart surgery would not be a viable option.
He returned home on Friday where family gathered to honor the man many affectionately referred to as “Papa Mongol.” While doctors told the family that he might have six months to live, it was only three days before Raul Molina took his final breath.
But up until his final day, said his son, the man known during his entire career as “Mongol” was smiling and laughing with his family.
His eyes lit up, says Molina Jr., when his 6-year-old great-granddaughter informed “Papa Mongol” that she had a boyfriend.
“My dad did his thumbs up and said, ‘Muy bueno (very good).’”
Raul Molina’s easygoing, gentle demeanor certainly belied his days as one of the most feared and intimidating competitors on the Georgia wrestling scene.
From hated heel to fan favorite, El Mongol rode a wave of popularity no matter what side of the ring he was on. Alternately billed from either Mongolia or Lima, Peru, Molina began his career in his native Mexico in 1951 where Lucha Libre legend Gory Guerrero bestowed him with the name “El Mongol.”
Nearly 10 years later Guerrero, patriarch of the famous Guerrero clan, provided the papers for Molina to cross the border to El Paso.
At first Molina was reluctant. “Not without my family,” he told Guerrero.
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