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Ray Mendoza (1929 - 2003)

  

Real NameJosé Díaz Velazquez
Lifespan7/6/29 - 4/16/03
5'7" 202 lbs. - Mexico City, Mexico

Athletic BackgroundBoxing, Baseball, Cliff Diving, Swimming, Cycling

Teacher(s)Efron "Ray" Carrasco; Rogelio de la Paz, Genaro Contreras, Raul Rojas, Huracan Ramirez

AliasesJoe Diaz, "Pelón" Chato Ortiz, "Indio" Mendoza, El Rayo Rojo and El Hombre del Rayo Rojo, Gargantua

Peak Years`56-`75
  
Place in HistoryRay Mendoza is one of the great figures in Mexican wrestling. He did a little bit of everything and achieved great success more often than not. Married and struggling to support his family by 20, life was not easy for a young José Díaz. He worked at a bakery and took up boxing. That career was brief and relatively uneventful. Then he segued into lucha libre after meeting some and realizing the potential there. He learned amateur wrestling, submission wrestling and finally lucha libre.  Díaz debuted soon after and spent much time, toiling in the undercards with unsuccessful gimmicks. He settled on the handle "Ray Mendoza" taken from his original maestro and his wife. His stock skyrocketed and it was not long after he was main-eventing in Mexico City. By the late 1950s, Ray Mendoza was a premier rudo teaming with Rene Guajardo and Karloff Lagarde in legendary brawls with established technicos like El Santo, Blue Demon and Black Shadow. Then in 1959, he became the first Mexican to capture the NWA World Light Heavyweight title. That championship win set into motion a technico turn and a subsequent feud with his former partners. The feud with Guajardo over hair, the NWA Light Heavyweight title and even the NWA Middleweight title and cemented Mendoza's place as one of the top draws of the 1960s as the decade came to a close. In the 1970s, Mendoza made himself a lucha libre legend with a very successful run in NWA Los Angeles, a program that made El Solitario, a part of the lucha libre cinema craze and a departure from La Empressa to help open the first independent in Mexico. The UWA was a significant project for Mendoza as it was the platform for his masked Villano sons. He helped establish other talent and comfortably settled into the legend role in his final years. After retiring in 1982, but remained involved as a referee, trainee and lead commissioner. After the deaths of his sons, Villano II and Villano I and his wife, Mendoza's health declined until a heart attack took his life in 2003. Ray Mendoza was fondly remembered as a high caliber wrestler by fans from yesteryear and a tough authority figure by recent fans. He is one of the greatest luchadors of all-time and perhaps the greatest non-masked luchador. His impact on lucha libre as a wrestler in the 1950s and 1960s, as a legend in the 1970s, as authority figure in the 1980s and 1990s and as the father of the five Villano brothers have made him one of the most significant people in lucha libre's long history.

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