Remembering Luis Martinez

By Paul Stratoti, Contributing Writer

Luis wrestled his first match in 1952 but it wasn’t until he began wrestling for the original Sheik’s Big Time Wrestling promotion in 1965 here he got his biggest push. He was a gentleman in and out of the ring and would bend over backwards to help his friends out. Little is known about his early wrestling career and I don’t think that he ever wrestled as a bad guy. He was billed as the Mexican Fireball until in the late 1980s he began using the “Apache” moniker.

During the 2014 Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame Inductions, this reporter passed the above promo shot taken in the Canton Civic Center locker-room about 44 years ago around to select Legends in attendance.

During one late Saturday morning or early afternoon, Luis entered the TV viewing area and confronted Ben Justice about his recent change of heart after he heard what the self-proclaimed “Beautiful” one had so say during the WUAB-TV tapings.

Ring announcer Mike Mahalko looks on as the confrontation intensified.

Shortly thereafter on August 2, 1973 at Cleveland Arena Fred Curry & Luis Martinez teamed up with Pampero Firpo & Ben Justice which ended in a DRAW.

Luis would soon confront another former friend turned heel in Tony Marino. Marino enlisted the services of Ripper Collins on this date to wrestle Luis and Bobo Brazil.

Here, Luis is giving Bolo Mongol the airplane spin.

1987 at Willard High School Luis just came down from the turnbuckle during which time the Sheik threw a fireball into his eyes.

Greg Valentine from PWHOF 2014 interview excerpt:

Strat: …and your very first match in Cleveland, Ohio was at the Cleveland Arena on July 16, 1970 where as Babyface Nelson you lost your match to Luis Martinez.

GV: “Well, that’s a good guy to lose to.”

PS: Yes he was and you know what? I have this photo here for you to autograph. It is a shot that I took about 40 years ago at Canton Civic Center of him and the autographs that I collect this weekend of his co-workers will go into a short article that I’m working on.

GV: “I heard that he was in a rest home. They say that whenever worked in a main event. Well, he made that first match look like a main event. He had a fantastic physique and he was a fantastic guy. I don’t know why whenever was in main events but that wasn’t his job. Back then, the guy would be called a curtain jerker, he was the guy who was in the first match and was very important.

“Luis would always put on a great match which primed the crowd for a great card. If a guy stunk on the first match it would affect the crowd and the rest of the matches. Louie Martinez, what a great fella!”

Former wrestler “Irish” Mickey Doyle: “Arriba was a good man!”

Ernie Cortina: “At Cobo Hall in Detroit a whole bunch of times I saw him fight the Sheik and everybody and those are great memories!”

Dave Drason: “Have plenty of good Luis stories, plus I could give you access to many fan emails I received about him when I did the story about visiting him in his Chicago nursing home before he passed away.”

Dave Drason with Luis just before his passing. Photo by Dave

Article and photos by Paul Stratoti unless otherwise noted.


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