Retired Wrestler Tony Santana of Jersey City Takes Life One Day at a Time

 Hudson People: Tony Santana -The Wrestler in White

By Sally Deering

Tony Santana He was known as “Dr. Santana” because he always wore white when he entered the ring. Long retired from wrestling, Tony Santana still  dresses in his signature ‘whites’ when he’s out and about in his Jersey City neighborhood. 

 Born in Puerto Rico, Santana came to Jersey City when he was 13 and went to work at the Eisen Bros. button company in Manhattan’s garment district. (Being tall and burly, Santana passed for 18 to get the job.) He worked there 30 years, starting first in delivery and moving his way up to manager.  He work ed at Liz Claiborne in Jersey City and owned his own button company at 111 First Street.  After five years of being his own boss, Santana turned to bartending at Rolon’s Keyhole Bar on Bay Street, retiring in 2010.

 During that time, Santana raised 18 children.  He also took an interest in wrestling

 “A friend of mine told me he was going to fight in Hoboken and gave me a free ticket,” Santana says. “I saw his opponent hitting him and I tried to get to the ring but they wouldn’t let me near the ring because you have to be a wrestler. So I started wrestling. I trained at the Hoboken Ojola Wrestling Club on 3rd and Washington Streets.”

 Santana wore white in the ring and his fans nick-named him, “Dr. Santana.” He wrestled fighters who called themselves “Scorpio” and “Dracula” and performed his signature move – the Double Nelson – on them. Santana’s most famous opponent was Andres the Giant, who stood 6’8” and weighed over 350 pounds.

 “I only had one round with Andres the Giant,” Santana says. “He picked me up, threw me on the mat, the ref counted ‘one, two, three’ and I was out.”

 Santana’s last fight was in Hoboken in 1992. He was 45 and by that time, he was beginning to have a personal bout with the bottle. After surviving a stroke two years ago brought on by excessive drinking Santana swore off the stuff for good. He wants to enjoy retirement, he says, and the company of his 14 grandchildren.

 

“I almost died because I had a drinking problem,” Santana says. “I promised my daughter I wasn’t going to drink any more.  May 7th it will be two years.”