Enrique Juan Yañez González was born on August 24th, 1919 in Otumba, a Mexico State municipality with a current population of about 8,000. He was the son of José Yañez López, a telegraphist aligned with the Mexican revolutionists, and María González Moreno, a direct descendant of Pedro Moreno, a famous insurgent of the early 19th century.
At the age of 8, due to his father's work, they had to move to Zacatlán, Puebla, a neighbouring town. He attended primary school there and moved to San Juan Teotihuacán where he finished secondary school. He eventually moved to Mexico City in the late 30's and got a job loading and unloading trucks in a warehouse.
His family was not poor, and a pot of beans and hot tortillas were always cooking but the family had fourteen children and eventually Enrique's father could no longer pay for him to continue studying so he encouraged him to learn a trade. At least that way he would always have food on the table. He was trained to be a locksmith by his cousin and, while far from rich, he was making a decent living for the standards of the era.
Yañez was a youngster fascinated by sports. He started out as a swimmer and later began to lift weights and train with the local amateur wrestlers. He became fascinated by the new sport of lucha and regularly attended Arena Nacional (EMLL's major arena before Arena Mexico was ever built) to watch shows headlined by Charro Aguayo, Jack O'Brien, Mar Allah and others but he was most impressed by an undercard wrestler making his way to the top named Tarzán López.
One day on the bus, while coming back from a locksmith job, he saw his idol López and went to shake his hand. López asked him if he was a locksmith as he was a plumber but would love to learn the locksmith trade. He told him he was and then offered to teach López in exchange for lucha libre training. At the time, Tarzán was the biggest star and draw in the country but he accepted the deal and taught Yañez amateur, submission and pro-style wrestling at the Gimnasio San José.
On June 21st, 1942, López was scheduled to main event against Pete Sherman at the old Arena México and asked Llanes to come with him so he could introduce him to the wrestlers. However, in what appears to have been a set-up, Yañez was told by Tarzán that another worker had not shown up and he had told Lutteroth that he had a pupil ready to work the match. Since he felt that he couldn't let his trainer down, he worked the show and lost to Chico Hernández in the second match on the card. In doing so he impressed office men Antonio Andere and Jesús "Chucho" Lomelí and even Lutteroth himself.
Yañez, who actually changed his ring name to Llanes because either Lomelí or Andere told him it would be easier for the fans to remember, had a unique push. He was booked every Sunday in the first or second match with him always losing but he fought hard, showed manners and got over in an underdog role. At the time, it was said that the losses were working for him so they had to carefully plan out his first win. It eventually came when he teamed for the first time ever with his mentor, Tarzán López (subbing for Emilio Charles Sr.) against Gori Guerrero and Sugi Sito in a very dramatic match that fans of the era remembered fondly.
From then on, Llanes started rivalries with Guerrero (who was at a similar stage in his career but Llanes had the upper hand in their feud to begin with), Sugi Sito and El Santo, who was still a rudo when he took Llanes' hair in a "máscara contra cabellera" match at Arena Mexico on July 3rd, 1949. The match against Santo was the "consagración" of Llanes. In Mexican wrestling, a wrestler's "consagración" happens when somebody, who is usually a recent addition to the main event mix, gives a performance that, because of its quality or emotional value, turns him into a legitimate main event superstar, often for life.
A funny tale about that match is that Llanes' performance was so good that the crowd "forgave" him for the loss (which is a very rare occurrence) and before the barber showed up, he was taken backstage, carried through the air by a group of fans. Francisco Flores, who was the booker, told him to do the right thing and return to the ring to have his head shaved but he couldn't even get past the aisle because the fans would not let him. He gave up and arrived home, with a head full of hair. His mother, a woman of a very advanced age, started crying because she thought her son had unmasked El Santo. When he told her what happened, she immediately ordered him to be a man and to shave his own head... which he did.
Just as the early 80's showed a "trios boom" at El Toreo, the mid-40's saw a "tag team boom" at what was still the old Arena México building. The traditional 5 singles matches booking scheme was changed to feature mostly tag team bouts with singles matches usually only taking place in the first and second matches on a show. This meant that the bigger singles matches were saved for grudges, championship bouts and other special events.
Llanes and López formed "La Pareja Ideal" (The Ideal Team) and were the most popular babyface team of the era. They faced teams such as Sugi and Huroki Sito (the latter being the father of NJPW trainer Black Cat), Cavernario Galindo and El Verdugo and the "Pareja Atómica" of Santo and Gori Guerrero.
Llanes and Guerrero were actually very good friends outside the ring and Gori married Llanes' sister Herlinda, while Llanes married a woman named Bertha Corona,who he later divorced, and then married Beatriz Semerena. This makes the Llanes/Guerrero family one of the biggest in pro wrestling with Gori, his sons and grandson as well as Llanes, his two brothers, Mario (who mostly worked in the US) and Sergio (who didn't work for very long, and retired to become a comedy actor), and his son Javier.
Llanes won his first title, the National Light Heavyweight crown, in December, 1950 when he defeated Cavernario Galindo in a classic battle of power vs. skill in Veracruz, Veracruz. Llanes was one of the finest technicians in the country and while he didn't have the shooter reputation of Tarzán López or Gori Guerrero, probably because he used more flying spots than they did, he was definitely somebody who knew how to grapple.
His most famous career match was on September 24th, 1951. Leading up to this, there had been a tournament that lasted several weeks which was used to decide who would be the next challenger for the NWA World Middleweight belt that Sugi Sito owned. A week before the big match, Llanes had to defeat Tarzán López in a classic teacher vs. student scientific bout in which he undoubtedly gave the performance of his life. After the match, the crowd threw money at them (a Mexican tradition when a match is so good and the ultimate sign of respect, which would be the Mexican equivalent of the American standing ovation or the Japanese showering the ring with streamers) and López raised his top student's hand while he was completely broken down.
However, the most famous match, which headlined the company's 18th Anniversary Show, was his victory over Sugi Sito to win the NWA World Middleweight title, which was historically attached to the then three time champion, Tarzán López. Sito was a very tough wrestler who worked a rough style with hard chops and kicks. There was also a good back-story for this feud, as Sito and Llanes were former tag team partners who broke up after a loss to Guerrero and Santo.
During the year, Llanes had piled up several major singles wins, defeating Guerrero, Cavernario Galindo and Wolf Ruvinskis but he was still considered the underdog as Sito was pushed as being pretty much unbeatable. The finish to this match was classic, as Llanes had Sito beaten down but was unable to find a way to pin him or to make him submit. In order to win, he was forced to "invent" a new move, a submission hold called "La Cerrajera" (The Lock), which was an abdominal stretch and armbar combination. The name was a play on words relating to Llanes' well known locksmith profession.
While his career was at its highest point, Llanes made a major power play which was a huge shock at the time. He was sick of the Lutteroth's exploiting wrestlers and condemned the payoffs he was receiving. As champion, he was allowed to have a certain percentage of the gate of every house he main evented but the math didn't add up. Wolf Ruvinskis was also unhappy with his treatment so they both left the company, and Llanes vacated the NWA belt, which was the country's major championship at the time.
However, with the Lutteroths holding a monopoly on the Mexican business, they appeared to have nowhere else to go. As luck would have it, Ruvinskis was very well connected and they were able to find backing from Televicentro (now Televisa) to start a new promotion, complete with its own TV show. They just needed a promoter with the courage to gamble on this venture.
Their first choice was Francisco J. Flores, who ran Puebla and was known to be unhappy because he was not getting as many stars on his shows as he wanted. It was also known that he thought he could be doing a much better job than the Lutteroths if he was running his own company. Nonetheless, he turned them down and stated that he was 100% loyal to La Empresa, which is curious since he left in 1975 to create the LLI/UWA.
Next they turned to Jesús "Chucho" Garza Hernández, a Northern promoter who was said to be a visionary and who had been very successful but had hit a glass ceiling as his hands had been tied by the promotion. Garza could be compared to Antonio Peña. He was a man with a lot of ideas, some good, some bad, and some which were ground-breaking. He came up with gimmicks such as Espectro de Ultratumba, Médico Asesino, and was said to be a big fan of the "exótico" wrestlers after seeing Gardenia Davis (Sterling "Dizzy" Davis) at Arena México. Garza eagerly accepted the offer and the "Luchas of Televicentro" was born.
This was AAA, only 40 years earlier. They had a wacky mix of excellent old-school workers like Enrique Llanes, Sergio Llanes, Ruvinskis, Jack O'Brien and Polo Torres, mixed up with gimmicks like Médico Asesino (a good super heavyweight who had a pretty valet named La Enfermera), Frankenstein (a tall and sinister looking bald man who later became a movie star), Gorila Flores (a sensational chubby high flyer), the dark Lobo Negro, Tonina Jackson (a fat exotico non-worker who was over huge), midget wrestlers (Sky Low Low and Sonny Boy Cassidy) and silly gimmicks like El Vaquero Beans and the Argentinian Hombre Montaña. There were innovative match ups, such as the first ever trios match (Medico Asesino/Bulldog/Lobo Negro vs. Tonina Jackson/Gorilita Flores/Abel Krim which took place on March 15th, 1952) and a big guy/midget mixed match (Vaquero Beans/Sky Low Low vs. Jackson/Cassidy). Matches were filmed at the "Estudio A" studio (famous because it crumbled down during the September 1985 Mexico City earthquake), which also signaled the birth of TV studio wrestling in Mexico. This would be one of the first studio wrestling shows ever in the world, but it was at least predated by a 1951 (or earlier) WLW TV show in Dayton, Ohio, which was a Crosley Broadcasting Co. project that also was aired in Columbus and Cincinnati. But the January 12, 1952 TV show was also the first thing to ever be shown on the new Televicentro channel.
It's pretty clear where Antonio Peña got most of his inspiration from back in 1992 and just like AAA, this was a weird mix... but it worked. Thanks to the TV exposure, the product was introduced to a whole new audience and a whole new cast of characters eventually became major draws. Llanes' job in the promotion was to be the glue in the matches. But the dream came to an end in 1955 when Mexico City Mayor, Ernesto P. Uruchurtu banned wrestling from TV due to it being harmful for the children.
After Televicentro, Llanes eventually made amends with La Empresa, but he never had a major main event push again, even though he was a top supporting player until he retired in 1963.
Soon after the Televicentro show was closed down, he realised that he had sabotaged his career as a pushed main event star, but then, Emilio Azcárraga Vidaurreta (the owner of Televicentro who had become friends with Llanes after he and Ruvinskis proposed the idea of starting a wrestling show to him) offered him the chance to become a TV commentator because he had good presence, a good voice, and was a close follower of several sports such as boxing, karate, baseball and football (soccer).
He went back to using the correct spelling of his surname and joined a team made up of legendary big hitters of the Mexican radio and TV industry, featuring Sony Alarcón, Ángel Fernández, Mago Septién, Rápido Ezquivel, Jorge de Valdez, Salvador Vázquez, Fernando Marcos, Paco Malgesto, Pepe Alameda, Antonio Andere and Antonio Moreno.
He narrated events such as the yearly "Cabalgata Deportiva" sponsored by Gillette, and programs such as "KO Gillette" (his most famous program, where he narrated boxing matches and stories of champions of the past, which was changed to "Round Cero" in the 80's when Dr. Alfonso Morales ran it), "Sábados del Santo" (Santo's Saturday kids show), "Convivencias" and "El Saber y Hacer". For years he was also associated with the sports news (highlighting boxing and baseball) of the 70's "Siempre en Domingo" program, and was known for finishing all of his broadcasts with his phrase, "Let's build the best possible Mexico, land and home of our children, under the healthy principle of sports".
He also participated in a number of movies (the most famous one being, "La Bestia Magnífica") and did voiceovers for years for the November 20th parade (start of the Mexican revolution) and for TV ads for the Choco Milk instant drink as well as Colgate toothpaste.
He was a radio and TV commentator from 1958 until 1995 when he retired. Prior to that he had also been involved in the Box y Lucha commission from 1989 until June, 1991 when he formally retired. He also had a famous 1982 tribute show at El Toreo which was organized by the man who, along with López, was his best friend in the business, Wolf Rubinskis.
Nicknamed "El Sol de Otumba" (Otumba's sun) he had seven children: María Elena, Martha, Alejandro, Ricardo, Beatriz, Laura as well as Javier Llanes, who became a famous 80's and early 90's wrestler in EMLL who also followed his father's footsteps by later becoming a TV commentator.
Llanes died on September 18th, 2004, at the age of 85, of natural causes. He'd been in tremendous shape during all of his life, except for a period in the 70s where he battled depression. His death was mourned in the wrestling, baseball and boxing circles, to the point that the "Consejo Mundial de Boxeo", located in Mexico City, declared that September 19th was an official mourning day for the boxing world.
Lucha de Apuestas
|Date||Apuesta||Winner(s)||Loser(s)||Arena and/or Place|
|1949/07/03||hair||El Santo||Enrique Llanes||Arena México - Mexico City|