Remembering Vitín: The Victor Quiñones Story

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Victor Quiñones

Promoter, manager, referee, businessman, those are some of the characteristics of one of the most prolific and notorious wrestling personality that the world has come to know in the late 80s, 90s and in the 2000s. The 12-year anniversary of Victor Quiñones’ death was last month, and the wrestling business as a whole – especially Puerto Rico – still misses its trailblazing rebel.

Victor Quiñones was the head of many wrestling promotions and was responsible for launching the wrestling careers of many superstars. He founded the infamous IWA Puerto Rico. He was aslo the first man to trust talents like Taka Michinoku, Tajiri, Ricky Banderas (Mil Muertes), among others. Quiñones was a cutthroat businessman to some and a father figure in the wrestling business to others.

Victor Quiñones Viewed Wrestling as a Business From a Young Age 

Quiñones started in the wrestling business at a young age. He started selling tickets, driving wrestlers and being involved in the business aspect of wrestling at the age of just 13. His mother was the owner of the hotel where wrestlers from other countries would stay at in Puerto Rico.It was in this type of work, in the then Capitol Sports Promotion – now World Wrestling Council – that Victor Quiñones would meet the man that later became his guardian in wrestling, WWE Hall of Famer Gorilla Monsoon.

Monsoon at the time had a piece of the promotion – WWC – and created a bond with Victor that would last for a lifetime. Victor, since he knew how to speak both English and Spanish, would drive Monsoon all over the island. Monsoon would take Quiñones to New York, to work with the World Wrestling Federation. Later, in 1984, Quiñones returned to Puerto Rico and became one of the owners of WWC. Quiñones in an interview with a wrestling magazine – and through other sources – confirmed that he would lend money when Carlos Colon and Victor Jovica were having financial problems with WWC.

The Expedition in Japan

In 1989 – one year after Bruiser Brody was murdered– Quiñones inserted himself into the Japanese wrestling market alongside Japanese deathmatch legend Atsushi Onita in Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling (FMW). Part of the Deathmatch revolution in Japan and the imploding of Hollywood-type wrestling characters was in part due to Victor Quiñones excursion in Japan.

He founded the wrestling promotion W*ING (Wrestling International New Generations), bringing names like Mr. Pogo (Onita’s main rival) and giving opportunities to wrestlers like New Japan Pro Wrestling booker Gedo, Puerto Rican legend Ray Gonzalez (as the WWC Junior Heavyweight champion) and FMW legend Yokihiro Kanemura. It was in W*NG that we saw the introduction to Hollywood horror characters, as the now infamous Jason (played by an unknown Puerto Rican wrestler and not the Jason “El Terrible” from WWC) became a key part due to their cult-like popularity.

After the closing of W*ING, IWA Japan became Quiñone’s main project. It also gave big opportunities to many now great wrestlers, like former WWE Cruiserweight champion Tajiri. He also brought many legends that worked regularly in Japan, like Terry Funk and Terry Gordy. This all was part of the indie war that exploded in the 90s in Japan. Later with FMW, Quiñones returned as a heel manager until accepting an offer from WWE (then WWF).

Short-lived WWF Latino

With the booming popularity of World Championship Wrestling’s Cruiserweight division, especially with talents from AAA, WWF wanted to bring a Spanish-liked product to the promotion with Victor Quiñones. The company brought Puerto Rican and Mexican wrestlers like Mr. Aguila (Essa Rios), Super Loco (Super Crazy), CMLL’s Negro Casas and mixed them with established talents like TAKA Michinoku, Savio Vega and others. The project ultimately failed but gave life to what we know today as WWE’s Spanish announce team. Many wrestlers from lightweight divisions also gained recognition in the US thanks to the project.

Founding the IWA PR 

By the end of 1999, and starting the new century, Victor Quiñones, alongside Savio Vega and Miguel Pérez, formed the infamous International Wrestling Association in Puerto Rico. The promotion, with Quiñones’ contact with the WWF, became a base for WWF house shows for some time. It featured superstars like The Rock, Kane, Chris Jericho, Edge, and The Undertaker, among others.

Quiñones founded the IWA with the idea of getting the money of the WWF house shows to fund the operations of IWA-PR. The promotion started with a mix of young promising talents and WWF wrestlers that needed seasoning before moving up the company. It wasn’t long before the formula started to work. By 2002, IWA had developed an impressive roster of native talent, plus a good booking team, with Dutch Mantel, Luke Williams and a young Hector “Moody” Melendez.

IWA Legacy

IWA developed big native stars in a stagnant island were the only talent being pushed hard were Carlos Colon’s sons. Former four-time mega champion Mesias, Apolo, Canadian turned-Puerto Rican hero Shane Sewell, Chicano, Eric Alexander (Escobar in WWE), among others became key components of its success. IWA had a flaming run, easily filling houses of 5,000 people, filling baseball stadiums like the 80s Puerto Rican wrestling era and importing talent that otherwise, would end up being wasted in the states.

Quiñones in IWA PR once again proved that he had eye for talent. He saw something in wrestlers like Bobby Roode, when he was barely starting in the business. He also gave Abyss his first big wrestling opportunity, in fact, the Monster Abyss was created in IWA. Wrestlers like Bison Smith, Slash Venom (who was a fixture in Ohio Valley Wrestling as Flash Flanagan), former WWE United States champion MVP, Colt Cabana, Dean Ambrose and many other stars saw an opportunity thanks to Victor Quiñones eye for good talent.

Death

On April 2, 2006, Quiñones was found dead in his bedroom in San Juan, Puerto Rico. They just had a house show (IWA) that night and Quiñones got to his home to go to sleep. He never got up. The cause of death was a mixture of somas with alcohol which caused a cardiac arrest. The stress of running IWA gave him a habit of drinking heavily. That drinking, mixed with somas became a lethal combination.

Words from His Contemporaries

Former TNA Spanish announcer Willie Urbina, who worked with Quiñones in IWA PR recalls about him (Victor), “He was different from other people in the wrestling business, he would treat you as if he known you all his life and was like family to me.  I remembered that the day he died, my little girls were emotionally destroyed, Quiñones was such an angel with them and would always grant them access to his pool if we ever asked. People like him are hard to find in this business.”

Urbina continued, “Quiñones had a reputation of being this ruthless businessman, which is true… but with me, it was nothing but love. He would give me his unconditional trust and more importantly, kindness.” Urbina, who at the time of Victor’s death was announcing for Victor Jovica and Carlos Colon’s (Quiñone’s old business partners) World Wrestling Council, paid tribute to his death in an unprecedented move. On WWC live television, he dedicated that weekend’s show to his fallen friend and leader of WWC’s competition.

The Wrestlers He Touched

After his death, TAKA Michinoku, who at one time had Victor Quiñones as his manager in the rivalry against The Great Sasuke, said about Quiñones, “Sad news came in the morning. When I was still in the United States there was a man who was called Otou San (old man) with my partner. My second Otou san who lives in the United States has died. I am indebted to much of you. It was thanks to Otou san that I was able to make it in America. Even when I made the KAIENTAI-DOJO in Puerto Rico, it was impossible without Otou San’s cooperation.” Michinoku added, “Otou an (old man) was tired, because he was doing too much to make the company bigger. Otou san is slowly resting. Bye Bye My Ottuman Victor”

Controversy

Quiñones as a promoter impacted the lives of many wrestling veterans. He was kind, loveable and to some, a father figure. Howver, on the business side he was ruthless. Quiñones was very calculated. At times he was just straight up vicious. In his last six years of life, he had a great fortune. As Dave Meltzer once noted about the IWA Puerto Rico, Quiñones could easily make “$10,000 one day and lose $20,000 the next day”.

When it came to business, he was no angel. He was involved in the failed attempt of Atsushi Onita angle with Invader I. Onita came to Puerto Rico and stabbed Invader (in an angle) so they could have a feud in Japan. Onita thought that Jose Gonzalez was the most hated man in Japan. He later in 2003 brought Invader I, against the wishes of many people inside the business. He knew that Invader I in IWA PR was money. Quiñones left the Brody incident behind. Hardcore Weekend, a weekend event dedicated to Brody, was eliminated in IWA.

In Memoriam

Quiñones was loved by many inside and outside the business. His critics would always hold grudges because of his dealings. They also attacked him because of his sexual preference (he was privately gay). But those who knew him knew that he was very different than your average promoter. He would give money to those who needed help. He helped wrestlers in the US get booked in Mexico and Puerto Rico. Wrestlers in Japan, like TAKA, would travel to Puerto Rico and the US thanks to him. In Puerto Rico, he was always available to give a helping hand to magazines, wrestlers and even other promoters. This was the case with Colon and Jovica. Vitín is remembered as a trailblazer. His memory lives on in every life that he touched.

 

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