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Raul Mata passes away at 71 years old

Raul Mata, a star in California and Mexico from the late 60s and through the 70s, who still holds the record for the longest reign as Mexican National Light Heavyweight Champion, has passed away.

His younger brother Carlos Mata alerted those in wrestling of that earlier today.

Mata was 71.

Mata was a small but talented wrestler who came to California in the summer of 1971 as the Mexican National Light Heavyweight Champion, a title he had held since 1969. He would play the guitar and sing, and was a pioneer in flashy moves, most notably his version of a huracanrana, called the Mata rola, or Mata roll-up, which was done with such speed and precision into a pinning maneuver that nobody has fully equaled it for execution. The move was the inspiration of the Frankensteiner version that Scott Steiner popularized in the 90s.

He came in and out of Southern California, with his biggest run being his first where he held the Pacific Coast title and held the Americas Tag Team titles with partners like Dory Dixon, Ray Mendoza, Salvator Lothario, Raul Reyes, David Morgan, and Victor Rivera.

He had a good, but not great run in Northern California, where he worked as a regular in 1974 and 1975, headlining many smaller arena shows with Pat Patterson as his partner, but never winning any championships.

Mata ended up moving to Florida, and for whatever reason, Eddie Graham never pushed him. He worked mostly prelims, and lost on television regularly. Fans in Miami, who got the Los Angeles program, never understood why Mata, who was a legit star in California and very talented, never got past the prelims in Florida.

Mata was in one of the top matches on the August 27, 1971, legendary Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum show that drew 25,867 fans, headlined by Fred Blassie vs. John Tolos. In a battle of the Mexican Light Heavyweight Champion against the NWA world Light Heavyweight Champion, Mata lost two of three falls to El Solitario in a match considered one of the highlights of the show.

Mata eventually held the NWA world Light Heavyweight title, which was based in Mexico, for almost all of 1980, during the era of Alfonso Dantes as the perennial champion.

He wrestled independent shows in Florida into the early 90s. From a talent standpoint, he was far ahead of the people he was working with and ability wise even at that point he was better than most of the wrestlers working for major promotions. But he had already been established on television for so many years in Florida as enhancement-level talent.

Another career highlight was headlining the 1970 EMLL anniversary show where he defeated Katsuhisa Shibata, the father of Katsuyori Shibata, in a hair vs. hair match.