|Birth name||Mario Balbuena González|
|Born||April 16, 1959|
Mexico City, Mexico
|Died||May 7, 2017 (aged 58)|
Mexico City, Mexico
|Cause of death||Intestinal cancer|
|Spouse(s)||Lady Apache (divorced)|
|Professional wrestling career|
|Ring name(s)||El Apache|
Cometa Azul III
Chiva Rayada I
Great Sasuke Tiga Power Version
|Billed height||168 cm (5 ft 6 in)|
|Billed weight||86 kg (190 lb)|
|Trained by||Rafael Salamanca|
Cometa Azules I
Cometa Azules II
|Debut||August 8, 1975|
Mario Balbuena González (April 16, 1959 – May 7, 2017), better known under the ring names Gran Apache and El Apache, was a Mexican luchador, or professional wrestler and trainer. Balbuena worked for AAA / Lucha Libre AAA Worldwide (AAA) since 1996, both as a wrestler and a trainer. He was involved in training almost all young wrestlers who worked for the promotion during that period of time.
Two of Balbuena's four daughters—Faby Apache and Mari Apache—followed him into a professional wrestling career. His second wife also became a professional wrestler under the name Lady Apache. Balbuena and his family were part of a long-running "Telenovela" style storyline that also included Faby Apache's then-husband Billy Boy as well as their son, referred to as "Marvin Apache". As Gran Apache, Balbuena held the AAA World Mixed Tag Team Championship twice and the AAA World Trios Championship once with his daughters. In 2018 he was inducteed in the AAA Hall of Fame.
- 1 Early life
- 2 Professional wrestling career
- 3 Wrestling trainer
- 4 Personal life and death
- 5 Championships and accomplishments
- 6 Luchas de Apuestas record
- 7 Footnotes
- 8 References
Mario Balbuena González was born on April 19, 1959, in Mexico City, Mexico. Growing up, Balbuena was interested both in sports and music, so much so that by the age of 14 he was already part of a Salsa band and was hoping to make that his career.
Professional wrestling career
In January 1975 Balbuena met professional wrestlers Cometa Azules I and II who invited the athletic Balbuena to come train with them. Initially, he had no specific interest in lucha libre, but as soon as he started to train he was hooked by the physicality of the sport. Balbuena trained with Los Cometas Azlues for eight months before making his in-ring debut in August 1975. For his first match he worked as the enmascarado, or masked character, Cometa Azules III, using the name as an homage to his teachers. Following the match, Santo, one of the biggest stars of lucha libre, greeted Balbuena, who was so fascinated by the culture and respect shown backstage that he decided to become a full-time wrestler.
Following his decision to pursue a full-time career, he trained at Blue Demon's gym to further his skills. During his training Balbuena's long hair and Native American features led to him being referred to as "El Apache" by everyone in the gym, a name he would adopt as his ring name. In later interviews Balbuena stressed that he was not a "Cowboys and Indians" stereotypical Apache, but a "Mexican Apache", related to the Apache nation that lived in Chihuahua, Sonora, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. During his training Balbuena showed such aptitude for wrestling that he was made an instructor's assistant. In 1984 one of Balbuena and one of his students, Luis García Vergara, were trained as a team by Empresa Mexicana de Lucha Libre, with the idea that they would work as a pair of masked Native American characters known as Pluma Blanca (white feather) and Pluma Amarilla (yellow feather). The duo got a better offer from the promoters at the Pavillón Azteca, where they became known as Gran Apache I (Balbuena) and Gran Apache II (García).
Los Gran Apaches won the Pavillón Azteca Tag Team Championship, sometimes referred to as the AWWA Tag Team Championship. Their most notable achievement, however, was a long running storyline feud with a team known as Los Mohicanos, a rivalry noted for the violent matches that included the use of various foreign objects and often left one or more of the participants covered in blood. In 1987 Los Gran Apaches' added Lady Apache as their valet; Lady Apache was Balbuena's second wife and had been trained by him for her professional wrestling career. In 1989 Pavillón Azteca closed down and both Balbuena and García went their separate ways with Balbuena keeping the Gran Apache name.
In 1992 Balbuena began working for Empresa Mexicana de Lucha Libre (EMLL, later known as Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre; CMLL). In EMLL Balbuena formed a group known as Rudos del Ritmo (bad guys with rhythm) alongside several CMLL wrestlers such as Ari Romero, Kung Fu, Búfalo Salvaje, América, Halcón Negro, Mario Prado and Estrellita.
In 1994 Balbuena, dissatisfied with the opportunities EMLL was giving him, left the promotion to work for Carlos Máynes' promotion. While the promotion was past its heyday in Mexico, Máynes' connections allowed Balbuena to start working in Japan for the International Wrestling Association of Japan (IWA Japan). While in Japan he resumed working as a trainer outside of the ring and wrestling against his trainees on shows to help teach them how to actually work matches. During his time in Japan, he began training his two oldest daughters, Mariella and Fabiola for their wrestling careers. While in Japan Balbuena portrayed various masked characters such as Jabagengi, with a mask like a monkey, and Lion, a wrestling lion, before leaving Japan in 1995. Balbuena returned to Japan in 2000 for a short stint to work for CMLL Japan, using the masked character "Kimba". Starting in 2001 Balbuena, as Gran Apache, returned to Japan, working for Michinoku Pro off and on for several years both wrestling and training Japanese wrestlers.
AAA / Lucha Libre AAA Worldwide (1995–2017)
In 1995 Balbuena joined Lucha Libre AAA Worldwide as both a wrestler and a trainer, later becoming the head trainer for AAA. In AAA he reunited with his former Los Gran Apaches partner, with the two adopting the masked comedy gimmick Las Chivas Rayadas, two "wrestling soccer goats" inspired by the Club Deportivo Guadalajara mascot. The masked gimmick allowed the veteran wrestlers to train younger wrestlers by working against them and even allowed various trainees to work as "Chiva Rayada III".
Apache family feud (2005–2009)
Starting in 2005 Balbuena and his family became the focal point of a storyline that would come to define their careers more than any other. In real life Balbuena's daughter Fabiola, now working as "Faby Apache", had married José Roberto Islas García, better known as professional wrestler Billy Boy. The storyline AAA presented depicted Gran Apache as the "overprotective father" who did not think that Billy Boy was good enough for her daughter. The storyline, sometimes described as a Telenovela, began when Billy Boy began showing up ringside during Faby's matches with flowers and signs professing his love for her. Gran Apache objected to the relationship and attacked Billy Boy as he was not "worthy" of his daughter. The storyline played out over several years and even had the birth of Billy Boy and Faby's son Marvin written into the storyline. At one point Gran Apache defeated Billy Boy, forcing him to not have anything to do with either Faby Apache or his son Marvin. Following the loss the storyline was that Billy Boy was so depressed that he was committed to a mental institution.
Billy Boy later returned as the masked "Alfa", a trainee of Gran Apache, who earned the respect of the harsh father who declared that "Alfa" was worthy of his daughter. Following the statement Billy Boy unmasked to the surprise of everyone, reuniting with Faby Apache and Marvin, though the ruse did not please Gran Apache. During AAA's 2008 Guerra de Titanes show Billy Boy came to Faby Apache's aid after she lost a match, this, in turn, led to Faby Apache slapping Billy Boy, causing Billy Boy to attack her, turning rudo. During an in-ring celebration of Gran Apache's 50 years in professional wrestling, Billy Boy attacked his father-in-law with a steel chair, injuring Apache's knee so he had to be taken from the ring on a stretcher. This turn of events was written into the storyline due to Gran Apache actually suffering a knee injury, and this was used as a way to explain why he was not able to wrestle. The storyline later ended when Faby Apache defeated Billy Boy in a Steel Cage match at the 2009 Verano de Escándalo show.
Later years (2010–2017)
After the Apache family feud ended Gran Apache focused primarily on working with younger luchadors, teaching them how to plan out matches and work in front of live audiences by wrestling against them on AAA shows. In 2016 his daughters Faby and Mari became involved in a feud with a group of males known as Los OGT (Averno, Chessman and Ricky Marvin), initially siding with the men, claiming that "men were superior wrestlers". At Triplemanía XXIV Faby and Mari wrestled against Averno and Chessman in a match where Gran Apache served as the guest referee. During the match Gran Apache became concerned over the violence that Averno and Chessman displayed, protecting them as they were about to be hit with a fluorescent lighttube, reuniting with his daughters after the match. At Héroes Inmortales X Los OGT defeated the Apaches. In the spring of 2017 Los Apaches were scheduled to face Los OGT for the AAA World Trios Championship, but Mari had suffered a serious injury and Gran Apache was unable to compete; at the time they did not explain the health issues he was dealing with. Instead of the trios match Faby Apache wrestled against Ricky Marvin, defeating him to win the AAA World Trios Championship on behalf of her family. Neither Mari nor Gran Apache ever appeared in AAA to defend the championship. On April 21 Faby, teaming with Psycho Clown and Dr. Wagner Jr., lost the championship to El Poder del Norte (Carta Brava Jr., Mocho Cota Jr. and Soul Rocker).
Having worked as the AAA head trainer for over a decade and as a trainer off and on since the mid-1980s, Balbuena had a hand in training almost every young wrestler that worked for AAA during the period of time, as well as many non-AAA wrestlers who attended his wrestling school. He was often cited as one of the best trainers of female wrestlers, starting in the mid-1980s where very few trainers would even consider working with women.
Personal life and death
Balbuena had four daughters and was married at least twice. Balbuena and his first wife were the parents of Mariella Balbuena Torres (Mari Apache) born in 1979 and Fabiola Balbuena Torres (Faby Apache) born in 1980 and a third daughter before divorcing. In 1986 Balbuena married Sandra González Calderón (Lady Apache), and together the couple had one daughter before divorcing later on.
Balbuena was diagnosed with intestinal cancer in either late 2016 or early 2017, causing his health to rapidly deteriorate. On May 7, 2017 he died from the cancer. Following his death many luchadors all over Mexico commented on the loss of a great teacher and a great friend.
Championships and accomplishments
- AAA / Lucha Libre AAA Worldwide
- Pavillón Azteca
- Pavillón Azteca Tag Team Championship (1 time) – with Gran Apache II
- Pro Wrestling Illustrated
Luchas de Apuestas record
|Winner (wager)||Loser (wager)||Location||Event||Date||Notes|
|Gran Apache (hair)||Perro Salvaje (hair)||Mexico City, Mexico||Live event||May 1, 1983|||
|Gran Apache (hair)||Escudero Rojo Pista (hair)||Mexico City, Mexico||Live event||December 2, 1990|||
|Rocco Valente (hair)||Gran Apache (hair)||Mexico City, Mexico||Live event||January 14, 1992|||
|Gran Apache (hair)||Loco Valentino (hair)||León, Guanajuato||Live event||April 5, 1992|||
|Gran Apache (hair)||Rey David (hair)||Mexico City, Mexico||Live event||November 15, 1992|||
|Gran Apache (hair)||Reyes Veloz (hair)||Mexico City, Mexico||Live event||November 21, 1992|||
|Gran Apache and El Mestizo (hair)||Escudero Rojo and Reyes Veloz (hair)||Mexico City, Mexico||Live event||September 7, 1993|||
|Gran Apache (hair)||Cuerno de Chivo (hair)||Monterrey, Nuevo León||Live event||October 17, 1999||[Note 1]|
|Chiva Rayada I (mask)[Note 2]||Gladiador Fantasma (mask)||San Juan Pantitlan||Live event||February 27, 2000|||
|Óscar Sevilla (hair)||Gran Apache (hair)||Ciudad Madero, Tamaulipas||Live event||March 31, 2000|||
|Mosco de la Merced (hair)||Gran Apache (hair)||León, Guanajuato||Live event||July 15, 2002||[Note 3]|
|Gran Apache (hair)||Billy Boy (hair)||Guadalajara, Jalisco||Live event||April 30, 2006|||
|Gran Apache (hair)||Mohicano I (hair)||Pachuca, Hidalgo||Live event||October 26, 2006|||
|Gran Apache (hair)||Billy Boy (hair)||Naucalpan, State of Mexico||Rey de Reyes||March 18, 2007|||
- Cage match with Apache, Panthro, Oscar Sevilla and Cuerno. Both tecnicos escaped so Apache fouled Cuerno and left the cage.
- It is uncertain if it was Balbueno under the mask or not.
- Steel cage match
- "Falleció El Apache, luchador de AAA". MedioTiempo (in Spanish). MSN. April 7, 2017. Retrieved April 7, 2017.
- Ocampo, Ernesto (April 7, 2017). Ocampo, Ernesto (ed.). "Víctima de cáncer, falleció el Gran Apache, uno de los grandes maestros de la lucha libre". Súper Luchas (in Spanish). Mexico City, Mexico: Impresos Camsam, SA de CV. Retrieved April 7, 2017.
- "Pro Wrestling Illustrated 500 – 2002: 229 Gran Apache". Pro Wrestling Illustrated. Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, United States: Sports and Entertainment publications LLC. September 30, 2003. p. 36. October 2002.
- LuchalibreAAA Staff. "Faby Apache". AAA. Archived from the original on October 23, 2012. Retrieved May 9, 2017.
- "Mary Apache". Lucha Libre AAA Worldwide. Archived from the original on October 23, 2012. Retrieved May 9, 2017.
- "Gran Apache > Matches > Kimba". CageMatch. Retrieved May 9, 2017.
- "Gran Apache > Matches > Asia". CageMatch. Retrieved May 9, 2017.
- Enciclopedia staff (June 2007). "Enciclopedia de las Mascaras". Las Chivas Rayadas (in Spanish). Mexico. p. 59. Tomo I.
- Boutwell, Josh (November 29, 2008). "!Viva La Raza! # Dos: Lucha News!". WrestleView.com. Retrieved February 24, 2010.
- Boutwell, Josh (December 13, 2008). "Viva La Raza! # Cuatro: Lucha News". WrestleView. Retrieved February 26, 2010.
- Boutwell, Josh (March 6, 2009). "Viva La Raza! Lucha Weekly". WrestleView. Retrieved February 26, 2010.
- "AAA Verano de Escándalo 2009 (Resultados 21 agosto) – Dr. Wagner Jr. retiene el Megacampeonato – Aparece Gron XXX – Roxxi se presenta con AAA" (in Spanish). Super Luchas Magazine. August 21, 2009. Retrieved August 22, 2009.
- Ocampo, Ernesto (August 28, 2016). "Cobertura y Resultatdos: AAA Triplemania XXIV Pschyo Clow vs. Pagano, Regresa Rey Mysterio". SuperLuchas (in Spanish). Retrieved August 28, 2016.
- Csonka, Larry (August 28, 2016). "Csonka's AAA TripleMania XXIV Review 8.28.16". 411Mania. Retrieved August 28, 2016.
- "Australian Suicide sin máscara en Héroes Inmortales X" (in Spanish). AAA. October 2, 2016. Retrieved October 3, 2016.
- "Historia en Apizaco en la gira del 25 Aniversario AAA". Lucha Libre AAA Worldwide (in Spanish). Retrieved March 6, 2017.
- "Nuevos Monarcas AAA en Tijuana". Lucha Libre AAA Worldwide (in Spanish). April 22, 2017. Retrieved April 22, 2017.
- "La lucha libre otra vez está de luto: ¡muere El Apache!". Excelsior (in Spanish). May 7, 2017. Retrieved May 7, 2017.
- Bergonzi, Ezequel (May 7, 2017). Ocampo, Ernesto (ed.). "El mundo de la lucha libre reacciona a la muerte del Gran Apache". SúperLuchas (in Spanish). Mexico City, Mexico: Impresos Camsam, SA de CV. ISSN 1665-8876. Retrieved May 8, 2017.
- Ocampo, Ernesto, ed. (January 24, 2005). "Número Especial – Lo mejor de la lucha libre mexicana durante el 2004". SúperLuchas (in Spanish). Mexico City, Mexico: Impresos Camsam, SA de CV. ISSN 1665-8876. 91.
- "2007 Lo Mejor de la Lucha Mexicana". SuperLuchas (in Spanish). December 26, 2007. issue 244. Retrieved July 11, 2009.
- Valdés, Apolo (August 26, 2018). "Villano III, El Apache y Dr. Alfonso Morales, exaltados al Salón de la Fama AAA". MedioTiempo (in Spanish). MSN. Retrieved August 26, 2018.
- "1983 Especial!". Box y Lucha Magazine (in Spanish). Mexico City, Mexico: Impresora y Encuaderanadora Glem S.A. de C.V. January 9, 1984. ISSN 2007-0896. 1604.
- "1990 Especial!". Box y Lucha Magazine (in Spanish). Mexico City, Mexico: Impresora y Encuaderanadora Glem S.A. de C.V. January 8, 1991. ISSN 2007-0896. 1968.
- "1992 Especial!". Box y Lucha Magazine (in Spanish). Mexico City, Mexico: Impresora y Encuaderanadora Glem S.A. de C.V. January 10, 1993. ISSN 2007-0896. 2072.
- "1993 Especial!". Box y Lucha Magazine (in Spanish). Mexico City, Mexico: Impresora y Encuaderanadora Glem S.A. de C.V. January 7, 1994. ISSN 2007-0896. 2214.
- "1999 Especial!". Box y Lucha Magazine (in Spanish). Mexico City, Mexico: Impresora y Encuaderanadora Glem S.A. de C.V. January 10, 2000. ISSN 2007-0896. 2436.
- "2000 Especial!". Box y Lucha Magazine (in Spanish). Mexico City, Mexico: Impresora y Encuaderanadora Glem S.A. de C.V. January 9, 2001. pp. 2–28. ISSN 2007-0896. 2488.
- "2002: considerar detrás". Box y Lucha Magazine (in Spanish). Mexico City, Mexico: Impresora y Encuaderanadora Glem S.A. de C.V. January 19, 2003. ISSN 2007-0896. 2593.
- Ocampo, Ernesto, ed. (December 23, 2006). "Lo Mejor de la Lucha Libre Mexicana duranted el 2006". SúperLuchas (in Spanish). Mexico City, Mexico: Impresos Camsam, SA de CV. ISSN 1665-8876. 192. Retrieved July 11, 2009.