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Mario Balbuena González (April 16, 1959 – May 7, 2017) - better known under the ring names Gran Apache and El Apache -- was a Mexican 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.

Early life[]

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.

Wrestling trainer[]

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.

In wrestling[]

  • Finishing moves
    • Apache Cutter (Over-the-shoulder flip cutter)
    • Black Tiger Bomb (Sitout crucifix powerbomb)
    • Fisherman's suplex
    • Tormenta Apache (Lifting double underhook facebuster) – Innovated

Championships and accomplishments[]

  • Pro Wrestling Illustrated
    • PWI ranked him #229 of the top 500 singles wrestlers in the PWI 500 in 2002

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

Footnotes[]

  1. Cage match with Apache, Panthro, Oscar Sevilla and Cuerno. Both tecnicos escaped so Apache fouled Cuerno and left the cage.
  2. It is uncertain if it was Balbueno under the mask or not.
  3. Steel cage match