Gringo Loco is a rare creature in the world of lucha libre — he is an American-born successful luchador. And not someone like Rey Mysterio, born in San Diego with an uncle in the business. No, Gringo Loco is a Chicagoan and came by it all quite by accident.

The 37-year-old Loco, real name Charlie Santo, used to watch WWF Superstars with the blue, red and white ropes and larger-than-life characters. That show led to his interest in the sport. “I was like, damn, this is cool as sh–. I want to be a wrestler,” he recently told

It was in the early 2000s while Loco was in high school that along with a couple of buddies, he would go to a gymnastics gym to try out wrestling on the mats. “We did that for like two years, like stunners, Rock bottoms. It was very cool. We were just wrestlers every Wednesday, it was an open gym.”

It was at that same gym that a wrestler known as The Wizard walked into work on his tumbling for his own matches. “He saw us on this little corner that we had made our own and he was like, ‘Yo, you guys need to come to my gym.’”

“We went the next day, it was a lucha libre gym and the rest is history. I went into that gym; I trained my ass off that day. It was the first time I got into the ring and from that point to right now, as I talk to you, I’ve never looked back. That was my start and there hasn’t been an end yet.”

The 5-foot-10, 205-pound Loco was trained in his hometown of Chicago, Illinois, by Martin and Rudy, the Escobedo brothers, a tag team from Guadalajara, Mexico, and the late Discovery. He said the gym was a far drive for him, but he still managed to make it there two or three times a week.

“I’ve never let training go throughout my whole 20-year career; I’ve always trained consistently. Finally, it’s starting to pay off, fun stuff’s starting to happen. So, I just know all the work that went into it behind the scenes, and here we are.”

Jordan Matthew Marques, the promoter of Demand Lucha, said Loco has a great knowledge of lucha libre, and said “adaptability” is the word that comes to mind. “I have tested Gringo Loco by putting him in the ring with wrestlers of all different styles and he has yet to stumble.”

Gringo Loco heads to the ring in Toronto at Demand Lucha. Photo by Greg Oliver

Loco said he discovered what his goals in the wrestling business were when he walked into the lucha gym for the first time. He said the wall facing him when he entered the doorway was pictures of massive dives and Arena Mexico, also known as the cathedral of lucha libre.

“It’s like the holy grail of where you can wrestle and my real goal at that age was to train there and learn from the best, which is in Mexico City. I wanted to get there, and then look as fluid as my trainers looked when they would train with each other, they made everything look flawless”

One of the first matches Loco can recall from his career was a battle royal in 2002 or 2003. The battle royal was the opening match on a card that included CM Punk, Danny Dominion, Ace Steel and Eric Priest.

Loco has grown from battle royals to recently becoming a regular competitor in Lucha Libre AAA Worldwide, one of the biggest lucha promotions in the world, but he did not have the easiest start with the company. He was living in Mexico City on and off for four years. “I knocked on their [AAA] door, no answer. I knocked on CMLL’s door, didn’t answer. The only door that really opened was IWRG.”

Máscara Dorada / Gran Metalik and Gringo Loco. Instagram photo

He stayed in IWRG for about a year and a half, working hard and trying to get noticed. “When no door opened, I came back to the States and I was done with wrestling for two years and I was bitter. Who wouldn’t be? I was down there giving it my all and nothing happened.”

Sam Adonis, another American-born wrestler that has spent a lot of time in Mexico, spoke on how difficult it can be for Americans in Mexico. “Being successful in Mexico is very difficult overall. There are many more wrestlers willing to wrestle for a lower price than others. The competition is relentless so you have to have something special to get attention,” said Adonis.

“In Mexico, many underprivileged or uneducated people turn to wrestling as a means to change their futures for their families,” continued Adonis. “Many people are willing to put in the extra work with belief that it will pay off which overall raises the overall quality.”

Loco said he had plenty of run-ins with Konnan, the booker of AAA, but he never offered him any work. After he got back into wrestling, he ended up working the Aro Lucha show with Rey Mysterio and he finally got Konnan’s attention.

“He was like, ‘I see that you have potential, I’m going to start using you.’ So that was the beginning of the business relationship.”

Loco then began working Tijuana dates for AAA, and just as he was starting to gain some traction the COVID-19 pandemic hit. With the world practically shutting down, Konnan just told Loco to stand by and that when it was all over, he had to be ready.

“He kept his word; he promised me a program with Vikingo and I just waited and waited and now we’re off to the races on that. So, Konnan is a man of his word and I really appreciate that and that’s how my AAA extravaganza began.”

Though happy with his position in AAA, Loco believes he is only touching the tip of the iceberg so far. “I’m kind of limited being new and kind of being cut down on ideas. But once they let me go, I think we’re going to be off to something real special. I’m going to hope to leave somewhat of a legacy before my career is over.”

Loco called AAA the best lucha in the world and he also said AAA is “pretty much-running sh– down in Mexico right now, CMLL is there, but it’s kind of on the back burner now. AAA is consistently selling things out.”

Loco was backstage at Triplemania in 2022 for the first time and he said “to really see everything come together, it’s pretty mind-blowing.” He said just being backstage was a culmination for him because over the years he worked with all the top stars of AAA, just not in AAA and he said it was great to see them all at once.

“I was with Brett Lauderdale of GCW [Game Changer Wrestling], as all this was going on, and they all came up to me and were like respectful. Like, ‘Hey, gringo smile,’ they all knew me, Dralístico, Dragon Lee, RUSH, everybody that was there knows who I am. I’ve worked with them and it was like I belonged there at that specific time in AAA, it was a good feeling.”

Marques said Loco is one-of-a-kind. “I think Gringo Loco brings something very special to the world of lucha libre. His swag. His confidence. His movements in the ring. He is unique — there is nobody else like him in AAA.”

During Loco’s 20-plus-year career, he has wrestled in a number of places, but two places have stood out for different reasons.

He said his number one is Logan Square Auditorium in Chicago where he is a fan favorite. “It’s some of the biggest reactions I’ve ever had. I had a pretty cool storyline there with a taser on a pole match. The entrances were always lit, there was like a lighting guy, sound was always on point, the people were behind me.”

In second, he puts Tijuana where he loves to be the bad guy. “Tijuana, when it’s fully packed, the auditorium down there, you can get some nuclear heat in the middle of the ring. If you come out with an American flag and you talk a bunch of crap, and it gets over, it’s like nuclear-powered heat.”

Another place he mentioned was the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York. “I used to watch ECW events like all the time as a kid, and then I was in that ballroom with a match that I kayfabe booked with all the homies that I knew were super good and we killed it with my idea.”

Loco also had the privilege of having his own show on WrestleMania weekend 2022 in Dallas under the GCW banner, Gringo Loco’s The Wrld on Lucha 2022. GCW has decided to bring back the show, in Los Angeles for WrestleMania weekend this year, so this will be Loco’s second show that he is getting to host and book.

In Loco’s time in the business, he has also won some gold. “I became trios champion in IWRG, I never thought in a million years I would have any belts in Mexico and then they made me champion there.”

With the recent success, Loco said he has finally reached a point where he can survive solely on wrestling, but he said since he grew up somewhat poor, he likes money and wants to work as much as he can. “I wear a lot of hats in Chicago, I co-own a flower shop, I do some Airbnb stuff, I’m everywhere all the time. I have to make time for a 10-year-old, for a girlfriend of five years. I have a very full life is what I’m trying to say.”

Some of Loco’s biggest inspirations in wrestling include The S.A.T., Amazing Red, Ultimo Guerrero, Little Guido (Nunzio in WWE), Psychosis, Rey Mysterio and Dean Malenko. One man he specifically pointed out as an inspiration is Tajiri, “All he [Tajiri] would do is methodically get in the ring and the people would go nuts and he would just give a look and they would go nuts. I’ve had that a couple of times in my career, like mostly Chicago, but if you give them a look and they start, I’m like, I’m f—ing Tajiri dude, 2022 man this is me.”

Loco said two of his biggest dream matches in wrestling are Will Ospreay and Rey Mysterio, he said he always wants to compete against some of the best workers. He wants to spread the message of how awesome lucha libre can be and that’s why he wants to face the best, so they can show the world authentic lucha.

Good lucha is something he prides himself on and he said that is a reason he continues to return to the Toronto-based Demand Lucha, where he is the champion. “It’s such a cool company, like Demand Lucha with lucha in the name. I mean, it’s pretty much everything. Like I don’t take it for granted at all. Like I show up to the arena every time and I’m just hoping I’m going over because I want it to continue.”

Loco said he also loves that Demand takes place on Thursdays because it is the one company that causes no discrepancies and he can always make it out. He has also been able to get so over in Toronto that the promotion has to turn him babyface.

“The fans are literally turning me face because they’re behind me,” he said at a show in late December, where he defeated Delirious. Loco got on the microphone post-victory. “I told them I loved them and they broke kayfabe and I mean whatever I did it, I told them I f—ing love y’all.”

He is also very proud to hold the Premier Championship in Demand Lucha, which he won on his first night in the company almost a year ago. “That’s a big milestone too because I haven’t been given a lot of belts in my career. To debut in front of all those fans at the Opera House at a beautiful theatre like that and then come out with a belt and then everybody being so positive about the match.”

Marques talked about that night Loco won the title and the message Loco shared with him after the show. “As soon as he won the championship, Gringo Loco privately let me know that he was going to do everything in his power to put us on the map — to be known outside of the Toronto scene,” said Marques. “So far, I would say that Gringo Loco has kept his promise. Our IWTV streams have increased by 10-times and we have more views across the United States and Mexico than ever before.”

Loco said he will continue to work hard for Demand Lucha because, “being their champion I’m just proud, I want to make them proud. I want them to know how passionate I am about Lucha in general and being the champion of this company I’m just proud.”

Gringo Loco, is returning to Demand Lucha on February 16 in Toronto to defend his Premier Championship against “Bad Boy” Joey Janela at the Plancha Tendencies show.

Loco delivered a very blunt message to Janela: “Now we’re going to clash in my house, I know he’s crazy, but I also have a crazy side. I’m a crazy motherf—er too.”

Marques said he wants to utilize Loco for as long as he can, “I feel in a year’s time, Gringo Loco will be headlining AAA with megastars like Psycho Clown, Vikingo and Laredo Kid in killer matches. We definitely want to use him as much as we can before a bigger promotion scoops him away as a full-time contracted talent.”

Gringo Loco in action in Japan. Instagram photo

Wrestling in Toronto means a lot to Loco, he said with how passionate and smart the wrestling fans are in the city, it’s much more special. He also said the crowds in Toronto are never a dud. “It’s never hit or miss, it’s always a hit.”

“Toronto is where my heart is right now, I enjoy coming up here cause it’s f—ing Thursday. I just love it man, I love the ring, I love everything, I really do. Toronto is the sh–.”

Lucha libre has simply been everything Loco has ever wanted since he was 13 or 14 years old. He still remembers when he was a kid doing swanton bombs and frog splashes off his dresser onto his bed.

He specifically recalled practicing on a punching bag, “I would lay that down, I would do tons of swantons and frog splashes on that. And then, funny story, I bounced off of it one time on a swanton, and I put a big hole in my wall. It was like the biggest deal, so, I owe wrestling a lot, including a wall.”

Clearly, lucha libre has been a part of Gringo Loco’s life forever and he is proud of what he has accomplished thus far.

“Not to brag or anything, but I’ll be [wrestling] in three countries in three days and you kind of reflect before you get on that first Toronto flight. You’re like, man, this is so cool, you’re literally living your f—ing dream, Charlie. Like you did it, you’re doing it.”

TOP PHOTO: Gringo Loco is the Demand Lucha Premier champion. Photo by Greg Oliver

Demand Lucha returns to The Parkdale Hall in Toronto, Ontario, on February 16, 2023, with a show titled Plancha Tendencies featuring Joey Janela, Gringo Loco, Jack Evans, Mexico’s Aero Boy and special guest “The Mouth of the South” Jimmy Hart. Tickets at