Vampiro as he looks today in Lucha Underground
One of the more divisive guys to ever step foot into a wrestling ring, Vampiro is the next in our Halloween lineup of Why I Love Wrestling. And make no mistake, I am a Vampiro fan. Not of the man himself necessarily, although his work with the Guardian Angels in Mexico City is something he should be commended for, but for the performer he was in the ring. (and no, I’m not talking about his feud with Sting in WCW). Vampiro is a guy who should have been a megastar. He had an uncanny ability to connect with fans as either face or heel and was more than good enough in the ring. His mic skills were so-so but his look was unique and his moveset was pretty cool to watch. He unfortunately signed with WCW at the wrong time and never hit on that one angle that would have pushed him over the top. With all due respect to the boys on the Tiger Driver ’91 podcast, which you can find right here on Geekade.com, Vampiro is not nor has he ever been a j-brone. He was a man ahead of his time and signed to the wrong company.
Born Ian Hodgkinson in Canada, Vampiro made his in-ring debut at the age of sixteen. A jobber, he set up and tore down the ring and got his ass kicked all over Canada before learning a few moves and moving to Mexico. In Mexico he signed on with CMLL and because he liked vampires, was given the name Vampiro Canadiense. (which somehow sounds less scary than a regular vampire, eh) He admittedly could not wrestle very well when he got to CMLL but was a hit with fans. Vampiro has always had a very cool, IMO, look. He was different. Sure, there were guys who wore face paint and had tattoos. There were guys with braids and dreads. But none of them looked quite like Vampiro. He has always had a certain punk rock aesthetic that, if the noise from television tapings is to be believed, appealed to female fans and an underdog loner aura that appealed to male and female fans alike. He honed his craft in Mexico with CMLL while also working for UWA and making a few tours of Japan in the early to mid 90’s. He had an awesome feud with Konnan that was based partly on real life drama, (Konnan got a spot on a TV show instead of Vampiro), winning a few titles and becoming a much better in ring performer. In 1998 he signed with and debuted for WCW. And it was with WCW that Vampiro gained his first mainstream exposure to American audiences and where he would be booked so poorly that it’s a wonder he ever recovered. While in WCW it seemed that every guy who painted their face or was a bit left of center found their way to Vampiro. (and yes that includes the Insane Clown Posse who contributed nothing positive to WCW, ECW, or the WWF/E in any of their appearances and the KISS Demon who well… you know what, nevermind… google it) The biggest crime of his run in WCW was that he could have been a huge star for them. Had he not been relegated to bit parts and instead booked in meaningful feuds he would have been a fixture on American TV for a long time. But no, we got a Graveyard Match which is as stupid as it sounds and some fireballs. That’s about it. In 2000 he returned to Mexico and worked CMLL and AAA while also making appearances in TNA and All Japan. He wrestled and was the first champion of the short lived MTV wrestling show Wrestling Society X and in 2014 joined Los Angeles based Lucha Underground as color commentator. His only match for them so far was against Pentagon Jr. at Ultima Lucha and it was fantastic. (or as TD91 likes to say, a banger)
Vampiro will always be a “what could have been.” I knew him from his work in CMLL and was super excited to see him in WCW. After watching WCW during the 90’s, I was super excited to see him return to Mexico. He just didn’t work for a company who was more concerned with continuing to put Hulk Hogan in the top spot and bringing in celebrities like Karl Malone and David Arquette than they were with putting on actual good wrestling shows. (seriously, Arquette was the WCW Heavyweight champ for a time, which is, you know, fucked up really) Had he signed with WWF/E during that time he would have been a great addition to or foil for the Undertaker and his Ministry of Darkness. It would have made for great TV and a more storied career. As it stands, we can look to Mexico for examples of his best work. Check out the clips below and let me know what you think on twitter, @geekadedan.