Lucha Tribute: Ricky Marvin
I had three choices for what to do tonight. One, I could watch TV. Two, I could go on Twitter and watch people argue about Survivor Series. Three, I could write about an unsung lucha libre hero who deserves more recognition with the general wrestling audience. Much like a college kid who doesn’t know the answer on his exam, I went with option C. Perhaps you’ll disagree by the end of this but I think I made a good choice.
Ladies, gentlemen, and people very mad with Triple H right now, I give you the lucha tribute to lucha libre star, former Pro Wrestling NOAH star, former Lucha Underground star, and a man Hideo Itami sees in his nightmares, Marvin the Martian’s favorite luchador himself, Ricky Marvin.
What You Already Know
In the biggest twist since we learned El Canek was the first ever first-generation luchador since El Santo, this section is actually going to be longer than a paragraph. That’s because Ricky Marvin has carved out a pretty notable career that even some WWE only fans may be aware of. The reason; a 12-year run with the Japanese promotion Pro Wrestling NOAH, back when it featured such names like Kenta Kobashi, Mitsuharu Misawa, KENTA, and countless others.
Placed in the Junior’s division, Ricky went on to have quite the memorable run with NOAH, working against many of the top stars, winning the GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championships three times with three different partners (Kotaro Suzuki, Taiji Ishimori and Super Crazy), winning the GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship once, and having many memorable battles with the aforementioned KENTA. Among their many battles includes the most famous of Marvin’s (and maybe even KENTA/Hideo Itami’s) career, when Marvin and KENTA conspired to create the wildest, most entertaining two-minute match in history. It was basically Pro Wrestling NOAH’s answer to the Ultimo Dragón/Steven Regal match from WCW all those years ago, only if Dragón and Regal had both been struck by lightning and turned into the Flash.
Besides the NOAH stint, Marvin is known for his recent appearances in AAA and Lucha Underground, the latter of which he appeared under the Bengala persona. You’ll recall that Marvin’s Bengala was featured pretty decently towards the end of season one and was an important part of the seven-way Gift of the Gods match that took place at Ultima Lucha Uno. You’ll also remember that by season two Bengala looked to be gorging himself on Fancy Feast, and was ultimately never to be seen again after his match with Kobra Moon bombed like every Killers album after Hot Fuss.
Things similarly went bust for Marvin in AAA around that time, as he lost the Bengala gimmick in favor of joining the new Los OGT stable with Chessman and Averno, only to then get kicked out of the group later in favor of . . . pretty much doing nothing until he officially left AAA. In short, the first thing Ricky Marvin is known for lead to the second thing Ricky Marvin is known for. Then again Ricky leaving AAA will probably lead to him latching onto The Crash or CMLL and revitalizing his career, so maybe it’s just what the doctor ordered.
What You Didn’t Know
Born Ricardo Fuentes Romero on January 8, 1980, Marvin is, get ready to be shocked, another in the long line of luchadors to come from a lucha libre family. His father is a long time veteran who has worked under the names Rocco Marvin, Aries and Mickey Mouse (forget it, kids—it’s Mexico), while his younger brother Rolando is known to lucha fans for runs under the names Rocky Marvin and Mini Histeria. Though not nearly as successful as his older brother (primarily because he’s been given the death sentence of being kept in the mini-estrella division of AAA), Rocky Marvin has had a decent career himself, and the Marvin brothers, in fact, teamed together in NOAH during the 2011 Nippon TV Cup Jr. Heavyweight Tag League. Try saying that five times in a row!
The point is that Marvin, like many luchadors, was destined to join the business and by the age of 15 was already wrestling under the name White Demon. According to Luchawiki, Marvin’s first payoff for a match was a drink and a sandwich, which just goes to show you that maybe Dorian Roldan isn’t the worst promoter in history. At least he’ll give you a peso or two!
As White Demon, Marvin primarily wrestled in his hometown of Veracruz before getting noticed by CMLL inside man Brazo de Oro in 1998. So sooner did Brazo discover him did Marvin find himself under the CMLL banner, training every Monday, Tuesday and Friday under the guidance of Memo Diaz and lucha libre legend Negro Casas. By February 1999, all that was left for Marvin was to debut and he made his first CMLL appearance in Arena Coliseo on February 17 in a trios match.
For a time, it was thought that Marvin was named Ricky Marvin as a spoof on Puerto Rican pop star Ricky Martin; in reality, the name was conceived by Casas and Marvin himself, who combined Ricky’s first name with the name of his favorite cartoon character, Marvin the Martian. You cannot make that stuff up! If only more luchadors did this; then we’d have guys named Digimon Disturbio and Goku Azteca.
Speaking of Azteca’s, Marvin’s first real opponent in CMLL was a fellow youngster named Sangre Azteca. Long before he was a lifeless corpse, Azteca was actually a damn good luchador and he and Marvin, along with Sombra de Plata (who currently works in CMLL as Bengala) and Fugaz, would go onto have some of the best matches on CMLL’s undercard in 1999/2000.
The most famous encounters involving the two were a tag team Lightning Match on August 5 where Marvin/Sombra took on Azteca/Fugaz, and a nine minute sprint between Marvin and Azteca at the 2000 Homenaje a Dos Leyendas card; you know, the same card that was headlined by the legendary Atlantis-Villano III mask matches. Both bouts were successful (the Lightning Match, in particular, ended with all four men receiving a standing ovation) and are widely considered the matches that launched Marvin’s career.
Of course, when I say this launched Marvin’s career, I should clarify it did so only to a point. This is CMLL we’re talking about after all! During the course of Marvin’s five-year full time run with the company, he was primarily used as a lower-card luchador who hardly, if at all, sniffed the main event scene. In fact, if Marvin were to debut these days, he would likely be considered the same as someone like Star Jr.; a young luchador with all the ability and potential in the world, only he’s stuck working with useless old rudos with no hope of getting higher.
Luckily for Marvin, he came in at a time where the undercard featured young luchadors like Volador Jr., Virus, the future TJ Perkins, current Lucha Underground star Cortez Castro and the immortal Rocky Romero. And that’s just a few of the dudes. Thanks to the loaded undercard, Marvin was still able to stand out without a push, and in fact managed to make it onto all but one Aniversario while he was working CMLL full time.
His most famous Aniversario appearance was at the 70th in 2003, where he, Virus and Volador Jr. took on Rocky, Perkins (then known as Pinoy Boy) and honestly, I’m not sure if it’s a young Castro (as Ricky Reyes) or former Bryan Danielson pupil Bobby Quance (databases suggest the former, the video suggests the latter). Whoever it was, the match is one of the best trios matches in recent Aniversario history.
In essence, Marvin’s undercard stature in CMLL proved to be a big help; by consistently working with above average talent he was allowed to show off his own skill, and CMLL’s unwillingness to do more with him at the time made the decision to join NOAH in 2003 even easier. If only current CMLL talent being misused had the same type of options.
Perhaps the biggest thing people don’t know about Marvin, however, is this; when he left to go to Japan, he legit left and went to Japan. During his decade long stint with NOAH, Marvin only made a handful of appearances in Mexico; in fact, there were some years (2006, 2009, 2010 and 2011) where he’s listed as making no appearances in Mexico at all. It’s not uncommon for luchadors to work Japan more than Mexico, but it is uncommon for them to not take Mexican bookings altogether. Marvin is one of the few to do so, and the fact that he stayed on with NOAH full time for so long shows how committed he was to them and vice versa, as well as how well Japanese crowds took to him.
It should also be pointed out that whatever dates Marvin lost in Mexico during the time he made up for by getting booked elsewhere around the world. From 2006-2013, Marvin worked from Japan to England to Europe to the US, making appearances for such promotions like Westside Xtreme Wrestling in Germany and Ring of Honor in the US (where he fought the likes of Roderick Strong and Davey Richards amongst others). He also was able to compete for the other major Japanese promotions during this time, working two matches for Dragon Gate between 2006 and 2007, a special appearance during the 20th New Japan G1 Climax and one appearance for All Japan in 2011 (it should be noted Marvin also worked the huge All Together show co-promoted by New Japan, All Japan and NOAH in 2011).
Between all this, Marvin also found time to portray the character Mushiking Joker for NOAH, the arch nemesis of Mushiking Terry (played by Marvin’s partner Kotaro Suzuki). The characters were based off the arcade game Mushiking: King of the Beetles, and their match at the famous Destiny Show in 2005 can be seen as a precursor to the Tiger Mask W matches New Japan had from this past year, down to the fact that the matches were largely underwhelming. The lesson as always; don’t do wrestling stuff based off anime/video game characters unless Tiger Mask I and Dynamite Kid are involved. It just doesn’t work!
When Marvin did get a chance to appear in Mexico during his Japan run, it was for pretty much every promotion you can imagine. During the early NOAH tours, he continued to appear with CMLL, as well making a few appearances for IWRG. His first appearance for AAA would be in 2007, and he would sparingly work for the company afterward until 2014, when he started to work there full time as opposed to NOAH.
The return to Mexico allowed Marvin to explore the Mexican indies (including three DTU shows in 2014) and did open the door for his brief LU run in the states. Of course that ultimately went nowhere and his AAA run was largely a disappointment after AAA stopped using him as Bengala, but hey; semantics right? The blow would probably have been easier to swallow if Marvin had continued to make NOAH appearances while working AAA, which he was still doing in 2015.
Sadly Marvin hasn’t returned to NOAH or Japan since then, his last appearance taking place on August 5th when he defeated former partner Super Crazy in a 3-minute match. That’ll make you shake your head sports fans, especially since NOAH isn’t exactly WCW in 1996 right now. You’re telling me they can’t find any work for Marvin to do there?! That’s like if KENTA were to become available and NOAH decided they didn’t have any room for him. Alright, it’s not exactly the same thing, but still; you get my point.
You cannot have a section featuring Ricky Marvin’s best matches without including the two minute KENTA classic. There are plenty of great short matches out there, I guarantee you there’s none quite like this. What Ricky and KENTA do here is the perfect blend of nonstop action and complete chaos that not only excites, but actually connects to tell a great story with great psychology (example; Marvin countering KENTA’S GTS into a hurricanrana, then KENTA remembering that counter and turning it into his own powerbomb counter when Marvin tried it again later. COUNTERCEPTION!). I can’t do the match enough justice talking about it; you’ll just have to see it for yourself. At two minutes, I think you’ll have more than enough time to fit it in.
More difficult to make time for is Marvin’s 70th Aniversario classic where he teamed with Virus and Volador Jr. to take on a young Rocky Romero, a young TJ Perkins and whoever the third member of the team is. Alright not really, but it’s longer than two minutes and you know how some WWE only fans are! Those who make the time though will not only get to see some of the best talent in the world today when they were just starting, but they’ll get to see some super sweet action too. Everyone in this match contributes an awe-inspiring moment and the pace of this match is so good it dwarfs some of the best work we see from CMLL, LU, New Japan and the American indies these days. An absolute treat of a trios match.
Finally, you should go out of your way to check out Marvin and cult hero Juventud Guerrera taking on KENTA and current top NOAH star Naomichi Marufuji from November of 2003. Only a few months after the great Aniversario trios match, this tag bout is, in my opinion, Marvin’s breakout match in NOAH and the one that put him on the map. It’s slower than the other two recommendations, but the pace is still pretty frantic and the stuff these four do is godlike at times. Definitely one of the more underrated tag matches from the last fifteen years, and besides introducing Marvin to the wider Japanese audience, it’s also proof that Juvi could’ve been a big star in Japan as well. Alas, he had to sign with WWE and ride out to the ring on a lawn mower instead. Excuse me while I go get depressed again.
I made the mistake after the disastrous Kobra Moon match of writing off Ricky Marvin as someone to care for. After all, I hadn’t been around during his NOAH stint or his early CMLL years; why should I care about that when he was doing nothing now? The lesson to take here is that I was a complete and utter idiot, because Ricky Marvin will go down in history as an absolutely special talent. I feel he is almost underrated with lucha libre fans in a way because he was gone from Mexico for so long, but that should only serve to enhance his reputation.
That Marvin not only was able to get booked in Japan, but was a regular there for ten plus years who got over and had success is a tremendous accomplishment. How many luchadors can we truly say did that? Furthermore, how many can we say did that while also having matches that Marvin had with the likes of KENTA? I have no doubt that Marvin would’ve had a successful run in Mexico had he stayed, with numerous great matches to boot. But he can still do that now at the still young age of 37; that he was able to show that a luchador could not only hang in Japan but could prosper should (and arguably has) opened doors for more luchadors to do so in the future. For that Ricky Marvin should not only be considered a future lucha libre legend and one of the better in-ring performers of the last two decades, but a lucha libre pioneer.
I wish I had appreciated what he has done sooner, but I’m more than ready to make up for it now. And I’m hopeful that Ricky has more to give. Like I said, he’s only 37 and he’s now free from the sinking ship known as AAA. If he’s motivated and given the chance by The Crash, CMLL or NOAH again, I think he still has some great things left to offer. And hey, if any LU guys are reading this, don’t be afraid to maybe give Ricky another go in the Temple either. Just keep him away from Kobra Moon. Once was enough sports fans; once was enough.
That’s game! I’m off to watch something on HBO Go; probably more John Oliver by the looks of it. Till we meet again, THIS!