Lucha Tributes: Dr. Wagner Jr.
It’s that time again folks! No I’m not talking about the beginning of another baseball season (although THANK GOODNESS! Go Cubs Go!); I’m talking about yet another Lucha Tribute. Hey, when you’ve been out of action for a few days thanks to birthday celebrations/recovery from birthday celebrations it’s only right that you return with something everyone loves. And thus here we are! So who is the tribute for today? Why none other than a lucha libre legend, one of the top luchadors of the past thirty years, a man still doing work better than luchadors half his age and (spoiler alert) the only luchador to ever be a solo cover man for a video game. If that last part didn’t give it away, nothing will. Ladies, gentlemen, dude who will criticize me for one of the matches I chose for Favorite Moment, I give you the Lucha Tribute for the Good Doctor, a man who is bien, bien, bien, Dr. Wagner Jr.!
What You Already Know
The son of lucha legend Dr. Wagner, brother (and occasional rival) of lucha legend and former WCW star Silver King and father of budding lucha star El Hijo del Dr. Wagner Jr., the Good Doctor (as he’s been called) has forged one of the greatest careers in the history of lucha libre. In his thirty year career, Wagner Jr. has competed and headlined for every major lucha libre promotion, including CMLL, AAA and UWA, winning a combined seventeen champions and two tournaments while also being one of the few men to headline both CMLL’s Anniversary Show and AAA’s Triplemania (and may headline Triplemania again this year). That’s not just pretty good; that’s the last ten seconds of the National Championship game last night levels of good. By the way, the Good Doctor totally would’ve hit the game winning shot in the same situation. He’s Dr. Wagner Jr. dammit! Any argument against him is invalid.
What You Didn’t Know
Prepare yourselves folks; this section starts off on a sour note. When he first started out in 1986, Wagner Jr.’s first match was supposed to be with his father against Wagner Sr.’s longtime partner/rival/real life friend Angel Blanco and his son. The match never happened however as Wagner Sr. and Blanco were involved in a car accident on the way to the show. Tragically Blanco was killed instantly while Wagner Sr. was left unable to walk thanks to a severe spinal injury (fellow passengers El Solar, Mano Negra and Jungla Negra escaped injury). How much the accident ultimately shaped and changed Wagner Jr.’s career is something only he knows, but it definitely had at least some affect. On a positive note, Wagner Sr. would continue to closely follow the careers of both Wagner Jr. and Silver King and would eventually be able to walk again with the assistance of a cane. Never say the Wagner family gives up.
Not only do the Wagner’s never quit, they also are quite marketable. Baby brother Silver King was actually the villain in the Jack Black film Nacho Libre, a film slightly based on real life priest turned lucha star Fray Tormenta (also the kayfabe trainer of Mistico!) and one that’s only worth seeing because Silver King was in it. Seriously, avoid it otherwise. Not to be outdone, Wagner Jr. is by my estimation the only luchador to appear by himself on the cover of a video game. I know what you’re thinking; there’s a lucha libre video game? Yes indeed! Back in 2010 AAA released their own video game called Lucha Libre AAA: Heroes del Ring (also known as AAA: The Game in some countries), the first ever lucha libre themed video game and (to my knowledge) the last. As fate would have it, Wagner Jr. not only appeared in the game but was the cover man, winning the right in a four way match. Though the game ultimately didn’t sell enough to earn a sequel and received mixed reviews, it’s relatively easy to find online and worth checking out. Plus it’s the only game where you can play as Dr. Wagner Jr., Vampiro, Jack Evans and a fistful of others without having to create them. All the more reason the Lucha Underground video game will be a Godsend when it eventually comes out.
As you can plainly see, the Good Doctor isn’t just a big lucha libre star, he’s a mega star. He’s conquered everything there is to conquer in Mexico, is one of the most popular luchadors in the world and has even crossed over into Japan a few times, most notably with New Japan back in his younger days. It’s thus something of a shock that Wagner Jr. has never crossed over into the mainstream US wrestling scene. While the Good Doctor has indeed wrestled in the states before (including with Lucha VaVoom back in 2005 for two shows), he’s never appeared for any of the major US wrestling promotions, be it WWE, WCW, TNA, ECW, Ring of Honor or even Lucha Underground. That’s amazing; even guys like El Hijo del Santo, Negro Casas and Atlantis have appeared for one or two matches for US companies over the years. The fact that Wagner Jr. never has is astonishing. It’s not as though there hasn’t been interest however. The Good Doctor himself has said WWE approached him to join the organization back in 2008 and there have been some recent rumblings that Wagner may indeed be making an appearance for a US promotion sometime in the near future. My guess; it’ll happen. Just a hunch of course.
I’m breaking this into two parts because, frankly, there’s just way too much good Dr. Wagner Jr. stuff to go around. First I give you a CMLL match of the Good Doctor’s with Mistico from Super Viernes show from July 2007. There are not enough words to describe how much I adore this match. The Arena Mexico crowd is molten hot, Mistico is great, the CMLL production crew does a great job of capturing the emotion of the crowd (most notably a group of female Mistico fans in the front row) and Wagner Jr. is AMAZING as the rudo. Like, this might be the best rudo work I’ve ever seen in some regards; his mannerisms, in ring work and interaction with those Mistico fans help make this match a classic. There’s a 1000% chance this match makes the 201 Non WWE Matches list before too long.
The second match is a bout with LA Park (aka the original and legit La Parka) from Guerra de Titanes 2011 for the AAA Latin American Championship. I wouldn’t call this one of the greatest matches of all time or even the best match these two have had (Wagner and Park have had numerous balls to the wall brawls together during their long lasting rivalry). But this bout is still a great one that shows the amazing chemistry these two have always had and gives you a taste of what they’re capable of. Now if only someone would give them the money to do that mask vs. mask match against each other! You’re telling me you wouldn’t pay top dollar to see a match where either Park or Wagner would have to unmask? The crowd would be even more electrifying than the mask vs. mask match Wagner had with Mascara Ano 2000 Jr., and believe me, that was as electrifying as it gets!
You can’t begin a list of the greatest lucha libre stars of the past thirty years without Dr. Wagner Jr. Only Atlantis and Negro Casas have been as consistent a drawing power in the lucha libre scene these past thirty years and unlike both of them Wagner Jr. has proven to be a draw for both AAA and CMLL. He’s also an amazing wrestler who deserves a lot more credit than he gets. And honestly, much like Casas, Atlantis, Mysterio and Park, I think he’s got a lot more to give. The man is still wrestling at a high level right now and, in the words of the great Kevin Kleinrock, one of the best conditioned luchadors around today. Even at 51, I reckon Wagner Jr. still has many good years left and like I said earlier, there may be some late stage American exposure for him. I hope it happens. The US audience is now finally starting to discover lucha libre on a wider scale, and guys like Dr. Wagner Jr. deserve to be known by the American wrestling fan. An exciting time for sure!
And I’m spent. I’ll be back tomorrow kids with a preview of CMLL’s Super Viernes show Friday and my thoughts on tomorrow night’s Lucha Underground show. Till then, here’s a picture of Wagner blasting LA Park’s head off with a chair. So violent; so full of anger! And yet…