Mat Monsters: Vampires part 1

Now, we’re gathering up all our garlic and wood stakes as we search for the vampires of the wrestling world! As always, let’s start our journey south of the border in Mexico. You may wonder, did the venerable El Santo ever battle vampires? Of course — many, many times! From 1962’s Santo Contra Las Mujeres Vampiro (Santo vs. the Vampire Women) and 1965’s El Barón Brákola to 1968’s Santo en El Tesoro de Dracula (Santo in the Treasure of Dracula), 1969’s Santo y Blue Demon Contra Los Monstruos (Santo and Blue Demon versus the Monsters), 1970’s La Venganza de Las Mujeres Vampiro (The Vengeance of the Vampire Women, a return match with female vampires), 1972’s Santo y Blue Demon vs. Drácula y el Hombre Lobo (Santo and Blue Demon vs. Dracula and the Wolf Man) and finally, 1981’s Chanoc y el Hijo del Santo contra Los Vampiros (Chanoc and The Son of Santo vs. the Killer Vampires), Santo pretty much makes himself the Van Helsing of Mexico. I’m probably missing a few encounters that the man in the silver mask had with nosferantic beasties — this lucha hero made 54 movies, which is plenty of monster and Nazi fighting. In Operation 67, Santo even joined a James Bond inspired organization!

Get this — 68’s Santo en El Tesoro de Dracula had a cut specially made for foreign markets with nude female vamps that was thought lost for decades. Guillermo del Toro found a cut and was going to play it at 2011’s Festival Internacional de Cine en Guadalajara, but was blocked by El Hijo del Santo, who asked the organizers to not show the film and sully his father’s (who would never agree to the nudity as he had a clean image) legacy. Unfortunately, El Hijo del Santo couldn’t stop 2001’s Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter from being made, a movie that features a gringo version of El Santo helping the Son of Man battle all manner of ghouls.

So what made Santo such an awesome adversary for those who love the taste of human blood? Perhaps it’s his strong Catholic faith or there’s actual silver in his mask. Maybe we’ve just never considered how effective lucha libre is against a monster. We’d do well to consider it in the future.

Santo’s biggest contemporary — and often, rival — Blue Demon would also battle the hordes of the unliving in 1968’s Blue Demon en la Sombra del Murciélago (Blue Demon in Shadow of The Bat). And upstart lucha hero Mil Mascaras would battle “Skinny Dracula” John Carradine himself, playing Count Branos, in 1968’s Las Vampiras (If you’re interested in an in-depth essay on that film — and how Carradine found himself making 5 Mexican horror films in one week — check out my article in TNC contributor Bill Van Ryn’s zine Drive-In Asylum). Mil would go on to team with Superzan and battle more of the Transylvanian undead, specifically Baron Bradok, in 1974’s Los Vampiros de Coyoacán.

Mexican flavored monster fighters have influenced so many productions up north, such as the Angel character on The Strain (who has had a spin-off comic and a special episode directed by the aforementioned del Toro that pays perfect homage to enmascardo films) and in an episode of Buffy spin-off Angel entitled “The Cautionary Tale of Numero Cinco,” a family of luchadores battle supernatural evil. Oh yes — as previously mentioned in the Frankenstein’s Monster chapter, Mike Mignola’s Hellboy battles vampires while wrestling in Mexico.

That said, vampire vs. masked man battles didn’t just happen in the movies. Lucha libre is full of grapplers afraid to appear in the sunlight!

Foremost amongst Mexico’s bloodsuckers is Vampiro, who ironically isn’t even from the country! Hailing from Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada, Vamp started his career in Mexico’s venerable CMLL promotion and was a near overnight success, thanks to his charisma and unique look for the time (today, it seems like everyone has blue hair and tons of tattoos, but this was the early 90s when these things weren’t commonplace). Since then, he’s wrestled all over the world, including stints in AAA, WAR, WCW, All Japan Pro Wrestling and has had a long association with the Insane Clown Posse (even appearing with them on WCW television and at their wrestling events).

Vampiro also brought The Misfits – yep, the Lodi, NJ “I want your skull” Misfits — to WCW TV, where they backed him up. And while in WCW he had an infamous feud with Sting, setting him on fire and even meeting him in a graveyard match. Plus, in another feud with the Kiss Demon — yes, WCW was strange enough at this point that KISS had an officially licensed grappler — he stole Asya, the Demon’s girlfriend, in a skit that took its cues from The Vanishing.

What didn’t happen in WCW is probably even more interesting — a planned PPV from Las Vegas on the last day of 1999 that would end with the KISS Demon winning the world title and his soul from Vampiro. Again — WCW was getting into some strange territory at this point.

In 2007, Vampiro helped book the MTV project Wrestle Society X, which is best described as Lucha Underground V1.0. After seeing Vamo take a fireball to the face from El Mesias, MTV got cold feet and soon cancelled the project after the first season.

Speaking of Lucha Underground, Vampiro is a major player in the promotion, as he isn’t just a commentator and manager, but also will occasionally wrestle. He had a brutal, bloody death match with Pentagon Jr., who he would later guide.

Vampiro’s career isn’t all just in the ring. He’s performed with ICP, the Misfits and several other bands and at the height of his 90s lucha fame, he starred in the movie Guerrero De La Noche (Warrior of the Night). And when interviewed recently, he claims that two spirits from Guadalajara follow him around as the result of an unfinished ritual, so he has that going for him. Today, he’s also a major part of the AAA lucha libre organization.

There have been other vampiric-named or related luchadores, such as Los Draculas,Ultimo Vampiro and Nosferantu, but none of them have embodied the look and feel of being a blood loving beast more than Vampiro. There was even a clone named American Vampire (Vampiro was originally known as Vampiro Canadiense, or Canadian Vampire), played by future WWE commentator and bully John Bradshaw Layfield.

Next time, we’ll travel beyond Mexico to other countries where vampirism has taken root inside the wrestling ring. I’d advise you to stock up on holy water!

This article originally was written for That’s Not Current and viewable here http://www.thatsnotcurrent.com/mat-monsters-never-drink-wine/

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