I remember October 10th, 1992 perfectly. There was two choices that night for pro wrestling fans in So. Cal. We had the WWF champion, Ric Flair, defending the title that night against Bret Hart at the L.A. Sports Arena. But for myself, that wasn’t in the cards that night. I had just recently been infected with the Lucha Libre bug, and instead of seeing the WWF show, I drove a couple miles down the road to Cal State Los Angeles to see Lucha Libre up close.
The history of Cal State Los Angeles really isn’t talked about much, which really surprises me. Starting on May 16th, 1992, Cal State L.A., thanks to promoter Benjamin Mora and the WWA, started holding shows at the building, which held up to 5700 people. In the future, I’ll review other shows, including the famed debut show in which many wrestlers from FMW appeared, and also the outdoors show where Rey Misterio Jr was given his name, and the AAA show on July 4th, which was the first show that AAA ran outside of the United States. But for now, I wish to concentrate on who was without a doubt the hottest wrestler in all of Mexico, and maybe worldwide that year, Vampiro Canadiense.
Starting in late 1991, Vampiro Canadiense (real name Ian Hodgkinson) was easily the most popular star in the CMLL promotion. A lot of comparisons could be made to today’s John Cena, where Vampiro was loved by children and especially women, yet was often booed by the rudo fans at Arena Mexico and other buildings. But whether you booed or cheered him, you paid to see him. And even with the threat from the new promotion, AAA (Asistencia Asesoría y Administración), any show that Vampiro was a part of, was a promoters dream. His feud with Pirata Morgan was legendary throughout the country, where both luchadores bled buckets, the likes not seen since the famous bloodbaths in Puerto Rico in the 80’s. And that continued and extended to the United States, where on the September 19th show, it was announced that Vampiro would be making his debut, his first in the country since he debuted the gimmick. He had been to the area in the past, as he has family in Los Angeles and often came to see music groups and visit friends as well, and watch Japanese wrestling with friends, but he had never a match, until October 10th, 1992.
The first three matches featured mostly local guys, with Lynx & Flash vs Tornado Negro II & Thunder Machine, Capitan Oro & Titan vs Estampa Brava & Gory Chavez, and Superstar Jr. & Ultrataro vs Tornado Negro & Chamaco Rebelde. The semi had top CMLL wrestlers, “Los Cowboys” Silver King and El Texano teaming with Piloto Suicida against Lover Boy & Apollo Navarro & Marco Polo, in which the rudos won when Lover Boy pinned Piloto Suicida in the third fall (setting up their November run, which included a WWA Welterweight title match and a mask vs mask match. And then it was time for the main event!
The rudos came out first, being Pirata Morgan & Emilio Charles Jr. teaming with local wrestler Cesar Sando Jr against Vampiro, Atlantis, and Mercurio (the brother of Piloto Suicida). Once “Welcome to the Jungle” played, the ring announcer (who, by the way, made all announcements in Spanish for every match) didn’t even have time to give a proper introduction, as Vampiro and Pirata immediately continued their Mexican feud at the Cal State L.A. building. It should be noted that Emilio Charles Jr and Atlantis has a pretty hot feud going at the time too, but you could have had the ghost of El Santo there that night, and the crowd still would have been focused on Vampiro and Pirata. The listed attendance that night was 4500, about a thousand short of a sellout, but I can promise there wasn’t one person sitting down that entire match, and the crowd heat every time that Vampiro was in the ring was unlike anything I had experienced as a wrestling fan, and that’s coming from someone who’s been to 4 Wrestlemania’s and hundreds of shows all over California and Mexico in my life.
Vampiro’s team managed to get the final fall, leaving the rudos in a bloody mess, as the crowd roared their appreciation and support for the tecnico team. After the match, hundreds of kids attempted to come up to the ring and get Vampiro’s autograph, only to have a bloody Pirata come out of nowhere and attack Vampiro and continue the brawl! It was an incredible sight to see Pirata’s blood basically flying all over a bunch of kids as him and Vampiro fought all over the building to end the show. It was an unbelievable sight as at least 100 kids entered the ring, and the two continued to fight all over the building while the kids jumped up and down and cheered!
The promoters that night were contemplating on whether or not to sever all ties with CMLL and bring back AAA wrestlers, and due to the gate (very few comps and estimated at $70,000 overall gate) smashing all expectations, the promoters decided it would be best to stay with the relationship with CMLL, and they brought back Vampiro and Pirata against three weeks later for a show on Halloween night. But I will personally never forget the magic that was the night of October 10th, 1992, at Cal State L.A, when I first saw Vampiro Canadiense wrestle live.
(A big thank you to Enrique Medina, Steve Yohe, Bob Barnett and Vampiro for their assistance with this story)