To most American, Canadian and European wrestling fans Vampiro first arrived on the wrestling scene in the late 90’s via WCW. Other than a high profile feud with Sting, Vampiro spent far too much of his time in WCW floating aimlessly around the midcard in angles with the likes of The Insane Clown Posse, The Misfits and “The Kiss Demon”. Needless to say this poor booking never did justice to a worker that, unbeknownst to most fans of American Wrestling, was a legend throughout Mexico during the late 80’s and 90’s.
Real name Ian Richard Hodgkinson, Vampiro grew up fatherless in the Northern Ontario community of Thunder Bay. He got his first break in the business in his homeland of Canada working for the International Wrestling promotion which ran out of Montreal, Quebec, even though he had very little training. Ian had spent some time as a body guard for pop group Milli Vanilli, as well as being a bass player and playing hockey but his love for wrestling and his desire to be a star had him searching for ways to get into the business. While in Montreal, Vampiro would set up rings before events and only asked to get a little training from the wrestlers in return. He made his debut for the promotion in 1984, still having very little training, although since that time Vampiro has credited Abdullah the Butcher as his trainer.
After a few years in Montreal, Vampiro headed south to Mexico City where he would seek work with the CMLL (Worldwide Wrestling Council) promotion, the countries top Lucha Libre promotion. However Vampiro was not well received during an initially meeting with the company’s long time booker Antonio Pena, and was looked down upon because of non- traditional look of having blue dreadlocks and covered in tattoos. Despite this set back Antonio and the CMLL decided to give Ian a chance under the ring name El Vampiro Canadiense (“Canadian Vampire”) and with that Vampiro was born.
To say El Vampiro Canadiense was over would be a huge understatement. Vampiro was literally an overnight success, especially with the Mexican women in the audience. As Vampiro’s popularity grew so did his character, donning make-up and adding even more tattoos, which only made the fans love him more. Soon Vampiro was receiving crowd reactions similar to rock concerts, having his own boy band style fan following he quickly became the biggest star in the promotion. It is truly hard to do Vampiro justice in describing how over he actually was. He was a sex symbol and pinup for millions of teenage Mexican Girls but at the same time being an innovator and pioneer of extreme wrestling inside the squared circle with an arsenal of martial arts technique and an ability to bump like none other, bringing punk rock and wrestling together. Vampiro was an ‘ECW-style wrestler’ before Extreme Championship Wrestling ever existed. After years of being a top star of Mexican wrestling Vampiro’s status grew even further, becoming a media personality, comic book character and even stared in the Mexican action movie ‘Vampiro: Guerrero De La Noche’ (‘Vampiro: Warrior of the Night’) propelling him to stardom across Mexico and Luche Libre that he had never dreamed of. “It was the worst thing that ever happened to me”, Vampiro would say years later in a press release, “I had access to anything and everything, in excess, 24 hours a day. Good, bad and ugly. Women, drugs, fame, alcohol, power.”
In the early 90’s Antonio Pena, feeling he had took the CMLL promotion as far as he could, left the company to start his own promotion, the AAA, taking a lot of the company’s young talent (and first ever CMLL world heavy weight champion Konnan, who at the time was seen as the Hulk Hogan of Mexico) with him. AAA and CMLL traded places of the top Lucha Libre promotion throughout the 90’s with Vampiro often being in or around the main event, but his big break came in 1998 when he was signed by World Championship Wrestling (WCW) and given a platform to perform in front of a worldwide audience, not just across Mexico.
Vampiro’s debut in WCW was a successful one and he quickly gained some momentum by teaming with undercover wrestling legend Raven, and the Insane Clown Posse in a programme against Eddie Guerrero, Rey Mysterio Jr and his Rival from Mexico, Konnan. The angle was well received and provided Vampiro with enough heat to be able to go into more singles angles, without having Raven with him to help him get over. From here Vampiro was involved in a few poorly booked midcard angles with Berlyn (The Wall), Oklahoma (Ed Ferrara, who was on the booking team at the time) and Steve Williams until finally being teamed up with WCW and NWA legend Sting in a storyline that would end with Vampiro turning on his ‘Brother in Paint’. In what was probably the highlight of Vampiro’s WCW stint he and Sting feuded throughout the spring of 2000, culminating in Vampiro getting an invaluable PPV victory to end the feud by setting Sting on fire in a ‘Human Torch Match’.
Instead of being pushed up the card after defeating main event worker Sting, Vampiro was then booked into an angle with the green as grass ‘Kiss Demon’. Next Vampiro was to set his sights on the Vacant United States title but was eliminated in the first round of a tournament to decide the new champion, denying him his first WCW gold. However the WCW tag titles were not out of Vampiro’s reach as he and his tag team partner, The Great Muta, won the belts from Kronik in autumn 2000. Vampiro’s first and only title run in WCW was to be short lived though as he and Muta dropped the straps on the following nights edition of Monday Nitro to Rey Mysterio Jr and Juventud Guerrera. Vampiro’s final match in WCW was against Mike Awesome, during which he got injured. This would put him on the shelf throughout WCW’s final days before being purchased by the WWF and with his career in WCW never really getting off the ground. Some people believe that he never got the push that he deserved because of his backstage heat with Konnan. Even though the two men had made each other millions in CMLL they had a hatred for each other that carried over to WCW, with Vampiro once saying about the situation: “For a decade Konnan wished I was dead. I don’t think the Devil hates God as much as Konnan hated me.” At the time WCW was known for its political nature backstage, and many believe that Konan’s alliances with the nWo Wolfpack wouldn’t harm his alleged attempts to have Vampiro De-Pushed.
With the WWF not picking up Vampiro’s contract after buying WCW he then returned to CMLL for a short while before heading to the brand new XWF. Any wrestling fan that has seen the DVD ‘XWF: The Lost Episodes’ will see that had the XWF ever gotten of the ground, Vampiro may have had his chance at being a main event guy in the USA. The XWF was run by Jimmy Hart, Greg Valentine and Brian Knobbs, and was one of many wrestling promotions looking to rise from the ashes of the demise of WCW and ECW. They applied a business model of using the veterans that the WWF had not taken from WCW to get their name out there (Hulk Hogan, Jerry Lawler, Curt Henning) then emphasizing their excellent cruiserweight roster (Kid Kash, Psicosis, Low-Ki, Christopher Daniels, AJ Styles, etc) as their unique selling point. On the pilot episode of XWF Vampiro was booked in the Main event with Curt Henning, as well as given some time on the microphone, utilizing skills that he had never been able to use in the USA during his time in WCW. With Konnan also on the XWF roster, had the promotion ever picked up a TV deal, the two were to be put in a programme together to give the worldwide audience a taste of what made the two men such legends across Mexico. However it was not to be and after running a few house shows the XWF folded and Vampiro was once again looking for work.
Vampiro spent the next few years making appearances in smaller promotions across the world such as All Japan Pro Wrestling, CMLL, XPW and TNA for a short stint before jumping ship from CMLL to its rival Lucha Libre promotion AAA. When not working for the AAA Vampiro has also worked for Full Contact Wrestling, IWA, IPW:UK, and Nu Wrestling Evolution leading up to 2007 when he was approached by MTV to be part of a project called Wrestling Society X.
Vampiro was assigned as head booker in WSX, and alongside Syxx-Pac (Sean Waltman aka X-Pac) was one of the bigger names in the company and was to be used to help get them off the ground. WSX was presented at a frantic pace, mostly using young high-spot wrestlers in very short matches, which seemed to work with Vampiro’s style on his few appearances for the company. Vampiro won the companies only championship, the WSX title, after beating Syxx-Pac on the companies second show, before dropping it a month later to Ricky Banderas. WSX was pulled from MTV programming after a controversial incident in which Banderas threw a fire ball at Vampiro causing his head to catch fire momentarily.
During 2007 Vampiro was involved in the making of a film documenting Vampiro’s life and career called Vampiro: A Canadian Vampire in Mexico, dubbed as the great untold story of professional wrestling. If you have the chance it is worth checking out. Thank you El Vampiro Canadiense.
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Wish he got more time in the States.
Love the title. It sounds like a song.
I recently found out he was trained by Abdullah The Butcher, I did not even know that! lol. Ironic that you wrote a column about El Vampiro!
Enjoyable read and very educating.
I love Vampiro and haven’t seen that yet so I really need to watch it. I really wish the guy would have been picked up by WWE. Would have been great IMO.
Another example of how shit WCW became. Wasted talent. Shame WWE didn’t pick up his contract. Great read.
I need to take a look at the documentary, enjoy Vampiro’s work. Well, when WCW weren’t wasting him. I always wondered how he’d get on, if WWE picked him up.
I remember Jericho writing about working with Vampiro in Mexico in “A Lion’s Tale”
I’ve read about Vampiro in Jericho’s book and Rey’s book. I haven’t actually seen any of his work so I’ll definitely have to look him up, if he’s as good as everyone says then I’m definitely surprised WWE didn’t bother picking him up.
Is there still heat between vampiro and Konnan?
Great post. Very informative. When I saw the headline “A Canadian Vampire in Mexico” in my email inbox I instantly knew it had to be a story about Vampiro. I was tuning out of WCW by the time he appeared on the scene, but I do remember his feud with Sting. Most of what I learned about him was from reading back issues of the Wrestling Observer and Chris Jericho’s first book, “A Lion’s Tale.” He is definitely a legend in Mexico.
Your story also leaves me wondering how different wrestling would be had the XWF been suceessful.