Lucha Tributes: Atlantis
Let’s not waste time dudes and dudettes; I’m tired, I have Happy Endings waiting in my Playstation and I have to head to the laundry mat tomorrow. The struggle, as my brother would say, is real. Thus, let’s just get down to brass tacks; I have here a Lucha Tribute for you for someone NOT in Lucha Underground. Rather, this underrated legend of lucha libre is a member of CMLL, and could quite possibly be one of the ten greatest luchadors to ever walk this mortal coil. Without further ado, I give you the Lucha Tribute for the mythical, the ageless Atlantis.
What You Already Know
Billed as a warrior from the legendary sunken city for which he was named after, Atlantis is without question one of the standard bearers of lucha libre’s oldest promotion CMLL. He has wrestled now for over 32 years, capturing numerous championships, masks, tournament victories on route to becoming one of the most popular luchadors of all time. For all his accomplishments though, Atlantis will always be remembered for three separate yet equally important matches; his mask vs. mask bout with Ultimo Guerrero from the 81st CMLL Anniversary Show, another mask vs. mask bout against recent WWE signing La Sombra at the 82nd Anniversary Show and his legendary mask vs. mask match with Villano III from the 2000 Juicio Final. The latter by the way was voted Match of the Year for 2000 by the Wrestling Observer, and might just be the greatest Luchas de Apuesta match of the modern era. I know; how in the world is Atlantis that good at mask vs. mask matches?! It’s a riddle I tell you, a mystery wrapped in an enigma, THE FREAKIN SHOOTERS DON’T EVEN KNOW! Whoa, really have to stop watching JFK while I write these bad boys.
What You Didn’t Know
As far as luchadors or even wrestlers go, Atlantis is a rare breed. I don’t think it’s a secret to say that most veteran grapplers, especially the big names, work everywhere and anywhere over the course of their career. Not Atlantis. While he initially split time between CMLL (then still EMLL) and the Universal Wrestling Association during his first year and did work joint CMLL/UWA shows during the 90s, Atlantis is what you would call CMLL’s franchise. He has been the most loyal, consistent performer for the lucha libre empire since 1984, never once jumping to AAA (though he did decline an offer from AAA back in 1993 when the company first started up). To say Atlantis has been well rewarded by CMLL for that loyalty is like saying there’s not a lot of action in 2001: A Space Odyssey; he’s been allowed to work several Mexican indies in between his CMLL schedule and remains a top star for the promotion today, having headlined nearly ten Anniversary Show’s for the promotion. You could say that the friendship between Atlantis and CMLL is even better than the one between Humphrey Bogart and Claude Reins at the end of Casablanca. Look at that, two classic movie references in one paragraph!
Speaking of movies, this might be a good time to mention that, much like famous luchadors El Santo and Blue Demon, Atlantis has enjoyed some success as a star of lucha libre films. Just before the big AAA/CMLL rivalry started in the 90s, Atlantis and his tag team partner of the time Octagon (he of When Worlds Collide fame) teamed up together for the film Octagón y Atlantis, la revancha (Spanish for Octagon and Atlantis: The Revenge. Great title). The film gained notoriety for being released after Octagon had bolted for AAA, surely making the opening night premiere a pretty awkward event for Atlantis and his former partner. In addition to that film, Atlantis also starred in La Fuerza Bruta (The Brute Power) at around the same time. While he’s largely stayed in the ring since, he’s continued to appear in films from time to time, most notably in his own film Atlantis al rescate (Atlantis to the Rescue). Not bad at all; Eddie Furlong would kill for that career if I do say so myself.
Just because Atlantis has stayed loyal to one promotion in Mexico however (again, minus indie dates) doesn’t mean he hasn’t branched out. Thanks to CMLL’s working relationship with New Japan, Atlantis has been a consistent presence at FantasticaMania since 2011 and has even worked a Wrestle Kingdom show back in 2012. He also had earlier stints in Japan, first for Ultimo Dragon’s Toryumon Japan promotion and then later for Michinoku Pro. Perhaps most shockingly is that Atlantis has some US experience. In recent years, he’s been a presence for our friends at Pro Wrestling Revolution, and to my absolute amazement has even appeared in CHIKARA. Yes, Atlantis has wrestled in CHIKARA, and wrestled against Chuck Taylor of all people in a losing effort back in 2011 (this bout was by the way a tag team match where Johnny Gargano and Rey Bucanero were also involved). You’re not getting anything more shocking than that…except you are because ATLANTIS TOTALLY WRESTLED A FEW MATCHES FOR WCW! Yes, despite there being no record of it at all, Atlantis did indeed work at least two matches for World Championship Wrestling back in 1998, both taking place on the WCW Worldwide program. The good news is that Atlantis won both those matches, first against some dude named Len Denton and then once more against long time CMLL rival Emilio Charles Jr. The bad news is that both matches (despite being solid) were quite short, and the latter match featured WCW trying to pass Atlantis off as Lizmark Jr. No offense to Lizmark Jr. (a damn fine luchador in his own right), but really?! Come on WCW; I love you, but you have one of the best luchadors ever in Atlantis and you go that route? No wonder he decided to go back to Mexico.
Finally, the most important thing you need to know about Atlantis is that he hasn’t spent his entire career as a technico. That’s hard to believe, considering he entered CMLL as a technico and has been one of the most popular performers with children in lucha libre history. With his career semi-stalling during the early days of the Mistico era however, CMLL finally did pull the trigger and turned Atlantis rudo, joining him up with long time rivals Ultimo Guerrero and Rey Bucanero (among others) to form Los Guerreros de la Atlántida (The Warriors of Atlantis). The move helped reignite Atlantis’ career, and he and Guerrero would go on to win the CMLL Tag Team Championships and the CMLL Trios Championships with Negro Casas during his five year run with the group. Perhaps most importantly, Atlantis’ eventual technico turn and split from Guerrero would lead to the two tangling in their mask vs. mask match at the 81st Anniversary Show, a bout that would’ve likely meant less if Atlantis had never teamed with his longtime rival. Now that’s good business right there.
No, it’s not the WCW match where they pretended Atlantis was Lizmark Jr. (seriously, what the hell WCW?). Without question, this honor has to go to the mask vs. mask match Atlantis had with Villano III at the 2000 Juicio Final, which is easily one of the best matches of the past twenty years and maybe one of the best lucha libre matches of all time. Here’s the twist though; I’m not going to show you that match. Why not; because I already wrote about Atlantis-Villano III several months ago, which kind of defeats the purpose of me showing you the match again. So while I will indeed acknowledge it as the top moment of Atlantis’ historic run, I’m instead going to show you his match with La Sombra from just last year. It’s not quite Atlantis-Villano III, but it’s a hell of a match and proof that even at 53 years of age, Atlantis is still one hell of an in ring competitor. Plus, for the WWE fans reading this, this bout might’ve been the one that got La Sombra signed with the powerhouse of US wrestling.
WCW had Sting; WWE has The Undertaker; AAA had Konnan; CMLL had Atlantis. If nothing else, you have to admire the fact that a big star like him stayed with CMLL for so long, something that a lot of workers over the past twenty years have not done. Not only did he stay, he also proved to be one of the best workers in the history of the company and perhaps the most underrated luchador of all time. I feel like that fact is lost on people, especially since Atlantis ultimately didn’t have the crossover success in the US the way a Mysterio, Konnan, Vampiro or even a La Parka had. It only takes one look at the list of Atlantis’ accomplishments (22 championships and 13 tournaments won) and the amazing matches he’s had to see that Atlantis does belong in the conversation of one of the all time greats. And much like his peer and fellow ageless wonder Negro Casas, Atlantis is still writing his legacy. He may not entirely be the same performer he was ten or twenty years ago, but “the last warrior of Atlantis” remains both a top draw for CMLL and, as proven by his bouts with Guerrero and La Sombra, still capable of giving top notch performances. If you get the chance, catch this lucha legend before he retires. It’s worth it.
And scene. I’ll be back tomorrow folks with a pretty interesting idea that my pal Matt Mortensen helped me come up with. Till then, here’s a photo of the actual Lizmark Jr. Only eighteen years too late for WCW to realize the difference sadly.
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