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LuchaPalooza: IWRG Tribute
For those of you not paying attention there’s been a reason why I’ve been referring to this past week and the next week as LuchaPalooza. That reason is that we lucha fans are lucky enough to have four big shows in this span, three of which are AAA’s Triplemania XXIV (already in the books), the CMLL 83rd Anniversary Show (this Friday) and the season three premiere of Lucha Underground (one week from today). You may be wondering now what that fourth show is? Do CMLL or AAA have another show lined up after Triplemania and the Anniversary Show? Is there a secret LU show we don’t know about? No, no and no. Turns out there is a fourth promotion holding a fourth big show for LuchaPalooza and while we will be previewing that in the next few days, today we will be looking at the entire history of the promotion itself. Chances are you haven’t heard of these guys, but by the end you will most definitely want to fit them into your schedule. So without further ado, I give you the Lucha Tribute to what many consider the third biggest lucha libre promotion in Mexico and the promotion that built the famed Arena Naucalpan. This is the International Wrestling Revolution Group, better known as IWRG.
What You Already Know
Probably not a whole lot unless you’re the most diehard of lucha fans. The basics are easy though. IWRG is considered by many to be the third biggest lucha libre promotion in Mexico behind CMLL and AAA and arguably the third biggest in the world depending on where you slot Lucha Underground to the mix. Oh and you also know that they too are having a big show during LuchaPalooza this Sunday. What better time to learn about them then now right?
What You Didn’t Know
CMLL had Salvatore Lutteroth and Paco Alonso; AAA had Antonio Peña and UWA had Ray Mendoza/Frances Flores. IWRG’s version of those men was Adolfo Moreno. A luchador during the 50s and 60s under the names El Pirata, Pirata Moreno and Callabero Verde, Moreno turned to promoting when he retired in his hometown Naucalpan de Juarez, Mexico, a city just north of Mexico City. Initially Moreno promoted events in conjunction with CMLL (then EMLL), but soon became a partner with Mendoza’s UWA in the mid 70s and created Promociones Moreno to help promote shows. He also began a more interesting project where he bought Arena KO Al Gusto, Naucalpan’s local arena, and tore it down. In its place was Arena Naucalpan, a lucha libre designed arena that, while on the smaller side attendance wise (only 2,400 people can be seated) soon became the home of every Promociones Moreno event, and would remain as such until UWA closed its doors in 1995. A year later Moreno decided to start his own company and the International Wrestling Revolution Group was born with Arena Naucalpan as the promotion’s version of Arena Mexico. Today the arena is considered to be one of the great halls of lucha libre.
It wasn’t a quick road to IWRG becoming what it is today however. Moreno was a man used to promoting other rosters and thus chose not to create his own roster, instead using talents from CMLL, AAA, Último Dragon’s Toryumon Mexico and even Promo Azteca on their off days. In fact if you go through the first several years of IWRG’s history you’ll see a who’s who of lucha legends, with guys like L.A. Park, Atlantis, Negro Casas, El Hijo del Santo, Vampiro, Dr. Wagner Jr. and countless others wrestling at least a match or two in Naucalpan (Konnan and Rey Mysterio are the most notable to not work for IWRG, although Konnan did wrestle at least one match there years later in 2011). The practice more or less made IWRG a high end indie promotion in the same vein as Lucha Libre Elite today, although it did also serve as the start up place for many of the lucha stars we see today. Guys like Psycho Clown, Rey Hechicero, Terrible, El Hijo del Fantasma, Texano Jr., Daga, Golden Magic (who still wrestles in IWRG), Star Jr., Guerrero Maya Jr. and hero to all rooftop divers Angelico all cut their teeth in IWRG before being scooped up by other promotions. That’s pretty cool; not as cool as whatever look Angelico was trying to pull off during his time there.
Eventually though IWRG’s relationships with these promotions would fall apart, most notably with CMLL. The lucha libre institution, which had largely used IWRG as their NXT for several years, ended their relationship in 2007 because of IWRG’s refusal to end their relationship with lucha legend El Hijo del Santo (an incident I briefly went into detail on in my Paco Alonso column). I would dare say that was a little unfair on Paco Alonso’s part and you can’t really blame IWRG for wanting to use one of the biggest names in lucha libre history for their shows, but I digress. The breakdown, coupled with Moreno’s death in 2007and his sons Cesar and Marco taking over, forced IWRG from its super indie status into a promotion that needed to survive with its own unique roster (though they have maintained a slight working relationship with AAA here and there since). Overall they’ve done quite well, filling the roster with independent names, up and comers and CMLL/AAA cast offs like Trauma I, Trauma II, X-Fly, what seems to be the entire Máscara Ano 2000 family and the aforementioned Golden Magic (though he looks to be branching out into Elite/CMLL territory these days). They also have managed to snag a nice TV deal with the TV Azteca Network in Mexico, oddly enough the same Network that once helped make Promo Azteca a major player in the lucha market back in the mid 90s. Coincidence?
They have maintained three luchadors over the years that I would call stalwarts. The first is Máscara Sagrada. Though he’s more well known for AAA/CMLL fame, Sagrada has been an IWRG staple since 1997 when he left AAA and continues to wrestle there today (albeit on a limited schedule). The second is Negro Navarro, lucha legend and one of the most sought after lucha trainers in Mexico (he notably had a hand in training Angelico). Never working full time for either AAA or CMLL, Navarro basically transitioned from UWA to IWRG in the late 90s and never left. He continues to be a star for IWRG today despite being 59 and actually works a full time schedule. And then there’s Black Terry, the first graduate from the Negro Casas school of luchadors who get better with age. Like Navarro Terry was a UWA institution before the promotion closed and then had a several year run with CMLL before becoming involved with IWRG during the CMLL/IWRG talent agreement. He would eventually become the IWRG head trainer and top star, which he remains today while still have some of the best matches in Mexico even at the age of 63. He’s also the only one of the three legends here who will be wrestling on this Sunday’s show, where he’ll compete in trios action.
This might not be the best match in IWRG history but it’s the best one I could find. And yes it involves that Black Terry guy, taking on a young luchador named Multifaceto back in April of 2008 in a mask vs. hair match. It’s not the flashiest match in the history of the western hemisphere but boy does it show you just how good Terry is at, well, everything. Oh and then there is that Multifaceto kid. He’s very raw in this match but you can see the glimpses of someone who today is now a respected luchador in CMLL. Who is it? Here’s a hint; he’s one of the names I mentioned earlier who IWRG helped groom into becoming a successful performer.
IWRG is in the weird position of having once been a Lucha Libre Elite like indie and now being a successor to the UWA, Promo Azteca and the World Wrestling Association (WWA). I also think they’ve gone far beyond what Adolfo Moreno ever thought they would be when he formed the company two decades ago, for which you have to credit him and his sons for adapting. It would’ve been very easy for the IWRG to go belly up after losing talent from CMLL and Toryumon Mexico but instead they regrouped, built up their own roster and now have a very nice thing going on. I may not be as familiar with them as AAA, CMLL or Lucha Underground but I can also say I’ve never heard more than a few bad things ever said about them and if nothing else they’re worthy of getting a look this weekend. I’m not sure I could ever see IWRG rising to up to challenge AAA or CMLL for the top promotion in lucha libre like Promo Azteca or even the UWA once did, but this is a promotion that isn’t going away, works within its strengths and should continue to deliver great matches and great talent for years to come.
That’ll do kids, that’ll do. The PWG BOLA preview with my main man Leafster is up next, followed by a preview of CHIKARA’s King of Trios that’s also happening this weekend. SO MUCH IS GOING ON! Till then, more of that radioactive Spider-Man!