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The Top 50 Luchador(a)s of 2016: 20-11
We’re keeping it short and sweet tonight folks. After this column is done there will only be ten more luchadors separating us from finding out who was the best luchador of 2016. Or is it nine? Isn’t it technically nine? I can never tell with these things. Whatever the case, we’re finding out who the best was tomorrow, which means it’s important to get this column as quickly as possible tonight. Agreed? Agreed; I knew you’d see it my way. Moses, bring in another one of those super cool new memes you seem to be doing for this series.
20. Prince Puma
Every time I think I’ve rated Puma too low on this list I remember that he wasn’t quite as dominant in the second and third seasons of Lucha Underground as he was in the first. Like he was the top dog for pretty much all that season; since then he’s fallen on his ass a couple of times and is now so desperate to regain his old glory that he’s teaming up with Vampiro, a man who is probably only using Puma to either get back at Pentagon Dark or to prove himself to Pentagon Dark. It’s 50/50 honestly. Thus Puma ends up here, despite the fact that his in ring work remained relatively strong throughout 2016. I’ll be honest; if Puma had taken off the mask and worked as Ricochet in LU instead he would’ve fared much better. Alas.
The Mil Muertes of CMLL, and not just because he’s a dark brooding character who may or may not be an undead zombie. Seriously, go back and look at some of the best matches CMLL had this year and Mephisto is in them, tangling with Máscara Dorada, Titán and several other high profile bouts. He truthfully may be too low on this list. A truly underrated performer in this day and age.
18. Último Guerrero
He's repetitive, he's stubbornly set in his ways and you can't help but wonder if we'd be better of with someone else in his position. And yet despite all that, UG had a pretty damn good year. In trios action he was often excellent, especially in the battles between himself, Gran Guerrero and Euforia (who I loathed to leave off this list) and the Sky Team (Volador, Mistico and Valiente). He was pretty darn good in singles action too, with matches that ranged from good (Valiente) to great (Carístico) to gosh darn excellent (Volador, Michael Elgin). The only flaw you can really level at UG’s door step is his repetitiveness, hence why he’s this low. Take that away and this man remains one of the best luchadors around.
17. Flamita/Fireball/Octagon Jr./Night Claw
It was a busy year for Flamita, who may want to start calling himself the man of a thousand gimmicks. He started off as Fireball, a super entertaining undercard performer for AAA who constantly found himself trying to one up Aerostar in trios matches. He showed up in Lucha Underground as Night Claw, had the best performance of Night Two of Ultima Lucha Dos and then disappeared. AAA repackaged him as Octagón Jr., which seemed to signal a potential big push for him until he was (and this story is true) confronted by the real Octagón and armed bodyguards at an autograph session, an event that led to the beginning of the end of Flamita’s AAA (and LU) stay and Octagón’s reputation. Ultimately he settled into the role of the biggest star on the lucha indie circuit not named L.A. Park, delivering some great matches in Elite and DTU, including a fantastic triple threat match with Ronnie Mendoza and Negro Casas at DTU9Nuev. That he remained impressive in ring the entire time, despite all the moving around and controversy is something else and the reason he gets so high on this list. I just hope he gets a high end gig sometime in 2017, because this man deserves to be on TV. Hell maybe we can start a write in campaign to LU, telling them to screw AAA and bring Flamita back. Somewhere Konnan is smiling at this idea.
Other than Último Guerrero I can safely say Rush is the most frustrating dude on this list. On his best day he is, without question, the best rudo in lucha and the best heel in wrestling. Nobody can touch him, which makes it all the more frustrating when Rush decides not to go all in. It’s why he ends up at only sixteen; for everything brilliant thing he did with L.A. Park during that memorable Arena Mexico brawl, there was a disappointing bout with Diamante Azul to cloud the judgment. Come 2017 we need less of the guy who stunk up that latter match and more of the guy who was part of one of the most memorable matches in recent history.
15. Rey Mysterio Jr.
Not only was this a comeback year for Rey Mysterio but dare I say it was his best year in wrestling since…2009? Maybe even 2006? Whatever the case, a softer schedule, a slew of good opponents in Lucha Underground and less AAA drama helped Mysterio turn back the clock and at times look like the guy I grew up watching in WCW. I’m still in awe of his performance against Prince Puma back at Ultima Lucha Dos, where Rey pulled off moves I never expected to see him do again after the years of wear and tear caught up with him. It truly was a marvelous year for Mysterio, and I wouldn’t be surprised if 2017 is better. We may have only scratched the surface of what a fresher, older and wiser Mysterio can do against some of the up and coming talent on Lucha Underground.
14. Rey Escorpión
If not for Lucha Libre Elite going off the rails and taking everyone associated with them Rey Escorpión may have been a top ten luchador of the year. He was absolutely sensational at various points of 2016, having good to great matches for both Elite and CMLL, including a two week period where he had three consecutive great performances against Teddy Hart, Máscara Dorada and Máximo (the latter being a CMLL Heavyweight Championship match). If he had stuck with both promotions I think it’s very possible he gets a couple more marquee matches and stays in the top ten. Instead he went to Elite full time, got lost in the loony tunes nature of the promotion and now winds up here. Is it wrong that I’m wishing Elite would close just so Escorpión can come back to CMLL? Not just for his sake but for all of ours; CMLL is much better when rudos like Rey Escorpión are around. There’s less Arkángel de la Muerte appearances and everything!
13. Máximo Sexy
Gets this high thanks to an all time great start to 2016, which included a classic hair vs. hair match against Kamaitachi on New Year’s Day and an excellent hair vs. hair match against Rush at Homenaje a Dos Leyendas a few months later. The rest of the year wasn’t quite as good but so what; did you see that Kamaitachi match Máximo had?! It was that good (other than Titán-Mephisto it may be the best match you haven’t seen in 2016), good enough to get Máximo on the list and this high when you add his charisma and ability to get the crowd going to the mix. Just further proof that Máximo is one of the most underrated luchadors around and someone who doesn’t deserve a 3.43 score on CageMatch. By the way, if Máximo is able to get an okay match out of Máscara Año 2000 this Sunday, I may just cancel the list for next year and name Máximo the best luchador of 2017. Máscara Año 2000 is that bad and Máximo getting an average match from him would be the greatest miracle since Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Be honest; you didn’t think that would be good either.
12. Mil Muertes/El Mesias
There may be flashier guys in the Temple but any Lucha Underground viewer with a brain will tell you that Mil Muertes is the soul of that show. He cemented that status this past year, having great matches with everyone he came across, creating the greatest throne in the history of wrestling (Big Ryck’s skull was part of it!) and frankly just by being the awesome tortured soul who conquered death all those years ago under earthquake rubble. The only reason he’s this low is because is other identity, Mesias, was given nothing to do in AAA but mediocre matches and an odd gig as the muscle of Team Trump, a group that already has a ton of muscle in its leader Cage. Typical AAA right? But even if El Mesias has lost his touch, Mil Muertes remains the Immortan and good Grodd I can’t wait to see him send someone else to hell in 2017. Hell he may be LU’s true hero when all is said and done…why the hell did I just say that?
11. Johnny Mundo
He won the Lucha Underground Trios Championships with Jack Evans and P.J. Black in late spring. He was one third of the team, alongside Chavo Guerrero Jr. and former LU rival Cage. He became the most successful member of Team Trump in AAA, winning the Latin American Championship from Pentagon Dark and taking Taya away from Perros del Mal at the same time. He worked Battle of Los Angeles for the first time. He won the Gift of the Gods Championship from Sexy Star, and then cashed in that title a few weeks later to beat Sexy for the Lucha Underground Championship, thus becoming the second Triple Crown winner in LU history. And best of all, he recorded “Welcome to Slamtown”, the “Sexy Boy” of this generation. Other than just missing the top ten and finish second to Dave Meltzer for the “Best Abs Award”, Johnny Mundo did it all this year and did it while being the best rudo on the planet. Rush may have a higher ceiling as a rudo, but Mundo had the consistency, and most importantly had it in every promotion he worked. That includes AAA, a place where dreams go to die right now. I can’t say enough nice things about Johnny Mundo’s 2016. He was fantastic, which tells you all you need to know about the top ten of this list seeing as he just missed the cut.
That’s game sports fans. Tomorrow is the day we count down the ten best luchadors of 2016! Are you excited? You should be. Till it drops, try to stay calm with some SCULDER and MULLY! Oh fuck…I meant MULDER and SCULLY! There, that’s better.