Vampiro was one of the most underappreciated Canadian exports since Shannon Tweed. He honed his craft for years in Mexico in promotions such as CMLL before arriving in the once-bright spotlight of WCW. Unfortunately, he was considerably ahead of his time (a running theme in this series) and landed in WCW at the beginning of the end of its time.
This summer series will examine talents, moments and matches that crumbled under the weight of their immense potential.
Vampiro had no problem standing out, which is more than half the battle of becoming an elite professional wrestler. The industry is saturated with stories of wrestlers with strong workrates, but who lacked the "it" factor necessary to make people care. Curtis Axel, Tyson Kidd and Lance Storm come to mind. But Not Vampiro.
One look at this odd, perfectly sized specimen, and even the most inept promoter could see money.
Or so we thought.
He was able to switch hit as either a charismatic babyface—fighting for misfits around the world while eliciting the typical female attraction to bad boys—or a tortured, ostracized heel. The marriage of national professional wrestling and Vampiro should have rivaled that of Triple H and Stephanie.
But no such marriage would commence, as Vampiro showed up at the wrong altar.
WCW's creative woes were never more apparent than how it presented the standout worker.
He was a unique mix between punk rock, heavy metal and Lucha Libre, so WCW never quite know what they had.
The only thing they did know about him—that he embodied elements of a sideshow attraction—contributed to his largely ineffective booking.
The white face paint, his 6'2", 255-pound tatted-up frame and braided hair came together for a one-in-a-million look at the time.
Vampiro's punk-rock motif, rugged individualism and ability to lead minions was what CM Punk would later capitalize on during his eventual rise to superstardom. Of course, CM Punk had shown up at the correct altar in Stamford.
Sting comparisons were fair, until Vampiro stepped into a ring.
He executed a Lucha-Libre style that almost contradicted his size. Simply listening to Tony Schiavone attempt to keep up with a Vampiro match—especially with our hero on the offensive—was indicative of the frantic, scintillating pace he kept.
Vampiro definitely had a dark side that could be exploited. But instead easing its fanbase into the crux of a potentially deep character, WCW accosted a dwindling viewership with a series of outlandish cartoon fantasies that accelerated its eventual downfall.
Professional wrestling and subtlety is a rather infrequent union. But the right mix makes grand symphonies of an oft-ridiculed form of entertainment.
This was not one of those unions.
Vampiro's dark and twisted tendencies were pimped and pandered about on a weekly basis, resulting in more of a tragedy than a symphony. The promotion even managed to find a way to make a largely uncommon talent blend in.
Keeping Vampiro separate from other face-painted wrestlers would only preserve his novelty. But WCW made sure to almost always align him with or oppose him against fellow face-painted talents. Had "face-paint" been considered an ethnicity, WCW could have had another messy lawsuit on its hands with such discriminatory practices.
The universally mocked revelation of the Kiss Demon incorporated Vampiro as one of The Demon's few feuds before he was booed out of Turner HQ.
The Insane Clown Posse's unwanted presence in national wrestling also helped with the grand sabotage through the fly-by-night Deadpool stable.
Strong singles matches with the likes of Eddie Guerrero, Konnan and The Great Muta should have discouraged WCW from all the Hocus Pocus. This guy could go and didn't need smoke and mirrors to get over. Act like it.
Vampiro could have told stories with this wrestling ability while creative sprinkled in quasi-supernatural aspects that built into an eerie yet compelling finish to money-drawing feuds. Kind of like what WWE does with The Undertaker.
In the end, WCW opted to go the Tim Burton route, rendering Vampiro a poor man's Johnny Depp.