Thirty members of Dave Meltzer’s Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame are from the world of lucha libre; we’re talking legendary luchadores like El Santo, Blue Demon, Perro Aguayo Sr., Konnan El Hijo del Santo and Rey Mysterio Jr., trainers like Diablo Velazco and even a legendary announcer like Dr. Alonso Morales. We can now add one more luchador to this esteemed company. For the first time since 2015 when the late Perro Aguayo Jr. was inducted, the WON Hall of Fame will welcome a luchador in the form of the Chairman of Lucha Libre himself, LA Park.
The honor has been at least a few years in the making for one of the most captivating performers not just in lucha libre but in wrestling. Born Adolfo Tapia Ibarra, Park went through several gimmicks (and even a few masks) during the early years of his career before Antonio Peña put him in the all time great skeleton costume and called him La Parka. But while Peña may have created the gimmick, it was Park, his unique all around ability and bombastic, larger than life charisma that turned La Parka into a sensation. He would become one of the biggest lucha libre stars of the 90’s, alongside fellow Hall of Famers Konnan and Rey Mysterio, and would cross over into the US when he joined WCW in 1996. Despite never making it past midcard status, Park’s WCW run endeared him to many fans of the Monday Night Wars and his antics, including numerous air guitar performances and the classic La Parka strut, have led to him becoming a cult favorite with hardcore fans.
Unbeknownst to American fans however, Park never stopped dancing and never stopped being great, even when he lost his name to Peña and AAA in a contract dispute upon returning to Mexico. Now working for CMLL and under the name LA Park, Park continued to be the biggest personality in the room and one of the best luchadores in the world, something that came into full focus in 2010 when he returned to AAA to confront his replacement, the second La Parka. The memorable program would culminate in one of the greatest Triplemania matches of all time, where Park won back the rights to his name in a glorious semi-squash (the result would later be thrown out due to interference with Perros del Mal). Park naturally followed it up by winning the Latin American Championship, reigniting an ultra hot feud with Dr. Wagner Jr. and taking El Mesias’ hair in another classic Triplemania match one year later. Even after he left AAA a few years later Park continued to entertain audiences, produce spectacular matches even into his 50’s and maintain wildly popular feuds with luchadores like Wagner, even if a payoff never seemed to come.
But what’s most remarkable about Park’s Hall of Fame career is that the best year of his career was, arguably, this year. At the age of 53 Park not only burst back onto the US scene with Court Bauer’s Major League Wrestling revival but became the biggest draw for both AAA and CMLL, the two largest promotions in Mexico. Returning as a headliner to AAA in the summer, Park would help prop up the usually mediocre AAA main event scene and would headline Triplemania XXVI in August, where he unmasked El Hijo del Fantasma. Even more impressive was his CMLL run, where Park almost singlehandedly put the promotion on his back and created the hottest period CMLL had had in a few years. The catalyst was Park’s several year feud with Rush; originally started on the independent circuit, the feud was brought to Arena Mexico and ended up drawing huge money for CMLL throughout the summer and even in the fall when the feud was brought to Arena Puebla. It was widely expected that Park and Rush would headline the 85th Aniversario in a long awaited mask vs. hair match, but the match never came to pass. Never the less Park would still work the semi-main event of the show and, alongside Penta Zero M, Rey Fenix and his son El Hijo de LA Park (who also had a career year) become the first luchador in over twenty years to appear on both Triplemania and the Aniversario, the biggest show of the year. The opportunity for those four to do so is largely credited to Park’s drawing power early in the year.
Park hasn’t slowed down since then and it seems likely he’ll at least equal his 2018 in 2019, with a match against Rush at MLW’s Wrestlemania weekend show already booked and the possibility of that mask vs. hair match finally happening somewhere. Regardless of what happens next, his legacy speaks for himself and while he was already a Hall of Famer in my mind prior to 2018, his ability to remain one of the best performers in the world twenty years after I first saw him wrestle, while also drawing better than he ever has, is something we are likely to never see again. It has been an honor to see the career of LA Park unfold the way it has and Lucha Central would like to congratulate him on this wonderful honor.