Late last night, CMLL’s official Twitter account reported that legendary luchador Lizmark (Sr.), real name Juan Banos, passed away yesterday from a heart attack. He was 66. He was, of course, the father of WCW star Lizmark Jr.
In terms of influence, Lizmark is probably best known as the man who helped usher in a new generation of high flyers in Mexico in the late ’70s and early ’80s, While lucha libre always had more of an inherent acrobatic flair than other styles of wrestling, it really ramped up during his era. He wasn’t as flashy as the next generation was, but he was an excellent all-around worker who helped popularize the top rope plancha and flying dropkick in Mexico. He was a major influence on Satoru Sayama, the original Tiger Mask, who borrowed heavily from him while also integrating British style matwork and kickboxing moves to create the signature style that made him a legend around the world.
While titles in Mexico sometimes have the reputation of not meaning quite as much as they did elsewhere, that’s more because mask and hair matches were the biggest stakes than titles not meaning anything. Lizmark has one of the most impressive title records in the history of Mexican wrestling, being tied with Gori Guerrero as one of only two wrestlers to hold NWA World Championships (EMLL controlled everything south of junior heavyweight) in three different weight classes: Light heavyweight, middleweight, and welterweight.
In terms of major feuds, Lizmark’s biggest rival was probably El Satanico, the legendary rudo best known as the leader of the various versions of the Los Infernales trio. They feuded on and off for years over various light heavyweight titles depending on the promotion. Their 1993 AAA match (for the Mexican National Light Heavyweight Title), embedded above, was Satanico’s finest hour in AAA, as he was not the best fit for the promotion back then and returned to EMLL before long. They had brilliant chemistry, especially in title matches, and the 1993 match is one of the best examples of the “title match style” in lucha libre, where everyone, regardless of their usual style, worked technically out of deference to the championship.
Lizmark’s son, Juan Jr., broke into wrestling in 1991 as Lizmark Jr./El Hijo del Lizmark. While he was physically talented, he didn’t have his father’s charisma and overall working ability. They of course teamed together often, but Sr. eventually slowed down his scheduled when he developed heart problems in 1999.
For more on Lizmark, make sure to check out Jose Fernandez’s excellent article about him at LuchaWiki.