On Saturday, lucha libre and CMLL icon Atlantis celebrated his 40 year anniversary at NJPW's Fighting Spirit Unleashed in Las Vegas.
In an eight-man tag team match, he, Atlantis Jr., Hiroshi Tanahashi & Mistico picked up a win over Adrian Quest, Tiger Mask, Soberano Jr, and Rocky Romero.
The legend has never lost his mask which is considered the most valuable mask in lucha libre right now. Throughout the years, he has won multiple championships in CMLL including the company's light heavyweight title twice, the Tag Team titles five times, the Trios titles four times, and others.
In 2000, he won match of the year in the Wrestling Observer Newsletter awards for his bout against Villano III in Mexico City. He is also part of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame class of 2013.
I recently talked to the legend about his four decades in wrestling, his son, taking the masks of other wrestlers and more. which you can watch for free above. Please note that it's in Spanish with the following transcribed into English by Luis Pulido in addition to subtitles on the video.
"I didn't want to be a professional wrestler"
Given that 40 years in any business is a long time, especially a physical one like wrestling, I asked if he ever thought he would go on to have such a lengthy career and one that is still unfolding.
Atlantis went on to reveal that he was actually planning on quitting after two years because his interests were geared more towards amateur sports.
"I spent eight years in the gym of the best teacher in Mexico, in the whole world, a teacher called El Diablo Velasco, who trained many national and international stars. I trained, but I didn't want to, I didn't want to be a professional wrestler.
"My teacher would say to me 'Kid, are you ready for your wrestling exam?' and I would answer 'Professor, I'm not interested in professional wrestling.' I liked amateur sports. Then a friend of mine once invited me to a small venue. I got excited and went to Mexico City and that day, I made my debut."
"I had this mask in my hand and a very famous man from CMLL, El Güero Rangel, told me, "Kid, are you going to wrestle with a mask or without a mask?" and I said "With a mask" and he responded, "Well, put it on because you are going to go up."
"And he asked me, 'Are you afraid of wrestlers or the fans?' I said, 'No, I'm not more afraid of the public than the wrestlers.' I know how to fight, but the public, facing the seven-headed monster is very difficult.'"
"I just thought about it for two years and then I retired. I've been a professional wrestler for 40 years and I don't want to retire from wrestling. If I die, if I come back in the flesh, I want to be a wrestler because Atlantis is my idol."
Atlantis said the reason he didn't give up is because pro wrestling is "addictive."
"I take off my mask and I'm an ordinary person. I have no complexes or traumas, but I put on the mask and I am a flesh and blood superhero who is Atlantis. I fight for the character of Atlantis. I have no barriers. I have no boundaries."
Taking the masks of nine wrestlers
In his 40 years of lucha libre, Atlantis has taken the masks of nine wrestlers like La Sombra, Ultimo Guerrero, Villano III, Talisman, and others.
"For me, the nine masks that I have won are very, very important. When you lose the mask, it is the most important fight of your life because you are failing yourself, you are failing the press, you are failing the public."
Atlantis says that if he were to ever lose his mask, he would be brought to tears. He also explained that all nine masks are different, and that they all cost him sweat, tears, and no sleep at nights.
"Because I know that those fights are very, very, difficult, they are very complicated. But, thank God, I end up with the mask of my rival in my hand with the hand up of a great winner."
Like many luchadors, his son is also following in his footsteps. Atlantis Jr. made his wrestling debut in December 2017. Since then, he has gone on to win the NWA Historic Light Heavyweight title, the CMLL Trios title, the Mexican National Tag Team titles, and the 2022 La Copa Junior.
He also won his first ever mask vs. mask match at the CMLL 89th Anniversary Show on September 16, 2022, when he defeated Stuka Jr in Mexico City, Mexico.
Father and son have teamed up together in the ring multiple times and travel the world together. The father said they are are good friends and are basically the same person.
"There are no lies, no bad words, no, nothing, just advice. And I tell him, 'You watch out. You are a very lucky guy. Thank God, you are a son of Atlantis.'"
He said what he learned in 40 years of being in the professional wrestling business, he has been able to teach his son in two years, adding that he trains with him three times a week.
Why he never left CMLL
Throughout his entire career, Atlantis has been loyal to CMLL. He revealed that he has always been happy in CMLL and should he ever change companies, there should be "six fights and more money."
He also shared that AAA has tried getting him over the years and still are to this day.
"I've never been interested in belonging to AAA. Maybe one day, but I don't think so. In my 40 years in CMLL where I am the head of the lion, I don't want to be the tail of the mouse. So as the song by Vicente Fernandez goes, ‘I am still the king.’"
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