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Mil Máscaras

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Aaron Rodríguez Arellano (July 15, 1942), best known as Mil Máscaras (A Thousand Masks), is a semi-retired Mexican wrestler and actor who has starred in several films with fellow luchadores. He is a member of one of lucha libre's most well-known families; he is the brother of both Dos Caras and Sicodélico and uncle to Alberto Del Rio and Sicodélico Jr..

Professional wrestling career

Mil Máscaras made his professional wrestling debut in April 1965 in Guadalajara. Máscaras became popular in Mexico for being one of the best conditioned luchadores in the heavyweight division, which was dominated by foreigners at the time. It was also his size which permitted him to wrestle in the US and Japan under the heavyweight division. Máscaras was one of the first masked luchadores outside of Mexico to play a non-heel role. He rarely resorted to rule breaking, instead relying on his repertoire of moves and counter-moves. Máscaras was also one of the first wrestlers to introduce the high-flying moves of lucha libre, such as the plancha and tope suicida, to Japanese fans. This brought him international fame as one of the first high-flyers, something he was not considered in Mexico where he fell under the mat-power category.

A year after his wrestling debut, Mil Máscaras starred in his first film, a self-titled picture. As with many luchadores, his character is that of a superhero. He has since starred in several films spanning five decades, the best known is Las Momias de Guanajuato (a reference to the actual mummies of Guanajuato).

Máscaras made his international wrestling debut in 1968 at the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles, getting involved in great rivalries against the likes of Ernie Ladd, John Tolos, Black Gordman, and Goliath. In Mexico City, he unmasked El Halcon in a triangular tournament that included Alfonso Dantés in the 1970s.

Máscaras performed for All Japan Pro Wrestling (AJPW) during the '70s. In his Japanese debut on February 19, 1971, he defeated Kantaro Hoshino in Tokyo. It was during this time that he had his best known international feud with American masked wrestler The Destroyer. During the '70s, Máscaras also had feuds with Mexican wrestlers such as TNT, El Canek, El Halcon, and Angel Blanco. These feuds took place mostly in Mexico and the US, and were broadcast on Spanish language stations in the U.S. Mascaras was also the heavyweight champion of the IWA wrestling promotion, which was founded by Eddie Einhorn, and still holds the title to this day.

Mil Máscaras appeared in World Wrestling Federation (WWF, now called WWE). He performed at Madison Square Garden several times after a ban on masked wrestlers was lifted for him, making him the first masked wrestler in the Garden, he defeated the Spoiler (who was not permitted to wear his mask). During this time, he feuded with "Superstar" Billy Graham over the WWF World Heavyweight Championship.

Mascaras also wrestled in World Championship Wrestling (WCW), where his most notable match was a match with Cactus Jack at Clash of the Champions X: Texas Shootout on February 6, 1990 in the Memorial Coliseum in Corpus Christi, Texas.Foley, Mick. Have A Nice Day: A Tale of Blood and Sweatsocks (p. 169)

On September 10, 1991, at the age of 49, Máscaras won his final title, the WWA (Mexico) World Heavyweight Championship. He held the title until 1994 and assumed a state of semi-retirement after his final reign. Slagle, Steve.

Máscaras' first American pay-per-view appearance was competing in WWF's 1997 Royal Rumble match. He eliminated himself, diving off the top rope out of the ring onto Pierroth, Jr., whom he himself had just eliminated. Such a move is common in lucha libre but it is technically a mistake in the Royal Rumble as it leads to elimination.

On December 5, 2002, Mascaras defeated Manny Fernandez at the inaugural show for Legacy Wrestling Enterprises in Fort Worth, TX.

Film career

Máscaras also achieved fame outside of the ring, starring in a series of seventeen luchador action films from 1966 through 1990 (he also has appeared in several other films made more recently). His first starring role was in the self-titled film "Mil Máscaras" which was shot in black and white and gave Máscaras a comic book style origin story. According to the film, an infant Máscaras was found clutching his dead mother's arms in a war-torn area of Europe during World War II. A group of scientists adopts Máscaras as a boy, and subjects him to an intensive regimen of physical and mental training as he matures. When Máscaras reaches adulthood, he has developed into a super-human, achieving both mental and physical perfection. The scientists then send him out into the world to help downtrodden people everywhere, to fight criminals and to right wrongs.

In 1970, Máscaras starred alongside Blue Demon and El Santo in Las Momias de Guanajuato (The Mummies of Guanajuato). Las Momias de Guanajuato became the highest grossing Mexican luchador film of all time, pitting the three masked luchadores against a group of reanimated mummies. Mascaras also starred as a member of a squadron of masked superheroes known as "Los Campeones Justicieros" (The Champions of Justice). Membership in the Champions included such legendary Mexican wrestling figures as Blue Demon, Tinieblas, El Rayo de Jalisco, El Médico Asesino, El Fantasma Blanco, and Superzan.

In 2007 Máscaras starred in Mil Mascaras vs. the Aztec Mummy (also known as Mil Mascaras: Resurrection), the first lucha film featuring any of the so-called "Big Three" stars of the genre (Máscaras, Blue Demon, Santo) to be produced in English. The film screened at festivals around the world garnering awards and award nominations along with positive critical reviews.

The film Mil Máscaras: Héroe, which is a hybrid of live action sequences and Japanese manga-style animation, is currently in production.

Criticism

Multiple wrestlers have publicly complained of Mascaras' unwillingness to sell moves and put opponents over. One of the most vocal critics is Mick Foley who, in his book Have a Nice Day!, complained about Máscaras' refusal to sell moves in their match. Foley, Mick. Have A Nice Day: A Tale of Blood and Sweatsocks. In his book, A Lion's Tale, Chris Jericho describes the stories of Máscaras' large ego and states that, if anything, "The tales were toning it down."

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