Nicknamed ‘El Depredador del Aire’, Volador Jr. is one of Mexico’s finest luchadores. A man that through consistency and hard work has positioned himself as one of CMLL’s top stars and whose 20 year plus career has gifted us with many memorable moments and matches.
As you guessed with the ‘Jr’ part of his name, the subject of this piece had wrestling in his blood from the day he was born: his father Volador—now called Super Parka—has been wrestling for almost 30 years and undoubtedly was a huge influence in Volador Jr’s childhood.
“Something very meaningful while growing up was going to the lucha shows with my father, I guess I must have been 3 or 4 years old when he started bringing me to the arenas. Sometimes he had to work and I would accompany him, however I never stepped into a locker room until I became a luchador.”
Growing up with such influence in his life, it’s to the surprise of no one that Volador Jr. quickly fell in love with lucha libre. But as we all know, the life of a wrestler is never easy and at first, Volador Sr. didn’t want that life for his son.
“When I was about 8 or 9 years old, I would escape from him and go train lucha. My father didn’t want me to be a luchador, he was hoping I was going to study… but lucha was already in my blood and it was unavoidable for me to be involved in this industry. And I get it, as a father, you don’t want your children to become luchadores, and that’s the case for me: right now, I wouldn’t like my son to be involved in this.”
Despite his father’s initial concerns, Volador Jr. managed to debut at an early age and quickly adapted to the industry.
“It’s a great feeling preparing your gear, arriving to the arena, entering the locker room… it’s a new world, completely different from everything else. Sometimes the locker room becomes your family even more than your real family because you see each other daily. Wrestling is so absorbing that it can lead you to missing important moments with your family. My own son is growing up and sometimes I can’t fully enjoy him.”
“If I had another life I think I would be luchador again because I love it and totally enjoy it. It’s something with which I identify myself. Lucha has become like a daily routine: if you don’t do it you feel there’s something missing in your day.”
In México, lucha heritage is very important and sometimes having to carry the legacy of a famous luchador father is a burden too heavy… and Volador Jr. felt that pressure.
“When my father gave me the name ‘Hijo del Volador’, it was tremendous pressure. I had to deal with the weight of his legacy… but with time I understood that we had different personalities and styles: in the 90’s the style he used was different from what this current generation is doing: there are more flyers now. So, it’s weird when someone says that I’m better than him because we both had our time to shine. When he had to make the Volador name famous, he did it in his own way. My style is more aerial, maybe more risky… although lucha has always been risky, and with so many young spectacular luchadores coming through, you need to impose in order to stand out.”
Fortunately Volador had no troubles standing out early in his career, which in 2000 would open the door for him to perform in the world’s oldest wrestling company in the world: CMLL, where he got his first big break in 2001 by teaming with the legendary Atlantis in the Torneo Gran Alternativa, a tournament that pairs a young up-and-coming luchador with an established veteran.
“He is a lucha libre legend and working with veteran luchadores such as him is very important because they guide you through the system and teach you about discipline and respect. We didn’t win the tournament but it was a great experience for me. Nowadays, I am a recurring teacher – or godfather – in the Gran Alternativa tournament and I try to support those that are hungry and have the talent to improve… but not everyone is dedicated and passionate to our work. Also, we are all different and have our own preferences: I love going to the gym to physically prepare myself in order to look good and impress crowds, but not everyone is the same.”
After being eliminated by Black Warrior and Sangre Azteca in the semi-finals of the 2001 Torneo Alternativa, Volador Jr. continued his rise through the ranks of the company by winning the Mexican National Trios Championship alongside Felino and Safari in 2003. Volador would defend that title 6 times before dropping it in 2005. Volador had shown he belonged in CMLL but it wasn’t until 2010 where he started making waves in the world of lucha libre by starting a hot rivalry with Místico. During all those years, Volador Jr’s superhero-inspired ring attires became something key in order to differentiate himself from other luchadores, and even enhanced his status as técnico or rudo.
“To this day I like the Spider-Man cartoon and when I saw villains like Carnage and Venom, I started identifying with the character. That depends on your own personality and I feel very comfortable using superhero inspired gear. I do it with much respect and as an homage to comics and cartoons. I feel like they mesh well with my gimmick and I loved having different mask designs… putting them on was was like opening a Christmas present, and I enjoyed that people admired the hard work that Bucio – my tailor – put into them. My style, gear and physique, it all speaks about me.”
Another thing that pushed Volador Jr. toward main event status was the formation of the Super Sky Team alongside La Sombra (now called Andrade in WWE). The duo managed to capture the CMLL World Tag Team Championship and even defended them a total of 9 times, which helped boost their popularity and even get named CMLL Tag Team of the Year (2009).
“I don’t miss teaming up with Sombra but I miss facing him because he’s a complete luchador, we have similar styles and we had long, hectic matches: full of dives, strikes, hard-hitting moves… there were no pauses. I miss his style. I hope he can return. I’m glad he’s doing good in WWE: he went big and is having success.”
As fate would have it, La Sombra and Volador Jr. would end up facing each other in the main event of CMLL’s 80th Anniversary show in the most revered and important type of match lucha has to offer: a Mask vs. Mask Apuestas match. The mask is everything for a luchador and losing it represents reducing oneself from a mythical hero to a mere human, revealing your identity to the world and surrendering all pride while doing so. On that fateful night, La Sombra defeated Volador Jr. after an epic affair, forcing him to reveal his face and his real name, Ramón Ibarra Rivera.
“To be great, you have to face the best. When I fell in that match it hurt so much. To this day, losing my mask still hurts. Twenty years wearing a mask, and lose it after one match… I lost to a great luchador, not one of the greats, but a great one nonetheless. It was a very tough blow that I wasn’t prepared to receive and it led me to a big depression. With the unconditional support of my family and the fans I was able to pull through. The concept of using Marvel characters – such as Venom or Iron Man – for my mask designs was over and that made me very sad so I started using classic gear, just like my father. I just didn’t have the same mood to use the superhero designs that had become part of me.”
Many luchadores don’t recover from the blow that losing a mask represents, but Volador Jr. managed to overcome the loss and keep pushing forward as a now established star in CMLL.
“This is a roulette. One day you’re on top and then you end up at the bottom. We never know what will happen. If you lose your mask, you can get more popular or your career can be over. Fans might or not accept you without a mask… and if they don’t, you might have to leave lucha libre for lucha libre’s own good. He who loves lucha libre, loves it and respects it. Otherwise he’s just doing crap. My parents instilled respect and discipline into me. I love what I do and when I start harming lucha libre, that will be the moment when I’ll retire.”
Volador Jr. quickly shook the loss of his mask and weeks later captured the NWA World Historic Welterweight Championship. And that was only the beginning: since then, Volador has won trios, singles and tag team titles, a Gran Alternativa tournament (with Esfinge in 2016), the International Grand Prix (2016) and the 2017 Leyenda de Plata Tournament. And of course, his recurrent spectacular performances in the NJPW/CMLL Fantasticamania tours in Japan earned him a spot in the prestigious Best of the Super Juniors tournament for two straight years (2016 & 2017) as well as a place in the updated Super Junior Tag League 2019. When I asked about touring Japan, Volador Jr’s face lit up…
“The crowds over there are very respectful, they have their own traditions and I think they are great. I love it because when you get a clap or any reaction out of them, it truly means you are doing your work right. If they like you it’s because you are doing the right things. And I think that if you dominate your style, you can dominate any type of crowd.”
Volador Jr. easily adapted to the New Japan pace and was a victory short of getting to the finals of the Best of the Super Junior 23: Volador showed that he could hang with some of the best junior heavyweights in the world.
“You must be prepared for all kind of opponents and fans. I think the most difficult thing is adapting to the clash of all those different styles. But lucha libre prepared me. Why do wrestlers come to learn lucha libre? Because the best wrestling is here. At the beginning and middle phases of their careers, many wrestlers come to Mexico in order to learn this style. We might not dominate all other styles, but we don’t look bad trying them either.”
And at 38 years old, Volador Jr. is still going strong with no signs of stopping, something that he strongly emphasized to me.
“I can’t imagine life without wrestling and thinking about retirement is very tough. As a friend said: lucha is a vice and you can’t leave it. Even if you retire, you can become a coach or a commissioner, and that way you are still inside the world of lucha libre. When I get injured and have to take time off, I just don’t know what to do at home. I get these thoughts of ‘Where do I go? What should I do? I want to get back to the ring already!’. I know I need to rest but I just can’t do it. Imagine being forced to retire.
I’m going to use an example. On May 31st, Virus and Metálico had a career vs. career match. Originally it was going to be a hair match, but they upped the stakes and bet their careers. That is one hell of a thing: the man that loses has to retire from wrestling. He might not be losing his pride, hair or mask, but he is losing a career. That is a huge challenge because not everyone can leave his career behind. As I said, I can’t even imagine my life without wrestling. I don’t think I would ever accept a Career vs. Career challenge. Well… never say never but I wouldn’t bet on ever having one.”
Volador Jr. is a very dedicated wrestler that can work as a rudo or tecnico with equal measure of success; his offense can go from the most spectacular dive to the most vicious of piledrivers. This mix has been ideal to become one of CMLL’s most trustworthy main eventers and one, that you can bet is going to keep on delivering some of the finest performances in México and wherever he is booked.