Lou Williams, 32, picked up his third NBA Sixth Man Of The Year trophy this past week. It was the second straight year he’s won. The Sixth Man award goes to the best bench player in the league. The winner typically is a substitute who can create a lot of offensive in limited playing time. Williams is famous at that, scoring 20 points a game this past season while starting just a single game. Williams is a great contributor in that role, but perhaps to his career detriment. He’s so good in his role as a bench player, he’s unlikely to get a chance to start. 

There’s no bench in lucha libre. There still are similar tiers. There are the stars, there are the role players, and there are people who don’t even get to play. Laredo Kid, 32, is often slotted as one of the best guys in that middle category. Like Williams, Laredo Kid has been slotted in as a guy who can help with some instant offense, a reliable sixth man for any match. Laredo will appear in two promotions, two trios match this weekend, and he’ll continue in that role of contributing player. Laredo Kid will be great at it, as he always is. It also continues to slot him in that supporting role during a career year where he’s proved he can do a lot more than just come off the bench.

Laredo Kid originally seemed destined for a big starring role. Lou Williams got into the NBA as a second-round pick in the NBA draft, which usually leads to a short career. Laredo Kid came into AAA more as a highly touted lottery pick, a rookie who was expected to be a star. AAA had belief in his potential enough to put on TV at age 18 in 2005 and made him a leader of his own group of high flyers a year later. AAA has been perpetually in seek of their next Rey Mysterio Jr. and an agile teenager perfectly fit the bill. Repeated freak leg breaking incidents, other bad luck and change in leadership dashed that dream. Laredo Kid was out of AAA by 2011, slipping into a new life as a guy working lucha themed Texas groups and northern Mexico indies and not being heard about much outside those scenes.

Laredo Kid not making it in the big stage in the US made it impossible to imagine he’d find success in the US, especially in a pre-Lucha Underground world. There weren’t many mapped paths to US success for luchadors, and so Laredo ended up creating his own. Laredo Kid starting to train others seemed to help himself become a more well-rounded luchador. Living in Texas has given him the freedom to work in both countries, opening the door for opportunities denied to many Mexican wrestlers. Laredo’s also an English speaker, allowing him to make connections others could not. Those connections led a kid from Nuevo Laredo to get a chance to show his improvement in Cleveland, Ohio of all places. Laredo Kid’s run in AIW gave him his first real indie fame in the US. The trios from Absolution XI still holds up as madness, part of a run of buzzed-about lucha libre matches for the group. You can see his career change looking at his Cagematch profile, the number of little promotional flags swelling by year.

AIW got the rest of the US aware of Laredo Kid and Laredo Kid starting getting those additional bookings. His problem following that is what you find if you dig deeper into those Cagematch results. Laredo Kid has gone a lot of places, he just hasn’t done a lot of things. Laredo Kid had a 10 match stint in 2017 Impact, playing second fiddle tag partner to recent NXT signee Angel Garza Jr. and serving mostly as a warm body to fill out four-way matches. Laredo’s been used by promotions as varied as Evolve and Wrestle Circus, just always in the same supporting way. Laredo’s been to Japan and Europe when people wanted to bring in a new Mexican name but hasn’t stuck. Laredo Kid is always good in these shows and he can be great. He and Black Taurus had a match raved about with Fenix & Pentagon in MLW; they’ve never been back.

Laredo’s has more chances in the US coming up, but his struggle to find someone to get behind him looks like it will continue. Laredo Kid will appear this Friday on Impact as part of an expected strong trios match. Laredo Kid will appear next month in PWG as a part of an expected strong trios match. You’re reading this at all because, this Saturday, Laredo Kid will appear as part of an expected strong trios match in AEW. Laredo Kid will certainly make all those matches better and is just as certainly the sixth most important name going into them. There are justifiable reasons for this: Laredo Kid’s never shown the innate charisma of Pentagon Jr. or had the crowd connection with US fans as Fenix and you can’t push everyone. Still, Laredo Kid is frustratingly stuck in the same narrow space as most every other Mexican wrestler without Lucha Underground or NJPW exposure: he’ll be part of good matches but he won’t get to have a motivation, and so most fans (and some writers) won’t have anything to identify him by – just another masked man. Laredo Kid’s not known enough by US fans to get any booking attention, but he’s never going to be known well enough with that booking help. Laredo Kid got this role because the world decided he was really good at being in that sixth man, but he’s good enough at that it doesn’t seem like he’ll get a chance to show more.

At least maybe not in the US. Laredo Kid finally got that chance to be a key player in Mexico over the last half year. He’s proven he can carry the team.

Konnan’s return to AAA in 2018 brought with him a lot of people he’d enjoyed working with during his exile. Laredo Kid had worked with on Konnan’s various projects and with AAA occasionally the past few years. AAA talked to Laredo Kid about coming in more often this fall while letting him remain a freelancer. The timing wasn’t great for Laredo. His brother, who wrestled as Oscuridad, passed away last September. It would’ve been understandable if he wanted to get away from lucha libre for a time. Laredo Kid decided to take the AAA offer and keep going, adding black to his gear in homage to his brother.

Laredo Kid turned out to be exactly what AAA needed.

To stretch out that basketball metaphor once more, Laredo Kid was that bench guy picked up hopeful contender with a hole, and ended up playing much better than anyone expected. Laredo Kid was thrown into AAA’s Lucha Capital tournament in his usual role of “very good match guy” and then just that, from steady vet Drago to frequently out of control young person Golden Magic. When presumed winner Fenix went down with an injury, Laredo Kid shockingly ended up winning the whole tournaments over the likes of Pentagon and Psycho Clown ascending him to a top line player. Laredo was meanwhile thrown together in a team with Hijo del Vikingo & Myzteziz, going all the way back to his origins leading a team of high flyers. Only this time around, Laredo Kid was the veteran in the role of keeping the matches together. This team—Los Jinetes del Aire, the Air Knights—are having the kind of exciting matches his original team wanted to have thanks to Laredo helping balance the wildness of his teammates. 

It’s only kept gotten better for Laredo Kid in 2019. Psycho Clown is the most popular AAA luchador, Hijo del Vikingo is the most talked about AAA luchador, but Laredo Kid has been the best wrestler in AAA match for match. It’s not even much of an argument and it’s not for the lack of other quality luchadors, Laredo’s just been that good. Everyone knows about the Laredo Kid versus Hijo del Vikingo match by now. The match versus Taurus was nearly as good. A triangle match with Flamita & Drago was exceptional and there’s been plenty of good trios matches as well.

These matches are a new higher level for him, and it’s not just the matches that have gotten better. Laredo Kid comes off like a guy with increased confidence, as a champion you can build on. He is essentially AAA’s central champion, holding both cruiserweight and trios belts while main champions Fenix has away from the promotion for most of a year. Laredo & Fenix set up a match for the mega-champion nine months ago when Fenix was around AAA little more. The change for Laredo Kid in AAA cannot be better illustrated than how that match would be received. Last year, Laredo Kid’s just giving Fenix a great match to get his reign started off well with no chance of a title change. This year, most people would expect Laredo to win the whole thing. Laredo Kid is still, somehow, a freelance wrestler unsigned by AAA and it’s unlikely AAA will build everything around a guy they don’t have control over. In every other way, Laredo Kid’s been treated as the most talented wrestler in AAA, and a big reason why people have been more excited about the promotion this year.

Laredo Kid’s success in the US helped a lot in getting him back into attention in Mexico. Laredo getting even more in Mexico has not led far at all. One Mexican match did get Laredo Kid the AEW spot this Saturday, though only as a third choice after neither Pac nor Hijo del Vikingo could take it. It’s not a hopeless spot. Ten months ago, Bandido was the sixth guy in a proto-AEW trios match and it led to more than anyone would’ve imagined. Perhaps a US promoter will finally see something in Laredo to get behind him enough to make a bigger name. If being the sixth man in this match is all there is, Laredo Kid will be the best sixth man he can be. He can also be a lot more if he finds a US place to give him that chance.