Silver King, born César Cuauhtémoc González Barrón, passed away last night after a incident in a match at the Roundhouse in Camden. The progeny of one of Lucha’s most important wrestling families he leaves a strong imprint on both the wrestling industry and on its penetration worldwide, thanks to his role in Nacho Libre.
Born the son of Doctor Wagner and brother to Lucha Libre AAA mega draw Doctor Wagner Jr, he started his life in 1986 as The Invasor but, within a year, had found his hallmark character Silver King. A stocky junior heavyweight, he had a remarkable turn of speed and fluid grace in the ring that few possessed. A rudo at the start of his career, he was born into the big interpromotional war of the 1980s between UWA and CMLL (then EMLL). UWA had a knack for building talent but booking big international names to accompany them, this meant for a fast learning environment and within a year he was tangling with Lucha’s biggest draw at the time El Hijo Del Santo. He would lose his mask to Santo in 1987 and, in accordance with tradition and Athletic Commission ruling, he revealed his full identity; that he was the son of Doctor Wagner.
Moving on, he would form a tag team with El Texano as Los Cowboys. They would become one of the most successful pairings in all of Lucha. A feud with the Can Am Express over the UWA Tag Team titles cemented their legacy in UWA, and they were invited to the NWA Tag Team Tournament by WCW in 1991, losing in the first round to the Fabulous Freebirds. Silver King would also defeat Texano for his own UWA Light Heavyweight title, but business was business, they had titles to defend and they didn’t fall out over it. Shocking I know, but UWA was in its dying days.
With more competition from AAA, which was doing what AAA did but with more violence and a more modern production, EMLL, as it was then, came a calling for talent and Los Cowboys took the opportunity. Silver King went after the CMLL Heavyweight title and defeated Black Magic for it in the summer of ‘94, cracking on with tag team life Los Cowboys went after Doctor Wagner Jr and El Canek’s tag team title, beating his own brother for a championship, one of the biggest draws in Mexico. He was literally on top of the Lucha Libre bubble.
Talent like that does not go unscouted, and for a while Los Cowboys became one of the hottest tag teams on earth as Victor Quiñones, who was booking talent for the Japanese branch of IWA, had a tag team he thought they could do business with, The Headhunters. The two 450-pound twin behemoths were one of the most technically adept aerial tag teams in the world at the time, but spiky negotiating skills meant that they tended not to out stay their welcome. In and 18 month feud over the IWA Tag Team titles, they took it from Arena Mexico to Kawasaki Baseball Stadium. In a golden era of tag feuds, this one drew far more money than most, and it established both teams on a worldwide stage.
Eric Bischoff was also looking for talent, with WCW producing 8 hours of wrestling a week it needed solid workers, and Silver King fit the bill. So began an unproductive but well paid three years in the Cruiserweight Mid Card and some LWO shenanigans. Despite forming a tag team with El Dandy under the management of Stacy Keibler, he was pretty much cannon fodder for the rest of the division, which was sad to see when other promoters had seen so much in him. Released in 2000, he headed home to CMLL who had just signed a talent swap deal with NJPW.
The Black Tiger gimmick had been a feature of NJPW ever since Tiger Mask had been part of wrestling in 1981. Originally played by Mancunian wonder “Rollerball” Marc Rocco, then Eddie Guerrero, NJPW had just signed former Michinoku Pro Yoshihiro Yamazaki, the fourth iteration of the Tiger Mask character. M-Pro had bought the rights specifically for Yamazaki to bring back a halcyon avatar of Japanese lucha. NJPW once again picked up the licencing fee, but they needed a foil and with Guerrero off to WWE, they thought the former Silver King was the man. González Barrón would end up playing the character for half a decade in NJPW and CMLL.
Even though New Japan phased out its reliance on Luchadores by the middle of the decade Black Tiger III was a relative hit in Mexico, with one maddening consequence. As Black Tiger was Japanese, they couldn’t admit his background and so, when Doctor Wagner passed away in 2004, Doctor Wagner Jr became a face because of the fan’s sympathy for his loss, meanwhile Black Tiger, Wagner Jr’s partner at the time, remained a hated Rudo. it must have been distressing and professionally hurtful as Wagner found a new path and Black Tiger was left to drift. Eventually he would lose the mask to L.A. Park (the original La Parka) in 2006.
After some time in AJPW, where interestingly he wrestled as Silver King with the mask, going against tradition, and winning another Junior Heavyweight title in 2007, he returned to Mexico in his last run which was perhaps his most successful and creative. Debuting in AAA as a beloved technic, he spent two years as a strong midcard presence, before finally turning on La Parka and X-Pac, he joined Konnan’s La Legión Extranjera. Not long after that faction folded, he would join his brother in Los Wagnermaniacos. In March of 2010, that alliance was dispelled as King, AAA Mega Champion Electroshock, and Ultimo Gladiator kicked Wagner out of the group and Silver King became Silver Cain, named after the biblical brother who murdered his sibling. Dark times indeed as he entered a feud with his Wagner Jr, even going as far as producing an audio tape reportedly of his father saying that he was a better wrestler than Wagner Jr. during their feud over the Megatitle in October of 2010. They would bury the hatchet in 2012 as they battled the Consejo stable, until Silver King announced it was he who was behind Consejo. This brought the Consejo stable into disrepute, because as Máscara Año 2000, Jr. “How can we trust a man who would turn on his own brother?”.
His legacy in AAA was perhaps more character led than ever before, but it showed his outstanding adaptability. Perhaps one of the reasons he was chosen for the 2005 film Nacho Libre were he played the film’s big bad, Ramses. Though it had its presentation issues, it did bring Lucha Libre to a wider audience and his role brought authenticity.
Silver King will be sorely missed as a wrestler and thinker. He had slowed down in recent years to concentrate on training wrestlers and a much lighter schedule. He is survived by his brother Doctor Wagner Jr.
Featured picture courtesy of wwe.com.