Steve Cook recounts the three-fold story of La Parka, one of wrestling’s most beloved personas.
The story of La Parka is a story of three people. One man came up with the character. Another man made it a living, breathing force of nature. Yet another man inherited the character and kept it strong for over two decades.
Antonio Pena: The Creator
Antonio Pena was one of the true geniuses of professional wrestling. Part of a wrestling family, Antonio followed his father & uncle into the ring & worked under a number of creative gimmicks he came up with himself. Pena was full of ideas for characters & storylines and was always helpful backstage. When he retired from the ring, EMLL (the name change to CMLL happened during Pena’s tenure there) hired him to work in their office. He assisted with promoting & booking, and helped lead the company past the UWA in the promotional war of the 1980s.
Ironically enough, he would lead CMLL’s opposition in the promotional war of the 1990s & beyond. Pena’s radical ideas, which involved pushing younger, faster & lighter wrestlers on top, didn’t sit well with the rest of the promotion’s front office that liked things the way they were. They quit listening to him. Pena made a deal with the Televisa network to fund a new wrestling promotion that would provide weekly content, and AAA was born.
Pena took most of CMLL’s top young stars with him to AAA, leaving CMLL with a middle-aged roster bereft of starpower. He was a great scout of talent, which meant he wound up with a pretty good track record of putting the right guys in the right place at the right time in the right persona. One of the prime examples of this was the creation of La Parka.
Adolfo Tapia: The Original
Tapia was a young luchador in Monclova during the 1980s, working his way up through the ranks & showing potential while working in multiple personas. Pena noticed Tapia’s work and signed him to AAA soon after founding the promotion. Pena thought Tapia would be perfect for a character he was developing based off Mexico’s affinity for the Day of the Dead. “La Parca” is Spanish for “The Reaper”. Pena had Tapia wear a full bodysuit & a mask resembling a skeleton, and encouraged him to do what he did best.
As WWF discovered with The Undertaker character, AAA found out that wrestling & death go well together. La Parka started off as a rudo, but his charisma, ability & actions in the ring immediately made him popular with the fans. Parka became one of AAA’s biggest attractions during their hottest period, a period when they were doing huge business in Mexico & doing better business in Los Angeles than any American promotion was.
Parka became a fixture in AAA’s light heavyweight title picture, trading reigns with the likes of Lizmark & Jerry Estrada. This would continue until Parka & other AAA talent followed Konnan to WCW, which was all well and good with AAA until Konnan & Pena had a falling out. Konnan formed his own Mexican-based promotion, Promo Azteca. Parka would follow Konnan there as well, but spent most of his time over the next few years in the US working for WCW.
The loss of La Parka & other talents was a huge blow to AAA. Pena made a decision to try & counteract these losses that would be controversial and had an impact on lucha libre for years to come.
Jesus Alfonso Escoboza Huerta: The Second
Pena’s reasoning made sense from a business perspective. He created the “La Parka” character. As tremendous as Tapia was in his performance, why shouldn’t AAA be able to continue to profit off of Pena’s creation? Pena owned the rights to use the name “La Parka” in Mexico, and Tapia was mostly working in America for WCW, so it seemed logical to debut a new La Parka to satiate the AAA fans’ desire for some dancing skeleton goodness.
He chose a man who had spent two years in AAA under the name “Karis la Momia”. Yep, he was a wrestling mummy. It got over pretty well though, the guy even beat Blue Demon Jr. to win the Mexican National Cruiserweight Championship and won a mask match in the main event of TripleMania IV-C. Pena saw potential in Escoboza, and even though Karis la Momia had to drop his title, he was on his way to the role that would make his career.
La Parka Jr. debuted in early 1997 and was immediately positioned as one of AAA’s top tecnicos. He was part of a group of AAA loyalists that feuded with whoever the top rudos happened to be at the moment. Parka Jr. won the Cruiserweight Championship and in 2001 solidified his status as a main eventer by winning the Rey de Reyes tournament, a feat he would end up accomplishing five times, more than any other luchador. He won TripleMania mask matches against Cibernetico & Muerte Cibernetica, the latter of who would go on to be known as Mesias & Mil Muertes.
For a while, La Parka & La Parka Jr. co-existed. Then Tapia went to CMLL in 2003, and all heck broke loose. Pena filed a lawsuit against Tapia that forbade him from using the La Parka name or wearing the trademark white skeleton suit. Tapia changed his name to L.A. Park, which was intended to reflect his status as “La Autentica (The Original)”. La Parka Jr.’s Jr. was phased out of the name and he was referred to in AAA as simply La Parka. People keeping track of these things began to refer to him as La Parka AAA or La Parka II to try & keep things straightened out.
La Parka was not the only AAA-created persona to have multiple people in the role. The original Psicosis also ran into issues when he returned to Mexico & Pena wouldn’t let him use the name. There have been at least three wrestlers to use the Psicosis gimmick that I know of. After the man known to American fans as Super Crazy left AAA, Pena gave another wrestler the “Histeria” gimmick. There are too many other examples to list here. Two more recent ones were debuted on AAA TV by Parka himself, as he introduced Myzteziz Jr. & another Octagon Jr. to the fans in 2019.
It’s a concept alien to modern American audiences. Whenever a current performer does the slightest thing that reminds us of one of our old favorites, we rebel against the notion. Hell, Kevin Owens can’t even use the Stunner as a finisher without people getting mad.
It took time for Parka to fill that bodysuit. Eventually, AAA fans accepted him. While countless names came & went through the years, Parka stayed. He was a constant presence, and kids that grew up watching AAA over the past two decades recognize him more than they do the original. It’s a crazy thing for those of us that watched WCW and enjoyed the Chairman’s antics to comprehend.
The Parkas Meet
The two Parkas would meet when L.A. Park returned to AAA in 2010. Park’s return to AAA was something that Mexican wrestling fans thought they would never see due to the bad blood after Park left the first time. We all know that you never say never in pro wrestling, and Park defeated Parka at TripleMania XVIII. The two even ended up teaming at an AAA TV taping, which seems like something that should have happened more often. After all, the only thing better than one dancing skeleton is two dancing skeletons.
Unfortunately, their creator did not live to see this happen. Pena passed away in 2006, leaving a void that has taken some time to fill. For years, AAA suffered from the same problems that CMLL went through when Pena was fighting for the younger talent as an assistant booker. Even today, AAA’s top draws are men like Dr. Wagner Jr. & Blue Demon Jr., men that are past the age where they should be relied on to provide quality main event matches.
Both Parkas are the same age, and that age is well past the point of a typical wrestling main eventer. They were both in the main event of La Parka’s last match, which took place at an event in Arena Coliseo Monterrey on October 20. Rush, Monster Clown, L.A. Park & La Parka faced off in a four-way match. Parka decided to do a tope onto Rush, and clipped the middle rope with his thigh, which led to a bad ending. You can find the video if you’d like to see it.
Parka hung on for a couple of months afterwards, but the injuries & complications brought about by them were too much to overcome.
— Lucha Libre AAA (@luchalibreaaa) January 12, 2020
⚫ DESCANSE EN PAZ LA PARKA ⚫
El CMLL se une a la pena que embarga a la familia luchistica por el sensible fallecimiento del luchador La Parka, quien tuvo una destacada trayectoria en la historia de este deporte.
Descanse en paz. pic.twitter.com/qK925xXFhI
— Lucha Libre CMLL (@CMLL_OFICIAL) January 12, 2020
Jesus Alfonso Escoboza Huerta passed away at the age of 54. His lone appearance for an American-based promotion happened when Impact Wrestling ran a TV taping in 2018 in Mexico. He wasn’t the Chairman of WCW. He was the Face of AAA.
His legacy will live on. He has a son that’s starting out in the wrestling business and was one of the reasons he was still hanging on – he wanted to help break his son in. I fully expect to see Parka’s son (or somebody else) don the La Parka costume for AAA in the near future. It probably sounds weird and off-putting to a lot of you. But in lucha libre, it would be business as usual. The show goes on. Most of lucha’s most famous wrestlers had famous fathers, and they tend to do similar stuff. It pleases the audience.
At the end of the day, that’s what pro wrestling is all about. Did you please your audience? Everybody involved in the La Parka character, whether they created it, put it on the map or kept it there, can answer in the affirmative.