It has been an emotional journey for Vampiro, taking his battle with Alzheimer’s disease public in April. Since then the veteran performer has not let the diagnosis define him and made the conscious decision to move forward with his life.
“When I was diagnosed. I’ve been sick for a long time. We didn’t know what it was. When I got diagnosed, I became very afraid of what was supposed to happen next,” he said. “I just decided I’m not going to be that guy who just sits by himself.
“I want to live and be an example for other people who are diagnosed with whatever addictions or traumas. You can have a good quality of life if you believe in yourself. As soon as I started to take control of that, within weeks my schedule filled up like it hasn’t in about 10 years.”
The lucha legend, real name Ian Hodgkinson, was touched by the support he received from the pro wrestling community and outside of it. He likens everyone coming together as a family. His struggles are the subject of the sobering documentary “Nail in the Coffin the Fall & Rise of Vampiro.” The Canadian hopes the project will open eyes to the uneducated on mental health. The overall reaction from screenings so far has been largely positive. Plans are for the doc to play at festivals and screenings in Europe, Canada, Latin America with more added in United States.
“When we were doing it, I said I didn’t want to be involved in the creative process because if I did, I would ruin the story,” Vampiro said of the process. “I told the director and writers that you can just turn the cameras on and point it at me and I’ll be who I am, and you guys do your thing as far as story-telling goes. This is the result of three years of work.
“?We were taken aback from the response. I didn’t expect it. I’m glad it’s not a wrestling movie because I have no interest in that. Who cares? There have already been so many. I wanted to do something different. I didn’t tell a story. I just live my life. This is who I am, this is what I do and the way it goes down. People embraced it. It’s extremely emotional because so many people are supporting this movie because they see a lot of their own lives in it. That’s what we intended to do in the beginning, and it worked.”
He admits to not liking who he was in the movie, revisiting the past. At the same time, Vampiro can see how much he has evolved as person.
“I continue to apologize to anyone who will listen to me for that time in my life,” he said. “Even though I was supposedly on the ball back then, I certainly was not. I went through a divorce, that was the beginning of my illness. I’ve had addiction issues because of the pain. It wasn’t a good time.
“I didn’t really enjoy seeing that. After I was depressed a little bit I said, ‘You know what?’ It’s a great moment because I can see how much I’ve changed, and I’m not that guy anymore. It’s a different trip when you see your life on the screen.”
Aside from his wrestling and Lucha Underground commentary career in front of the camera, Vampiro is also a visionary as seen through his work behind the scenes for Lucha Libre AAA Worldwide. He is currently putting together a unique event Lucha Fight Club Presents Fight Dome of 1000 Corpses at the Fight Dome in Las Vegas on November 1.
“I’m into hardcore wrestling. It’s around Halloween,” Vampiro describes. “We’ve got an arena built in the real hotel. We have residency there. When you come there, it is an actual TV studio built with a store outside the arena. In that store the idea is to do meet-and-greets and crazy things. We have obscure toy vendors. We have obscure comic books. We got the craziest merch line that is going to be coming.
“We have Playboy girls. We have actors. We have musicians. To me, I’m a hardcore punk rock guy. What’s the most successful in our industry as far as musicians are the festivals in Europe. I just want to have that festival environment. You are not just coming for a boring wrestling show, not that wrestling shows are boring. You’re getting a lot of s–t for your ticket. That’s cool for people. Something different.”
Another passion of Vampiro’s is music and he has immersed himself into the band Vigilante. He is looking to run an upcoming show at the iconic Viper Room.
“I’ve been waiting to do this my whole life. We got tours booked and dates all over,” he said. “We’re recording next month. We’re shooting two videos. The Viper Room is huge. If you are any bit knowledgeable about rock ‘n’ roll, the Viper Room, if you haven’t played there once in your life, you haven’t done it. That’s a big deal for us.”
He has opened up dialogue with audiences on a personal level through his podcast titled Vampiro’s Rituals. The host looks at it as an extension of what he is doing on social media touching on all the interests important to him.
“I can be less reserve because it’s my podcast. Anything pop culture, horror movies, punk rock, positive mental attitude, people struggling with addiction,” he said. “Then we take questions from the fans, who are really our friends and families. We try to address their situation and create a communication.”
Vampiro remains active in the business which seems to be entering another boom period. AAA has begun an expansion in the United States with most recently running a show in Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater in New York City. As someone entrenched in the history of Mexican wrestling, he is happy to see lucha accepted on the main stage of the world.
“Now it’s almost overwhelming because everyone wants a piece of AAA,” he said. “That’s a good thing problem to have when you’re overwhelmed, and people are trying to work with you and contract talent and steal your talent and steal your style.
“There is a ton of guys who can do flips and fly. Unless you come from Mexico or are trained in Mexico, it’s not the same. Going from Brazil and asking for sushi. I’m sure there are great sushi chefs in Brazil, but I’m sure it’s not in Japan. That’s what is going on with AAA. They were leaders in the beginning and leaders now. And now taking their place. Everyone thought AAA would be gone long ago. Now they’ve shown everyone that they’re still here but dominating. It’s awesome to be part of that.”
Vampiro’s full interview with Wrestling Inc aired as part of yesterday’s episode of our WINCLY podcast. It can be heard via the embedded audio player at the bottom of this post. You can check out past episodes of the WINCLY here. Subscribe to Wrestling Inc. Audio on iTunes or Google Play. Listen to the show via Spotify here or through TuneIn here.