Torneo Cibernetico (CMLL PPV 03/17/00)
I thought this was a terrific Cibernetico. The famous Ciberneticos from '97 featured well-known names and high profile feuds. This threw a spotlight on the midcard, showcasing how much depth there was on both the rudo and tecnico sides. The most interesting thing about the bout for me was that even though it felt like a pure lucha libre bout with the rapid-fire exchanges and the off-kilter submission and pin attempts, you could feel how heavy the juniors influence was. Workers like Dr. Wagner Jr. had been working regular dates in Japan and bringing back Japanese moves throughout the late 90s, but Ultimo Guerrero was one of the first workers from his generation to be exposed to those moves and regularly tour Japan. You can see the influence in his offensive set. Instead of the usual armdrags and rolling bumps, he has a barrage of suplexes and other high impact moves. He wasn't the only one, though. This could have easily been a Japanese juniors match with Japanese wrestlers or perhaps an MPro or Toryumon match with a lucha flavour. It managed to keep its identity, though, in large part to Mr. Mexico furthering his feud Rivera. Mr. Mexico vs. Rivera! Let there be blood. Olimpico had a nice run in this, too. But how good was Ultimo Guerrero? I know I'm late to the party, but Ultimo Guerrero was very, very good in 2000. Thus far, he's been biding his time looking solid in Infernales trios but here he got a chance to shine and ran with the ball. Maybe not a game-winning touchdown, but he definitely made some yards. Really solid undercard to this PPV.
Brazo de Plata, Emilio Charles Jr. & Mr. Niebla vs. Apolo Dantes, Cien Caras & Universo 2000 (CMLL 03/17/00)
If you love Porky then you'll love this match as it was really a showcase for him to entertain the fans. And entertain the fans he did. I was kind of surprised that Los Capos were the rudo foils for Porky's Looney Tunes schtick since they'll be moving onto bigger things soon, but they were good sports. It was nice to see Apolo Dantes too. An underrated pro who had all the tools but lacked the charisma of the upper tier rudos. He did a good job holding this together. Pretty good match for a comedy bout. The humour was good natured and much more enjoyable than the stinkface et al. Still the King of Comedy, i wonder if anyone can top Porky for best comedic performance by year's end? Meanwhile, "The Game" Emilio Charles Jr looks like he is chomping at the bit for someone to feud with.
Mascara Ano 2000, Scorpio Jr. & Shocker vs. Rayo de Jalisco Jr., Perro Aguayo & Tarzan Boy (CMLL 03/17/00)
This was such a wonderful Arena Mexico crowd. The reverse angle shot of people packed to the rafters made it seem like one of the last truly old-school Arena Mexico crowds, In fact, this entire event feels like the closing chapter of the period of lucha that ran from Atlantis' debut in 1983 through to March 2000, the only real historical period we have footage from and consequently my favourite era of lucha. The match was simple and formulaic but the crowd heat was a treat. Perro was such a beloved legend that all the rudos really had to do was mug for the audience, which I thought they did really well. Tarzan Boy kind of suck (let's be honest), but at least Shocker showed him up wonderfully. I always enjoy it when rudos get the better of chump tecnicos. It makes it seem as though there's a natural balance. Perro's comeback was fun and I loved the throwback to the MA2K match. Best of all, we got to see a complete match for a change which made this seem much more special than the regular Televisa bouts. Nice bout. Arguably the best trios match of the year thus far.
Atlantis vs. Villano III (CMLL PPV 03/17/00, Mask vs Mask)
I wasn't a huge fan of the buildup to this match. There are countless other apuesta builds I've enjoyed more. But the match itself is incredible. As soon as Villano Tercero enters the arena, you can feel the knot that must have been in his stomach and the goosebumps on his arms. You can feel the magnitude of the stip bearing down on you like a weight. Think of how many matches end with bloodied wrestlers demanding apuesta matches. Tempers flare, torn masks and bloodied foreheads leave wrestlers' enraged and they lose their heads over what they're proposing. Rarely do the matches reach fruition and only a scant few can be called legendary. This is a legendary apuesta match. I don't know if it's the greatest apuesta match of all-time, but it may be the closest thing our generation has come to a wager match on the level of Black Shadow vs. El Santo,
Has Atlantis ever been more popular than he was this night? For one evening he was an idol on the level of the great Golden Era stars of lucha libre. The match was built to along strong rudo vs. tecnico lines but transcended those battle lines. There was too much at stake for it to simply be about good vs. evil. They set this up nicely with Villano Tercero agreeing to Atlantis' demands to change the ref. If they had followed their WWF inspired booking to a tee, Baby Richards would have made a run-in at the end and Atlantis would have screwed Atlantis, but this was as traditional a lucha libre mask vs. mask match as you will see with a wonderful Arena Mexico crowd that was in full voice. The ringwork was simple and effective and they squeezed everything they could out of the gigging they did. Atlantis' selling, which is so often hammy and overwrought, was nigh on perfect. The drama with the doctor was outstanding and the rest of the match was awash with amazing visuals and phenomenal nearfalls. People often complain about the referees in lucha but I thought Rafa El Maya was fantastic in this, especially his finger wagging and bobbing from side to side during the submission nearfalls. That added extra drama to whether the combatant would submit. It also illustrated how the quick submissions in regular matches provide a norm that is transcended in important matches where both men refuse to quit. The crowd shots were wonderful. The blood was a gruesome and fantastic visual especially when soaked up by the white of Atlantis' mask and offset by the pink of Villano's attire. I liked the knee strike transitions and I thought Atlantis' plancha was an extremely effective sequence that provided a nice piece of symmetry to the initial VIllano tope. The finishing stretch after the plancha with all of its counters and nearfalls was an inspired passage of work and the finish was a thing of absolute beauty. That may be the best finishing stretch I've seen in lucha. The part where Villano escapes from La Atlantida is an incredible moment in the match and his desperate, lunging clothelines are incredible. The nuanced back sell and Atlantis dropkicking the injury were wonderful details that further illustrated the high level they were working at. Just tremendous lucha.
And of course, there was the post-match. Arguably, the most emotional and genuine post match aftermath of any recorded lucha we have. The outpouring of passion and joy and endurance from everyone in attendance was spine tingling. The workers sold the post-match beautifully and the narrative turned to themes of family, pride and time-honored traditions. Villano Tercero gave the speech of his life, the crowd supported him wonderfully and the entire unmasking was magnificent. My favourite moment was a slightly doddery Ray Mendoza overcome by emotion and receiving a kiss from Dr. Morales. That moment transcended any comment anyone could ever make about the silliness of fake fighting. It was a small but touching moment on an incredible night for lucha libre. One of the greatest matches of all-time and a true lucha classic. Match of the Year, Match of the Decade, maybe even the Match of the Century. And now I've run out of words.
Atlantis, Tarzan Boy & Rayo de Jalisco Jr. vs. El Satanico, Cien Caras & Bestia Salvaje (CMLL 03/02/00)
Stone Cold! Stone Cold! CMLL is getting more WWF by the second. I liked how you had all these old school luchadores working a classic rudo beatdown and suddenly there were run-ins and shit. That wasn't unprecedented in Mexico but for CMLL it was like reinventing the wheel. A couple of things stood out to me here. The first was that they did a nice job of intertwining the various story threads in the match. You had the eternal feud in Rayo vs. Caras, the recent humiliation of Satanico by the upstart Tarzan Boy and Stone Cold vs. The Rock They also mixed up the pairings which is an underrated aspect of lucha trios matches. I really liked the part where Satanico gave Atlantis a working over. There was no reason for him to have a beef with Atlantis but he was keenly aware of his fellow rudo's vendetta with him and did his best to soften Atlantis up for Villano. In fact, the Satanico vs. Atlantis segment was so good I half-wished it was Satanico taking on Atlantis at the PPV. That wouldn't have been anywhere near as monumental as one of two legends losing their mask but I thought Satanico in this bout looked better than Villano has at any point during the build. Satanico's handprints were all over this and he looked badass with his shaved head. Few workers manage to be a ring general and a superstar but Satanico is right up there with Casas as the cream of the crop. Really fun TV match in this new era of CMLL booking.
El Satanico, Rey Bucanero & Ultimo Guerrero vs, Lizmark, Olimpico & Tarzan Boy (CMLL 03/07/00)
This was heavily clipped but from what we saw there was a clear throughline. The opening fall was sloppier than we're used to from the Infernales but it established a clear narrative: the Infernales were out to extract revenge and it was up to the tecnicos to prevent themselves from being bullied. Tarzan Boy wasn't a natural aggressor, but fortunately for him, Lizmark and Olimpico managed to fire up in the second caida and Olimpico, in particular, was hellbent on using his skill to outclass the rudos. I liked the part where Tarzan Boy took the fight to Satanico and Lopez shook him off, ready for a fist fight. Unfortunately, it disintegrated into a screwy finish instead of rabid brawling. Still, the tecnicos got the moral victory even if it left Tarzan Boy with sore balls.
Pierroth vs. Mascara Ano 2000 (CMLL 03/10/00)
This was a fun mano a mano from two broken down gladiatores. The use of plunder and the backstage brawling was arguably the most WWF thing that CMLL has done yet, but a nasty blade job from Pierroth and some gritty ringwork made this feel more like cockfighting than your average WWF bout. This probably would have been pretty bad if the blood hadn't made it so edgy. I guess what this proved was that Satanico vs. Tarzan Boy could have been more like bloodsport if they'd wanted it to be. But then Tarzan Boy is hardly the kind of worker that Pierroth was. In any event, this surprised me. Much more worthwhile than I would have expected and I'm already a certified Capos fan.
Atlantis, Perro Aguayo, Mr. Niebla & Rayo de Jalisco Jr. vs. Villano III, Shocker, Bestia Salvaje & Scorpio Jr. (CMLL 03/10/00)
I enjoyed what we saw of this. It doesn't get much more emphatic from the rudo side than Villano III pulling off Atlantis' mask while Los Guapos destroy Perro Aguayo Sr. You could feel the WWF influence with the Villano Bros. run-in, but without the pyrotechnics and all of the bells and whistles it really did feel like 1980s Crockett, especially since the Villano Bros appear to shop at the same menswear stores as the Andersons. Honestly speaking, I don't really rate Atlantis as a brawler and I have a problem with how easily he applies the Atlantida at times. He also bounces up and down a bit too much not unlike the overselling he did when he was younger. But I'm expecting the emotion of the mask match to overcome all that. We'll find out shortly.
El Fierito & Pierrothito vs. Cicloncito Ramirez & Ultimo Dragoncito (CMLL 03/14/00)
All right, minis! This was perhaps the most classical lucha match we've seen thus far. It had mat exchanges, arm drags, ropework and even a little bit of character work. There were multiple dives and some pretty decent back and forth action. It wasn't entirely smooth as Fierito wasn't the most fluid worker but it was a nice holdover from the classic minis period of '96-97 and it was nice to see some of those names again. Plus it had two falls end on a count out which is pretty rare in lucha.
Blue Panther, Black Warrior & Mr. Mexico vs. Tony Rivera, Ringo Mendoza & Emilio Charles Jr. (CMLL 03/14/00)
CMLL is new school and old school at the same time. The vignette with Rivera judo throwing everyone in the gym and Mr. Mexico disguising himself as the ref was straight out of a WWF quarter hour but an apuesta match every other week is straight up old school booking. This match demonstrated the power of a gripe in lucha. Give two workers a reason to dislike each other and lucha is every bit as easy to follow as Puerto Rico or a Southern territory. Rivera was a bigger version of Tarzan Boy and Mr. Mexico far down the list of marquee lucha heels but it didn't matter. A bladejob from Mexico and some frantic action was enough to carry this to a satisfying conclusion. The best dive train of the year was followed by some classic foul shenanigans and a bout you could have easily cut when scanning match lists turned out to be a bonafide piece of fun. CMLL has been nonstop feuds thus far.
Mr. Niebla, Ray de Jalisco Jr. & Tinieblas Jr. vs. Bestia Salvaje, Pierroth Jr. & El Satanico (CMLL 03/14/00)
Meanwhile, at the Hall of Justice, Los Campeones de la Justicia meet to discuss the threat of Villano Tercero. Alushe has grave concerns while Atlantis and Niebla prove luchadores can wear a tracksuit anywhere. This was fairly unspectacular given how good the rudo side was but there were some nice moments. I liked the way Bestia interacted with the crowd and the part where he slapped the shit out of Niebla. Tinieblas looked like less of a freak when partnered with Rayo and Niebla and I enjoyed his dust-up with Pierroth at the end. Pierroth continues to be the most unexpected surprise of 2000. This Puerto Rican gimmick sure is doing wonders for him. He almost reminds me of a Mexican Invader 1. I'm keenly awaiting the Los Boricuas vs. Los Capos feud now. That should be a fun series of brawls.
Tony Rivera vs. Mr. Mexico (CMLL 03/21/00, Hair Match)
This was a solid apuesta match but they clipped a chunk out of the tercera caida which hurt the overall impact of the bout. Instead of building toward the big moment, they cut straight to a submission nearfall for Mr. Mexico and Rivera's match-winning Gori Special. We missed out on the excitement of the tercera caida swinging back and forth but what we did see was solid. Mr. Mexico was a better in-ring talent than I would have ever given him credit for prior to this feud and Rivera was seasoned enough to feed off his rudo charisma and win the people's favour without a stripper gimmick like Tarzan Boy. So long as you don't expect Chicana/MS-1, Chicana/Aguayo or Dandy/Satanico, this delivered a decent standard of work.
Villano III, Shocker & Bestia Salvaje vs. Perro Aguayo, Rayo de Jalisco Jr. & Atlantis (CMLL 03/31/00)
Coming off an all-time great apuesta match and a strong PPV overall, the question now is whether CMLL can maintain its momentum. This was a storyline match with Villano Tercero refusing to engage in rudoism and frustrating his partners. In typical CMLL fashion, it looks as though they'll draw things out for another couple of Fridays. Less typical of the serious and stable CMLL was the Los Capos run-in. Not exactlly lucha crash TV but I'm not sure it sat that well with all of the CMLL brass. In fact, the situation reminds me of 1990 and the Pena driven changes to the conservative CMLL booking. As far as segments go it was fairly uninspiring but let's see whether the Perrro vs. Capos and VIllano Tercero turns can escalate into feuds worthy of the benchmarks CMLL have put forward this season.
El Satanico vs. Tarzan Boy (CMLL 02/25/00, Hair Match)
Here we go! I'm psyched. Satanico's Phantom of the Opera entrance was amazing. Just when you thought the lucha GOAT couldn't get any greater he produces one of the finer Arena Mexico entrances in living memory. Tarzan Boy has lipstick kisses on his torso and upper body. He stops to give us the Rick Martel view of his six pack and I wonder if his valet gave him a kiss on the pecker for good luck. That seems to be the implication. Tarzan Boy seems like he's on a hiding to nothing in the intros. He's busy posing while Satanico is limbering up. And sure enough, Satanico wrestles a perfect fall in the primera caida. Olimpico launching himself at Bucanero was another amazing moment. It's rare that you see seconds fight like that and never as wild and out of control as that was. In true CMLL fashion, I didn't realise that Bucanero had tripped Tarzan Boy until the replay. In real time it looked like Tarzan Boy had slipped and that the rudo crowd were riding him. Olimpico's reaction was awesome. I loved the way Satanico's head jerked when he saw the fight break out.
The rudo fans got on Tarzan Boy's case during this match. You can't really blame them since it was at the cathedral where Satanico had fought so many wars. The smaller, less vocal tecnico contingent popped for him. Satanico was amazing in this match. Every time the camera was on him he was selling beautifully or doing something great, and always in the right measure. Such a masterful performer. To lose that way in such amateur fashion was galling. Watch Satanico during the post-match. He is filthy with himself. While he's getting his head shaved you can see him replaying the finish in his mind and working through what he should have done differently.
I thought this was tremendous. It was never going to be like Satanico vs. Dandy or that AAA match against Morgan. That was Satanico versus fellow all-time greats. For a match against a young talent like Tarzan Boy this exceeded my expectations. Folks have been arguing that there wasn't enough blood and that Satanico didn't suffer any sort of retribution, but losing hurt more than any cut ever could. It was the ultimate humiliation especially given how dominant he'd been in the feud. I actually thought it was a brilliant payoff to the beatings he gave Tarzan Boy night after night. I don't think it elevated Tarzan Boy in any way but it was beautiful and poetic and Satanico sold it like only he can. Another one for the Satanico GOAT scrapbook. Tremendous.
NB: I watched these out of order but am posting them chronologically.
Mr. Niebla & Olimpico vs. Blue Panther & Rencor Latino (CMLL 02/01/00)
Not content with two blood feuds, CMLL decide to add a third. This is some old school booking from CMLL. It reminds me of the early 80s when they'd have an apuesta match nearly every week. This was a bit different as it was being booked toward a mano a mano and not a mask vs. mask match, but you wouldn't know from the bloodshed, Olympic bled buckets and Panther's mask was so badly ripped at the end that you could see his face years ahead of his unmasking. I'm often critical of Panther as a rudo, but I thought he was excellent here. When you think of Panther, you don't think of a worker who licks another man's blood from his fingers or parades his bloodied foe for others to see, but that was the Panther we got here and it was quite a surprise. The match was short because it was a one night tournament and lucha tournament matches are notoriously short, but it packed a fair-sized punch for such a short match.
Atlantis, Emilio Charles Jr. & Tarzan Boy vs, Fuerza Guerrera, El Satanico & Villano III (CMLL 02/01/00)
This was the first match from February that felt like it was on par with the January stuff and I don't think it's a coincidence that it takes place at Arena Coliseo. Coliseo seems tailor-made for the Satanico v. Tarzan Boy feud. You sense that it loses something in Arena Mexico kind of like playing a larger venue vs. a smaller, more intimate one. Here you've got fans holding Tarzan Boy signs whereas I'm not sure he's that over Arena Mexico. And Satanico looks king-sized this smaller setting. He looks like he's on a different plane from everyone else. No one can match the ferocity with which he attacks Tarzan Boy. Villano III looks like hes moving in slow motion by comparison and even Fuerza couldn't keep up with Satanico's intensity. The only thing that comes close is Panther licking Olimpico's blood and showing off his kill to the audience. Tarzan Boy is pretty low rent but I liked the fire on his comeback here and I thought the injury storyline off the missed plancha was a nice twist after he'd finally shown some fire. Satanico stomping the ankle was wonderful as was the finger biting. Atlantis vs. Villano can't really hold a candle to the Satanico/Tarzan Boy ring work, though I did like their punch exchange. I'm sure the mask match is still a classic, but Villano comes across as slower and less vicious than Satanico and Atlantis comes across some squeaky clean do-gooder who can't understand why the Villanos are picking on him. Acting was never his forte, but you've got to be prepared to fight fire with fire in an apuesta match and I don't really get that feeling from him. Which makes me suspect that the mask vs. mask match may be closer to a pure lucha match than a brawl, but we'll see. It's been a long time since I watched it.
Blue Panther vs. Olimpico (CMLL 02/08/00)
I liked the booking here with Olimpico's DQ victory in the tournament final setting up a mano a mano bout. And I liked the continued viciousness from Panther who has never looked better as a rudo. I also liked the idea of giving Olimpico a huge victory over Panther even if he held the ropes to do it. But you'd think they would have shown more than they did on the TV broadcast. The clipping in February is worse than January.
Black Warrior, Zumbido & Pimpinela Escarlata vs. Antifaz del Norte, Felino & Safari (CMLL 02/11/00)
This was another match butchered in the edit. This was extra frustrating as we never got a proper look at Pimpenela in CMLL. Instead they clipped the Black Warrior vs. Felino exchanges together even though it wasn't a feud. After an exciting January this company is starting to nosedive.
Negro Casas, Emilio Charles Jr., Mr. Niebla & Tarzan Boy vs. Bestia Salvaje, El Satanico, Scorpio Jr. & Shocker (CMLL 02/11/00)
I believe this is the first 2000 match from Arena Mexico and oddly it's an atomicos match. God only knows how long this lasted but it as clipped to shit on the TV broadcast. There was enough shown to demonstrate how much better Satanico was at brawling with his partner than Shocker was, for example, and a lot that you could study about his rudo performance. But ultimately it was another asskicking for Tarzan Boy, who hasn't done enough to fight back in this feud, and a disconnect with the other participants in the atomicos. Not that strong a match in my view.
Atlantis vs. Villano III (CMLL 02/11/00)
This was so badly clipped in the first two falls that it was hard to get any idea of how the match was flowing. The third caida was slightly better, but the switcheroo made the entire thing seem like an angle, which it was, really. If you ask me, the build to Atlantis vs. Villano has been less than perfect.
Negro Casas, Ringo Mendoza & Emilio Charles Jr. vs. Blue Panther, Cien Caras & Black Warrior (CMLL 02/22/00)
I don't know what lit a fire under Panther but he is officially the second best rudo in the company. I think it was April and May that Panther had his classic matches with Santo in Monterrey and it's clear now that he was enjoying a rich vein of form heading into those appearances. I loved every second of Panther vs. Ringo regardless of how decrepit Ringo may have looked. I also liked the Casas vs. Black Warrior build. CMLL has a habit of phasing guys down the card after long programs. and after feuding with Bestia and Scorpio for what seemed like an eternity, Casas didn't seem like he had much to do in January. Here they gave him something to do and it was the best he's looked so far. This was edited to shit but still enjoyable. That may be the new barometer of a good CMLL match.
Atlantis, Mr. Niebla & Rayo de Jalisco Jr. vs, Dr. Wagner Jr., Bestia Salvaje & Scorpio Jr. (CMLL 02/25/00)
I'm back on the CMLL train with this match. I never thought I could be so excited about a "non-match" but this was tremendous. Wagner needs to stop spending so much time in Japan because he turned shit on its head right away by slapping Perro at ringside. I love how Perro's son, or his nephew, or whomever it with him at ringside, looked like Chris from the Sopranos. With their dye-jobs, Bestia and Scorpio look like the Fabulous Ones or some other Southern heel tag team. I'm pretty much a Bestia fan for life at this point as I thought he looked great here. For some reason, Atlantis showed more fire here than in his trios matches against Villano and seemed more affronted by Wagner attacking Perro than the Villanos stomping a mudhole in his own hide. Somebody in CMLL was watching the WWF for clues because Villano III's appearance couldn't have been more WWF unless his theme music dropped. It worked nicely, though. Perro getting involved meant the segment as a whole was longer than most of the trios matches that have aired thus far. It was also a reminder of how great Perro's match with Universo 2000 was. Crash booking lucha style, but crash booking done well.
Negro Casas vs, Black Warrior (CMLL 02/29/00)
This was a bit of a letdown after Satanico vs. Tarzan Boy and the angle with Perro Aguayo, but it was mano a mano, which carries with it a glass ceiling. Clipping or no clipping, the point was for Casas to defeat Black Warrior and earn a title shot or at least prove worthy of one. This was never going to be anything more than build.
Emilio Charles Jr., Mr. Niebla & Tinieblas Jr. vs, Fuerza Guerrera, Scorpio Jr. & Violencia (CMLL 02/28/00)
Not much to report about here. Emilio tried to breathe some life into things with a spirited comeback after being fouled in the primera caida, but aside from the old lucha trope of the tecnico fouling the rudo back there wasn't much to this.
Atlantis, Negro Casas & Mr. Niebla vs. Dr. Wagner Jr., Villano III & Pierroth Jr. (CMLL 01/14/00)
This was another strong lead-in match. I'm not a huge fan of trios matches where the wrestlers rip each other's masks off but it wouldn't be much of an apuesta feud if they didn't do it. And to their credit, they didn't spend an eternity doing it. Villano looked badass in his alternative strip and I liked how he used Atlantis' mask to clean the dirt off his boots. Atlantis' comeback was good and he got plenty of mileage out of throwing Villano into a row of chairs and dropping a section on him. The only thing that held this back was that there didn't seem to be much of a personal issue between Casas and Pierroth or Wagner and Niebla and the best trios matches usually have that second and third string story to contrast and illuminate the main feud. The kind of role that an Emilio Charles Jr. or La Fiera played to perfection. The rudos were fairly united but Casas and Niebla felt like they were making up the numbers while we waited for Atlantis and Villano to go at it again. Mind you, it's pretty hard for Casas to play second string to anyone and Pierroth was badly broken down compared with his glory days of '90-92. I haven't checked the match listings but it'll be interesting to see whether they plug anyone better in there.
Atlantis, Mr. Niebla & Emilio Charles Jr. vs. Dr. Wagner Jr., Shocker & Villano III (CMLL 01/21/00)
The build for Satanico/Tarzan Boy and Atlantis/Villano was a hell of a one-two punch. This is the kind of thing that CMLL does really well when they bother to do it. This installment was heavily clipped so it's not fair to judge it as a match, but I liked the fact that we got a true blue tecnico fall to start with. I think that's the first time there's been a tecnico fall in this January footage. The clipping sort of ruined the rudo comeback, but they got a nice pose in with the submission. Shocker was in his prime here and it was pretty clear that he and Niebla were the best conditioned of the workers involved. They were heavily involved in the early part of the Atlantis/Villano rivalry, as I'm sure you're all aware, but it wasn't clear from the clipping how much that played into the bout. They did pull a dive on one another, though. Atlantis vs. Villano wasn't as heated as in previous matches, which may be why they shortened this, but Atlantis got a tope in, which was a statement of sorts. The rudos were the ones who mugged the camera in the post-match interview, though, and not for the first time. Villano sure was proud of taking Super Astro's mask. I wonder how he felt about Astro reneging on the deal.
Negro Casas, Atlantis & Emilio Charles Jr. vs. Bestia Salvaje, Villano III & Fuerza Guerrera (CMLL 01/28/00)
ust in case you thought the Villano/Atlantis build was living in the shadow of the Satanico/Tarzan Boy feud here is a match to remind you which match-up has the higher stakes. It wasn't until the Villano brothers got involved at ringside that the Villano feud with Atlantis matched the intensity of the hatred between Casas and Bestia, and I do kind of wish that Atlantis would fire up a bit more, but given the gang warfare mentality of the CMLL booking in January 2000 and the fact that it feels like a rudo promotion right now, this was a timely reminder to Atlantis where the power lay. When you take on the Villanos you take on the family. Let's see how Atlantis responds.
Tarzan Boy vs. Rey Bucanero (CMLL 01/01/00)
This was an effective mano a mano bout. Mano a manos usually have a glass ceiling on how good they can be but this had a bit of meat to it. The double juice helped. Blood is so rare in CMLL these days that it was a surprise to see Bucanero bleed so much. There were a couple of gaffes on the bigger action stuff, like the blatant calling of the flash pin in the segunda caida and Tarzan Boy overshooting his dive, but it was a decent Coliseo bout, and Satanico beating Tarzan Boy down after the bout warmed the cockles of my Satanico-loving heart.
Olimpico, Antifaz del Norte & Tarzan Boy vs. El Satanico, Rey Bucanero & Ultimo Guerrero (CMLL 01/14/00)
This was an excellent brawl. It reminded me of the wars that the older Infernales had with Los Intocables and the Brazos in '92-93 before they jumped to AAA. Those were also pared down trios matches with plenty of brawling. Satanico is so good at marshaling these sort of bouts, controlling the action when his team is on top and feeding the tecnicos comebacks. Just another reason why he's one of the greatest of all-time. The sudden victory that the tecnicos score in the second fall is the type of thing that will bug people, but I liked how they had to keep fighting their tails off in the tercera caida and the dive train was fantastic. Tarzan Boy is pretty much Latin Lover plugged into a program with Mocho Cota when it comes to this feud with Satanico but there's nothing like a trios match where the captains are left to duke it out at the end. Tarzan Boy fought fire with fire and justice was done. I'm not expecting Dandy vs. Satanico from the apuesta match, but so far the lead-in is just as good.
El Satanico, Ultimo Guerrero & Rey Bucanero vs. Antifaz del Norte, Felino & Tarzan Boy (CMLL 01/21/00)
Another great brawl. Gotta love those collars on the Infernales' jackets and how they keep them on when they jump the tecnicos. Tarzan Boy bleeds straight away and the Infernales are rabid. Especially Satanico, who seems to relish the amount of pain they inflict on the helpless Tarzan Boy. Tarzan Boy bleeds like a stuck pig in the opening caida, and even when the referees disqualify the Infernales, they still don't give a shit and keep beating up the poor kid. The doctor comes out to check him and you can almost feel Satanico growing in stature here as he paces about the ring seeking to reclaim his mantle as El Numero Uno. A reversal signals a change in fortunes for the tecnicos, as it so often does, but they have to fight really hard to get back on an even keel. It's anybody's match after the dive train and again Satanico and Tarzan Boy go at it like a matador and a charging bull. Satanico is beyond incensed, though, and even a second disqualification can't stop him from headbutting Tarzan Boy to the point where TB's blood is all over Satanico's face. The Infernales lost the battle here, but they sent Tarzan Boy to the hospital, that's for sure. The apuesta match is being set up beautifully and I can't wait to see whether they can really deliver us a payoff.
Olimpico, Tony Rivera & Tarzan Boy vs. El Satanico, Ultimo Guerrero & Rey Bucanero (CMLL 01/28/00)
Another perfect lead-in match. The Infernales with the Horsemen beatdown in the corridor. Anybody else notice the extra length to Satanico's hair? The Infernales do an absolute number on the tecnicos to start with. I loved the way Satanico's minions took out Rivera and Olimpico with the chairs. Ultimo Guerrero impressed me with the amount of dirty work he got through. He's never been a guy I've warmed to, but he's done an excellent job as Satanico's lieutenant. Tarzan Boy is getting killed in this feud. The only thing keeping his spirit from breaking are the constant disqualifications. Otherwise he'd run off home and never show his face again. Folks keep mentioning how short these matches are, but it's clear that they're clipped. After the Satanico interview there are highlights of a dive train we never saw prior to Satanico bottling Tarzan Boy. They cut large chunks out of the Villano vs. Atlantis trios the week before and it's the same here. Tarzan Boy gets stretchered out and we have ourselves a hell of an apuesta build right here. I'm not sure the hair match can live up to the build as Satanico keeps murdering Tarzan Boy and our pretty young friend doesn't have a lot to come back with, but this is a really memorable lead-in.
Negro Casas, Lizmark & Olimpico vs Blue Panther, Bestia Salvaje & Scorpio Jr. (CMLL 01/18/00)
I thought this was excellent while it lasted. I could have sworn I'd had my fill of Casas vs. Bestia & Scorpio over the years, but it's been a while and I dug watching Casas and Bestia trade blows. Panther was excellent in this, which isn't always the case when he's the lead guy in a rudo team. I wasn't sure how legit Olimpico's injury was considering how long Panther kept him in the armbar, and the fact that the rudos kept getting their licks in while the doc checked on him, but the replay looked pretty nasty. They could have had the tecnicos take the next fall a man down and given us a few more thrills, but as a TV match, it had a lot of workers I like and was more than passable.
Zumbido, Rencor Latino & Arkangel de la Muerte vs. Ringo Mendoza, Tigre Blanco & Pantera (CMLL 01/18/00)
This was a fun undercard match. You know CMLL is humming when the undercard is good. Arkangel de la Muerte is a favourite of the Segunda Caida crew. I've never really viewed him as an elite-level talent, but he does have a lot of nice looking offense and I was impressed with his stooging here. He made Tigre Blanco look like a million bucks during the finish, and let's face it, Tigre Blanco wasn't the most outstanding tecnico on the CMLL roster. The most impressive tecnico was Pantera, who contributed a beautiful dive, but I couldn't believe that Ringo was still kicking about in Jan 2000. Very Gran Hamada-esque of him. The match was clipped like all of the January TV has been, but it purred nicely.
Arkangel de la Muerte vs. Tigre Blanco (CMLL 01/25/00)
I thought this was a good undercard match. I watched it twice, the first time by itself and the second time after watching the trios that led into it, and I enjoyed it more the second time. The clipping hurt the rhythm of what they were trying to do, but I liked the way that Tigre Blanco picked up where he left off after his strong finish to the trios match and that Arkangel had to draw on his experience to win the segunda caida and take the tercera. Sure, it was a forgettable match in the grand scheme of things, and workers have done better in CMLL in similar positions like Olimpico and Halcon Negro, but I thought this was worth taking the time to watch.
Emilio Charles Jr., Lizmark & Tinieblas Jr. vs. Bestia Salvaje, Scorpio Jr. & Shocker (CMLL 01/11/00)
This was a perfectly fine trios match. I can understand being disappointed with it if you were expecting something special but oftentimes trios matches are more about the workers than the matches themselves. Here I was interested in seeing how Emilio would captain a tecnico team, how effective Scorpio Jr. could remain without a mask, and what, if anything, Lizmark could bring to a match in the year 2000. I expected it to be fairly one-sided, but they gave Lizmark the opportunity to shine here, which I was happy about. I liked Emilio's look here as well. He'd moved away from the Remy-inspired Hunter look to something a bit more suave.
Zumbido, Mr. Mexico & Violencia vs. Solar I, Antifaz del Norte & Pantera (CMLL 01/01/00)
This was all right. In a month that was dominated by rudo beatdowns, I appreciated the fact that they started off with a tecnico fall and worked a rudo comeback. Solar did a decent job of directing traffic. He was a couple of years away from the beginning of his rivalry with Negro Navarro. A rivalry that would reinvent if not revitalise his career. The first match of theirs I've seen is from around 2002. Navarro still has hair and hadn't adopted his asskicker gimmick yet. Zumbido showed some promise here and would go on to play a bigger role in CMLL in 2003-04.
Volador Jr. vs. Cavernario, 2016 CMLL Reyes del Aire final, 9/30/16
I didn't start enjoying this until deep into the terceda caida. The crowd was at a fever pitch and there was a lot of selling and drama. Prior to that, it was move after move, dive after dive, with it all feeling pretty hollow. People often complain about the first two falls in lucha being short and pointless. You watch a match like this and it's hard to dispute that claim. The first two falls were rubbish, especially the segunda caida with its unearned comeback. If they're going to work like that, they might as well kill the tradition and start working one fall matches. The only thing I really enjoyed about the first half of the match was Cavernario's pretty tope through the turnbuckle ropes, but he does that spot a lot so it wasn't like he was pulling out all the stops. The two most spectacular spots in the match were Volador Jr's springboard plancha into the crowd and that over-the-top-rope, sunset flip powerbomb thing that was gorgeous. Cavernario's diving splash to the floor also looks like it hurts every single time. Ouch. Then, just like that, all of the good was swept away by the finish. What a horrible finish. It was the kind of finish Pena would have booked. A horrid, awful thing. Not worth the thrashing they put their bodies through. All in all, this felt like more of a Volador-led, offense-minded bout. I preferred their title match by a considerable margin. Awful finish.
Volador Jr. vs. Cavernario, NWA World Historic Welterweight Championship, CMLL 10/7/16
Well, it was obvious watching this that CMLL title matches are no longer mat-based classics but generic singles matches, and that lucha is more influenced by outside influences than ever before. That said, I still enjoyed this.
What I liked about it was that the rudo, Cavernario, had the momentum for most of the bout. and the tecnico, Volador Jr, had to keep fighting back even after he'd squared things up. Not only were the dives crazy, it also felt like they were right on cue. There's nothing quite as pretty in lucha as a dive that happens exactly when it ought to. You're into the flow of the match, the timing is right for the dive, and off they go. Of course, it helps that Cavernario is mental. He takes some of the nuttiest bumps in the history of lucha. It's like Psicosis turned up to 11.
I don't watch a lot of Volador Jr., so I found a lot of his offense novel. I could see how it would wear thin if he does it in every match, and I wasn't sure how much of it was the way Cavernario took the bump, but that sunset flip thing he does where it looks like he piledrives the guy was a hell of a punctuation mark to end a fall.
The shit they did on the set sucked, but that's one of those things where as soon as one guy does it, everybody has to do it, and they're constantly having to up the ante. It seemed WWE influenced to me. There was nothing authentically "lucha" about it, but they wiped the bad taste of my mouth pretty quickly, and overall I have mostly positive things to say about this.
Negro Casas vs. Rey Hechicero (Arena Coliseo Monterrey 4/24/16)
This was a decent match, but would have to have been a hell of a lot more dramatic to be in the running for Match of the Year contention.
The match peaked with the primera caida, which isn't a great place for a two-out-of-three falls match to peak. The idea of Casas working holds with Hechicero appealed to me. Casas isn't a great mat worker, but he knows how to hang in there, and I thought the flow of the matwork and Casas' selling made for an excellent first fall.
Unfortunately, they moved away from the submission-based stuff right after Hechicero's dead weight lift of Casas and from there on out worked a match that was neither here nor there. It wasn't the small, maestro style match that you'd expect from a indie date like this nor was it a traditional Monterrey style brawl. Hechicero tried a bit too hard to get the crowd into the match by imploring them to make more noise while Casas did stuff like posing for the camera while he had Hechicero in a hold. Something he would have never done in his prime, but which seems to amuse him these days. The end result was that the match wasn't quite gritty enough for its surroundings and a bit too exhibition-y. It was mano a mano, which usually has a smaller arc than matches where the stakes are higher, but it wasn't a blood feud mano a mano and there weren't enough dramatic near-falls or near-submissions in the third fall to make it better than your standard Lucha Memes or Chilanga Mask match. If they'd upped the ante from the opening fall it would have been a different story, but the intensity level wasn't there. Not something I'll remember as fondly as Terry/Aeroboy or Lupus/Trauma even if it's an unfair comparison.
Trauma I vs. Canis Lupus (mask vs. mask, IWRG 9/4/16)
It seemed impossible for this match to live up to the hype. Over the past few weeks, I've seen it described as one of the best brawls ever, one of the best mask matches of all-time and a match of the decade contender.
For the first two falls, it failed to live up to the hype. The work in the first fall wasn't bad but there was too much pandering to the crowd instead of the intense focus on maiming your opponent that you expect from an apuesta bout. It was a flashy rudo fall instead of a violent one. The finish was nice, though, and would play an important part later in the match. Lupus maintained his advantage in the second fall, but his strikes were weak and looked as though they were baring glancing Trauma's head and chest. That meant that the physical toll of the beating wasn't registering -- a cardinal sin in apuesta matches where pain and exhaustion are the biggest selling points. It didn't help, either, that the turning point in the fall was badly telegraphed and that the finish was poorly executed.
At this point we were two falls into the bout and nothing that solid had happened. Then they did the double chair spots and I was ready to write this off as an average piece of business. But as soon as they bladed the bout took on a whole new dimension. They began selling the exhaustion, and fatigue, and blood loss, and moreover they began fighting for their masked lives. Suddenly, it didn't seem so bad that there was nothing behind Lupus' strikes because there he was bleeding half to death. They worked some classic nearfalls with both men clinging on for dear life. With every passing hold the bout began looking more and more like a classic mask match. And the fact that they didn't get there in the smartest, or best, way began to fade into insignificance. It was like watching a playoff game where the first couple of quarters are crap but the second half is engrossing. In those situations it doesn't matter how the match begins but how it ends. Like all great tercera caidas there were dramatic counters and near things. People often shit on the refs in lucha, but personally I think those added seconds it takes to reach a decision add to the drama over whether a near fall or near submission will succeed. You need to hang on for a little bit longer in lucha bouts and those seconds feel like an eternity if you're rooting for one gladiador over another.
Not only were they working dramatic submission attempts and pulling out dramatic counters, they were bleeding buckets in the process, and you could pretty much track their desperation based by how much blood was on the canvas. There was blood all over Lupus' hands and forearms and Trauma's mask was taking on a hue not seen since the halcyon days of Santo and white costume La Parka. The bullshit with the ref bump and the tombstone piledriver was delicious bullshit served up on a plate. The foot under the ropes, the ref waving it off, Lupus sitting there leaning against Trauma having a spell, taking a breather, wiping blood off his hand, wondering what he should try next... that's an apuesta match on a razor's edge right there. Lupus slammed the mat out of frustration and it took him more energy to get to his feet and drag Trauma away from the ropes for a pin attempt. Trauma blocking the ref's three count with both palms was a fantastic touch and it really felt like the fight was ebbing out of him with every raised shoulder. Then drama! The all-or-nothing splash from the top from Lupus. Trauma didn't catch him cleanly, but he clipped Lupus' ribs and it sure looked like it hurt. How can anybody not like this? The canvas is growing redder and redder and a doctor comes in the ring to check Trauma's neck after the tombstone. It looks more like a crime scene investigation than first aid. Lupus pulls off a wonderful rudo move of attacking the medico and the finish literally sees Trauma attempting a reversal with a neck brace half attached. Lupus resists violently, but Trauma hooks on the same move that Lupus used to beat him the opening fall. It's not hard to imagine Trauma's father teaching him that move when he was ten years old and there it was saving his mask.
Trauma's second rushed into the ring and dived on him. People began throwing money immediately. Lupus lay in a pool of his own blood while the doctor finally put a brace on Trauma's damaged neck. Lupus' second shed a tear into his towel while the medico went to check his man's cut. There were thick globs of blood everywhere at this point and the doctor's coat was a mess. The aftermath of this bout was incredible. The part where the seconds held both men up, Trauma in a neck brace and Lupus stricken from blood loss and they looked at other like trauma victims was disturbing and awe-inspiring all at once. Lupus collapsing in the ropes whether it was real or just selling was amazing. The close-up on Trauma's bloodied mask looked like he'd been to the gates of hell and back. Incredible scenes. It was almost beyond what they had done in the third caida but at the same time it was riveting. Lupus knelt against the ropes in front of a group of photographers recovering, recuperating, regathering his thoughts in silent recognition of what had happened and what was coming next. He'd given his name and his place of origin to the MC and in mask matches like these it's customary to give the loser some breathing space to prepare for their unmasking. There were plenty of support from his fellow luchadores and consolations from Trauma's camp. It was all heartfelt and emotional. I didn't know Lupus from a bar of soap before watching this match, but apart from Villano III in 2000 and Ultimo Guerrero in 2014 this was the most emotional unmasking I have seen. Lupus was defiant, proud, conflicted. He didn't want to unmask but he was fully aware of his responsibility. The spirit of lucha was alive and well on this evening. The two gladiadores embraced and it was a beautiful moment in an otherwise brutal match. Finally, Lupus unmasked in the time honoured tradition and if anything his proposal was a reminder that lucha is about family, brotherhood and the ties that bind.
A tremendous tercera caida, a raw post-match unmasking and an incredible second half to a bout. I don't know if it deserves the accolades it's getting, but it's a match that I will never, ever forget.
So, it's the first day of 2017, and as usual I've done a piss-poor job of following the modern lucha scene as it happens. But in this day and age of YouTube playlists, there's no excuse to not get caught up.
I'm going to start with the Black Terry vs. Aeroboy apuesta match, which is where I left off last time.
Black Terry vs. Aeroboy (mask vs. hair, 6/10/16)
This was a nice, scuzzy apuesta match. I liked how they started fighting before Aeroboy had taken his jacket off just like in the good old days of yore. They ambled about a bit in the beginning despite Aeroboy hitting a nice looking tope; but as soon as both men were bleeding and Terry had his shirt off, it was another masterclass in how to have an indie apuesta match. Terry's forte is usually character work and brawling outside the ring. This was mostly worked between the ropes, and for an apuesta match, really only had a minimum of violence. What made it work was the stiffness.
These days when you watch a lucha indie match, you can choose from all sorts of different angles. It's almost like watching the special features on a DVD. I watched this match from three different angles, and it was the handheld footage that added the most. A complain complaint with lucha is that it's not worked stiffly enough, but when it's shot from ringside, you can really hear them lay their shots in. Terry's always been good at working offense exchanges with young professionals like Aeroboy, and he's able to draw on years of experience in laying out a bout; but it was the stiffness, and laying those shots in, that made this seem like an apuesta match and not some regular bout.
The submission work was also excellent. Terry, in particular, had a couple of pearlers. Both men sold them like death, and in the handheld footage you could hear them scream as soon as a submission was applied. Aeroboy only had one hold that he went to, but Terry was a maestro on the mat.
Stiffness, submissions, some well-worked offense exchanges; these were the ingredients of an apuesta match as honest as the blood that was shed. Blow-for-blow, it was everything it should be with a wager on the line. While I was watching this, I saw the highlights of the Wofan match, which looked amazing. I desperately need to see that match as it looks like a prime example of a Terry masterpiece, but Wofan is a different worker to Aeroboy. I thought Terry did an excellent job here of working to his opponent's strengths and adapting to what they're good at and how they prefer to work. What we're witnessing now feels like Terry Funks' 90s run in ECW and other indies and the work Funk did in that era with younger workers. Yep, Black Terry is fast becoming the Terry Funk of Mexico.
Black Terry vs. Aero Boy, Funcion Estelar, 3/18/16
Black Terry, what drives this man? What keeps him in the fight game? Lacing up the boots, ignoring the lumps and bruises, tending to the cuts. Terry is almost the same age as my father but still he fights. The early exchanges here showed that Terry isn't as quick as he used to be. He can't bump like he used to, can't pull a kick to the back like a young man might, but as soon as this goes to the outside Terry is in his element. Outside the ring. Terry is a master. No matter how many times I've seen Terry brawl around ringside it's still an awesome sight. Aero Boy does his part by bumping into a row of chairs, but in the main it's Terry's measured brawling, his use of colour (blood) and the ripped shirt motif that make this memorable. Terry may not be able to work lucha exchanges like he used to, but he can still tease a lucha submission with the best of them and he also knows how to get plenty of bang for his buck out of that well worn backcracker of his. The aesthetics also help here. Lucha brawls always work best in a dingy environment. Back in the day, even when they held matches in major venues, the poor lightning and grainy footage created a unique environment for lucha brawls. That's been lost in the bright new era where major lucha venues are fully lit and have electronic hordings advertising Japanese camera makers. The handheld approach to Terry's apuesta feuds creates a Dogme style effect like we're watching some kind of documentary about Black Terry's soul searching on the 2016 circuit. This was only a mano a mano. What awaits us in the apuesta match?
Black Terry vs. Barbaro Cavernario, Cara Lucha 6/11/16
Holy crap this was awesome. I haven't seen Terry wrestle for a couple of years and barely recognised him with the bald head and yellow t-shirt, but brawling Terry was always my favourite kind of Terry and he brought the same level of stiffness as his Hechicero matches from a few years back. I watched this straight after the LA Park/Rush Liga Elite mano a mano and blow for blow this was the more violent match. The older and lumpier Terry becomes the greater his legacy becomes. Cavernario deserves a ton of credit for being the perfect sounding board for Terry's straight forward brawling approach, but from my point of view this led to a rush of memories of 2008 clips against Navarro set to The Unforgiven and Terry being the master of minimalist lucha brawling. The finish was a poor editorial decision from the bookers, but Terry remains indomitable. He just goes on and on.
El Signo vs. Villano V, UWA World Light Heavyweight Championship, UWA 4/3/92
I first saw this many years ago when sharing lucha online was still in its infancy. I may have written about it for this blog (I have a cold today and can't be bothered trawling through the archives.) The version I remember didn't have the pre-match interviews or workout footage, and really, who doesn't like watching luchadores train? Villano's neck-strengthening exercises were so freakin' cool. This was 13 minutes or so of what was probably closer to a 20 minute bout. It was shortened for television, which hurt the rhythm of the bout, but aside from that it's hard to go wrong with an early 90s title match where Villano V (not III or IV) gets to show his wares. He showed tremendous pedigree on the mat, and if you admire the Mendoza mat mentality (which you should), you'll enjoy the performance he gave here. Signo wasn't quite as dynamic as I remember, but revisits will do that to you. Would've liked a gap between falls to digest what was going on, and the tercera caida being joined in progress was a bugger, but bell to bell it felt like the same three-and-a-half star title bout I remembered. Worth checking out if you haven't seen it.
El Dandy vs. Ultimo Dragon, SWS handheld, 3/92
Dandy vs. Dragon touring match that could have easily happened in Los Angeles and probably in a few Mexican states as well. It was laid out pretty much how you'd expect from the early mat showcase to the dives and didn't deviate from the script that other luchadores had brought to Japan from the late 70s onwards. The Japanese crowd reacted as they always did to lucha (as though they were watching something foreign) and threw money in the ring at the end for no reason other than they read about the custom in the magazines. Dandy fans will probably be curious to see him in Japan. He certainly looked like he could have been more of a regualr over there if he'd gone down that path. There were also glimpses into what a Dandy vs. Dragon program might have looked like in Mexico but it was fairly obvious stuff and there was nothing unpredictable about the exchanges they did. Mildly interesting.
We all know that dataintcash is an invaluable source of lucha libre footage, and we all know that invaluable sources of wrestling footage invariably disappear from YouTube, so I thought instead of letting dataintcash's channel go to waste, I'd start throwing out some thoughts about his uploads for prosperity's sake. Originally, I was going to do an hours worth of footage at a time, but since his uploads tend to be fairly long, I'll just watch what I can. With Arthur Psycho's uploads, I did these oldest-to-newest. With dataintcash, I'm going to do them newest-to-oldest just for shits and giggles. I'm also going to try to knock these out as fast as possible, so don't expect my reviews to be any good. Instead, think of them as a rough guide (if that) for what to watch.
Jerry Estrada/Kung Fu/Herodes vs. Misterioso/Volador/Angel Azteca (6/28/91)
This starts off with a vignette where Fuerza Guerrera drives a car through the type of home security gate you'd expect to see in an 80s television show. He takes us on a tour of what is presumably his house and introduces us to what I can only assume is his wife and daughter. If you speak Spanish, you can correct me on this. We're also introduced to an older teen boy who is either his son, cousin, nephew, or wife's brother. Then we see a young Juventud Guerrera working out with weights while wearing a Fuerza mask. Upstairs, there's a dated looking home entertainment system and the Guerrera family (or rather the boys) are listening to Metallica, which Fuerza seems to approve of. Why we were getting to see the human side of a rudo is something that's lost in translation, but there you have it.
After that we get the epitome of a ** lucha trios. Despite being only **, there's a lot going on here. This was the first time I'd seen Herodes do his "crazy man" gimmick where he adopted different personas each week. In this instance he had a boxer's head gear on and a pair of boxing gloves and he commentators were calling him "Chacho Tyson" the entire time. It was weird. but he was Barry Darsow-ian in his commitment to his character. Somewhere in all this, Volador and Estrada were trying to put on a decent match, Angel Azteca was living in a post-Juan Herrera world where he'd been pushed and valued, while Kung Fu was struggling for relevancy after being unmasked. In other words, the typical hodgepodge of lucha libre wrestling. I don't know what prompts dataintcash to upload the matches that he does, but this was short on high spots and I would have just uploaded the Fuerza vignette and said stuff the rest.
Negro Casas/Fuerza Guerrera vs. El Hijo del Santo/Octagon, Cd. Juarez, circa 1990-91
I'm hopelessly out of the loop (not that I was ever really in it to begin with), but it looks like some Mexican channel is re-airing footage from the Cicudad Juarez territory that Alfredo Esparza grew up watching in El Paso, which is pretty cool to say the least.
To me the single most interesting thing about this bout is watching Casas work with Octagon. It's almost like watching a proto version of the Casas/Dragon feud, and you can almost imagine an alternative universe where Octagon doesn't lead the jump to AAA and Casas becomes one of his regular opponents. Casas does some slick defensive takedown work in their opening exchange and makes Octagon look like a proper threat as a martial artist, which is impressive. I have a soft spot for Octagon as a poor man's version of Black Man zipping about the place, but not even Blue Panther or Satanico bothered or managed to make Octagon look this good in close quarters. Casas does this tremendously intricate sell of a front face lock that most wrestlers wouldn't bother doing so early in a match (if at all) where he's fighting it every inch of the way and trying to get his chin over the top of Octagon's forearm to alleviate the pressure. He counters with a backdrop suplex, staggers for a bit, then backs away grasping at his teeth. At that's just the detail he put into the opening exchange.
He also does a tremendous job of selling Santo's matwork. Santo is super aggressive, but Casas is on another plane here. He makes Santo's signature mat spots look like Santo is out to get a piece of him and puts them over like nobody I've seen before. The Fuerza/Santo exchanges are fairly tame by comparison. Not bad per se just regular. Fuerza bumped harder and faster for Octagon than anybody else, and made his armdrags look like a million bucks, but this was a quiet night for him.
Really great standoff between Casas and Octagon to end the first caida. Casas looks to assert himself physically and gets his feathers ruffled. You can see his temper flare as he points at Octagon and it proves his undoing as he rushes him, which is exactly what you don't want to do against a worker like Octagon, who if nothing else had fantastic reflexes.
After spending most of the bout getting roughed up, Casas pops Octagon with a straight shot. The ref questions whether it was a closed fist and Casas threatens to pop him one too. Then he takes Octagon to school. There's something Ric Flair-ish about Casas at times. Different offense, but a similar approach. His barrage of kicks here is definitely a forerunner to the Dragon feud where he'd also add insult to injury by showing he could "shoot" too. Casas crouching low as they prepare to lock up and delivering a type of low angle enzuigiri kick is probably my favouite spot of the match. Octagon tears Casas to pieces with his retaliatory blows and Casas' selling is again sublime.
The rudos finally get to assert a bit of control through the end of the second caida into the third, but they're dealing with superheroes in the classic tednico sense here and it doesn't last long. I can't stop talking about Casas' selling, but it's just non-stop great. He manages to get Santo in a hold for a few seconds until Santo grabs Casas' foot and begins his counter. Few wrestlers would sell agony in another worker taking the leg, but that's exactly what Casas does. He's just on all the time. He even fights the counter instead of giving up position, which a lot of lucha workers do when they're transitioning. Then he limps to his corner when Fuerza breaks the hold. That level of commitment on a run-of-the-mill Juarez appearance is impressive.
The tercera caida doesn't have a whole lot of pizzazz to it despite some signature stuff from the tecnicos. The workers look a bit tired toward the end. Still, a pretty good match with an outstanding performance from Casas.
Haven't watched lucha for ages. Didn't know where to start so I started all over the place.
Blue Panther/Guerrero Negro vs. Huracán Sevilla/Gran Hamada (Monterrey 1991)
I love Huracan Sevilla. Everything I've read about his reign of terror at Pavillón Azteca as Darth Vader seems the stuff of lucha journeyman legend. Terrorising toys, puppets and cartoon characters is surreal enough, but having his partners turn on him, and losing his mask to a local star in Guatemala, only adds to the legend. I liked him as the highly unnecessary Huracán Ramírez II and loved his run without a hood. I don't know much about his later gimmicks, but if you're a lucha fan you learn to love journeymen in a country where there's been literally hundreds upon hundreds of professional wrestlers.
This started off with some welcome mat exchanges between Sevilla and Blue Panther, who I believe was in his prime in 1991. That was followed by some slick exchanges between Guerrero Negro and Gran Hamada, who execution wise was a notch above all but the best Mexican wrestlers. There wasn't a lot of Panther vs. Hamada exchanges in this, which was strange because the upshot of it all was that Hamada issued a challenge for Panther's mask while Sevilla demanded a wager with Negro, but the exchanges we did get between Panther and Hamada were promising and suggested other matches of theirs out there where they lit things up. This followed a generic tag structure of matwork in the first fall, rudo brawling/dominance in the second, and high flying in the third. It had its high points like Guerrero Negro single-handedly winning the second fall by almost putting Hamada on the shelf with a botched double leg takedown on Hamada then getting the same takedown right on Sevilla and following it up with a neat submission. There was also some cool teamwork on a Negro tope where Panther gave him an irish whip assist. Negro sold the tope like he'd wrecked his shoulder, which he may well have. I tend to come out of most Monterrey matches thinking "well, that could have been better," and lucha tags are underwhelming at the best of times, but this had its moments here and there. There was a time when Monterrey meant a lot more money in your pocket, but by this stage it was an extra date and an extra payday.
La Parka, Octagon, Latin Lover, Rey Mysterio Jr. vs. Blue Panther, Fuerza Guerrera, Pentagon, Psicosis (AAA 7/28/95)
Everybody knows AAA isn't my favourite type of lucha so I'm not going to get into that again, but I actually enjoyed this. The opening exchanges between Octagon and Pentagon were awful, but as soon as the ring was cleared of that pair the bout was snappy and entertaining. Originally, I was going to write it up for Your Fuerza Guerrera of the Hour, but it was closer to Your La Parka of the hour. His former partners were lining up to get their shots in, but nothing they did could stop him from dancing. Fuerza vs. Parka was awesome and worthy of a singles match. Psicosis was his usual dynamic self (and really, I don't think it ever got better for him than during this AAA run), and Mysterio also looked sharp. The only member of this crew that really delivered below expectations was Pentagon. I'm a big fan of Espanto Jr., but he had an off night here. That was all right as the match moved on without him and the third caida dive train was full of all sorts of goodness. Rey and Psicosis brought a bit more of their touring match act to Mexico than I'm used to seeing and it gelled nicely with the send 'em home happy nature of the third caida. There wasn't much of a through line as the Pentagon/Octagon stuff fell part, but two thumbs up for this.
Bestia Salvaje/La Fiera/Jerry Estrada vs. Huracan Sevilla/Blue Demon Jr./El Hijo del Solitario (1/17/92)
This was another chapter in the lead-in to the Huracan Sevilla vs. Bestia hair match; a match I may be higher on than any other person on the internet if not the planet. Bestia was an elite worker at this point and able to carry a trios with only a limited number of appearances. Who brings Blue Demon Jr and El Hijo del Solitario to a fight? I've said that before about Sevilla. He was left with the dregs when it came to partners while Bestia had his running mates with him each time. A guy like Matt D would love the snear Fiera has on his face the first time he squares off with Solitario. The brawling exchanges between Bestia and Sevilla were outstanding here and a focal point throughout. Bestia was clearly higher in the pecking order and made no bones about it, but Sevilla got to make a valiant comeback. Eventually, he was overwhelmed and bled about as heavily as was possible in 1992. Someone in the crowd offered Sevilla a tissue, but Bestia was too busy beating his ass. Blue Demon Jr. and Solitario actually managed a pair of cool looking topes (in real time that is; Solitaro looked to have overshot his badly on the replay), but the tecnico reply was snuffed out by a clever Bestia and the rudos took round one in the march to the apuestas.
Remo Banda/Aguila Solitaria vs. Leon Chino/Comando Ruso (5/4/90)
Remo Banda is the greatest looking motherfucker in lucha ever. He looks like the sixth member of the Blue Oyster Cult. I've enjoyed the Leon Chino I've seen before but he was the third best guy in this. Ruso was the consummate journeyman and carried Solitaria through some pretty looking arm drag exchanges. This bout was a lot of fun. In many ways, it was the type of bout that shows the essence of lucha. Banda had taken Russo's hair earlier that year, but you'd hardly notice it from the bout. Their job was to put on an undercard match that entertained the fans and they achieved that by working quintessential lucha exchanges. The hardest of hardcore fans would enjoy the staples they ran through here. A nice piece of undercard wrestling, which isn't something that gets a ton of love in lucha circles.
Atlantis/Shocker/Satanico vs. Tarzan Boy/Ultimo Guerrero/Rey Bucanero (2/1/02)
A while back, Matt D tried to tell me this was better than the classic 1997 minis trios. I can see why Matt liked it more according to his philosophies, but that's not an idea I'm going to entertain. Instead I'll focus on the fact that it was a pretty good bout. The version I watched was slightly sped up in the first and second falls, but even with the video quality issues I could tell this was a fairly classic brawling trios. There were more moves-per-fall than in a classic lead-in trios, but the gist was the same. I was impressed with Satanico during the bout. As big a Satanico fan as I am, I kind of give up on him around 1996-97 and haven't see much of his later stuff. In fact, elliot from the board has probably seen more Satanico than me at this point. I didn't think this was overly special in the context of all the brawling trios lead-in bouts I've seen before, but it was plenty entertaining and a sign that 00s Satanico might be worth exploring.
El Dandy vs. Bestia Salvaje, CMLL World Middleweight Championship, CMLL 9/4/92
Recently, I've only heard negative things about this bout, but it's really not that bad. It's not as good as it could have been; I'll throw that out there right now, but it's not terrible. Would it have been better as an apuesta match on the 1992 Anniversary show? Probably. Is it one of the the better title matches from the 90s? Nope. But is it one of the 90s' biggest disappointments? Not really.
They forwent a traditional build and worked at an almost workrate-y pace, but I appreciated the athleticism and competitiveness of the opening fall, and I thought Bestia's pinning maneuver was cool even if Rangel treated it as a submission. The second fall was a straight-up response from Dandy. It didn't have the overlap that you typically find in a lucha match where the winner of the first fall keeps dominating until the loser seizes an opportunity, but Dandy wasn't about to be trifled with, and I appreciated the step-up in intensity. Probably the most glaring aspect of the match was the lengthy leg-lock they worked in the tercera caida that Dandy blew off to hit a tope. You don't usually see a submission last that long in lucha, and Bestia even had the good sense to sell the effects on his own legs when he finally released it. Dandy's selling was excellent while he was in the hold, but he was moving freely the rest of the way, which is unusual for a seller of Dandy's calibre. What was also strange about the leg lock was that it came during a caida where they'd gone for a straight back and forward; and while they hadn't transitioned into it well, they were at least keeping count with the right number of beats. The leg-lock gobbled up a fair number of beats, and so when Satanico grabbed Dandy's leg on a superplex to cause Bestia to fall on top, it didn't feel like the climax. Satanico's seconding was pretty cool in this bout, but I don't think it should have been the focal point and would have felt doubly so if I'd gone back and watched the build.
Still, even with the bullshit finish I couldn't bring myself to hate the match. Perhaps if I'd watched it a few months ago and was expecting an all-time classic I would have ripped into it, but looking at the history of this belt after the bout, it seemed to get buried on Coliseo shows and wasn't given the respect that a great bout would have demanded. There were plenty of reasons to dislike the bout. The fact that it was the first show back at Arena Mexico after a nine week absence suggests it should have been a barn burner, but to me it was booked like one of those matches where the favourite comes unstuck on the eve of an important apuesta match casting doubt on whether he can regroup in time. That again made Bestia second fiddle to Satanico, but at least he got a title out of it. It's a three star match that should have been four, but it surprised me how much I didn't hate it. Perhaps this is the beginning of indifference.
Negro Casas vs. Mocho Cota, hair vs. hair, CMLL 9/23/94
This was the main event from the first weekend of Anniversary celebrations in 1994. A show which only drew 4,000 people; a shockingly poor number for a CMLL Anniversary Show. For some reason, the promotion decided to make it an una caida one fall, presumably because of the glut of apuesta matches they ran over the Anniversary Show weekends.
I may as well get my first bias out of the way and confess that, outside of tournament lucha, una caida lucha is something I'd usually turn my nose up at. And an una caida apuesta match is just wrong. It changes the entire psychology. The old Ventura talking point of being up a fall and having the leverage to drop one is thrown out the door, so you have guys refusing to give in to holds they'd ordinarily submit to, which stretches out the match and disrupts the rhythm. Luchadores are so used to working two out of three falls that an una caida match presents a unique challenge. The glass half full perspective would be that it changes the complexion of the match and that it's interesting to see how the workers adapt, but to me an apuesta should be a crowning moment and not an experiment.
Casas, playing a pure babyface this year, borrowed Dandy's old trick of being beat up while still wearing a jacket. He wore this stonewashed denim jacket with a picture of a tiger on the back, which was a strange fashion choice for Negro Casas but typified how everything about the bout was a little bit off. He bled immediately, and would have lost the primera caida straight away if this had been an ordinary apuesta bout; but instead there was a prolonged beat down which revolved around Casas injuring his leg on the apron and his ankle buckling when he did a back flip off the top turnbuckle. Cota naturally smelt blood in the water and began stomping on the leg before twisting and contorting it into all sorts of unnatural positions. Cota had been pretty good up until this point, dragging Casas about by the hair and giving him these short knees to the head. Casas was a bit patchy. His selling was okay from a distance, but up close his acting wasn't that flash and the cut didn't look so nasty. I didn't like his attempted comeback either. He was pandering to the crowd with a guillotine move to send that fuzz of Cota hair flying, but it wasn't angry enough. If a guy's beating the crap out of you, it's probably better to strike back instead of playing to the gallery. Call me picky, but it was like watching the shine in a comedy match. (I think that's the first time I've ever used the term "shine." Matt D is rubbing off on me.)
Next, Casas loosened the laces on his boot, possibly because his ankle was swelling up and he wanted the doctor to take a look at; it was hard to tell because they cut to commercial then replayed the injury. Suddenly, Casas' boot was off and he was hobbling about with one boot on and an extremely exposed sock. Cota went after it well; kicking at the exposed limb while Casas winced in the corner. He never failed to remind Casas or any of the folks watching that it was a hair match as he grabbed Casas by those greasy locks any time he transitioned from stomping on Negro's foot to putting him in a submission hold. There was a nice touch of Negro struggling to get his footing even when Cota pulled him up by the hair, and to Casas' credit he struggled well while in those holds. Casas was looking for a time out in the corner after taking another mangling in the ropes, and when he slipped out onto the floor, Cota flung his boot into the air. Thus began the mystery of what happened to Casas' shoe, which I became preoccupied with the first time I watched the bout. I liked Cota's strikes in the corner and the knees, and Casas' ineffective attempt at a lariat escape out of the corner, which Cota was able to shrug off and keep on his man. All of this was good stuff albeit utterly dominant from Cota and aching for a payoff.
Watching it a second time, I really couldn't fault anything that Cota did in the beat down phase. The issue was with how stretched out the fall was. If you're a fan of limbwork -- and they're out there those limbwork fans -- the consistency with which he targeted the leg and focused his attack on it, while still pulling Casas about by the hair, was impressive heel work. As I said, Casas' selling was good from a distance but looked too much like whining close up. There were times when it looked good and times when it didn't, but it was a difficult proposition for Casas as he was forced into prolonged selling in a situation where he should have submitted a million times over. After a while, it went from being heroic to plain stupid as the beat down wore on for far too long and became something quite unnatural in a lucha libre context. I can appreciate the quality of the work in the passage where Casas threw a punch and Cota shook it off and stomped the crap out of the leg again (and man are his boots cool -- check out the rad hand design), but even Jesus didn't suffer that much on the cross. There's just no way that Casas should have been able to withstand all that. Even if you use the rationale that luchadores usually submit because they have a fall in hand (meaning it doesn't make sense to sustain any further damage) and that in fact they're capable of enduring far more pain if the rules are different, which in this case they were, it was still too bloody long! And do you really want prolonged limbwork in your apuesta matches? Hell no! You want a babyface comeback that's just as violent as the rudo's attack. Apuesta matches are part survival, part revenge, and there simply wasn't enough vengeance in this bout.
Anybody who's ever watched a pro-wrestling match knows that Casas is going to win after taking such a beating. It wouldn't be just for him to lose or make much sense in the context of this worked sport. The key then is how satisfying it is. This is where they began to err as instead of Cota getting his comeuppance he continued to take too much of the bout. Even when Casas pulled his old rudo trick of a low blow, and smiled to himself in the ropes, Cota sold it ever so briefly and went after the leg again. There was no breathing space on that at all, and he went to the well again on the pin attempts. Cota was an excellent worker -- even the broken down version you see here. He was a weird looking dude, and that was off putting for people at the time, but the shit he does is cool, like that diving stomp from the second turnbuckle, which is the antithesis of top rope moves during the height of the mid-90s workrate phenomenon. Even so, he wore out his welcome here. The idea behind the finishing stretch appeared to be that Cota had been so utterly dominant that each of Casas' attempts at a counter were brushed aside. And Casas seemed to be playing with the idea that he was badly injured and had taken so much punishment in the bout that a flash pin or a submission out of nowhere was the only way that he was going to realistically win the bout. But Bret Hart playing possum he wasn't and the finish was shit. That's what I'm going to call it -- shit. I put some thought into that and I'm sticking with my choice -- shit. You win on back suplex (into a side slam or whatever it is you call that) when the guy was able to fight the waistlock? And he kicked out right after the three. I mean I hate to sound like Monsoon, but he didn't even hook the leg. How could Casas possibly have held Cota down for a three count on that move? It doesn't make any sense. Cota's brushing aside everything because he hasn't been worn down enough and a back suplex and lateral press is enough?
Una caida lucha -- not my thing. Sustained selling and limbwork in lucha -- not my thing. Apuesta matches that are light on blood and don't have great selling -- not my thing. Lopsided bouts that end with ridiculous pinfalls -- not my thing. Cota's limbwork was outstanding if you value that sort of thing, and his rudo performance was more than solid. Casas wasn't at his world beating best, but I don't expect people to be quite as finicky about his performance as I was. It wasn't a great bout, and suffered I thought from an unnatural psychology that greatly hindered what you'd usually expect from a lucha apuestas bout; but it was worth watching for no other reason that it's overlooked Cota, and Cota is a guy where we can basically digest everything we have on tape. The mystery of Casas' missing boot was resolved when an old guy tried to give it to him at the end of the bout. At first I thought he was a member of the public who picked it up and kept it safe until the end of the bout, but then I noticed that he took Casas' jacket from a guy in the front row who helped Negro remove it early in the bout. I guess he was the props guy. Come to think of it, I don't recall either guy having a second, which was odd.
My eternal thanks to alexoblivion for providing the bout. I'm sorry it wasn't my cup of tea. I imagine there are plenty of people who would enjoy it more than me particularly if they don't care so much about traditional conventions of lucha libre or they're not so picky about whether Negro Casas is making adequate facial expressions or not. Still, 4,000 for the show. What a disaster.
Satanico vs. Sangre Chicana, NWA World Light Heavyweight Championship, Arena Puebla 9/24/83
Ever wondered what a luchador does the night after a legendary hair match? Take a booking for a title match of course.
This was very much a "house show title match" in that the fans were left short changed by the finish. I imagine a lot of matches from the 80s that look awesome on paper were booked this way. The really great thing about the footage is that it was a handheld shot from ringside; so you got a lot of close-ups of not only the work but the wrestler's features, instead of the fourth generation lucha footage we're used to where you can barely make out what people look like. That was almost enough to put it in the Smithsonian given 1983 was probably the most significant year of Sangre Chicana's career and also bang smack in the middle of Satanico's prime (Satanico being the greatest worker to make tape in these past 32 years.)
Sangre looked a bit like Richard Gere in close-up. This wasn't an off the charts performance from him; but if anybody deserves a night off after a hair match, Chicana would be up there after the beating he took at the hands of MS-1. Chicana was never the greatest mat wrestler around, so the bout played out a bit like a mano a mano. There was a bit of mat work to start with, and some fantastic submission attempts deeper into the bout, but mostly it was built around some pretty heavy collisions involving a guy who didn't really come into the bout at 100%. He stayed down for a long time after Satanico hit a plancha, and there was a guy shining an industrial strength TV lamp on him as he grimaced on the outside. The match flirted with greatness, but never quite got there. It was like a 3 3/4 star match that you could convince yourself was a 4 star bout but ended just as it was getting good. The highlight for me was seeing the detail in Satanico's work in close-up. I love Satanico's grappling stance and could watch him tie up with motherfuckers all day long, and would probably love to visit the gym when he's training guys, but it's his selling that separates him from the rest. No matter the match situation, he's always "on." It doesn't matter whether he's in peril or completely in control, he makes every moment convey something. After the bout, which as I said ended prematurely, they squared off for a bit and Chicana caught Satanico with a right hand flush against the jaw. The handheld guy scrambled for an interview as Satanico was leaving and he was biting on a towel between his teeth and clutching at his jaw while rolling off a promo. Did he cop one for real or was it just selling? Who knows with a master like Satanico.
I thought the bout finished too soon after Chicana's tope and was ultimately too short. If it had gone on for a bit longer I would have no hesitation in calling it a 4 star lucha libre bout. It's still a really good bout and an even better historical document, but incomplete in terms of its three act structure. I was really into the submission attempts and jeopardy they were creating there and the match was getting really good before they cut it short, so a wee bit frustrating as you can probably tell from my tone, but you can't escape from what it is -- a 1983 handheld between Satanico and Sangre Chicana. How this remained hidden for so long in that one guy's match list is a bit of a mystery, but I guess people figured it was their '89 bout, which was foreshadowed quite nicely, incidentally, by the punches at the end. Satanico nailing Chicana when he's turned to greet the fans was vintage Lopez, and if you're not going to finish with a result at least they loosened a few teeth and left a sore taste in each other's mouths. Still wish these two had met in a hair match instead of Chicana being suspended for throwing some chairs. Seems like one of the great lost opportunities from this era of lucha libre wrestling, but I guess you can say that about a lot of rudo vs. rudo match-ups.
Anyway, enjoy this the way you'd enjoy old game footage from champion seasons past and you won't go wrong. Just try not to be let down by the too-soon finish and the blow off you'll never get to see. The sooner you do that, the sooner you'll no longer pine for the footage we don't have and the stuff that was never taped, because to be honest, a lot of it probably wasn't that great. Kinda like that girl you won't to date in high school but never could.
Atlantis/La Fiera/Vampiro Casanova vs. Negro Casas/Mano Negra/Black Magic, CMLL 9/17/93
Negro Casas/Dr. Wagner Jr./Sangre Chicana vs. La Fiera/King Haku/Pegasus Kid, CMLL 9/24/93
Some more of the lead in to the Casas vs. Fiera Anniversary Show match has become available. I think the Haku match was on YouTube previously but the account was deleted. Matt reviewed it a while back mostly for the novelty of seeing Haku in Mexico; which reminds me, since he's probably reading this, that he needs to check out Kamala's matches in Mexico, which are a lot more fun.
Because these aren't that great.
Fiera and Casas chase each other around a lot, and just about everything Casas does looks good, but the matches are far from compelling; certainly compared with the trios work in Casas/Dandy and Casas/Dragon.
The first match has three issues going on at the same time without anything in the way of a common thread. A good lead in trios with have a central issue accompanied by supporting players. Here everyone's doing their own thing; sometimes in the foreground, sometimes in the background, and the TV director switches between match-ups looking for the best shot. The match establishes Fiera and Casas brawling into the crowd and Fiera smashing Casas' head against the arena seats. It also features Fiera throwing Casas into the seats, which seemed seemed like an original spot in the hair match, but was pre-established. Casas blades, but -- and here's a shock -- his selling is bad. Now when it comes to the faces a guy makes when he's bladed, you're talking about a highly subjective thing, but for me they didn't work at all, and that surprises me since Casas is normally outstanding at this sort of thing. Others may disagree or think it's a trivial thing, but that's on top of Fiera not really giving a strong babyface performance. I don't want to go overboard, but if I've watched these trios prior to seeing the hair match, the Anniversary bout would have strongly exceeded my expectations.
The second match is hardly worth watching unless, like Matt, you're interested in King Haku. The only thing it really sets up is that Fiera can pin Casas with his german, but he flubs the german and it doesn't even look good. What really disappointed me was that they had this interesting wrinkle where Casas was tagging with Chicana, who was Fiera's former trios partner and the man he'd feuded with to turn tecnico; they could have conspired to make Fiera's life a living misery, but instead it was less violent than the trios the week before. Haku and Pegasus Kid were superfluous and distracted from what should have been Casas and Fiera at each other's throats.
The hair match is starting to get some acclaim as an all-time great lucha match and one of the best of the 90s, but the build doesn't help the feud much and I wouldn't put the total package as high as a lot of other 90s stuff.
Volador vs. Pirata Morgan, mano a mano, Monterrey 1991
Now here's a hidden gem for you: a disgustingly bloody Pirata Morgan bout.
I haven't seen a Morgan bout this good in ages. With Morgan, you can draw a line in the sand between the stuff that's good and everything that came after. Fortunately for us, this was during the period where he could rightly lay claim to best in the world, at least in the world he moved in, and still looked as dashing and cavalier as his namesake rather than the inhuman looking wreck that's a tribute to needles and ink and God knows what else.
Don't be put off by the fact that it's mano a mano, this was more rounded and complete than a lot of apuesta matches. It had all the elements you want from this sort of bout: pre-match interviews as the wrestlers wade through the crowd with kids, and grown men, trying to mug the camera and get on TV; a dark, dingy arena where there's trash everywhere, and blood... not only on the canvas but all over the filthy yellow floorboards. As a parent, I couldn't notice the kids running around everywhere getting that shit on their shoes. How bloody was the match? It was gross. Maybe not stomach turning; but I used to work in operating theatres when I was younger and dealt with blood on a daily basis and it was still gross. Mostly because it was so dirty and... unhygienic. Not so much the stock stuff like Morgan licking his hand or blowing blood like red mist, but the ref getting Volador's blood all over his white shirt, and the television announcer getting in the ring at the end with his mic cable and wiping his hand on Morgan's cut to show the viewer's at home Morgan's claret; as though he needed to with blood streaming out of Morgan's socket as though he'd been stabbed through the orbital bone.
Some people will find the heel ref a distraction as he kept hooking Volador's arm to stop a punch and distracted him while Morgan threw a cheap shot to the small of the back, and there was a bunch of shit with a ref bump and second ref that was straight out of the WWF, but none of it could take away from the fact that this was the type of seedy wrestling that people wax lyrically about when it comes to their love for Memphis brawls or lucha brawling. And it was full of the kind of moments that people like me love to cite when describing what makes lucha special, like Morgan repeatedly attacking Volador's second, Misterioso; the kid who tried to get in the ring after Volador's tope; and the father trying to get his toddler to wave to camera while Morgan bled heavily in the foreground. I also loved the way the fans would toss Volador off them whenever he was thrown in their laps, and how Morgan and Volador kept brawling as the show went off the air. Nothing's ever settled with a mano a mano bout, but the way the crowd gravitated towards them and quickly dispersed as the punches flew was yet another product of a bygone age.
This will be right up some people's alley, and I gave you fair warning if it's not, but crucially, it's another piece of prime Morgan that ought to remind you of how good he was in case, like me, you had forgotten or needed reminding.
Negro Casas/Emilio Charles Jr./Mano Negra vs. El Brazo/Ultimo Dragon/Oro, CMLL 3/19/93
Negro Casas could do no wrong at this point. It never really occurred to me that 1993 might be the best year of his career. It was such a dark time for the company that you tend to ignore everything that happened, but in terms of physical prime coinciding with in-ring ability, the period from when he entered the company in 1992 through to an as yet undefined point in 1993 represents the best I've seen from Casas.
One glance at the team sheets should reveal whom he was feuding with here. At first you're like, "I don't want to see Casas feuding with some overrated 90s junior who nobody likes anymore," and then you realise that Ultimo wasn't that bad in Mexico (certainly not by tecnico standards) and that they actually had pretty good chemistry together. It's not as cool a follow-up feud to Dandy vs. Casas as Dandy/Bestia, which was a match-up of two evenly matched guys who brought a level of physicality to their matches similar to the Regal/Benoit/Finlay triumvirate, but it works so much better than you'd expect it to on paper. I'm slowly accepting it as one of Casas' career best feuds, even if it seems a bit unluchalike that a non straight lucha match-up would rank so highly.
But enough apologising; Casas abused poor Ultimo in this match with that kicking game I've talked so much about. I find Casas' kicking game fascinating. I'm not sure it's all that good really, but the fact that he uses it so much against a striker like Ultimo is a great piece of character work/psychology. It's part gamesmanship, part arrogance. It's a straight taunt -- goading Ultimo by saying "I can match your strengths and pick apart your game plan" -- but at the same time he gets his fingers burnt (or perhaps more aptly his toes) by getting caught up in these offensive storms where Ultimo starts launching Street Fighter combos at him. Pissed off Ultimo is not really a known characteristic of Ultimo Dragon in so far as people have broken down the characteristics of El Ultimo Dragon, but Casas pushes those buttons. Casas was straddling the whole "rudo who's so popular he gets cheered like a tecnico" thing at Arena Mexico while still acting like a complete prick. I don't know who Casas was addressing when he boxed the ropes in this match (it may have been the tecnico ref), but it was divine. Absolutely divine. Has anyone ever seen a guy box the ropes like that before? And that's just some riff Casas was messing around. He took things too far in this bout by repeatedly stomping at Ultimo's head while Charles and Negra held him in a martyr-like pose, and the big tecnico ref finally called him out for excessive rudoism, but Casas didn't give a shit and retaliated with some of the coolest mask ripping I've seen. Do you know how hard it is to make mask ripping seem cool? Not only did he (mercifully) rip the thing with a single tug; he delivered a tailor made Matt D GIF in the process. You could feel the Ultimo comeback coming like the wind changing before a storm and the birds and animals acting all freaked, but that's pro-wrestling 101: setup and payoff. Ultimo was bleeding, which is pretty rare for him, and he gave Casas a hiding. I've seen a lot of the spots before in other Casas vs. Ultimo matches, but it's still cool whenever Ultimo stops being courteous and busts out the high end Japanese offence that Casas doesn't have a shit show of blocking. I love the short arm clothesline spot they do. That was the death blow right here.
The other guys were secondary to the Casas/Ultimo fury, though Emilio did bust out a balls-to-the-wall tope on El Brazo. He was surprisingly subdued otherwise. Negra wasn't really good during this run until he dropped the hood, and it wasn't the type of match where Oro was going to shine. But you can still watch this to track Casas and watch an all-time great at his absolute peak.
Negro Casas vs. La Fiera, hair vs. hair, CMLL 10/1/93
This looks like it was the show-stealer on the 1993 Anniversary Show. I'm not sure how wildly available it was before, but if Lynch sold it I doubt many people bought it.
It was a fascinating match for me on a number of levels. Casas was going through his whole "is he or isn't he a tecnico?" phase, and Fiera appeals to me as a scumbag rudo and not a worn out baby face, so I wasn't sure how the heel/face dynamic would play out. There was also a significant size difference for Casas to overcome, which seemed like a fairly big hurdle given it's difficult to imagine a guy the size of Casas dominating a taller, heavier man. If there's anything the Vintage series should teach us, however, it's to never doubt the genius of vintage Negro Casas.
The primera caida was full of subtle complexity. A lot of people watching lucha for the first time tend to find the opening falls basic (crude even) to the extent they wish lucha would do without them; and in fairness, the first fall here was built around the wrestlers taking turns throwing each other into a row of chairs, but for the seasoned viewer there was a tremendous amount going on. Casas got the jump on Fiera while he was posing and went high on him; the idea being that making Fiera groggy was Casas' best bet at throwing him off. Flinging Fiera into the front row chairs is fairly standard lucha brawling, as was the posting on the outside and most of the other shots Casas got in, but I loved the intensity. Casas broke the count and threatened to pop the ref in a spot that would normally come across as comedy but felt more like nervous tension; and he used a little of the kicking game that his feud with Ultimo was built around with the obvious foreshadowing of Fiera being far more renowned for kick-based offence than Casas.
Back in the ring, Casas bit at Fiera's forehead, which is not really synonymous with the Casas apuesta matches we have, and I loved the general focused attack on the nose, face and forehead area. The pin attempt while giving Fiera a "facial," as they say in Australian rugby league, was a great touch and a brilliant catalyst for Fiera's snap back breaker. And what a great back breaker. Ostensibly, it was to buy himself some time, but like the way he walked off the headbutt to the outside, you could tell the irritation was building. The transition for Fiera on to offence proper was naturally his kicking game, and we know Casas sells kicks like a champ and goes down like a bullet. Fiera gave Casas an awesome posting, carrying him over his shoulder and throwing him into the ring post like a javelin, then did the same thing to hurl Casas a few rows back. This was a spectacular bump for the time. You see this thing a lot on indy YouTube videos these days, but back then it was risque given the commission didn't like wrestlers falling on top of the fans. If you needed any more evidence that they were trying to make this special, you had Casas bleeding in an apuesta match, which racking my brains I couldn't remember seeing before (comment below if you have), and Fiera busting out a huge Japanese influenced German suplex instead of the standard pinning maneuver or submission you'd usually associate with these bouts.
That was a big time fall and Fiera had every right to slap the turnbuckle in delight. It lay down a steep marker for the match not only because they reversed the traditional lucha logic that whoever dominates the early portions of the opening fall goes on to take it, and therefore challenged themselves to keep ahead of the usual psychology, but simply because it was so good. But the second fall was just as entertaining. Fiera brutalised Casas to begin with (to the point where you could be forgiven for thinking that Fiera was the rudo and Casas the tecnico), and Casas sold like few others can in lucha as they're simply not wired the way Negro is. Obviously, he's a big picture guy, but where he excels is in the moment-to-moment details. He's always thinking, "okay, I fell out of the ring, what can I do here?" or "I got posted, how should I sell this?" He'd probably tell you it's instinctive, like he just fell one way or the other and tried to look as out of it as possible, but it's the commitment to doing it that impresses me. He sells everything, and naturally he garnered a lot of sympathy from bleeding so much and taking such a beating. Is it right for a rudo to behave that way? It's questionable. It's easy to make exceptions because it's Casas, who always had a flamboyance and flair for the dramatic no matter which side of the fence he stood on; and there was the size difference which I talked about before, which was clearly coming into play. Originally, I was going to play off this riff that as the best wrestler in the company on the biggest show of the year, Casas was belting out the numbers like Judy Garland in A Star is Born, but despite liking the connection between Casas and Garland, it was actually a whole lot tougher than that. Casas' comeback was defiant, and he threw everything he had at Fiera despite not having the energy reserves to do so. I really liked how the turning point came after he ate those jumping knees from Fiera. He collapsed backwards into the corner and had to wave off the ref with a finger wag, and you knew it was now or never if he was going to fight his way back into the match, but it took massive amounts of energy for him to mount that comeback and he didn't spring into life so much as he bit the bullet and went for it. It paid off but he was in no condition for a third caida. He used the ropes to pull himself over to his corner and sucked in the big ones while he collapsed in a heap; the ref continuing to check his cut. Moment-to-moment selling.
He came out the blocks in the tercera caida with a swank running dropkick to the corner that was a little too peppy for the state he was in; but when he missed a second time, Fiera kicked him in the head and it produced an iconic looking image of Casas with a crimson mask, slightly darkened by the grainy, deteriorated video footage, that was honestly, without a hint of hyperbole, one of the best images in any lucha match I've watched in the seven or so years I've been doing this blog. I always think of Casas as this cocky, flamboyant, gender-bending, tongue-in-cheek showman, but this was as violent an apuesta match as any from the early 90s and there was plenty of fight in those curly black locks. Fiera hit a snap suplex and dropped an elbow the equivalent of your favourite territory worker's elbow drop, and then they just unloaded: kicks from underneath; slapping exchanges with both guys kneeling; Fiera kicking Casas in the wrist while he was in the action of guarding his face; there was even a takedown that was predicated from a strike to the face rather than the usual shove to the chest. And I want to point out that only 15 minutes had elapsed on the video. This was not a long fight, though they clipped out the rest time between rounds. In probably the greatest moment in the match, Casas went for an STF attempt and fish hooked Fiera. As Fiera powered out of it, Casas kept him hooked, and you could see Fiera glaring at the ref in disbelief like, "are you gonna do something about this?" Being a lucha ref, he was busy with some ineffective count, and Casas practically had his finger in Fiera's eye socket before he was able to turn and punch his way out.
Casas went for the selling jugular in the stretch run -- selling the kicks he struck as though they were shin splitting; stumbling as he tried to go up top; treating every blow from Fiera as though it were 3 seconds to midnight. Fiera monstered Casas like he belonged in Japan, honestly. I don't say that as though Japanese offence is innately better than lucha work; rather to stress that it's unusual to see this level of offence in a lucha libre match. There were some potential knockout blows that could have left Wakabayashi shrieking in a shrill voice. It's not what I normally like in my lucha, but for show stealing content it's hard to top. You could maybe argue that the only false note in the match was when Casas tried to get the crowd fired up before he went up to the top for his frog splash attempt. It wasn't in keeping with how badly out of it he'd been only moments before but he wanted the adulation. He went a little overboard with it, and Fiera had to lie there a mighty long time off a missed frog splash attempt of his own, but the crowd loved it and it didn't kill the finish. There was a wonderful pan of Arena Mexico on their feet while Casas danced for joy. Casas and Fiera seemed pumped, as though they were thrilled with the match and how it was received. Fiera insisted that Casas be the first to shave his hair, but Casas was too gracious. In a way it broke kayfabe, but it was a huge match for Casas on his biggest night in CMLL to date. If there had been any doubt about who the best wrestler in Mexico was, Casas shot straight to the stars. It will take a while to digest, but this feels like a top 10 lucha match for the 90s, or at the very least, the greatest match that no-one ever talked about until dataintcash uploaded it.