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.
Pirata Morgan vs. Masakre, hair vs. hair, 2/28/92
When I first saw this match I was in awe of Pirata Morgan.
Like most people I saw it as a big time performance from the best wrestler in the world.
This time I'm not so sure.
As awesome as Pirata was, he could've worked the match with one arm tied behind his back. Watching Los Intocables, it's clear that Masakre lacked focus. When you're facing a guy who isn't a great brawler, you've gotta have him fight. You've gotta make him work harder than he usually would. Despite the blood it never seemed like Masakre was kicking his ass, and in a match like this there's a problem with Masakre looking piss weak. The guy didn't have any great charisma. He was never gonna beat Morgan so bad he didn't care if he killed the guy. He only knew to stagger and punch, walk around and hit someone. Still Morgan should've taken the fight to him. It felt like he took the soft option.
It didn't help that PIERROTH was a constant focus on the outside. The camera was on him way too much in this match. He was brilliant, but if he were a manager he'd be killing his guy in the ring.
La Fiera/Espectro Jr./Kahoz vs. El Brazo/Brazo de Oro/Brazo de Plata, CMLL 12/25/92
So, we've established that washed up Fiera (who really wasn't that old) was better than I ever gave him credit for, especially in scummy lowdown trios matches that reflected the shadiness of his character outside the ring, but here he got to show off his comedic talents. Comedy is an important (often misunderstood) element of lucha libre. No matter how great your brawling is, or how bloody your apuesta matches are, to be a top rudo worker you need to master the art of comic timing. All the world loves a clown, and that goes twice for a bumping, stooging heel. What Porky and Fiera did better than most was to escalate from comic playfulness to fierce rage, playing off that old adage "it's all fun and games until someone gets hurt."
Fiera was all up in Porky's grill during the intros, poking him in the chest. Porky responded with a slap to Fiera's face, and they launched into an exaggerated circling lock-up before Porky got the better of Fiera on a criss-cross exchange. Fiera was incredulous as he backed away, but when Porky beat him to the punch a second time, he decided he was sick and tired of playing games, and blew Porky off, returning to his corner. No sooner had Porky turned his back when Fiera charged him. Porky span round to face him, and Fiera quickly pretended a handshake was all he was interested in. Porky looked at the out stretched hand and slapped Fiera in the chops. It was a brilliant mix of comedy and underlying tensions. Porky had embarrassed Fiera, and Fiera wasn't the sort of guy you should embarrass.
Fiera went right at Porky the next chance he got with shots to the face, but fell victim to one of the Brazos' patented finishing sequences -- a swank two man move that left Fiera wondering whether he was coming or going. Porky was having a great time bumping Fiera off his stomach in the second caida until Fiera grew tried of playing the fool and struck Porky hard. Porky clutched at his head and his lower lip began quivering. Fighting back the tears, he absolutely barreled into Fiera and sent him flying off the apron. Porky was cocky the next time they sparred, but this time there was no fucking about. Espectro held Porky back while Fiera began dishing out the headbutts. Oro made the save with Porky laid out like a Christmas ham, but Fiera was merciless and continued working him over on the outside, throwing aside Rangel and kicking Porky in the gut. The fans called him an asshole, but he just stared them down and posed in their face. Porky struck back with a huge running splash to the corner, which Fiera sold like it had crushed the life out of him, and the usually affable Porky was livid. Twice he tried to use the martinete on Fiera but was talked out of it by his brothers. Oro took over and Fiera's selling of his tilt-a-whirl back breaker was sublime. Part Michael Jackson, part La Parka. Porky claimed the win for his side with a measured splash, and Fiera scampered away like a coward when Porky came after him. The Brazos held Porky back while Fiera goaded and taunted Plata, and they finally got stuck into each other with Porky trying to shoot on Fiera (!) with the one legged take down. Black Magic and an unmasked El Supremo hit the ring for the next match, which Fiera was pulling double duty for, and together they beat the Christmas stuffing out of the Brazos w/ Fiera body slamming the ham.
Nothing ever came out of this -- it was just a bit of fluff on a Christmas Day Arena Coliseo show -- but it would have made for a fun apuesta match if they'd gone all the way with it. The rest of the match was okay. Brazo de Oro zipped about in fine form and worked some decent exchanges with Kahoz, whom he was familiar with from the UWA. The trios that followed was rubbish, but Fiera/Porky was a great stocking filler.
Atlantis/Rayo de Jalisco Jr./El Dandy vs. Satanico/Emilio Charles Jr./Gigante Kamala, CMLL 3/8/91
Remember that epic Kamala/Black Magic feud from '91? Neither do I, but Smiley was busy cutting promos on him decked out in a top hat and cloak like a two bit Mandrake the Magician. He even had a wand and gloves and disappeared in a cloud of smoke. It's funny because you don't usually see guys doing their full gimmick on TV like they would for the magazines. I have no idea what Smiley was on about when he said "we are one of a kind and then again we're not." What, they're both black? I get the "Black" Magic thing and all, but what was with that? They're both gringos? Masters of magic? Pierroth, on the other hand, cut a bad ass promo in a bad ass jacket and signed it off with the best evil laugh in Mexico. My love for Pierroth knows no bounds. I know I've mocked CMLL vignettes in the past, but the short Kamala one was actually pretty decent with Big Jim Harris doing his best National Geographic impersonation.
None of this had much to do with the match in question, but it's best not to question the internal logic of CMLL television when it delivers a trios this good. This was so much fun. It was never going to win Match of the Year honours or anything like that, but as far as the need for fun goes, it was just about perfect. Each of the individual match-ups were great. I hadn't seen Satanico and Dandy go at it for a while, and I realise now why their feud spoiled so much of the lucha to come for folks watching the yearbooks. Their chemistry together was unreal; like capturing lightning in a bottle. That's difficult to replicate if you're looking for a product that delivers more of the same, especially in a promotion as poorly booked as CMLL. They weren't the only ones going off, however. Atlantis and Emilio did their usual routine, we got a throwback to Dandy vs. Charles, and there was even a bit of Emilio/Rayo, which I don't remember seeing before. All of the stuff with Kamala was great; roughly a thousand times better than the Andre match which made the Death Valley Driver set, and this was basically one fun exchange after another in a match of little significance other than to remind people that Kamala was back in town. Kamala had a feud with Mil Mascaras on the Sunday shows that built to a cage match, which was only the third time the gimmick had been used. The TV of course was a mess with Pierroth, and Black Magic, and all sorts of shit that didn't lead anywhere unless you count Gran Davies being splashed by Kamala as the blow off. CMLL was a success despite itself in the television era, and this match was in part entertaining because of how hot the promotion was.
Atlantis/Sangre Chicana/Octagon vs. Blue Panther/El Satanico/Jerry Estrada, CMLL 9/13/91
This is the kind of match where you look at the names and immediately start thinking: "Chicana vs. Satanico? They never settled anything in '89. Satanico vs .Atlantis? Classic rivalry. Panther vs. Atlantis just weeks removed from their classic. Chicana vs. Estrada? Don't think I've seen that before. Shit, even Chicana vs. Panther seems interesting." Then you watch the match and it's an angle to turn Chicana heel. Welcome to the kick in the balls that is lucha. Not only do they waste that sort of match-up on an angle, the two matches that could have come out of it (Chicana vs. Atlantis and Chicana vs. Satanico) never materalised
MS-1/Masakre/Jerry Estrada vs. Ringo Mendoza/Super Astro/Black Magic, CMLL 10/18/91
I have a lot of respect for the way Smiley was able to adapt to Mexico and become comfortable working the style, but it's fair to say it didn't happen over night. He looked tentative in this bout as though he wasn't sure what to do other than to continue stepping forward and cutting off his opponent's offence. Fortunately everyone else was on point, and this was a brisk trios that like Smiley never took a step back. I was really high on MS-1 when I first started buying tapes then I just sort of forgot about him; but he was really good in this, especially the way he worked with a much smaller man in Super Astro. They had some excellent cat and mouse style exchanges where Astro was zipping about trying to elude the grasp of those lengthy MS-1 arms. Masakre was also solid, though not at Fuentes level. Together they reminded me of why I loved the Masakre version of the Infernales, which even today is underrated in comparison to the Morgan runs. I was also really impressed with Estrada in this, who had a stellar (read "clean") night. He pulled out a great bit of comedy when he bumped to the outside and deliberately walked into a fan who was returning to his seat. He sold that beautifully just as he did Super Astro's wild hay maker, which not only cleaned his clock, but left him checking for loose teeth. Ringo was also solid with a variety of high tempo takedowns that run contrary to the opinion people sometimes him slowing these bouts down. The finish was nuts as Super Astro had some kind of death wish on a springboard plancha. He undershot it so bad that Estrada had to lunge forwards for Astro to even clip him. Mental. Just a word on Astro -- he was balls out here. I haven't always put him over as a worker, but his full throttle bumping and leaping about made this a thousand times more memorable than it would have been otherwise. Coupled with the Chino title match, he's doing well in the "what have you done for me lately? stakes, that's for sure.
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.
El Hijo del Santo/Espanto Jr. vs. Blue Panther/Black Man, UWA 3/25/90
This was discovered by Phil Schneider in the middle of a six hour YouTube video. Don't ask me how he does it; he's like a bloodhound when it comes to these things. The match was billed as the first time rivals Santo and Espanto had tagged together, and could have easily been parejas increibles given Panther had taken Black Man's mask in '86. Santo was swarmed by kids to start with and I swear he wasn't that much taller than the older kids. We forget how short our heroes are. I loved the smaller kid rushing into the ring after everyone had left. That was like something out of Little Rascals. All four of these guys were great workers, so the execution here was top notch; but as far as dream matches go, it's hard to imagine a bigger dud. The falls were ridiculously short, and a missed dropkick from Santo was the excuse Espanto had been looking for to turn on his partner and deliver a beat down. It was hard to see how the beat down advanced any sort of storyline as the two had fought in so many apuesta matches already, and if they were going to run an angle you'd think they'd maybe tease it a little and build to it. Just another example of how half-assed lucha can be a lot of the time.
Sangre Chicana/La Fiera/Bestia Salvaje vs. Apolo Dantes/Love Machine/Huracan Sevilla, CMLL 2/7/92
Who takes Apolo Dantes and Love Machine into battle against a rudo lineup like that? I was disappointed with how this turned out for Sevilla, but he was on a hiding to nothing with those sort of partners. The match was one way traffic with the tecnicos not even afforded a comeback. As one sided as it was, there were few rudos better equipped at delivering a beat down than Bestia Salvaje, and Sevilla was not only great at selling but a great target. It's just a pity the match never got out of third gear, particularly with the hair match only a week away. The match with El Hijo del Solitario and Blue Demon Jr had been so hot that you'd think they would have built on it with an even wilder brawl, but this is lucha we're talking about. Bestia vs. Sevilla was a great little feud, but this was the second match in a row that Bestia beat him in straight falls. I only just realised that Sevilla was Darth Vader from Pavilion Azteca fame. He was excellent as Huracan Ramirez II, and a better worker overall than the similarly booked Ciclon Ramirez. Even if he was a stepping stone for Bestia, he needn't have been roadkill. Think of how many times he must have combed his hair to get it to puff out that much!! That's commitment to a cabellera feud. Not giving him a win was a bit rough. While I'm at it, how badly had Chicana fallen from grace? How do you go from being the hottest guy in Mexico to only headlining outside of the Distrito Federal? Did something happen to get him on Paco's shit list? Were his suspensions legit? Was it drugs? It's strange to me that Aguayo was treated like the Godfather of Lucha Libre by CMLL while Chicana rode shot gun with other rudos.
El Satanico/Bestia Salvaje/El Supremo vs. El Dandy/Apolo Dantes/Love Machine, CMLL 8/28/92
Were Dandy and Bestia aware that there were other wrestlers in this match? I'm exaggerating of course, but only slightly. I don't think I've seen a match-up dominate a trios to the extent that Dandy and Bestia did. Usually, wrestlers will "tag in" and do their thing until another pair take over, but Dandy and Bestia spilled over to the outside where they kept brawling even though it was another pair's turn to take over. Twice they left the workers standing about wondering what their cue was supposed to be. The second time, Satanico followed suit and began brawling, but if ever there was a trios that was mano a mano this was it. I don't think either of them worked a single hold with another wrestler. They may have been beaten up by them, but they didn't actively engage anyone else. Not that I'm complaining. Bestia was unreal in 1992. If Casas and Dandy are the consensus one and two workers in CMLL (in some order) then Bestia has a strong case for being number three. There was one exchange in this after Dandy had become bleeding that was off the charts in terms of lucha brawling and later on Bestia busted out a bone crushing suplex. Dandy *kind of* popped up on it, which other workers wouldn't get a pass on, but they were going full tilt for the win and it was easy to forgive when Dandy had all that blood streaming down his face. The real question was what the fuck were they doing booking this a few weeks out from the Anniversary Show? It's no wonder Dandy vs. Satanico didn't go over well when all the focus was on Dandy wanting Bestia's hair. I'm wondering if it was a last minute decision to switch the opponent to Lopez as there really didn't seem to be much build to Dandy/Satanico. Dandy flat out ignored Satanico in this bout. Bestia continued to run rough shot over everyone with straight fall wins, and Dandy was pissed at the end, clutching at his hair and demanding an opportunity to put up a wager. I wonder if they got cold feet over whether Bestia could draw? One thing's for sure, it would have been a better match. Bestia was quietly moved to Love Machine after the Anniversary Show and ended up cooling off for real, which sucks, but for the first eight months of the year he was in beast mode. Just unstoppable one-on-one in trios. They should have ran with Bestia.
Atlantis/El Dandy/Konnan vs. El Brazo/Brazo de Oro/Brazo de Plata, CMLL 12/20/91
I hadn't seen a Brazos match in donkey's years. I'm still not sure people get the Brazos. There's hardly any of their 80s footage available, and they show up really late on the DVDVR set, so it's no surprise that people don't realise what a big act they were in the 80s and 90s; but when they finally show up in CMLL the attitude seems to be that they detract from how great 1990 had been when in fact I can't think of anything more lucha than the Brazo brothers. This isn't a match that argues their case as it's mainly just a half-assed tecnico vs. tecnico contest, but it does feature a lot of Dandy vs. Brazo de Oro exchanges, which should get your antennas twitching if you're a hardcore fan. The early parts of this were worked like an exhibition-y show of respect. The exchanges were fun but worked at half speed compared to truly great trios wrestling. Later on they picked up the pace a bit, but it was late December, the end of the season and four days to the holidays. They didn't even take a swing at knocking it out of the park. Amusingly, Konnan had some solid exchanges in this. Scrolling through the match lists, you'd take one look at those names and think Konnan was the weak link holding them back from a Match of the Year Candidate, but you never can tell with lucha. Let it be known that Super Porky was one of the better Konnan match-ups, Jack.
Bestia Salvaje/Mano Negra/Titan vs. Apolo Dantes/Oro/Lassertron, CMLL 2/5/93
Watch this for Bestia, stay for Titan... I really only checked this out because I wanted to see how Bestia fared being transitioned back into a secondary role after his killer run in '92, but he got stuck working with Lassertron. The main feuds here were Mano Negra and Oro and Titan and Apolo Dantes. Someone at Televisa was obsessed with filming vignettes of luchadores training. This time it was Oro training under blue lights. Not sure what the blue light was for? Ambiance? The menacing presence of Mano Negra? The match proper was a rudo beat down. I'm fairly convinced that Mano Negra wasn't as good masked as he was during his Dave Finlay run. He did a tremendous job wrenching the shit out of Oro's arm, but it would have been better with that mullet and nefarious grin. There was an element of Cota or Arandu to unmasked Negra. They were nutters; the three of them. You get some character stuff with masked Negra, but it's not as compelling. I'll tell you what was compelling, though -- motherfuckin' Titan. He beat the shit out of Dantes in this match and it was riveting. Looking him up afterwards, I should have known he was a Diablo Velazco trained journeyman. Please tell me we have the Titan/Dantes singles match on tape. There's nothing quite like a lucha vet getting the three week rub off a singles program. More often than not, they take their money earning chance and run with it, and you get these fun feuds that nobody ever told you about. I've seen Fiera beat on Dante of late, as well as Satanico, and neither of them did it with the verve of the former Comando Ruso. I hope there's a blue light Titan training video, Televisa!
Fuerza Guerrera vs. Misterioso, NWA World Welterweight Championship, CMLL 12/8/91
So let's recap: Misterioso was a modern style worker (great build, pretty athletic, not much in the way of wrestling ability) who was given a mask and a back story and pushed to the moon by Antonio Pena. As with other Pena creations, charismatic rudo Fuerza Guerrera was the go-to guy for a star making tilt. Just about everything in the lead up to the title match was good except for the Fuerza vs. Misterioso exchanges, which didn't instill a lot of confidence in their ability to work a traditional title match. It's doubtful that Pena cared as tradition was the domain of Juan Herrera. When it came to title matches, Pena creations "worked round the gimmick," a turn of phrase coined by our very own Gregor. Fuerza was more than obliging. Could he carry Misterioso through a mat exchange? Could he work the mat himself? It didn't really matter so long as it was entertaining. The only tradition Pena cared about was whatever he could use to make Misterioso more marketable, and in that sense he was clever enough to realise that title match victories still counted for something and that the NWA titles still carried some weight.
Misterioso was so ahead of his time even his valet looked like she had implants. Pena was a creative guy whose unused ideas are probably better than half the gimmicks out there today, but the question mark vest plate? Was that the cherry on top? The finishing touch! You've got the brawn, I've got the brains. Let's make lots of...
God bless Rangel for going through his pre-fight instructions. This definitely had a big fight feel even if you knew it was going to be smoke and mirrors. I had my eyes glued on Fuerza during the preamble. Watching him shake out the cobwebs and limber up was awesome, and he even went for a legitimate handshake. As expected they didn't stick to the mat for long. There's two ways of looking at that: one is that it's obviously pretty shitty in a lucha title match, the other is that if you can't really mat wrestle then it's probably better to go the story route. That's what they chose to do with a fired up Misterioso looking to expel his nervous energy and the champ looking to lay down a marker. Unfortunately, there were execution issues and Misterioso's nerves looked very real, but they got the first fall under their belts, the finish looked good on replay, and Misterioso continued his rich vein of form from the trios matches, proving to the crowd (at any rate) that he belonged there and that his falls over Fuerza had been no fluke. It was good booking even if the work itself was less than stellar.
In between falls there was a cartoonist showing sketches he'd drawn, which reminded me of the 1992 Cricket World Cup. That won't mean much to most of you, but it was devastating for me at thye time as New Zealand lost in the semis. Fuerza was depicted as a mosquito, which had something to do with his nickname, El Mosco de la Merced. I've gotta say it was a pretty crappy sketch. Graham Crackers does a lot better work.
Back in the ring, Fuerza gave the crowd a laugh when his second (one of the Espectros) got a little too close with the towel. The second fall was a total beat down. First Misterioso tried beating Fuerza down, then Fuerza beat Misterioso down. Fuerza fouled Misterioso and gave him a little shimmy kick while Rangel wasn't watching. Fouls in title matches; you all know how I feel about that. Fuerza claimed Misterioso did one in the first fall, which he didn't, then feigned innocence on his own indiscretion. It was the same old bull that you get with smoke and mirrors. On nice touch was that Misterioso crawled to the ropes instead of submitting in the scorpion deathlock, which at least signaled he wasn't going to lie down on a foul.
Up until now the match had been flimsy as a two bob watch, but the third fall was where Fuerza took over. He guided Misterioso through a steady stream of missed moves, key transitions and dramatic nearfalls. Some of the spots were more benefiting of an apuesta match than a title bout, but it was beautifully paced and washed away any of the bad taste Fuerza had left with his knee to the nether regions. There wasn't really any Fuerza Moment of the Match aside from maybe the missed senton off the crane pose, but that's a spot he liked to do in most of his singles bouts and not a spontaneous moment of genius. Instead it was his selling that was sublime. The way he'd rest on the ropes after Misterioso came close on a pinfall or submission, panting and trying to gather his thoughts. The basic takedowns and transitions he used to fend Misterioso off while still selling the effects of his tope, and the huge gamble he took on a senton to the outside. This is the stuff Fuerza should be known for -- the sell on Misterioso's tope where he had to be lifted back to the ring by his second, and the kick he gave Misterioso after his own dive to the outside even though he was selling some damage to his hand. We didn't see a lot of this in the trios matches, but deep in the title bout were details not seen by even Casas or Emilio Charles Jr during this era. You have to watch it more than once, for example, to pick up on Fuerza biting Misterioso's finger to break up the camel clutch.
Fuerza thought he'd won it on a single leg Boston, but Rangel waved it off and no amount of complaining to the commissioner (presumably) was going to overrule the referee's decision. Then, in what was a major upset at the time, he got screwed when his leg touched the rope during a backslide reversal and the ref counted three. Not the most emphatic way to crown a new champion, but a heck of a fall once Fuerza went into overdrive. Proof positive that so long as you finish stronger than you started you're all right. It felt like a colossal waste of Fuerza's talents to begin with and ended up as the best showcase possible, and while it may have snubbed tradition it also felt like a win for Pena and another of his creations. It was smoke and mirrors in terms of Misterioso truly being a good enough welterweight to carry the belt and to that effect the pinfall could have been more decisive, but perhaps it was booked that way to placate Guerrera. In any event, a match that will teach me to be less sarcastic, and a great Fuerza performance (eventually.)
La Fiera vs. El Dandy, hair vs, hair, CMLL 11/27/92
Here we go with the revisit then.
Fiera attacked Dandy on his way to the ring, which comes as no surprise given he'd been doing it to him for weeks. Perhaps Dandy should have been better prepared for it, but I guess they were trying to sell that there was nothing he could do about it. The beginning wasn't as frenzied or as bloodthirsty as it could have been, and in truth some of the trios openings were better, but I liked the image of the big ring announcer scuttling away as he quickly finished his ring intros. Fiera's offence was excellent and he delivered a measured and precise beat down. It was excellent strategy actually. He took his time weakening Dandy, got some nice heat by standing on top of him, and made sure the audience got a good look at him writhing about in pain. I liked the way he wrapped him up for the pinfall as well. Very neat. But that's the thing: it was all a bit too neat and tidy for an apuesta match. Aside from a few of the high shots and the posing on Dandy's back, it could have been a title bout with a bit of an edge to it. Or perhaps a better way of looking at it is that it would have been okay for a mano a mano bout, but an apuesta match you expect to be wilder.
The second fall was more like a classic apuesta match with Dandy bleeding and Fiera gnawing on the cut. It wasn't easy to see the blood on the Lynch copy, but the tone of the fall was classic wager stuff. Fiera did an excellent job of cutting off Dandy's comeback attempt and peppering him with chops that slipped up around the jaw. Probably my favourite spot of the bout was when Fiera threw him to the outside then delivered that vicious kick to the head. I loved the way he crouched in the ring letting Rangel administer the count while Dandy shuffled his way to the ring on his butt. In a typical wager match, Dandy would have caught an opening and fought his way back into the bout, but here he was felled by a big time DDT, and the next one would have been lights out so he had to counter it. A Northern Lights suplex isn't exactly your mama and papa's lucha, but it would have worked better if Rangel hadn't been slow to make the count. The slow counts in lucha never really bother me, but that needed a quick count. I'm not sure it was entirely Rangel's fault as he didn't seem out of position prior to the counter. He was just incredibly slow to react and stopped to check the shoulders. Fiera made it worse by wriggling about too much, which made it seem like he hadn't sustained enough damage to stay down. In any event it was in the books. Fiera may have had a slight gripe about his shoulder being up, but he chose to ignore it and pounce on Dandy instead.
There was a clip at the beginning of the third fall. I'm not sure how much they cut out, but aside from a big lariat that sent they both careening over the top rope, Fiera maintained the upper hand. Watching it a second time in the stop/start manner of writing a review, you've got to appreciate how good Fiera's offence looks. Every thing he does is pinpoint. The shitty little foul in the corner and the finger wag to Rangel are other details I didn't pick up on the first time round. While it didn't have the feel of a classic apuesta match, there were a lot of great touches in this. Fiera delivered a performance that was almost on par with Satanico or Pirata Morgan. There was just something missing from the bout structurally. Dandy's big gambit was a tope suicida that lived up to its name. The match started to shape into a natural 50/50 tercera caida after that with both men struggling and missing dives. Fiera had taken a few knocks and was still trying to shake off the effects of the tope when he countered a Dandy sunset flip attempt. In a beautiful piece of selling, he checked the hand he'd used to counter and leaned into the ropes for a breather. A subtle moment in the context of a hair match, but it showed that Fiera was fading. Don't forget, he'd exerted plenty of energy pummeling Dandy, so while he'd had the momentum for most of the bout, he was feeling the pinch in the third caida. That was a tired and desperate foul on the inverted atomic drop. Was the finish the right call? That's the big question. I think Fiera was definitely fading and Dandy had just countered his power bomb attempt, so it made sense for him to try to steal the victory. Dandy on the other hand was gathering momentum. There's a certain leeway in apuesta matches for tecnicos to fight fire with fire and give rudos a dose of their own medicine, but that type of win isn't very satisfying and not exactly what you'd call payback. Fiera's selling was great throughout the post match as he complained to the ref about Dandy holding the ropes and wanted to continue the fight with a half shaven head, but to me Dandy hardly looked like a gladiator.
Fiera looked great in this match; Dandy not so much. When I first sat down to write this, I considered what my angle would be. Was it a perfectly acceptable three star apuesta match or anticlimactic? A disappointment or something which couldn't be helped? While typing this out, the match struck me as slightly more nuanced than I'd imagined, but the overall flow wasn't that smooth and structurally things seemed out of place. It was an excellent performance from Fiera even if he didn't tear into Dandy, but the finish was all wrong. Dandy should have won cleanly and decisively. The order of the first and second falls could have been swapped around with the blood coming straight away followed by the clear and precise beat down and the third fall built to a bigger Dandy comeback. That would have made for at least a four star bout. Still, it was fun and there was a lot to enjoy about Fiera's performance. Dandy's selling was good without being outstanding and a clearer picture would have made the colour more dramatic. The build up promised more, but I was happy with the revisit. Moral of the story rudos? Don't wear yourself out pummeling an opponent's noggin.
Atlantis/El Dandy/Pierroth Jr. vs. Sangre Chicana/La Fiera/Gran Markus Jr., CMLL 11/20/92
Pierroth's a cowboy! There was another weird CMLL vignette to begin this where Pierroth, dressed in jeans, a leather jacket and cowboy hat, saddled up his seed and rode through some mountain country. He looked a bit like the Marlboro Man, but I think his horse riding skills were meant to seem more impressive than they did. The vignette ended with Pierroth laying his horse down on its side and standing on top of it to pose. Not sure the horse enjoyed that.
But enough about that. I'm sure the only "horse" Fiera cared about was either horse-powered or horse tranquilizer. This was the go home show before the hair match and Fiera had carnage on his mind. The beginnings to these matches are straight out of Monterrey. There was another one uploaded where Fiera choked the shit out of Dandy with his chain, but after a sleazy start the match got progressively worse and I decided not to review it. This time Fiera held nothing back and Dandy bled like a martyr. Fiera channeled his inner Pirata Morgan by biting Dandy's forehead and feeding on the cut. Unfortunately, the backdrop to this was a bit too workmanlike with Chicana and Gran Markus Jr. not really being as frenzied as I would have liked, but the image of Fiera holding Dandy by that plentiful hair and posing while Dandy bled and bled is the kind of lucha sleaze you don't see much of anymore.
The second caida began with Pierroth being stalked on the outside by both Chicana and Fiera, and I kind of wondered how the horse vignette was meant to tie into all this. The camera cut without warning to Gran Markus Jr working Atlantis over, and he did this really cool spot where he picked Atlantis up by the tights and the back of his mask and threw him into the ground just like throwing out the garbage. That's the way all technicos should be dealt with. Markus was really warming to his task with a vicious looking uppercut to the jaw, a posting for Atlantis, and a knee to the back for good measure. Meanwhile, Dandy had his hands cupped together and was collecting the blood. That's gross, but you've got to love Chicana pointing and laughing at Dandy as he stumbled past all the while with a big boot across Pierroth's throat. The technicos were really taking a beating at this point. Atlantis was desperately trying to pull Dandy away, but Fiera chopped him out of the way and sent Dandy hurling into some chairs. And Chicana laid the boot into Pierroth. Now there's a match-up I would've liked to have seen, Pierroth vs. Chicana. Ah lucha, where the best match-ups never happen.
The table was set for a really good technico comeback here with Dandy stumbling about from blood loss and Pierroth and Atlantis trying to shoo the doctor away. Even with the beloved grainy footage you could see Dandy was a crimson smudge. Fiera pulled Dandy into the ring by the hair while he was still trying to walk it off, and while the rudos held Dandy, he spat in Fiera's eye. Chicana punched him in the side and Markus pulled his head back by the hair while Fiera wiped the blood and spit from his face. Dandy buckled down onto both knees and the Stations of the Cross type allusions were pretty obvious here. Or maybe I've been listening to too much metal lately. Atlantis and Pierroth tried to orchestrate the comeback with Atlantis hitting the most gorgeous looking dropkick, but Fiera swiped away a second attempt and nailed Atlantis with his spinning high kick and dropped to the outside where he headbutted Dandy. That summed the match up really as Fiera was just relentless in trying to beat the shit out of his adversary. Finally the ring cleared of the other four, and Dandy got his one-on-one showdown with Fiera. He'd lost too much blood though, and Fiera easily cut off his attacks. He then gave Dandy a kick in the balls, feigned that Dandy had done the same to him and got the technico side disqualified.
As far as low blow finishes go, Fiera not giving a fuck was pretty cool. He'd proven his point by beating the shit out of Dandy and cheating to win just rubbed more salt into the wound. The stage was set for the hair match and Dandy had plenty of it to lose. Stayed tuned for next time when we bring you the exciting conclusion to Dandy v Fiera...
Negro Casas vs. Ultimo Dragon, UWA World Middleweight Championship, CMLL 3/26/93
This managed to both thrill and confuse me.
The first fall was worked using the international currency for juniors matwork. Usually it would bother me that the matwork wasn't 'lucha enough,' but in this case it was being presented as an international title fight so it made sense for the work to be more universal. Ultimo wasn't that great at working holds from the top, but Casas provided enough movement to keep it interesting. I thought they missed a trick by not doing more stand-up as the match began with Ultimo breaking through Casas' defences and giving him two open handed strikes. It was a psychological game Ultimo was playing after Casas had pushed around his second, but if Ultimo had a clear advantage anywhere it was with his stand-up game, and I would have liked to have seen him challenge Casas there. On the mat, they could have done with a bit more intensity after the aggression that Ultimo started with, but it wasn't a bad fall. When they worked the ropes it was pretty as Ultimo was the most acrobatic worker in Mexico at the time. Casas copped a shiner either around the eye or on his cheekbone (it was hard to make out from the footage), and Ultimo finished him off with a lariat to the face that would be a head high tackle in rugby.
The second fall I thought as begging for a quick response from Casas no matter how much I complained about that trope with the Villano matches. I thought the crowd were ripe for it, and the circumstances of the first fall coupled with the foul Casas decided to give the Dragon would have worked better as a narrative if Casas had taken a quick fall. Instead they worked quite a long second fall where Casas tried to methodically win the fall and Ultimo kept frustrating Negro by reaching the ropes. That frustration and a sense of fatigue creeping in are the only explanations I can think of for why Casas fouled Ultimo in the break between rounds. A lot of people in the Yearbook thread loved that moment and I can understand it being the type of thing people get excited for (lucha libre extraordinaria and all that), but to me it made no sense. If Casas had lost the second fall I could understand it as an act of cowardice/desperation. If he'd won the second fall in dominant fashion, I could understand it as going in for the kill or even rubbing Ultimo's face in it. I could even buy it as retaliation for the shiner. But the way they did it felt like cheap heat. The match already had a lot of heat and the crowd seemed to be behind Ultimo even though he wasn't a native. The rules of a title match are such that you just don't do that. You don't break those traditions. Casas would laugh in the face of all that as he was the type of rudo who loved to do outrageous things, but he wanted to show how worried he was about the fight he should have taken the first and dropped the second with all the momentum in the Dragon's corner heading into the third.
My comments seemed justified by how dull Casas' continued submissions efforts seemed in opening the third caida. It wasn't until they dropped the holds completely and went to a series of Cassa bumps to the outside that things picked up again. Ultimo hit a tope between the ropes that could have been used in every highlights package for weeks and months to come, and later hit a beautiful pin point dropkick to knock Casas off the apron and set-up his quebrada. If you want to make a fair argument for Ultimo, he was a fantastic athlete. He wasn't a detail guy and didn't add all sorts of great little psychological touches, but man could he run, jump and move. In some people's eyes that may make him a slightly superior version of Octagon or Mascara Sagrada, but lucha needs these types to have the proper rudo vs. technico morality plays it thrives on. Let the rudos be the great performers. Casas was running on empty late in the third caida. His cheek was swelling up and he sold every move as though it was using up the last of his energy. He did this interesting spot where he climbed to the top and either slipped or collapsed and fell to the mat. Moments before he'd put his knees up on an Ultimo dive, and I guess the majority of workers would have fed their opponent the same transition or gotten them to pop up, but not Casas. It was an interesting spot. I'm not sure it really worked, but it was an insight into the thinking process and what he was trying to achieve by selling so much fatigue. Ultimo got the best nearfall of the match off a power bomb, but the age old complaint of slow ref counts was never truer than on the kick out here. Casas ended up countering with a mirroring power bomb of his own, which I didn't really love, the finish was excellent. Ultimo overwhelmed Casas with kicks, which you'll note I said he should have done from the start, and Casas couldn't block Ultimo's tiger suplex.
The crowd popped big for Ultimo's title victory and he received a continuous ovation. There was a cool moment where he stood on the ropes and posed for his new adoring public. Casas was bitterly disappointed afterwards, but begrudgingly shook hands with the victor. If it isn't obvious by now, I didn't love this bout, but I did think it was a bout that a lot of new fans to lucha might appreciate as there was an effort to work an epic sort of title switch where the champion tried to chart his downfall through a growing sense of frustration and fatigue, and even a sense that he couldn't really live with his opponent's martial arts skills. Casas sold well and there was that epic feel to the match that you don't always get from lucha (and was certainly missing from Ultimo's title defence against Emilio.) It may not seem quite as epic to fans of other styles where large scale bouts are par for the course, but Casas was certainly trying here. The 'I don't know how to put this guy away' narrative didn't quite work for me, but I can see it working for others as it's really just a personal thing in regards to whether it gels with you. The biggest plus I can say is that it was interesting, which is good because there's nothing worse than being boring. Casas wasn't as individually brilliant as I expect from him, and I actually wondered at times if he wasn't in the best of conditions. Maybe that was just brilliant selling and I have no idea how good his performance really was, but he was busy taking a blow at times when there weren't a lot of eyes on him. He did have amazingly cool wrestling shoes. They looked like track shoes rather than wrestling boots. He should have sold them and made a mil.
The match is a must-watch since it's one of the biggest title matches from Casas' 90s runs, so you should watch it and see how much your feelings differ from mine. It received unanimously positive feedback on the Yearbook thread from people who aren't quite as finicky about what they want from their lucha, or don't have quite as many quirks as yours truly, so queue it up and see how you feel.
Ultimo Dragon vs. Emilio Charles Jr, UWA World Middleweight Championship, CMLL 4/27/93
People shit on Ultimo a lot these days, but you won't find me badmouthing him. This won't make you forget 90s classics like Dandy vs. Azteca or Blue Panther vs. Atlantis, but it was on the same level as Emilio's matches with Azteca and a step down from his work with Atlantis, which is pretty good for a non-luchador. Had it been a classic it would have been a point in both men's favour, but as much as I love him, Emilio didn't exactly roll out the classics. Besides, great matches were thin on the ground in 1993 CMLL so you take what you can get.
What we got here was the definition of a three star title match. Everything they did was good, but none of it was great. Emilio didn't take enough of the match, particularly on the mat, so it felt a bit lightweight at times. He wasn't able to put his imprint on the match through any of his characteristic work, and couldn't hang with Ultimo's Japanese offence, which also made it a bit one-sided. But the real problem was the length. At 15 minutes or less, it didn't have time to develop. On the positive side, Ultimo was again phenomenal between the ropes, and the transitions were smarter than you generally get in lucha matches. I really liked the knee lift Emilio used to lay Ultimo low in the opening fall, and Ultimo was very good offensively even if it wasn't exactly lucha friendly offence or laid out for full dramatic effect.
Jerry Estrada vs. Stuka, hair vs. hair, AAA 10/31/94
These guys did a good job of straddling the line between an up tempo AAA style match and a traditional cabelleras match. There was just enough blood, just enough brawling and just enough highspots to keep everyone happy. An example of this would be Jerry Estrada's slingshot somersault senton onto a blood stained Stuka. Estrada got by far the worst of it and ended up landing on the guardrail. He crawled under the flimsy barricade AAA had and the two continued brawling on the floor. Another thing they did well was put over the physical toll the match was taking, so even though they did a lot more dives and arm drag exchanges than you'd usually expect from an apuesta match, they were clearly exerting a bunch of energy and the desire to win was strong. The match wasn't without its flaws. Stuka looked like he was working in slow motion at times and some of his transitions were poorly timed, but his bladejob was beautiful and you'd have to go a long way to find prettier planchas.
Everybody knows how I feel about Jerry Estrada, but I thought this was a standout performance from him. It felt like he transplanted one of his Monterrey performances to an AAA ring, though to be fair, Moncolva (where they were wrestling) has had its share of bloody apuesta matches. Estrada was particularly good in the third caida where he carried a lot of the action. I loved his retaliatory abdominal stretch where he applied the fish hook. That was an awesome throwback to old school hair matches. The finish was screwy (a common theme with 1994 AAA), but it actually worked here, and Estrada delivered a nasty piledriver to put the exclamation mark on this puppy. I'm not sure that I'd call it an AAA classic, but for bloody wager matches it's up there with Satanico vs. Morgan and Rambo vs. Villano from the same era and certainly a match you should watch.
El Hijo del Santo, Angel Azteca y Super Muneco vs. Satanico, Psicosis y La Parka, AAA 5/30/94
Matt D recommended this to me and holy shit is the technico offence off the chain. It may legitimately be the best technico offence I've seen, and a match I'll recommend from now on if you want to see great technico work.
It started with a ferocious lock-up between Satanico and Angel Azteca that was like two wildebeest locking horns. It's well documented in these pages that Satanico was in decline around this time, but this was a vintage opening exchange from him. His defence and counter wrestling were brilliant, and I have no doubt on a different night when the exchange went for longer he could have pried open Azteca's defences and got the opening submission. Psicosis and La Parka let the crowd get to them in amusing fashion and Satanico being the brains and the nucleus gathered them together on the outside to regather their thoughts. Santo then launched into his headscissors routine, which ended up with La Parka crashing hard into the barricade. Super Muenco hit the ring and did his wobbly head shake taunt, and Psicosis' reaction was priceless. He bailed from the ring and mocked what he'd just seen with this classic "what the fuck was that head shaking shit?" indignation. He dove back into the ring with his tail up and of course got his ass handed to him. The great thing about it was that as Super Muneco was doing his Super Astro style celebration at clearing Psicosis from the ring, Parka tried to attack him and Muneco danced in his face. Parka was incensed and took it out on the bottom rope. The effortless interweaving of comedy into the fall was brilliant.
Satanico and Azteca went around the horn a second time and cut loose with the armdrag exchanges, and it was fucking great. Hardcore lucha fans will hear me, you know you're into something when you pause to see whether there was a singles match or who Satanico fought for his hair in '94. He was growing it out in anticipation of fighting someone, but it looks like no-one booked him in a hair match until '95. Man was he good in this. You all know he's my favourite luchador and the guy who I think is the best luchador of the past 35 years, but this was a 1990 throwback and pretty special.
The technicos then bamboozled the rudos with a tricky and intricate pinning sequence, and as Pepe Casas held their hands aloft it was a beautiful thing. The rudos licked their wounds on the outside and La Parka got into it with a fan. He threatened to climb over the barricade and continue the conversation, but Psicosis held him back. Psicosis then got pissed at the same fan while Parka puffed out his chest. Both guys were in fine form here. Super Muneco tried to the same wobbly head fake shit on Satanico and he just stepped back and popped the clown. Then a couple of exchanges later, Satanico showed some ass. I usually dislike Super Muneco but this was wildly entertaining. Azteca and Psicosis worked at a rapid pace, but Santo and La Parka was just mental. Maybe one of the all-time best El Hijo del Santo trios exchanges, and a lot of credit should go to La Parka for his crazy bumps into the ropes. The rudos wisely slowed things down from there by picking on the weak link Super Muneco. Satanico was the ring general here and orchestrated the rudos' second fall victory. They did a clever job of double teaming the danger man Santo and systematically took apart Azteca.
Unfortunately, the third caida had some boring mask ripping and descended into the mediocrity so common with AAA trios, but there were still some golden moments. Satanico continued to brawl like a mofo and had a great punch exchange with Super Muneco and Psicosis took an awesome ring post bump on the outside. Azteca and La Parka ended up swapping masks, which I'm guessing was some idea of Pena's that he was overly fond of. The finish was kind of dumb after such a hot match as the rudos got DQ'ed for a miscommunication spot, but it did leave us with the fun image of the rudos trying to pick a fight with El Tirantes as the El Hijo del Santo's music played. Bad finish aside, I went back and watched the first two falls as soon as it was over, so that should tell you how good the majority of the bout was.
Negro Casas/El Felino/Dr. Wagner Jr. vs. El Dandy/La Fiera/Corazon de Leon, CMLL 7/23/93
This was the epitome of a nothing match.
It began with some sort of sit down talk between Casas and Felino with heel commentator Arturo Rivera serving as mediator. They seemed engaged in a philosophical debate over whether Casas was still a rudo, which I'm sure is riveting if you understand a word of Spanish, but perplexing if you don't.
How could Casas and Felino remain on the same side when Casas threw in the towel to cost Felino his welterweight title? That's the sort of contradiction that makes it difficult for people to get into lucha. One minute Casas doesn't want to be a rudo anymore and is trying to buddy with Dandy; the next minute he's turning on his brother in what most of us have been preconditioned to believe is a face turn for Felino. Either this is an incredibly sophisticated angle which I can't understand or there's no continuity. It's as though they teased a Casas brothers feud through the summer only to drop it for something else. As best I can tell, Felino accuses Casas of being envious, but the theme for Casas' entire 1993 seems to be a crisis of faith.
Seriously, if you can understand Spanish and you care enough, drop me a line and let me know what's going on.
The confusion wouldn't have been so bad if the match had been any good, but it was the opposite of a fun Arena Coliseo match. I usually watch these matches two or three times while writing them up, but this wasn't a match I'd want to sit through again. Felino and Casas almost came to blows during Rivera's intervention yet there was no pay off in the match. The vignette was probably shot separately to the match so I can understand there being no connection, but why book this way if you can't really produce a television show? Casas was still avoiding wrestling Dandy the way he did in 1992, Wagner was greener than Espectro's mask, Jericho was fucking awful in Mexico, and the match-up I was most looking forward to seeing, Dandy vs. Felino, was slow and ponderous. The entire match was long and drawn out. The only guy who provided a spark was Fiera, which if you've seen the condition he was in during 1993 was a little depressing.
Enough about this one.
Lizmark vs. Jerry Estrada, Mexican National Light Heavyweight Championship, AAA 6/18/93
I hate Jerry Estrada.
He's probably my least favourite lucha worker of all time. To me he's like the anti-Sangre Chicana. Sangre Chicana was out of his mind the entire time and took it to surreal heights. Jerry Estrada was out of his mind the entire time and was a train wreck.
But like him or not, this was one hell of a match.
By far the most coherent performance I've seen from Jerry Estrada and also the best Lizmark performance to ever make tape. It may even be the 1993 MOTY, and if it's not the greatest AAA match ever, it's certainly in the top five.
Lizmark was brilliant in the first fall. This wasn't CMLL style, Satanico vs. Gran Cochisse or El Dandy vs. Javier Llanes matwork, so don't expect anything mindblowing like that. It wasn't the holds or matwork that impressed me here, but the psychology. Anybody who thinks lucha has no psychology, hasn't watched the right matches. Estrada played the challenger role to perfection. He tried everything he could think of to gain an advantage, but the maestro was on top of his game. Every time there was a break in the action, Estrada would stare Lizmark down. He couldn't believe how well Lizmark was wrestling. He tried changing tack, tried changing the point of attack, but Lizmark had a counter for everything.
They used to call Lizmark The Little Blue Genius, and if you watch this match you'll get some idea why. He wrestled most of this fall from a defensive stance, standing ever so slightly on the back foot. This meant that whenever Jerry charged at him, he could use Estrada's own momentum to counter his offence. Jerry, as retador, was just a little bit guilty of forcing the action, and Lizmark was able to tie him in circles.
The second fall was your typical two minute fall where the challenger strikes back straight away. Jerry was bumped for this fall and they started off by shoulder charging each other. Lizmark wouldn't back down from the challenge and sent Estrada to the floor with a flying headscissors. I haven't seen any of the trios leading into this match, but I can only imagine there was tension between the two. After dominating the first fall, Lizmark let his guard down and was suckered into working a rudo fall. Jerry leveled the score, and from the way he kicked the bottom turnbuckle, it was clear that he wasn't finished yet.
The third fall was the type of fall that separates the great matches from everything else. It's not often that a third fall does justice to a match, so you have to sit back and admire this one. Estrada threw away the "retador" tag here and began working rudo, which I suppose is an effective way to deal with a counter wrestler like Lizmark. He can't counter much of anything if he's getting the shit beaten out of him. Lizmark tried some counter-offence and ended up sailing through the ropes, which set-up a tope from Estrada. It wasn't the fastest or nastiest looking tope I've seen, but if you've seen a better set-up than that from the current lot of workers, you are lying to yourself.
The last few minutes with full of drama as Lizmark hung onto his title reign by a thread. They worked some great nearfall submissions, where Lizmark had to power his way out of the holds with all of his upper body strength. One of the ways to judge a match is by its arc, i.e. how far they've come since the opening bell. Lizmark was so smooth, so assured in the opening fall, but now he was scrambling. Time and time again, he avoided Estrada's Media Cerrajera hold, countering with a high risk gamble. He was sucking wind on a bridged suplex and at other times could barely pin the man. It's not every day of the week where you see a match where they lay it on the line like this.
I won't spoil the finish. The tension was palpable and neither of them had anything left. It could've gone either way and the post-match was tremendous. The selling was fantastic the whole way through and perhaps my disdain for Estrada stems from his hair matches. If you'd like a copy of this, leave a message somewhere.
Emilio Charles Jr. vs. Dr. Wagner Jr. (CMLL 2/20/98)
This was rudo contra rudo from what I could gather, but since Emilio was about to turn it was set up to garner him face heat. Broken down Emilio had his moments (as we'll see later), but a match this length was beyond him. He kind of struggled in that '93 hair match against Dandy let alone in a singles match five years later, and while I like Wagner he wasn't a good enough worker to make this interesting. They did all the things you're supposed to do in a mano a mano bout but with none of the intensity of say Santo and Casas. There was a title match the week after, but I'm not in any hurry to watch it.
El Hijo Del Santo, Emilio Charles Jr. y Satanico vs. Shocker, Mr. Niebla y Negro Casas (CMLL 3/23/98)
This set up the Emilio Charles Jr./Satanico hair match and was the catalyst for Emilio's face turn I suppose. Halfway through the match, Satanico was holding Shocker on the outside for Emilio to hit with his tope when Shocker ducked out the way. Emilio dove straight into Satanico's shoulder area and Satanico spent the rest of the match selling the injury. Apparently, accidental collisions between rudos do more damage than Emilio's tope would have done to Shocker, but bear with me. Later on, Satanico tagged in, but he bailed out and Emilio took his place. Emilio was on fire and cleaning house when Satanico suddenly attacked him. The execution of all this was a little off, but the brawling was good. There was one punch from Satanico which absolutely clocked Charles. Other than that it wasn't much of a trios. Rudo Santo was really old at this point and I was sick of Santo vs. Casas no matter how good their chemistry was.
Lizmark and Atlantis vs. The Head Hunters (CMLL 10/25/96)
Not a fan of tag matches in lucha. Trios are brilliant, but regular tags aren't something luchadores do well and this match was no exception. Lizmark and Atlantis are two of the greatest technicos of the latter half of the 20th century as far as classical, masked luchadores go, but at no point in this match did they seem like a great tag team. There just isn't the culture of standard two on two tag wrestling in lucha that there is in the States, for example, and I dislike the parejas psychology where one member from each team is pinned and effectively eliminated. It also didn't help that I wasn't into the spots that Atlantis and Lizmark did with the Head Hunters compared to the sort of things I saw Satanico, Dantes and Wagner do the other day.
Misterioso, Volador y Mano Negra vs Javier Llanes, El Supremo y Espectro Jr. (CMLL 5/31/91)
This was good stuff. You can tell a promotion is doing well when its lower card stuff is this enjoyable. The rudos didn't do much but the technicos were exciting. Match flowed well.
Olimpico vs. Damian El Guerrero, mask vs. hair (CMLL 8/6/96)
This was a really good lower card, almost junior-esque hair vs. mask match. It was mostly big dives with some brawling mixed in, but they really nailed it. The crowd threw them money after it was over and Olimpico was asked to kiss a baby.
Universo 2000, Mascara Año 2000 y Dr.Wagner Jr vs Atlantis, Hector Garza y Canek (CMLL 11/24/95)
This was also really good. 1995 was right around the time that Wagner started to get good and he had great chemistry with Atlantis here, but the guy who has impressed me most during all his random viewing has been Hector Garza. I don't think it's any secret that I don't really like young workers, but Garza in '95/96 was quite possibly the most exciting young worker I've seen. I don't find him charismatic like I did with a young Dantes, but his offense was insane and I swear I almost popped for the win he gets here. The match almost descends into the type of mask removing that gets a bout thrown out, but it gets back on track and features some great action.
Villano III vs. Atlantis (CMLL 2/11/00)
This was a title match that was part of the build-up to the famous mask match between these two. It was also proof that bullshit finishes involving the Villanos began as early as 2000. Atlantis injured Villano with his torture rack to end the second fall and it seemed like he was primed to take Villano's Light Heavyweight title until Villano IV draped his brother over his shoulders and took him backstage for what I guess amounted to an injury break. The ref began counting him out, but when he returned he had recovered enough to win, at least I think that's what was going on. Before all that was some pretty good wrestling. Not as good as what they had been capable of only a few years earlier, but some of the stuff they did was fantastic and made you wish they'd had a straight up title match instead of an angle. These two in particular really brought the fantastic submissions you think of when you think of lucha.
Emilio Charles Jr. vs. Silver King, hair vs. hair (CMLL 9/27/96)
I can't remember if I've seen this before, but I think I would have remembered it because it was really good. In fact, it's probably the best match I've seen Silver King have. I'm probably wrong in saying that, but I really dug this. It started off with Silver King getting a quick pinfall off a hot start. I guess most people dislike that trope in lucha, but his timing was perfect and it looked really good. Emilio's transition onto offensive after being rocked early was awesome. Silver King went for a plancha suicida and Emilio caught him with a punch. From there they bled and fought and all of the nearfalls were great. I think the key to the match was that it wasn't that long, which helped with Emilio's stamina issues. Emilio with his beard keeps reminding me of Helmsley if Helmsley ballooned out and suddenly had the body of Jim Duggan, but I think to a certain extent that the good part of his career was longer and more productive than I imagined. This was certainly choice.
Brazo de Plata vs. Gran Markus Jr. (CMLL 5/29/98)
In my world this should headline the Anniversary show.
Regular readers will know that I don't like classic, hot period AAA very much, but I do like it more than any of the current stuff that's being put out so for the time being there will be an AAA season here at the Great Lucha blog w/ the occasional interlude should anything catch my eye. Some of these reviews will be critical and some will be filled with praise, but we start the season off with some criticism of a man who's hardly ever criticised: El Hijo Del Santo.
2/16/94 AAA: El Hijo Del Santo vs Psicosis (WWA Welterweight Title) - Aguascalientes
Some time ago, I was prompted to watch Psicosis and El Hijo del Santo's 1995 WWA Welterweight title match again after reading the only criticism of the match I had ever come across. It was a bit of an eye opener really, not only because it changed my opinion of a match I had thought was pretty good, but because it drove home how little there is in the way of lucha match discussion. I figure most people who read this blog will agree with me that it can be tough finding match recommendations let alone a discourse. The reason for this is that there just aren't enough people who care, but one of the side effects of this lack of discourse is that folks tend to believe what they "hear," and one of the things folks tend to believe (without really knowing) is that El Hijo Del Santo is one of the greatest workers ever.
Now before this starts sounding like tall poppy syndrome, let me just state that I like El Hijo Del Santo. Not as much as some people, but the next review I intend to write will be full of praise for Santo's performance. My gripe with Santo is the notion that he can't put a foot wrong. In many ways, this type of thinking was a by-product of this hot period of AAA where lucha went from being something Dave Meltzer didn't particularly like to a hot ticket that he could get behind. 1993-95 AAA was the peak of lucha's popularity among sheet readers (most of whom aren't around anymore), and because its popularity never grew from there, we're left with even more tired ideas than usual. I mean, Santo as superworker is a really 90s idea. It's the equivalent of a bunch of sheet readers saying, "oh, he's the Jushin Thunder Liger of Mexico."
The point of this entry isn't to belittle anyone but to point out the lack of discourse, because I'd put it to folks that not only is El Hijo Del Santo not a superworker but these two years represent the worst two years of El Hijo Del Santo's prime.
Take this match, for example. Santo coasted through plenty of trios matches in AAA but trios matches are there to be coasted through sometimes. This was a singles match and those are rare in lucha. It came on the back of some truly awful matches between Santo and Heavy Metal in 1993 and can't be explained away easily. Santo was given three falls, 20+ minutes and all the scope in the world to have a great match. It's difficult to say how much influence Peña had over the style Santo worked, but Santo certainly had all the allowances he needed to have a great match with 1994 AAA matches being longer and much more mat based than they would later become. But you take the first fall alone and it's just a shockingly bad fall.
One thing I've noticed about Santo over the years is that there's really two Santos: the one who's in there with a great worker and the one who's not. The one who's in there with a great worker tends to test his skills against those of his opponent and is exceptionally creative. The one who's in there with a lesser worker tends to lead them through the standard Santo match. That's not a terrible knock on Santo; the guy's a pro who understands a house and always gives the fans what they came to see, but it seems to me that he judged Psicosis as being in the lesser category, and well, 20+ minutes of the Santo show isn't particularly inspiring.
As uninspiring as it may be, was it necessary? I've always told people who judge Psicosis on his US work that he can't be judged on his US work for the sheer reason that he never showed even a fraction of his true personality in the US. It's night and day comparing WCW Psicosis to AAA Psicosis. One had a cult following and the other fell off the map completely. His strength wasn't in singles matches, however. Psicosis' strength was being an outrageous character in trios matches. In time, he may have been the heir to Fuerza or Pierroth in terms of being "that guy" in a trios match. You could argue that he was on the way already, but despite being most famous for his matches with Rey Mysterio, Jr., he wasn't a singles guy.
You can see it in the first fall matwork here, which was an embarrassing series of released holds. Psicosis was more often than not taller than his opponent and this appears to have added to his difficulties on the mat, but you are what you are on the mat and the best you can do is try. My beef here is with Santo who did little to lead Psicosis through an acceptable opening fall to a lucha title match. His matwork was just as disjointed as Psicosis' attempts at countering it and to make matters worse he went to one of his worst finishes to end the fall.
The subsequent fall only confused matters more. Psicosis sold the second fall like a technico while Santo dominated it like a rudo. It started off with the old "there's no timeouts in wrestling" schtick that Southern heels loved to pull, but then Santo started beating on him pretty hard. Call me crazy, but it made for uncomfortable viewing. No technico looks good injurying a rudo even if that rudo is stalling. It was better matwork than the first fall, but it was unbecoming of Santo as a technico and didn't really belong in a title match either, especially when the champion was a fall up. I can only imagine that Psicosis had done something penis like in the trios matches leading into this bout for Santo to behave like this. They may have been trying to get the crowd behind Psicosis since Peña liked to book him over Santo during this era, but the crowd didn't seem to particularly like it and who can blame them with no discernable story? There wasn't any particular rhythm to it either. I didn't really understand what they were playing at here and Santo over-sold some back bumps to finish the fall. Two bad falls in a row.
The third fall was lucha at its worst and bored the shit out of me the first time I watched it. Watching it again now, I can't believe how much they're selling between rounds. They're obviously trying to heighten the drama but it's completely unwarranted. Had they been through two tough falls it might have geared me up for the third but it was completely Santo ran through his staples like a Saturday morning cartoon. It was probably their best work of the match but I don't care about nearfalls deep in a match when I didn't give a shit about the first two falls, and watching Santo whiz overhead for a tope is just so predctable even if it was picture perfect. A few seconds later (i.e. right on cue), Psiscois did an unbelievably awesome dive. A few seconds after that, he did his corner shoulder bump through the ropes and out onto the concrete, and Santo followed that up with a dive (you can guess which one.) I can't really fault the effort here. They were trying to hit the right spots and have a great match and Tirantes was getting into it with his counting, but a match doesn't start with the dives. (Well, they do these days, but that tells you what's wrong with modern lucha.) To sum up the night, the match ended with someone being out of position for the ref bump, which was more like a forward somersault into a takedown than an accidental collision.
Look, it's never easy to create drama in a wrestling match, but this match was majorly botched. Santo didn't set the right sort of platform in the opening fall and Psicosis' selling was off-key. Santo tried to sell the same as Psicosis to give it the match the sort of symmetry that luchadores like to give their matches but by that point they were lost at sea. This match probably needed to be a carry but it was poorly done by Santo. They came back a year later at the same venue and had another ugly match. Obviously, they couldn't iron out the flaws.
The point to all this isn't to prove Santo is shit, it's to point out the inconsistencies within his work. It's not my intention to disprove the notion that El Hijo Del Santo is a superworker, though I certainly don't believe it, but I'd like to float the idea because when I first got into lucha there was practically no criticism of name workers. I'm sure of the reasons for this, though I suspect it has something to do with the fact that because lucha is so underappreciated its fans constantly have to promote and protect it. Anyway, I've stated my case on Santo being an inconsistent worker. Decide for yourselves.
Black Terry, Negro Navarro y Villano IV vs. Blue Panther, Ultimo Dragon y Olimpico, UWE 4/24/10
This was a beautifully worked match and definitely the purest trios I've seen this year. Black Terry Jr. really spoiled us with this one. Thank you, you magnanimous young man.
I've often complained that when Black Terry works these UWE matches alongside Negro Navarro he's nothing like the Terry we see on his home turf. That Terry is an unqualified legend, but in UWE Terry pretty much does his thing and heads back to the apron. Not on this night, however. Terry packed his working boots for this trip. His stuff may have been secondary to You Know Who vs. You Know Who, but he really gave Olimpico a match here. And it's fair to say that Olimpico responded in kind. The two of them put on probably the best standard trios stuff Terry has done all year.
Whatever happened to Olimpico's career, anyway? He came across as a lost good worker here. If someone would kindly tell me why he's working nothing but indy dates, I'd appreciate it.
Of course the main reason to watch this match was the battle of the maestros; Blue Panther and Negro Navarro being arguably the two most deserving recipients of such a title. I can't think of too many potential match-ups in lucha that are more appealing to the vocal minority than Blue Panther and Negro Navarro and let me just state emphatically that they did not disappoint for a second. This was some serious, serious wrestling. I know Panther's wrestled just about everyone in the business in his 32 year career and works a ton of dates each year, but a guy with the skills that he possesses HAS to appreciate working a match against Navarro. How could he not have enjoyed that? Panther's having a good year from the little I've seen, but anytime he wants to have a falling out with CMLL and be reduced to working indy dates to survive he's welcome to go right ahead.
A lot of times in matches like these, Solar and Navarro dominate the ring time and there's little tying the falls together but I thought this was a tidy little match with nice balance to the exchanges. They even managed to hit the ring well for the finishes and there were a couple of dives at the end. You're never going to get the really great trios we saw in early 90s Arena Mexico in the sort of arenas UWE run and it's hard to work that sort of a match in front of smidgings of people, but this was another three stars is the new four stars classic and another Black Terry Jr. handheld victory. Watch it if you haven't.
Negro Navarro, Trauma II, Barba Roja vs. Black Terry, Dr. Cerebro, Hijo del Signo
Negro Navarro was back in Naucalpan this week and took on all three opponents in this match, including a fella by the name of Black Terry.
Black Terry vs. Negro Navarro -- the best match-up in wrestling, save for the fact that it never happens!! For some reason, Black Terry and Negro Navarro go out of their way to avoid each other on most occasions. Even on miscellaneous shows, they avoid each other -- they're like the anti-Solar and Navarro. Then again, Terry is never really Terry when Navarro is around, so maybe it's a wash. Their exchanges here were an awesome tease and Terry's selling was brilliant, but he came off second best again. Navarro's a tough motherfucker, but I prefer it when Terry's knocking workas out tha box, daily. The trouble with Terry vs. Navarro is that Navarro's an immovable object. If they ran this match as drills, how many times do you think people could take Navarro down? I kinda doubt whether Terry could do it for real. Navarro knows he's a badass motherfucker -- and fair enough, I say -- but it means Terry slips into technico mode when he faces Negro. Terry is a terrific face, but he's better as a rudo so perhaps they're better off working in situations where they both can be the man.
The other cool match-up in this was Navarro vs. Dr. Cerebro, a brief, almost backhanded exchange that had me wondering how good a singles match between those two would be. There's not much chance of that happening, but this whole match was full of fantasy booking: Navarro/Terry? Navarro/Cerebro? Cerebro/Trauma II? There was a disruptive riff with Barba Roja trying to screw the Dinastia but still there was enough good wrestling here to satisfy the weekly viewer.
Angelico vs. Trauma I [sALAVADOR AMERICAS]
I guess everyone will have an opinion on this because it's Angelico, but I'll give them points for trying. I wasn't expecting much of an arc from this, but they tried their damnest to make it seem important. The wrestling didn't reach the heights of Zatura vs. Trauma II (which is probably the most relevant comparison), and in truth was a bit crude in parts, but the effort couldn't be faulted. The evenness of the match worked better than in Angelico/Navarro because it's easier to buy Angelico and Trauma I as being the same age and experience level (even if it's not true), and while the limb selling didn't appeal to me personally, Trauma I working this match a year ago seems unfathomable to me.
Trauma I or Trauma II is an interesting debate. I still lean towards Trauma II for the simple reason that he's stronger on the mat, while Trauma I seems better at striking and all the bits between matwork and the finish, but he's improving at such a rate of knots that it's almost a weekly split between the two. Some weeks Trauma II is better and vice versa. Like I said, I don't think this match was quite the breakout performance that the Zatura match was a year ago, but it was more of a plus than a negative.
Blue Panther vs. Atlantis, NWA World Middleweight Championship, 8/9/91
I thought I ought to do something a little special to mark my 200th entry, so since I've been talking about Blue Panther vs. Atlantis lately, I decided to go back and watch their match from '91. This match was part of the first batch of lucha I ever bought and is a large part of why I became hooked on lucha. I'm not particularly fond of watching matches I've seen before, particularly when I'm comparing it to the excitement of receiving my first batch of lucha libre, but with so much lucha under my belt since I first saw this, I was almost astonished by how much I enjoyed it. I probably appreciate it more than ever before, which is rare for me since I'm usually interested in the latest and greatest lucha libre match.
There's a real buzz surrounding this match that only happens when you get two wrestlers in the ring who you know are going to deliver. Watching Roberto Rangel give his pre-match instructions, it struck me that you had El Dandy and Pierroth Jr. seconding here, two of the most charismatic luchadores in CMLL at the time, and yet all eyes are on Panther and Atlantis. When they head to their opposite corners and go through their final warm-ups, there's an excitement around the bell sounding that's as close to a big time title fight as professional wrestling gets. That may sound like an odd thing to say about the costumed world of Mexican lucha libre, but watch this first caida unfold; it's by far the most competitive opening to a two-out-of-three falls title match I have ever witnessed. I won't go into great detail about what happens, because this is a match that has been uploaded several times on youtube, so there's no excuse for not watching it if you're the least bit interested in professional lucha libre, but this is the caida that convinced me that lucha could be as serious and competitive as any other style of wrestling while looking nothing like other styles of wrestling. And really, that's the beauty of lucha libre -- there's nothing else like it.
But watch this caida. There's a rare sort of intensity to it that you seledom find in any sort of wrestling. It's as if they're in the third caida already -- in fact, it's almost as if it's a one fall match with the way Panther and Atlantis fight to take the opening fall. The way they build this intensity is by gradually selling more and more so that each counter becomes increasingly threatening. If you think luchadores can't sell like wrestlers are meant to, I suggest you watch this match, because the great ones can and do sell, while working the most brilliant holds imaginable. The great thing about this caida is that little by little you get the feeling that Atlantis is the champ here. It was a belt he held for a significantly long time and defended against some pretty reputable opposition, and you can see that class come through in the key and deciding moments.
The first fall builds to its epic conclusion and you start figuring whether they can keep up this intensity over the next two falls, but the second fall is short, sharp and clever. By this stage, the competitive juices of both guys are flowing and Atlantis starts dropping these awesome knees to the face of Blue Panther. Panther shrugs them off and comes back with a immense hit of his own that shocks Atlantis enough for a quick and decisive equaliser. Pierroth loves it and so do I, because Panther signalled his intent with that body blow. He's here to mount a challenge and not about to fade away.
The third caida is built around the timeless notions of desperation and fatigue and those smallest of margins between winning and losing. It's somewhat looser than the opening fall because both guys are tiring, but the great thing about Atlantis vs. Panther matches is how sparingly they used their big takedown offence. Panther had his powerbomb and that spinebuster he liked to do and Atlantis had his back breaker and huracarrana, and they were delivered with gusto and sold like they were the tipping point of the match. The great thing about a third caida is how it weighs on each wrestler's mind. If you get a two from a roll-up and another from a sunset flip, you've got to be thinking that you're running out of chances here. It takes a steely sort of determination to think that you've almost got your man when he escapes your best stuff time and time again. Panther is the first one to crack by trying to go up top, which if you've followed the career of Blue Panther is not his game. Atlantis knocks him off and goes for a huge corner tope, but unforunately his legs hit the top rope as he's going through and he doesn't hit it cleanly. Not to worry, though, as Panther follows up with a tope of his own, which leds to one of the greatest submission attempts ever witnessed in a lucha ring when Panther has Atlantis trapped in an inverted Gory Special and it dead set looks like Altantis is going to submit in the middle of the ring. Atlantis escapes with a roll-up and Panther reverses that for another great nearfall. Atlantis is shaken here and only has a few seconds to regather before Panther comes at him again, and it's almost as if the seconds are ticking down until Atlantis loses. He steps and fakes and makes his move and I won't even tell you how he wins this because it's ridiculously great and enough to pop the biggest sportatorium on a buzzer beater in the biggest game of the year. It's just huge. Perfectly executed and the mother of all final plays.
I watch a lot of sport and I've experienced all the different emotions -- shock, joy, devastation -- and that was what this match was for the audience and for these two wrestlers, which is ultimately what pro-wrestling is trying to achieve. Just a great match. Watch it. Love it. Gain a thirst for lucha libre.
Black Terry/Dr. Cerebro vs. Gringo Loco/El Hijo del Diablo, 1/24/10
This was pretty cool.
Of all the styles Terry works, brawling suits him best because you get a caricature of Black Terry the man. There was nothing pretty about this match; it was about as scummy as you'd expect from two guys working the Gringo Locos gimmick in a lucha indy backwater. They brawled all over the ringside area in a match that never really got going in the ring since neither side wanted to settle it proper, but this sort of rambling match suits Black Terry to a tee. His comebacks were fantastic and I thought his headbutt was incredible. He had a gash on his forehead that needed sewing up, and as he sat there being sutured, the silence got me thinking... Where was he going after the show? What type of car or truck does he drive? What does he listen to on the radio? These are the type of things I want to know. He really is a legend. This was just another fight and a few more stitches, but what a performer. He's like a character in a John Huston film or a Merle Haggard song.
Black Terry/Dr. Cerebro/Negro Navarro vs. Solar/Zatura/Suicida, 1/28/10
This was solid. IWRG have a new working style where the first fall goes long and the second and third falls are short. It's somewhat predictable but seems to be working for them. Solar squared off with Navarro to nobody's great surprise. Their exchanges were better than watching Navarro work with Angelico, but you have to wonder what they're gunning for at this point. Solar wanted Navarro and Navarro wanted Solar, but we've seen this all before. It's a draw. Neither guy is better than the other and maybe one day they'll leave it at that. Terry got to work a bit in this match, which I was happy about since he's usually innocuous when Solar and Navarro are about. He did a pretty awesome job of stretching Zatura, but the most notable thing about the match was some rare CONTINUITY. I could hardly believe it when Cerebro went after Suicida. I mean to look at him you wouldn't think he lost his hair a few months ago, but he obviously hasn't forgotten and gave Segura an extra hiding at the end.
Dr. Cerebro vs. El Hijo del Diablo, Campeonato Mundial Ligero IWRG, 1/31/10
This was awesome and easily surpassed any IWRG singles match I've seen since Zatura/Trauma.
There was a ton of heat for this as El Hijo del Diablo had his own cheering section dressed up in devil costumes, and while he's not much of a worker in the Black Terry sense, this match was exceptionally well booked to make the most of the heat they got. Diablo can't work the mat, but he has size and they used that to great effect. He roughed Cerebro up and opened the cut from the tag match above. I can't recall ever seeing Cerebro sell as well as he did here and his comeback was fantastic, which made this the first time in ages that I was actually pumped to see the third caida of an IWRG match.
There was some awesome bullshit in the tercera caida. The fall was mostly dives and selling with Terry trying to protect his man from a mauling. Diablo finally got stuck into Terry and they did the most awesome Dusty finish. It was a real Pena style finish. Terry was being held back by the ref and the commissioner or someone, and Gringo Loco, who'd been ejected from ringside earlier, came running to the ring to potato Cerebro with a foreign object. The ref counted three and it looked like we had a new champ, but Terry saw the whole thing unfold and actually went into Gringo Loco's pants to find the foreign object. I don't think I've ever seen that before. He pulled out a chain and showed it to the ref and the entire arena. The ref overturned his decision and raised Cerebro's hand.
Just an all-round awesome spectacle. Instead of an overload of moves and nearfalls, we actually got to see a match that built to a bruised but vindicated champ holding onto his belt. The crowd were into it in a way that they usually aren't and there were plenty of folks screaming at the ref about the fuck-up he'd made. Good shit.
Negro Navarro/Trauma I vs. Pirata Morgan/El Hijo del Pirata Morgan, 1/31/10
This was also pretty good, though it couldn't live up to the heat that the previous match got. Everytime I see Pirata Morgan, I can't quite get my head around what he's turned into. I literally find myself asking, "what the fuck is that?" But the mofo can still work. I actually thought he outworked Navarro in this match on a less is more basis. His mat exchange with Trauma I was better than Navarro's work with El Hijo del Pirata Morgan. Granted, Trauma I has probably overtaken Son of Pirata Morgan at this point, but Morgan had a more direct, straightforward way of tackling Trauma. Navarro did a couple of cool submissions, but he's become somewhat overexposed of late. There were a couple of teases that the match would come down to Pirata and Navarro one-on-one, but they wound up giving this match to the kids which I thought was the right idea. The veterans were both pinned while they were in a Pirata Morgan figure four and the finish to the match was that awesome submission stand-off that we first saw in Black Terry's match with Multifacetico. It was a cool finish because you had both Navarro and Pirata at ringside cheering on their kids. They were like a pair of football dads. Navarro was slightly disgusted when his son tapped then his paternal instinct took over. Pretty cool.
MATCH OF THE MONTH: It's been a strong month for IWRG, but I don't think you can go past Cerebro/Diablo. Finally, a lucha title match with a little bit of drama that made you want to actually watch the second and third caidas. I don't know what's happening with IWRG right now, but they seem a hell of a lot more focused and actually deserve to be considered the best promotion in Mexico instead of winning by default. Do they have a new booker or something?
Black Terry/Dr Cerebro/Cerebro Negro vs. Pantera/Suicida/Zatura
This had some of the lousiest matwork I've seen in a Terribles Cerebros match. It was like they were trying to do old-school Los Temerarios/Fantásticos exchanges, but they're all a bit too portly. Things picked up in the second fall when the Cerebros started brawling and I dug the camera angle on the technicos' comeback (and the topes in particular), but this was largely forgettable.
Angelico/Solar/Ultraman Jr vs. Negro Navarro/Los Traumas I & II
Angelico is an awful worker, especially when he's working from a standing switch, but I have to give him credit for hanging with Trauma I in this match and doing some reasonably interesting matwork. People keep posting highlights of Angelico on youtube and it always makes me wonder what Navarro sees in this kid, but he's taken him under his wing and we'll see how he improves throughout the year. Trauma I looked better than ever in this match; and while Trauma II couldn't get anything going with Ultraman Jr, the pair of them look like better workers than they were a year ago. If Navarro's work keeps rubbing off on his kids, then Dinastía Navarro will be front runners for trios of the year. I don't think any trios has their bases covered as well as Dinastía Navarro if the Traumas keep improving on the mat.
Once again, the highlight was Navarro vs. Solar, but what I liked about this match (aside from the cool ringside view of Solar/Navarro matwork) is that they didn't dominate the bout. The young guys were given a lengthy amount of time to work with each other and Navarro and Solar swapped partners briefly, which made it seem like more of a trios match. It was subtle, but I felt Solar did a good job captaining his side. This was a step closer to the type of trios matches I'd like to see in IWRG, where there's no shortage of competitiveness. I also dug the colours Solar wore here. That change and the ringside camera made the Navarro/Solar stuff seem fresher to me. I guess the mark of any trios match is whether you'd want to see the rematch and in this case I most definitely would.
Time for some lucha awards.
2009 was a frustrating year that saw a lot of sources for IWRG and Arena Puebla appear and disappear, but at the same time a lot of random lucha indy footage made its way onto the internet. These awards are unashamedly based on the Tapatía Awards at cubsfan's site, and this year I asked Raging Noodles to give us his thoughts too. Don't bother reading them if you like CMLL and AAA.
RN -- Negro Navarro
This was one of the best years for Negro Navarro. He looked great in all of the Dinastía Navarro vs Terribles Cerebros trios, especially when working against Dr. Cerebro and Black Terry. He brought his underrated brawling skills to the memorable feud, and had some awesome moments of brawling with his fellow maestro Black Terry. When it's the right time in a feud, Navarro can throw down like he's Bill Dundee. He had a MOTYC with Solar I back in May and his Delaware Chikara match (which popped up for one Summer night on a Brazilian video streaming site before disappearing forever) featured some incredible action with Solar I in the primera caida, and a great destruction of Quackenbush in the segunda caida. Has had scattered matches all throughout YouTube over 2009, some were great while others were merely routine contests. His last great match of the year involved Navarro teaming up with Fishman Jr. & Arcanos to take on Perro Mastin, Platino, & Solar I (11/22/09) in another match with some brilliant Solar/Navarro matwork.
OJ -- Negro Navarro
Navarro wins this by default simply by being the best wrestler in Mexico.
An interesting tidbit about Negro Navarro came our way this year courtesy of Mike Quackenbush, who wrote: "Super Crazy, like my mentor Jorge Rivera, is a generous person, and if there was some bit of information or knowledge you'd like him to share, he wouldn't hesitate. Anything he knew he'd be happy to teach you, from the tiniest transition to the most intricate of holds. This stands in contrast to the disposition of another luchador I crossed paths with earlier in the year - Negro Navarro. Well-respected for his mastery on the mat, Navarro is anything but generous, and delights in taking advantage of his opponents."
When Raging Noodles asked Steve Sims about Navarro, he got the following reply: "[Negro Navarro] has little respect for people not in his generation, and does not care for the path that modern day lucha libre has taken away form the mat work. He will really stretch people with whom he is working, if he is not very respectful of them prior to the match."
All of that makes Negro Navarro seem incredibly badass, regardless of how unfair it is on the workers he doesn't respect, but I have to admit that the stretching got a little old this year. If Navarro doesn't care for the path that modern day lucha libre has taken (and God knows why anyone would), I'd like to see him working proper matches for a change. It seems to me that we got more Negro Navarro this year, but less quality matches than in previous years.
1. Zatura vs Trauma II (6/18/09)
Excellent match from two young guys, and Trauma II's coming out party. They had some ambitious and creative ideas that were interesting to watch unfold. But while some didn't turn out smoothly in execution, this deserves a million points for what they were able to create as a whole. It was an earnest effort from both these grapplers and they managed to pull off some really complex matwork that felt totally fresh and alive. One of the best things about this match was how unique it was, at certain moments it felt like a BattlArts contest, with some beautiful matwork naturally blended in with some very violent bodypart work, some headbutts, the very memorable striking exchange in the 3rd fall and a couple of awesome highspots. They did a lot in this match, but they still managed to pace things, create a nice flow, and they actually sold their shoulder injuries in a remarkable manner. These two give me a little hope that maybe the future of lucha libre won't be so bad if these guys continue to get better and better.
2. Toro Bill Sr., Espiritu Maligno, and Mister Rafaga vs Tigre Rojo, Black Tiger and Blue Center (3/2/09)
This felt like an actual classic lucha libre match, and all the workers in this match made it look so easy. The effortlessness displayed in this match shows how good these guys are and how familiar they must be with each other. Toro Bill Sr. is such a great veteran rudo, dude can work the mat, take lighting quick roll bumps, and lead a good rudo beatdown. Blue Center is a great technico that works so gracefully and moves around the ring like Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire. Everyone else fills their role nicely, and Espirutu Maligno is a pretty insane bump maniac and takes some nasty bumps. All the finishes to the 3 falls are spectacular as well. Beautiful wrestling.
Zatura vs Trauma II (6/18/09)
Originally, I was going to go with the Delaware trios for the same reasons that I chose the Lucha Libre London trios last year, but in the end I decided that Zatura vs. Trauma II was the most promising thing to come out of Mexico since I started writing this blog. Those of you who read this blog on a regular basis will know that I have almost nothing good to say about young workers or the path that modern lucha libre has taken, but this was an excellent match. I wouldn't say that it left me optimistic about the future, because it was wrestled in IWRG and I've barely seen anything from either guy since, but the best thing about this match is that it wasn't some sort of throwback lucha libre match; it was a perfectly modern match, which shows that if these young guys want to wrestle in a way that's different from the older generation, they can, so long as they're good enough.
RN -- Solar I
If Blue Center had made more tape and had performed at the level he was performing in his 3/2/09 and 6/15/09 matches, he probably should have gotten the pick. Maybe in 2010, some great Blue Center work will suddenly appear and I'll be able to retroactively pick him for this category. But as it is, in 2009, the best technico is still Solar and he's the Kiyoshi Tamura to Navarro's Volk Han. Such a graceful worker, can still pull off some of the most beautiful matwork sequences in the world, as he proved many times throughout the year in numerous matches in front of crowds of under 100 people. Some of the quickness and speed he displayed is astonishing for a guy his age. His work in Chikara and in the 11/22/09 trios are the matches to check out to see a perfect example of this. He's still a charming technico that you get up and root for.
OJ -- Valiente
Earlier in the year, Freelance and Valiente were neck and neck in this category. One guy would give an awesome performance and the other guy would challenge it, and there was a bit of a duel going on (in my eyes, that is.) Then Freelance injured himself and Valiente decided the best way to get ahead was to look like those CMLL callboys in pose in bodybuilding contests each year. Both guys are shittily booked and qualify for this award on potential more than anything else, but I'm going with Valiente since he's one of the few guys whose stuff looks good in CMLL.
RN -- Negro Casas
I was thinking about rudos in general, and no one really stands out the way MS-1, El Satanico, Perro Aguayo Sr., or Sangre Chicana stood out in previous decades. Even a few years ago, we at least had Universo 2000 standing tall as a top notch charismatic rudo that knows how to work great arena matches. This...to put it nicely, wasn't the best of years for professional wrestling. I was impressed by some undercard workers like Toro Bill Sr., who proved to be a great journeyman and a few others caught my eye as well. But for best rudo, I guess I'll go with the obvious pick of Negro Casas. Casas' has always been a guy who works so much better as a loud expressionistic rudo than as a technico. I wasn't as crazy about his work as others seemed to be, and his rudo shtick seems a bit minor compared to his previous great rudo runs like in 1992. But in a year like this, Casas seems like the right and obvious answer. His tag team title match, some trios and his matches with Mistico (which I enjoyed while still thinking they were ridiculously overrated) still had small moments of Casas' past greatness, and he is still a guy that can sell a technico comeback as good as anyone. Not to mention, his inring charisma and facial expressions are still pretty great.
OJ -- Policeman
Fuck La Peste Negra. You couldn't pay me to watch Negro Casas' crap this year.
I had to think long and hard about this category. To be honest, I don't think there's anyone deserving of this award. The best thing you can say for most rudoes these days are that they're decent foils for the technicos, but did anybody really work rudo this year? I mean really work rudo. Policeman may seem like an absurd choice, but he's a guy with an obvious rudo gimmick who managed to have an entertaining feud with Centella de Oro. It was mostly built around lowblows, but led to one of the better hair matches this year and was one of the only successfully booked things to make it onto TV all year, presumably because the CMLL higher ups don't give a fuck about the Puebla shows. So my vote goes to a guy who bumped and stooged, was ran out of town and came back for more.
RN -- Terribles Cerebros
I mentioned their memorable feud with the Navarro family earlier, but they also ended up being in a bunch of other really good IWRG matches. Black Terry is a great captain, a grizzled journeyman who's done it all, and one of the handful of workers that is Navarro's equal. Dr. Cerebro has stepped it up to become one of the most talented workers in the world, and Cerebro Negro is such a reliable solid smart performer. Another match worth checking out is a Terribles Cerebros vs Pirata Morgan Jr., Hijo Del Pirata Morgan, and Barba Roja from 8/6/09. Both teams felt like real trios teams, and created an excellent match full of matwork, great trios teamwork, and very creative finishes to the segunda and tercera caidas.
OJ -- Terribles Cerebros
These guys were hands down the best trios in Mexico this year. They developed their act so that any of the three guys could be the lead-off guy, but it worked best when Dr. Cerebro started things off on the mat. Cerebro had arguably the best year of his career in 2009; I say arguably because it's not like we're actually in a position to know, but he was oustanding nonetheless. Cerebro's strong form meant that the Terribles Cerebros could keep Terry in the back pocket, which is really where you want a guy like Black Terry to be, to work that last exchange before everyone hits the ring for the finish. It's just a shame that we can't see IWRG's Thursday night tapings anymore, since everyone appears to work individually on this weekend show of theirs. Oddly enough, last year's clear cut winners, Los Officiales, looked remarkably better in individual matches this year.
RN -- IWRG
Although CMLL Puebla also offered some good stuff, I have to give the nod to IWRG. It offered us the most interesting matches of the year, but at the same time, frustrated us since they could have done a much better job at so many other things. They had Freelance and they failed to do anything special with him.
OJ -- IWRG
IWRG offered the best matches this year, so they win this award, but anything good that comes out of this promotion is happening by accident.
RN -- Terribles Cerebros vs. Dinastía Navarro
One of the few feuds in 2009 that provided us with some great matwork AND great brawling. It also helped developed the most improved worker of 2009...
OJ -- Terribles Cerebros vs. Dinastia Navarro
This was a match-up that we got to see four times this year. Each match had its flaws and none of them were the MOTY candidate that they looked like on paper; in fact, the feud reminded me of Los Infernales vs. Los Intocables in that all of the matches were entertaining yet none of them were outstanding. Having said that, Terry vs. Navarro is the best thing in lucha right now. Bringing in Navarro's kids and having Terry's boys rumble with the Navarro family makes it even cooler and gives their on again/off again feud a trios base to work from. IWRG brought this match-up back in October, which we didn't get to see, but hopefully they get bored and run it again next year.
RN -- Trauma II
In 2008, Trauma II was working some nice holds but lacking confidence and exhibiting nervousness. He was struggling quite a bit, although he always exhibited a lot of effort. In 2009, throughout the Terribles Cerebros vs Dinastia Navarro rivalry, he grew in confidence and as a worker. He started showing incredible potential and finally started performing like what one would expect the son of Negro Navarro to perform like. His peak was the aforementioned MOTY and I hope he continues to grow as a worker.
OJ -- Trauma II
Yeah, Trauma II went from being this weedy guy who couldn't throw a strike very well and was frustrating to watch on the mat to a legit top ten guy this year. Most of this happened "off screen" since we were living on scraps, but it was an amazing transformation. The last time I saw him, I couldn't believe how confident he'd become. I kinda wonder how far he can go with that skinny frame of his, and right now he's idling since IWRG never really have anything for anybody to do, but he ought to sweep this in the actual Tapatía Awards.
Solar/Black Terry vs. Negro Navarro/Rambo, UWE, 10/17/09
This continued the trend of matches failing to be anything special, but it did feature some high end Solar vs. Negro Navarro.
In all of their recent matches, they've shown that they're not content to rest on the laurels of local MCs hyping them up as maestros extraordinaire. The 10/5 Misioneros vs. Space Cadets match from Futrap de Nuevo Laredo and the 11/22 Solar/Platino/Perro Mastin vs. Negro Navarro/Fishman Jr/Arcanos trios from Arena Ray Alcantara were good examples of this. There's no doubt that these guys see themselves as the premier workers in lucha libre and the fact that they keep adding new crinkles to their work means that this match and the one from Alcantara were as good as anything they've done this decade. That's not the problem -- the problem is that this match-up is beginning to dominate everything else around it.
In every Navarro vs. Solar match, you know that they're going to square off three times. A singles match within a tag or trios, basically. There's nothing wrong with having a predominant match-up in tags, especially when these guys are feuding over a title (the Salvador Americas Title to be precise), but the constant emphasis on Navarro vs. Solar reduces the other workers to bit-part players. That might be okay when they're working with locals, but not when it's Terry. You never wanna see Black Terry's role reduced. Ever.
Sure, Terry had his ring time here with Rambo (who appears to have lost a lot of weight, incidently), and if we're being honest it wasn't one of Terry's better performances (more scrappy than good), but the fact that they didn't switch match-ups in the second caida was a major disappointment to me. There was barely any Terry/Navarro in this at all and the scraps that we did get was a transition for Navarro to leave the ring. A few years ago, when footage like this was scarce, this would've had MOTYC written all over it, but with a proliferation in lucha uploading in recent times, I've started to expect more. Despite having more Navarro footage available this year than any point in the decade, I still feel like we missed out on a large chunk of his work this year by not having IWRG's Thursday night tapings available. We never got to see any sort of finish to the Terribles Cerebros vs. Dinastía Navarro feud, so I was hoping for some killer Black Terry/Negro Navarro exchanges here to tie me over until the New Year. I don't mean to sound ungrateful to the good folk who make this stuff available to us, but it's frustrating when these workers who've been upholding the virtues of actual lucha libre let their match structure fall by the wayside.
I don't expect a match where the falls overlap each other and tell a story. Sadly, that just doesn't happen in lucha anymore. Before I get too carried away, let me state that the third caida in this match is excellent and well worth watching for the awesome Navarro vs. Solar submission work -- nevertheless, they could've easily worked this a regular tag match instead of two separate matches. This was a two out of three falls match with more than enough time to do something special. Instead of concentrating on holds, they ought to be baiting each other. I'm not asking for some almighty struggle between good and evil, just a bit of needling. We've all seen Terry and Navarro beat on each other and we know that Solar and Navarro talk shit and mock each other. Ultimately, a bit of prickish behaviour would do these matches some good, because as much as I like Negro Navarro, his hard headed approach to wrestling and demands that his opponent be a man, he's not really forcing the issue with his in-ring behaviour, and I don't think these guys are doing lucha any great service by having matches with no swing in momentum. Navarro ought to have been champing at the bit to take on both these guys, but instead it was just another exhibition.
There's a roadshow quality to these matches and they're really just another payday, but when the top workers in Mexico aren't trying then the entire country is full of lacklustre wrestling, which is a shame, because if these guys actually worked matches in an aggressive manner like Satanico used to we might see great matches for a change instead of a cool spot here and there.
Dr. Cerebro vs. Suicida, hair vs. hair, 11/15/09
This was the most poorly booked hair match I've seen in a long time.
There was no reason for these guys to be fighting, IWRG just threw the match out there like they usually do. The workers were given about a week's turnaround to have a hair match and there wasn't even time to have a series of low blow finishes like Policeman and Centella de Oro. Given the confines of what they were asked to do, it wasn't a bad match, but there wasn't a single bit of effort from the bookers.
All year long, we've relied on a handful of good workers to provide us with entertainment but even they appear to be struggling. IWRG do a good job of dressing their frontmen in tuxs and having the editors go back, back and forth on cuts to make it seem like they're putting on a show, but they haven't given their workers shit to work with all year.
Dr. Cerebro and Suicida falling out doesn't get the blood boiling on a week's notice, so what you got here wasn't really a hair match; it was a singles match where the loser lost his hair. There's a big difference, even if it appears to be lost on IWRG bookers. These guys tried as hard as they could to stiff each other on the punch exchanges, but it's a bit disheartening when tradition is replaced with modified spot after modified spot. Cerebro's old-school enough to know that you've got to take liberties in a hair match, but he's fallen prey to the idea that you have to modify the set-up to everything you do for the tens of people in attendance and the hundreds watching at home. The old-school approach to working a hair match was so simple, and so easy to pull off if you sold well, that it just seems like these guys are breaking their backs for nothing.
Dr. Cerebro's been one of the top 5 workers this year, but he's no hair match worker. It wasn't so much that he didn't brawl -- at the rate things are going there won't be any brawling in lucha hair matches -- it was more a case that he didn't give Mike Segura anything to retaliate to. Segura tried, but it was difficult to spot where his grievance was. The reason there haven't been any great matches this year is because nobody's been bothered to work the second fall comeback. Even in the various Misioneros/Space Cadets matches that have popped up, there's been nothing tying the falls together. The attitude has been to get the first two falls out of the way and tack on the third fall which everyone knows is the one that counts. You might as well make them single fall contests if you're not going to use the structure that distinguishes lucha from other forms of wrestling.
The highpoint of the match was a slick submission exchange that looked like it was cribbed from the Black Terry/Multifacetico match. I should've seen the writing on the wall at that point, but I'm dumb and wasn't expecting the seconds to get involved. It was the same rubbish as Terry/Multifacetico. Whoever's booking this shit, even if it's Terry himself, obviously thinks this little show number would be even better with dancing girls and a troupe of elephants. Ah well, the double tope spot from Segura and Freelance was pretty spectacular. Segura has the best tope in the business.
Segura won and a minor dispute was settled. I wonder what Cerebro was thinking while he had his hair cut -- "Why the fuck did they book us in this?" would've been my first thought. That's a whole lot of bitching for what you'd probably call a three star match, but there was no effort to make this a great match. I honestly think as soon as Black Terry and Navarro are done, that's me done too.
Satanico vs. Lizmark, NWA World Middleweight Championship, 4/84
With both these guys retiring on the Luchas 2000 show, I thought I'd pay tribute to two of my all-time favourite workers.
This isn't a great match, and to be honest, I wish it had been much better, but it's as close as we'll ever get to the heart of the Lizmark/Satanico rivalry.
There's a moment towards the beginning of the match that sets the tone for everything that follows. The ref is giving his instructions to Lizmark and has to call Satanico over to listen. Satanico is as cool as ever, nodding and gesturing that it's fine, but he's somewhat bemused as the ref continues to explain. Suddenly, he gets this glint in his eye and grins at the pair of them. The ref brings them together for a handshake, but Lizmark gets the brush off.
That may seem like a minor detail, trivial even, but Lizmark looked foolish and it was a high class insult.
Watching that moment, it struck me that no-one could outperform Satanico. There's not too many workers you can say that about, but it's true. He was impossible to outperform. I've seen dozens of Satanico matches and the psychology is always the same. He had a bag of tricks he liked to use; brushing off the handshake was one of them, losing his temper was another. But no matter how many times he did them, it never came across as stage craft. He was this supremely confident, supremely arrogant guy, who was quick to anger and prone to tantrums. A lot of guys have played rudo and played it well, but Satanico was a natural.
He was also a fairly demanding worker, who expected guys to work at his level, and nowhere was this more true than in title matches. Steve Sims describes the lucha title match style as "almost always a technical-style match, putting over the championship, where both men wrestle as cleanly as they can to see which is the more deserving of being 'best in his class.'" There's more to it than that, but if you look at the middleweight title histories from this era, you can see that only the most capable of middleweights held the straps. Satanico's credentials as a middleweight champion don't need any introduction, but I think a lot of people are unaware of how good Lizmark truly was.
Unfortunately, only two of their matches exist on tape; this one from '84 and a later one from AAA. Neither of them are classics, which doesn't help my cause very much. It could be that they were too good for each other as opponents, or it could simply be that their best matches are lost, but nevertheless this '84 match pits arguably the best rudo worker in Mexico against the best technico worker.
The first caida is beautiful, with Satanico wrenching on a side headlock and Lizmark looking for a submission straight away. This was a return match, and either Satanico had done something illegal to win the title in December or he'd been baiting Lizmark in trios, because the technico was unusually aggressive here. They needled each other on the first break and it seemed like there was more to it than the brush off.
Satanico lost his cool the way he always does, by being outwrestled and outgrappled. What I love about these temper spots is that Satanico always responds with such authority; this time with a series of throws. He landed a single leg takedown, but was too caught up with swatting away Lizmark's free leg and ended up having the hold reversed. It was one of those cases where the reversal is more painful than the original hold, and as you'd expect, that's how Satanico sold it. Watch the way that Lizmark springs into position. He was such a fluid wrestler in his prime. Just beautiful technique. The armlock reversals to end this exchange are incredible.
One of my favourite Satanico tricks is when he'd appeal to the ref for help. Rudos usually wrestle a title match cleanly. They may wrestle aggressively, they may push the boundaries and be cautioned by the ref, but by and large they adhere to the rules. Foul play is rare and disqualifications even rarer. Occasionally they cheat to win, but the goal is to outwrestle the so-called "technico" with technical wrestling, thus proving their superiority. This was particularly true in Satanico's case, since he was a supremely talented wrestler who believed he was a supremely talented wrestler, but whenever he was down on points, he'd start reminding the ref of the rules and the sanctity of a title match. The same rules he didn't want to listen to at the outset.
It was always a sign that he was getting his ass kicked and boy was that the case here. Satanico didn't have an answer for Lizmark in this fall. Lizmark wrapped things up with a double underhook suplay, which is about as definitive a throw as it gets.
What strikes me as odd about this match is how aggressive Lizmark is in the second fall. Satanico is still feeling the effects of the suplay and doesn't want to lock-up. Lizmark is so pumped up, so aggravated that he launches an all out attack on the head and neck area that not even the crowd are sure about. I can only imagine that Satanico had done something to Lizmark at some point, because it's not the type of behaviour befitting of a technico in a sanctioned title match. It was, however, a sight to behold.
Things get even stranger with Lizmark refusing to break and targeting the eye area. Satanico is unable to mount any sort of a comeback and Lizmark ends up piledriving him not once but twice. Just deserts for the diabolical one? It's not a turn of any sort, but it's not exactly premeditated either. And it's tough for the ref to officiate on. The fall ends with a rather weak Satanico counter, where he falls backwards clutching his head. I dunno where that caida came from, because Satanico didn't put up a fight at all.
The third fall followed more traditional lines with both guys hanging on for dear life. The highlight of the fall was Satanico charging at Lizmark only for the technico to step aside and send him hurling through the ropes. He crashed into the padding, and by the time he looked up, Lizmark was already halfway through a spectacular Plancha Suicida. No-one has ever done that move better. He was an amazingly flexible guy and you could see that in the way he'd contort his body on the mat.
It was sudden death after that, and to be frank, the offence was poor. This was a revancha match that didn't bring with it any revenge and ended in a double pin. Satanico retained the title and had a hell of a sore neck for his efforts, but Lizmark lost his way in the final fall and didn't deserve the win. That's OK in legit sports, but in a worked sport, as lucha libre title matches present themselves, it's pretty average when you compare it with something like Satanico/Gran Cochisse or even Zatura/Trauma II from a few weeks ago.
We'll never know whether Satanico vs. Lizmark ever lived up its billing, but there was enough quality here to suggest that they were pound-for-pound the best in this or any other weight class. But can anybody explain the story to me?
Black Tiger, Blue Center, Tigre Rojo vs Espiritu Maligno, Mr. Rafaga, Toro Bill Sr., Arena Puebla 3/2/09
After two years of marriage, I finally decided to have a wedding. That was a blast and so was this match.
This was a bunch of older guys doing stuff they're not capable of anymore and pulling it off. It was fantastically old-school; the kind of lucha you can hang your hat on. The last thing I expected the first thing this morning was a great match, but this was instantly recognisable as lucha libre. Lucha's lost a lot of its character and a lot of what makes it unique, but these guys are stokin' the fire.
It was a welcome return to lucha -- a bit of Toro Bill matwork to greet me and a match where everything made sense. They cranked out some great falls and Espiritu Maligno lived up to his moniker by bumping like a 21st century Espectro Jr. I love how these old guys will try a move and maybe not get all of it, but the match continues to flow because the timing and placement is so good.
I also watched Mistico/Casas, but that was a souless, unimaginative piece of crap. Niche lucha continues to grow stronger.
Ringo Mendoza/Atlantis/Ultraman vs. Los Infernales (Satanico/Masakre/MS-1), early-to-mid 80s
Now here's a match nobody ever talks about.
This was a classy trios that started out with an awesome exchange between Satanico and Ringo Mendoza.
Ringo Mendoza is the kind of technico that never backs down from a fight. If a rudo tries to rough-house him, he puts up the fists. He's never a dick about it, you just don't take liberties with Ringo Mendoza. Satanico was looking for an advantage on the mat like it was his God given right, but Mendoza had tussled with Satanico over various middle and light heavyweight titles and kept good position.
I dunno if he was trying to needle Satanico, but he wouldn't break when Lopez was in the ropes. Satanico called for the break, but it wasn't forthcoming. It was awesome spot, because Mendoza had him in a real fix. Satanico was on his back, with his shoulders pinned to the mat and his feet on the top rope. There was nowhere for him to go and his selling as he realised Mendoza wasn't releasing the hold was incredible. Out of the break, he got right on top of Mendoza, trying to rip his arm free, but Mendoza countered and started twisting Satanico's knee. Satanico tried a counter of his own, but Ringo leant back on the hold, turning it into an awesome lucha submission where Satanico was upside down with his head on the canvas. Satanico reached out and grabbed the rope, but Mendoza wouldn't break. Finally Satanico snapped, screaming at Mendoza before limping back into the neutral position. This was Satanico at Gran Cochisse title match levels. He gave Mendoza a couple of hard slams and tagged out. A close-up of him on the apron showed just how riled he was.
Usually in a trios match, the technicos win the opening fall by upping the tempo and sending the rudos bumping, but in this case it was Satanico who came charging in like a bull, getting whipped by a series of leaping headbutts. He charged head first into the turnbuckle like a maniac, took an awesome bump off a dropkick and scurried away from Mendoza's cartwheel.
I love a trios match where everyone gets a little testy, and when Mendoza caught Satanico in a submission hold for the finish, he had it applied for what seemed like an eternity. As soon as the ref counted three, he pushed Satanico away and Lopez took a fall. Naturally he complained about the push, because he's a guy THAT NEVER STOPS WORKING. Hell, he even talked it over with MS-1 between falls, racking his brain for ideas.
I've been watching a lot of random stuff lately, and most of it has been on the disappointing side because of the technicos, but here you had Mendoza, who wasn't gonna take shit from Satanico; a fresh faced Atlantis, who wasn't just an incredible flyer, but answered a slap from MS-1 with a dropkick flush in the mouth; and Ultraman, who did karate without looking like a total dick. So, when the incredibly awesome old guy blew the whistle for the second fall, the rudos had a contest on their hands. The second caida began with the rudos coming off second best. There was a classic exchange where MS-1 tried to use his reach to do a little karate of his own and got completely owned by Ultraman, and then there was Satanico vs. Mendoza... with Satanico in his face pointing... hard slams to the canvas, Satanico telling him to bring it, Mendoza driving him into the mat, Satanico punching the mat (and selling his hand!)... Awesome. The look on Satanico's face when he couldn't get the better of Mendoza is officially the greatest thing he's ever done.
The rudos took over like they always do, much to the chargrin of that little old lady who was at every Arena Mexico show in the glory days. The envy of us all, God bless her soul. They took each guy apart, until finally the technicos turned the tables and that meant it was time for punches. Satanico may have been the best wrestler in Mexico, but there was no way he was taking Mendoza in a fight. Mendoza was ducking and weaving and cracking right hands. Satanico was flailing everywhere. He'd slap himself in the face and throw a wild haymaker. I'm telling you there's never been a better guy in Mexico.
The finish was really cool, as each of the technicos took on the Infernales three on one, weaving and bobbing and avoidng the triple team. It was a comical version of float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. The other day I listening to Cornette praise the Midnight Express, Rock 'n' Roll Express and himself for being able to do these sort of spots and he talked some shit about lucha, saying as soon as one guy fucks up the match falls apart... Well, it's obvious Cornette never watched any proper lucha.
Anyway, this was a bit of a find. Most of the Mendoza I've seen has been in his latter years where he was just there to add a bit of colour to trios matches, but here he took center stage and it was every bit as awesome as Lopez v. Gran Cochisse. Ringo's cool, but it's hard to go past Satanico as the greatest worker ever when you see him take the technical aspects of a lucha title feud and turn it into a heated brawl. His selling, attention to detail and ability to work a feud was, and probably still is, phenomenal. A pro-wrestling mastermind.