Centella de Oro, Sensei & Starman vs. Espíritu Maligno, Inquisidor & Pólvora, 4/6/09
Spirited Puebla opener, this time in front of a full house. Centella de Oro and Espíritu Maligno are two guys you need to check out whenever they make TV. The match wasn't overly special, but the work was smooth and the larger attandence helped.
Blue Panther/Maximo/El Hijo Del Fantasma v. Negro Casas, Felino & Heavy Metal, 4/10/09
This was entertaining. I dunno if I'll ever get used to Blue Panther without a mask, but he looked sharp here and had some great exchanges with both Casas and Felino. This was the first time I've enjoyed the Casas brothers' comedy act, which is so sketch based that it breaks kayfabe. I can deal with the stop/start stuff if the actual work is good. Maximo is one of the stranger exotico gimmicks I've seen, and while I'm not inclined to check out the rest of his work, he was OK here. Heavy Metal, on the other hand, did nothing.
Máscara Dorada, Metro & Valiente vs. Okumura, Skándalo & Virus, 4/17/09
Dorada, Metro and Valiente are rapidly becoming a must-see trios. The Valiente/Viruse exchanges in this match were incredible. Those two guys are the best match-up in Mexico right now, and Valiente is making a push for worker of the year, but the encouraging thing is how well the others are doing. They're hitting their spots cleanly and making smart decisions on offence. When you've got guys clicking and backing each other up, that's when you can fully enjoy the Valiente spots. That tope spot was hot buttered.
I tell you what -- CMLL is far less offensive when you watch it on youtube.
Satanico vs. Super Astro, mano a mano, 1984
Satanico's hair was awesome in this.
I wasn't digging his work to begin with. It was good, but not the genius you'd expect from Satanico. And I thought they made a mistake giving the first fall to Super Astro, especially since he turned on a dime to make his comeback, instead of fighting his way out of a corner. They went straight back to the beatdown, which isn't the overlap you'd expect, but the third fall was really good. Super Astro made a brawling comeback, and as we all know, brawling comebacks are where Lopez kicks it up a gear. Super Astro bit his forehead open and the maestro was incensed. That's when the genius began to emerge -- they dropped the cliched story of the technico not being big enough and fought it out.
I always thought Super Astro was a worker who couldn't use his fists, but he pelted Satanico a couple of times and turned his tope into an awesome headbutt. They did this really cool spot where they were trading blows on their knees and Super Astro bent all the way back, touched the mat with his head and popped back up with a headbutt.
The finish wasn't the greatest, but the lead-in was vintage Satanico. There was a great visual of him pulling on a hold -- blood pouring from his head, spit flying from his mouth. Just a fantastic image of the effort needed to win a match. He's a guy who put so much into his finishes. You watch a Satanico match and his selling tells the whole story. It doesn't matter whether you're in the front row, back row or sitting at home, the guy was just a genius at selling. And he understood structure and the need for an arch. He'd clue you to why he lost, then bullshit himself and everyone else.
Just a hell of a performer.
Black Terry, Cerebro Negro y Dr Cerebro vs Negro Navarro, Trauma I y Trauma II, 3/28/09
There was something a bit off about Terry's matwork in this match and even Navarro was a bit skew-whiff. I'm not sure that he should out and out dominate Dr.Cerebro like that. The match stayed on an even keel, but the only explosive moments where when Terry and Navarro brawled and even that wasn't outstanding. I think they're building to a title match, so we can live in hope, but shorter mat sequences with the Navarro kids and more of a focus on Negro vs. Terry would probably help.
Mascara Dorada, Metro, Valiente vs Euforia, Nosferatu, Virus, 4/10/09
This was really good. It started off with an extended mat sequence between Valiente and Virus, which is a hell of a match-up, but what made this match was the rhythm. The timing on the dives was perfect and I think the crowd picked up on that. A tidy match with good, clean progressions. Nobody overplayed their hand and the bumping & catching was strong. Valiente might just be prettier than Super Astro.
Atlantis/El Hijo del Santo/Tony Salazar vs. El Satanico/El Dandy/Espectro Jr., mid-80s
This was pretty cool. Not the three fall classic you're looking for; in fact the technicos ran away with it, but if you're into your technicos then this was irresistable.
Santo did the kind of things you've seen him do a million times before, but at three times the speed. Even though he's Santo, it was staggerly how cleanly he hit everything. Whenever a match pops up from his UWA period, it always seems so much fresher and I've no doubt that this was the peak of his athleticism. Not to be outdone, Atlantis and Dandy couldn't match him for pace but put together some ridiculously intricate exchanges. Atlantis was a special luchador in his youth and it's almost impossible to pin him as the same guy today.
The captains were Satanico and Tony Salazar, who, as you'd imagine, had heat with each other. It seems Satanico's had an issue with everyone at one point or another. Satanico wanted to throw away the contest and have a boxing match, and when the refs put a stop to that, the crowd took great delight in Salazar delivering the bulldog.
The finish was a popular one in the 80s, with the rudo avoiding one technico's dive and getting blindsided by another's. Considering the technicos were Santo and Atlantis, I won't lie, it was a bit of a mark-out moment. And when Santo hit his dive proper, a bit of a fuck yeah.
Friend of the blog, Robert Bihari, talks about all luchadores wanting to up the pace of things in their youth, and it's true -- Santo, Atlantis and Dandy were dramatically quicker than Caras, Wagner and Mendoza, but the kids today don't do shit this good. Even Freelance can't touch this stuff and he's the best thing going down. Something has gone awry with the modern luchador. Mind you, something's gone awry with all modern things. Perhaps I have entered my old age. I have arrived. I wonder if you can pinpoint the whole thing to Diablo Velazco's death. Robert's a great champion of the younger guys, but jeez they get shown up on even the most limited footage of the older days.
Dos Caras Sr. vs. Dr. Wagner Sr., All Japan Pro-Wrestling
I remember Jose telling me about this match when we hung out one time.
Now that I've seen it, I can honestly say it's one of the high points of my lucha fandom.
Caras was mobbed on his way to the ring. The crowd were on their feet, trying to get a glimpse of him, and kids rushed from everywhere to touch him. And there, waiting for him, was the Doctor. In full attire.
The TV producers cut to the body of each fall, but what was shown was the most beautiful lucha you'll ever witness. Watching this, I saw the lucha contest in its full light. The gracefulness of Dos Caras and the sheer physicality of Dr. Wagner Sr. Caras was sublime in all his movements, while the Doctor was coarser, but the contest was such that at one point the sweat was just pouring from their masks. And the selling was exquisite.
After a Caras plancha, a young boy was brave enough to run up to him, and you could sense it was unlike anything the crowd had seen before. There were the slower, exaggerated spots, then the perfect dives... the exact turns and rolling bumps. Caras flew through the air with his headbutts and the Doctor's remedy for everything was brute strength and forearm smashes. If it were a work of art, you'd make a pilgrimage to see it.
And the thing is that it was so short, just a few minutes... but those minutes were priceless. And I was fortunate to see them.
LOS TEMERARIOS (Shu el Guerrero, Black Terry y Jose Luis Feliciano) vs LOS FANTASTICOS (Kato Kung Lee, Kendo y Blackman), 3/16/02
This was from some UWA tribute show back in '02.
It was a typical Fantasticos match, with a bunch of dueling takedowns leading into Space Cadets type spots, and Blackman in particular was really good at that shit, but what impressed me were the Los Temerarios. It was like they hadn't skipped a beat. Terry had this really awesome slap exchange with Kato Kung Lee, where he got backhanded by a slicing karate chop and sold the fuck out of his nose. Shu asserted himself as the patron saint of this blog by doing the greatest trip up ever. It was classic Shu -- planting himself face first, then going after the ref, accusing him of pulling on the top rope. And Jose Luis Feliciano, I dunno where he is these days or what he's doing, but he ought to be working 'cos he was all class. The rudos strung together some nifty spots and even better than that -- nifty reactions to the technicos, who were dancing like technicos should. Watch Terry's selling in the finish. Beautiful.
Black Terry, Cerebro Negro y Dr Cerebro vs Negro Navarro, Trauma I y Trauma II, March/April '09
This kinda reminded me of 2008 BattlARTS -- lots of stiff shots and nasty looking submissions, with Navarro and Terry playing the Ishikawa and Ikeda roles. I'm not sold on Navarro as a brawler, but man, you do not want to piss him off. The big Navarro and Terry exchanges were awesome, following on from the clips we saw last year. At this point, it's a toss-up whether you wanna see Navarro face Solar or Terry. I kinda lean towards Terry because you know they'll bash the shit out of each other. Terribles Cerebros are becoming a really fun trios, but get the fuck out of the way and let's see a singles match again.
Is there any bigger legend than Black Terry? His work this year has been better than anything Casas has done in years. One thing I want to say about the Casas love this year is that his skipping in that Mistico match was fucking embarrassing and I just knew that people would point to it as classic Casas. Enough. We will be canonising Black Terry this year.
Freelance, Turbo & Chico Che vs. Black Thunder, Black Terry & Capitán Muerte
IWRG is back and it'll only take a few seconds of matwork to make you realise what you've missed.
The match itself was low-key. There wasn't much of a crowd and they didn't bite on the switch-up in the first fall, which, considering the technicos snuck a fall they should've lost, kinda killed the tone for the rest of the match. The rudos played it a bit loose after that, but the work was good. The Black Terry matwork was awesome and Freelance was able to bust a move or two from the mat without killing himself.
Fuerza Guerrera vs. Oficial 911 [Campeonato Intercontinental Welter IWRG]
Hadn't seen Fuerza in awhile and wasn't sure if he still had it. He still has it. In spades.
He's a lot heavier and slower than the Fuerza I remember, and his body can't move or bump like it used to, but it's all about the top two inches and Fuerza's as keen as ever. Through two falls he looked better than Blue Panther and Negro Casas combined, but they worked this awful finish that was straight out of '94-95 AAA with an Americanised twist. What a gaffe. You could see it coming, actually -- they passed up on some awesome finishes and you knew the beat beyond would be shit. Still, the finer points in this were awesome.
El Signo vs. Villano V, UWA World Light Heavyweight Championship, 4/3/92
Signo really was a fantastic worker. Not only was he ridiculously smooth with his rolling bumps, he was also quick on the mat. And he could sell too. Which no matter what people say is the art to professional wrestling.
This match was unique in a lucha sense in that Villano spent a lot of time targeting a body part. Often times, you'll see a guy work a body part for a finish or perhaps even a fall, but Villano was hellbent on separating the arm from the shoulder, which, if you're into that psychology shit, was to render the lariat arm useless. The holds were reminiscent of his father, but the force with which he applied them was astonishing. You could almost describe it as technical brawling; just sheer brute force. If it had been any closer to a shoot, he would've wrenched the arm off completely.
Signo, as defending champ, didn't get much of a rub. He was up against it the whole match, but sold well and negotiated a tricky comeback in the second fall. The match opened up towards the end, but Signo was spent from the smothering he'd received. You could see that he was looking for a way out, but Villano was too strong and probably too young at this point. Signo seemed a little gassed, but he got up one last time for a pretty finish.
Villano took a lot of people by surprise, himself included, and the post match came across like a legit title upset. Shit like that is always cool to see. I wish they'd bring back the aura of a real title fight. This wasn't the best I've seen in lucha, but it was a pleasure to watch.
Signo, Negro Navarro y Black Power vs. Solar, Fantasma y Psicodelico, early 90s
This was really cool. Hard-hitting, fast-paced lucha, with more action than you see these days. Guys kept hitting the ring and working cool exchanges. Clipping may have sped it up, but the Misioneros were going flat tack. Signo was motoring and must've been a dynamo in his prime. He led with the headbutt and Psicodelico got so pissed with the smash mouth tactics that he started grabbing people by the ears and fish hooking them. Solar was amazingly athletic and did a classic 3-on-1 spot. He was shit talking after that, as tomk puts it. Navarro wasn't the maestro he'd become (i.e. the best mat worker on the planet), but there were glimpses of it. He worked a few rope exchanges with Solar and it was as slick as you'd expect. The Misioneros were a smooth unit even with BP in their ranks. They hit the ground running and I swear you don't see guys work this hard or fast anymore. Awesome bumping and rapidfire exchanges. Not a dive in sight yet the technicos were spectacular.
You've gotta love real pros.
Valiente vs. Rey Hechicero, WWA World Middleweight Championship, 1/27/08
This was good stuff. If I'd seen it earlier, I would've voted for it in the Tapatía Awards.
It was a genuine attempt at a lucha title match, with Valiente showing how skillful and competent he is on the mat. I'm sick of sounding like a broken record, but I can't understand why CMLL don't give us matches like this. With the numerous TV shows they have, you'd think they could throw out something authentic from time to time. There's no reason why you can't mix the old with the new, as this match aptly demonstrated. It was chock full of matwork and submissions, but had newish moves and pretty flying -- modern moves with a classic structure.
I'm sick of guys hiding how good they are on CMLL cards. Shit this good shouldn't be a throwback.
Anyway, y'all need to watch this and appreciate what a guy like Valiente is capable of. Rey Hechicero also looked like a quality worker and it was a deft little encounter. Some great struggles on the mat, smart use of the dives, jinking footwork. Good showing.
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.
Los Oficiales vs. Freelance, Marco Rivera, Veneno, 8/9/2007
With no new IWRG, I figured it's worth checking out the back catalogue. I dunno if it was the low bit-resolution or the fact the Oficiales were only a few months into their run, but they seemed fresher here. They were a well-oiled machine in this, cutting off the ring and working slick triple teams. Their brawling had a real snap to it and it was great to see them working as a unit.
As for Freelance -- the first chance he got, he almost killed himself. I realise that happens in every Freelance match, but this was amazing. He took off for a plancha suicida like he was taking off from the free throw line, but overshot the Oficial and landed head first on the floor. The doc seemed concerned, but in true Freelance fashion he shrugged it off and worked the most spectacular exchange of the match.
Everyone followed suit hitting big moves and wiping each other out. If lucha was this exciting all the time, I wouldn't have any cynicism about the younger generation.
Brazo de Plata vs. Asesino Negro, hair vs. hair, Arena Coliseo Guadalajara, 6/6/04
BATTLE OF THE SUPERHEAVYWEIGHTS! This is why lucha is so much fun. Just an awesome brawl between two fat guys. The crowd loved this and there were kids jumping up on the apron, despite a hideous double bladejob. I loved the front on collision when they charged at each other and all of their brawling. I also loved how Asesino Negro wouldn't accept the loss. That's right, Asesino. It ain't ever over. Colossal stuff.
Cassandro vs. Rubi Gardenia, Chikara Welterweight title, Lucha Libre London, 12/7/08
From a star of the golden age to one of the biggest stars of 2008. Or at least I thought so. Judging by the Tapatia Awards, I'm completely out of touch with the lucha fanbase. Mind you, Cassandro was 8th in the Best Wrestler category and 5th in Best Technico, and I forgot to vote for him in both.
This was a fun 10 minute match with a little bit of everything. They floated through some dives and matwork and there was a bunch of hair pulling and bitchy slaps. It was a perfectly good houseshow match, with Casandro working the crowd like you'd expect. There was a cry of "C'mon, Wonder Woman!" which prompted Cassandro to leap over the barricade to find thes guy. The lucky bugger got a peck on the cheek. Gardenia was a good base and bumped well, and I think the comments about him being somewhat worthless are somewhat unfair.
Cassandro just happens to be the perfect mix of charisma and working ability, and the fact he's playing technico means he can show what an awesome worker he is without having to stooge. Thus, his star shines brighter. But Gardenia was everywhere he needed to be in this, he rolled with his bumps, sprang to his feet and got into position again. And that made for a tidy little showcase.
Nice one fall match.
Ray Mendoza vs. Tatsumi Fujinami, WWWF Junior Heavyweight Title, El Toreo, 8/13/78
Cubsfan pulled out a quote recently from El Santo's final interview, where he said: "back in my day, we wrestled on the mat - using holds that could kill a man - and now all they do is flying and clown stuff." It's the same lament you hear from every generation, but after watching Mendoza, I'm inclined to believe it. This was the twilight of his career, one of his last competitive fights before retiring in 1983. Even with a dodgy knee, his takedowns and matwork were phenomenal. Whatever skepticism there is over the halcyon days, there's no denying that this guy could wrestle.
Based on this match alone, I'd say he was the best mat worker I've seen. I love Satanico and his matches against Gran Cochisse and Ringo Mendoza, and I dug Mocho Coto v. Americo Rocca, but those guys were pinballs by comparison. Mendoza was fierce and had the look of a wrestler. If it had stayed on the mat, I have no doubt he could've killed Fujinami. Fujinami was a flashy junior, who fully embraced that 70s trope of leaving the mat to win a fall. He was a fantastic athlete (back when Japanese wrestling could attract fantastic athletes), but all limbs. Watching Mendoza school him with takedowns and leg locks was nothing short of amazing.
When he overpowered him to win the fall, I found a new lucha hero.
Black Tiger, Centella de Oro, Tigre Rojo vs. Karisma, Mr. Rafaga, Siki Ozama Jr., 1/5/09
What I like about the Puebla locals is how they come in all shapes and sizes. Add to that the weird assortment of gimmicks and you have the sort of charm that's been missing from CMLL since they decided to push guys with abs. I also like how they stick to the game plan, regardless of how good they are. The first caida is matwork, the second is either a rudo beatdown or a technico comeback and the third is the crowd pleaser. It's a faster paced style than classic lucha, but everyone works the mat, the finishes are intricate and they aren't chained to the dives. Centella de Oro is just about the best technico worker you'll see on a CMLL card. Not all of the locals are good and they sometimes get bogged down, but Centella de Oro always comes up trumps and worked the smoothest of exchanges with Siki Ozama Jr.
Akira & King Jaguar vs. Mr. Rafaga & Toro Bill Jr., 1/19/09
TORO BILL JR. is awesome. Remember that name, you'll be hearing a lot more about him in the future. Not only is he ridiculously good at just about every aspect of lucha libre, it's all wrapped in a Dick Togo package. And damnit if he isn't a rudo. He actually had the gumption to tear King Jaguar's mask completely, and they were about an inch away from what would've been a bladejob in days gone by. He bit Jaguar's forehead and even gnawed on Akira's fingers when he had him in a wristlock, and his headbutts to the stomach were reminiscent of how rudos used to work. His partner in this was an older rudo by the name of Mr. Rafaga, who was only semi-good, but together they put a lot of guys to shame. They did the dirty work and let the technicos get the better of them, whether it was on the mat or off the ropes. Toro Bill Jr. took a nasty bump over the turnbuckle, ate a spectacular plancha from King Jaguar, had his mask torn off, ate all of Jaguar's best shit and jobbed hard. All in a day's work.
Asturiano, Centella de Oro, Lestat vs. Policeman, Toro Bill Jr., Toro Bill Sr., 2/2/09
This was a wild match that threatened to go off the rails, but managed to stay on track because of how good the rudos were. Toro Bill Sr. was having a whale of a time. He's a fat, older rudo, who knows he's a fat, older rudo and has fun with it. I loved how he bit on the tope fake by falling ass backwards into the crowd. There was a great shot of the big man sitting on a couple of guy's laps, wiping his forehead after such a close shave. And he was pretty spry for an older guy. He bumped well, ran the ropes at a reasonable clip and used his girth like a battering ram. Policeman is a journeyman type, who I wasn't sold on until he started having the most awesome punch exchange with Centella de Oro that demanded a singles match somewhere. And Toro Bill Jr. was incredible again, especially his tope. Heads clashed, just like they're supposed to. I wasn't too high on the other technicos, but sometimes three rudos and a good technico is all you need and watching Centella de Oro fight back was fun. The finish was something only a couple of luchadores are capable of.
Hijo de Cien Caras, Mascara Año 2000 Jr. y Negro Navarro vs. El Pantera, Mano Negra y Halcon Ortiz, 8/21/08
No matwork in this one, just a soft brawl. Still it was pretty harmless. Mano Negra and Pantera did some neat spots off the ropes and Halcon Ortiz looked better than Mil Máscaras.
Los Oficiales vs. Fantasma de la Opera, Dr. Cerebro y Cerebro Negro, Distrito Federal Trios Championship, 8/24/08
I really dug this. They may have been a little safe with the structure, but it was at least recognisable as lucha libre. Nothing outwardly spectacular, just guys chiming in at the right time. There were some decent mat exchanges between 911 and Dr. Cerebro & Fierro and Cerebro Negro, and Fantasma de la Opera did a good job as the guy who swings the momentum. It was a little telegraphed, but a cautious approach to structure is better than no structure at all.
The Oficiales lack the journeyman instincts that a lot of older rudos have, and I get the feeling that they don't have much in the way of shtick, but what I'd like to see from them (if IWRG ever gets TV again) is more bite. Fantasma de la Opera & Co. were chippy here, and I think in a better trios match they would've made more out of that, but the Oficiales tend to rotate the strike. 911 was the captain, but there was never a sense that he was the key guy or that 911 vs. Fantasma de la Opera was the key match-up, because they don't pair off enough. They're great at backing each other up. They'll hit the ring and build off the previous exchange, and either retaliate or take the bump, but what's lacking is the chieftain factor. I hate to bring Satanico up, but he was a master at singling out the mano a mano contest within a trios match, and I think the Oficiales need to take turns being the chief. You don't need to be feuding over a singles title to work an inbuilt rivalry into a trios match, you just need to take charge and single each other out. The way Black Terry singled out 911 in their September title match.
Despite all that it was still a good match. You could pretty much call it, and it was a little cushioned, but damn it feels good to watch something that makes sense.
Asturiano/Black Tiger/Centella De Oro vs Espiritu Maligno/Fuerza Chicana/Siki Ozama Jr., Arena Puebla, 1/26/09
This was my first look at the Puebla locals and I was impressed.
It wasn't a perfect match, but cubsfan nailed it when he said: "being there to hit your move just as the guy turns around to take [it] is such a great skill but one seemingly missing from a lot of CMLL guys." These guys showed that with the right timing you can hit upon a far better rhythm than "baseless" lucha. Add to that some colourful characters and a Black Terry-ish veteran in Centella De Oro and you have the best undercard action since 1997. The match was mostly spots and guys acting as bases for each other, but even in the slower patches I thought the work was good. In most trios matches, the falls overlap each other. If the rudos win a fall, they'll pick up where they left off, forcing the technicos to mount a comeback. It's a transition period of sorts, and can be difficult to execute, but in recent times the tendency has been to view it as dead air. Workers have started skipping over it or culling it altogether, but without that down time, the comeback is forgettable. These guys weren't exactly seamless with their transitions, but they carried momentum through three falls and filled in the early parts of each falll, and for that they ought to be saluted. Fun match.
Negro Casas/Felino/Heavy Metal v. Sagrado/Mascara/ El Volador, Arena Puebla, 2/8/09
So, Negro Casas fits the mainevent scene like a glove, Heavy Metal has his working boots on and it's great that Felino's getting some sort of push again; potentially the Casas Brothers are a really good trios. But what a sorry bunch of technicos. They all look the same, they wrestle the same and I don't know how I'm supposed to tell them apart. If it were up to me, I'd shoot the lot. Obviously that's not going to happen, so the onus is on the rudos to have better matches with them, and if you think the rudos did that here, you're glossing over how utterly crap this was.
There was some semblance of trios structure, but no focus. If you don't pair off at the beginning, then you just end up going through the motions. The Arena Puebla crowd were in good voice and banged away on their drums merrily. The problem these days is no one gives a fuck. Casas was even joking around with a photographer. I wouldn't say they mailed it in, but I don't wanna see fat cat comedian Felino. I wanna see the Felino that tears it up with Virus. And when a technico gets a pop for taking his shirt off, I'm sorry that's just pathetic.
Not a good start for the Casas Brothers.
They shoot technicos, don't they?
Satanico, Rambo y Fishman vs Villano III, Lizmark y Panterita del Ring
They only aired five minutes of this, but what was shown was pretty awesome.
Satanico was his usual maniacal self, ripping at Lizmark's mask and throwing in headbutts. When Lizmark rolled under the bottom rope, Satanico tried to reach through the ropes and grab him. I swear Satanico is the greatest improviser I've seen in wrestling. Not only does he follow-up on everything, but he's forever selling his obsession with that particular opponent. Later on, it was Lizmark who was obsessed, laying in the most awesome looking kicks and hitting perfect back breakers. He nailed some flush looking dropkicks and this was better than anything they did in their singles match. Hunched over Lizmark, ready to rip someone apart was an awesome visual. He was just about the best technico in AAA at this time, at least when it came to trios matches. His singles matches weren't that great, but he brought an old school vibe to tag matches.
Psicosis, Espectro Jr y Parka vs Rey Misterio Sr y Jr, y Lizmark
This was a good example of what I mean. I'm not gonna win any friends with this comment, but the Psicosis/Misterio Jr. exchanges in this match were pretty much the pre-cursor for the crap we see today. Lizmark and Espectro, on the other hand, had an awesome 80s style EMLL exchange that was one of the best mat exchanges I've seen in AAA.
The match itself was really good. It had a perfect rhythm for an AAA style match and they managed to work a number of dives and bumps onto the match without turning it into an AAA clusterfuck. It was a blend of comedy and big spills from the rudos. Nowdays all the rudos want to match it with technicos, but these guys sold big time, worked in the miscommunciation spots and didn't mind looking foolish in front of the crowd. Lizmark had a classic tope fake, which the rudos sold to comic perfection, and to me that's more spectacular than a slow-mo on some tricked out dive to nowhere. And they could flip the switch and get back to some serious brawling, whereas today's guys can't even brawl let alone bump in unison and wind up on their asses. The finish was really simple, but in lucha simple means beautiful. Misterio Sr. threw Psicosis over the top rope for an insane bump to the concrete, which Misterio Jr. followed up with a spectacular dive. Sr. went to the top rope for a plancha, and Lizmark won it in the ring like the classy technico that he was. I'd love to see today's technicos do a simple three part finish.
Satanico/Espectro/Psicosis vs Lizmark/Santo/Aguayo
This was a really good brawl that began with some great triple teaming from the rudos. Espectro was an original member of the Infernales and therefore the rudos worked that EMLL style that I favour so much. They cut each technico off from his partners and Satanico worked mano a mano with Perro Aguayo. Perro was pretty bad at this point, but he could still fire a crowd up and the technicos worked a great brawling comeback. Psicosis and Espectro were similar sorts of workers and had some awesome chemistry here. They must've bumped into each other a million times in the course of this match, and y'know, whenever Psicosis knuckled down, he was as good as any of the veteran rudos. It was a close call as to who was better between Santo and Lizmark. I tend to think that Santo dumbed his style down in AAA and mostly worked rope exchanges, but Santo was pretty fucking awesome at the flashy stuff. Lizmark mostly worked with Espectro and again their stuff was brilliant. The finish was a little weak, as it ended with Psicosis giving Santo a low blow, but on the replay you could see how the opportunity arose for Psicosis. It was too good to pass up and he just went for it.
I dunno if it was on account of Perro being incredibly slow, but Satanico looked past his prime here. He did some awesome selling, but the AAA style demanded pace, and as hard as Satanico charged at people, there's only so many miles you can clock.
Negro Casas/Heavy Metal v. La Sombra/Volador Jr., CMLL World Tag Team Championship, 2/13/09
Negro Casas and Heavy Metal made a great team here.
Heavy Metal's a guy I never liked watching in AAA. In fact, if there's a hell below, the only lucha I'll find is Heavy Metal vs. Jerry Estrada on an endless loop. Yet somewhere along the way he's developed into a real asskicker. He still looks like he's on something, but I liked how he carried himself here. I guess it was a combination of the short hair, tattoos and the way he avoided looking his opponents in the eyes. He was staring a hole in something, but hardly ever looked up. That was the sort of intensity the Casas brothers brought to the match and I enjoyed the opening exchanges. Heavy Metal was fierce with his grappling. He hung on for a second or two before making his move, which is one of the basic elements missing from lucha today. And he'd pause ever so slightly before wrenching a hold or throwing a punch, just to give it that extra effect.
So from the Casas brothers' side it was quite a kick ass little match, but there was still the problem of Sombra and Voldor sucking. All they really did in this match was dives and springboard moves, and while the set-up was better than usual and the Casas brothers sold well, the technicos were as weak as ever. The match rocketed along at a fair clip and some of the dives were genuinely exciting, as was Casas' awesome selling at the end, but fuck those masks looked ridiculous. The rudos completely outclassed the technicos, which rudos shouldn't do, and it wasn't much in the way of a carry. It was more like two great workers imposing their will on two shit workers.
Gran Hamada vs. Centurión Negro, UWA World Middleweight Championship, 2/14/82 (2nd & 3rd falls only)
This was from a UWA Anniversary show at El Toreo De Naucalpan, and is supposedly one of the great lucha matches, but to me it was more of a juniors match than a great lucha match. That's not a knock on the match, I can just live without seeing backdrops and bridged suplexes in lucha.
Hamada's a good grappler, with awesome leg strength, and he's the kind of guy I like because he looks like an actual wrestler, but he was pushing the workrate here. Admittedly it was joined in progress, but the only semblance of a lucha title match were some octopus-like submissions from the mystery man, Centurión Negro. Whether Negro was good enough to have a Roman-Greco classic is anybody's guess, but he hung OK in the juniors style. There were a couple of topes onto the wet El Toreo floor, which left them covered in some sort of shit, and it turned into a bit of a sprint.
Aside from the setting, they could've had the same match anywhere in the world. When I watch lucha, I wanna see something you could only see in Mexico, not something with an early 80s juniors feel.
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.
Villano III/Gran Hamada/Eddy Guerrero vs. Shu el Guerrero/Scorpio/Scorpio Jr., Arena Neza, early 90s
With all the El Toreo shows taking place, I thought I'd do a little reminiscing of my own.
This was a fun fifteen minute match back when these guys could move a whole lot quicker. It started off as a non-descript rudo beatdown, but Villano got this inspired idea to beat everyone with a stick. He used the thing until it was just a handle and even swung it at the ref. I'm not a fan of guys using props, but I dug Villano as marshal, especially since he had a new mask on, with the old one flapping around his neck. As with most UWA guys, there's not a lot of footage of Villano III in his prime, but his fingerpints were all over this. The heat grew as a result of how pissed he was and that upped the tempo of the match. Suddenly they started having awesome exchanges. Shu was a fantastic bumper in his day and made Eddy look like a great lucha worker, taking rapidfire bumps off arm drags. Scorpio Sr. was a big guy at this point, as big as Shu in the past couple of years, and Gran Hamada bodyslammed him in yet another awesome spot. Junior was also a much better bumper in his younger days and so quick. He even looked like Fuerza at times. But in the thick of it all was Villano III, ripping away at Shu's mask and sending him crashing out of the ring in a great tailspin bump. There was another great spot where Scorpio Jr. tried to run away from Villano III on the outside, while Villano lay in wait.
Comedy spots, boxing, springboard dropkicks as your highspot... This was back when lucha was entertainment.