El Toreo Requiem Part 2, UWE, 1/23/09
This is a long goodbye. Not that I'm complaining or anything.
LOS CADETES DEL ESPACIO SOLAR, SUPER ASTRO Y ULTRAMAN
LOS MISIONEROS DE LA MUERTE NEGRO NAVARRO, SIGNO Y BLACK POWER
This was all about Negro Navarro vs. Solar, and I'd go on and on about how great it was, but you know how much of a junkie I am for this stuff. The other guys weren't so bad on the mat, but their timing isn't what it used to be and neither is their strength. The Cadetes stay grounded these days, though Solar and Super Astro managed to work a classic Space Cadets tope spot. That left Solar alone v Navarro. I'm a real mark for these Negro Navarro standoffs; they're like a spaghetti western showdown with the bounty-killer. This wasn't quite up to a Ennio Morricone score, but Solar was awesome, incorporating stuff they'd done for show into a match winning bid. The finish was supremely satisfying, and while the match wasn't up to the one they had when Texano was still alive, I couldn't have asked for much more.
VILLANO IV Y V
SHU EL GUERRERO Y ENGENDRO
This was another good match. Shu is feuding with the Villanos at the moment and coming dangerously close to losing his mask to Quinto, but I'm enjoying this far more than the crap with Panther. The Villanos look far better in UWE than CMLL, especially Villano V. What impressed me most about this match was Engendro. It was supposed to be a revenge match between the Villanos and Shu/Scorpio Jr., but it was all the better for having Engendro involved. He was everywhere he needed to be to keep this ticking over as a brawl. This was a strong mascara contra mascara riff running through this, and the fact Engendro lost his mask to Villano IV once upon a time was a neat twist. Most of all it was nice to have a Shu showcase in the early part of 2009. The guy plays second or third fiddle a lot, and he's good at that, but it's cool to see him in a feud, even if it can only end badly for him.
CANEK, ENRIQUE VERA Y VILLANO III
MIL MASCARAS, DR. WAGNER JR. Y DOS CARAS
This was an attempt at working a classic UWA style mainevent brawl. Villano III wore his mask for old time's sake and it looked like an old man version of youtube clips you might see from El Toreo's heyday. Wagner toned it down a bit, which was a blessing, and Vera got stuck into him from the moment he entered the ring. We can only imagine he was saying, "fuck your bullshit, Wagner." Vera's brawling was pretty decent. No Dos Caras matwork, instead it was Canek's turn to look pretty good. Not much to say really. They pulled each other's masks off too much, and Villano III kept trying to hide his face until finally he walked around without his mask on (which was in Wagner's mouth.)
I skipped the opener, but check out the middle two matches.
Blue Panther vs. Mr. Niebla, Arena Puebla, 11/17/08
What is the deal with Mr. Niebla? Fuck he's an awful worker.
But the real problem here was Panther.
And ever since he unmasked, he's been doing this "old man in peril" act where he looks piss weak. It doesn't matter whether he fights back with a punch or a tope, it all looks weak. Guys like El Faraón never showed their age, but Panther can't seem to help it. His selling is shitty, and I hate the way he draws support by lying on the mat and clenching his leg... He's already got the stigma of losing his mask, yet he takes one beating after another. When he is gonna stop working like this and show some fight?
If you put Panther and Villano III in a hair match tomorrow, I wouldn't buy that Panther could take Villano's hair. He needs a major attitudinal shift. The stuff he does now was OK when he wore a mask, but he shouldn't be taking shit from anyone at this point, especially a guy like Niebla.
What was the point of Niebla conning Panther into a DQ finish? Is everyone gonna pile on Panther? How fucking dumb is CMLL? I'm slowly realising/coming to terms with the fact that nobody can work anymore, but booking is a whole nutha matter. Panther has got to be the weakest looking guy in Mexico right now and that's fucking stupid. I can't think of any older technico who'd put up with this. They'd all be demonstratively against it.
Get angry Panther.
Los Oficiales vs. Black Terry/Cerebro Negro/Dr Cerebro, Distrito Federal Trios Championship, IWRG, 9/18/08
Black Terry is such a legend. There was a close-up of him early on, watching from the apron... A little tape from the cut man, a bit of gum to loosen up...
He looked a little weathered, but without geting out too out there, that rough, charismatic look kinda summed this match up.
This wasn't a classic, and it was a little rough around the edges, but it had a sort of magneticism about it. It was rudos contra rudos and the way they chose to express that was through stiffness. Even when they took it to the mat, they were looking to hurt each other. There was a lot of stand and deliver stuff, with guys trying to make hard hittng sounds, and Terry's ability to take a shot and fire one back is almost as spectacular as the matwork he did with 911. The match generally followed a theme of what Larry Z might call "manliness" and that's what you want from fringe stuff like this. I could've done without some of the indie looking moves, but I suppose they're inevitable these days. Los Oficiales were a bit subdued compared to matches where they rule the roost as rudos, but with Black Terry at the helm this was one of the better matches of 2008.
Terry's matwork is the reason I gravitate towards this type of lucha. He was thinking ahead the whole time. He'd get 911 in a hold, release it and back off. From the neutral position, he had a counter for everything. 911 wasn't sure what Terry was aiming for, until Terry finally had the submission he wanted. He was never gonna submit, but lucha, in many ways, is about denting the other guy's pride. 911 walked away knowing he'd been beat. So the next time they squared off, he wanted to duke it out, which made sense considering his height advantage. And while it must be pointed out that 911 didn't work this exchange particularly well, Terry busting the guy's nose up and tossing him out of the ring like a piece of garbage was badass and another reason why Black Terry is a legend.
Negro Casas vs. Blue Panther, CMLL Guadalajara, 8/3/08
I enjoyed this.
It reminded me of those old school mano a mano contests, minus the blood. Mano a mano is neither a title match or a hair vs. mask match, so you have to take it down a notch (or two) in the event that one of those stips takes place. A Negro Casas/Blue Panther program is unlikely to happen at this point, but these guys were schooled in the old ways. They told a simple story about Casas cheating, the ref preventing Panther from retaliating and Panther becoming frustrated at rudo and ref alike, and while they weren't wrestling for anything as such, it became a matter of pride as to who would win. And while the work was enough to convince anyone that these guys can still wrestle, what I took away from the match is that after 30 years in the business they care enough to try and get a small Guadalajara crowd into an otherwise meaningless match.
All told it was just another night at the lucha, but the entertaining part was that while it was a matter of pride, the point of pride was of that of a rudo vs. that of a technico. Casas wanted to win by cheating. Panther, who'd usually win with technique, wanted the win as a matter of principles. Maybe that sounds old fashioned, but I think that heel/face dynamic is lost on a lot of workers today, who just wanna win with the most spectacular move they can conjure, regardless of whether they're a technico.
Anyway, I'm holding out hope for whatever Casas does as a rudo this year.
Sangre Chicana vs. Villano III (12/3/83; may be from '84)
Eighties lucha! Where men were men and mano a mano meant hideous bladejobs.
Sangre Chicana has always been one of my favourite workers to watch. You watch a fight like this and he gets so much out of nothing, whereas today's kids get nothing out of too much. He took a beating here and his forehead was gashed, and not only was his selling better than anything I saw out of CMLL for the entirety of last year, but his offence amounted to a punch and tope. The tope was incredible, just a sickening clash of heads... You completely bought that Villano wasn't gonna make the count, and that Chicana couldn't keep fighting, even if no ref was gonna stop him. Villano was a mess and despite the fact he'd only been hit by a tope all match long, he was a sick man.
There was no way they were gonna go on fighting after that and the finish was a double DQ. These guys fought each other throughout the 80s, in what was essentially an EMLL vs. UWA match-up, so this was just another tease for a hair vs. mask match, but it's a nice ode to "six moves or less" lucha, that leaves the mat a little stained and the workers a bloody pulp.
La Sombra/Volador Jr. vs. Averno/Mephisto, CMLL World Tag Team Championship, 1/16/09
Where do you start a match? Do you start from dives or do you start from the ground up?
If you ask this layman, you either start from the mat, or from rudo brawling, and you hold off on your dives until the time is right. But the only building blocks these guys have are their dives and tricked out moves, so they go to them early.
Stuff happens... It just happens. None of these guys time their moves to get a proper response. It shouldn't be this easy for a rudo to counter a hold or a technico to do a dive. It makes the whole thing look choreographed, because the only rhythm is the rhythm of them performing a move. "Less is more" is lost on these workers, along with a lot of other basic skills. But I don't just blame the workers. The crowd don't give a fuck about the falls either. They'll toot their horns no matter what. Once they cottoned on to the fact they were part of the show, the caidas became less important than the cheering sections. They don't give a shit what happens so long as their favourite side wins.
The biggest problem, however, (and I'm gonna go to town here), is how insipid Averno and Mephisto are. There was an injury in this match that basically left Volador Jr. two-on-one, and you know what happens in the end, right? So this is the part of the match where the rudos are supposed to slow things down, because that's what rudos do. They don't play the high stakes moves game, they beat people up and later on they pay for it. But not our demonic little friends. They do the same bullshit they'd do with Volador if Sombra were still on the apron. Honestly, if you can't beat a guy up while his partner is laid out, what the fuck are you a rudo for?
Forget about the great rudos of the past, journeymen rudos would've worked this better. Ephesto did a better job than this back in December. The moment that summed it up for me was when they were backing Volador Jr. into the corner and the idiot was playing to the crowd. Watch this! It's my turn to do a move!
I should've prefaced this by saying that I hate tag title matches more than anything else in CMLL, and I haven't enjoyed one since the Mistico/Casas vs. Averno/Mephisto one back in 2006, which had shifts in momentum through three falls, but you can't tell me that this was as dramatic as it could've been. There were some good ideas in the finish, but, like the rest of the match, they didn't build to it. You got a sense of how Mephisto's downfall came about, but if they'd just pause for half a second we could take it all in.
If this were a script, you'd say it needed a re-write. They've gotta weight things more, time those cut-offs and comebacks and earn momentum. And for God's sake, rudos have to hurt people. Ask yourself this -- would it have been better if Sombra had broke his arm off a missed dive or because the rudo broke it for him? Then ask yourself, why is CMLL so soft?
These are based on the Tapatía Awards over at cubsfan's site.
Best Wrestler -- Negro Navarro
Negro Navarro is the best wrestler in Mexico. He looked good in everything I saw from him and his matwork was amazing every time he wrestled. Moreover he deserves credit for reinventing himself in his late 40s/early 50s, because the Navarro you see today is different from the guy who resurfaced in the 2001 El Dandy matches. Not a lot of guys change what works for them, and even fewer get better with age, but Navarro's become a more fearsome grappler than at any point in his career. And the promising thing is that he's so good from a vertical base, and so good on the mat, that he doesn't need to take a lot of bumps. So long as he maintains his leg strength, he's got plenty left in him.
A top five would go something like this -- Navarro, Black Terry, Solar, Virus and Blue Panther. If Panther were working the independent scene, I'd probably be gushing over him, but he has to dumb his shit down in CMLL. To me, Panther has always been a mat guy, who developed his skills between the ropes so he could work with anyone. Present CMLL has a strong emphasis on the latter, cutting matwork to a minute or less. And while Panther had some decent throwback matches, I thought he was noticably slower and more awkward looking doing the standard CMLL filler. Plus they had him brawl for most of the year, in a promotion that runs amazingly shitty brawls, when it's not his strength and doesn't suit the way he's sold over the years. Those are my critical reasons for not picking him as the No.1 guy, but he's still Blue Panther and he would've been awesome in a better setting.
Black Terry and Solar speak for themselves, though I never got to see the Black Terry matches I wanted to watch and Solar was disappointing in the latter half of the year, but Terry is ageless doing the same shtick that's made him a living all these years and Solar is still the complete luchador. The big surprise was Virus. I watched a bunch of stuff I wouldn't ordinarily watch and man can he go. He's the kind of guy who seems comfortable with his spot; a hard working rudo foil who makes everyone around him better. You've gotta admire that, because he's out there night after night with kids who don't have a quarter of his talent, all vying to move up the card, and the guy's giving them a helping hand. But the real treat is when he works with another vet. Why CMLL don't let Virus and Felino tear the house down on one of their smaller shows is beyond me. They had some of the best exchanges all year.
Best Match -- Mystico De La Juarez/Silver King/Rubi Gardenia v. Cassandro/Magno/El Hijo Del Santo, Lucha Libre London, 12/9/08
Up until I saw this match, I didn't have a match of the year and thought it was either the youtube clips of Black Terry vs. Negro Navarro, or, in all likelihood, something we never got to see, but this was the most entertaining thing I saw all year. Others might not appreciate it as much, but that's like coming out of a movie and your friends not matching your enthusiasm; it doesn't take away from the luster. Everybody has their own sense of rhythm and this was a triumph as far as I'm concerned. What can I say, it was fantastic.
Best Technico -- Freelance
I haven't heard what happened to him since he almost pulled an Oro on a botched dive, but he's so good at the stuff between dives that he doesn't need to do that shit. There's no point risking life and limb on tiny IWRG shows, so I hope he cuts back on the high risk, low reward stuff. Anyway, he's got a lot of fight for a guy his size and was the most charismatic technico I saw all year.
Best Rudo -- None
I saw a lot of great rudo foils this year -- Virus, Arkangel de La Muerte, Skandalo, Ephesto, even Mini Damian, and there's always guys like Black Terry, but when it came to feuds, rivalries or programs, there wasn't much to say about the rudos. The rivalry of the year was probably Villano V vs. Blue Panther, and Villano V may win this in the actual Tapatía Awards, but I wasn't too shocked by Panther losing his mask. The morning of the show I logged onto cubsfan's site and there was a guy who reckoned Villano would win, so it was kinda in the back of my mind. I don't think he's a good enough worker to win this category, but CMLL won't let them brawl Monterrey style, so who knows how heated it could've been.
Best Unit -- Los Oficiales
These are the only guys I'd consider. From what I saw, they got better throughout the year, but footage of these guys was few and far between. It's a great gimmick and they started gelling as a three man act, whereas before I thought they were better at individual match-ups. IWRG threw some pretty limited guys at them, and while I don't think they can carry anyone, they bumped their way into the collective consciousness.
Best Promotion -- The Scraps
All the best stuff came from AULL, IWRG, NWA Mexico, Lucha Libre London, etc. We were living off the scraps.
Solar vs. Blue Demon Jr., NWA World Heavyweight Title, 12/9/08
When Santo was asked what London could expect from Lucha Libre, this was his answer: "You will see a contact sport but a great part of it is close to art. This is because in lucha we wrestle close to the canvas where you will see a lot of movement with ‘castigos’, holds and locks, it becomes harmonious and this beautiful skill converts into art." Perhaps so, but not when junior's involved.
Solar's a great worker, but Blue Demon Jr. is such a difficult carry. Some of his holds are OK, but the set-up is so listless. The beauty of wrestling is in the struggle, but with Blue Demon Jr. there's no fight, no understanding of what makes professional wrestling great. You can't expect a crowd like this to be into a lucha libre title match, it's a tough ask. You've gotta take your time and win folks over. That takes skill and charisma, neither of which the Demon possesses. I wanted to enjoy the Solar matwork, but by the end of this, even I was bored. Blue Demon Jr is a bland motherfucker and the crowd were forced to sit through his kind of match. They weren't enjoying it and made it plain. Either pick up the pace or end it.
The lulls in this were brutal, but it made me appreciate Cassandro's performance even more, because if you don't sell and have no charisma, you've no hope of entertaining people. Blue Demon Jr. is more than 40 years old and all he's ever learnt are the mechanics of pro-wrestling. He's half a worker... You can't have something beautiful and harmonious without a little bit of soul, and Blue Demon Jr's a guy who never found himself in the ring. He's a luchador with a mask and a tenuous connection to the past, and I don't see the hunger. There's a type of vanity to performing and the guy doesn't have it. Makes you think he chose the wrong profession, but y'know, Solar wasn't great here either, so in the end they couldn't pull it off.
Mystico De La Juarez/Silver King/Rubi Gardenia v. Cassandro/Magno/El Hijo Del Santo, 12/9/08
This was by far and away the match of the year. So, alright, it wasn't wrestled in Mexico and didn't have a lucha crowd; in fact the atmosphere was difficult to describe, with the announcer putting it over like a cabaret show and DJs playing between falls, but it was a hell of a trios match and an awesome live show. Hell, it made me wanna fly over to London for the next foray.
As others have noted, Cassandro is an incredible live performer. Rubi Gardenia had a grand entrance, but sorry honey, Cassandro is twice the woman you are, and twice the man. He was promoted as a "lip-locking, transvestite wrestler," and in lesser hands it might've been a sideshow, but he strut his stuff like he was on West End. He completely won the crowd over and someone threw him flowers at the end. It was like that old Cukor film A Star is Born with Judy Garland. But enough of that. His main job here was clueing the crowd into how lucha works. For fans like us, this was a classic lucha trios, but the crowd were mostly unfamiliar with lucha. For them it was a night out. They were a bit iffy on the rudo beatdown and technico comeback, and it was Cassandro who keyed them in to the babyface comeback.
As far as the work goes, when you see a match where the guys you think will be the weakest of the lot turn out to be really fucking good, you know you've got a trios on your hands. I'm talking about Mystico De La Juarez and Magno, who were fantastic in this. There was a classic progression from matwork to dives, and rudo beatdown to technico comeback, and as you'd expect, the falls overlapped each other. Santo saved himself for the finishes and they were AWESOME lucha finishes, just spectacular stuff. I was enamoured with those finishes. And the ending! That was one of the great endings to a lucha trios. The DJ's choice isn't what I'd play, but damn did I wanna get on my feet. I love how Cassandro wept on the turnbuckle.
This was the final match on the December tour, and with the summer shows getting rave reviews, this was another outrageous success. Their website says, "Is it wrestling? Is it theatre? Is it cabaret? Who knows?" I'll tell you what, it might be the best lucha live show around. The crowds might be better in Mexico, but the festivities sure beat half empty arenas.
The only thing I didn't like was Silver King aping his brother, but he made up for it by slapping the shit out of guys. Here's to many more shows. And kudos to the guy who shouted "joint promotions" for no reason.
El Toreo "Requiem por una Era", 12/3/08
This was a farewell show for Toreo de Cuatro Caminos (aka El Toreo), the famous wrestling venue, which, after 64 years, is being torn down and replaced by a shopping mall and apartment complex.
Elimination tournament for the Copa UWA Toreo:
- Scorpio Jr./Shu el Guerrero vs. Super Astro/Ultraman
- Villano IV/Villano V vs. Rambo/Kahoz
If you've ever seen any of the tournaments that the lucha promotions run, you'll know what to expect from this. A little bit of this, a little bit of that, but not much in the way of matches. Still, there was a good crowd on hand and I enjoyed it for what it was.
The Space Cadets were a bit disappointing and Shu got stuck partnering Scorpio Jr., who was gravely ill only a few months before. As you can imagine, he wasn't about to bump and guys took it real easy with him. Try as he may, he hasn't got a knack for the bastard rudo thing, where a broken down guy gets by on charisma.
A lot of guys are high on Villano V at the moment, and I can see why, since he hits hard, but once you get past that, the guy doesn't move particularly well. One of the highlights of the tournament was Villano IV working the mat with Rambo. Another was his tope. I don't think there's any question who the better Villano is. With all this talk about how good a brawler Villano V is, the final was rudos contra rudos and an old style brawl, where they actually ripped each other's masks; something a certain mask match could've used.
Dos Caras/Canek vs. Dr Wagner Jr./Mil Mascaras
Dos Caras is amazing. The guy is almost 60 years old, but man can he go. If you enjoyed the Santo/Caras matwork on the Todo x el Todo show, you need to see this, as Caras wrestles for longer and actually makes Wagner work for a change. This was fantastic stuff.
Mil Mascaras, on the other hand, was hilarious. He's gotta be pushing 70 by now and saying he's decrepit would be putting it nicely. Wagner did all his usual bullshit, and Mascaras kept staring at it like "what the fuck is this guy doing?" Finally he demanded to be tagged in and did some of the frailest looking shit you'll ever see. Canek was working with him, and I've never seen a guy work so softly with another guy in all my life. There was a whole bunch of Wagner bullshit at the end, and Mascaras stood there adjusting his crotch. Wagner challenged Canek to a mask match and Mascaras stopped, listened for a while and walked off like an Alzheimer's patient.
Seriously you want to see this for the Dos Caras matwork and submissions.
Dandy/Chicana/Lizmark vs Satanico/Charles/Estrada, 11/9/1990
This was a teaser for the big hair match. I hadn't seen 1990 El Dandy for a while, but before the match they showed him visiting a family and he looked every bit the champion of the world, with his black eye and open collar shirt. And check out the shoes.
This was Dandy at the peak of his powers. I liked how Satanico wouldn't grapple. El Dandy had to fight 3 on 1 just to get a piece of Satanico and even then Satanico wouldn't give a sucker an even break. My favourite spot was when he got caught one-on-one with Dandy and pulled his hair back in despair. He stepped into Dandy and hooked him square in the jaw. Such an awesome ruse. The body shots were as good as ever, but the skirmishs were better. They had one flare up where Satanico kept shrugging off the blows and leading with the knee, and Dandy was just pummeling him.
It wouldn't be much of a trios if the other guys were spectators, and they matched the pace. Chicana was nailing guys like a golden gloves boxer, Lizmark ripped through his spots and the rudos took huge bumps. The third fall dives were awesome, and it ended like all trios should, with Dandy quicker on the draw.
Casas/Espectro Jr/Espectro De Ultratumba vs Mendoza/Dandy/Negra, 6/19/92
Dandy vs. Casas. If you woke up and found it was all a dream, you'd swear nothing could ever be this good.
Maybe the strikes weren't as good as Dandy v Satanico, but Casas has to be the most audacious wrestler to ever set foot in a ring. A lot of wrestlers start clean and cheat when they can't get an advantage, but not Casas... He fouled his way through the entire match; pretty much spat in Dandy's eye... Then at the end, when Dandy was trying to hook him in the surfboard, he wouldn't give his arms. Dandy slapped him in the face, but Casas kept his upper body tucked. Finally Dandy straightened his arms, but as he was leaning back, Casas pulled forward, breaking the hold. And if that weren't enough, he pinned him, clean as a whistle, with his very own hold. All those slaps, punches and jabs to the eye, and when it comes down to it, he's the better man on the canvas. You have to marvel at how Casas worked backwards from foul to clean pin.
For the most part, the others steered clear and let Casas and Dandy go at it, but they chimed in when they could and the Espectros were fun in their role. I've got a soft spot for Ringo Mendoza, and he got into the swing of this with some great punches and a tope. When the main theme is contempt between rivals, you have to shadow that and they made sure there was no shortage of animosity.
A good pair of trios. Close call as to which was better. The difference was probably 1990 El Dandy vs. 1992 Dandy. He was bigger in '92 and blew up from time to time, whereas in 1990 he was in the shape of his life and a phenom.
El Hijo Del Santo/Octagon/Rey Misterio Jr./La Parka vs Blue Panther/Fuerza Guerrera/Pentagon/Psicosis, AAA Triplemania III-B, 6/18/95
Alright, forget all the bad things I say about AAA, I know what I like when I see it and this was something else. Some of you will remember the 3/95 trios that hooked a lot of us on lucha. This was the same kind of match, but packed more of a punch.
It was one of those matches where the rudos are agitated from the outset, as Octagon "bumped" Pentagon off the apron and that led to a lot of pushing and shoving and guys chasing each other around the ring area. Panther gave Misterio the nod and they were away. Panther put a little extra into his whips and Misterio bounced off the ropes; the first move -- a sunset flip attempt by Misterio -- was countered by a punch. They traded slaps before Rey scaled the turnbuckles for a wristlock takedown. Panther wound up on the outside, and Rey left him cowering with his footwork.
It only got better when Santo called Psicosis out. Santo was magnificent here, the way he leaned into his grappling stance like he was ready to take the bull by the horns. No matter how many times Psicosis charged at him, he kept getting inside position for the armdrag. Finally they stood head to head, with Psicosis using his height advantage to try and intimidate Santo. Santo wouldn't back down, and Psicosis slapped him right across the face. Santo slapped him back twice as hard and Psicosis feared his nose might be broken. The insult was worse than the injury, and when Santo dropkicked him to the outside, you knew something was brewing.
At first the technicos had an answer for everything. Parka was unstoppable. I don't think he was in control of his feet; it was the spirit that moved him. Panther got caught up in the ropes trying to avoid it, and when Parka did his peacock strut back to the corner, Pentagon lunged at him and knocked himself out. The technicos won every exchange, including a glorious one where Santo took on three guys at once. Each time the rudos were out duelled they took better and bigger bumps, and Fuerza was brilliant at slowing things down after a big spill.
The rudos needed a hard foul, and it came when Fuerza backed Misterio into a corner and Panther blindsided him, grabbing him by the throat and pinning him to the turnbuckle. Suddenly all hell broke loose. Psicosis got his hands on Santo and sent him flying over the barrier, which is a pretty big bump for Santo. I've never really thought of Psicosis as a violent rudo, but this was quite the beatdown. He started off with a chair, and when he wrecked that, he used his head. Santo was rammed from pillar to post, and when Parka tried to help, he got fucking dealt to by Fuerza. In terms of rudo beatdowns, and especially Santo beatdowns, it was one of the best I can remember seeing. The bottom of Santo's mask was ripped and he took a real mauling. When he finally got loose, he took the chair for himself and he wasn't afraid to wield it. That's a side of Santo you don't often see outside of Monterrey, but like I said, it all started with that slap around the bridge of the nose. It would've been awesome if he'd bled, but he was a sight nonetheless.
After all that, they'd built the match up to the point where only dives could top what had come before, and Psicosis completely rekindled my love for him by doing the most insane tope suicida imaginable. What greater way to go crashing out of a match? And what could've been a monumental fuck-up by Misterio Jr., turned into one of the all-time great recoveries; a recovery so remarkable you'll have to see it for yourself.
Just a great match, with awesome shifts in momentum and a mad scramble at the end. It was the AAA style wrapped around a brawl and the way that early niggle escalated was fantastic to watch.
Blue Panther/Sergio el Hermoso vs Solar/Super Astro, 10/18/87
This is a match I've seen a few times before and never cared for, but after being so impressed with Sergio el Hermoso in the Exoticos match, I thought I'd give it another run through. In all honesty, I wish I hadn't. I can't believe such a poor match gets touted as some kind of 80s find.
It starts off with the promise of Solar/Panther matwork, and Solar is awesome on the mat, but Panther's counters are awful by his standards. On a good night, you'd expect Panther to take charge and match Solar hold for hold, but his counters were unimaginative and amounted to surfboard variations. The rest of the match was just as uninspired. For the most part it was a rudo beatdown, and while Panther threw some great punches, the match just drifted. Solar did his upmost to put some extra zip into his whips and so forth, but he was the only guy having a good night. Sergio el Hermoso was slow and didn't want to bump. He didn't make the slightest difference by his presence and could've easily not been there. Solar was the only guy who tried to up the tempo, and if you don't vary the pace in a match, it meanders. The highlight of the final two falls was Solar getting amazing lift on his backbreaker. I think they had problems with the ropes, but there's other ways to rally back.
There's a point where a match goes from being a letdown to pretty much crap and that happened when there was no technico fight back and no rudo bumping. The match was underwhelming and then it just went under. Chief whinge this, but it's bad.
Los Cadetes Del Espacio (Solar, Ultraman, Super Astro) vs. Los Exoticos (Sergio El Hermoso, Bello Greco, Rudy Reyna), UWA 1984
I thought I should choose something spectacular for my 100th entry and here it is -- Space Cadets vs. Exoticos from 1984.
Phenomenal match really. One unbelievable spot after another and pure entertainment at that.
It was all wolf whistles and matwork to begin with. The Exoticos were fantastic; running away, avoiding engagement, working slick exchanges when they would grapple. The Space Cadets were sensational on the mat, but couldn't pin the rudos down. A fight broke out and that's when the Exoticos showed how savvy they were. There was a lot of strutting and effeminate bumping, but when it came time for the dirty work, they had a real vicious streak. Great clubbing blows; knees and elbows to the face. All that good shit.
The Cadets were yet to bust loose, but when they rallied, the height Super Astro got on his backflip was unreal. To celebrate, he began his Fred Astaire act, but Reyna stuck his ass out. Nevertheless, they finished the fall in style. Greco tried to hook Solar and caught Sergio on the apron. Solar monkey flipped the Exotico, leapt to his feet and dived through the ropes, nailing El Hermoso with the tope. Ultraman gave Super Astro a springboard over the top rope for a swan dive tope, then finished the stanza with a superplex off the top rope. It was a classy three-pronged attack.
The third fall was a series of awesome exchanges, with the Exoticos doing their damnedest to cheat and the Cadets having none of it. Super Astro chased the fleeing Reyna and caught him with his trademark tope, Sergio El Hermoso took incredible bumps off Solar's wrist work and Ultraman had the combos going. There was nothing clean, as guys kept entering the ring and breaking holds. There was a lot of bad feeling, as the Exoticos were pissed at the Cadets' flying show, and, as we know, it doesn't take much to raise a technico's ire. In this case, it was expressed with hooks and right crosses, which I thought was exceptionally cool. Ultraman and Sergio El Hermoso going toe-to-toe was perhaps the highlight of the match. In the end, the Cadets were a little too classy and navigated the chaos a little better, but let me tell you, it was a great match.
It had pretty much everything you want from lucha -- matwork, dives, punches, the odd hilarious moment, but more than that it had class. It had rudos who knew when to bump and sell and when to cheat and brawl, and technicos who did spectacular things and sought out greater heights. Space Cadets fly, that's what they do. Exoticos act gay, but hit people in the mouth.
This was right up there with anything I've seen in lucha. They could've gone another three rounds and it would've been just as good. Great lucha should leave you on a high and this was tremendous.
Negro Navarro & Killer Family (Rey Krimen, Sadico, Sepulturero I) vs. Ángel Azteca Jr., Brazo de Platino, Mascara Ano 2000 Jr & Shu el Guerrero, AULL 11/29/06
I wasn't sure what to expect from this, but it ended up being a fun match-up. The Killer Family weren't too bad. Apparently they were trained by Rocky Satana, so I guess they've got some ring sense.
And of course they were led by Negro Navarro, who's gotta be the most stoic motherfucker on the planet. He locked up with Máscara Año 2000 Jr, who'd been wrestling a little over two months. Navarro gave him a limb, then took him to fucking school. He didn't rub it it, but it was clear he could get a submission any time he wanted. I also liked how he joined in the rudo teaming. He doesn't use his fists a lot, but he has a mean punch and a hard head. There's so many ways he can fuck a guy up. Fujiwara is similar, but he always has a shit eating grin and would take the guy drinking afterwards. Navarro's just cold.
On the other side, you had Shu el Guerrero, one of the most useful guys in Mexico, and Brazo de Platino, another of the Brazo brothers. It's freaky how many Brazo brothers there are and how they all look alike. I mean there's the three famous ones and then there's more of them. Can't get my head around that. The old man was a virile bugger. Brazo de Platino apes Porky a bit, but he's his own man and his somersault senton was awesome. I dunno why there's an Angel Azteca junior, but he was fluid.
The Killer Family provided the dives to set up the finish, and what a finish... Navarro and Azteca were the two men left in the ring. The end was nigh and Azteca had one shot from the neutral position. Negro got his hands on him and it was all over. Submission finish. That was some cold blooded shit. Jesus, who wants to face Navarro with the match on the line?
Santo/Dandy/Silver King vs Casas/Satanico/Dantes, CMLL 2/2/96
You don't need me to tell you this was good. Just look at the names.
I don't mean to sound like a broken record, but Satanico was awesome in this. He had a lengthy mat exchange with El Dandy where you'd swear he was twenty years younger the way he was moving. He was carrying some extra weight, but it made him seem more bullish. With the crew cut and taped fingers, he looked primed, and sure enough he kept gaining inside control. Dandy had to counter on more than one occasion, but my favourite part was when Satanico had him in an armlock and kept floating through the counters, keeping the hold applied.
The match itself was more about Santo cleaning Casas' clock every time they squared off. It was an interesting sort of match, because the rudos had to protect Negro, yet the technicos kept blowing standard finishes. In most trios matches, you know when the finish has been signaled. Guys start entering and exiting the ring in rapid succession, and whoever sends them out is the winner. This went against the grain. Twice the technicos had a finish on the cards and both times the rudos broke it up. Even Santo's tope was foiled by a knee to the gut from Satanico. I usually take finishes for granted in lucha, but it just goes to show that they're small windows of opportunity and if you don't execute then you're toast. The rudos took one in straight falls, but not without some daylight robbery. Casas got an inside cradle on Santo, but his shoulder was all-the-way up. He argued the call afterwards in true lucha fashion, dropping to the mat and demonstrating his point. In the end, the rudos stuck their boots in.
Not a classic or anything, but when you have six guys this talented, everything they do rules in some way or another. The part where El Dandy took on all three rudos and won was especially cool. Pity he didn't have a story to tell the grandkids.
Atlantis vs. Satanico, CMLL 1984
Atlantis was just a kid here. You could see it in the way he swivelled his head, looking for crowd support. That open armed stance is classic rookie behaviour; a type of nervous energy that young technicos have. Satanico, on the other hand, wasn't the least bit unsure of himself, in fact this was Satanico at his cockiest. A vain, ostentatious, altogether glorious display.
At one point, Atlantis was lying on the mat; his mask ripped; forehead bleeding; chest splattered with blood... He'd actually won the first fall, largely by staying out of Satanico's reach. It was heady stuff from the youngster, but whatever his ambitions might've been, they were in tatters. And all the while Satanico paraded around like Atlantis was an afterthought. Atlantis tried to roll away and Satanico kicked him out of the ring. He tried to pull himself onto the apron and Satanico knocked him to the floor. It was brutish stuff from the rudo and the crowd were baying for rudo arrogance to get its comeuppance. Finally, Atlantis rallied and began ramming Satanico's head into the turnbuckle (a popular spot in 1984). It was a bit loose and theatrical, but the shock on Satanico's face was priceless. He was bleeding from the forehead and had to check his hand to see if it was real. Atlantis was a real pest now. He'd hung around for far too long and there was a chance he might win. That brought out the wrestler in Satanico and he used his experience to prevent what would've been a major embarrassment; stretching Atlantis for the victory.
Veterans always like to teach rookies a lesson or two, but Satanico was drained. He clapped Atlantis' performance and raised his arm in victory. Then he nailed him with a right hand. Another win notched, another technico dismantled. 1984 was a good year for El Satanico.
Negro Navarro/Shu el Guerrero vs. Solar 1/Skayde, AULL 11/01/02
According to the match finder at cubs' site, this was only the second time that Solar and Navarro had faced each other. Assuming that they wrestled for longer than in the original trios, this may be the beginning of their rivalry. In any event, it's the earliest footage to pop up and a bit of a treasure trove.
Before I discuss early Solar/Navarro, I've got to say that I was actually more impressed with Shu el Guerrero and Skayde in this match. Shu worked this cool gimmick where he was an immovable object on the mat, and no matter which side Skayde tried to work from, Shu wound up in the upper position. He was incredibly quick for a big man and was able to go ten minutes on the mat without any trouble. I don't think I've seen Skayde before. He was impressive and more than held his own. In fact he was Black Terry-esque. They didn't try anything as difficult as Navarro and Solar, but they had their own little thing going, from Shu's sitting bull pose to his funky power moves, and Skayde was a tremendous foil.
The big difference between early Solar/Navarro and what you see today was two-fold. First, they worked at a more frenetic pace, with Solar, in particular, being far more fired up than you see him these days. Secondly, Navarro hadn't grown into his role of El MVP de los independientes. In 2001/02, he was still settling into the whole maestro act. He didn't cut quite as authorative a figure. Obviously they know each other inside out by now, but here they were calling stuff for the first time. Some of it was fantastic, some of it was skin of the teeth stuff. It was a lot rawer than the exchanges we're used to. Still, most people will enjoy watching them find their feet against each other.
At the least it's 25 minutes of matwork.
Solar I/Super Astro vs. Negro Navarro/Shu El Guerrero, Arena Coliseo De Monterrey 5/18/08
This was really enjoyable. A little on the soft side to be a MOTYC or anything like that, but it was everything they could deliver on paper.
Solar/Navarro is the best match-up in wrestling. No matter how many times you see it, you just wanna see it again. Three times they squared off and each time they flaunted their maestro reps. The opening fall was worked around wristlock takedowns and arm drags, mostly for show. The second fall had a few pin attempts, with both guys trying to score the most elaborate pinfall. The final caida was the trump card and featured nothing but mat-based submission work and painful looking holds. The best matwork I saw all year was Navarro vs. Terry. This slots in at number two.
Super Astro might not be as good as he was in the early-mid 90s (I saw him work a breathtaking exchange with Blue Panther the other day), but he's gotten himself into shape and operates with vigour. And while it's difficult to imagine that Shu El Guerrero once had the classic bodybuilder physique, having a fat guy who can take tumble and work holds adds to the carnival. The finish was awesome, with Super Astro nailing a straight drop tope and Navarro and Solar working a final stand-off. The double pin was a stupid decision, but Navarro is death on the mat.
If I was gonna barrack for anyone as wrestler of the year, it would be Navarro.
Lizmark vs. Satanico, Mexican National Light Heavyweight Championship, AAA 9/17/93 (clipped)
One of my favourite things about lucha libre is classy performances from veteran workers, and this was one such occasion -- Satanico vs. Lizmark in 1993. The match was clipped, so it's impossible to know how much was shelved, but this was a simpler style than they were capable of. The work wasn't amazing by their standards, and in fact there were a few slip-ups, but everything was weighted and that's where their class shone through.
The opening matwork is a good example. Satanico began with a waistlock, Lizmark went for the most basic counter possible and they followed through with a simple exchange. I know a lot of people struggle with how slow lucha matwork can be, but it really is beautiful. Because the refs are so vigilant about where the shoulders are on the mat, even a basic hold like Satanico hooking the arm and head takes on extra weight. It requires Lizmark to bridge out of the pinning predicament, but a bridge in that situation is fairly demanding and he only managed a couple of quarter lifts before he could get a full one. That broke the count, but not the leverage. Instead of Satanico dropping the hold, like so many wrestlers do today, Lizmark fought to free his head and regain upper body position. Satanico countered by leaning into his man with the arm still locked, but Lizmark rolled him onto his shoulders. He couldn't keep Satanico's arm tied, however, and Lopez grabbed the rope. Usually that would signal a break, but as Lizmark was backing off, in one foul swoop, Satanico pounced on the heel and ankle, took Lizmark down, scissored the leg and began working the point of his elbow into the thigh area. Not only did Lizmark have to keep his shoulders up, he had to block out the pain and figure out a way to break the hold. The snapping motion as he hooked Satanico's head to the canvas was really beautiful, as was Satanico's selling as he looked for the safety of the ropes.
It was simple stuff compared to their younger days, but every hold was a battle, there were no easy escapes and the bout was wholly contested. Lizmark limited his big moves to the backbreaker and suicida plancha, they sold their fatigue and Lizmark adapted to the ref's rather bizarre interpretation of the first pinfall by avoiding the same type of pinning attempt. They kinda lost it a bit when they worked off the ropes, but it was a good match, reminiscent of Blue Panther vs. Atlantis from earlier this year.
Los Brazos vs Santo, Satanico & Eddy Guerrero, CMLL 9/16/90
I've been sick for more than two weeks, but I'm finally on the mend and this match is just what the doctor ordered.
Los Brazos are always entertaining, largely because they've got so many ways of telling the same stories over and over again, but rudo Brazos -- and not Bucaneros/Brazos, "rudos contra rudos" rudos, but actual "rudo" rudos -- is one of their best shticks.
You can follow the fortunes of any Brazo match by keeping an eye on Super Porky. He was all winks and nods to begin with, as the Brazos kept herding guys into the corner, and Porky worked them over with headbutts and little short arm jabs. There was an element of showboating, and we all know that Super Porky is easily excitable and prone to getting carried away. When it came time for Porky to conduct his plancha from the apron, he towered above Satanico... arms apart, eyes focused, mouth agape... by the time he leapt it was the greatest orchestration of a dive ever.
It was all going swimmingly, but when the rudos are making Santo eat the lace from the back of his mask, you know they're enjoying their work a little too much. In the second fall, Porky and Eddy did a comedy spot where Eddy couldn't lift Plata and Porky kept powerslamming him to the canvas. Finally, Eddy got the better of him and a few minutes later nailed him with a massive plancha that left Porky flat on his back, gasping for air. That was when the tables turned, and heel or face, Porky has never liked it when the tables turn.
When he finally made it back up to the apron, the crowd began egging him on and that's when Porky turned sour. He tried his jumping, spinning footwork, but Eddy wasn't mesmerised and Porky wound up in a front row seat. Eddy followed him outside and poked him between the eyes. Well now. Porky tried ripping out the front row seats, to no avail, and walking back to his corner, El Brazo pat him on the head, but Porky was livid. Further insult followed when Santo gave him a hip toss on the outside, like a matador letting a bull pass at his cape. When Porky got up he was breathing through his nostrils.
The last fall had a whole bunch of awesome punch exchanges and I think Satanico even threw in a nerve hold. The technicos were getting the better off the ropes exchanges, and Porky was no longer a happy chappy, so the Brazos got themselves DQ'ed for excessive violence, which is as good a reason to get yourself DQ'ed as there is. The finish worked beautifully since there was a simple reversal from the beginning and that's all you need to have a successful trios match, a simple turn of events over three falls.
No return match for this unfortunately, but Plata and his brothers weren't that impressed with wrestling the sons of two legends and Mexico's No.1. Great "fuck it" ending after being outmatched. I love "fuck it" endings, like the time Tenryu low blowed Tsuruta and got the fuck out of the arena. This wasn't that great, but Porky didn't want to play anymore, so it had its own charm.
Santo, Corazon de Leon & Ultimo Dragon vs. Negro Casas, Satanico & Emilio Charles Jr., 9/95
Santo, Corazon de Leon & Ultimo Dragon vs. Negro Casas, Satanico & Emilio Charles Jr., 9/95 rematch
Santo hates Casas! Casas hates Santo! as the old deathvalleydrivers would say.
This two-part penny opera starts with Santo dropkicking Casas in the face before everyone's been properly introduced. Casas spends an exorbitant amount of time checking his face for structural damage, and the rest of the match trying to shootkick Santo in the head. Santo replies with headbutts, knees to the face and killer topes. The first match has a great Santo beatdown. Second match has some big bumps from Casas, who blades himself... but only a trickle. Still it's enough to cry foul and Casas delivers a penalty kick between the goalposts, a trademark Casas walkoff spot.
You've got to love Negro Casas. 90% of the time that would be a disappointing finish, but Casas was so good at blurring the lines. He's basically saying, "you do not strike the face of Negro Casas," and if Santo's enraged, he needs to think about who threw the first cheap shot. The great heels make themselves the moral victor, like kids always do on the playground. Casas was infuriatingly good at this, which led to the quasi-heel turn from Santo and the hatred of their '97 feud. The rest of the guys here are either warm bodies or completely useless, but you wanna see these because this is where the hate began. Their earlier matches were exhibitions in lucha libre, this was Casas truly getting under Santo's skin, not really knowing what he was starting.
Corazon de Leon vs. Apolo Dantes, CMLL World Heavyweight Championship, 9/23/95
Apolo Dantes is one of the most underrated workers of the 90s. Jericho is one of the worst guys I've seen work Mexico. The fact that this was halfway decent was purely down to the skill of A. Dantes. There were times, it seemed, when Dantes didn't have a clue what Jericho was trying to do, but he beat the guy and I was glad it was over.
El Dandy vs. Satanico, hair vs. hair, 12/6/91
For some reason these two never had a great match together.
Take this match for example -- almost every hold is a clever piece of work and the attention to detail is amazing, yet somehow it doesn't add up. Hold for hold it's a virtuoso performance, but in the big picture only half satisfying. I suppose the reason for that is the scale. It's quite a minor match; not what you'd expect from a hair match. And the scenario was one sided.
If you follow it from Satanico's standpoint, it's a cleverly constructed revenge match, but it left Dandy in the cold. While Satanico was arguing with the commissioner over the appointed ref, Dandy had no choice but to go through his warm-ups. This had an immediate pay-off, and a ballistic reaction from Satanico, who swore his shoulder was up, but from that point on there was too much heat between Satanico and the ref. The heat should be between the wrestlers, mano a mano... Here the ref was constantly breaking up holds and putting his hands on Satanico; understandable if it was a title match, but hair matches have caused some of the bloodiest brawls in lucha libre history.
Satanico was masterful at purposefully avoiding any pitfalls, and the slap he gave himself when Dandy was too near the ropes showed how much he wanted to win, but Dandy was a passenger in all this. My favourite moment was the maniacal grin Satanico gave the ref when he had to raise Lopez' hand in victory at the end of the second fall, but I couldn't figure out the third fall for the life of me. I'm used to the momentum carrying over into the next fall, until there's an opening and the beaten guy strings together a comeback, but it never happened.
The impression I was left with was that after a hot start, Dandy was completely outwrestled for the remainder of the match. In kayfabe terms, his showing was a bit of a dud. You had two great workers doing a lot of great stuff together, but a lopsided contest. In a three fall structure, it's sometimes tricky to work straight fall victories, but these guys are two of the greats. Dandy wanted to beat Satanico, of that I'm certain, but why his comeback was cut off at the knees, I don't know.
To some extent CMLL must've felt this needed some extra spice with the ref angle, or perhaps it's a case of matches being better when one worker is greater than the other, but not all Classic Lucha is classic, even if the work is infinitely smarter than we see today. Either that or my expectations are far too high.
La Sombra vs Ephesto, NWA World Welterweight Championship, 12/7/08
This was a strong Match of the Year contender.
It was a modern lucha match, so there was an emphasis on moves and nearfalls, but they managed to work this into quite a dramatic contest.
We often praise guys for working a crowd, but sometimes it's the crowd who can lift a match to greater heights and that was the impression I got here. Both guys seemed to grow in confidence from the crowd willing them on. Sombra's not the type of worker everyone's gonna love, but it was pleasing to hear such vocal support for a technico. Between the horns and the chants of Sombra!, he seemed to grow in stature, if not working ability.
A lot of the credit should go to the big bumping, big man Ephesto, who paced this match in the third fall. It's almost impossible to deliver a great rudo performance in this moves monopolised climate, but together with his second, they were able to protest the ref's ridiculous slow counts and build heat. He has well chosen offence for the moves game, and his bump into the apron almost singlehandedly catapaulted this into the very good territory.
The finishing stretch was ill advised, but just when you thought it would fall off the rails, they managed to tilt it back and Sombra got the explosive pop they were aiming for. Great technico celebration. The match was far from perfect, but on the whole it was overwhelmingly positive, and I think picking on one or two things would be quibbling. Two thumbs up.
Los Oficiales vs. Aeroman/Zatura/Freelance, 11/28 TV
Los Oficiales vs. Jack/Multifacético/Pendulo, 12/5 TV
Freelance/Pendulo vs. Comando Negro/Trauma II, 12/12 TV
These weren't that flash. IWRG never show the match-ups you really wanna see and their editor has no clue how to match two shots together. The editing was all over the fucking show, like a monkey at a typewriter. Still, if you haven't been introduced to Freelance or Los Oficiales, youtube is the ticket.
People keep talking about Freelance as a flier, but to me his flying is an afterthought. I like how he doesn't take shit from anyone and has more strikes than your typical flier. In the tag match he took a shot to the face and went looking for the revenge strike, and it's that kind of shit that gives him an edge. He tweaked his ankle in the Oficiales match, but toughed it out. And he rocks a mohawk and makes it work. The guy's just cool.
And the Oficiales are getting better at working as a trio, finding new ways to gang up on people and beat them down. And their bumping and selling has been one of the most enjoyable things about lucha this year. Look for the montage where one Oficial is gagging with a foot on his throat and another is upside down in the tree of woe. The problem is the opposition. They look like toy figurines; misfit action figures. Or that Nightmare Before Christmas gimmick that rips off Parka. There's only so many times you can be amused at a random indy gimmick being punched in the head. They need to add Fuerza, Black Terry or Super Astro to the mix, and make use of Avisman, who looks like a cretin and can work the mat.
Book it like you know we're watching on youtube.