Brazo de Plata & El Brazo vs. Verdugo & Hombre Bala, hair vs. hair, 11/17/89
This was from the same show as the Pirata Morgan/Oro title match.
It was a simple match that even a guy with a headcold could figure out. It didn't live up to their trios match, and they were happy to walk around doing stuff, but the publico loved it and Hombre Bala continues to be my hero. The finish was cool, as El Brazo went 2 on 1 against the Bucaneros and when he scored the winning fall the crowd rushed to the ring. This was when you could still smoke at Arena Mexico and there was a shot of a guy lighting a cigarette as he took it all in. The post-match was more entertaining than the match. They didn't show the haircut, but Brazo de Oro came to the ring with a shirt tied around his thigh and tugged his brothers' hair. Porky lifted a baby girl out of the crowd and raised her arm to the public. And so ended another night at Arena Mexico.
Eddy Guerrero/El Hijo Del Santo vs. Espanto Jr./Jerry Estrada (AAA; 1/31/93)
This opened with a lengthy mat exchange between Santo and Espanto. It wasn't as perfect as I would've liked, but it was an extended mat exchange between two of my favourite luchadores, so I should thank heaven for small mercies. You can turn if off after that, though, because the rest of the match was bad. Bad matches tend to lead to a lot of sweeping generalisations, but I haven't seen a lot of evidence that Eddie was ever very good in Mexico. Not only did he rob Scott Steiner's wardrobe, I think he wanted to be him. Some awful communicating between him and Santo in this match. They came across as a piss poor tag team. Espanto did his best to start trouble, but he was fighting a losing cause. Another AAA match on the scrap heap.
Brazo de Oro vs. Pirata Morgan, NWA World Light Heavyweight Championship, 11/17/89
This was a long match with a slower rhythm than usual. I had to watch it twice to catch all the subtleties, and in the end I decided it was a match I had to think about too much.
Sometimes a slower rhythm is beguiling, but here it was a little too much. As a match, it was like watching the game of human chess. Oro was weary of Morgan's illegal holds, which frustrated Morgan into using illegal holds, until finally he pushed the laws of decency in a title match. Oro wound up selling his leg as a result, which jeopardised his title shot, but Morgan still had to fight off the challenge. The problem was that it was all one tone. Right now I've got the kind of cold Tokyo folk get from commuting with too many fuckers, so I wasn't in the mood for something so cerebral. It might not be as cerebral as I'm making out, but it was slow and didn't hit me in the gut. A lot of the stuff I've been watching lately has been visceral; here I couldn't connect with whatever space Brazo de Oro was in and it was a match that seemed to go on and on.
I'm a firm believer of the importance of rhythm in wrestling, not only for the work, but for one's enjoyment of a match. If you can get into the rhythm, you might find this is a heady match. I don't think it was dull. I was just on the outside looking in.
El Dandy vs. Javier Llanes, CMLL Middleweight Championship, 3/11/94
This was the toughest thing I've seen in ages... If people think lucha isn't real wrestling, they need to watch this match. Never before have I see two guys wrestle with such ferocity. It takes practice to make this look believable, and an even greater commitment to go out there and do it as a work, and the close-ups of both guys were more than just selling, they showed effort and bloody-minded determination.
In many ways this was like a sparring session in a gym. At the least there was something basic to it, as there were little or no strikes and neither guy was willing to submit. In this day and age, almost everything that's written or said about wrestling is cynical, but this match, whether it was a con or not, was pure sport. To that end, I was disappointed when the first fall ended off the ropes and thrilled when Llanes took the second by submission, and while they began to tire in the third and it became noticable that Llanes was feeding Dandy his arm, even the carny finish couldn't ruin what was a pure display of submission based wrestling.
One of the joys of lucha is guys submitting instantaneously to crazy looking submission holds, but this was rooted in the style that Diablo Velazco, Gori Guerrero and Enrique Llanes trained these men in. An inaccurate description of it might be 70s style matwork with a worked shoot intensity. I say inaccurate because matwork was around long before the 70s, but as a guy who watches old tapes those are the parameters. I've seen it compared to Dandy's match with Navarro, but I thought this was far more intense.
It's curious then that this match should pop up in 1994 CMLL. This era of CMLL is notable for a number of bare-bone classics, but nothing with matwork to compare to this. Anyway, if you want to watch a match with incredible wristlock work or vein popping submissions, do yourself a favour.
Blue Panther vs. Ángel Azteca, Mexican National Middleweight Champion, AAA 9/4/92
It's good to revisit things every once in a while.
This was one of the first lucha tapes I ever bought, and while I could swear the version I had was complete, I could only find a clipped version of this floating around. Obviously that breaks the rhythm of a match, and can make it seem better than it really is, but despite the cut this was vintage Blue Panther.
They only showed the finish to each fall, but it was all there; the brilliant work between the ropes; exaggerated selling on the mat; creative ways to escape and counter holds; the exquisite build-up to his own success. Panther's selling wasn't prolonged, but if you're familiar with lucha, I guess that comes with the territory. A lucha match is a type of rolling match, and Panther did put a lot of detail into the falls he won. Finally, a word or two about Ángel Azteca; of all the guys who took up lucha in the sixteen years since this match, none of them showed the potential to be a great luchador like Ángel Azteca. Azteca was cut from the Lizmark/Atlantis/Solar/Ciclón Ramírez mold, and although he wasn't quite there yet, the fact he never got there is a blight on modern lucha. As green as he was, he could work "Greco-Roman" and no technico these days comes close to applying the types of holds Azteca used here.
But enough of my lamenting. Panther and Azteca worked a match in the true lucha style
From 9/6/92 TV:
Super Astro/Solar I/Angel Azteca vs. Blue Panther/El Indomito/El Cobarde
This was really good.
It had a lot of stalling to begin with, so you knew you weren't gojng to see a mat classic, but once they locked up we got some good, older style exchanges. I was impressed with Panther as the main rudo. He's not a guy I see as a strong rudo worker, but they were playing to a red hot crowd in Tijuana, and the public were for the technicos like a lucha crowd should be. He also had worthy flunkies in Indomito and Cobarde, lifers who made Panther look like the gang leader. A fan threw his drink all over Panther, so he was obviously doing something right
The match was your typical slow feud burner, in this case building to a Panther/Azteca singles match. I recall that match being a disappointment, but this made me want to revisit it. Solar played an Atlantis role here, mentoring the all too fired up Azteca; adjudicating over all that is fair and righteous; taking the law into his own hands when it came to the heel ref. And most pleasing for the lucha fan, Super Astro did all of his spots.
A total success, I thought.
La Parka/El Sicodelico/El Espanto Jr. vs. Konnan/Octagon/El Hijo del Santo
So, any match with Konnan in it isn't going to spend the first fall on the mat, but you've gotta appreciate that the fucker was over. And in a wild match, in front of a hot crowd -- not that bad to watch.
They started off with some quick exchanges, and although I don't like how Espanto basically became a bumper in AAA, he took the most amazingly fast, whip-like bumps off Santo's rope work and had a terrific comedy spot on the apron. The finish to the fall was beautifully done and basically involved the lucha equivalent of repartee, with everyone catching each other by surprise. From there it spilled out onto the floor, and they took full advantage of the fact that there were no barricades, just flimsy wooden set-ups with loose ropes. The rope became a weapon and the crowd were fully into this. Konnan was fish hooked in the ring and it wasn't long before he sent a fat Sicodelico flying into the audience. I mean, seriously, he sent that fat fucker flying. And he waved him off too. Adios.
Espanto and Parka kept busy the whole match, and later on Santo and Octagon did topes into the crowd, which I thought they were crazy for doing given the arena set-up. The match disentigrated into some tripe about a foul, a DQ and El Sicodelico having his mask removed, but if you watch it stay to the end... Konnan gets fed up with Parka post-match and socks him. Parka falls ass backwards out of the ring.
Konnan always strikes me as a LL Cool J wannabee, but I liked him here.
Octagon/Rey Misterio Jr./El Hijo Del Santo vs. Jerry Estrada/Psicosis/Espanto Jr. (AAA; 1/14/94 Tulancingo)
This was another chance to see Santo wrestle Espanto, but despite Espanto having a fucking awesome moustache and the two of them poised to grapple, there was precious little matwork to speak of. Why? Because AAA is the nadir of lucha libre professional wrestling. It's OK if you like flash in the pan stuff, but there's no rhythm to it. They spend an eternity stalling and blow half their shit. Later on, Espanto beat Santo up in front of a large Mexican family. I don't know if they were a plant, but the mother did her part to add to the appeal of lucha libre. Aside from that and some off the wall bumping from Psicosis, there wasn't much to enjoy. I watched this twice, so it's not like I rejected it off-hand.
Rey Misterio Jr./Misterioso/Volador vs. La Parka/Espectro Jr./Karis la Momia (AAA; 11/12/93, LA Sports Arena)
This was like a Universal horror picture. Parka wore a Bela Lugosi cape, Espectro had an entrance Screamin' Jay Hawkins would be proud of (and he was a fan of the graps) and Momia came to ringside in a giant mummy's tomb. All it needed was El Santo, Blue Demon, some werewolves and a few killer vampires. The match was a mess, but the rudos made it fun. Parka was still fresh at the time, and he did a really great intentional trip where he pulled an "up yours" to the crowd before wiping out. Espectro's bumping is just as amusing as Psicosis, but he's faster between the ropes and I dig his running high kick. Match broke down as all AAA matches do, but they absorbed a lot of the great UWA guys and this is the only chance to watch them.
Los Brazos vs. Los Bucaneros (Pirata Morgan/Hombre Bala/El Verdugo), CMLL Oct/Nov 1989
This started off as a joke about Super Porky's gut and ended in a bloody mess.
Porky was feeling it from the start, going through his warm-ups (!) before the bell had even sounded. There's nothing quite as devastating as that man's gut and this time the recipient was Pirata Morgan.
Morgan was lavish with his over-selling and it led to some really great spots where the Bucaneros were afraid of Porky's gut, but what made it work were the other Brazos. They kept up the guise of Super Libre, playing enforcers as the Bucaneros tried to curtail the damage. And all the while no-one could thwart the maestro. The whole thing reached a wonderful crescendo when Morgan openly mocked Porky's gut and was dragged away like a fallen soldier.
That was the right time to shift the tone, but the ease with which they swapped set pieces for a rudo beatdown was impressive. Hombre Bala came to the fore here, and if ever a guy deserved a cult following it's him, because he was fucking awesome at shifting the tide. He laid into Porky with thick shots; poor Porky was like a stuck pig. His brothers weren't around to help him, as Brazo de Oro was bleeding from the temple, and that woke Pirata up. I believe this was the height of Pirata Morgan as a rudo, because he was vengeful here. Watch out for all the payback spots.
Earlier the crowd had been laughing and enjoying the Looney Tunes, now there was a disquiet among them. If you think of wrestling as having a scale, this was a masterful shift in tone. The Bucaneros went the whole hog (so to speak) and the crowd began to boo. Brazo de Oro collapsed from blood loss and the overtones were eerily different from the cannonball shots Morgan took.
The finish was great too. The Brazos decided to take care of business, but made a series of mistakes and the Bucaneros capitalised with their awesome triple headbutt spot. Not what the crowd wanted to see, but the Brazos, who'd been so cocksure at the beginning, were left bloodied, beaten and battered. Made you wanna see the rematch.
Blue Panther vs. Averno, Arena Mexico 11/04/08
This was Panther's 30th Anniversary match, so he got to wrestle his kind of match. A lot of grappling and pin attempts and the usual matwork and submissions. It didn't matter that he was without his mask; work-wise he looked like his old self.
I actually watched a handheld of this, which is probably more satisfying than watching it taped. The guy had good seats; a few rows in, with all the action on his side. Great line of sight, especially on the dives. Definitely soaked in the atmosphere more than the autistic CMLL camera work. The guy must've been sitting near some rudo fans, since Panther got a fair few heckles. Despite the horns and general buzz, the biggest pop was for a ring girl, but I suppose that's red-blooded.
Panther worked his way through three falls, which is generally what you, the lucha fan, want to see. Averno's no Black Terry, so things weren't so interesting on his end, but he can follow a lead and thus it had a reasonably good flow. While I can't claim to have seen Panther live, I did get a pretty good look and his work is tight. Nothing contrived about his rope work or flips; nothing that needs hiding. Wrestling might be carny or vaudeville, but there's an art to it, and Panther knows his craft.
It was a bit of a formality, but Panther raised his hand in victory. I hope we see more "maestro" performances in the future, but whichever way you look at it, he's had a great career. Required viewing if you're a fan.
Gran Cochisse vs. Satanico, NWA World Middleweight Championship, Arena Mexico 9/14/84
This is one of the great lucha matches; a "Greco-Roman" classic with a dramatic shift in paradigm from rudo challenger to numero uno.
People often make the mistake of thinking Gran Cochisse was at the end of his career here, but he'd go on to compete for and hold this title for a few more years, as well as capturing the UWA World Junior Light Heavyweight Championship four years later, so he was a formidable middleweight champion at the time. He'd beaten Satanico a month earlier, so this was a return match in true style.
Despite being wrestled in the Greco-Roman style, Satanico was clearly a rudo technician. There was nothing illegal in the way he grappled; it was in the details. The way he snapped at the ref that his shoulders weren't on the mat; his anger at the force with which Cochisse broke an early waistlock; the dismissve way he threw him to the mat after making him submit. It was those details that really told the story.
There was nothing in it in the early going, and the wrestling was to die for. Satanico was left favouring his arm after Cochisse absolutely pried open a waistlock and from that point on it was a red rag to a bull. Satanico was the aggressor and wanted to hurt Cochisse, which is as good a wrestling story as you need. For some reason, the ref made him wipe his arm with his corner man's towel. Coming out of his corner, Satanico caught Cochisse with a vicious takeover snapmere that sent Cochisse flying out of the ring and from there he never relinquished the fall.
In the second caida, Satanico set about separating the shoulder. Perfectly legal, but he made it look cynical. There are laws about title matches in Mexico, written or unwritten, and Satanico with his hands raised to the ref was pushing the boundaries. But this is where the paradigm began to shift.
To my way of thinking, selling is the greatest thing in professional wrestling.
As soon as Cochisse reversed a wristlock the other way, Satanico was down on one knee. He was struggling to get up; face first on the canvas. Convulsing, spitting shit up. If it sounds over the top it wasn't because there's never been anyone better at selling. Ordinarily, Cochisse would get a submission and that would be that, but these guys went one better. Satanico broke the submission and they ended up on all fours butting heads.
And then they unleashed.
In lucha, guys don't really unleash until the final fall, but this was something special.
However, it was nothing compared to the final fall. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, the third fall was the greatest I've seen in lucha.
If Satanico was a rudo challenger to begin with, in the third fall he was simply a luchador fighting for a title. The submission attempts and pinning counters were incredible. I can't even begin to describe them. You'll have to see them for yourself. Satanico sold until he was an underdog. Cochisse gave all that a champion could possibly give. On and on they fought, until they were out on their feet. The spot that summed it up was when they were on all fours again, only this time they could barely face each other.
Somebody had to win and against the odds it was Satanico. As the publico roared their approval, never before had I seen a rudo win such public favour. For a night, Satanico was numero uno. Y'know I've seen rudos cheat to win, even in title matches, but what Satanico did here was a remarkable bit of drama. If he's not the greatest luchador of the past thirty five years, I don't know who is.
As a post script to this, Gran Cochisse won the title back a mere sixteen days later, but this night belonged to Lopez.
Eddy, Chavo y Mando Guerrero vs. El Satanico, MS1 y Masakre (8/23/91)
Every time I've seen Chavo Guerrero work Mexico he's been awesome and this was no exception. I'm fairly confident that he could've been one of the great luchadores had his father stayed put.
Here he squared off with Satanico and we were treated to a real arm wrestle between the two. Towards the end they gave a master class in how to work a lucha exchange. I watched it several times to see how skillfully they caught a limb, how hard they hit the canvas and how quickly they got up. Neither guy had the advantage in the end, but they sized each other up before tagging. I thought it was brilliant how they left it unsettled.
The match itself wasn't all that special. The Guerreros' style was a little perplexing. It wasn't lucha but it wasn't like the territories they came up through. Perhaps it was reminicient of Gory Guerrero, I'm not really sure. It involved a lot of quick tags and aggressive limbwork. Satanico had the ring cut off from him and his frenzied escape was further proof he's the greatest ever.
The Infernales, for their part, got a lot of mileage out of front facelocks and wrenching side headlocks. This being a Masakre version of the Infernales they were weaker than usual and that was probably the sticking point.
Still, Satanico locking horns with Chavo was memorable.
Los Oficiales vs. Freelance, Pegasso Xtreme, Rey Cometa, 10/9/08
Los Oficiales vs. Freelance, Pegasso Xtreme, Rey Cometa, Distrito Federal Trios Titles, 10/17/08
Some of the best trios wrestling to come out of Mexico this year.
I actually preferred the title match, largely because Los Oficiales are better at mano a mano exchanges than working as a trios. What their "Los Destructores" act lacks are the comeuppance spots, where the double and triple teaming breaks down and they end up bumping into one another. Individually they're better bumpers and I particularly love their baseball slides into the barricade.
Mano a mano also clears the ring for Freelance vs. El Capitan, a real old school type trios match-up with a lot of great chest slapping.
Freelance is unstoppable, clearing the top rope like you wouldn't believe, but it's his fight that sets him apart. Size isn't an issue because he works so big. And he doesn't overdo it punching above his weight. He just seems naturally tough. And he died a dramatic death in the title match. What a hero.
Pequeno Ninja, Shockercito, Tzuki vs. Fire, Mr. Águila, Pequeño Halloween, 11/11/08
This was another match where the workers got longer than usual. Structurally this was pretty close to the '96-97 minis, though the work wasn't as good. The technicos' comeback wasn't as death defying as it could've been, still I was surprised that this batch of minis produced the goods. The rudos were impressive since it's not their strongest line-up. There was a long wait for the dives, a trend I'd like to see more of.
Time to check in on the minis...
Bam Bam vs. Pequeño Damian 666, CMLL World Minis Championship, 7/27/08
Bam Bam vs. Pequeño Damian 666, hair vs. hair, 8/17/08
Y'know, I like Pequeño Damian. He might be a modern sort of rudo, but he looks like the bastard love child of Damián 666, so he's alright.
And he argued with his second in a title match, something I've never seen before. Loco Max was urging him not to take risks, but Damian got sick of Loco opening his trap and kicked him out of the road. And whaddaya know? Loco had a point. The look on Max's face was priceless, like something out of a Cantinflas film. A moment of folly, but you make your bed and lie in it.
What I liked was the different approach in the hair match. Bam Bam jumped him early, but he managed a pin against the run of play. In the title match he was guilty of wrestling Bam Bam's "catch-as-catch-can" style. There were some fluid exchanges in the beginning, but either they were legit fucked or couldn't keep up the pace, 'cos neither guy had much in the tank at the business end. Here he was up a fall and had the kind of advantage that would thrill Jesse Ventura. Of course Bam Bam made a comeback, but he had to work for it. Damian had him right where he wanted him, he just had to make sure the greasy little fucker didn't slip his way out of a haircut.
So how do you finish a guy like Bam Bam? Well, what you do is a sunset flip powerbomb off the apron and onto the ramp. Hello.
Now folks I'm not a mark for big time moves, but that was a big time move. Not only did he get a head of steam up, but he jumped at the end. And just to prove he wasn't gonna choke again, he put Bam Bam over his shoulder and threw the fucker back in the ring. And in case Loco Max had a problem with that, he dropped Bam Bam on his head with a double underhook piledriver. 'Cos real gangster ass rudos don't leave 'em half dead.
I didn't even know that was legal in lucha.
Really, that was too exciting. Bam Bam has fucking awful hair, so you know what I was rooting for, but Damian shat on the guy for taking his title.
I promise to support Bam Bam now he has no hair.
Black Terry vs. Negro Navarro, Americas Title, NWA Mexico 11/1/08
This is available in various forms on youtube, including one set to Metallica. None of them are complete, but what's shown is EPIC. I kid you not, this is fucking incredible --
Blue Panther vs. Villano V, Arena Puebla, 9/29/08
Revenge match in front of a pretty small crowd and my first look at Panther without the mask.
It takes a bit of getting used to, and looks a hell of a lot like old man brawling, but like I said Panther was never the greatest brawler. At one point he threw a pretty decent right hand, but it hardly matters since Villano won't bump.
This was a lot stiffer than their mask match, with Villano dishing out some nasty shots and not giving a fuck about Panther in general. Panther tried to fish hook him and rip the mask, but Villano's tougher than Blue Panther. In fact, Villano could pretty much kill Panther. I dunno if it's such a great idea to have an unmasked, 48 year-old Panther getting swamped.
Anyway, Panther took a beating but saw some daylight and hooked Villano's arm. The Villanos hit the ring, broke Panther's leg and crippled him for life. Panther's a double loser, I mean there he was going for an armbar when the Villanos wanna retire him. Let's say Panther got the submission, what does Villano care? He never quit. Villano has a thick skull and nothing Panther does can hurt him. He tried the tope, but it was terrible by comparison. He needs to work on that right hand, because the mask was more forgiving.
There's talk going round that Panther is wrestler of the year. The way I see it, Panther's got a struggle on his hands to stay credible. Watching Ruleta de la Muerte, Panther could've gone on for years, dumbing down his shit, staying charismatic. Everybody loved that mask.
Lucha Azteca La Nueva Era
1. Black Terry, Negro Navarro, Hijo de Pierroth vs. Pendulo, Freelance, Fenix
2. Campeones Vs Campeones:
Escuadron del Muerte: Xibalva, Cyborg, Capitan Muerte vs. Los Oficiales: Oficial 911, Oficial Ak 47, Oficial Fierro
This was closer to the type of lucha I like. Guys taking their time, working the mat and getting into a rhythm. The young guys were balls of nervous energy, ready to explode in a shower of highspots, but even when they veered toward overkill they'd earnt it.
Black Terry & Navarro are still savvy motherfuckers, which makes them two of the better workers in the world. There's not too many workers who impress me just by stepping through the ropes, but Navarro's one of them. Dude's got the build and the stance. Big fucking shoulders and a lifetime of grappling experience. Could probably crush a guy's hand with his fingers. He tied Fenix up in knots, and while he lost his footing a bit, I still came away thinking most motherfuckers can't wrestle like that. Hijo de Pierroth's a big lug, but every trios needs a hard working lug.
This was the first time for me to see Freelance. I didn't know he's so short. He kinda works like he's compensating for it, but still there's something in the way he carries himself. Guy has a similar build to Black Terry, hope he learns the ropes from him. One day lucha will need a veteran Freelance tearing shit up. Great armdrag, plenty of control on his dives. Maybe he's the new Virus. Wants to add that twisting shit to his moves, but it's a young man's world.
Los Oficiales made me feel like an old man. Motherfuckers went all out. I lost track.
I liked the beginning of the match, where everybody was trying to make each other submit. Dudes were walking headlong into submissions, but I liked the way they faced it head on. You could maybe argue that they didn't satisfy rudo vs. rudo expectations, but when these guys cut loose they tear shit down. Great gimmick, three guys who work hard and fast. Not my thing usually, but identical looking guys doing twin dives is awesome. I especially love how their hats are fixed to their masks. Couldn't keep up with the ending, had to watch the replay to see how smooth it was. Nice.
Enjoyed this show a lot. All's not lost.
Blue Panther vs. Villano V, mask vs. mask, CMLL 75th Anniversary show 9/19/08
Panther losing wasn't the worst thing in the world. It's happened to plenty of workers. Some of them were big names, some small. Some went on to fame, others never got a doggone thing. But this wasn't a great match. It was the same dumbed down shit that makes it difficult to enjoy pro-wrestling these days. I was hoping for something special, and I got it in Panther's topes, but the rest of the match was bullshit. Forget about making a guy care, I had to watch the fucking replay to understand what happened at the end. If Villano III vs. Atlantis made grown men cry, this made me want to never waste another second on CMLL.
EDIT: Alright, so let me explain why I didn't like this. When I think of an old school classic, I think of blood, brawling and mask ripping, lots of great mask ripping. Guys who knew how long to let the other guy sell, what to do to him and how to bring the crowd into it. Drama that was all in the timing, selling that was all in the acting. Punches and comebacks and dives. Now Villano V mightn't be a good worker and Panther was never the greatest brawler, but the structure here was poor. Forget about blood and mask ripping, the modern trope of "go out there, do a few moves, bring out the ring girls" or editing where crowd size is more important than the match itself, the most dramatic thing about the match was Villano V hitting the back of his head. Not a big deal in a mask match, but something to work with. Panther "cracking skulls" with his topes was great, no doubt, but the CMLL dictum is to keep things moving. The crowd was with Villano at that point, they could've squared off like two heavyweight fighters, perhaps tailored Panther's demise or at the least made it actually seem like mano o mano, instead they pushed it along. Panther lost his mask like he might lose any kind of match. There was no Greek tragedy, no dramatic death scene, no great rudo performance and nothing sold. They couldn't even dredge up an exciting finish. There was heat and the crowd popped for Villano's win, but I don't think they swung in Villano's favour because of the work. As is typical with CMLL, there was a greater emphasis on the post-match than the match itself, just as everything important seems to happen between falls.
So it wasn't a great fight and didn't have the type of rhythm or pace that produces great drama. In the end I thought it was cheap. I have no problem with Villano V winning the mask, but you've gotta earn it. Being from a famous family isn't enough, win the people's minds and hearts because you bust your ass going toe to toe with Panther instead of fucking around. There was too much bullshit in this match. A million crowd shots, CMLL trying to show us how many rows were filled, egregious shots of their logo. They captured one genuine moment -- when an old lady threw a Panther mask in disgust. You know it lady.
El Hijo del Santo vs. Negro Casas, UWA 1/12/92
This is the famous "no sound" match that was wrestled almost completely on the mat. (Well, famous to me.)
The more UWA Santo I see, the more I feel like I'm watching a completely different wrestler. This was the absolute peak of Santo's work and the closest he came to wrestling like his father. It's becoming harder to watch latter day Santo knowing he was once like this. The creativity and inventiveness in this match is staggering, such as the camel clutch spot with the fighting, twisting & turning. Working one hold into another, faking a match yet having reall skill. Actual skill. Knowledge of holds and how to apply them. Here Santo was a worker who could literally do anything.
I think it would surprise people to see Santo slip in the kind of shots you'd expect from Euro workers pre-97, but I guess he'd been traveling to Japan and was a bit awed by some of the work he saw over there. This was a little Japan-ccentric for my tastes, as even the submission variations showed some outside influence, but in terms of matwork and guys really working in the holds, this was a great little match. The only problem was that it was over too soon. For that reason I don't think it was as good as the Espanto Jr. match. Nor did I think it had that special lucha vibe (i.e. a match you could only see in Mexico), but if you like Stephen Regal or Ishikawa and BattlARTs, for example, this was a similar sort of hybrid concept. Think of it as the best match possible in the Hamada UWF style.
I still think Santo and Casas never had the blow away match they were capable of, but lucha tends to not have blow away matches, just incredibly satisfying ones to appease the endless appetite of its fans.
Bestia Salvaje vs. Kato Kung Lee, hair vs. hair, 3/13/92
I can't get over what a good worker Bestia Salvaje was in 1992.
This was a minor match, a veteran losing their hair to continue Bestia's push as a top rudo, but it's hard to imagine anyone getting a better match out of Kato Kung Lee this late in the game.
Without the mask Kato looked like a regular Joe. He reminded me of a bit part actor in an old movie, the kinda guy you could cast as a newspaper man in one film and a heavy in the next and if he had a speaking line he'd get paid a little extra. What I'm trying to say is that within the mask he was never gonna draw, especially in that outfit, but Bestia gave him a fair shake. It would've been easy for Bestia to nab a scalp here, but I guess he had the dreaded respect for the business as he made Kato look like he still had deadly hands.
The interesting thing about Bestia was that he was a new breed of rudo. He had the kind of attention to detail that all the great rudos have, but he also had moves. A fucking boatload of moves. And he liked to use them too. Normally I'd think that was out of place in lucha, but somehow Bestia put it altogether. Some of his other trappings weren't too good for his health, but I wish he was still around to impart some wisdom to today's move happy rudos. Later on he became a sleazier rudo with the women and the suits, but here he was a hard working "youngster" who you figure just happened cross over onto the wrong side of the tracks and be broken in by some rudos. I'd love to know what the story was with his nose. Legend has it W.C. Fields got his nose from constantly fighting with other street kids. I wonder if there's a similar worked story for Bestia.
[He was actually 30 here and had 10 years experience under the belt, but lucha is deceiving like that. I always forget that Fuerza made his debut thirty years ago and so on.]
The match is nice, though nothing outwardly special. Kato had his head shaved while lying on the mat, which I don't think I've seen before and his second, Ciclon Ramirez, was wearing a fucking awesome get-up and taped Kato's wrist between rounds. Again with the details. That has to be the greatest thing about lucha. Almost every exchange was picture perfect "neat."
The more Bestia you watch from '92, the more you realise how disappointing the Dandy vs. Bestia title match was. Dandy completely peaked with the Casas feud. Bestia would've overtaken him if he'd been perhaps a bit more charismatic or a tad less ugly.
Sangre Chicana vs. La Fiera, hair vs. hair, CMLL 7/2/93
Ah, 1993 CMLL.
AAA was doing big business at the time, and if this was CMLL's way of rolling with the punches, I have no idea why they ran such slow, plodding matches.
Not that I'm complaining. Sangre Chicana is just about my favourite wrestler for doing absolutely fucking nothing and getting heat for it. He spent the entire match measuring La Fiera with punches & walking off into the crowd to jaw with the public. He had a fair bit of support from rudo fans in the front, who clued him in to Fiera dragging his bruised and battered sides toward Chicana. Chicana working the rib and kidney area was awesome and made it all the sweeter when he'd slip one in on Fiera's chin. Guys don't work the body enough these days. That's a fact.
Fiera, who had turned a short while before this, wasn't the greatest technico to ever mount a comeback, but Chicana sold everything like it just broke his nose or sent spasms to every corner of his body. The highlight of the match was Fiera's all or nothing tope. Chicana didn't catch it particularly well, but Fiera swan diving over the top rope was pretty spectacular and looked tremendous. There was only gonna be one loser after that type of move and the barber wasn't three quarters finished before they launched into an extra round. They brawled away the way to the back with more intensity than they showed in the fight, so either Chicana was fucking around too much or they wanted to go further round the horn.
No blood and not a hidden gem, but 1993 CMLL is always worth a look. They worked this really long lock-up at the start that was an interesting counterpoint to AAA in itself.
Fuerza Guerrera vs. Gallo Tapado, hair vs. hair, 3/8/91
Gallo Tapado was a character wrestler from the 70s whose mask was "a rooster's spur around the eyes and a line crossing the mouth to feign a belt from the charro's hat whom made roosters fight in los palenques, making him an excellent character, since sometimes in the ring [he] jumped joining his ankles like sharping his knives as roosters do in a fight." (Credit: lucha wiki)
He was 48 years old here and practically a 30 year vet, so there wasn't much pomp. It was a familar story, I guess, an old guy looking for one last pay day. He kinda reminded me of a Villano in the way he moved and his ability to hook on a submission, so I imagine he was a pretty decent worker in his hey day. He was actually Fuerza's maestro, so Fuerza came pretty damn close to losing his mask. GT brought some sort of live chicken or cock to ringside, which Fuerza beat him with, and then the tape started splicing between the first and second falls and looped back round again.
It was a slower, more methodically paced match than the usual Fuerza special, but as always he added a little something extra to each of his bumps and I don't think I've seen a guy who was better at breaking a cradle or submission attempt.
GT was selling his arm at the end, using the strap of his tights as a sling. I don't know if it was real or not, Huracan Sevilla did the same thing the night he lost his mask, but if it's a work then it's a pretty awesomw way to bow out.
A small, somewhat interesting piece of lucha history.
Pierroth vs. El Supremo, mask vs. mask, 12/08/92
This was a return to greatness for PIERROTH.
I fucking loved this.
-- I should note that the version I watched was letterboxed (which it made it seem like a rare piece of lucha footage) and for some reason the sound quality was better than usual. Arena Mexico never sounded so good.
At some point in 1992, Pierroth turned technico and was a huge hit with the crowd.
Supremo was an older luchador with a classic look -- huge chest, beautiful mask. He had that graceful way of moving that you don't see much of anymore. It was beautiful to watch, especially how he'd whip his man into the ropes. Great hands. He wrestled as he might have done whenever he was a technico, but broke that code of conduct.
What I loved most was how simple and succinct it was. The heel ref Gato Montini gave Supremo leverage to cheat and Sangre Chicana was fucking brilliant hitting Pierroth with the towel and picking his spots to punch him. Pierroth was choked in the ropes, busted open and had his mask stretched across his face, giving him plenty of opportunity to work his magic. It was your basic pearl habour of a charismatic technico, but Pierroth was awesome in the role. The crimson mask. The hair sticking out the top. The biting & tooth and nail scraping.
His second got taken the fuck out of the equation too, which ruled.
Pierroth used the force of his personality to fight his way back into the match. I loved the way he worked out of a corner and it was brilliant how they sold their hands after punches or chops.
Great start and end to the year for Pierroth.
Pirata Morgan vs. Masakre, hair vs. hair, 2/28/92
When I first saw this match I was in awe of Pirata Morgan.
Like most people I saw it as a big time performance from the best wrestler in the world.
This time I'm not so sure.
As awesome as Pirata was, he could've worked the match with one arm tied behind his back. Watching Los Intocables, it's clear that Masakre lacked focus. When you're facing a guy who isn't a great brawler, you've gotta have him fight. You've gotta make him work harder than he usually would. Despite the blood it never seemed like Masakre was kicking his ass, and in a match like this there's a problem with Masakre looking piss weak. The guy didn't have any great charisma. He was never gonna beat Morgan so bad he didn't care if he killed the guy. He only knew to stagger and punch, walk around and hit someone. Still Morgan should've taken the fight to him. It felt like he took the soft option.
It didn't help that PIERROTH was a constant focus on the outside. The camera was on him way too much in this match. He was brilliant, but if he were a manager he'd be killing his guy in the ring.
1. Los Destructores: Tony Arce/Vulcano/Rocco Valente vs. Love Machine (Art Barr)/America/Mano Negra
Los Destructores were really good in this. It's a bit difficult to tell one from the other, but they worked well as a trios. Plenty of good "routine", particularly their two and three man bumping act. The highlight was Mano Negra taking all three on at once in a beautifully coordinated sequence. Los Destructores have a neat trick they do where they sit on someone's lap to dissuade the technico from diving. The only dive in this was America (El Pantera) launching a springboard senton off Mano Negra's shoulders. Just a nice match. Even Art Barr was solid, particularly on the mat. I'm not declaring myself a fan yet, but of all the guys who made it south of the border he got it better than most.
2. Los Infernales: El Satanico/MS1/Pirata Morgan vs. Los Intocables: Pierroth Jr./Jaque Mate/Masakre
PIERROTH disappoints again
It started off like the awesome Rudos vs. Rudos feud you'd expect, but there was such a huge gulf in class between Los Intocables' half-assed brawling and the way Los Infernales take a man apart. In particular, I loved the way they treated Jaque Mate like he was a piece of shit, trying him up in knots and delivering a trio of headbutts, before pressing him over the top rope and getting rid of him completely. The match fell into a lull before Satanico turned it on like a man possessed and fought all three at once.
Pierroth lost his mask a bunch, the finish saw the usual challenges. A woman in the crowd thought it was the best thing to happen all year in Arena Mexico, but I was waiting for Pierroth to crank it up.
3. Los Brazos vs. Rayo de Jalisco Jr./Solomon Grundy/Vampiro Canadiense
This was the worst Brazos match I've seen. The highlight was Porky bringing a small pig with him, literally.
4. Bestia Salvaje vs. Huracan Sevilla - Hair Match.
This was an extremely good match between a youthful looking Bestia and the former Huracan Ramirez knock-off.
I was expecting this to be an early Bestia carry job, so I was a little surprised by how well Sevilla did. He was so cocky and sure of himself in the introductions, with a leather jacket and the classier ring girls in his corner, and they worked a smart heat ploy involving the heel ref, his second Norman Smiley and the crowd.
This was UWF Bestia, just absolutely rock solid as a base. His stuff always looked stiffer than most workers in Mexico and I think it was because of his accuracy. Even off a shoulder block, he'd look at where the technico landed before making his charge into the ropes, and in the second fall when Sevilla was throwing wild punches, Bestia's cut offs (punches to the back and kicks to the calves) looked right on target. It helped that Sevilla was bumping and selling like Satanico, but even Salvaje's drop toe hold into the submission finisher was class.
The match opened up beautifully in the final fall, with Bestia working his man from pillar to post. The ref screwed Sevilla throughout and sweet, sweet payback followed. Bestia bleed and took head first bumps off the ring post. El Brazo and the ref tried to spare his life and the whole thing was almost perfect lucha. To top it all off, Bestia got incredible height on the back body drops oover the ropes and took Sevilla's topes with full contact.
They took it home with one of the better finishing stretches you'll see in lucha, a mix of the ref helping Bestia cheat and Bestia taking it to the top rope with either ungodly planchas or huge missed sentons. Bestia's not with us anymore, and he never did his body any favours, but fuck it if he ever held back. He even made tucking your knees to counter a senton look like it wasn't co-operated, though I should reiterate that Sevilla's selling was great as he swam backwards on the mat to sell it.
It was one of those matches were never guy would quit and sold in a believable, convincing way. From the huge dives at the end to the ref LEAPING over a cradle attempt when he realised Bestia had the hold, the last fall was awesome. Neither guy could put the other away and they just duked it out. I can't even begin to describe how awesome it was when Sevilla sold his leg giving out on him only to monkey flip Bestia all the way over the top rope. Bestia just soared. And the finish was controversial, beautiful and so much more of a punch to the guts than the usual rudo way out. Sevilla giving his hair to both Bestia and the ref was the finishing touch to a classic.
One of the great matches of the whole '89-92 period.
1. Los Brazos vs. Pierroth Jr./Masakre/Jaque Mate
This was a rehash of their January match. If you were expecting them to kick on and ratchet it up a notch like I was, you'd be greatly disappointed. There was some amusing stuff, like Masakre and Jaque Mate pin pointing the pressure points on Porky's gut, but it was too low on the card to deliver.
2. Ultimo Dragon vs. Blue Panther - Non-Title match
It sucks how much of Blue Panther's prime was wasted on being a fall guy for shitty workers. Ultimo Dragon didn't attempt to work a lucha style and this was the lowliest of junior matches.
3. Atlantis/Solomon Grundy/Rayo de Jalisco Jr. vs. Cien Caras/Mascara Ano Dos Mil/Universo Dos Mil
Is there anything more awesome than the Rayo vs. Caras feud??
Rayo brawled in his Mariachi get-up and threatened the rudos with a PISTOL, I kid you not. This was pretty wild for a match that featured a bunch of loose, theatrical workers. Rayo shoved the ref into the front row, some fan got caught up in the brawling and took a bump with the rudo, Universo 2000 had all sorts of novel ways to work Solomon Grundy over in the corner, sitting on his shoulders and twisting his head... even the finish was inexplicable as a second Solomon Grundy did a run in. Double Doink.
4. Octagon vs. Fuerza Guerrera - Mexican Middleweight Title
This was a poor man's version of their "as close to a classic with Octagon as you can possibly get" 11/91 match. Comparing the two is like Richie Rich and a street kid.
Sure Fuerza did some cool shit with Octagon, but there was too much heat on their seconds, Cien Caras and Konnan. With the amount of cross cutting they did between cornermen, you knew an angle was on the cards. Caras looked like some asshole dad or football coach here and his low blow of Octagon was pretty classy, especially when a woman leapt to abuse him as Caras wagged the finger, "no, no, no." But it led to one of the most hideous, bare chested displays of ring clearing ever witnessed. Konnan looked like a prize dick.
Fuerza provided one last classy moment when he used Konnan's shirt to choke Octagon out, but the whole thing left a sour taste in the mouth.