1. Ciclon Ramirez/La Pantera II/Aguila Solitaria vs. Arkangel de la Muerte/Guerrero de la Muerte/Guerrero Negro
It kinda reminded me of those travel shows where they do a feature on lucha libre. They usually focus on lucha as a live show, as though you've got a front row seat. CMLL TV doesn't give you the same pick-ups from ringside, but this felt like a live match. They could probably fall out of bed and have this trios, but it was good stuff from guys I don't usually write about.
The technicos outwitted the rudos through superior technique, leaving them all at sea and bickering with one another. There were the usual appeals to the crowd about who the bigger dickhead was, before the rudos took it out on the technicos. It all led to the night train where Ciclon Ramirez, the greatest practioner of the tope, gave the crowd the type of souvenir those TV presenters never receive.
I can't think of anyone who did the tope harder or faster. He took out the end of three rows.
2. Ringo & Cachorro Mendoza/Mogur vs. Kung Fu/Hombre Bala/Sultan Gargola
For some reason I get a kick out of Ringo Mendoza, even if everything he does looks soft. I even got a kick out of his tag partners. Something about the whole thing screamed babyface to me, I could just imagine them doing muscle poses for the lucha mags. They weren't too bad actually, since they had Hombre Bala bumping and stooging for them, something the great man deserves a lifetime achievement award for.
These matches usually have an odd man out, but it wasn't the Gargola guy. Kung Fu looked RAGGED. I'm not a fan of Kung Fu gimmicks, but that motherfucker Octagon stoooole the Los Fantásticos gimmick. Anyway, the maskless Kung Fu was supposed to be a pint-sized, pissy little heel who used nunchukkas and foreign objects. Dunno if it was a Pena gimmick, but he looked like a wiry old man.
3. Blue Panther/Fuerza Guerrera/Emilio Charles Jr. vs. El Volador/Blue Demon Jr./Misterioso
Good Lord, Fuerza Guerrera's purple and yellow get-up was awesome.
This was the type of match that would soon crossover into AAA, I'll spare you my thoughts on how much better it was in CMLL.
Misterioso had shocked Fuerza for the NWA World Welterweight title the month before, so his whole purpose here was to make Misterioso look like a dick on national television. The rudos won in straight falls, which'll hurt any technico's pride and sure enough the post-match was wild, especially Fuerza hitting a takedown that spilt through the ropes. The best part came while Fuerza was giving an interview at the end. As Fuerza demanded a title shot, Emilio propped Blue Demon Jr. up behind him for an awesome right hand from Panther. BD went down.
As an aside, Emilio was insane. It's no wonder his body is shot. He took by far by the biggest bumps on the show. I thought Pirata Morgan was crazy, but Emilio didn't give a second thought about catapaulting over the ropes. Jeepers.
Pierroth used to be the same way too, until he damn near killed himself and then he didn't bump anymore. After that he was a little stiff in the way he moved, but he made up for it by being a rudo extraordinaire...
4. Los Brazos vs. Los Intocables (The Untouchables): Pierroth Jr./Masakre/Jaque Mate
If there was ever a trios carried by a rudo personality, it was Los Intocables.
Los Intocables were PIERROTH. He couldn't move very well and wouldn't bump, but he knew how to punch a man. Just as Satanico would punch different parts of the body, Los Intocables used all sorts of ways to hold a man down while Pierroth rearranged the guy's face. The three on one beatings in this match were awesome, especially when the Brazos spat in Pierroth's face and got nasty fish hooks in return.
The catch to it all was that Pierroth was absolutely chicken shit when he didn't have a 3 on 1 advantage and since this the type of fight where Porky ditches the comedy and is stiffer with his spots, Pierroth was soon running scared. Man can the Brazos can take care of business, especially when Porky's focused. They ripped Pierroth's mask off completely, the ultimate insult for a guy who hooking the mouth only moments before.
He returned with a new mask and a shit lot of attitude on the house mic, there were challenges galore and Porky wanted to go rounds with Jacque Mate. He even feigned kick boxing. As a brawl it never got off the ground, but in terms of the amount of mayhem that can stem from one man, highly entertaining.
Atlantis vs. Blue Panther, Arena Mexico 07/11/08
This was a match to mark Atlantis' 25th Anniversary in wrestling.
Atlantis was one of the great technicos, but he doesn't hit the small shows much, so we don't get to see him work an older style. Some of his Guadlajara stuff is alright, but you know the small show mastery I'm talking about. Fitting then that Panther was chosen to be his opponent, since they had the most pure of title matches in 1991, a match which more than any other shaped the way I think about lucha libre.
The match was nothing special, but satisfying enough. Neither guy is a patch on what they used to be, but both take pride in their work. I wanted 20 minutes of matwork, but they had to move it along for the Arena Mexico crowd. Panther was there to job and Atlantis to take his bows. Might've been better somewhere else, but Atlantis was clearly moved by the whole occasion. Some tenor sang for him at the beginning and after the high note Atlantis lept over the ropes to embrace him.
Perhaps the best they can do these days.
More of a heads up than a review.
If you've never seen the Villanos/Brazos masks match, it was uploaded onto youtube a few days ago.
It's not that easy to watch, because of the low tape quality and the guy playing with his camera functions, but it's a big match with an incredible atmosphere. The third fall is a great lucha brawl. You don't get a great look at the dive train or the finish since people are standing, but you do get to see the wrestlers leave the ring, which is footage you rarely ever see. The Brazos make a quick exit, while, one by one, the bloodied and battered Villanos stop to acknowledge the crowd, as they step through the ropes out onto the apron.
You have to squint a bit and miss a lot, but it's pretty much worth it for moments like that.
Blue Panther/Shu El Guerrero vs Black Terry/Villano III (2004?)
This is the match that Black Terry's son put on youtube for us.
It's thirty minutes of old school lucha, worked entirely on the mat. I've watched it twice now, and of all the mat based lucha that's ever been pimped, this is up there with the best of it. Of all the small show, veteran matches that have been pimped this decade, this is almost certainly the best. You almost have to watch it twice to catch all the subtleties. The highlight for lucha fans is watching Blue Panther in a match like this & his exchanges with Villano III in the first fall are AMAZING.
You don't have to be a lucha fan to enjoy this, just a pro-wrestling fan, as Robert on DVDVR said.
Non-lucha fans will enjoy the physicality of the mat work, which is sometimes mistaken as being loose in lucha, while lucha fans will be blown away by how much further they take some well known spots.
One of my favourite matches this decade.
Perro Aguayo vs. Villano III, WWF World Light Heavyweight Title (UWA - 12/5/84)
I'd love to say that Perro could go back in the day, but he was a pretty limited worker.
His approach was pretty direct, either going straight for the pin or submission or throwing out a clothesline, piledriver, tope, senton, double footed stomp, that sort of thing. Similar to his son, though the younger Aguayo is far more athletic.
This was essentially a juniors match and had the same flaws as other matches from the time, namely the "get up and go" mentality. I liked Villano's submission work and his tope attacks, but that was about it. I'm not a huge Villanos fan, but I prefer their brawling to the scientific stuff. We need to bring back that term scientific.
The match was OK. UWA can be either gold or wildly disappointing.
Mascarita Dorada/Tzuki vs. Pequeño Damian 666/Pierrothito, 3/30/08 Guadalajara
When I said lucha had lost its charm, I clearly forgot about Tzuki.
I have all the time in the world for these guys, because they work like rudos v technicos.
The rudo work wasn't great here, but the technicos were oustanding. I'm not a fan of modern lucha offence, but it's amazing how much better the minis are at pacing and set-up (or perhaps they just look awesome running the ropes.) I don't even mind how many rotations Dorada does, because he looks so spectacular going round and round the bend.
If they'd upped the ante a little, they could've tore the roof off the mother, but props all the same. The dives at the end were amazing. The rudos deserve credit for being on the receiving end, particularly when you see the slow motion replay of Dorada's descent.
Too many highlights to name -- Tzuki wanting to box, Dorada's snazzy footwork (signalling his charge into the ropes), Tzuki signing autographs for the kids and high fiving babies... My personal fave is the fake out spot Tzuki does when he's inchworming the middle rope.
The minis are the crew to watch.
La Sombra, Sagrado, Volador Jr. vs. El Hijo Del Fantasma, La Mascara, Valiente (Mexican National Trios Titles), 04/30/08
There's no way I'm going to criticise this match, since that would be completely dickish.
Instead I'm going to focus on the good points:
* Valiente is awesome. Not since the days of Halcon Negro has there been such a fun guy on the undercard. Rudo Halcon Negro had the shtick and bump spots, but the plumper, rounder Valiente has Super Astro's footwork and agility & can roll with a wristlock like a legendary fat man.
* El Hijo Del Fantasma, La Mascara and Valiente have a good look about them. The highlight for me was their decision to dive as one. Go boys!
* The kids aren't allowed to climb the ring anymore, but there were plenty of kids and babies. Love the publico.
* And the kids got what they wanted to see, big moves and a tit for tat finish. It was a match for the kids and thoroughly entertained them. Like the best kids' movies, a fair few adults enjoyed it too.
* Valiente's three step springboard is an adventure into another stratosphere where fat men fall gracefully from the sky.
* The ending, where all the men raised each other's hands, capped off the spirit the match was worked in.
Mano Negra & Negro Navarro vs. Solar I & Super Astro, 10/14/07
There was some beautiful lucha in this match. Nothing amazing, just age old pros working a classic lucha style.
Solar was in fine form, particularly in the vintage second fall, and Super Astro got amazing height on his springboard tope. Watching Super Astro float is a sight to behold. I thought the rudos were a little quiet in this, though Navarro was always lurking. Anytime Navarro and Solar square off, you expect something special. Once again it wasn't just the holds, but the way out of them that was so impressive. And there's no half stepping the finishes either. These guys put some thought into each pin. They were out there, they were wrestling. A flick of the wrists and it could be all over.
Not a bad one to kick back to.
Satanico vs. Jerry Estrada, hair vs. hair, 3/23/90
Jerry Estrada again.
I swear if you can't work a hair match with Satanico then you can't work.
If I didn't have such a huge dislike for the guy, I might be able to appreciate what he did here, but it was crap.
It was Estrada's match from the start, yet it was nothing like an Estrada match. He seemed more sober than usual, perhaps that was the problem. He developed a strange fixation with Satanico's shoulder and you could feel the match waste away as he worked over Satanico's arm. Brawl motherfucker! Nobody wants to see that in a lucha libre hair match. If there was ever a time for Estrada to take mad bumps, blade and be thrown around like a ragdoll this was it. Satanico should've pummeled the fuck out of him.
A clever piece of "psychology" from Estrada to take away the punch? This is lucha. It's a hair match. That's a form of mano o mano. You take a punch, get up and punch the guy back. Working the arm doesn't have a place in this kind of match, unless you're particularly excellent at hurting someone. Worst of all, he didn't give The Master room to sell the arm.
Satanico should've taken this one by the scruff of the neck, but he didn't. I'm throwing it away.
Satanico vs. Sangre Chicana (Classic Lucha 5/28/1989)
This was mano a mano and these two were men.
Satanico has a buzz cut from losing his hair the month before and right from the start he's hunched over in his grappling stance, fingers stretched, ready to rearrange Chicana's face. The first lock-up is a beauty. In rugby we call it niggle, in wrestling it's a red rag to a bull.
This isn't a great match by any stretch of the imagination, but it's awesome to watch the bout disintegrate. Chicana's none too happy with Satanico's aggressive start and he sends a bit of a message with a rougher than usual submission around the head (and face) area. A facial, if you will, to continue with the rugby parallel. And since he knows exactly what he's done, he starts the next fall by walking over to Satanico and delivering an apologetic open handed slap. Satanico spends the rest of the match slapping himself in the face.
It's a pity this didn't turn into a bigger brawl than it was, though they did go into the crowd a lot, which in 1989 means everyone crowded around to get a better look. No blood, but Chicana had a punching combo Ultraman would've been proud of.
The ref called the whole thing off, but even then they weren't paying any attention.
Aborted greatness. Worth watching if you're a Satanico fan.
Dr. Wagner Jr/Mano Negra vs Super Astro/Ultramán Jr, 10/28/07, Arena Coliseo de Monterrey
This seemed like a good opportunity to see Wagner work.
I mean actually work.
His first exchange with Ultraman was really good. It was pretty much test of strength stuff, but both guys have great grappling stances and there was real strength in the takedowns and the way they tried to hook each other. Niebla couldn't grab an arm and do anything with it, so this wasn't bad, but it was soon apparent that it was ALL Ultraman.
Wagner was in the ring for almost the entire match, but boy was he content to get away with the bare minimum.
I'm not sure what he's getting at with most of his posing. He looks like an exotico half the time.
Ultraman battled away valiantly, making Mano Negra's stuff look really good and launching his combination punches on the doctor, but I'm having my doubts about how good a worker Wagner really is.
Bit of a disappointment, though I had forewarning.
Super Astro's tope is still a thing of beauty.
Dr. Wagner Jr. vs. Mr. Niebla, 9/3/97 (CMLL World Light Heavyweight Title)
I wasn't sure what to make of this match.
They worked hard on an Arena Coliseo show, and you never want to criticise something like that, but it was pretty much the epitome of the modern style.
Wagner's a guy I really like, but I kept wishing he'd do something special. Niebla couldn't work the match from the ground up and wanted to head straight into the spots. It was up to Wagner to school him in that regard, but he pretty much rolled with it.
The big difference between then and now was the third fall. They went longer and did plenty of cool stuff that today's guys should crib, but it was very much riposte grappling and the good doctor showed why he was so successful on tour with NJPW.
Good for what it was, but even the Wagner heat segments lacked something.
Satanico vs. Pirata Morgan, hair vs. hair, AAA 11/26/93
Coming into this fight, I didn't expect it to be any good.
Probably figured Satanico and Morgan had been in one hair match too many, and I just wanted to see what they were up to in AAA, but these guys... These guys were workers.
Pirata Morgan was heavier in this match than I'm used to seeing and no longer the amazing bumper of the late 80s to early 90s. The extra weight hindered his mobility, but it didn't really matter since Morgan was always a worker first and a bumper second. I guess he belongs to a generation that got solid groundings in towns and cities across Mexico.
It's not the same Pirata Morgan that gave such amazing performances against El Faraón and Masakre, and you could be excused for thinking it's a different guy, but hair vs. hair matches follow a rather standard pattern of kick/punch brawling & Pirata brought several touches to distinguish it from the norm. Considering how uncharismatic he seemed at this point, and how rapidy he slotted into the category of working vet, I think that speaks volumes for his professional training and background.
Naturally it helps that he was wrestling the ageless Satanico, who made some pact with the Devil to remain a great worker.
Satanico was once again the star of the match, as he had been more than a year earlier against El Dandy. The guy got so much out of so little.
Satanico was basically throwing punches the whole match, interspersed with some knees, headbutts and the customary biting of the open wound. I defy anyone to tell me it was boring. The guy was a master. He kept punching different parts of the body and in the long final fall, where Pirata was going for the submission victory, Satanico punched his ribs to break the hold.
Hair matches are all about brawling and bleeding. Jake Roberts was at ringside and he had a big shit eating grin on his face. It never ceases to amaze Jake what the human mind is capable of. The great rudos always have one trick up their sleeve. In Satanico's case it was claiming the foul when there was none. If you've watched any amount of Lucha, you know Satanico will pull a deliberate foul later on.
It seems simple, but it's becoming a lost art.
Another great moment -- Satanico has Pirata's shoulders pinned on the mat and really leans in on him to get the three count. Of course Morgan's trying to fight it, so Satanico starts pumping his legs to counter the resistance. None of these flashes pins, Satanico had just enough leverage to hold Morgan for a three count.
How about Satanico's shriek every time Pirata catches his leg for a takedown? Or the way he sells the back of his head on every back bump?
I guess this is the type of match that flew under the radar in the Rey Mysterio era. From memory there's not a single dive.
If you prefer your Lucha to be fundamentally solid, I recommend checking this out.
Cicloncito Ramirez, Pequeño Cochisse, Platita & Pequeño Sayama vs. Damiancito el Guerrero, Fierito, Tritoncito & Guerrerito del Futuro
This was a Cibernetico at the end of '97, where the winner earned the right to wrestle in a "regular" tag match.
If you read this blog, then you probably know who won.
Bit of a shame really. There was never any guarantee of seeing the Minis on TV, but this was it for one of the best divisions anywhere in wrestling. There were classics to be had for the CMLL Mini Estrellas Title, but we never did get that Damiancito el Guerrero/Cicloncito Ramirez rematch.
I'm happy to report that they went out in style. It wasn't a classic or anything, but it was quality wrestling and the kind of beautiful exchanges that you rarely see at Arena Coliseo anymore.
Satanico vs. El Dandy, hair vs. hair, 9/18/92 (59th Anniversary Show)
This was the third time these guys had squared off in as many years and not a match the fans wanted to see.
Satanico and El Dandy were great workers, so there were enough touches to make it enjoyable, but it wasn't as good as their previous matches -- which weren't the greatest to begin with. It was kinda in keeping with Dandy's matches against Bestia Salvaje (9/4) and La Fiera (11/27), two competent rudos with whom Dandy had flat performances. I guess when it comes to something like Dandy vs. Casas, it's easier to "create," since there's so much heat to work with. When folks get restless, it becomes harder to get the reaction you want, particularly when it's a match people don't want to see again.
Satanico was more aggressive than their past meetings, talking a lot and nailing Dandy with the kind of headbutts that real wrestling fans appreciate. He extracted a good looking bladejob from Dandy's skull & was generally nefarious. It was Dandy's performance that was a little on the weak side. The thing about technico Dandy is that you still expect him to be an asskicker. Here he was too much of a babyface. There was an awesome punching exchange that led to one mother of a DDT, but not enough brawling.
One minute he's bleeding everywhere, the next minute he's celebrating like he won the football in extra time. The finish was not cool. Satanico did one of the best "cheat to win" victory celebrations I've ever seen, only for some Tunney type to overrule it. So Dandy got a restart. If it was scored on points, Satanico would've won for shoving Atlantis the fuck out of the way on the outside.
El Dandy was beginning to slide here, nearing the end of his great run.
El Hijo del Santo vs. El Averno, 10/22/04 (WWA World Welterweight Championship)
Man, Lucha has lost its charm.
After watching raw, grainy footage of Santo and Espanto Jr, this came across as pretty damn lifeless.
I was kinda hoping that Averno would prove himself to be more than a foil, but he took little or no initiative in the matwork and despite Santo still being pretty slick, this was just a series of spots.
It's all neatly packaged, but I saw better work on the Todos X el Todos show & those guys are truly ancient.
Villano III vs Negro Casas (IWRG 11-1-07)
Another decent sort of a match.
Villano III is in his late 50s and kinda creaks around the ring, but he still looks like he could break a guy in half if he wanted to. Casas has always been good at hiding his age, partly out of vanity (one would assume.) Here he's wrestling a guy who's at least ten years older than him, so he doesn't have to hide it so much, but he kinda wrestles what's in front of him, which I thought was decent of him. The match is probably too slow to get a watch out of most people, and some might question what Villano III is doing looking for bookings anymore, but there's a couple of times (like when they throw in a headbutt) where you can kinda appreciate how many wars these guys have been through. Would've liked it to have been more explosive, or perhaps more mat based, but I guess it's difficult to rev up the engine on this type of circuit.
Kahos/El Engendro vs. El Celestial/El Coloso, 10/3/92, UWA
The matwork was pretty simple, and perhaps a bit slow, but I dug the selling points.
Engendro gives a great burlesque performance. The trick to that, of course, is being an asskicker after the comedy spots, which Engendro most certainly is. There's about five or six genuine laughs, which is pretty good for an undercard match. Engendro lords over proceedings, working the refs, crowd and his opponents, but he exits the match in spectacular fashion... Wiped out by a tope, never to be seen from again. Nice way to bow out.
El Hijo del Santo vs. Negro Casas, 5/17/91, Tijuana (handheld)
Not a great match compared to the matches Santo had against Brazo de Oro and Espanto Jr, or the stuff Casas was doing with El Dandy a year later, but it had the usual awesome atmosphere, with local kids climbing all over the ring and plenty of activity in the audience.
One kid in particular leads a pretty rousing ovation at the end, while the other kids bang on the apron. Once again, the handheld gives you a feel for what a real lucha experience is like. A lot of people struggle with the logic behind lucha, but there's a flow to it & crowds understand this.
Ostensibly, lucha matwork doesn't mean much since holds don't build to submissions in a logical manner as perhaps they do in other styles, but holds and counters are important. There's an ebb and flow to them & you can see from the tape that the crowd knows that countering a counter is a key part of the mental game. Countering a counter won't lead to a submission (usually). but at the next break, that wrestler is one up in the mental stakes. And those small battles for one-upmanship usually shape the way a fall is decided. So, you can see the crowd pop for those moments. A guy in the front row is pretty into it. I love a crowd who "know the score", since they have a bit of a say in momentum, and while this wasn't a great match, I would've been happy to be there.
Negro Navarro/El Signo/Black Power vs. Silver King/El Texano/El Gran Hamada - 10/17/92, UWA
This wasn't as awesome as it sounds, but it did make me lament that AAA became popular & UWA died out.
(There's perfectly good reasons why that happened, but I'll take vets working a style I like. Even if it's non-drawing Misioneros w/ a bum partner.)
Black Power's a third stringer, but the rest of these guys could work. There's something reassuring about that in this day and age. The physicality surprised me a bit. Hard, fast exchanges. Committed bumps. It was Misioneros vs. their ex-partner, so there was some talk. Mostly it was guys who knew they were pros, finding ways to work as a trio -- a skill that's really waned these days.
El Satanico & MS-1 & Pirata Morgan vs Atlantis & El Faraon & Brazo de Plata, 6.29.92 CMLL
I loved this...
You see, El Faraon was a 44 year-old, 19 year vet, who knew he was a 44 year old, 19 year vet. He was about a week away from a hair match with MS-1 & he worked the match like a vet would. And everybody was tuned to that. They kept it real tight with a tremendous amount of restraint. Atlantis could've torn the house down with Satanico, instead they worked tests of strength. Porky was super-charismatic, but ditched the shtick and looked like he belonged in Faraon's corner. Pirata didn't bump huge, instead he did this great selling where the impact of Porky's gut looked like it took the stuffing out of him, just like Faraon's lariat or elbow might. The effectiveness of narrow offence became a type of reoccuring theme. And MS-1 didn't bump for Faraon like he would for a young guy. He didn't mind looking old at all. I often talk about how there's so many ways to work a trios, but a large part of that is guys knowing their roles & why they're out there.
Like the following match:
Negro Casas & La Fiera & Bestia Salvaje vs El Dandy & Ringo Mendoza & Ultimo Dragon, 7.12.92 CMLL
There's no mistaking who this trios is about. Trios are often used to build-up single matches, but this was especially well done. Dandy & Casas were the two best guys in CMLL at the time and evenly matched. Dandy was the Middleweight champion, but Casas had never played second fiddle to anyone. Bestia and La Fiera were the perfect stooges for Casas to bring to his corner. La Fiera was such class that he didn't take his trainer off the entire match. But they were really there to take care of the mugs on Dandy's team. Casas and Dandy were squarely focused on each other. There was no skirting or avoiding each other. On the mat, it was impossible to separate the better man. And when they couldn't settle anything, the jawing began. And when that wasn't enough, they started slapping each other. They pulled each other's hair and scuffled into the front row. Back in the ring, Dandy wanted less fouling... Casas wound up taking a shot to the jaw; didn't appreciate it, and made no bones about it. He didn't low blow Dandy as much as he punted him. From there on out, Dandy was pissed and Casas couldn't give a fuck. Mendoza and Ultimo pitch in where they can since Dandy and Casas can't always be the legal men, but try telling those two they're not the legal men. Even from the apron they're seething. Casas exploding at the crowd is some of the best acting/selling I've seen. Ever.
Espanto Jr. vs. El Hijo Del Santo (UWA World Welterweight Title Match), 5/14/92
This was such a beautiful Lucha Libre match & made a fool of me thinking Santo wasn't one of the great Lucha mat workers. If more of his UWA work was available, I think we'd get a bigger picture of how good Santo really was.
Again, the single camera at ringside gives this a raw documentary feel, only it's not a glimpse of Santo working Durango. Sure he looks every bit the superhero during the introductions, with the belt around his waist & a glorious red cape, & his matwork in the first fall comes across as the height of old-school lucha greatness, but it's really about the other guy. It's kinda hard to pick it, but Espanto Jr. was a 36 year-old wrestler with 21 years experience and this was his night. The great thing about his challenge is how it swings. He actually manages to shake off Santo's matwork in the first fall, sending him to the outside, but back in the ring he gets faked out and takes a high back bump (a spot Espanto liked to do.) It's over after that. So in the second fall, when he shakes Santo off again, this time he stays on him. There's no room for Santo to breath, with the Lucha equivalent of body blows. He gets kneed, elbowed hurled into the turnbuckle... All of which he sells like the K metal from Krypton, but he's OK with it. Espanto pushes his luck in the third fall, however. Santo collapses into the bottom turnbuckle & Espanto can't help himself. Man, you do not piss El Hijo del Santo off. He springs out of the corner & starts hitting the nastiest looking stuff. It's his usual stuff, but you rarely see it this nasty. From there on out it becomes a survival game for Espanto. He'd lost to Santo a bunch of times before; his hair, his mask. And again it looked like he'd blown his opportunities, but the bleaker it became, the more he took on this sort of underdog quality. Santo even kicked the bottom rope. Until finally they reached that level of Lucha where they're just going for it, and it wouldn't matter who won, the crowd would throw coins anyway. But this was Espanto's night. He throws himself back into the ring after Santo's plancha, he kicks out of everything & he finally catches him out.
Maybe not the most important title win in wrestling history, and it didn't last very many days, but a special night for a guy who spent a long time plying this trade (and very nearly died in the process.) If you're the least bit interested in Lucha Libre, the El Espanto Jr.: Un Guerrero Nunca Muere DVD is essential. Hell, if you like wrestling it's essential. Santo & Espanto had many other matches and this might not be their best, but it's a hometown boy done good and everyone likes that story.
El Engendro vs. Negro Navarro (NWG Intercontinental Title), 2/15/03
Negro Navarro's one of the only guys I enjoy in wrestling anymore, so if there's any dirt on him I don't want to hear it. I just want to enjoy seeing him do what he does for a living, even if it's in front of a tiny crowd in some gym in Guadalajara.
The match is a throwback to when wrestling was about holds. They work their way in and out of holds, trying to catch each other out. There's not a lot of "fight", so to speak, just nous. It's one of those bouts where it's a mini victory to get a guy in a position he doesn't wanna be in, and they only sell when it makes sense from a grappling point of view. I wouldn't call it a great match, but I enjoyed it all the same. Towards the end, Engendro starts pulling out some fantastic looking stuff (a pretty clear indicator he's jobbing), but that cue to take it home was the only part that jumped out. Which isn't to say it's monotonous, it's just good stuff. That's all.
El Hijo del Santo vs. Psicosis, AAA 5/3/95
There was some talk over at the surviving Smarkschoice board about whether this is any good. MJH mentioned that "at other times (especially the matwork and the finish) some of the execution is just really, really poor" and that "for a full singles match, Psicosis and Santo were having a bad night together." I thought this couldn't be right, but after a dozen sendspace attempts, I gotta admit -- stock's going down.
Whenever people used to doubt Psicosis, I'd always argue the case for his lucha work, not only his bumping & catching, but the hair, the mask, the whole persona. His execution was never the greatest, but it fit the out of control, recklessness of his style -- the baseball slide off an armdrag, throwing his hands in the air before catching a dive, intentionally slipping on the apron... It was a trainwreck style. I like performers in wrestling. Anyone with a semblance of creativity. Psicosis played to the crowd & thus I thought he was a good worker, but having seen this & Psicosis/Juventud Guerrera vs. El Volador/El Mexicano (awful), he's looking more and more like a guy who was lanky & awkward.
This is a match that's been pimped at various stages for having great matwork, or rather, for having matwork (i.e. the lucha matwork we love.) You can't have a lucha title match without matwork. AAA strayed about as far away from that as you can, but what matwork there is isn't great by lucha standards. By lucha title match standards, it's exceptionally poor. Whether it's Santo or Psicosis' fault, I don't know. It is what it is. MJH claims Psicosis is "horrid" on the mat, but whatever the case, they only got one spot to work -- the Santo headscissors. The rest of the time they either slipped or dropped the hold completely & the second fall was a mess. I wanna blame the AAA style for being flashy & making workers look crap, but they couldn't even work a surfboard spot without Psicosis having to balance with one hand on the mat.
Now I don't have the most analytical mind for watching matches. I don't pay attention to stuff like transitions because it takes me out of the rhythm. I generally go on overall impression. The September Psicosis/Rey match had execution problems, but it was OK because of the shape of the falls and the overall arc. What I'm looking for here is a good two-fall shape. What I think you'll find is good dives. This match has two of the best topes I've seen from Santo. MJH is confused as to why rudos usually get up before technicos on a dive, and I didn't have a very good answer for him, other than it's a suicida type spot. The seconds come over and wave their towels & basically the rudo gets up because it's a common transition into his dive attempt. Sometimes they get a little lazy with it. Psicosis actually sells it pretty well. The dives more or less salvage this match. It would be wreckage otherwise, and not in a crazy Psicosis kind of way. It saves the rhythm in any case, since it picks up when Santo is going full throttle through the ropes.
I'm pretty convinced that Santo never had a great singles match in AAA. Given how great Santo's singles stuff is from UWA that says a lot about the style. Now I'm wondering if Psicosis is the embodiment of that style -- all flash and little to show for it.
El Hijo del Santo vs. Espanto Jr, mask vs. mask, 8/31/86
This is a classic Monterrey bloodbath, but the best thing about it is seeing Santo as a young luchador. There wasn't any semblance of a traveling act yet. It was like the match unlocked a period in Santo's early career where he didn't have fixed ideas about working; where he was still searching for the best way to bump and sell & make face comebacks. The Santo roadshow is a great roadshow. Many times I've thought, "Here we go -- same moves, same patterns, different order," yet been surprised by how great the match is. If it's not the greatest traveling act of them all, then it's certainly the most enduring. But this was different. It was like watching old Santo films & getting half a clue to the kind of worker senior was. I may be overreacting due to the fact I just saw this, but I'd go as far as saying it's the most interesting (El Hijo del) Santo match I've seen. It hit me from the beginning that I've never seen Santo grapple like he does here, or sell a bump with an arched back in such a flailing way.
Match is a tribute to their seniors (
), with the usual mask ripping & blood of a wager match. It's not the bloodiest Monterrey brawl, but there's plenty of visuals of bloodied masks & tuffs of hair. It pretty much smokes Santo/Casas from 7/87. Santo/Casas is a great sprint; Casas is magnifico & it's a joy to watch, but hold-for-hold this match is tough to beat. Stakes are high and they really do look like El Santo & Espanto grappling. The camera work gives it an edge too. It's shot from a single camera at ringside, but the guy knew what he was doing. Your average Joe can't hold a camera like that. He got some great pick-ups, especially a shot of Santo kneeling in front of the ringpost, trying to pull himself together between the first & second caida. A bunch of kids come over and pat Santo on the shoulder. It's an awesome scene that would be lost to replays ordinarily. It gives it a raw documentary feel. What you do miss, however, are Espanto's reactions. The match is shot from Santo's corner, so it tells the story from his perspective. Given who's losing, that's a bit of a loss. There's a few jump cuts as well, but nothing too bad.
If you're gonna drop the mask, you might as well do it in a Monterrey type setting & hope you have a great match. And that's exactly what they did.
Pirata Morgan/Gran Markus/Ulises vs. Popitekus/Atlantis/El Dandy, 05/28/89
Wow, this wasn't good... I was surprised since 1989 El Dandy, Atlantis & Pirata Morgan is what hooked me on lucha in the first place. It was almost technicos v technicos, complete with matwork. When it comes to lucha matwork, I'm as big a sucker as the next guy, but this was... middling.
Javier Cruz v. Jerry Estrada, hair vs. hair, 10/20/89
For the life of me, I can't figure out what other people see in Jerry Estrada.
If you ever wanted to see a wrestler work a match from their lizard brain then this is the match. If I were Cruz, I'd be scared for my safety. You never know what the fuck Estrada's gonna do next. It's like watching a method actor work with an old school Hollywood type. Consensus says this is a great match, so you should check it out for yourself. This is the second or third time I've subjected myself to it, and it's bad. So very, very bad. Estrada's in a stupor from the beginning & can't do the simplest of moves without his brain wiring his extremities. Cruz may have been just as tanked, but he was never the type to take a match by the scruff of the neck. In a sense, I admire him for trying to sell such shitty, slow, botched offence, but the finer points are lost. Estrada is grandiose. If grandiose means showing up to a match all fucked up.
Atlantis vs. Emilio Charles, Jr, CMLL Lucha Libre 1984
OK, a match I liked... There's no way of knowing for sure, but this felt like a new kind of lucha. It had an old school build to it, in that there was more emphasis on winning each fall (including working your man over far more than in later lucha), but instead of grounded, leverage-based matwork, they did a lot of awesome fast-paced exchanges. You forget how much of his game Atlantis shelved, or indeed how quick he was... and Emilio was an awesome worker in the 80s. This was the best showcase of 1984 Atlantis I've seen. The kind of match where he reminds me of Lizmark. Given it was a year or less since his debut, credit ought to go to Emilio for being a new school rudo. It would appear that these guys were part of a generation who were shaping a new kind of rhythm in lucha.