Here's a reference list for people looking for somewhere to start w/ lucha. It's not a definitive list, but ought to get you hooked.
1. Atlantis vs Blue Panther, 8/9/91
2. El Dandy vs Negro Casas, 7/3/92
3. Angel Azteca vs. El Dandy, 6/1/90
4. El Satanico/El Dandy/Emilio Charles Jr. vs. Atlantis/Javier Cruz/Angel Azteca, 5/13/90
5. Los Infernales (MS-1, Satanico & Pirata Morgan) vs. Los Brazos, 11/22/91
6. Bracito De Oro/Cicloncito Ramirez/Mascarita Magica vs Damiancito El Guerrero/El Fierito/Pierrothito, 10/3/97
7. Cicloncito Ramirez vs Damiancito El Guerrero, 1/7/97
8. Trio Fantasia v. Thundercats, (Masks vs. Masks), 12/8/91
9. Ciclon Ramirez vs Felino (Mask vs Mask), 7/9/93
10. Pirata Morgan vs El Faraon (Hair vs Hair), 11/16/90
11. El Hijo Del Santo vs Brazo De Oro (Mask vs Hair), 1/13/91
12. El Mariachi vs Blue Panther, 10/30/94
13. Ciclon Ramirez vs Javier Cruz (Hair vs Hair), 6/10/94
14. Atlantis/Brazo De Oro/El Dandy/Mascara Magica/La Fiera/Negro Casas/Shocker/Ultimo Dragon vs Black Warrior/Dr. Wagner Jr./El Hijo Del Santo/Felino/Kevin Quinn/Satanico/Scorpio Jr./Silver King, 4/18/97
15. El Hijo del Santo vs. Felino, 7/4/97
16. Rayo De Jalisco Jr. vs Apolo Dantes, 5/31/96
17. Octagon vs Fuerza Guerrera, 11/1/91
18. Mascarita Sagrada vs Espectrito I, 3/12/94
19. Silver King vs Apolo Dantes, 6/23/95
20. Dr. Wagner Jr./El Hijo Del Santo/El Texano/La Fiera/Mascara Magica/Mr. Niebla/Shocker vs Black Warrior/El Dandy/Felino/Mano Negra/Negro Casas/Scorpio Jr./Silver King, 3/28/97
Gran Apache vs. Oscar Sevilla, 3/19/00
Gran Apache is a favourite of a lot of people these days, which doesn't surprise me as he's over 40 & all the best guys in Mexico seem to be over 40. I tried getting into the whole Apache family saga. It seems like a pretty cool angle (apart from the baby being scared out of its wits), the only problem is that Billy Boy sucks.
Apache, however, is quite the worker. So I sought out a technico who might not suck as much, and here you have it -- Super Libre in the rain. I also watched their hair match & was amped to see it when the clowns started fighting, but it didn't pick up until the third fall & this was much better. I wasn't so interested in them fighting in the rain, I just thought it was a decent Super Libre brawl. Apache is agile enough to catch all the pretty boy stuff young guys like to do in Mexico and work the junior-esque spots, but compact enough to throw a pretty good punch & I'm sure he'd work circles on the mat if young guys weren't so terrified of the mat these days.
Anyway, his blueprint was all over this. I wasn't too sure what they were trying to package Oscar Sevilla as, but he fought through the overbooking to prove himself as a technico who could stick up for himself. Match was a little bit light heavyweight-ish, and a typical AAA-product, but they fought hard & that's what I like to see.
El Brazo vs. Rambo, hair vs. hair, CMLL 3/22/96
Thought I'd compare this to Rambo's earlier fight in AAA.
CMLL hair matches always feel like more of a fight than AAA matches. More punching, ramming each other's heads into the ringpost, the mat... Just more scrappy in general. Yet they're far more narrow in scope, even with a double bladejob like this one. Even though they're more solid than AAA hair or mask matches, they lack that big time feel. The structure is largely the same -- two quick falls & a longer one -- but there's much ado about finishes in AAA. To get that big, flashy feel they play up the crescendo of each fall, while CMLL is low key. I like the work better in this match, but the arc of where the match begins & where it ends is really small, despite how pissy the loser is. Sometimes a match needs heat to take it to the next level. Perhaps this wasn't a big feud. Perhaps the approach is too direct, with not enough weight given to the finishes. In any case, the match doesn't resolve anything. There's a sense of justice or injustice in even the screwiest of AAA finishes. Maybe this is just a fight. Kinda seems like a waste of a guy's hair, though.
Trio Fantasia v. Thundercats, masks vs. masks, 12/8/91
Trio Fantasia are Super Muñeco, Super Raton & Super Pinocho. Thundercats are actually Leono, Tigro and Panthro. Complete costumes and everything. THIS IS A FUCKING GREAT BRAWL. One of the best Monterrey brawls I've ever seen, and definitely one of the best lucha matches of the 90s. I had no idea this was a mask match when I started watching it. I was expecting comedy, maybe a bit of flying. This was amazing. They beat the fuck out of each other in front of 17,000. Super Muñeco's sucked in a thousand matches, but was awesome here. Super Raton was fucking boss. Mangled bodies, ripped masks, one hell of a stained canvas. Panthro's mask was soaked in blood. It was surreal to see gimmicked workers maul each other like this. And to top it all off, Los Thundercats unmasked as the most veteran, journeymen workers you're ever likely to see. Amazing!
Villano III vs. Rambo, hair vs. mask, AAA 9/24/93
Rambo was such an awesome gimmick as he looked less like Rambo & more like your average mercenary/militant from an 80s action flick. He wasn't much of a worker aside from easy to set-up spots & big bumps, but this was AAA & the style revolves around big spots & bigger bumps. Brawling Villano is my favourite kind of Villano III. I saw him brawl with El Hijo del Santo the other day, which made me wish there was a widely known match between the two. Likewise I saw him reignite the hate between the Villanos and the Brazos, this time with de Plata Jr & Platino, which was right up my alley. This was a big, dopey AAA style brawl, but a fun match. Rambo took a huge bump to the outside, which was your typical insane AAA bump. I'm still searching for another AAA Classic, but I think a lot of people would dig this.
Everybody needs to check out this clip of Los Brazos vs. Los Fantasticos:
Such an amazingly great caida of wrestling.
Everything you need to know about lucha, you can learn from watching Los Brazos.
Brazos vs. MS-1/Pirata Morgan/Emilio Charles, Jr. (early 90s, aired WWO)
Brazos vs. Kato Kung Lee/Super Astro/Volador, CMLL 2/8/91
Brazos vs. Atlantis/Mascara Sagrada/Octagon, CMLL 5/17/91
These aren't outstanding matches, in fact they're mostly Brazos shtick, but shtick is part of what makes lucha great.
Porky's girth was a big reason why Los Brazos were a success. If Porky hit a splash, they won a lot of falls, but he was a simple soul; easily distracted & forever getting yelled at by his brothers. Which always led to Porky crying & wanting to leave. If you've never seen Porky cry, it's a sight to behold. Fans would pull him by the arm to keep him from leaving, & El Brazo would try to console him, but the classy part was when the technicos won the fall. They'd invite Porky to celebrate with them, & after it slowly dawned on him, he'd leap for joy. The brothers were never very happy about that, and Porky would have to be nudged back over to his side.
Some people might wonder how the middle of a match can be consumed by comedy like that, or how a potentially great match-up in Brazos vs. MS-1, Pirata & Emilio can be built around miscommunication between Pirata & Emilio and still be a blast... Simply put it's part & parcel of lucha libre. The reason it's gold is that it's actually funny. The comedy's never based on stupidity. It's always genuine humour. Charisma and humour. Like The Destroyer or Fujiwara.
Aside from the skits, I've seen a few people express frustration at great workers like Atlantis being paired with Mascara Sagradas or Octagons in trios... That's not a problem when the rudos are Brazos. When searching for lucha, there's no guarantees about match quality. The greatest looking trios can be letdowns, while entertaining matches feature the worst workers. General rule of thumb -- at least one great technico & two great rudos. Lucha is this kind of all-embracing style where even the shittiest of workers have their moments.
Miguel Perez Jr./Ricky Santana vs Los Head Hunters I y II, CMLL 8/5/94
Here's a match I wasn't too sure about that ended up being pretty damn good. I guess I'm a bit iffy about foreigners working Mexico, but these guys took to it well. It's a beatdown to start with; Los Head Hunters cutting off the face comebacks, before taking it to the outside & working the foreign objects. An older lady complains to the ref while Santana blades at her feet. Awesome. Bloodied & battered, the faces fight back & it's all big moves and even bigger misses. I reckon the Head Hunters' huge splashes when Santana or Perez roll out of the way are even cooler than their planchas, though it does look cool when guys that big do planchas. The Head Hunters are massively fun. Love that rolly polly bumping. Santana and Perez, Jr. are straight out of 1994. Haircuts, tights, "bulked-up" power based offence. You name it. Great lucha finish, though. This smokes almost any other foreigner's work from '93-95.
You can find this on youtube.
Atlantis, Cien Caras & Rayo de Jalisco Jr vs Mocho Cota, La Fiera & Sangre Chicana, CMLL '84
This ruled. It was a trios built around punches, heel shtick & cheap shots. Mocho Cota may be one of the great, all-time rudo stooges if this is anything to go by & worked the comedy as effortlessly as he worked the mat against Rocca. The two sides barely locked up once. So entertaining. And the kids swarming the ring at the end was awesome.
Brazo de Oro vs. Sangre Chicana, hair vs. hair, 6/19/92
Jesus Christ this was awesome. The heat was amazing.
Most of us are familiar with Sangre Chicana as the sympathetic babyface who takes one hell of a beating from MS-1 in their '83 bloodbath, selling every blow as sheer brutality... Here he's a veteran rudo, who only has to take a few steps for the heat to start rising. Unbelievable charisma. At one point he starts jawing with a fan and it's so convincing that you can believe those crazy lucha stories about fans waiting outside to shoot/knife a rudo. Hell, he can hardly work. He's in his 40s, with 20 years in the business, but he can still sell. Brazo de Oro takes his leg apart in the third caida, really doing a number on it. Chicana sells it for everything he's worth. Theatrical, but not too big. Just enough that everyone in the building can see him pleading, begging for mercy... The ref's all suckered in. He doesn't know where he should draw the line. Brazo de Oro's unsure whether he should break the guy's leg. Super Porky keeps urging his brother to "attack!" So, of course the ref wants Porky to pipe down. Getting the ref to turn his back. One of the oldest cons in the book.
This is a really simple match where the heat never dies off because the rudo's so good.
Pierrotito/Damiancito el Guerrero vs Ultimo Dragoncito/Cicloncito Ramirez, 4/97 TV
This didn't have the beautiful structure of the Mini Classics from '97, but even in an average sort of a match (average meaning "good" or "very good" by comparison), there's a ridiculous amount of talent on show. I've seen a few comments about how Damiancito el Guerrero (now Virus) is one of the great, underrated workers of the last decade or so, but I'm not feeling that in so far as they were all great.
Whenever Damiancito steps into the ring with Cicloncito Ramirez, it's a rare instance of luchadors matching each other hold for hold. Most luchadors try to work hold for hold, but either the technico is poor, meaning the rudo has to bump a lot, or the rudo is crappy & nothing the technico does looks good. The former is OK if the rudo is great. The latter never good. Watching these guys here and in other trios, whatever sequence Damiancito pulls out, Cicloncito can match it with something equally spectacular, until one sequence is so spectacular that you have a "winner" & the next pair take over. For people new to lucha, these pairings can be confusing as they don't build to a finish in the way you might expect, in fact the finish can seem disconnected from what's come before, but as you start to learn about patterns in lucha, you'll get a sense for momentum -- how showmanship builds momentum & how you can pick the winner of the first caida based on who has the upper hand in the exchanges. Finishes seem random at first, with everybody entering the ring & walking into a finisher, but falls are won in the exchanges.
Now if a technico and a rudo match each other hold for hold, the technico should ultimately win, since they have superior technique (in theory anyway.) In lucha, falls are won on virtue more than anything else -- the technicos win through superior technique, the rudos through their rudo ways... If the rudos get jostled into one-upmanship in the first fall, it won't be too long until a rudo like Pierrotito decides beating the crap out of the technico is a much better option than wrestling him, & man do Pierrotito (and Damiancito's) cut-offs rule in this match. This doesn't go three falls, so you don't get the true pay-off, but they do such a great job of slowing down the pace & dictating the second caida, until coughing up the fall. Pierrotito was so awesome -- he wasn't as quick or agile as Damiancito & maybe couldn't bump as big or get as deep on an armdrag -- but he was great at cutting off technico offence & working the punches & he could go toe-to-toe in any style, most importantly on the mat and in comedy spots.
Ultimo Dragoncito had a little bit of a gut, which made him a tad awkward at times, but as many people will attest to, he was a crazy motherfucker with insane topes. Put them altogether & you have a crew with great chemistry.
Negro Navarro vs. Solar, 10/12/06
This was from an UD show at Korakuen Hall. Korakuen Hall's not my favourite place for lucha -- some of the early Hamada shows were all right, but lucha is a novelty for Japanese people & that's the way it always comes across. If you wind up talking pro wrestling at a bar or something, older guys will always talk about Mil Mascaras, which is why Mil still gets gigs & is "mobbed" by salarymen on his way to the ring, but lucha itself is a curiosity. Hence this was a lucha libre exhibition. Solar and Navarro did spots they routinely do & keyed the crowd into when to applaud. Solar/Negro Navarro spots are a beautiful form of lucha libre, but they're better viewed in small lucha indies. Wouldn't go out of my way to see this, unless Solar & Navarro are your saving grace these days. Plus it was clipped.
Pequeno Reyes Del Aire, 1/04/08
Pequeno Damian 666 vs. Mascarita Dorada, 1/11/08
Bam Bam/Pequeno Olimpico/Ultimo Dragoncito vs Pequeno Black Warrior/Pequeno Violencia/Pierrothito, 2/15/08
Mini FdT vs Dorada, Tzuky, Shockercito, 2/24/08
Bam Bam/Tzuky/Mascarita Dorada vs Fire/Pequeno Pierroth/Pequeno Damian, 3/21/08
What I appreciate most about the current crew of minis is how they build a match from the ground up, even if the results are sometimes average. They'll start on the mat before getting into the faster exchanges & dives, or vary the pace through rudo work. You'll even find lucha comedy spots. It's almost all in rhythm, especially the dive trains. Tricked-out variations in spots is not my favourite thing about modern lucha, but these guys won me over a little. Dorada went into overdrive with the spinning variations in the Dos Leyendas match, but it was OK because I was enamoured with Tzuky & his chemistry with Pierrothito. I still think they're searching for greatness, but they manage a fair bit.
The title match was average. If Espectrito/Mascarita Sagrada had a big match feel, then this had a small match feel. With everything happening in quick succession in trios, the crutches are gone in a singles match. Still, I don't think this was all to do with the limits of the new style; I just think Mascarita Dorada needs to be seriously carried & Pequeno Damian isn't there yet.
Perro Aguayo, Jr vs Hector Garza (hair vs hair), 3/21/08
This was more of a spectacle than a match.
I suppose the actual wrestling was OK, but it was more or less finishers the whole time. There was a big crowd on hand & lucha crowds these days only seem to care about whoever they want to win. I guess there's no reason to change the current style when you're drawing sell-outs. Nevertheless, Perro has delivered some pretty good performances in singles matches over the last four years. This wasn't one of them.
I guess Garza plays his new gimmick well. I'm not really sure what it's all about, but it involves a padre & some angels or something. You'd think Perro would get under Garza's skin about that, but he's way too into his heat these days. I thought Garza used to be part of Perros del Mal? There really needs to be blood in Arena Mexico again, but what do I know? Old ladies were losing it. A kid was crying.
Kinda reminded me of a WWE match, but with a better crowd.
El Hijo del Santo vs. Negro Casas, mask vs. hair, 9/19/97
I've never liked this match. I was hoping that watching CMLL TV of the Santo vs. Casas brothers feud would reveal exactly what's great about it, but it remains a mystery.
I have no idea what they were trying to do in this match. Portions of the match are kinda like shoot-style -- a junior heavyweight approximation of shoot-style, really, like BattlARTS -- but lucha has no counts for rope breaks or downs, so most of the match is worked in the ropes. This is meant to imply a brawl, since they stay tied up in the ropes a lot... The ref can't get a clean break & it spills outside at times... but as a blowoff to a feud it's pretty damn listless. Lucha has a great tradition of brawling, and an even greater tradition of brawling in wager matches & this was a pretty fucking epic wager. Again, I have no idea what they were thinking. Casas simply doesn't have the offence to work "shoot style." And he can't sell it, either. It's kinda cool when Santo comes out of the ropes with a strike, but he's never gonna stiff him, Casas drops to the mat to do his face down, death selling & there's no count, naturally. That sounds like the criticism of someone who's never watched lucha before, but this was a crappy hybrid style & not lucha.
Even as a fight, Santo completely owns Casas in this. At no point does Santo ever look like losing. It may be the lack of three falls, but I saw a shitty Casas/Bestia Salvaje hair match where Casas sold death for two falls only to mount a comeback based around some crappy missile dropkick offence. I dig a lot of things about this era of CMLL but Casas' technico singles match run isn't one of them.
I'm generally of the opinion that you have to take a match for what it is, not what it could've been or should've been,.. Yet this was disappointing in the context of what they'd done up until then. I'd rather watch the most predictable Santo/Casas match imaginable than this. Which puts me in a camp of one. But there you go.
Mocho Cota vs. Americo Rocca, 1/27/84
Mocho Cota always looked great whenever he showed up on tape as an ancient rudo brawler. This discovery was a chance to see him as a masterful rudo. In Kevin Cook's words, "Cota's Dickensian sinsterness is something to behold; what a crabbed, warped rassler" and indeed Cota has an awesome sneer and Cook a way with words.
The match starts out with some conventional, US-style matwork, which leads to all sorts of impossible to answer questions about the evolution of lucha matwork in a title match setting, & whether all pro-wrestling matwork originated from the same place, taking twists and turns as it spread out over the territories. Certainly, luchadores were schooled in the US style, since they moved around the territories more often during this era. And they showed similar habits to US pro-wrestling -- not all of them good, like dropping the matwork to run the ropes for the finish -- even if the finish was distinctly lucha. The second fall was where the match took off. One of the greatest second fall rudo comebacks I've seen in a lucha title match. So many times lucha has a quick second fall to even up the stakes, but Cota was masterful at working his way back into this fight, and his tope was completely unexpected. But what really sold me on Cota was his cheating to win. A wrestler of Cota's calibre needn't cheat to win -- Rocca was all flash, Cotta a grappler -- but he does, because he's rudo... How satisfying for a rudo to watch as a technico crumples to the mat in sheer frustration. A rudo is always looking to bring a technico to his knees, and what better way than to completely screw him?
This was a nice blend of the fair fight & the machiavellian, all wrapped up in a time capsule.
So, after heaping all that praise on minis from 10 years ago, I was encouraged to check out the current crew of CMLL minis:
Pequeño Black Warrior, Pequeño Damian 666, Pierrothito vs Atomo, Mascarita Dorada, Tzuki, 12/14/07
Pequeño Black Warrior, Pequeño Damian 666, Pequeno Halloween vs Atomo, Mascarita Dorada, Tzuki, 12/21/07
Bam Bam/Fantasy/Mascarita Dorada vs Pequeno Damian 666/Pequeno Halloween/Mr. Aguilita, 12/25/07
Going into this, I tried to keep in mind that:
1. Nothing about CMLL is as good as 10 years ago.
2. The new style is the new style is the new style.
Having said that, I was actually surprised. Not so much by the first match, but the Christmas week matches.
My favourite match was the 12/21 trios. The rudos came out like a house on fire. Pequeño Damian 666 and Pequeno Halloween obliterate Damian and Halloween. I mean, Damian was smoked by his mini in a previous life too, but this time it's carnage. They were out to fuck-up the technicos & the part where Halloween kissed the old lady at ringside, while Damian showed her some tongue; fucking foul little minis they are. This was only a 10 minute match, but it felt like longer because the rudos set up the match so well. It was a similar story in the follow-up match, where Mascarita took another beating. Mascarita has all this spinning offence, which looks cool, but is ten times better when he's dishing it out because the rudos tore a hole in his pants. The Christmas Day match is probably better, but I hate Bam Bam's look. Aguilita too. Reminds me of all the Heavy Metal/Jerry Estrada matches that were ruined for me by their shitty look.
This was fun stuff. I was suckered into downloading the Altantis/Ultimo Guerrero vs. Averno/Mistico match, which was fucking awful like all CMLL tag title matches these days... Watch the minis instead.
If you're wondering what happened to 4, the link is dead.
#5 Octagoncito vs Mini Abismo Negro, AAA 6/5/98
This was a typical AAA match. A bunch of flashy moves, a lot of moving around the ring & outside area, never settling into anything I can get a handle on. The seconds were too involved.
#6 Mascarita Sagrada Jr. & La Parkita vs Mini Karis La Momia & Espectrito I, AAA 10/96
I liked this match. The rudos pick on the technicos, the technicos fight back through mini highspots, the rudos bump big & the ref is heelish. Not a great match, but pretty classic lucha libre.
#7 La Parkita/Mascarita Sagrada 2000/Octagoncito vs Mini Abismo Negro/Mini Psicosis/Rocky Marvin, AAA 1/16/03
This was supposed to be an elimination match or something, but it was difficult to follow.
#8 Mascarita Magica vs Damiancito El Guerrero - CMLL 2/27/96
Solid, straight forward lucha libre title match. Good match, but didn't reach the heights of the Ramirez match as Mascarita Magica is the heads down, toiler type. Hard working & honest, but lacking imagination.
The top 3 blew away the rest of the matches. The 10/97 trios & Cicloncito Ramirez/Damiancito El Guerrero match were as good as any lucha I've seen, while the Espectrito/Mascarita Sagrada match was a great AAA style match. I was definitely inspired to track down more CMLL minis from the same period & my feeling about the AAA stuff was the smaller the mini, the more fun the match is.
El Dandy vs. Bestia Salvaje, 9/4/92 (CMLL World Middleweight title)
I was sorry to read about the recent death of Bestia Salvaje. Sorry for his friends and family, sorry for the man himself.. A guy like him deserves to get old & tell a bunch of lucha stories. And I'm sure he had a bunch to tell, as he was a lucha libre "professionale" in every sense of the word.
In many ways, he was the last of his kind. A thick-set rudo, who could lay in the forearms and was plenty stiff when he needed to be. He was a brawler by trade, but was precise on his bigger spots (dropkick, senton, plancha), bumped well & knew his way around the mat. Tradesmen like Bestia are rare these days. A lot of guys these days try to win rudo fans. Bestia never forgot that the rudo is a foil for the technico.
Here, Bestia was a foil for his second Satanico, but it's still a good title match with a prime El Dandy. What really impressed me were the little touches. Dandy was one of the better lucha title match workers, in large part because of his selling, but Bestia throws in all these cool little counters, like fighting the surfboard on the mat, evading the enzugiri & blocking a sunset flip with a takedown. We often look for the flamboyant from lucha, but there's a place for the rock solid. Bestia was all that & more. In Japan, where he could be stiffer, and later on when he was Ric Flair-ish with the suits and gold watches. I swear watching him & Scorpio, Jr. beat down Santo is like watching the Horsemen turn on someone.
Cicloncito Ramirez vs Damiancito El Guerrero, CMLL 1/7/97
Another great match. Best three match stretch I've had in ages.
This was a beautiful display of lucha libre. Maybe not as exciting as the first two matches, but definitely one for the afficionardos. Everyone's got their own ideas about what great lucha is, I suppose, but we're all searching for it. When I first saw Atlantis/Blue Panther, I wanted to see more of the same. Problem is, great lucha is hard to find. So when you find a match like Cicloncito/Damiancito; a match as good as any you've seen, you're almost glad they're not a dime a dozen.
And that was the greatest fuck-up of a victory celebration ever. And he sold it too. Awesome.
Bracito De Oro/Cicloncito Ramirez/Mascarita Magica vs Damiancito El Guerrero/El Fierito/Pierrothito, CMLL 10/3/97
This was incredible.
A lot of people have a difficult time getting into lucha & trios make it harder. Hell, I had to watch this twice to realise it was an incredible match. The thing about trios is that you really have to watch a shitload of them to understand how they work. Trios have a loose structure. There's a few basic forms, but almost everything can be varied, which is why guys like Dr Lucha Steve Sims use jazz analogies -- improvised free form over the top of basic structures (something like that, I don't remember the exact quote.) What that basically means is you can work a trios any way you like, since there's only a few basic rules. You can vary just about anything -- from the length of the falls to the style of wrestling used; rhythm, pace, order... Workers probably don't think about it too much, but that's what they're doing in the choices they make. It's almost like each fall has a scale & workers can play notes up and down that scale.
At first it's difficult to know whether what you're watching is actually good, but once you figure out the possibilities it becomes much easier. Take this match for example. If you're wondering why it's great, the simple answer is the matwork, fast exchanges and dives. As Phil Schneider pointed out in the original thread -- http://board.deathvalleydriver.com/index.p...503&hl=mini (great read, btw), this is traditional CMLL build. What really impressed me is how they upped the rhythm of each fall. There's not a lot of rudo work in this match, so it's wrestled at pace. In most trios, the rhythm varies between the first and second fall depending on whether the rudos won or lost the opening fall. Here, the second caida is a faster version of the first. Yet it's even more creative. To keep upping the rhythm, while working more & more interesting holds, is the most impressive thing I've seen in a long time. To top that in the third caida is incredible. The first time I saw this, I thought "OK, it's a workrate match, but where's the rudo/technico stuff?" Now I'm thinking I just saw six guys master the workrate form of lucha libre trios.
There's an adage I learnt in screenwriting: ""Anxious, inexperienced writers obey rules. Rebellious, unschooled writers break rules. Artists master the form." There's a lot of guys these days who could do with mastering the form before trying this sort of workrate match.
I've barely seen any minis & was ridiculously out of the loop when DVDVR ran their Mini Mini Tourney, so now it's only right that I enter the world of minis...
Mascarita Sagrada vs Espectrito I, AAA 3/12/94
So this is the world of minis? Fantastic introduction, if you ask me. I was hooked from the beginning.
There was talk about this match not aging well & whether Mascarita Sagrada was all that great, but I cut him some slack since he's an actual mini & a great technico. Espectrito carried this; you could tell that by the way he shaped the falls, but Mexico is full of guys plying that trade or learning it from scratch. The key is how to make it big. How to get people standing like they do in this match. You could be Herodes himself & still the people want a charismatic technico. Super charisma is why Rayo De Jalisco & Cien Caras tear the house down & better matches don't. And while I admire everything Espectrito did -- and they were large falls, in a promotion known for bigger matches -- a match doesn't get this good unless the technico is something special. And he really is a charismatic little fellow.
If it doesn't age well it's because AAA was a flashly promotion and flashy stuff doesn't age well, but I still think it's a great match. Three big falls & an awesome ending.
Halcón Negro vs Olimpico, mask vs. mask, 10/30/98
Halcón Negro was a short, chubby guy with big hair and an awesome mask (see lucha wiki), who'd wipe out members of the crowd with his bumping & sell punch drunk off a Solar armdrag. Really solid in that short, chubby guy kind of way, which basically means he's awesome. He first caught my attention in boss undercard matches like Karloff Lagarde, Jr./Gladiador/Halcon Negro vs. Ringo Mendoza/Mascara Magica/Solar (5/97 TV) and then he had this feud with Olimpico.
Not the greatest of matches, but there's fun to be had. Everything about Olimpico screams run-of-the-mill, but Halcon carries the whole thing with his bumping and catching. And like all short, chubby guys, he can really motor. Fun matwork & really great use of the top turnbuckle, too. Herodes was a friend of his father's, so unless you fight with yearling bulls, you won't get better tutilige than that.
Regardless, all of that fun is so he can unmask. And what an unfortunate unmasking it was. He had a great mask and was a champ. He was never gonna be a champ again after he unmasked. That was obvious. Sad day.
Blue Panther/Mistico/Volador Jr. vs. Black Warrior/El Averno/El Mephisto, 10/20/06
This was very much in the new style, but the pace was good & it had Blue Panther in it, so the exchanges were better than usual. At this point, I'll take a short match with good rhythm. I watched some longer matches from Arena Mexico recently & they were amazingly shitty. This ain't a style that can go longer than 15 minutes.
Anyway, the Mistico/Black Warrior feud was actually quite good, even with BW gyrating every five seconds. I liked his look sin mascara & the way he'd pray to the Lord every time he did something dickish to Mistico or Que Monito. Their exchanges are usually pretty fluid, since BW's been working this style for a while now & they actually work a few payoffs into what they do. It's just a pity CMLL can't book a Mistico feud for shit. You'd think Mistico would be the one guy they actually book well, but nah. Surely Mistico could've taken his hair after brawling for six months straight. Maybe i'm living in a time warp.
1997 CMLL was stacked full of lucha libre professionales, and since I've been digging the simplest of trios, I thought it was time to rewatch the ciberneticos from early that year.
Dr. Wagner Jr./El Hijo Del Santo/El Texano/La Fiera/Mascara Magica/Mr. Niebla/Shocker vs Black Warrior/El Dandy/Felino/Mano Negra/Negro Casas/Scorpio Jr./Silver King, 3/28/97 &
Atlantis/Brazo De Oro/El Dandy/Mascara Magica/La Fiera/Negro Casas/Shocker/Ultimo Dragon vs Black Warrior/Dr. Wagner Jr./El Hijo Del Santo/Felino/Kevin Quinn/Satanico/Scorpio Jr./Silver King, 4/18/97
The April match is the famous one, considered by many to be the match of the decade. The reason people love it, I'm presuming, is because of the opening matwork -- almost a "caida" unto itself -- the strong individual performances, memorable booking & overall display of lucha libre. And I guess the length & that guy with the fur on his shoulders who runs the guantlet at the end. But I'm here to tell you -- don't sell the earlier match short!
Well, it is shorter. Guys basically hit the ring as hard as they can and try the most creative exchange they can think of. It's like the famous cibernetico without the matwork. That may sound spotty, but it actually has good rhythm. And the booking is great -- pitting technico vs. technico, rudo vs. rudo, while still working in Casas vs. Santo, Casas vs. Wagner and the thinking smarts of La Fiera. It'll never knock the other match off its perch, but it's quick draw stuff & I enjoyed it immensely.
Silver King v. Apolo Dantes, 6/23/95
This is a really good title match between two of the better workers in CMLL at the time. It might not please everyone, since it's kinda small in scope & doesn't bring the drama so necessary to our enjoyment of professional wrestling, but it's well worked & a good example of how you can work in stuff you've picked up from all over the place while still keeping a lucha form. Silver King has always done stuff you don't usually see from a guy his size, and Apolo Dantes was an awesome worker. Very much the all-rounder, with a great rudo swagger.
Rayo De Jalisco Jr. v. Apolo Dantes 5/31/96
I dig a big time Rayo De Jalisco singles match and this was fucking EPIC. I was gonna go into a spiel about how digging a Rayo match is like digging the fuck out of the 50s remake of Ben Hur, even though you know there's a dozen better William Wyler movies, but fuck it, Rayo brought all the matwork, submissions and big-time flying you could hope for. He envoured Apolo Dantes with the size difference; everything looking king-sized. And Dantes busted his ass big-time. I adore Rayo's big, dopey offence, but it was Dantes' selling that took this to such a plateau.
I guess over the next few years, people will start talking about the best matches of the decade. My goal is to find 20 lucha matches that I like. Maybe not the greatest matches, but matches that I like.
So far, I've got Atlantis/Villano, both Santo/Panther Monterrey matches, Santo/Perro 8/04, Misioneros vs. Space Cadets, the Negro Navarro/Solar tags & maybe El Dandy/Negro Navarro.
That leaves about a dozen matches.
La Parka vs Ultimo Guerrero (CMLL Light Heavyweight Title), 09/17/04
This is actually the match that made me wonder what the fuck is wrong with lucha these days. Well, it's a few years later and the sky hasn't fallen, but this is still a cheap match. Ultimo Guerrero's a good worker & Parka was making one of those resurgent lucha comebacks in 2004. Hate to see that cheapened by throwaway, ten minute matches.
El Dandy v L.A. Park, ENESMA, 10/29/04
I liked the ideas in this match, about how to pace and sell a lucha title match... Which automatically makes it better than the above match, even if El Dandy is slow and limits his bumps. I don't mind if guys are half a step slow if they've got the right ideas. But the finish sucked.
Atlantis vs Rey Bucanero, CMLL 7/22/07
This was SHOCKINGLY good. Atlantis sucks as a rudo & I don't like Bucanero one bit, but forget about all that... Atlantis still knows how to work a lucha title match. Match was edited a lot, so perhaps it wasn't actually this good, but for once there was drama in the Arena Coliseo. If you can get your head around the fact that Atlantis is ancient and slow, I doubt you'll see a smarter match than this for a while, even if Atlantis' working boots are all worn out.
Averno vs. Mistico, CMLL 1/05/05
These guys are forever trying hard to have a good match. I try hard to like it every time. This is supposed to be their best match together. I think I'm about ready to give up.
Ultimo Guerrero/Rey Bucanero v. El Hijo Del Santo/Negro Casas, CMLL 11/02/01
Eh, the only thing lucha about this match was the finish to each fall. I like seeing lucha in lucha matches and not just in the finishes.
Shocker vs. Dr Wagner, Jr., CMLL 3/26/02
Shocker vs. Ultimo Guerrero, CMLL 2/14/03
I remember watching the first match at the time & thinking it was a pretty standard, almost pedestrian lucha title match. Funny how it stands out as a quality piece of wrestling these days. The second match I really wanted to like, but too many of their bad habits crept in.
El Hijo Del Santo vs La Parka, 12/23/01
The classic Monterrey bloodbath. I'm not really sold on it being a great match, but I need to remind myself that I liked it & it's slim pickings for this decade. Maybe I'm just difficult to please. Santo was quite happy to play the dickish rudo, while Parka was hardly a saint, I just think the best lucha brawls have a bigger arc than this, possibly because they're wager matches or simply because they turn into more of a fight.