Atlantis/Emilio Charles Jr./Felino vs Black Warrior/Blue Panther/Dr. Wagner Jr, 1/22/99
This was a really good trios. The heel/face dynamic was a little weak, so it wasn't as good as the stuff from the early 90s. but Atlantis was channeling 1991 in his matwork with Panther & the way he sold and bumped for everyone else.
Apollo Dantes/ Fuerza Guerrera/ Villano 3 vs Brazo de Plata/ Olympico/ Emilio Charles Jr, 2/99 TV
Searching for great lucha is like searching for the perfect beat. Here's a match to remind you that above all lucha should be fun. Super Porky's been doing his shtick forever. Fuzera's been doing his shtick forever. Never gets old.
El Hijo Del Santo/Negro Casas vs Bestia Salvaje/Scorpio Jr. (Mask/Hair vs Hair/Mask), 3/11/99
This is really classic CMLL booking -- trios after trios after trios, building up a feud until the public finally want the big hair match, big mask match or in this case both. Negro Casas and Bestia Salvaje had been feuding for years at this point. Hell, this match doesn't even end the feud, but it's for all the money. Perhaps not the best match to watch cold, but you'll figure it out. Looking back at old reviews, Bestia Salvaje & Scorpio Jr. were maligned in favour of the Black Warriors, Shockers & Mr. Nieblas of the day. I'm late to the party, but I gotta say Bestia & Scorpio Jr. are a hell of a lot more solid than those guys ever turned out to be. Solid rudos. Hombre Balas with a push. People didn't like how they'd slow a match down, but slow, methodical rudo work is how you shape the rhythm of a match.
Negro Casas/Shocker/Mr Niebla vs. Apolo Dantes/Dr Wagner, Jr./Scorpio Jr., 5/99 TV
And the feud continues... This was a lot of fun. The rudos gave Casas a ton of shit & Casas was in full on technico mode, brawling with all three at once. The great thing about Casas as a technico is how his ego switches. He was such a cocky rudo, yet as a face he won't tolerate the slightest insult. Ha. Casas is classic. He'd switch back in a second. Match also continued Shocker's turn, but Casas could give a fuck because Scorpio just pisses him off.
Love Machine, Eddy Guerrero & Hijo Del Santo vs Fuerza Guerrera, Fishman & Blue Panther, AAA - 7/23//93
I've never really liked AAA no matter how many of their workers I like or how good the booking might have been. Something about the style, I guess. That goes double for Gringos Locos. The Panther/Love Machine hair match, the 11/93 45 minute tag, the WWC hair vs. masks match. I don't like any of it.
This, however, is a classic trios. Most people remember it for the double (or is it triple?) switch -- Love Machine tricking Eddie into turning on Santo & Panther coming to his rescue, but the match itself is great, which obviously makes the angle even better. Even a washed up Fishman can't drag this down. Love Machine was on point here. I dare say he never looked better. He broke up the Santo/Panther matwork, but never you mind... Because that's clearly rudo & Santo's not happy. In between Love Machine wanting to kick the shit out of Panther and rip his mask off, and Santo insisting that the righteous never do so, there's the usual masterful performance from Fuerza Guerrera, who, if I remember correctly, had a really beautiful exchange with Eddie that rekindled my appreciation for Guerrera as a worker. Of all the guys who jumped to AAA, I think Fuerza's the one who shone the most, even if it was in trios.
The angle is slow burning & great & moreover convincing, as it's set up really well. I don't wanna spoil it for anyone who hasn't seen it, just let me say I've enjoyed a lot of great rudos & Love Machine was on point here. I'll watch more AAA because of this.
CMLL June/July 1997
Scorpio/Wagner/Santo vs Fiera/Dragon/Casas, 6/6/97
Scorpio/Wagner/Santo vs Fiera/Dragon/Casas, 6/13/97
Santo/Emilio/Wagner vs Casas/Ultimo Dragon/Felino, 6/20 or 6/27/97
El Hijo del Santo vs. Felino for the WWA Welterweight Title, 7/4/97
A lot of people are familiar with the Santo heel turn & the mask vs. hair match from the 64th Anniversary show, but man was the TV leading into that match great. Here you've got a month's worth of trios building to the Santo/Felino title match; heated, brawling trios, all spun around the Casas Brothers vs. Santo feud and all of them fucking great. You couldn't ask for more.
All that heat & brawling leads to a straight up title match between Santo and Felino that's wrestled exactly like a lucha title match, with Negro and Bestia as seconds. The first caida is almost entirely mat work & it's some of the best I've seen from Santo. Around this time, lucha guys started to get a lot stiffer & work the mat like Japanese promotions... There were more lariats & powerbombs & moves that make it easy for people who don't like lucha to like this stuff. I was never happy with the way Santo and Casas work the mat in the Anniversary show match, since it's just not lucha. But there's no denying that this was a great match even in that style. The matwork and stiffness seems nastier. The match is fantastic. The ending beyond awesome, recalling all the great second moments in lucha libre history. Outrage and talk of mascara contra mascara. CMLL was shit-hot in 1997 and this was great booking.
Man am I ever digging Black Terry, especially now he has a moustache.
Seems daft, but I managed to find his hair match against Cerebro Negro from November, music videos of his feud with Fantasma de la Ópera & February's match against Multifacetico.
The kids aren't up to much, but Terry can still go. He moves incredibly well for a guy his age and can still bump. And he's like this journeyman, who can work the mat lucha style or do all the indie shit that these youngs are into. Plus he has a great welterweight punch. And his moustache is just awesome.
Negro Navarro vs. El Dandy, IWRG 11/18/01
I liked this more than I did three or four years ago. At the time I was really into Dandy in his prime, so I found this a bit slow. You're never too old to learn a different kind of rhythm, I guess. Having said that, I'm not gonna pretend I love it because it's Navarro and Dandy working the mat in a longish title match. The match is wrestled at the same pace throughout, since Navarro doesn't really have the stamina to work a longer singles match at his age & the selling isn't the greatest, so it has the same rhythm across each fall. Lately I've been doubtful about how good Dandy really was/is on the mat & while he wasn't schooled, I thought there was a gap between what he can do & what Navarro does.
El Dandy/Ultimo Vampiro/Fantasma vs. Negro Navarro/El Pantera/Bomber Infernal (IWRG - 3/4/02)
Fun match. The Dandy/Navarro exchanges were awesome, especially the punching segments. The others were along for the ride, so I wouldn't call it a great trios, but it was good.
El Texano, Negro Navarro & El Signo v Villano III, IV & V, IWRG 12/04
What can I say? I thought this was terrible. Slow, plodding, awkward. Signo was awful. i liked the ending where they start punching each other, but this was the flipside of veterans still working.
On a positive note, the youtube clips of Solar/Kenzo vs. Panther/Navarro are awesome. As much as I love Navarro, his age does show at times. There's a Blue Panther/Navarro clip on youtube that's disappointing in that respect. His work is much better in tags or trios from a standing base.
Solar/Mano Negra vs. Negro Navarro/Black Terry, AULL VIP 3/10/07
This was such a great match. I wanted to write about how this is real lucha & how young guys in Mexico don't know how to work anymore, but I'm trying to keep an open mind about that, so instead I'll praise Mexico for being a place where veterans can work a match that's not only "old-school", but as good as any lucha I've seen. I mean, Solar is 51. Mano Negra is 56. Negro Navarro is 50 and Black Terry is 55. It's obvious you're watching 30 years of wrestling experience when you see mat work like this, but who lit a fire under Mano Negra? He sure as hell wasn't working like this when he dropped his mask. I saw bits and pieces of Todo X El Todo on youtube & those guys were working hard too. The exchanges between Santo & Dos Caras were almost as good. I dunno if it's for money or pride, but they're outworking everybody.
Made me wanna check out more Black Terry, so I tracked down a singles match against Santo in Hamada's UWF. He was quite the bumper. Quite the bumper indeed. He can still fucking go too.
1993.04.08. CMLL - Corazón de León, Negro Casas & La Fiera vs. Mocho Cota, Emilio Charles Jr. & Bestia Salvaje
1993.07.09. CMLL - Atlantis, Corazón de León & El Dandy vs. Mano Negra, Javier Cruz & Black Magic
The best of a bad bunch of CMLL I watched, including a disappointing 40 min tag between Corazón de León/Ultimo Dragon and Negro Casas/El Dandy (though Casas was typically awesome.)
Trios matches are at the heart of lucha libre wrestling & if you've watched a bit of lucha you're probably aware that they can mix it up whichever way they like... The first trios is a complete brawl, instigated by the rudos and continued by the technicos. Emilio Charles, Jr. goes straight after La Fiera, busting him open, and Mocho Cota has a field day roughing Casas up in the corner... This all leads to the kind of outburst only Casas is capable of (in knee high socks no less) & a fucking awesome tope from La Fiera, who catches Emilo gloating on the outside. Lots of great brawling, punches, crotch shots & a DQ for excessive violence. Makes you wanna see Emilio vs. La Fiera in a hair match. Jericho didn't have a clue what to do, but it was up tempo & didn't really concentrate on his stuff with Bestia.
The second trios has a long first fall with some cool matwork between El Dandy & Black Magic, trying really hard to be a rudo. Javier Cruz keeps breaking up Dandy's pin attempts & that leads to an awesome Dandy punch that sends Cruz flying from the apron. Another match you wanna see booked. This is really about the Atlantis/Mano Negra feud, however, & may be a high point because their mask match was dire. (I like the 80s stuff I've seen from Negra, & Atlantis is a favourite, but he peaked in '91 and they were both several steps slower.) Jericho is lost, but there was enough greatness elsewhere.
Ciclon Ramirez vs. Felino, mask vs. mask, 7/9/93
Ciclon Ramirez was such a great luchador. The key to being a great luchador, I think, is whether you can work the mat. Mat wrestling's not something you can cheat. You can either wrestle or you can't. If you can, it gives you presence far beyond the mask and how well you pose for magazines... It may be the ultimate display of a technico's merit.
This is a good example of luchadors matching each other -- not hold for hold, but moment for moment. The match has a classic lucha structure -- Ramirez dominates the first fall with mat work; in the second fall they pick up the pace & run the ropes; in the concluding fall they pull out the dives and big spots. It's a beautifully worked match in the lucha style, but there's also a lot at stake (being a mask vs. mask match) & the reminder is there in how they sell the falls and near falls. In lucha, a fall can end in the most simplest of fashions, but like any wrestling, it's how you sell it that really counts. In the end, when Felino takes the deciding fall and leaps for joy, inviting his son to the ring while it all sinks in for Ramirez... And the announcer comes to the ring to take down Ramirez' real name and place of birth, while he stalls and delays the unmasking... Those are the moments that tell a story.
Mistico vs. Averno, 1/6/07
Mistico vs. Perro Aguayo Jr, 3/2/07
Mistico vs . Dr Wagner Jr, 7/27/07
The formula for Mistico's big matches in 2007 seemed to involve the rudo dominating for long stretches, Mistico taking a beating, having his mask torn or ripped off and even blading. The matches were longer and there was a lot of heat. This was effective against Perro and Wagner, since Perro has the offence and gumption to do nasty things to Mistico and his mascot buddy & Wagner is a master at getting heat. Perro loves himself a little too much, but he has a great shit-eating grin and -- when it comes down to it -- a vicious streak. Wagner did all of a dozen moves in their match, but had the crowd eating from his palm. There's a lot to be said for letting heat build. Mistico sold a lot & his offence was limited to comebacks. Whether he blew stuff off, I dunno. He was roughed up pretty good. I probably enjoyed these Mistico matches more than his previous stuff, though I question how long you can book him like this for.
I can't fault the effort in the Averno/Mistico match. They're trying hard to build a great rivalry. They varied the pace and there was a long third fall, but Mistico burnt through his offence. Averno's rudo spots are weak and I still think he matches Mistico's pace too much. One of Mistico's biggest problems is that apart from kicks and the arm submission almost all of his offence is off the ropes, which would be OK if it were used to end a fall or in a third fall diving sequence, but in Mistico's case it's the whole match. He really needs to develop some so-called "mid-range" offence and save his flying for later. I'm sure I'll remember Ciclon Rameriz' tope for longer than all the spots Mistico did in this match & that's bad because Mistico is burning himself out on so many levels.
Javier Cruz vs. Ciclón Ramírez, hair vs. hair, 6/10/94
Javier Cruz was a fucking great worker.
As a technico, he could play a fired up babyface without ever being a dick about it. He'd just act pissed the whole time. As a rudo, he was a dick without being showy about it. Man do I love the black studded glove and the whole scattered wasteland of 1994 CMLL. As for Ciclon Ramirez, well life changes after you drop the mask. He was a great flyer in his day, here he's trying to make his way as a latter day Sangre Chicana & he does a great fucking job of it. He still has an insane tope (one of the best ever, as far as I can tell), but you've gotta make your living a different way after you unmask and his brawling is great. The whole thing is great. Even the fuzzy reception is great. Cruz does a splendid blade job & this is as good a hair match as any other I've seen. Cruz isn't the rudo that an MS-1 or Pirata Morgan was, and Ramirez is not at the level of Chicana or El Dandy (to quote two of the great hair matches), but man do they make it worthwhile.
Rayo de Jalisco Jr. vs. Cien Caras, mask vs. mask, 9/21/90
This has got to be one of my favourite lucha matches of all time.
I don't know if either guy could ever work; the stuff they do here is really simple, but the heat is amazing. One of the greatest things about lucha is that two 40 year old guys can have a mainevent with this much at stake. Where losing the mask really means something. The match is beautifully laid out... Caras attacks Rayo on his way to the ring, smashing him over the head with a guitar & from there it's just heat building. Slow, methodical rudo work & crowd inspired comebacks from the technico. Great lucha. And the finish is fantastic -- it comes from nowhere & may not have been an actual three count, but it means the rudo has to unmask & there's a fucking swarm of photographers jumping over each other's backs. Caras has one of the great unmaskings, as he simply refuses to take his mask off & they end up brawling while the photographers scurry for their lives. Magic.
El Hijo del Santo/La Mascara vs. Blue Panther/Tarzan Boy, 1/1/06
Mistico/Negros Casas vs. Averno/Mephisto, 4/14/06
El Hijo del Santo/Negro Casas/Mistico vs. Atlantis/Black Warrior/Ultimo Guerrero, 8/04/2006
El Hijo del Santo vs Perro Aguayo Jr, 8/25/06
Black Warrior vs. Mistico, mask vs. mask, 9/29/06
Negro Navarro/Villano 4/Villano 5 v. Dos Caras Jr./Heavy Metal/Solar 1, AULL 11/2/06
While searching for this stuff, I kept reading that CMLL didn't have a good year in 2006. Still, I liked these better than the matches from 2005.
The Mistico/Casas tag was really good... Probably the best match I've seen in the new style. It helped that the third fall was long & they worked a bit of story into it. It was obvious to all and sundry who was gonna win, but lucha is satisfying like that. Personally I've had a problem with Casas' offence since the mid-90s onwards & I'd love for Averno and Mephisto to have more rudo shtick, but this was great work even if it was aping New Japan juniors.
The Mistico/BW match was also a perfectly acceptable two out of three falls sprint. I think I saw an edited version, but it doesn't matter. As important as masks are in Mexican wrestling culture, the majority of mask vs. mask matches are amazingly shitty, and since the thought of Black Warrior being unmasked leaves me unmoved, this sufficed.
The Santo/Panther tag was weak... Panther's always been a better worker than Santo, IMO, and showed it again in his brief exchanges with La Mascara. Santo's always been predictable, he just gets away with it because even predictable Santo is excellent. As far as being a big match singles worker, he can still bring it in spades. The match with Perro wasn't as good as their match from 2004, but it was good stuff. I kinda get the impression that Perro thinks WWE is cool, though.
Once again, Negro Navarro shows up and is part of a really great, old school trios match. In a sense it was bread and butter stuff, and I was just excited because it built in a way I'm familiar with, but an entire fall of mat wrestling in the latter part of this decade is like mana. It really is.
Mistico vs. El Averno, 2/11/05
Mistico vs. Ultimo Guerrero, 2/25/05
Dr. Wagner Jr./Mistico vs. Ultimo Guerrero/Rey Bucanero, 3/12/05
Mistico vs. Perro Aguayo Jr, 5/13/05
El Hijo del Santo/Mistico/Dr. Wagner Jr. vs. Ultimo Guerrero/Averno/Mephisto, 8/26/05
Perro Aguayo Jr, Mr Aguila, Halloween & Damian 666 vs. Pierroth, Apolo Dantes, Mascara 2000 & Universo 2000, 10/14/05
El Hijo del Santo vs. Atlantis, 11/05/05
Halloween vs. Universo 2000, hair vs. hair, 12/02/05
El Hijo del Santo/Negro Casas vs. Averno/Mistico, 12/16/05
El Texano, Negro Navarro & El Signo vs. Super Astro, Ultraman & Solar, IWRG, 02/10/05
OK, so I idolise late 80s-early 90s CMLL and pretty much anything from before then, with this being my first real foray into recent lucha. It's not the lucha I know, so let's see if I can get to grips with it.
Might as well start with Mistico... I wasn't expecting him to be a great worker, so it wasn't much of a surprise... His timing is good & he's unbelievably quick. Gets amazing height. What he really lacks is poise. Back in the days of matwork, technicos would string together a sequence that left the rudos reeling... A rudo would back himself to go mano a mano, they'd trade holds and then -- like pulling a rabbit from a hat -- that show of superior technique... I can hardly remember anything about Mistico vs. Averno, except that the rudo worked at the pace of the technico, matching him hold for hold. I could hardly tell you who upstaged whom, where, what, when... It was all a blur. Shortened matches have really upped the pace. I suppose we're beyond the point where an armbar is magnifico, but Mistico needs to learn rhythm; how to work those spots so they really mean something. If you look at 1984 Atlantis he hardly had it together, but he ended up building a magnificent technico career out of the same repeated spots. It's all about poise.
The Mistico/UG match accomplished a fair bit in 10 minutes & the Perro match was quite good. I don't buy into Mistico as an underdog, but he's a decent technico (which isn't easy) & has the crowd behind him. The act just wears a bit thin after a while. The best lucha always feels like improv, even when it's not. That's something heel Atlantis struggles with. Long serving, excellent technico, but sucks as a rudo. Wagner, on the other hand, is ungodly charismatic. Wagner never used to be this good, now it feels like everything he does is off the cuff. He's gotta be my favourite guy in Mexico.
The Perros/Capos stuff was OK. The hair vs. hair match was... listless. I'm all for broken down rudos working hair matches, so long as they're actually brawling.
I haven't really cared for the Santo/Casas team since they were feuding with Bestia Salvaje & Scorpio, Jr. I don't like the way they bought into the new workrate style... Averno and Mephisto have cool entrances and aren't bad workers, but as rudos they're workrate machines & sadly recyclable. Don't see how they're different from Los Guerreros del Infierno, to be honest.
The Los Misioneros de la Muerte trios is still the best match I've seen from 2005. Once a year Negro Navarro shows up on tape to remind us what real lucha is like.