Negro Casas, Black Magic y Mano Negra vs. Mocho Cota, Bestia Salvaje y Emilio Charles Jr., CMLL 5/13/94
Jesus, Cota, Salvaje and Emilio! Check out the mugs on those three.
This was rudos contra rudos and started off with some nifty matwork between Black Magic and Salvaje. It's been a while since I've seen Bestia look good in a match and I was instantly reminded of what an underrated talent he was. It was also the best Smiley has looked on the mat in CMLL, which was a nice surprise. Mano Negra and Emilio followed suit and were rock solid. Negra continued his inspired post mask loss run, which was miles better than the lead in to his apuesta match. As they grappled, Cota began stirring trouble from the apron in his usual maniacal fashion. The camera stayed on for quite some time and it was interesting watching him snap from one extreme to the other. As soon as Casas was in, he went straight after Cota, so I'm guessing this was early build towards their hair match. Cota ended up taking over and Bestia impressed me to no end with the sharpness of his rudo beatdown on Smiley. Great punches. A quick search of the Match Finder found no trace of a singles match. The things we miss out on. Emilio helped beat the shit out of Casas to end the fall, thus beginning perhaps the best thread to the match, Emilio vs. Casas. It's not every day you see Emilio Charles Jr and Casas work together, so you better drop what you're doing and watch this. While that particular ass kicking was going on, Bestia was giving one of the patrons a nice up close look at how great his punches look from a foot away.
Casas sold his beating like he was in another postal code. At one point, he was trying to punch his way out of the corner and collapsed, desperately lunging at Cota's tights. There was some weird storyline going on where Smiley was trying to help Casas but Negra wasn't. I'm sure it didn't make much sense even in Spanish. Negra then tried this cool choke takedown on Cota, but the Cota team were no mugs in the ring. Bestia threw the most beautiful left hand I think I've ever seen, and of course Cota was in the thick of it all like some kind of vindictive ringmaster. Casas popped back up on the apron in a not-so-great moment of selling, but if you're going to pop up on the apron to lead your side's comeback then there's no better way than the headbutt he gave Cota to turn the tide. Unfortunately, Smiley's retaliatory beatdown of Bestia wasn't in the same league as the one he'd had dished out to him, but it got the job done. There was an amusing moment between falls when Casas began beating on Cota in front of some front row seats. The patrons cleared the seats to avoid being hurt and Casas used the woman's handbag to thrash Cota. Cota picked the thing up and flung it across to the other side of the ring, and you could see the woman aghast about her handbag. Eventually, the ref handed it back to her companion while Cota did his best Terry Funk impersonation and tried to pick a fight with a photographer.
The third caida started with a series of exchanges where teammates were making saves for one another until finally it came down to Cota and Negra with no one from Negra's side willing to help him. Negra threw a punch at Casas, who was hugging the apron, but as you'd expect by now there was no big angle. Instead we got more Casas vs. Emilio and God was it great. The finishing stretch was a lot of fun with Cota doing a hilarious punch drunk sell off a Smiley body check then getting caught in a bear hug submission. But as Smiley was shaking Cota all over the ring, Casas ran straight into an Emilio power bomb and that was the match one, two, three. Not a vintage performance from Casas kayfabe wise. The match was fun, though there's definitely better rudos contra rudos stuff out there. Cota was good, but didn't have the same aura as his 80s stuff and was a bit of a sideshow act compared to his godliness on the 80s set. Still, he managed to amuse.
Atlantis vs. Ultimo Guerrero, mask vs. mask, 9/19/14
This was the most emotional mask match in lucha since the Atlantis/Villano III bout in 2000. The work was simple and effective. It was mostly built around nearfalls, and got better as the match went along, but the match itself didn't really matter. The result and the post-match afterwards were all about the emotion of a mask match.
Jose Fernandez reckoned that Ultimo Guerrero kayfabed his family about the result and it's easy to believe. I've never been a fan of Ultimo Guerrero, but from the close-up of him telling the ring announcer his name and birthplace to the unmasking and the scenes that followed, the guy deserves a massive amount of props.
In the days and weeks to come, I may go back and look at it as a match, but like the smart crowd with its large contingent of older fans there in anticipation of an Atlantis mask loss, let me just bask in the surprise. I never thought CMLL would do something to move me in 2014, not after the dog's breakfast that was the Rush/Casas hair match, but with one BS free main event they proved there's life in lucha libre yet. And that's enough to make a true believer out of anyone.
Villano is a guy whose prime is almost completely missing. We have bits and pieces of it -- matches he had in EMLL, matches he had in Japan, matches that aired in Japan or were filmed by Japanese crews, and a few handhelds of his apuesta matches -- but mostly we're left with ring results and pictures, and Jose Fernandez' bio.
By the time the UWA got television, he was nearly 40. Forty is not old by lucha standards, but it's not considered most workers' physical peak. Judging by the footage, he had gained a fair bit of weight but was still in tremendous physical shape. The TV at the time is helpful, but the matches weren't shown in full, we don't have the complete run, and the show only lasted from '91 to 92. After that it's slim pickings from AAA and CMLL up until his famous mask match. For a guy who's a potential hall of famer that's not great.
The other problem that exists is that a lot of what did make tape or video in '91-92 is from his feud with Chris Benoit, a guy who wasn't a luchador and not proficient in the style. It's never a good idea to judge a luchador against a non-luchador, but that's what we're forced to do. Still, we can see some trends emerge from his matches with Benoit, and fortunately we have a match against his long time rival Rambo to compare those trends with.
Villano III vs. Rambo, WWF Light Heavyweight Championship, UWA 2/23/91
This was edited down to fit one of those 'Idolos de hoy en la lucha libre' videos the UWA released in 1991, but what they showed was a blast.
Rambo was never the most talented guy in lucha. When you think of the things he did well, there were a dozen or more guys who were better at each of them, but the one thing he had was gusto. If you ever want to see a moderately talented wrestler wrestle with bravado then Rambo is your man. That takes away from the fact that he did a lot of things well, but what made Rambo special was his ability to get under Villano's skin. On the surface, Rambo should have been just another mask, but the mercenary's hatred for Villano was so visceral that the feud never died. They wrestled each other in hair vs. mask matches and title bouts, in trios matches and in mano a mano fights. When Rambo couldn't get the job done, he'd enlist the help of others. He'd be their second, their corner man, their eyes and ears at ringside. Christ, he even had it in for the rest of the family. Even when Villano unmasked, Rambo was invested in taking his hair (what little of it there was left.) Despite the fact he never beat Villano in an apuesta match, he would have gone to the ends of the earth to try. All told, they fought an apuesta match in four different decades.
The first thing you notice about this match is the matwork. It's lucha matwork, which means they don't just lie around in an ordinary looking hold. They twist and bend that hold until they shape it into something expressive. Some people may turn their noses up at that, but let's face it, those people will never be invited to a lucha dinner party. For the initiated, it's pure joy. For the hardcore fan, it's the only time Villano gets to stretch his lucha legs in this set of matches. It wasn't just Salvador Dalí stuff, though. They took some nasty jabs at each other with Rambo headbutting Villano's leg and Villano giving him a knee drop to the eye, and the matwork towards the end got down and dirty before they stood back up and delighted me with some good old fashioned butt offence off the ropes. Only in lucha could it all come together.
(It was actually kind of smart from Rambo as it looked like he was going to lead with the butt again, but he hooked the waist and flipped Villano over for the pin.)
Another notable thing about the bout is that Villano lost the first fall and struck back quickly to take the second. Villano loved that trope. You might even say he was the master of it. To be honest, he over used it. The way he'd do it was smart, but when it happens match after match you start to raise an eyebrow.
The third fall was a tidy fall, and if there's one word if use to describe Villano in this set of matches it's tidy. The matches didn't hit any high notes, but they were as solid as the gym sessions interspersed throughout the tape and overseen by the patriarch Ray Mendoza. Does that mean that Villano III wasn't as special as the history lessons make out? Probably not when you consider how difficult the craft of lucha singles matches is. His bloody mano a mano bouts and apuesta bouts were no doubt better than his title fights, but he's still one of the all round better lucha singles match workers you'll see. Both guys sold like they were buggered, which they probably were. Rambo tried to take a short cut by claiming he was fouled then gave Villano a legitimate mule kick to the Mendoza family jewels. Unfortunately, his big nearfall off a top rope sunset flip was mistimed and Villano had to step into it, which didn't look good on the replay. After nailing that over the head, double legged takedown spot Rambo loved so much, the big man went to the well one too many times, and Villano countered it for what else -- a tidy finish.
Fun match, especially if you're familiar with the rest of their work.
Villano III vs. Pegasus Kid, WWF Light Heavyweight Championship, UWA 3/3/91
This is probably the best lucha title match I've seen from a non-luchador. The mat work wasn't what you'd expect from a lucha title match. Benoit had some good ideas for holds, but then he'd just lie in them. It was interesting that Villano didn't appear to carry him. Perhaps it was his experience working with so many foreigners, but he seemed to tap into that international juniors style that workers never left home without in the 1980s. His own holds and counters were solid and he knew how to make a theatrical production out of a nearfall. What Benoit was good at even in '91 was what I would loosely call kick/punch transitions. When they were off the mat and transitioning into mid range offence like his snap suplex, he was excellent at setting those holds up. It was all cribbed from Dynamite Kid, but like Keiichi Yamada, he was a devout pupil.
The second fall was longer than the usual Villano response. Sticklers will notice that he went after the leg which was then completely dropped, but it was awesome watching him cut loose with the arm drags. They got a lot of mileage out of the snap suplex and DDT, and Benoit had enough in his holster with the diving headbutt and plancha to provide solid tercera caida action. Their counters were a bit sloppy in the final fall, but it was acceptable in the same way that play breaks down in any close game. The pacing and selling were very good, and if Villano wasn't exactly carrying the action, he was making sure the crowd stayed involved with his appeals for their support. The third fall could have gone either way and was nicely balanced. Benoit won under a cloud of controversy as Villano claimed to have been fouled. Rambo didn't care, though. He was over the moon.
The alleged foul was quite a good one. It came when Benoit set Villano on the top turnbuckle for the superplex. Villano claimed that he'd posted him on the turnbuckle, but Benoit signaled to the ref that it had caught the inside of Villano's thigh. Nevertheless, Villano kept selling the posting after the superplex and the pin. Lord knows if it was intentional or not, but it created a tremendous grey area where Benoit could easily claim it was non-intentional and a pure accident, while Villano could push for a mask vs. mask match.
Villano III vs. Pegasus Kid, mask vs. mask, UWA 11/3/91
Deathly dull. The only time this resembled an apuesta match was towards the end when Benoit ripped Villano's mask. The rest of the time they lay around in holds like it was a title match. Since Villano had been in so many bloody wager matches and mano a mano bouts, I'd place the blame squarely on his shoulders. He should have taken this kid and led him by the nose through a proper mask match. That's not the worst of it, though. There's no commentary for this fight, and the guy who led the rudo chant every thirty seconds was doing my head in. I made it through without muting it or playing some music, but never again.
El Hijo del Santo y Villano III vs. Negro Casas y Pegasus Kid, UWA 1/19/92
It looks like they were pretty liberal with the editing here as I can't imagine the full match was this truncated. Still, this was a lot of fun. It's not every day you see Villano III and El Hijo del Santo team together. If I were a kid, that would be like Marvel Two-in-One.
Casas was sporting the oddest outfit I've seen him wear -- this gold amateur singlet. It didn't affect his wrestling, though, as he tore it up with Santo. If you need a Santo/Casas fix then this is a double espresso. It's standard Santo stuff, but they rush headlong into it and the takedowns are amazingly quick.
Villano III vs. Benoit is nicely chippy in anticipation of their return title match. The match was nicely structured actually with Benoit finally getting the hang of rudo tactics and having an excellent teacher in the form of Negro Casas, but hey, it's Santo and Villano, you think that team-up is going to fail? Watching Santo eliminate Casas from this match was sublime and could have/should have easily made Vintage Negro Casas of the Day. Detail lovers will also get a kick out of Villano punching Casas repeatedly while he was in the Santo surfboard. I know I did.
Villano III vs. Pegasus Kid, WWF Light Heavyweight Championship, UWA 1/26/92
I seem to remember this being longer on the version I had. The matwork again wasn't great here, but there were signs that Benoit grew during this time in Mexico as he was beginning to make an honest attempt at countering holds instead of simply letting them die. Villano dug into his bag of tricks and managed to make an extended leg lock sequence pretty interesting. He also had a really nice knee-to-the-face counter to a backbreaker where Benoit was really grinding and rolling Villano's back against his knee. It looked like Benoit had the first fall with a series of submissions where the drained Villano would fall prey to the snap suplex between holds, really taking it out of him, but this seemed like Villano's game 7 here, more so than the mask vs. mask match. It actually gave me a sense of how much the title meant to the Villano character, which I never really had before. Those of you who are used to other styles of lucha may be surprised by how long they resisted submitting compared to the instantaneous submissions which are much more common in Mexico, but interestingly this fall was structured like a tercera caida. Benoit won it with the diving headbutt, which was a hell of a punctuation mark, and when it was over there was time to catch your breath and realise that was a hell of an opening fall in terms of the scope. There was none of that work the mat, take it to the ropes, one wrestler makes a mistake and the other captialises waltz that you really see. This was pretty epic even if the work didn't quite match the production.
Villano won the second fall in a matter of seconds. It worked and the crowd ate it up even though they'd surely seen it before. It was a tremendous shift in pace like the jolt you get from a small earthquake, but there's a nagging voice at the back of my head that says that's an overused trope. But Villano really wanted that win so we moved on. Again, Benoit looked to systematically take Villano apart in the final caida. This was Benoit at his best -- methodical, precise. It wasn't very lucha like, but it worked in a high stakes bout like this one. The crowd popped big when Villano got his knees up on a Benoit dive and I thought this would have a good time to switch the title, but the UWA had other ideas, and after a valiant effort at refusing to submit where all he could do was crawl across the mat after every attempt, the ref finally called the bout off when Villano refused to give up. His brother wouldn't throw the towel in and it seemed like Villano was about to pass out. It was a big call, but the right call, and y'know you don't see too many workers get put over like that in Mexico. Villano saved face by not visibly submitting, but Benoit clearly beat him unlike the foul controversy surrounding their first title switch. It seems that the promoters wanted to turn Benoit face and did so through pushing his wrestling skill. At least it seems that way from the match results.
Pretty good match that got better with repeat viewings.
So what can be said about Villano III?
A very good worker during this time, excellent even, but like Santo a very formulaic worker. It was notable for me that when Casas made his brief appearance in the matches he was instantly more interesting than Villano had been and that was only showing a spark of his usual genius. There was something spontaneous and exciting about him whereas Villano was well rehearsed and assured. I'm not sure Villano screams top 100 for me as I wouldn't have him in my top 10 luchadores,
Points in Villano's favour would be the handicap of working with a non-luchador and doing pretty well to the point where Benoit got better as the footage progressed. The mask match is a negative, but most luchadores have experiences in failing at apuesta matches. He was a solid all-round performer, though a bit hefty during these days and blew the odd spot. One thing that surprised me was that he was surprisingly good at selling. He was great at staggering before he fell and falling in a crumpled heap, and he sold his head hitting the canvas with aplomb. I just didn't get the feeling he was brilliant like the best workers are.
It's early days in the once a decade revisit of the Smarkschoice Greatest Wrestler Ever poll, but so far plenty of people have Santo pinned as their number one luchador. Santo's an easy pick, but is it the right pick? I cued up a half dozen matches to see how much greatness I could find.
El Hijo del Santo y Black Shadow Jr. vs. Octagon y Fuerza Guerrera, Monterrey 12/15/91
Relevos Suicidas is such a waste of time. Even in a bout like this where the action isn't so bad it eats up what would ordinarily be the first two falls of the apuesta match. There's a theory going that Black Shadow Jr. intentionally fouled to get a shot at Santo's mask, but I don't think that's true at all. If that were the angle, he would have fouled straight away instead of getting valuable energy sapped by his contest with Fuerza. If you watch closely, he tries to pin Fuerza after the low blow and is in as much disbelief as Santo over the ref's call. I think it was pretty clearly a rudo reflex.
On the boards we discussed how people never tire of the Santo formula because of how good his execution is, and I don't think it's possible to tire of his bleeding either. His blood soaked mask is as iconic an image as Ric Flair's crimson mask and a visual you immediately associate with lucha. Santo's bleeding here provided a series of fantastic visuals, it was just a pity about the rest of the fall. As far as Santo's apuesta matches go, this was fairly weak. BSJr didn't do enough to make him bleed. It was some enthusiastic assistance from Perro Aguayo that caused Santo to bleed so much, and he didn't wait anywhere near long enough to make his comeback. The intensity of a comeback is in direct proportion to the length of the beating, and Santo wasn't in nearly enough jeopardy from the blood loss. The cameraman failed to capture BSJr's big dive adequately; and for a guy who was so good at working his formula, Santo didn't didn't place his signature spots anywhere near as well as he usually did. The finish was a prime example. It was begging for the camel clutch or something equally as iconic and instead it was an inside cradle. Legend has it that the finish to the Santo/Black Shadow Sr. fight was the camel clutch, so it surprised me that they didn't reprise that piece of history. Ultimately, it was worth watching because of the blood, but it was hard to know why it fell short of Santo's best apuesta work. Was it because the first two falls were wasted on Relevos Suicidas, or because BSJr wasn't that great at dictating the bout? Perhaps it was because Santo didn't stick to his formula. More importantly, how many other average apuesta matches did he have in his long career? Probably more than we'd like to think.
El Hijo del Santo vs. Psicosis, Promo Azteca 10/3/97
i had to curb my expectations for this as it was only a house show match, but Santo was in good form around this time so I still had some hopes for it. The early mat work was well executed by Santo, but mat work was never the strongest part of Psicosis' game, so it wasn't very competitive. Psicosis' strengths were his bumping and stooging. He took some incredible bumps in this, but his stooging was all crotch chops and pulling the finger. The Psicosis I'm used to had a better sense of humour than that. He won the first fall in weak fashion then missed a lunging charge at Santo and did his shoulder first bump into the ring post. Santo seized the initiative and won the second fall with ease. At that point I was ready to chalk it up as house show fare, but they worked some exciting dives into final fall, which had to have pleased the paying customer. The finish didn't do Psicosis justice, and I came out of it thinking he hadn't really progressed in his struggle with Santo, but that's Psicosis in a nutshell really. He was a limited worker who never really grew or progressed past the point where he had some decent shtick.
El Hijo del Santo/Angel Azteca vs. Fuerza Guerrera/Psicosis, AAA 2/13/94
There was no messing around here as Psicosis was disqualified for fouling Santo before he'd even removed his jacket. The rudos got stuck into their work with a lengthy beat down that saw Santo dragged around the ring by his mask (but no blood.) This lacked the intensity of say Emilio Charles and Satanico in the recent Dandy vs. Fiera build I watched. Psicosis wound up removing the hood, which led to more sluggish moments where Santo had to protect his identity (always an awkward part of any mask ripping bout.) Santo ran to the back to change masks and returned with a vengeance. He went after Psicosis with a chair, which was worse than anything Psicosis had done to him, but that's wrestling for you. The upshot of all this was that Santo removed Psicosis mask to reveal that the mighty buffalo mane was only part of the mask (always a shock to me), and there was a surreal finish to the segment where Psicosis came back to ringside in a Santo mask and tried to continue the fight before cutting a promo in the full Psicosis body suit and Santo mask.
On one hand, this was a regular TV taping and not meant to be a hidden gem from the 90s. On the other hand, it was the build to a title match and they were throwing out challenges. But even ignoring that, this wasn't exactly great. If I'd thought it was a legitimately great angle I would have praised it to the moon, instead I would probably rank it alongside other Santo vs. Psicosis disappointments or consistently weak Santo in AAA material.
El Hijo del Santo/Super Muñeco/Angel Azteca vs. Satanico/Espectro Jr./Ice Killer, AAA 8/1/94
This was a mediocre trios that could have been from any time and any place in lucha history. Mediocre trios are par for the course in lucha, and even Santo can't shine in all of them, but it's surprisingly that his signature spots were absent from a match where they would have been most useful. It was up to Angel Azteca to provide the highspots instead. Santo wasn't exactly apron hugging, but if you believe in Ric Flair's story about going to see Ray Stevens and not seeing his signature spots then this was Santo's Stevens match, which would have been okay if he'd done something else that was cool, but he didn't. I'll you this though -- Satanico vs. Santo was a match the world needed to see. It's just like lucha to not provide what the world needs.
El Hijo del Santo/Lizmark/Eddy Guerrero vs. Fuerza Guerrera/Jerry Estrada/Marabunta, AAA 12/18/92
This was like every other AAA trios match of its era. It started off with a fall that wasn't far off classic trios structure. The match-ups were solid without being spectacular, and Santo didn't stand out one way or another, but there were little touches like Fuerza vs. Lizmark which were only available here while everyone was in their prime. Then it started to drag. It went on and on until finally you were waiting for it to end. Waiting is better than praying I suppose, but these long falls were a killer in AAA.
Fuerza Guerrera/Blue Panther/Espanto Jr./Psicosis vs. El Hijo del Santo/Octagon/El Mariachi/El Mexicano, 8/12/94
This was everything that was good and bad about AAA in the same match. The opening fall and a half was high energy, up tempo stuff with a bunch of great exchanges. It threatened to turn into a brawl at times, but kept on the straight and narrow and there was enough action in the first fall to fill an entire match. Santo stuck to his formula and tellingly looked better than in any of the other trios I watched. The rudos were pinballing left, right and center, and if I never get tired of the Emilio monkey flip and charge into the backbreaker, the same can be said for Espanto's bump from the slingshot. What a great worker that guy was. Everything was going swimmingly until the rudos decided to slow things down and give Mariachi a working over. That immediately changed the tone of the match and frankly went on too long. The technicos made a brief comeback at the end, but by that point I was checking how much time was left. After slowing things to a crawl, the rudos were DQ'ed for excessive rudoism and the match was in the books. Why they had to stretch these things out to half an hour with disparate tones in each half is beyond me. The first fall was draining enough without dragging things out. Psicosis did kill Santo dead with a senton to the outside from high off the top turnbuckle. That was a crazy spot made all the more reckless by Psicosis' natural awkwardness. IIRC. this led to a return match which I reviewed somewhere on this blog, but man, talk about a manuscript that badly needed an edit.
Some final thoughts on Santo:
Santo was a great worker who had a lot of memorable matches, but he wasn't the type of performer where you can watch any of this matches and get something out of it. He looked great when he stuck to his formula and struggled to make an impression when he didn't. He wasn't a details guy like Satanico, Chicana or Cota. He was all about execution. For that reason, I can't really see him as my number one ranked luchador, though it's a different story if you're talking about highly ranked technicos. I don't mean to imply that Santo was inconsistent or overrated somehow, rather that because of his working style and the fact he was a technico and enmascarado, he doesn't quite stand out like some of the wrestling geniuses in Mexico. At least not on random viewings.
Nothing bugs me more in lucha than the lack of critical appraisal that El Dandy and other all-time greats receive. I can understand there not being as much evaluation of Dandy as workers we all grew up on, but to me it's a sign that he's not taken that seriously. Of course when you watch El Dandy for the first time, as many people did on the 1990 Pro-Wrestling Only Yearbook, you're struck by how good he was -- one of the best in the world that year, and possibly one of the best of all-time -- but you wouldn't base your entire opinion of Ric Flair on his best year and neither should you with Dandy.
Don't get me wrong, I love Dandy and have done for close to a decade now, but here on the Great Lucha blog I've always tried to turn a critical eye not only towards workers I dislike but favourites too, and particularly the workers who people seemingly do nothing but praise, the Negro Casas, the Blue Panthers and the El Hijo del Santos. It may come across as negative at times, but that doesn't bother me so long as it's fair. Recently, I've been a bit disappointed in how Dandy's come across in Vintage Negro Casas of the Day particularly in comparison to Casas, so I wanted to take a fresh look at him away from Casas but still in the same era. Here's what I came up with:
El Dandy/La Fiera/Apolo Dantes vs. Pierroth Jr./Bestia Salvaje/Mano Negra, CMLL 4/29/94
Bestia's nose was well and truly like W.C. Fields at this point. Mano Negra was still sporting his Dave Finlay look and hammed it up for the camera as George Thorogood blared through Arena Coliseo.
There's no way a match with this many good workers should be a lame duck. It was a stock trios; one you've seen a thousand times before where the technicos get the better of the early exchanges, the rudos beat them down as penance, and the technicos make a comeback. But there was a strange disconnect between the workers as though they weren't paying attention to what the other pairs were doing. It didn't help that the match wasn't filmed very well, but talk about another Arena Coliseo stinker. Pierroth kept bickering with Negra, which is a pain in the ass as it distracts from the match and meant that Negra couldn't continue his rich vein of form. The rudos also chose to beat on Fiera, who was caught on camera making no effort to sell whatsoever. It was embarrassing really.
These were hard times for CMLL and even good workers like these were struggling for motivation. Dandy had gotten back into shape in '94, suspiciously so it must be said, but didn't add a single bit of spark to this. That's a big difference between Dandy and Casas and even this Dandy and the 1990 version. In 1990, business would pick up every time he was in the ring. It was magic the way he'd dazzle the crowd whenever he stepped between the ropes. Here he had the chance to do something special with Dave "Mano Negra" Finlay and didn't take it. In 1990 he would have been all over that action.
El Dandy/Atlantis/Pierroth Jr. vs. La Fiera/El Satanico/Emilio Charles Jr., CMLL 11/13/92
Now this kicked ass. They did a rare pre-match angle where Dandy was being interviewed back stage and was jumped by Fiera and his boys. Fiera was great here wearing a jacket and shades and looking every bit the sleaze thread material that he was. The technicos escaped to ringside, and the camera stayed on the rudos as they did their jackets up for their entrance, which was unintentionally awesome. The rudo beat down to begin this was one of the best rudo beat downs I've seen in a long, long time. The vigour with which Emilio got stuck into his work was brilliant. He was such an unbelievably awesome worker. I still think he's under-appreciated even by hardcore lucha fans. Gregor mentioned recently that Emilio taking the monkey flip from Atlantis and charging into the backbreaker is a routine he wants to see every time and I wholeheartedly agree with that position. Satanico and Pierroth also teared into each other. They still had a lot of heat from the Infernales/Intocables feud, and what you basically had here were three great match-ups where the guys were all feuding with each other. Dandy bled (yeeesss), the technicos made their comeback and Fiera bled (yeeesss), and then his chain got involved. The whole thing was very Memphis and a throwback to the early 80s Arena Mexico shows. This really made me want to see the Fiera/Dandy hair match again even though I recall it being disappointing.
El Dandy/Atlantis/Ultimo Dragon vs. Bestia Salvaje/Felino/Mano Negra, CMLL 8/20/93
We get an erotic workout video to start this. It must be apuestas time if they're showing gym workout videos. The Atlantis vs. Mano Negra feud wasn't very good. I'd dearly love it to be, but I just got done popping for the hundredth time as Atlantis and Emilio did their signature spots and didn't pop once here. I don't know how they could have made it any better actually. The limb work they did was boring, but mask ripping and having Atlantis face to canvas covering his identity would have been just as bad. They just didn't have any chemistry.
Dandy was in a secondary role here, but still found a way to be unimpressive. One of the great disappointments of 1993 CMLL has to be any time Dandy and Felino square off. Felino was trying too hard to be charismatic in '93 and his humour came across as forced. I can't say I blame him for overacting since his push was new and he was in his brother's shadow, but even today he's a ham actor. He gelled more with Ultimo in this match since they did pure workrate stuff. Bestia might as well have had a table cloth draped over him for as much of a part as he really played in this. It's amazing what an afterthought he became after an excellent 1992. Things were definitely going south for him. It's rare that you see a match like this where something's always happening yet none of it is interesting.
Los Infernales vs. El Dandy/Ultimo Dragon/Atlantis, CMLL 09/11/92
This was better than most of the build for the 1992 Satanico/Dandy hair match, probably because the Infernales were involved, but still a case of diminishing returns. Dandy bled, which was a good thing, and the Infernales were lack of a pack of wolves in the opening caida working over the cut. Satanico really grew his hair out for the Anniversary Show, so he definitely looked the part even if he was the wrong wrestler for the match. Wrong match or not, he did an excellent job of working Dandy over here and had a few women in the audience engaged in running arguments with him. Dandy was good, but this was mostly a Satanico special. The other Infernales contributed nice little touches and I loved the way they bumped and sold for the technico comeback, which was build around a pair of dives from Atlantis and Ultimo Dragon. The technicos were excellent as well with snarky little stomps and kicks. I liked the way Atlantis laid the boot in after Pirata had taken his back crawl bump to the outside. Not a very long match and no big comeback from Dandy to show where he was in this match work wise, but like I said it was the best piece of build in a largely forgettable rematch of a rematch of a rematch.
Negro Casas, Babe Face y Rambo vs. Villano I, Villano IV y Villano V, UWA 3/6/92
This was a blast. I know I've said this a thousand times but these 1991-92 UWA television matches were so much fun. This was clipped, but even the sped up version was great with exchanges so good they're like candy.
Casas started off by wrestling Villano IV. If you're cut from the same cloth I am, you're going to want to watch this when you hear they wrestled. It was rad. Casas was rocking this black trunks/black boots combo with "UWA" written on the boots and was all business. It wasn't a long exchange, but it's got to be one of the highlights of vintage Negro Casas thus far.
Babe Face surprised me here. I expected him to be washed up, which he was, but he could still take a nice bump off an arm drag and he had some really fun punch exchanges with the Villanos that led some outrageous punch drunk selling. Rambo didn't do a hell of a lot in ring, but his enthusiasm was infectious and he seemed to drive the match from the apron and with his interjections. There was a great moment where Casas had Villano IV in a headlock and Rambo was pulling on his own arm to encourage Casas to torque the hold a bit more. Aside from Babe Face's wobbly legs, other motifs included miscommunication spots between the rudos and repeat use of the low blow. Rambo was brilliant at both, interjecting himself only to fuck up and delivering one of my all-time favourite fouls. The low blow in lucha can either attain heights it never does in any other form of wrestling or be the absolute nadir of professional lucha libre. Here the rudos won with a low blow thanks to a heel ref, but you won't believe what happened next as those shitty websites keep telling me every day. I didn't catch which Villano was clutching the Mendoza jewels, but Rambo was helping to stretch out his legs when suddenly he dropped a knee to the nether regions. The rudos' reaction was priceless. They bolted faster than I've ever seen a trio exit. Villanos IV and V chased them, but they were like rats up a drain pipe. It's moments like that which make it all worth while.
Villanos IV and V did most of the wrestling for their side and they were largely excellent. I love the twisting, wristy arm drags they do, and at one point one of them had Rambo on the outside and did kind of a wristlock shoulder throw for a nice Rambo bump. Quinto also had a nice matador type spot where he kept making Babe Face look like Humpty Dumpty with a spinning back kick.
Casas was class through all of this and worth watching the match twice for to pick up on all the nuances. I love his finger wag when selling a bulldog and the look on his face when he mistimed a move on top of Rambo. I also loved the way he shouted at his corner when he came off second best in the first exchange to fire himself up for the reset. Really fun bout.
El Dandy/Piloto Suicida/El Brazo vs. Negro Casas/Loverboy/Kung Fu (Los Angeles, CA 9/19/92)
Vintage Casas of the Day gets requests!
This WWA handheld was a request from Pro Wrestling Only poster Gregor. Gregor doesn't post much, but I've always admired his taste in lucha and his penchant for seeking out the hidden gems like we do on the Great Lucha blog, so I was rapt to get a message from him.
Lucha house show matches are no different from other promotion's house shows. They're basically a stripped down version of what you see on TV. You get a bit of shtick, a few exchanges, a rudo beatdown segment and a couple of dives at the end, but they're generally more heat orientated and less physically demanding.
This match was hurt by the fact that apart from Casas and Dandy none of the other participants were very good, including El Brazo who mailed his performance in from Mexico City. I was a bit disappointed that El Brazo wasn't that third good worker a trios match needs, like Mano Negra in that recent Dandy vs. Llanes trios match I reviewed, but I was probably confusing him with Brazo de Oro as El Brazo was always the least of the brothers. Though to be fair, Dandy wasn't up for much in this bout. He seemed more interested in emulating the fighting stance of whatever third or fourth generation UWF bootlegs he was getting and throwing open handed palm strikes.
The match was meant to be a bit of fun so I don't want to be too critical, but it would have been better if they'd built it around the Casas vs. Dandy rivalry. Instead, it was an opportunity for the technicos to shine with some build for Lover Boy vs. Piloto Suicida tacked on at the end. They ended up having a mask vs. mask match at some point where Lover Boy was castrated, but it was quite literally an afterthought here.
What I did like about this is that we got to see on a house show just how amazingly charismatic Casas was in his prime. The guy simply exuded charisma in a way few wrestlers do. And he was constantly busy working in small details and riffs. I'm now convinced that he was better than Dandy during this time period. What set him apart here were the bumps he was prepared to take on an LA house show. They weren't huge bumps but they raised the level of the match and the standard of the performances. Plus it's fun to hear a tape trader from '92 gushing over how good he is. So it's definitely vintage Casas of the day.
El Dandy y Negro Casas vs. Corazon De Leon y Ultimo Dragon, CMLL 7/16/93
Whose bright idea was it to give this 40 minutes?
People often complain about how short and meaningless the first two falls in lucha are, but three falls of equal length makes for really dull matches.
When Jericho was in it was wrestled like an American match. When Ultimo was in it was wrestled like a Japanese match. Dandy was a technico and Casas a rudo, but the match wasn't remotely story driven. It was a workrate match through and through despite Felino giving Casas stick for teaming with a technico in the segment which Raging Noodles translated.
When it was over, the crowd threw money in the ring to show their appreciation. Being a tightwad, I probably wouldn't have thrown any money, but I can see why the crowd did as the bout was different from what they were used to.
(Actually, I probably would have gotten into it live as I generally don't care how good the matches are during live wrestling.)
Jericho couldn't mat wrestle to save his life so he and Dandy went with a side headlock. It was cool, but can you imagine Doobie in your funk?
Casas attacked the leg and looked like he was imitating his hero Choshu. He was really at his athletic peak here. Ultimo showed phenomenal speed between the ropes and Casas almost matched it with his running dropkick. It was a shame he entered CMLL just as the Televisa shit was about to go down with Pena. Can you imagine what he could have contributed in 1990? Then again, someone else may have missed out like Azteca or Satanico or Emilio. Plus he was able to rule the roost a bit with everyone defecting to AAA.
Casas managed to make Jericho's strikes halfway decent, which was the only good thing Jericho contributed, and Dandy was slightly disappointing against Ultimo, so I'd have to say Casas looked better than his rival here. It did help that he had natural charisma with Ultimo, but Dandy was going through a pudgy stage where his work began to suffer.
Aside from the match not really being lucha, the two other problems I had with it were that the finishes to each fall were weak and there were too many submissions that felt like restholds. If you're going to wrestle long falls, you better make the finish to each spectacular so that the momentum carries through to the next caida, but they fell short of that here. There was no intrinsic reason for it go go long; it just did.
In fairness, it wasn't as bad as it could have been, and in the 1993 CMLL landscape it probably stands out as one of the better bouts, or at least one of the more ambitious ones. But I'd rather watch lucha.
Negro Casas/El Felino/Dr. Wagner Jr. vs. El Dandy/La Fiera/Corazon de Leon, CMLL 7/23/93
This was the epitome of a nothing match.
It began with some sort of sit down talk between Casas and Felino with heel commentator Arturo Rivera serving as mediator. They seemed engaged in a philosophical debate over whether Casas was still a rudo, which I'm sure is riveting if you understand a word of Spanish, but perplexing if you don't.
How could Casas and Felino remain on the same side when Casas threw in the towel to cost Felino his welterweight title? That's the sort of contradiction that makes it difficult for people to get into lucha. One minute Casas doesn't want to be a rudo anymore and is trying to buddy with Dandy; the next minute he's turning on his brother in what most of us have been preconditioned to believe is a face turn for Felino. Either this is an incredibly sophisticated angle which I can't understand or there's no continuity. It's as though they teased a Casas brothers feud through the summer only to drop it for something else. As best I can tell, Felino accuses Casas of being envious, but the theme for Casas' entire 1993 seems to be a crisis of faith.
Seriously, if you can understand Spanish and you care enough, drop me a line and let me know what's going on.
The confusion wouldn't have been so bad if the match had been any good, but it was the opposite of a fun Arena Coliseo match. I usually watch these matches two or three times while writing them up, but this wasn't a match I'd want to sit through again. Felino and Casas almost came to blows during Rivera's intervention yet there was no pay off in the match. The vignette was probably shot separately to the match so I can understand there being no connection, but why book this way if you can't really produce a television show? Casas was still avoiding wrestling Dandy the way he did in 1992, Wagner was greener than Espectro's mask, Jericho was fucking awful in Mexico, and the match-up I was most looking forward to seeing, Dandy vs. Felino, was slow and ponderous. The entire match was long and drawn out. The only guy who provided a spark was Fiera, which if you've seen the condition he was in during 1993 was a little depressing.
Enough about this one.
El Dandy/Pierroth Jr./Chamaco Valaguez vs. Negro Casas/Mogur/Black Magic, CMLL 7/30/93
This was a fun Arena Coliseo style match. You won't find too many guys at their best at Arena Coliseo as it was very much the secondary show to the main Arena Mexico cards, and the matches were more about heat than great work, but when the crowd get behind a match as they do here, it makes for a fun environment where the charismatic workers can really shine.
Smiley was in his element here really lapping up the heat and bumping around like a gazelle. As long time readers will know, I've never been a fan of foreigners in lucha (aside from the Puerto Rican guys), but this was a spirited performance from Smiley, who took to Mexico like a duck to water. From a Casas perspective, the match was slightly disappointing as it was one of those bouts where he's in no mood to lock-up, robbing us of quality Casas/Dandy exchanges; but it was full of the character work and audaciousness that made him so popular.
There were several story lines going on at once, the primary one being a feud between Mogur and Chamaco Valaguez that never really went anywhere. The mental image I have of Valaguez is from his luchawiki profile where he's the picture of youth, so it was odd seeing him look middle-aged when he was only in his mid-30s. I have a soft spot for post pushed-to-the-moon Mogur, so I enjoyed the Valaguez exchanges, but to highlight the vagaries of CMLL booking, Valaguez wound up losing his hair to Cachorro Mendoza instead of the grudge match they were building to here. As well as the ongoing Smiley vs. Pierroth feud, there was the faint hint of a Casas/Dandy hair match, which was a giant missed opportunity during the lost years. They also teased a Casas technico turn, but in true lucha fashion it took more than a year to materialise.
Initially, Casas preferred to let Smiley and Mogur lock-up with Dandy so he could deliver cheap shots at his rival. When Dandy finally retaliated, Casas took a spell on the outside wandering into the crowd and blowing kisses to his adoring public. He didn't want a piece of the Valaguez inspired comeback and played janken with Smiley to decide who would brace the onslaught. Smiley had scissors and Casas paper, but still Negro refused to enter the ring. Pushing and shoving ensued and Casas gave Smiley a chop before getting in the ring. A painful exchange with Pierroth followed and Casas decided to knock Smiley silly with a forearm smash. In most cultures that would be a full blown face turn, but in Mexico passions run deep. An argument broke out on the outside with Casas using Dandy as a shield to keep Smiley at bay. This led to an inexplicable moment where Casas and Dandy were needling each other and Casas hugged him to make peace. Dandy gave him this classic WTF look, and if you can lip read Spanish had a few choice words for Negro. Casas had a bee in his bonnet after that. Again he wouldn't lock up with Dandy (much to Smiley's disgust), and not only did he encourage the crowd to taunt Smiley with Mexico chants, he publicly reprimanded him for faking a foul, which is rich coming from Casas. I think the gist of all this was that Casas took objection to Smiley calling the shots as a foreigner and thought he and Dandy should band together as brothers, but it was wonderfully unclear as he continued to beat on Valaguez. The great thing about all this was that Dandy didn't give a fuck and drop kicked Casas off the turnbuckle all the same. Afterwards they had a post match scuffle where Casas scored a bunch of headlock takedowns before bailing on the fight. That seemed to turn Casas rudo again, or at least ended his little play acting, and the rudos were back tagging with each other in no time at all.
The incongruities of lucha libre can be difficult to understand at times, but sometimes you've got to bask in the inexplicablity of it all and enjoy the moment. It certainly wasn't dull and was an interesting back drop to the Mogur/Valaguez narrative.
Negro Casas/El Satanico/Bestia Salvaje vs. El Dandy/Ultimo Dragon/Apolo Dantes, CMLL 8/14/92
I mistakenly thought this was part of the Casas vs. Dandy feud, but it was actually part of the build to the Bestia/Dandy title match, the Anniversary Show hair match, and the Casas vs. Dragon title fight.
Dandy was such a stud he had issues with all three rudos here, but the match has got to rank as a disappointment given the talent involved. The footage was joined in progress during a lackadaisical fall where the rudos did nothing but pose, and there were no little moments where the lucha was brilliant and the workers were gods. Dandy was lugging around a pot belly and Satanico was on the heavy side himself. In retrospect, you could see that the Anniversary match wouldn't be good as Satanico looked out of form and they just weren't clicking.
As for Casas' performance, his deal here was that he was afraid of getting in the ring with Ultimo. He tried getting the upperhand with some kicks of his own, but when that didn't work out he did his best to avoid any one-on-one confrontations. A couple of times they wound up on the outside and Casas would scamper away at the first sign of trouble, even if it meant defending himself with a camera cable. When the technicos made their comeback in the segunda caida, Casas refused to enter the ring, and when he finally did square off with Ultimo in the third, he ate a german suplex. The rudos tried to bum rush the show and steal the tercera, but Ultimo broke up their pinning combinations with a flurry of kicks and looked to be cleaning house when Casas fouled him. Which to Casas' mind was the only kick that mattered. Their exchanges weren't as good as in the '93 trios, but they still meshed fairly well given Casas' peculiar way of selling Japanese offense.
If you ask me, people watch too much maestro Casas and not enough of his vintage work, so here's a new feature on the Great Lucha blog that will hopefully encourage people to check out his glory years.
Ciclon Ramirez, Oro, Ultimo Dragon vs. Bestia Salvaje, Felino, Negro Casas, CMLL 3/12/93
This was part of the three-week build to the 3/26 UWA World Middleweight Championship bout between Casas and El Ultimo Dragon. Casas vs. Ultimo Dragon isn't the first match up that springs to mind when you think of guys who click, but this was some seriously great TV. Ultimo is a guy who I've always said wasn't very good in his early Mexico runs, but I need to take a good look at what I wrote and apologise to my parents because this was shit hot.
The match started off with a series of lucha exchanges between Ultimo Dragon and Casas, Bestia and Oro and Felino and Ciclon Ramirez. None of the match ups were show stealing, but deliberately so, as they were really giving folks a tease of how good these match ups could be. And as teases go, this was the desert before you've had the main. Just decadent. Halfway through the primera caida, they teased the dissension between Casas and Felino that would eventually lead to the great towel throwing angle, but here they attacked the technicos instead and I was reminded of how inventive rudo beat downs used to be. Casas went after Ultimo on the outside and split his legs like a wishbone. As the rudos came up with new ways to work over Oro, Dragon had his leg stretched out over the front row seats receiving attention. He was in no mood to head to the back and instead hobbled over to the technico corner. The second fall technico comeback ended up being Ultimo hooking Casas' leg, dragging him through the ropes and kicking the shit out of him until he would up with his leg stuck between the front row seats. It was a tremendous fiery comeback from the technicos, which of course the rudos claimed was too violent. The finish was the most fired up three way moonsault/hurricanrana/enzuigiri pinfall combination you'll ever see; and while Casas' enzuigiri bump probably wouldn't fly in Ultimo's homeland, his face plant was done with all the panache of Ric Flair in the Royal Rumble.
A schmoz seemed on the cards when Casas faked a foul in the final caida. It was touch and go for a second as the refs gave serious thought to disqualifying Ultimo, but sanity prevailed and we got to see Ciclon's tope and Oro's top rope plancha; the tope alone being worth the price of admission. Finally, it came down to Ultimo v. Negro, and they worked a classic sudden death exchange. The speed with which Casas moved and the height he got on each bump was breathtaking. The match could have swung either way, but Ultimo came up trumps on a dragon suplex and Arena Mexico lost its collective shit.
Like I said, Casas vs. Dragon -- not a natural match-up -- but this was sensational and Vintage Casas of the Day is off to a very good start.
Virus vs. Fuego, CMLL World Super Lightweight Championship, 6/15/14
This was a tremendous match and my working MOTY at this point. Virus was outstanding and showed once again why he is without peer not only in CMLL but in the whole of Mexico really. Fuego deserves credit for his part in the match as well. It would be easy to put all the focus on Virus & Kid, but Fuego put in about as assured a performance as you can expect from a kid.
The opening exchange saw them work from a tie-up into a series of arm and leg locks without a single reset, When they did break, they worked a neat exchange where Fuego began to realise he had the height to trouble Virus. There was a hip toss takedown that really seemed to bother Virus as it came after a series of counters from Fuego, so he popped up and struck Fuego across the chest. This was the set-up for them to run the ropes and close out the fall, but it was also a concession from Virus that he couldn't beat him straight up on the mat. At least not in the first caida. One of the things I love about Virus is that despite his height he can lay in his strikes. The elbow he gave Fuego off the ropes caught him flush. He went for a lariat and Fuego countered with a short arm clothesline of his own that had an extra bit of oomph to it. The finishing stretch was awesome as Fuego monkey flipped Virus onto the apron, Virus caught him with a headbutt, missed a senton attempt and rolled through to catch Fuego with an armdrag. Just awesome shit. The ref had no idea whether the finish was a submission or a pinfall, but it couldn't sour a sublime opening fall.
You'll see better lucha matwork elsewhere, but as far as the modern style goes, the fall had purpose, it had a narrative, and a minimum of resets. Fuego had a chance when Virus was back to canvas, but he couldn't pry the opportunity open and Virus outsmarted him in the rope exchanges.
The second fall began with VIrus working over Fuego's leg and looking to force another submission in quick succession. This is another area that Virus excels. Nobody works a body part quite like him. It's like a beat down and classic body part psychology all in one. Fuego's selling might bug a few people as he decided to hobble and then blow it off, but he scored points with me for his urgency and for keeping Virus honest. It looked like he didn't hit his pinning combination cleanly, but the little shimmy across Virus' body to slide into position was enough of a break dance type move for me to give it a pass.
The third caida was a little rough around the edges to begin with since it was Fuego in control, but it got going as soon as he hit his topes. Fuego has a really beautiful tope. Great technique, lovely looking flight through the air and his his opponent square on. Virus also took the tope beautifully not to mention the bump through the ropes to set up the dive and the bump as Fuego threw him to the ground to set up tope number two. Back in the ring and I loved Virus' big wind up punch to take back control of the match. The nearfalls he created in this match were fantastic. For a guy who's not exactly a noted flyer, his top rope maneuvers have tremendous impact. The flying elbow is a personal fave of mine. I just love seeing the little guy drop the elbow like that. Uncorking the Samoan backdrop with the bridge was sweet as well, but he got a lot of pay off a sunset flip. The guy is a bona fide legend. His selling in terms of both desperation and fatigue is yet another thing he's unparalleled at.
Things were pretty tense at the end, as they should be in a world title match. The moment where I thought Virus had it was when Fuego went back to the pinning combo that had won him the second fall. It was at that point that he seemed bereft of ideas whereas Virus was able to pull out the "La Motocicleta." That highlighted the difference between the two as Fuego simply didn't have a move like that up his sleeve when he needed one, but boy, Virus celebrated that one with more than a little relief mixed in with the elation.
Great match from a great wrestler. An all-time great really. They deserved the money that was thrown at them and the match itself deserves more accolades. It wasn't perfect, but it was consistently excellent and fundamentally stronger than the Virus/Titan match. I see that they had a match a few years ago that somehow slipped through the cracks. I'm going to check that out and see how it compares. In the meantime, I hope more people seek this out and enjoy it.
Silver Star vs. Charles Lucero, UWA World Middleweight Championship, 6/22/14
This was a beautiful match. The type of match you could easily imagine Lucero having in his prime. Really authentic lucha maestros wrestling; the type of title match wrestling you don't see much of these days. To be fair, it probably wouldn't go over too well at Arena Mexico, but it's great to see two practitioners carrying on the art form as there aren't too many connections to old school Monterrey left anymore. The first fall was a classic lucha fall with all of the takedowns, reversals and castigos you'd expect from a title match. Lucero's work wasn't all that smooth, and he mistimed a couple of spots like the finish to the second caida, which he almost failed to hook, but like the momentum in a great title fight, I thought his missteps added to the drama. Silver Star has slowed down a lot over the years, but he wrestled a smart fight here. I would have given it to him on points if he hadn't forced a result. I actually thought it was a much more assured performance from Star than their previous fight. The only negative thing I'll say about these two is that they don't make much contact on their topes. It's fair enough that they're protecting themselves, but they don't look good and I have a hard time rationalising them as part of the narrative.
Silver Star vs. Charles Lucero, Terraza Elma, Monterrey, 6/29/14
This was a mano a mano bout from an afternoon LLN spot show. Later on, they worked an evening show where they tagged against each other. The smaller venue meant they wrestled a tighter match with a lot of close quarters action. Lucero's execution was better in this match, but a mano a mano this isn't really comparable with the to's and fro's of a title match. It was a nice companion piece, but I'll take an old school title match over this.
Arkángel de la Muerte vs. Gallo, FULL World Championship, CMLL 6/21/14
Arkangel de la Muerte is a favourite of the Segunda Caida boys so they were pretty excited about this one. I don't have any special attachment to Arkangel, so my reaction was a bit more subdued. In fact, with Gallo being a Guadalajara local doing a rooster gimmick and the pair feuding over some belt from a Chilean promotion, it struck me as more of a novelty that the match-up made it all the way to Mexico City than a great singles opportunity for a lucha maestro. I appreciate that Arkangel is a great base for young flyers, but I'm not that a fan of his style. He reminds me of more of a 'puro' worker than a classic luchador. That's useful in this day and age, and probably the reason why he works so well with the up and comers, but I like my lucha to be distinctly "lucha" and not a homogenized form of borderless indy wrestling. I don't want to say that Arkangel is the antithesis of Charlie Lucero, but if you enjoy the modern style you'll get more out of this than I did. Arkangel has great execution as well as being a real details guy, and there were some cool spots like the the slingshot Tapitia the Segunda guys talked about.
Dragon Lee vs. Hechicero, CMLL 5/20/14
This started off pretty well with Hechicero using his wrestling skills to ground Dragon Lee, but soon unraveled when Lee was given too much leeway on offence. Three times was too many for the story they were telling. Tensions were supposed to be boiling over. Hechicero almost connected on a soccer kick, which Lee took exception to, but they needed to do a better job with the niggly aspects. The pull apart at the end was far from convincing and should have been built to better. The dives should have been cut and Lee left frustrated that he couldn't hit one. That's how I would have played it, but as critical as I'm being it's hard not to be in awe of Lee's dives. He may be the most exciting guy since Freelance.
Dragon Lee vs. Cavernario, CMLL 4/29/14
This didn't have the highs of the Hechicero/Lee match, but it was a good example of how much better Cavernario is at building his matches. Really simple stuff with Cavernario controlling the early going before Lee makes a comeback and the two start trading nearfalls, but it's straightforward and easy to follow and the kind of coaxing rhythm that's familiar to long time lucha fans. It could have done with a few highs from the Hechicero match to top it off, and I wish Cavernario would think of a better way to set-up his finisher, but I definitely came out of this tournament with a higher opinion of Cavernario than Hechicero.
First up, let me just say that I LOVE the new colour scheme on the Arena Mexico ring. I think it looks fantastic and makes good matches seem even better.
Barbaro Cavernario vs. Cachorro, CMLL 4/18/14
I thought this was an excellent lightning match; much better than the Cavernario v. Hechicero workrate sprint where they tried to hit all the highs of a 20 minute lucha match in 7 minutes or less. Here we got a straightforward build from pure lucha exchanges to high risk moves and nearfalls. Cachorro may not be a great mat worker yet, but working from a standing base he looked a lot like his father. I was impressed with his transitions in the opening exchanges, like the spot where he held onto the ropes to stop his momentum and dropped the elbow onto Cavernario. You don't always associate lucha with transitions like that yet they were done in a way that wasn't horribly telegraphed. Cavernario sidestepping Cachorro's tope and sending him crashing into the barricade was a great midpoint for the match, and Cavernario's offence looked fantastic as he tried to rub Cachorro out.
The only thing that bothered me were the constant cutaways to Casas and the judges and the clock. Each time they'd do it, they'd edit a bit more out of the match until finally we lost about two minutes worth of footage. I also thought the finish was poorly edited and lacked the impact that the armbar usually has, but it wasn't clear from the way they put it together whether it was in rhythm with the rest of the nearfalls. Cavernario's timing seemed a bit off with the way he walked into it and it wasn't applied so well. Still, this was a strong match that gave a real boost to my opinion of Cachorro.
Hechicero vs. Cachorro, CMLL 6/13/14
Watching this so soon after the last bout wasn't a great idea as it didn't have anywhere near the depth of the Cavernario fixture. Rey Hechicero is a great worker -- we've known that for quite some time -- but he hasn't really impressed me so far in CMLL. There was a lot of telegraphed stuff in this like Hechicero avoiding Cachorro's tope attempt only for Cachorro to catch him unawares with a hurricanrana. That's a standard sort of opening -- tease 'em with one dive and pop 'em with another -- but the set up like was like something out of a cartoon with Hechicero turning his back on Cachorro to pose. Eventually, Hechicero was able to ground Cachorro and overpower him, which is about as believable a situation as they could have worked with Hechicero's size and strength advantage, but the dominance felt superficial. Cachorro wasn't given enough opportunities to sell, and they didn't milk any drama from what they were doing. I don't want to say they were going through the motions as they looked like they were working hard, but the end result was the same.
Dragon Lee vs. Hechicero, CMLL 6/6/14
The editing in these matches is awful. There's too many cuts and the shots don't match. I don't know what's happened to CMLL's production values, but I've seen college students do a better job of editing footage than these folks. The unnecessary reaction shots from the judges, the constant jump cuts with the clock, and the overuse of different camera angles left me feeling dizzy at times. I don't need to see the clock every 15 seconds, especially if the workers aren't selling that they're running out of time. The work here was pretty anemic. I'm starting to wonder if Hechicero just isn't that good as a rudo. I've yet to see him lay out a match where he looks the goods. Dragon Lee hits at least one jaw dropping spot per match -- in this case a brutal 'flying' stomp to the back of Hechicero's head -- but his man strength at this point appears to be hurtling his body as a projectile.
Hechicero vs. Cavernario, CMLL 6/20/14
This was a good match and a worthy conclusion to the tournament. I don't think these two match up quite as well as other people do, and I've enjoyed Cavernario more against both Virus and Cachorro in recent weeks, but it was a good match.Too much was made of the botched tope. That's a move with a high degree of difficulty and it's believable within the context of the match that he might miss it. Hechicero did a fantastic job in covering for the botch and following the old lucha adage of laying in a beating when it's been blown, but as far as botched spots go it actually looked pretty good as it was a complete wipe out. By the same token, I thought the beating Hechicero dished out was overplayed. The action after the botch was 50/50, the same as it was before the spot and the same as it would have been without the botch. I don't think they worked the match any differently than they would have done if Cavernario had hit the spot clean. Both guys have a ton of good looking offence, and although they burn through it a bit it's fun to watch. The finish didn't really work for me as I thought it was a beat or two too soon, but I was glad to see a competitive bout with no time limit, proper production values and no annoying cuts. Hechicero's getting a lot of talk about being the best guy in the world, which makes me an outlier as usual, but I honestly think Cavernario is the better of the two when it comes to using offence in a straight forward way to lay out a match and tell a story.
Satanico vs. Pierroth Jr, CMLL World Light Heavyweight Championship, '92/93
This was from sometime during Pierroth's year long reign as CMLL World Light Heavyweight champion, which began in March of '92 and ended in April of '93. Pierroth's Los Intocables group feuded extensively with the Infernales during this period. Pierroth had several title defences against Pirata Morgan, a match against MS-1 in Puebla, and this match which appears to have been broadcast on some sort of local Tijuana television station. The match is a far cry from some of the classics from this era, but it's an interesting look at a title match outside of the usual TV arenas. The grainy washed out footage and single camera shoot make it look like it could have taken place in the 80s, and there's a definite house show feel to it.
Satanico is unashamedly my favourite lucha worker. As regular readers will know, I put a lot of stock in the intros. Most of my favourite workers are 'details guys;' workers who put effort into things like ring introductions. What set Satanico apart was a commitment to characterisation. The ref is going through the pre-match formalities, and Satanico walks around like he owns the place. He issues all sorts of warnings to the champion and goes through his pre-match stretch routines as though he's primed to take the title. There's a natural cockiness to Satanico that comes from supreme confidence in his abilities, but with that confidence comes vanity. When the ring announcer calls his name, you can see him bask in his greatness before the bell has even sounded.
The match is slower than you might expect. It's worked as a heavyweight mat contest. There's a traditional lock-up to start and most of the opening fall involves Satanico putting Pierroth in simple holds. As entertaining as Pierroth could be, he wasn't much of a mat worker and so the bout lacks the brilliant counters you'd see in a high-end match. It's psychologically sound, but Pierroth's counters are a touch sloppy. Satanico continues to the be the aggressor in the second fall. Perhaps too much so, but a worker like Satanico can't help working like the champion even when he's not the champion. Pierroth finally uses his strength to good effect. He also starts getting under Satanico's skin by using open handed strikes to batter Lopez' nose, but they don't really go anywhere with it as it's not a match that's heavily built on narrative.
The third caida lacks the urgency you'd expect from a title match and is a slow burner. It's not bad per se, but it doesn't take you to the kind of places that a championship deciding fall ought to. And it ends in the dreaded double pin, which keys you in to the amount of energy they were willing to expend on this one. Still, it's not a bad match and like I said it gives you a taste of what title matches where like on the different circuits around Mexico. Just lower your expectations to "house show expectations" and you'l be fine.
Atlantis/Ringo Mendoza/El Dandy vs. Mano Negra/Javier Llanes/Black Magic, CMLL 2/15/94
My buddy Raging Noodles once had a prank played on him that there was a trios match leading into the El Dandy/Javier Llanes singles match where Llanes worked over Dandy's fingers or something to that effect. It was a neat prank, but Noodles my boy, here's that trios you always wanted to see.
As with most gems, we get a great set of intros. I never realised what an ugly blighter Llanes was. He had this pockmarked face that made his shit-eating grin all the more aggravating, and sauntered around the ring in the cheapest of robes. He got in Dandy's face early before backing away and letting his man Negra step in. Negro got lippy, so Dandy fish hooked him and the two had a small standoff. Negra looked awesome in this match. His mane was untameable and he had a killer Mexican mustache. And then there was Ringo. Completely out of place, but still rocking his Ritchie Valens hair.
Llanes attacked Dandy while the green eyed one's graphic was still on the screen, and the rudos gave him a working over. Smiley was especially keen to get involved, and this was probably the best rudo performance I've seen from him. Llanes was eager to work the arm and the dropkick became an early theme. Atlantis wanted Negra, and I swear Negra looked like a Mexican Fit Finlay. Negra hit a sweet looking flying clothesline, which was awesome for two reasons: a. you don't see that sort of move in lucha too often, and b. he adjusted his glove before entering the ring. Atlantis then hit his signature back breaker, which Negra sold beautifully. Dandy wanted another shot at Llanes, but every time he'd get the upper hand the rudos would dish out a cheap shot. Llanes' movement wasn't the greatest, but he took Dandy apart methodically and between falls he bust him open. It wasn't so common to see blood at Arena Coliseo during this era, which made the juice seem special.
The second caida was like an apuesta match. Llanes rubbed Dandy's cut against the bottom rope and flicked the blood off his fingers. Then he moved Dandy into the corner where he gave him a going-over; the aggression increasing with every blow. Smiley got in the act next and was an absolute dick to Ringo. He mocked Ringo's heritage with a little Indian dance then the rudos beat the shit out of Mendoza and Atlantis. By this point, I was loving this rudos trio. Llanes had Dandy in the corner again and was working over his cut; really channeling Cien Caras and every other bastard. Of course, this all lead to an awesome comeback from Dandy where Llanes feigned a low blow, but Dandy didn't give a shit and just kept attacking him. Even the rudos' cheap shots couldn't deter Dandy this time and Smiley got some pay back. Atlantis showed us flashes of his underrated brawling skills with a headbutt to Negra and great use of the double axehandle (hey, if it works, it works.) He also hit a sweet senton to help the technicos take the second caida. He was only in a supporting role here, but in fine form. During the finish he dropped the most ridiculously smooth knee on Negra. Great worker.
The third fall began with Dandy hunched over struggling with his cut. Llanes pounced and the ring soon cleared for a mano a mano contest where Llanes kept peppering Dandy with body shots. Dandy went down hard and they really put over Llanes' punching strength. Llanes noticed somewhere along the way a weakness in Dandy's chest area and he went after the same spot pummeling it. Dandy fought back with chops and headbutts, but he missed a flying headbutt from the turnbuckle and Llanes must have thought he had him. One cool thing they did was keep going for the submission finish. Despite their brawling, it was a title match that would be decided the following week and nothing sends a message quite like making your man submit the week before a big title fight. There was a great moment when Dandy was trying to put the figure four on Llanes and Negra interfered. Dandy let go of the leg, stepped through the ropes and punched Negra out cold on the apron. Man, was Negra great in this.
Dandy and Llanes teased a couple of nearfalls then Llanes managed to catch Dandy out when he was going for the magistral cradle, catching the leg and leaning back on him. That was just enough leverage for the pin, and a great win for the rudos. And didn't Smiley love it? He had quite the victory shuffle.
This was a real gem. The kind of lucha that was the inspiration for this blog in the first place. If there's any more Dandy vs. Llanes trios on tape we need to seek them out. He was the least athletically gifted of Dandy's major opponents, but he more than made up for it with his smarts and their work together is quality. I strongly suggest people watch this a-sap.
Virus, Cachorro & Hechicero vs. Negro Casas, Cavernario & Dragon Lee, CMLL 5/23/14
Everybody's talking about this as a Match of the Year Candidate, but for a trios with four good workers in it, I thought it was pretty disappointing. The only parts that were exciting or genuinely engaging were during the finishing stretches, and the work in between was clumsy and unfocused.
The opening fall was a perfect example. Dragon Lee is a young guy and can't mat wrestle. If you have him work an opening mat exchange with Virus, he'll be scrambling. Virus has got to carry him for the mat work to be effective let alone good, but that requires slowing the bout down and working a different tone. Here, they wanted to work a fast paced bout, so they did a classic "mirroring" exchange where they wrestle each other to a stand still. Which would've been okay if Dragon Lee had been in any way convincing, but he doesn't have the quickness that those spots require. You could almost feel him thinking them through as though they're a series of steps. The exchange didn't look terrible as Virus is still the best wrestler in the company and everything he does looks great, but the stand still didn't ring true and was a waste of a match-up.
You accept that and move on, but Casas vs. Cachorro was more of the same. Cachorro is another young guy, so we'll give him the benefit of the doubt, but Casas should be looking to be get more out of an exchange than this. As we all know, match-ups make trios, and it's the story threads that make those match-ups compelling. You could argue that this was just a workrate trios, but if that's the case, the work wasn't very inspiring. Cavernario and Hechicero tried to inject a bit of stiffness and physicality, but their exchange-cum-brawl was muddled and confused. That was a trend that continued throughout the bout, as Hechicero was well off his game. The fall picked up as Virus did his senton to the outside and the finishing stretch kicked into high gear, but as the dust settled on the opening fall, I couldn't help but wonder why they stray so far from the tried and true.
If you want to do a high tempo opening fall, the pattern has always been to square off once with individual pairs, switch partners and dance one more time, then run the ropes for the turning point and first fall climax. It's a simple formula but works so well. Ideally, you'd build the first fall crescendo to the heights the En Busca de un Idolo has been reaching, but Cavernario and Hechicero didn't pull out the stops and the fall was a table setter at best.
It would be disingenuous of me to pretend that I like their match-up as much as everyone else (in fact, I thought the Cavernario/Virus match-up was vastly superior throughout, but then I think Virus is vastly superior to anyone else in the match), but in a match like this you want the action to culminate with a key match-up, and I thought Cavernario/Hechicero from the En Busca de un Idolo would've been swinging.
The second fall at least had a decent sense of urgency to it. The work wasn't outstanding, but they powered through it. Cavernario looked all at sea during his big comeback in the three-on-one sequence, and I have my doubts about whether he's a polished worker, but his plancha is gorgeous, and along with Dragon Lee's insane dive, they hit the high notes the crowd was looking for. But Virus and Casas... if you're going to do a mano-a-mano standoff to end a fall, you might want to do something a bit more exciting than that. For seasoned vets that was weak. Everybody knows I think Negro Casas is overrated these days (except for when he wrestles Rush), but c'mon, work a few more beats before you celebrate and do the parrot shit.
Casas and Hechicero then worked a muddled exchange to open the closing fall. It actually started off pretty well with Hechicero working rough with Casas, and Casas seemingly giving him a receipt with some great looking knees, but Casas started looking tired and his strikes loosened up. For some reason, their exchange went beyond a reasonable length for this sort of opening exchange and Hechicero went for a nearfall too early in the fall. Dragon Lee and Cachorro's work was earnest without being particularly good, but I remember what the Traumas were like when they first started making tape, so I'm not going to rag on the young guys. The hip toss spot was impressive and Cachorro's tope was spectacular, but again it came too early in the fall to have an impact. Virus vs. Cavernario was great and the one match-up coming out of this that I'd want to see again. Virus is so great at working strike exchanges (both throwing and selling), and his positioning for Cavernario's moves was exemplary. It was notable how much better Cavernario's nearfall came across despite their exchange being much shorter than Casas/Hechicero.
The rest of the fall was about dropping bombs and was a mix of the good, the bad and the ugly. The Virus/Cavernario exchange where Virus was trying to get a submission on Cavernario was awesome, and Virus' muscle flex pose when he finally got it hooked was a genuine mark out moment for me, but Hechicero/Lee was an absolute mess and after three falls (good or bad) to finish on a piece of cheating wasn't cool. Satanico could have made it work. Sangre Chicana too. Perro Aguayo. Cien Caras. But Hechicero's not in that ball park as rudo.
It's worth point out that everybody who's seen this bout has liked it. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. I wanted to like it since it's not every day you have four good workers in a trios. I gave it a second chance, and even a third as I was writing this up, but despite some good points it just didn't move me like good trios wrestling should. Virus is absolutely awesome, though.
El Dandy/La Fiera/Ultimo Dragon vs. Negro Casas/Black Magic/Jaque Mate (5/17/94)
This was just a 15 minute, straight falls win for the technicos, with a bit of dissension among the rudos, but man were the Casas/Dandy exchanges good. They had an opening mat exchange that was very reminiscent of their work from '92; where the purpose of each hold was to show who's boss. Casas would take Dandy down face first to canvas and slap him in the back of the head or pull his hair, and Dandy would use his athleticism to escape, flaunting his machismo while slowly getting ticked off. I often mention how Dandy lost a lot of his athleticism after '91, but he was trimmer here than in a lot of his post-prime work and moving extremely well. Eventually he got frustrated with Casas, and they had a slapping contest that let to some feisty headlock take downs; but when everyone flooded the ring, Dandy shook Casas' hand to calm things down, showing that their rivalry was built on mutual respect as much as contempt. Then as an added bonus, we got a surprisingly good mat exchange between Norman Smiley and Ultimo Dragon with a lot of quick movement and jockeying for position before the necessities of the story line took over. It's a shame Casas and Dandy didn't have more singles matches together as they were clearly one of the best pairings of all-time, but kudos to the guy who found and uploaded this as it was one of the better lucha exchanges I've seen in a while.
Tony Arce/Vulcano/Bestia Salvaje vs. Apolo Dantes/Cesar Dantes/El Antifaz (3/29/91)
This started off a bit low key, but picked up as they did more crowd pleasing spots. It was during a somewhat aimless period for Los Destructores where they were without a regular partner and had a different rudo fill in most nights. Bestia was the man here and was having a whale of a time, bumping like a fool and letting out huge cackles. He was a fantastic wrestler at this point and in the prime of his life. The form on his flog splash was beautiful. Cesar Dantes also impressed me here. He's not a guy I've seen a lot of, but he was a compact sort of worker who brought some neat offensive touches to the match, kind of like Javier Cruz.
Lizmark vs. La Parka, National Light Heavyweight Championship match (9/9/94)
As a title match, this was a joke: Lizmark spent more time fighting La Parka's second, Vulcano, than Parka, Parka won two falls with fouls, and most of what they did wouldn't fly in an apuesta match let alone a title bout. As a spectacle, it was worth watching just to see how far they would go. There were a couple of amusing moments, like someone in the crowd putting their hat on Lizmark while he sold a beat down and Parka gyrating with the belt around his waist, but in the main they just shat on lucha title match wrestling; which is a real kick in the balls, Parka style, as I was pumped to discover there was a trilogy of these matches.
El Satanico/MS-1/Pirata Morgan vs. El Dandy/Konnan/Octagon (11/15/91)
Short semi-final for the World Trios title tournament that was neither here nor there. Konnan was terrible, but Dandy and Octagon spared their side any blushes by having some awesome ring-clearing exchanges with the Infernales. None of the rudos were at their best, though, which made this a bit more uneventful than it could have been.
El Dandy/El Satanico/El Texano vs. Angel Azteca/Atlantis/Xavier Cruz (4/13/90)
1990 may be my favourite year in lucha, but I haven't watched much of the Azteca stuff in a while. This was a rare case of all six guys in the match being good, so what we got was a spotfest of sorts where the rudos tried to show their technique was superior or equal to the technicos. Folks looking for swings in momentum or any sort of storytelling will be disappointed, but for rapid fire exchanges this one is tough to beat. As per usual, it's the singles matches that could have come out of this that was the most enticing part. Texano was amazingly athletic in this and his exchanges with Azteca made him look like a much better dance partner for Angel than Emilio was, and the Dandy/Atlantis exchange at the end is so beautiful and intricate that they were surely the best possible match-up of 1990, making it a damn shame that their only recorded bout wasn't a proper match.
Perro Aguayo vs. Sangre Chicana, cage match (Monterrey 1991)
This had the usual amount of blood and violence from Chicana vs. Aguayo, but there was too much bullshit with the ref for it to be considered good and it was painfully slow at times. The crowd got a kick out of the ref being stripped to his underwear, but even though Aguayo used the ref's shirt sleeve to choke the life out of Chicana, shit like that did nothing to spark my enthusiasm. The best thing about this was a television ad where a pizza guy hopped into the ring and delivered right to the apron. That had a lot more action than the endless low blows and wandering about.
Charles Lucero vs. Blue Panther, WWA World Middleweight Championship, Lucha Libre Azteca 5/9/2004
This was a good match, but not a great one.
Much of that boils down to expectations. When I first heard there was a Panther vs. Lucero singles match, I started wondering what it looked like and how they worked it. I practically booked the thing in my head. I had fantasies of a match that resembled the 1992 title match between Santo and Espanto Jr, forgetting that these two workers are well past their primes and that Panther is a questionable singles worker in my view. At first the bout was a disappointment, then I watched it a second and a third time, each time shedding my expectations and trying to find a way into the match. Unfortunately, that hook never really came, but the more I watched it and the less I cared about it being one of the greatest matches of all time, the more I began to appreciate some of the smaller touches.
The match opened with a ten minute fall, which is a variation on the natural rhythm of a lucha libre title match. An extended mat work fall is more common in trios than in singles matches; ordinarily, ten minutes of mat work would be a mat lover's dream, but while I appreciated that they were able to work a mat fall with an escalating sense of jeopardy, I couldn't really mask my disappointment with the quality of the work. The holds weren't bad, but there was a lot of dressing and undressing of holds, and not a tremendous amount of struggle even if they did perspire a lot from the length of the fall. There was one sequence in particular that really took me out of the match. It was a full nelson sequence where Lucero tried to counter it by breaking the hold and dropping to the mat, where he'd roll backwards and try to catch Panther in a body scissors. Now I like funk in my lucha, but Panther reapplied the nelson and Lucero ended up doing a standard switch, which was really boring and made the whole sequence flat. That may seem like a small gripe, but I didn't like it.
Panther caught Lucero with the Fujiwara arm bar then they did a segunda caida where Lucero took a gamble and started running the ropes. There's always a risk when you go to the ropes as a missed move is all it takes to lose the fall, but it paid off for Charles. Then we got a neat opening to the third fall where Panther was aggressively working towards a second submission with Lucero hanging on by his teeth. Lucero's selling of his leg was excellent and his submission counters were well timed. There was a headlock submission where he kept wrenching at it that could have easily won the bout, and I would have rather seen them go with a straight submission win than the surprise small package Lucero scored after Panther had all but submitted him in the ropes.
I guess my problem with this was that Panther took too much of the bout and Lucero's win came across as a fluke. It almost felt like Panther coming up to Nuevo Leon to lead some local by the nose instead of the maestro vs. maestro bout it should have been. I don't think it's any coincidence that I've preferred the bouts where Lucero's the vet and takes that lead role. Still, it was Panther vs. Lucero, and well worth your time (and possibly more than that) depending on your take on it.
Rush vs. Shocker, hair vs. hair, CMLL 3/21/14
This wasn't your papa's hair vs. hair match, but then what is these days? I was ready to write this off as another CMLL apuesta match that fails to keep the traditions alive, but they actually won me over with their physicality. It wasn't as measured as an old-school hair match where they flail about selling, but they hit each other hard and there was even a bit of hard way blood. They rushed through it even quicker on TV, but at least there was no let up. Rush is like a modern, super athletic version of Perro Aguayo, and Shocker is this fat, middle-aged Guapo, who's rediscovered his admiration for the craftsmanship of lucha through regular brawls. This was spotty, but it was good spotty, and even though it was Shocker's first hair loss they didn't beat you over the head with those cinematic narratives that everyone's so fond of these days. There was just a lot of stomping.
Rush, Marco Corleone y La Mascara vs. Negro Casas, Shocker y Ripper, CMLL 3/28/14
This continued the whole Perro Aguayo/Sangre Chicana/Faraon thing that Rush, Casas and Shocker have going on, but was otherwise worthless.
Magno vs. Cassandro, Arena Kalaka 3/23/14
I dig Cassandro's indy-fied version of lucha and it was cool to see it in a Mexican setting. This may be the most pleasing one fall lucha possible, and Cassandro's bumping was beyond the call of duty for a tiny gig in Ciudad Juarez, but that's Cassandro for you I suppose. Few wrestlers show the same attention to detail and commitment to selling night in, night out and certainly not after so many years of performing. A fabulous worker who doesn't get enough of the spotlight.
Villano IV vs. Chessman, AAA Latin American Championship, AAA 3/16/14
This would have made a good mano a mano bout if it hadn't been a title match, but eh, it's the closest thing to an old-school Villanos brawl in the old Monterrey bullring we'll get to see, if you can excuse the bright blue, six-sided ring. There was plenty of Villanos style "technical brawling" along with punching, and of course blood. Chessman didn't bother me, even if he can only really work by setting up and executing high spots rather than any sort of fluid sequences. The only erroneous thing he did was the obvious blade job. Some people complained about the finish, and while the execution wasn't that great, I thought it was a great way to knock the stuffing out of an old warrior like Villano IV.
Atlantis vs. Negro Casas, CMLL 1/27/14
There was a time when this would have been a dream match. Obviously, that time is not now, but curiosity got the better of me on this one and I was pleasantly surprised. It was a short brawl and inconsequential, but Atlantis' selling was excellent and his comebacks made this feel more complete than any of the short lucha matches of the past few years. For what it's worth, I thought this was better than the Virus/Panther or Panther/Casas lightning matches. Definitely sensed the potential for an apuesta match between the two if CMLL ever head down that route.
Hechicero vs. Barbero Cavernerio, CMLL 4/8/14
This was a bit over-hyped. Hechicero has long been the best wrestler in Mexico not working for either CMLL or AAA and Barbero Cavernerio is fun in Puebla under card matches, but they didn't exactly set the world on fire here. When Hechicero was in control it felt like he was working a regular match on fast forward, trying to hit the same points you would in a two-out-of-three falls match in tournament wrestling, and when Cavernerio was in control it slowed down without a proper heat segment on Hechicero, who had just taken a big spill on a missed dive. Hechicero's comeback wasn't one to get the blood flowing and the whole thing felt like a series of spots between two wrestlers you're supposed to like.
Galactar y Rico Rodriguez vs. Alberto Dos Rios y Charles Lucero, ACM 3/9/14
I didn't pay too much attention to what the other guys were doing, but when Lucero was in, he showed he could still work rapid fire lucha sequences, at least with the younger guys. So, I guess the slower exchanges in the title match had more to do with Silver Star's bumping than Lucero's timing. These one fall Monterrey tags are completely unnoteworthy, but it's good to see Lucero is an even more complete worker than I thought.
Diluvio Negro I, Diluvio Negro II y Silver Star vs. Antifaz del Norte, Charles Lucero y Sergio Romo Jr., ACM 1/24/10
This was really fun. It was like those early 90s Monterrey trios matches only in 2010. Monterrey is famous for its bloody brawls and wacky gimmicks, but it also has its own style of trios matches. If I were to have a go at describing them, I'd call them free spirited affairs with plenty of fun exchanges. Everyone stepped in and had the kind of pure lucha exchanges you go out of your way to see. Silver Star was a whole lot better four years ago and had some crisp exchanges with Lucero, but they were basically all good, and this was blissfully uncomplicated.
Chucho Mar Jr., Stuka Jr. y Sombra de Plata vs. Charles Lucero, Caifan I, y Super Comando, Gimnasio Nuevo Leon 1/18/04
Decent mat opening with Lucero and Chucho Mar. Not a blow-away pairing, but they spent plenty of time on the mat. After that, it was mostly rope running and dives. Stuka's spots were fun if you haven't seen them in a while.
Hijo Del Centurion Negro, Rey Hechicero y Símbolo vs. Black Spirit, Charles Lucero y Golden Boy, ACM 7/21/13
This was worth watching for the Hechicero/Lucero exchanges, but was a bit of a mess otherwise. Lucero was really off on his double teaming spots, which is the first time I've seen Lucero look weak in any area, but his exchanges with Hechicero were too good to label it a weak performance overall. I wouldn't say any of the exchanges added to the singles matches they had, but since we're unlikely to see this match-up again any time soon it's worth flicking on if you're looking for more of their work.
El Ninja, Hector Garza y Ruben Juarez Jr vs. Blue Fish, Charles Lucero y Gato del Ring, Monterrey 11/11/92
Yep, early 90s Charles Lucero is awesome. You knew that it would be, but here's the confirmation.
This was a fun Monterrey trios that took place a few months after Garza's debut. Lucero was about as close to his prime as we have on tape, Gato del Ring was one of those awesome Monterrey style journeymen who usually do all the wacky gimmicks, and Blue Fish is a legendary Monterrey rudo. This was my first time to see Blue Fish and he didn't disappoint. His sparring with "El Ninja" Mario Segura and the way he orchestrated his team's attack showed all the hallmarks of a great rudo worker. Garza and Juarez were fresh faced kids here. They wore these matching shorts that made them look like outcasts from a Japanese shoot fed. Juarez looked the better of the two and had a fun opening exchange with Gato del Ring, but their best contribution to the match was a neat two-man variation on a gori special that I would totally pinch if I were a modern day trio. Segura did all of Stuka and Super Astro's signature spots and worked a nice pace, but this was all about the rudos and getting to see Lucero work. His bumping and selling had that extra bit of snap to it, and he looked like the complete worker from his rolling bumps through to his double teams with Blue Fish.
Cuadrangular Copa Lugman 2014 (Panthro, Charles Lucero, Silver Star, Tigre Universitario), ACM 1/19/14
Only in Monterrey could an unmasked Panthro still be wrestling in 2014. This was a four way elimination match to decide the winner of a tiny little cup called the "Lugman." I don't usually care for these type of three or four way bouts, but hey when you're wrestling for the Lugman that's different. Actually, it was more like a straight tag as they worked one on one most of the time. Lucero's opening mat exchange was about as good a mat exchange as I've seen in lucha this year, and certainly the best maestro stuff. Silver Star and Tigre Universitario know a few holds, but their exchanges tend to come unstuck compared to Lucero's work. We got to see a bit more of Silver Star and Lucero here. Nothing they did was quite as good as their title match, but it was still an interesting series of exchanges. A double pin cleared them out of the way and then Panthro showed some maestro skills of his own to take out the Lugman. The audience, which was a lot healthier than the anemic title match crowd, seemed to like the dives and threw money in the ring. I dunno if it was worth coin, but it was definitely watchable.
Charles Lucero y Silver Star vs. Tigre Universitario y Panthro, Arena Gladiadores, January 2014
Arena Gladiadores, looks more like a loading bay than a wrestling arena. This was a handheld shot from ringside, reminding me of the old Black Terry Jr days. Like the Black Terry crew, these four have been wrestling this match for the past decade or so, and it was very much the Monterrey version of those Naucalpan bouts. I don't know what was wrong with the ring here, but the mat wasn't stretched all the way over the canvas and it looked like they were wrestling on a duvet at times. For that reason, they kept the exchanges pretty simple and mostly went through their stock exchanges. The version I watched was missing the opening Lucero/Panthro mat work, but a different upload provided the action. I'm enjoying their work together, and I've got to give props to Panthro. Twenty three years after he unmasked and he's still wearing Panthro-style Thundercat costumes. Either he can't afford any new duds or that's some serious dedication to your gimmick. Not worth going out of your way to see, but it fills a gap that the IWRG guys once did.
Alberto Dos Rios y Charles Lucero vs. Androide y Diluvio Negro I, ACM 2/16/14
Lucha tournament wrestling. You all know the drill. Albert Dos Rios and Diluvio Negro I got most of the ring time, and went too long with too little purpose, but Lucero continues to look like Black Terry and Negro Navarro rolled into one.
Silver Star vs. Charles Lucero, WWA World Middleweight Championship, ACM 3/2/14
Charles Lucero is quickly becoming a must-see worker for me. At present, I'd rate him as the second best maestro in the country behind Virus.
This was a really old-school style title match worked on a stained and faded canvas in front of a tiny Monterrey crowd, and carried all of the traditions of UWA style Monterrey title matches. Watching this, it was easy to imagine what it must have been like to watch Lucero work the Northern circuit during the 80s and early 90s. The first fall was an exhibition in pure lucha libre. It reminded me of how Blue Panther used to wrestle back when he actually wrestled, and how he still sometimes does when he works ACM. Lucero's opponent, Silver Star, worked a type of early BIg Van Vader gimmick; and while it looked like Lucero was feeding him everything, Star did just enough to make it seem like he knew his way around the ring. It was obvious on the slow mo of the finishing sequence (which looked like a slow mo of footage already in slow motion) that Lucero used to be a lot quicker with these elaborate sequences, but the beauty of these old school maestro matches is about the form and not so much the execution.
Lucero had the class to win two-nil and very nearly did if not for a slick arm drag counter from Silver Star that fed into a torture rack submission. It was a short fall that allowed the champ to strike back immediately, but Lucero's bumping style and the way he sold the torture rack was classical lucha libre.
The third fall was your archetypal tercera caida with the action going backwards and forwards as both men tried to win it. I don't know if they went to the end of the line, but they went about as far as you can in front of such a small audience. Dives gave way to submissions, which gave way to suplex attempts. Silver Star looked like he might have the power to win, while Lucero looked like he had all the nous. Both men missed moves from the top rope, as the bout began to slow, then the turning point came when Silver Star missed a big running senton off the apron and suffered a heavy landing on the floor. Lucero was banged up himself, which put a neat twist into the final minutes, but he had just enough to get the big man back to canvas and deliver a second rope senton. A short elbow followed and was clear that Lucero had some pretty bad ass offence, while all the while selling beautifully. He went to the well again from the top and was caught in the torture rack for a second time, but managed to evade it this time and tie the champion in an absolute knot to cap off an extremely good match.
If you like old-school lucha then Lucero is a name you need to start punching into internet search engines.
Lizmark vs. Ulises, NWA World Light Heavyweight Championship match (CMLL 4/13/90)
Solid albeit unspectacular title match between Lizmark and a then masked Tony Salazar. The opening matwork was built around a number of Lizmark takedowns, as he worked toward the submission he was looking for. Both workers played around with an armbar theme before promptly dropping it, no doubt displeasing those looking for some sort of continuity in their wrestling. Salazar brought back the armbar during the passage where he was overpowering Lizmark, and drove him shoulder first into the turnbuckle a couple of times from a hammerlock position, but targeting a body part isn't a common trope in lucha and it came across as a transition more than anything else. The match cut off after a tope left both men sprawled on the floor; a fitting end to a match I didn't desperately need to see the finish to.
Lizmark vs. Satanico, NWA World Light Heavyweight Championship match (CMLL 7/17/92)
In theory, these two should have been the Flair vs. Steamboat of Mexico, but they never seem to put it all together. This match is a case in point. Lizmark wrestles a beautiful opening caida. His takedowns are quick and aggressive and frustrate Satanico to no end, to the point where Satanico starts grabbing at Lizmark's face and then feigns that he's not really aggravated. Lizmark then uses his athleticism to keep his distance from Satanico and peppers him with dropkicks and headbutts and back breakers. When they do engage in more close quarters grappling, Satanico can't make much headway, and the only hint of an advantage is for him to overpower Lizmark through brawling. Lizmark prevails, however, and in the end it's quite a dominant fall from the challenger. It's by no means a bad fall of wrestling, but for such a long caida there was little in the way of counter wrestling from Satanico. You can chalk that up to excellent strategy from the challenger, but to make that narrative work you need a payoff and that's something which was sorely lacking from the second caida.
Lizmark dominated the early going as he should, which had me waiting for the genius Satanico transition that would tip the match on its head. But that transition was simply a missed headbutt into the corner. A couple of power moves later, and a submission, was all it took for Satanico to even up the bout even though Lizmark had enjoyed probably three quarters of the offence. Yes it's lucha, but I'm used to better than that from Satanico, who's one of the smartest wrestlers around when it comes to the big turning points in matches. The third caida began with some fairly intense submission work and the repeated motif of the back breaker, but their attempts to make it seem "even stevens" lacked conviction, and Lizmark continually seemed like the fresher, more dominant wrestler. Satanico's selling throughout the third fall was excellent, but why Lizmark was made to look like such an incredibly strong challenger is a mystery. He absolutely dominated this match on points. Worst of all was the booking of the finish. Perhaps they'd backed themselves into a corner where the finish was always going to be against the run of play, but a contentious and fluky counter pin from a surfboard was just about the worst way for Satanico to retain his title. Satanico is one of the all-time great wrestlers, and rudo or not, didn't need parlour tricks to beat his rivals. All told it was a bad showing from him, and even though the match itself wasn't bad, Lizmark got far too much of the offence, denying us an all-time classic.
Lizmark vs. Jerry Estrada, National Light Heavyweight Championship match (AAA 7/9/95)
They fucked around at the beginning getting rid of Tirantes, which rid us of his bullshit, then ended the match with a DQ when the seconds Rey Mysterio, Jr. and Psicosis began fighting with each other. Is it any wonder why I hate this promotion? In between there was some decent action, but it was very much Lizmark vs. Estrada by the numbers.
Lizmark vs. La Parka, National Light Heavyweight Championship match (AAA 7/18/94)
This took a long time to get going. The action wasn't bad, but it was the single longest feeling out period I've seen in lucha. In fact, it was kind of strange compared to the lucha I'm used to. Of course this being AAA, they couldn't help themselves and made the finish to each fall screwy, and there was some completely non-traditional mask ripping in the third fall that would have had Louis Spota, the long time president of the Comisión de Box y Lucha Libre, spinning in his grave. Parka actually bladed, which is even more sacrilegious. Despite all this, the action was very good, with Lizmark having to increasingly bust out his bigger offence to put Parka away. Come to think of it, it was quite Americanised in that respect. I was a little disappointed that we didn't see the explosive Parka matwork and striking game that the '93 match brought us, but for a match that circled around some pretty bullshit booking, this was more than passable.