Mocho Cota vs. Americo Rocca (1/27/84)
Mocho Cota vs. Americo Rocca (2/3/84)
Mocho Cota is such a compelling worker.
On one hand, he looks like an evil genius like the Master from Dr. Who. On the other hand, he's so hyper with his pre-match taunting that when you hear the Bihari relayed stories about how he lost his fingers he may just be a maniac who's on something. Maybe with his "deformity" he's got a whole "if I cannot prove a lover, I'm determined to prove a villain" Richard III thing going on. Whatever the case, he laughs like a madman.
Like all of the truly great workers, he puts an amazing amount of detail into his work. Whether he's working from the top or bottom, he's constantly selling. If it's a hold he's applying, he's always moving, shifting, trying to gain more leverage, selling the effort in his face. You've heard all the cliches about it being a game of human chess and having to think two or three moves ahead. It sounds like Larry Z on an episode of Worldwide, but Cota is that type of worker. The matwork in these matches isn't for show or to undo each other, it's a step-by-step effort at dismantling the opposition, and behind that veneer of maniacal laughter is a great wrestling mind. One of the best on the set.
I didn't pay enough attention to the January match the first time I watched it. It really is a veritable masterpiece. Some of the best matwork in the history of lucha on tape. The rematch is beautiful and the matwork in the first caida may be even better than the January match. Americo Rocca deserves a ton of credit for the matches being good as he was a more than capable mat worker who shone in the more difficult role of technico, and his selling was every bit as careful and measured as Cota's. They should be commended for working two different mat classics only days apart, but for me it was Cota who really stood out. This was the first time I really saw him being on the level of a Satanico and elevated him to that tier of lucha workers. Watch his reactions in these matches. The way he sells the "strangleholds" that Rocca applies after they've been broken. The way he pounds his fist into his hand when a well planned sequence doesn't pay dividends, or the cocky strut when he knows Rocca has submitted even before the bell. The seriousness with which he wrestles the second caida of the rematch and his selling when he loses a fall demonstrate his range. There's never a point where he isn't selling. I loved the part after the second match where the kids are heckling him at ringside and he scares the shit out of them like a one handed Boogie Monster.
These are also great matches for rudo fans as the old adage of "cheat to win" has never been so boldly played out in a lucha libre title match. Cheating of this magnitude usually doesn't occur in a lucha libre match, but Cota's genius makes all things permissible. The wonderful thing about the rematch is that I found myself wanting Rocca to win. They probably went a beat or two beyond what they needed in that second caida, as I thought Cota could have ended it sooner and added the remainder onto the third caida, but still I was pulling for Cota to knock off the bastard. The fact he lost in such screwy circumstances without Cota actually cheating was poetic and Cota rubbing it in to all in sundry was deliriously good. The part where he openly mocks Rocca by laughing at him is such poor sportsmanship for a title match and so removed from Satanico's near face turn in the Gran Cochisse fight that it almost blew my mind.
I am really high on Mocho Cota.
So the DVDVR set has finally been released and with it a great opportunity for folks to be introduced to lucha or have their exposure broadened. I'm going to write about a few matches I haven't seen before or which interest me for some reason, starting with this Chicana title fight.
Sangre Chicana vs. Ringo Mendoza (10/28/83)
First thing's first, Mocho Cota was the coolest looking second. Wearing a t-shirt and towel over suit pants and pointed leather shoes with his fresh for '83 hair cut that Gran Cochisse had inflicted on him the month before. I love that he's still sporting his Faustian beard. That motherfucker was one cool cat.
Sangre Chicana is one of the greatest brawlers in lucha libre history and a tremendous performer. This was when he was still a man of the people and hadn't degenerated into one of the scummiest looking wrestlers who ever lived, and a rare opportunity to see him tackle the art of title match wrestling. The impression I got was that he wasn't much of a mat worker. He knew a few holds, but this was worked as more of a mano a mano bout than a lucha title match and I don't think it was because of Ringo, whom I've seen have some impressive first caida mat outings.
What I did like about this was the general structure. It wasn't a great match by any stretch of the imagination but it had a steady build. I liked how cagey they were with their early approaches and how the first hold they agreed to ended up on the outside and back in the ring. The facets of pro-wrestling that Chicana excelled at were intensity and selling and that gave his matches a real energy even when they were low arcing and minimalistic like this one. There was a backbreaker spot that I thought could be the finish. I hadn't bitten on a near fall like that in ages and it was totally because of Chicana's selling.
Where this match fell over was the finish. Double pin finishes suck. You can hem and haw and try to justify them but it's an immutable truth. It didn't seem to bother the crowd though as they mobbed Chicana at the end and carried him out on their shoulders, which seemed like a bit of an over-reaction to what actually happened in the ring, but was another snapshot of how wrestling used to be in Mexico back when fans could still enter the ring. The guy waving to his family was a great "Hi, Mom" moment for the cameras.
Been watching a lot of rudo-driven matches this week, so this one's a tribute to rudoism.
Rey Bucanero, Satanico y Emilio Charles Jr. vs. Apolo Dantes, Black Warrior y Dr. Wagner Jr., CMLL 3/21/97
This was a one fall, rudos contra rudos final to decide the vacant trios titles. Since it was a title match, the rudos kept with tradition and worked a technical match instead of brawling with each other. For a single fall match it was a well worked bout and could have been something special if it had been three falls. I loved seeing Satanico work the mat with Wagner. Wagner was one of the unsung heroes of '97 and Satanico was still an extraordinarily talented wrestler at this point. He had a diminishing role within the company after his return from AAA, which I can understand from the promoter's point of view, but as the biggest Satanico mark I know there are so many match-ups I wish we'd gotten with Satanico as a lead guy. This was cool, though, because you weren't getting Satanico vs. Wagner without a turn. The spot where they butt heads with both hands behind their backs should be aped in twenty thirteen.
Mascara Año 2000, Universo 2000 y Miguel Perez vs. Pierroth, Apolo Dantes y Emilio Charles Jr., CMLL 10/6/95
This was rudos contra rudos the way it's supposed to be. If Dusty had been calling this, he would've hollered: "there's no honour among thieves in the first place, Alfonso Morales!" This had it all really. Emilio was stretchered out with a rib injury only to return later in the match and have his ass handed to him. Pierroth and Apolo Dantes fought against their opponents three on two, Dantes bladed, the Dinamitas came within a whisker of turning on Perez for eating a fall, and there was a general feeling that this wasn't your regular night out at the wrestling. And to make matters better, it ended in excessive rudosim.
Tinieblas Jr, La Fiera y Negro Casas vs. Los Villanos IV, V y Bestia Salvaje, CMLL 7/3/98
Satanico, Black Warrior y Villano III vs. Tinieblas Jr, El Felino y Negro Casas, CMLL 7/28/98
One good thing about 1998 is that you get a lot of Casas vs. Villano III. Sometimes in lucha, trios are the only way you get to see particular match-ups and you're left with these fleeting exchanges to satisfy you. On the other hand, trios teach you which workers were good at working with anybody and are a great leveler in that respect. It's one thing to have an exchange with Negro Casas for the ages and another thing entirely to make Tinieblas Jr. look worthy of stepping in a ring. Tinieblas' biggest problem was that he was a billed 6'4", which was closer to his real height than a worked figure in respect to the size difference between him and most luchadores, and he stuck out like a sore thumb in terms of being less talented. Satanico showed his class by carrying him through some respectable exchanges and Villano IV wasn't far off, but the notable thing about these trios was how good Casas was. I've mentioned before that I don't like the direction Casas took post-97, but these matches were cause for reappraisal. The intensity with which Casas worked and his selling ability made him seem like the best guy in Mexico in 1998, possibly in the world. What we don't have are the singles matches to drive that home, as Casas worked a three match stint with Panther and Satanico to lust for but nothing that made tape. Still, if you're a Casas fan you're going to want to track his starring roles in matches like these.
Scorpio Jr. vs. El Hijo del Santo, Leyenda de Plata final, CMLL 7/31/98
This was nice in that the rudo won in front of his father and all but the match itself lacked imagination. Scorpio Jr. looked several times worse than in his '97 trios matches and I couldn't help but think that if Casas had been his opponent it would've been a much better match as Casas was a level above Santo at this point, particularly at selling where there was no real comparison. In fairness to Santo, the match was truncated and he couldn't work the typical El Hijo del Santo formula, but as I said with El Dandy and Signo recently and saw again with Casas and Satanico in this week's viewing, some workers are able to make any exchange look good even against a borderline stiff like Scorpio through their selling and body language, and I'm not sure that Santo was one of those guys. He'll probably prove me wrong in some random trios to come but it didn't happen here.
Scorpio Jr, Bestia Salvaje y Pierroth Jr vs. Atlantis, Hijo del Santo y Negro Casas, CMLL 8/20/99
This was total carnage. My enduring image of this was the conclusion with bodies lying everywhere, Santo needing to be stretchered and Casas, having leapt from his own stretcher bed to re-enter the cauldron, surveying the battle scene from the ramp. The technico side was stacked, but the rudos leveled the playing field by making this a pure brawl. Pierroth was never the same after 1992, but he was good value here as the kind of prick who'd partner with Scorpio and Bestia. He cut an awesome promo with Morales where he stopped halfway through to beat up Atlantis some more then kept cutting the promo. Damn I love lucha.
Felino, La Fiera y Negro Casas vs. Dr. Wagner, Jr., Black Warrior y Scorpio, Jr., CMLL 4/2/97
This was your typical rudos driven trios where it's mostly slower, more methodical brawling interspersed with the occasional rally from the technicos. A lot of people find this style of lucha boring, and I can see the case for that, but to me matches like these are a strong measure of how creative a rudo is. To prevent these matches from becoming a bore, you really have to make the control segments interesting and I think Wagner around this time grew into one of the rudos capable of doing that. In fact, Casas vs. Wagner is one of my favourite match-ups from '97 that nobody really thinks about when they think about 1997. This was just another installment in a series of rolling trios kind of like how there's been a large number of Casas vs. Rush trios this year, but it's one those matches that shows the quality of TV and depth of the roster for this particular year.
Negro Casas, Black Warrior y Emilio Charles Jr vs. Mr.Niebla, El Dandy y Silver King, CMLL 9/6/96
Man, El Dandy must have done some pretty hard living between 1991 and 1996 because he doesn't look anything like he did during his green-eyed, best in the world days. He was still a quality worker, though, and his exchanges with Casas were class. I thought they stole the show a bit from Silver King and Emilio, who were supposed to have the main issue here, but I guess that's a consequence of them being so good. I was also impressed with Mr. Niebla in this match. For once he looked like the future maestro he was made out to be at the time.
Felino, La Fiera y Negro Casas vs. Blue Panther, Scorpio Jr. y El Hijo del Santo, CMLL 11/28/97
This was another "story match" where they shuffled along the angle of Santo turning face and teaming with Casas to take on Scorpio and Bestia. Casas was elite here again. I'm not sure there's ever been a better guy in Mexico at working feuds. He pretty much takes on all three guys at once in this match and you could easily imagine it splintering off into him feuding with all three simultaneously. And his look after losing his hair to Santo is probably the best look he ever had. I'm almost tempted to dub this his "badass" phase for a guy who's traditionally been an exhibitionist who blurred the lines a bit about his sexuality. Bestia was at ringside with that fucking nose. Jesus, he looked like W.C. Fields with that honker. Scorpio & Bestia did their horsemen act on Casas, Santo objected to it on principle and the promotion continued the slow tease on the Mega Powers combining. Felino and Panther were superfluous to requirements, but did a few good things. I can't remember if Santo did his tope during this match, but throughout this week's viewing I kept thinking about how Santo's tope has got to be top five. It just looks so good every single time.
Rey Mysterio Jr. vs. Juventud Guerrera (AAA handheld 3/16/96)
I was all ready to moan about how this wasn't real lucha, but the first two falls of this were actually really cool. It was a really spiteful match compared to most Rey Mysterio vs. Juventud Guerrera bouts and the atmosphere was fantastic with a seat right at ringside and a pan of the arena that made it seem like an amphitheater. There were a lot of neat details that a pro shot match would never dwell on, like a "long take" of Rey Mysterio in his corner trying to recover before the next round. I was really impressed with Juventud in this match. He's not a worker I've ever fully embraced, but there was a real sting to his offence here and from the moment they spat at each other, he brought a real intensity to the match. Of course, anybody who knows anything about this match knows what happens in the third fall. There's a series of run-ins which are indefensible. They don't just ruin the match as a contest, but they decimate it. It's bad enough that it's not worth watching the match, but if you can tolerate the unbelievable shittiness of the third fall the first two falls are excellent.
Dr Wagner Jr vs. LA Park (TXT 5/11/13)
This isn't the kind of wrestling I like but I forced myself to watch it because so many people are saying it's one of the matches of the year. Usually when there's crowd brawling and chair shots I start to tune out. I can't figure out what was wrong with a good old fashioned ring posting and a little bit of brawling out on the floor, but I will say that as far as dragging a guy through the crowd and the stunts that go along with it, so to speak, these guys are pretty good. I didn't love what they did, but matches like these are all about visuals and they created some great ones. By the time the third caida rolled round, you had Parka with this horrendous blade job that the ref, Black Terry, had to tear off a strip of his mask or something to tie round his head to stop the bleeding, and Wagner with his eyes almost bulging out of his mask, all glass-eyed, probably from the numerous chair shots and Parka slamming his head repeatedly into the mat. The doc did some running repairs on Parka while he was out on the floor, but the bandage went flying as soon as he was back inside. A few people had a problem with the back and forth, your turn/my turn nature of the third caida, but I thought it was pretty typical. In matches like these, the workers tend to take turns dominating the opening two caidas and then the third caida is largely 50/50. They could've done a better job with the overlapping of the falls perhaps and had a third caida turning point similar to the spear into the chairs that began Wagner's comeback in the second fall, but I didn't really find myself wishing for more. The match was largely okay. The finish was bullshit, but that was always on the cards. They could have cut out a bit of the crowd brawling and tightened things up a bit, but I can see the appeal the match has. With the tinge of grey that Wagner was showing and Parka being fat and middle-aged, I did wonder about who'd be better off losing their mask if their long awaited mask match ever pans out. I'm thinking that Parka is so dependent on the skeleton costume that losing the mask would be a pretty big blow. Wagner could probably do his Rock rip-off schtick and still be over. Mind you, I'll probably be middle-aged by the time they find a money mark to put up the cash. Do check this out.
Rey Mysterio Jr. vs. Juventud Guerrera (AAA 4/21/95)
This was better than I remembered. It's a good thing I watched it during this period where I've softened on AAA. It wasn't really lucha (ha, there's the moan), but it was reasonably well worked and probably the best Rey vs. Juvi match from AAA. There were a couple of things they blew, but the match had a good energy to it and there was an obvious chemistry between the workers. Psicosis worked the corner well with his FMW t-shirt that looked like it was personally signed by Atsushi Onita. There was a spot I really dug where Juvi had his back turned to Mysterio on the outside and Rey did a tope into his back. That was cool. They did a bunch of other crazy shit too and I've got to give Mysterio his due here: he really is the greatest high flyer of all time. I don't think any of the other flyers have had quite the balance that Mysterio achieved. He really was an extraordinary athlete in his day. I also really dug the way these two would pin each other. If they could have rubbed each other's faces into the mat while getting the three count they would have stuck it to each other. They lent into those pins and there was a whole bunch of extra holding. Good match.
Fuerza Guerrera vs. Mike Segura, hair vs. mask (IWRG 11/4/99)
This was a fun one-fall apuestas match. Segura's a good worker so I was fairly confident this would be worth the watch. He had a real early 90s grunge look going on for this apuestas match and I half expected him to start singing Even Flow, even though he looked closer to Iggy Pop's age than Eddie Vedder in his close-ups. This being one fall was a bit of a twist on the apuestas format as instead of having the match broken up into three there were twists and turns along the way. There wasn't the blood that you associate with hair vs. mask matches and the brawling was mostly limited to Segura ripping Fuerza's mask, but it wasn't a bad little match. I thought the mask ripping was about as interesting as mask ripping can get. There were some really neat touches from Fuerza, as you'd imagine. He's actually had surprisingly few apuestas matches in his career if his record's correct (like half a dozen), so this is worth watching if you're a particularly big Fuerza Guerrera fan, which most of us are. I was amused by the advertisement on the ring apron for IWRG's angelfire site. Those were the days.
Rayo de Jalisco Jr vs. Universo 2000 (CMLL 12/10/99)
This was a fun "CMLL is where the big boys play" match before Villano III and a couple of other rudos did a run-in to attack Atlantis at ringside. Whoever was booking this must have had one eye on the Monday Night Wars. Bit of a crock really, but fun to see Rayo and Universo Dos Mil dropping bombs.
El Hijo Del Santo, Fuerza Guerrera y Villano III vs. Negro Casas, Shocker y Felino (CMLL 9/4/98)
1998 was a real come down for CMLL after their amazingly hot 1997. They still had an extraordinarily talented roster, but the booking became lax and things turned average pretty quickly. I still think they dragged the Santo technico turn out for too long, though Jose disagreed with me over that the last time we spoke. Week after week of the rudos not wanting Santo in the club anymore but the technicos not being ready to welcome him back into the fold got a bit old to me. This was one of those matches, but look at the talent in the match lineup. There's no way this is going to be anything less than an enjoyable television match and that's exactly what they delivered. Some great match-ups in this -- Casas vs. Fuerza and Casas vs. Villano III to go along with the usual Santo vs. Casas riffs. Negro was really good in this and had an MVP night.
Lizmark, La Fiera y Atlantis vs. Bestia Salvaje, Emilio Charles y Dr. Wagner Jr. (CMLL 2/6/98)
Fun match that ends in a big pull-apart between Emilio Charles Jr. and Dr Wagner. It starts off with a bunch of heat between Atlantis and Wagner, actually. Their exchanges spill out of the ring several times and it's all very much apuestas tease stuff with a bunch of ground and pound to take advantage of the UFC's rising notoriety?... Seriously, I don't know why they were doing mounts, but they were. Wagner was really starting to come into his own at this point and cracked me up on a few occasions. Emilio was sporting his Triple H look here. He did some decent stuff with Atlantis before the angle. He couldn't bump like before with all the theatrics, but he was busting ass to get back up after each bump. Bestia didn't get to do much and Lizmark still looked pretty good, but Fiera was actively bad. It was kind of sad, to be honest. Match was still technically fun, though.
La Parka vs. Jerry Estrada, Mexican National Light Heavyweight title, AAA 3/28/95
Man, how good was Parka at this point? He brought the same sort of attitude to this as the Lizmark match, shoving Estrada early and gyrating in his face. And if there was ever a guy who deserved a Park gyration it was Jerry Estrada. This wasn't as epic as the Lizmark match as it had a ton of bullshit with Tirantes, but it was a similar brew of uncooperative matwork and killer high spots. On the Jerry Estrada scale of out of his mind to utterly disinterested, he ranked about an inoffensive, but there was some visible spot calling in the third caida that hurt this a bit. It was also shorter than average for a title match, but that was largely because of the Tirantes angle.
Lizmark vs. Enfermero Jr., NWA World Middleweight Championship, EMLL 8/83
Early 80s lucha has a different vibe to it. It's kind of like when you watch older sports matches and the crowds are completely different from the ones you get today. You watch a match from the Boston Garden for example and it seems like a special time. This was the same. Kids would flood the ring before and after the match, hoping to get an autograph from one of the workers and there was the kind of buzz about the crowd that only happens when there's a solidarity of everybody being there to see the wrestling. And the work itself was different. From the workers' grappling stance to the exaggerated stylings of some of their moves and holds, it seems like early lucha may have been even more expressive than the work we're used to. Enfermero Jr was Jaque Mate before he repackaged himself as such (and had that really fun Intocables run.) His gimmick was an evil nurse. Don't ask me what Mexico has against doctors and nurses, other than some serious mistrust in the healthcare system. The match was really good. It didn't maximise the dramatic potential of a title match, but the work was really strong, and any and all Lizmark is worth watching. Enfermero looked like a capable worker, albeit not a serious challenger to the title.
Satanico/La Parka/Fuerza Guerrera vs. Lizmark/Mascara Sagrada/Volador, AAA 2/15/94
This had a really solid mat exchange between Lizmark and a rather portly looking Satanico, but the AAA style exchanges dragged on and on and eventually this became a bore. Mascara Sagrada looked surprisingly smooth, however. First I softened on AAA, now Mascara Sagrada. What's wrong with me?
Lizmark/Rey Misterio/Rey Misterio Jr. vs. La Parka/Psicosis/Espectro Jr., AAA 5/5/94
This was the kind of all-action match that AAA was good at even if it fell short of a classic. Lizmark again got the mat section, this time with Espectro Jr. They put on some really good exchanges, which were further proof of how good Lizmark was in AAA. The others couldn't really match that pairing, but this had better rhythm in the AAA rope exchanges.
Blue Panther/Fuerza Guerrera/Psicosis vs. El Mariachi/El Charro/El Mexicano, AAA 10/15/94
AAA tended to let only one pairing work the mat in the primera caida. In this case, it was Blue Panther and El Mexicano instead of Panther and Solar. Panther had a couple of short exchanges with Solar later in the mat, but Solar (or El Mariachi as he was packaged here) squared off against Fuerza to start in what was a pretty disappointing match-up. The rudos weren't really on their game here and the technicos, for all their costumes, weren't that charismatic, but it was still okay.
Eddie Guerrero/Art Barr/Lizmark vs. Blue Panther/Fuerza Guerrera/La Parka, AAA 7/11/1993
For a while, Art Barr's life must have been pretty good. Snort some coke, come to the ring to Van Halen, hobnob with Roddy Piper and get plenty of love from the publico. I've never been much of a fan of Love Machine, but I thought he was pretty much perfect here. This was a really hot match from AAA's big '93 run. It's not a great match because of the booking but Parka rocks and just about everyone else is good. Watching this, I began to wonder if Parka was the best worker in Mexico in 1993. I think he certainly has a case. I always thought of Parka as being somewhat green at this time, but watching this stuff is blowing my mind. I can't think of anyone significantly better than him in 1993.
Villano III vs. Rambo, mask vs. mask, UWA 10/25/87
This was the match Cronicas y Leyenda teased us with a few years ago and which I posted so pictures of from DJ Spectro's blog about a year ago. Finally, the bout is in circulation and while it's hurt a bit by clipping what's shown is good enough to take pride of place alongside the other great Luchas de Apuestas matches that exist from the 80s.
The exact chain of events aren't shown in the first two falls, but basically Villano III takes such a beating that his mask is in tatters and his forehead heavily cut. When it comes to lucha bleeders, I know Phil Schneider loves to tell the story about how Pirata Morgan would blade his empty eye socket, and then there's Sangre Chicana and other noted bladers, but I don't think Villano III gets quite his due as a lucha brawler. He's got a forehead to match Perro Aguayo, but people tend to think of him as a technical wrestler, I think. He was tremendous here, especially working his bloodied comeback. Rambo was a solid hand and these two had a series of great matches over the years, but if not for Villano this might have been a bit too heavy on Rambo attempting his finishers. The third fall was what you want from this sort of match -- big sweeping arc, nearfalls, plenty of dives and nutty highspots, and some great moments of desperation. The highlight being Villano's armdrag from the apron, which Rambo took as a really heavy looking bump onto the concrete. The finish was one you don't see a lot of in lucha and that's a chair shot. I wasn't sure how I felt about it at first until Rambo unmasked and began complaining. I loved how it seemed Rambo had a legitimate gripe despite the fact he brought the chair into the ring and that anything generally goes in these type of matches. Rambo got repeatedly screwed in this feud over the years and it amused me to see how it all began. Minus the clipping, this might've had a good shot at my top 10 for the 80s. As it is, it's another piece of 80s treasure.
Fuerza Guerrera vs. Misterioso, NWA World Welterweight Championship match, CMLL 12/8/91
This was exactly what you'd expect from Fuerza Guerrera carrying Misterioso. Not something I really want to see. Some people might appreciate Fuerza putting on a one man show, but to me it reminded me a lot of modern matches where you have a guy like Casas doing all of the work and the recipient not really contributing.
Fishman & Blue Panther vs. Atlantis & Lizmark, CMLL 1/9/98
This was one of those short, one fall tournament bouts that usually don't amount to much, but in this case they decided to take it to that wonderful place we call the mat. It was probably the hardest Fishman had worked on the mat the entire decade and unfortunately he wasn't that crash hot, but what followed was some of the most beautiful lucha libre I've seen in all my years of watching. To my knowledge, there has never been a known Lizmark vs. Blue Panther singles match. This is as close to heaven as we're going to get. To put their work in context, it smoked the Virus/Panther lightening match that got a lot of acclaim this year and was probably better than the best Panther/Atlantis stuff in terms of pure exchanges. I hope I haven't built that up too much, but I watched it again tonight and was blown away a second time. The stand-up stuff wasn't as good and Fishman struggled to keep pace, but there were some fun exchanges between Atlantis and Panther and Panther and Lizmark before the necessary fall to move the tournament ahead. Considering how close this was to the 12/97 Panther/Atlantis match, Panther may have been the best guy in Mexico at this point.
Lizmark vs. La Parka, AAA Triplemania I 4/30/93
This was ridiculously great. I had no idea La Parka could be in a match this good in 1993. This was one of the least co-operative looking lucha matches I've seen. The matwork had a shoot like edge to and later on the dives and all of the offence seemed to have extra impact, and the transitions and set-up spots seemed to be peppered with headbutts and other strikes. The match went to a commissioner enforced "extra period" and even that as gritty. Everything just seemed to work so perfectly. It was like watching 2004 La Parka not the early version. A lot of the credit has to go to Lizmark, I suppose. Lizmark has been off my radar for a while now and I'd forgotten how good he was in AAA. If there's one thing AAA did better than CMLL, and there's probably a few since I'm feeling generous about AAA right now, it's book Lizmark in long title matches. To be honest, when I think of this match and the Estrada match I actually think he was a better singles match worker than Atlantis and should probably rank higher in the lucha hierarchy. This deserves a better write-up than I have the time or energy for right now, but I was super high on it and I hope people check it out. There's no doubt in my mind it's an AAA classic and it would probably push top 20 for the decade if I ever get round to revising my list.
Blue Panther/Fuerza Guerrera/Pierroth vs. Atlantis/Super Astro/Angel Azteca, CMLL 11/8/91
This was nowhere near as good as these teams are capable of, but there was still a lot of talent on show. I liked how we got some match-ups that you don't usually see like Fuerza vs. Angel Azteca. It's always bugged me how they didn't do more with Azteca during his cooling off period. They groomed him to be the next Atlantis, at least in my eyes, and then he fell by the wayside as Octagon got over. Of course they've gotten another two decades out of Atlantis, and there's nothing to suggest he wouldn't have jumped to AAA even with a bigger push, but in my revisionist little brain he ought to have been a bigger star instead of being lost in the shuffle. Anyway, to cut back to the match, the Fuerza/Azteca exchanges were a lot of fun and something you good folks should check out. There was also a great nod to the Atlantis/Panther rivalry where they had a brief stare off before locking up. The negatives were that it was a one fall bout so lacked the rhythm of an ordinary trios match, Pierroth was about 1/5th as good as he'd become in 1992 and they became overly obsessed with double leg takedowns during the finishing stretch.
Blue Panther vs. Octagon, National Middleweight Championship match, AAA 4/30/94
Never heard of this one? Possibly because it's one of the worst title matches in lucha history. You look at this on paper and you think, "gee, I wonder what Blue Panther can do with Octagon in a title match" and then you get an endless repetitious stalling exchange where Octagon won't let Tirantes check his boots, a bunch of non-title match looking action that wouldn't wash in a mano a mano bout, and to top it all off a title change on a freakin' DQ. Octagon spent longer celebrating with whoever the old guy was seconding him and the woman who joined them in the ring at the end than he did wrestling. Really just a joke of a title match.
Atlantis vs. Emilio Charles Jr., NWA World Middleweight Championship match, CMLL 3/22/91
This was a good title match, but not a great one. It was notable for a performance from Emilio Charles, Jr. that was pretty close to prime Charles. It wasn't one of Atlantis' better performances, however, though this was offset somewhat by him doing a lot of long term selling which fit into the narrative of his title being at risk. The first fall had some typically good Atlantis/Charles matwork as these two had a good working chemistry. I liked the way that Charles was able to outfox Atlantis, keep him at arm's distance and finally work his way towards the standing submission he wanted. Intelligent heel workers is one of the things that really endears me to lucha and title matches are obviously where they get to showcase their ability most. Unfortunately, Atlantis' comebacks in the match weren't timed as well as you'd expect. That's an issue as said comebacks are important turning points in lucha libre title matches. Charles covered for the first comeback by producing some of his classic bumping and selling, but things stalled a bit in the third caida. There were some good dives, but Atlantis actually blew the spot he was supposed to make his comeback on. Charles was able to lay into him a bit and cover for the mistake and Atlantis sold the slip like it was a result of match fatigue, but it took me out of the match a bit. And unfortunately, the finish was not so much poor conceived as poorly timed. None of this should take away from a top performance from Emilio, but it's a match that could've been a lot better.
Atlantis/El Dandy/Octagon vs. Satanico/Emilio Charles Jr./Kung Fu, CMLL 10/12/90
One of those fun advance the angle matches. In this case, the main angle was Atlantis vs. Kung Fu with Dandy and Satanico being a secondary issue. Emilio slotted right in there as the guy with historic issues against both Dandy and Atlantis.
Satanico/Mascara Ano 2000/Pirata Morgan vs. El Dandy/Sangre Chicana/El Faraon, CMLL 11/2/90
This was the same sort of story as the match above, but much more disappointing given the talent involved. The highlight of the match for me was Mascara Ano 2000 being thrown to the outside and then flinging himself into the ring post because he was dizzy. That made me laugh. Was expecting far more from the technicos.
Negro Casas/MS-1/Jerry Estrada vs. Atlantis/Mascara Sagrada/Panterita del Ring, Monterrey October 1991
This was pretty piss poor. I wasn't kidding when I said Monterrey was a vacation for some of these guys. Jerry Estrada didn't do anything until a comedy bump after the match where he took out the television interviewer and it took forever for Atlantis to enter the match. Casas was a pest and had some decent exchanges with Panterita, but he also worked this silly submission spot where he had Panterita hunched in the corner and he was standing on the middle rope posing to the crowd and occasionally wrenching the arm as the other rudos meandered around doing lazy rudo brawling. This went on for a good three or four minutes and I probably should have tuned out at that point. Casas did have a rad UWA jacket, though.
Satanico, MS 1 & Pirata Morgan vs. Lizmark, Mascara Sagrada & Atlantis, CMLL 1991
This was a classic Infernales match filled with all sorts of smooth double and triple teaming. We obviously don't have the full picture on lucha libre trios and which teams were the most influential in establishing the style, but it's hard to believe that Los Infernales didn't lay down some of the groundwork in teams of rudo teamwork. This was your run-of-the-mill TV match not your all-time classic that people yearn for, but it's always a pleasure to enjoy how solid these by the numbers television matches were. Lizmark spent a lot of this match with the top of his mask missing and his hair sticking out. He looked a bit like Super MuÃ±eco. He had some beautiful exchanges, but what really stuck out for me on the technico side was how good Sagrada looked. I don't think I've ever seen him as on point as he was here. Not sure if that was because of the Infernales or if Sagrada just had his head together, but it surprised me. There was also a spectacular sequence in the match where Atlantis took on the Infernales three on one, first in the ring and then again on the outside. The Infernales bumped for his spinning back breaker better than anybody else and Pirata took his trademark back bodydrop bump over the top rope which never fails to wow me. This was some seriously exciting stuff and one of Atlantis' best ever trios moments.
"El Ninja", Kato Kung Lee & Super Astro vs. Black Shadow Jr, Invasor II & Espanto Jr, Monterrey 11/91
Great to see Espanto again, one of the most underrated luchadores of this era. Unfortunately, he didn't do anything truly outstanding, even in his exchanges with Super Astro, but Monterrey was a bit of a holiday for the workers at times and this was one of those nights off. The focus was really on the upcoming mask match between El Ninja and Invasor, but Monterrey has always been this hodgepodge of great workers and heavily gimmicked shit. The good workers were only there to make up the numbers, but it was all right. The highlight was probably Super Astro doing his dance routine followed by Kato Kung Lee doing a pretty outstanding imitation of it, but when Astro's dance number is the highlight you might want to skip it.
Negro Casas/Espanto Jr vs. Super Pinocho/Halcon 78, Arena Neza 1992
I doubt anyone will agree with me, but to me Casas was so much more creative in the earlier part of his recorded career than he is now. He wasn't at his sublime best here, but he worked at least one exchange with Super Pinocho where you thought "only Casas would think to do that." This was your typically solid early 90s UWA television match. They never reach great heights, but the wrestling is always worth watching.
Espanto Jr/Dr. Wagner Jr vs. Villano IV & V, UWA 1992
The Villanos are broken down warhorses these days. Villano III could barely string his sentences together when interviewed on his brother's retirement show. The younger brothers can still brawl with the best of them, but if you're ever in need of a reminder of how good Los Villanos were these UWA matches are the best footage we have of prime IV & V. This was an excellent lucha tag match. It didn't have an epic enough third caida to make it onto a yearbook or anything like that, but it had a bit of everything and there was plenty to like if you're an aficionado. Espanto and Villano IV had a swank opening mat exchange that was the best you'll see from Espanto in these three matches, the Villano family provided their usual blend of scientific wrestling and roughhousing and I loved Wagner's clumsy enthusiasm. The finish was one of the more brutal looking, Perro Aquayo style La Sillas I've seen. A Villano taking out Wagner like that is a ton of beef colliding.
Mario Segura "El Ninja", El Dandy, Tigre Canadiense vs. Los Misioneros de la Muerte "Negro Navarro, Signo y Black Power," Monterrey 1992
This was a surprising long trios match with a lengthy El Dandy face-in-peril section. My eyes light up when I saw this was Dandy vs. Misioneros thinking we might get a Dandy/Navarro section, but to be brutally honest Navarro wasn't much chop at this point. He focused a lot of his schtick on his physique and being the "strength guy" in the Misioneros. The real worker of the group was Signo and the Signo/Dandy exchanges we got were actually better than if Dandy had squared off against Navarro. Throughout the match, it was noticeable how much better Dandy and Signo were than everyone else, even when doing simple exchanges like clearing workers from the ring. Their ability to make every exchange a flurry of activity made them continually stand out. Signo was a really good worker and it's worth watching this to see him go toe-to-toe with Dandy even if the other workers aren't so inspiring. Tigre seemed high on something, Segura did some goofy shit that was vaguely amusing, Navarro was disappointing and Black Power was his usual journeyman-esque self, but Dandy vs. Signo was really, really good.
Centurion Negro, Los Matematicos II & IV vs. Pirata de la Muerte, Black Terry & Jose Luis Feliciano, Arena Coliseo Monterrey early 90s
In the annals of lucha libre history there is a hatred that's gone unrecorded and that hatred is the hatred between Jose Luis Feliciano and Centurion Negro. This was some of the coolest shit I've seen in a while as these guys didn't care that there was a match going on with rules and purses and other guys involved. Terry was awesome here as well. He was a bit part to Feliciano, a role I guess he's always been comfortable playing, but he did the cockiest facial expressions this side of Ric Flair cutting a promo in the TBS studios. What a legend. This was all about Feliciano though, who looked like the sixth member of The Blue Oyster Cult. The fact that Feliciano and Negro never had a documented hair vs. mask match is a huge disappointment to me as few luchadores have ever had such antagonistic hair as Feliciano. Fun match.
Hijo Del Centurion Negro, Rey Hechicero, Simbolo vs. Black Spirit, Charles Lucero, Golden Boy, Monterrey 7/21/13
Monterrey has kind of snuck up on me as a good place to watching wrestling from. This was my first look at maestro Charles Lucero, who's supposed to be cut from the same cloth as Mexico's other maestro greats, but for me this was all about Rey Hechicero, who continues to impress. The other guys were there to make up the numbers and aside from the Hechicero/Lucero exchanges this wasn't very good.
El Angel vs. Trauma II vs. Oficial 911, IWRG 3/3/13
This as nowhere near as good as the three way the week before and the mascara contra mascara section was nothing special. I liked the finish, though, and it got a good pop from the Naucalpan faithful. You've got to love those Naucalpan-goers, from the kids trying to do come off the ropes and do rolling bumps in the ring to the guys who refuse to leave their seats during brawls and are terrible bases for the workers who come flying at them.
Ruleta de la Muerta Rd 1, La Última de un Villano 3/16/13
Okay, so the whole thing was put up by the Tercera Caída guys and no-one seems to have gone through it, so I thought I would. Worst case scenario I get to see two more Cassandro matches.
1a. Cien Caras & Dr. Wagner, Jr. vs. Solar & Toscano
-- Match started out with quite a lengthy exchange between Wagner and Solar. That's a match I'd quite like to see, free from all the bullshit, although it's probably five or six years too late given that Solar is approaching 60. The next few years is a bit of a concern if you like the maestros as they really are on the wrong side of 55. Still, the exchanges were pretty good. This was the longest of the first round matches as Mendoza had to get his money's worth out of Wagner, I suppose. Caras was Caras; Wagner did his usual schtick. Women in the crowd argued with him. He took plunder into the ring. Decent opener to the tournament.
1b. Máscara Año 2000 & Rayo de Jalisco Jr. vs. Cassandro & Hijo de Pirata Morgan
-- Much shorter bout, no qualms about presenting this as lopsided. Highlights were Cassandro whaling away on the much larger Rayo and his nutty, Psicosis-style ringpost bump. Los Dinamitas beat Rayo up after the match for old times' sake.
1c. El Mesías & Mil Mascaras vs. Ray Mendoza Jr. & Villano IV
-- Mesias and Villano IV were okay on the mat as long as things kept moving. When they were stationary, it was pretty lame. Mascaras must be about 80 now. I liked seeing him tie Mendoza up on the mat, but he can't do his signature spots very well. Not a great match-up for the Villanos, but they showed Mascaras the usual respect.
1d. LA Park & Universo 2000 vs. Súper Nova & Texano Jr.
-- This also went long, again presumably because of Park's booking fee. Universo has lost a step since that CMLL run that Raging Noodles and I were so fond of, but I still like him. He gave Texano, Jr. a whipping but good with the bull rope. Super Nova and Texano provided, perhaps unsurprisingly, the most highspots in the opening round.
Charles Lucero vs. Rey Hechicero, Monterrey 7/28/13
This was a sweet match. Lucero wasn't exactly Picasso on the mat, but he was pretty good. He had a different style from a lot of the other maestros. It was almost like traditional NWA style matwork in the vein of Ray Mendoza or Enrique Vera, whereas Hechicero provided more of the "lucha" touches. Nice little narrative here with Lucero getting tired of trading holds and throwing a punch. Having watched far too much British and European wrestling of late the first strike from a frustrated rudo is quite familiar. Hechicero could have perhaps retaliated a bit more, but when he took back the reins I thought his swinging moves were really cool. This served its purpose well for the title match which followed.
Solar & Toscano vs. Cassandro & Hijo de Pirata Morgan, Ruleta de la Muerta 3/16/13
Back to the Villano show. I was hoping for an epic Solar/Cassandro match-up here, but they went the more sensible route and had Solar/Morgan and Cassandro/Toscano pairings. The work was pretty solid and what you'd expect from trio matches where they've gone once round the horn with matwork and are squaring off for running rope exchanges. Cassandro's injury was legit. Toscano drop kicked him off the turnbuckle and he took a nasty bump to the outside. The match was rushed a bit after that, though that may simply have been the nature of the beast since it was Ruleta, but there as plenty of flash in the finishing sequence and for this type of thing it wasn't a bad match.
For those of you keeping record at home, there's nothing missing from the earlier YouTube clip I wrote about that showed the next two Villanos matches back-to-back. As for the overall show, it was an easy watch. Ruleta de la Muerta is what it is in terms of match quality, but there was a lot of star value here. It's just too bad it wrecked Mendoza, Jr.
Charles Lucero vs. Rey Hechicero, Monterrey 8/4/13
The big title match. This was cranking along nicely with the same mix of matwork and inside shots from Lucero, and wasn't any better or worse than the match that proceeded it, until what was probably the spot of the year. In the third caida, they decided to go epic in classic lucha title match fashion and they did a tope spot where Rey Hechicero missed Lucero completely and dived head first into an empty chair. This was executed fantastically and looked great each time they showed it on a replay (which was numerous times.) From there, they teased the doc calling off the fight, and Lucero stepped in and tried beating Hechicero up some more. Hechicero fought on and they cranked things up an extra notch with nearfalls and the like, including Lucero missing a dive on the outside and having the doc check on him. The finish was a really classic lucha style submission finish that had me pretty pumped. Really nice win.
Chico Che/Freelance/Hijo del Pantera vs. Apolo Estrada Jr./Avisman/Eita, IWRG 2/18/13
I really wanted to like this as it had Freelance, Avisman and Chico Che in it, but there wasn't a single exchange I thought was special. Freelance, in particular, seemed really off and nothing like the worker who used to dice with death every time his feet left the ground. It kind of meandered along in a very old-school way, which may appeal to some people, but there was none of the overlapping of falls or clever touches that make trios matches special, and even Che failed to charm me.
Blue Panther/Sagrado vs. Rey Hechicero/Califan, ACM 4/14/13
I sometimes wonder if the reason I don't enjoy old man Panther as much as others is because he lost his mask, as though I sometimes resent him for unmasking. Then I watch matches like this and I realise it's because CMLL doesn't let him work to the best of his ability. This was an excellent match. Panther wasn't even the star, as Rey Hechicero and Sagrado had one of, if not the most outstanding opening exchanges of the year. Hechicero also worked superbly with Panther in the second caida. This was a match I was incredibly excited by despite being a tag and would have been my favourite match of the year if the finishing stretch hadn't been quite so sloppy.
Oficial 911 vs. El Angel vs. Trauma II, IWRG 2/18/13
This had some of the usual three-way bullshit, but they tried really hard to minimalise it by finding logical ways to take one guy out of the action. Unfortunately, that's not always possible and there was a bit of dead time as a result, but for the most part this was a decent brawl that maintained its energy. I was quite impressed with El Angel, who for a kind of low rent technico packed a decent punch and the right amount of starch behind his offence for this kind of fight. Match was good enough that I should probably watch the apuestas.
Super Nova/Texano Jr vs. Ray Mendoza Jr/Villano IV vs. Casandro/Hijo del Pirata Morgan, V5 Retirement Show 3/16/13
This was the tail end of a ruleta de la muerte tournament on what was supposed to be Villano V's retirement show. Mendoza promoted the show himself, paid for some expensive indie talent, drew a poor crowd and lost about forty grand on the deal, which has forced him to keep wrestling and promoting. But as a YouTube video clip it was quite the spectacle. The crowd may have been poor, but they filled up the floor and were in good voice. The match was basically the kind of hard hitting, violent brawling that's been Villano IV's living for the past few years. It was solid stuff, but the highlight was seeing Casandro again. I'm not sure whether he was selling or if he had real problems with his reconstructed knee, but if that was selling then it was selling of a rare class. Casandro simply put is one of the standout performers of the modern era. He should be held in the same regard as Panther, Casas, Terry or Navarro, but we just don't have the footage to elevate him to that level. His performance here was notable not only for what he did in the ring, but the range he showed during the lengthy post-match, a blend of staunch, dignified yet emotional reaction to the ignominy of having his hair cut. An interesting contrast to the more manufactured Villanos/Morgan family issues sans-mask, though that feud has continued on Mendoza's indie shows and is probably quite fun. All in all, maybe top 5 for Mexico this year if viewed as a spectacle.
Virus vs. Blue Panther, CMLL 5/12/13
Ten minutes? They were only getting warmed up. I don't have a problem with ten minute matches, but CMLL workers generally aren't that clever at working lightning matches and I don't really like the gimmick of an enforced time limit. Still, this was all about the matwork, which, while not life changing, was pretty at times. Virus is pretty clearly the best guy in the company, in my opinion, but I couldn't help but think if it was Demus against a mini it would have been more of a match and less of an exhibition.
Terrible vs. Rush, CMLL 1/22/13
I liked this a lot. It strikes me as kind of being like WWE influenced CMLL main event wrestling, which usually I'd be against, but this is the most fun "CMLL is where the big boys play" wrestling since the Aguayos vs. Los Capos feud. It went on a bit too long and they stretched the limits of what they can do, but it was generally positive.
Black Metal (Guadalajara), Pegasso, Triton vs. Barbaro Cavernario, Espiritu Maligno, Skandalo - CMLL Puebla 6/24/13
This was a fun match. It reminded me of the glory days of the Puebla locals, which like all good things in lucha was far too short. Cavernario, Maligno and Skandalo were an awesome rudos trio. They brought back memories of being a kid, having a couple of dollars in my pocket after doing a half-assed job cleaning my dad's car, and going down to the local bookshop to discover three of the coolest bad guys were taking on my favourite superhero that month. The great thing about the trio was that they brought a proper rudos structure to the match where you wanted to see the technicos clean house and there was the right balance of exchanges before the third fall dives. The third fall finish was badass and one for the bad guys. Really classic lucha and the best trios I've seen this year.
Astral & Shockercito vs. Demus 3:16 & Pierrothito, CMLL 3/29/13
I always forget about the minis. How can I forget about the minis? This was awesome. Demus and Pierrothito are every bit the murder's row of Arkangel de la Muerte, Hooligan and Skandalo. The finishing stretch where they destroyed the technico minis prompted me to listen to Vince McMahon's theme music for some inexplicable reason, but it really was a devastating combo of finishers. Demus has always been great at putting the exclamation mark on matches and it was awesome seeing him tear up shit again. I really dug Shockercito too, more than I ever dug Shocker. He has the look down pat. It's kind of lame that he's aping Mascarita Dorada's spots, but I guess nothing's sacred in wrestling.
Magnus, Starman & Stigma vs. Cancerbero, Raziel & Virus, CMLL 2/18/13
This had the best opening matwork fall of the year. And it wasn't simply because of Virus either, I thought each of the pairings were outstanding. They lost me after that and I didn't enjoy the next two falls that much, but it was a heck of an opening fall and something I haven't seen from CMLL for many years.
Negro Casas vs. Valiente, CMLL 2/4/13
Dream match for workrate fans as Casas and Valiente are two of the best in the business, but this was a disappointment. I'm not so sure it was a case of the chemistry being off between the two as much as it was a case of them not bothering to do anything creative. In fact, I was kind of annoyed that Casas put in such a cookie cutter performance against someone as talented as Valiente. Some of the early exchanges were okay, but the third fall in particular was a bore.
Negro Casas vs. Mascara Dorada, CMLL 6/2/13
This is the kind of match Casas seems to prefer, where he's clearly the better guy and carries a younger guy through a career best match. The amount of thought and effort put into the match layout was telling. Personally, I didn't find it as compelling as Casas intended, but if you can get into the rhythm of what was basically a spotfest then there's no reason why you won't enjoy it. The third fall was grossly excessive and it seemed to me that if they'd done just one of their dives with the right build and execution it would've been far more effective than the half a dozen dives they did, but that's the modern style I guess and it's better not to get too cranky about it. Can't say I'm a big fan of Casas' telegraphed transition based offence, though.
Negro Casas/Valiente/Stuka Jr. vs. Virus/Vangellys/Fuego, CMLL 6/14/13
Virus and Valiente are just about the only pairing that can do proper old-school trios exchanges anymore so it's always a pleasure watching them perform. Their work here was nothing they haven't done in trios before, but head and shoulders above anybody else in regular trios matches. Valiente also did a solitary dive that reminded me of the effectiveness of the one or two dives a match that El Hijo del Santo used to do. Everybody else was average.
Black Terry/Negro Navarro/Villano IV vs. Averno/Blue Panther/Shocker, CMLL 4/7/13
Terry looked slick in his exchanges against Averno and on the surface I'd argue that Terry and Navarro are better than Panther and Casas, but Terry and Navarro footage seems to have dried up a bit. For as much as I've complained in the past about "your turn/my turn" IWRG matwork, it's still superior to your standard CMLL exchanges. I liked the first two falls in this match mainly because of Terry. Navarro/Panther was pretty good, but not mind blowing or anything. Villano is only really capable of brawling these days and this was always going to be sanitised compared to the matches he's shined in, while Shocker is only halfway decent when he takes a direct approach of punching people instead of working real exchanges. Still, the differences between this and your run-of-the-mill Arena Mexico trios were obvious as this was actually fleshed out over two falls. Unfortunately, they tried to work a really old-school third fall and it fell considerably flat. Match didn't really break my general apathy towards what's going on in Mexico right now, but it was a nice try.
Negro Navarro vs. Negro Casas, Chilanga Mask 5/19/13
Not technically CMLL, but I'll chuck it in here. This was cool and all until the finish which was just bullshit. I mean, c'mon, if you're going to work a maestros exhibition just do a double pin and shake hands or something lame, but what's the point of a low blow DQ finish? That made the match instantly forgettable.
Rush/Rey Escorpion/Maximo vs. Negro Casas/Terrible/Shocker, CMLL 6/28/13
Negro Casas, Mr. Aguila & Rey Bucanero vs. Blue Panther, Rush & Maximo, CMLL 7/14/13
So, this is the best thing going today or so I've been told. I like Rush a lot so I'm excited to see these. He kind of reminds me of the true, modern day heir to Perro Aquayo, since Perro's own kid hasn't been any good since about 2007 as far as I can tell, and he's learnt the value of having a great head of hair.
True to others' word, the Rush vs. Casas exchanges do not disappoint. They're kind of similar in tone to the famous Dandy/Casas exchanges, but Casas isn't quite the sublime genius he was back then and that had a different sort of vibe to it in that Casas and Dandy were two all-time greats squaring off. The other difference is that in those trios matches, Casas and Dandy worked with much more talented partners as that was the greatest collection of talent in the TV footage era. Their partners were able to work exchanges that were like mini subplots that informed and supported the main plot. What you got here was some great modern day brawling, which has a greater emphasis on striking than in days gone by. In terms of everybody else, I thought Shocker and Terrible got it the most in terms of how they should complement the main feud that was going on and Maximo added the necessary variety for a lucha trios match.
The 6/28 trios is getting a lot of MOTY talk. I wouldn't go anywhere near that far as it doesn't have a complete enough narrative to really deserve that kind of praise and I thought there have been plenty of Black Terry driven trios in recent years that were better, but don't let MOTY expectations get in the way of enjoying a good match. There's still too much (bad) bullshit in modern day CMLL, but while it lasted it was about as violent as you're going to get in this era. The 7/14 match was nothing special and more a continuation of the feud, I thought. I assume there's going to a hair match at some point this year. I'm not getting too excited about that as I think Casas' offence is suspect in big matches these days and there's been weaknesses in his singles formula of late, but the brawling exchanges have been great so far and Rush is a special talent.
Thanks as always to Black Terry Jr for making these reviews possible.
I thought both the 8/1 and 10/13 Black Terry/Negro Navarro vs Super Astro/Solar maestro tags were excellent. In fact, I thought they were the most balanced, best worked maestro tags since Black Terry Jr began filming their matches. That may be time and distance talking since I was so wildly out of the loop last year, but I watched these matches more than once before commenting and enjoyed them immensely each time. They're not story matches and they don't even have much of a narrative, but what I liked about them was that they captured the spirit of pure lucha exchanges. I don't have much time these days and I've been trying to multi-task, so I've been watching these matches while listening to 60s jazz, and while 60s jazz and lucha libre may not have a lot in common, I've been able to get into the groove of these matches. The Solar/Navarrro stuff in particular cranks, but the stories of Super Astro's demise have been greatly exaggerated. He's not the worker he once was, but he rollled around on the mat with Black Terry in cracking fashion and was able to do his tope. I can see folks wishing they'd do more -- perhaps more Terry/Solar or Terry and Navarro being the murders' row tag team that we know they can be -- but when you see some of the counters and reversals that Solar and Navarro can do you can understand why the others clear out of the way and let them do their thing. When I first got into lucha, one of the things I loved most was watching a guy like El Dandy hit the ring. When Dandy stepped through those ropes it didn't matter whether the guy on the other side of the ring was Emilio or Casas or Super Muneco, you knew the exchange was going to be amazing, and that's the feeling I get from these matches. To tie it back into music, it's like this cool bar I went to recently that was stacked with wall to wall soul records. The barman would drop another record while you slipped on your drink of choice and you just kicked back and enjoyed the music. Watching these matches, I kicked back and enjoyed the lucha.
I have no idea when Cerebro Negro returned to IWRG and why he was feuding with Dr. Cerebro. I'm not sure I could even recognise him with the look he's sporting at the moment, but I thought their 12/16 match wasn't too bad. Better than a kick in the pants at any rate. There wasn't much to the falls, but the work was direct and physical and the finishes were cool. I could have done without the weapon shots, but they weren't too bad. The match stalled a bit in the third caida and the lightbulbs weren't really necessary, but there was more good than bad on show here. I really dug the spot where Dr. Cerebro was draped over the ropes from the apron in and Negro dropkicked him in the face. That was badass. The doctor turning his submission finish into some form of sitdown driver was ultimate badass too. I always forget that the good doctor is out there being probably a top 10 luchador at any given time. I've got to keep tabs of his work.
First off, thanks to Black Terry Jr for shooting these matches and making them available. Terry is selling his videos here from now on -- http://tvluchadelpasado.wordpress.com/
Solar vs. Navarro is still the best mat wrestling on the planet as evidenced by their 8/17 match. The excitement of seeing this match crop up isn't the same as when we only got to see it once a year (or not at all), but that's the funny thing: as lucha fans, we're always wishing we could see more -- more from a worker, more from a specific match-up, more TV from the 80s, most of which we'll never see. It's something you have to come to terms with if you become a serious lucha fan otherwise you'll be sorely disappointed. Yet when we get more than we bargained for, such as with Solar and Navarro, we tend to get all analytical and go into critique mode. I've done it many times in the past and am by far the worst offender, but if you'd told me five years ago that we'd get to see this match-up on a regular basis and people would get fed up with it, I'd have told you they were looking a gift horse in the mouth.
That's not to say that this match-up is perfect. Despite the fact that they're able to organise the events in the match into a reasonable narrative structure and that there are clear stretches of one worker in control and the other selling well, they don't make much of an effort to create the same sort of drama as Casas/Panther or the Santo tag. If you were to label their bouts as exhibition matches you wouldn't be too far off the mark. I tend to prefer their work in trios because of the speed they work at, and I'm still hoping that one day (just one day) we'll see a Black Terry vs. Navarro match in full, but... this is still the best mat wrestling on the planet. Casas and Panther are nowhere near as quick with their holds. Virus and Valiente are slicker, but don't have the same submission knowledge. Navarro still looks like the best worker in Mexico to me and I don't think Solar gets enough credit as a worker, a mat wrestler or for being one of the three or four best masked technico workers in modern, taped, lucha libre history. The familiarity that people have with Santo or Atlantis should be extended to Solar, in my opinion. The lifeblood of lucha is its masked technicos and few have been better for longer than Solar I.
The 4/9 Gran Apache/Trauma I/Mari Apache vs. Negro Navarro/Trauma II/Fabi Apache trios was a blast. One of the things I love about lucha the most is that it can be so off the cuff and fun. This was only a single fall, but it was a great ensemble piece. Loved the quick exchanges between Gran Apache and Trauma II, thought the father and son stuff was really good without being overbearing and that Fabi and Mari's stuff was a nice change up. To my mind, rhythm is the most important thing when watching wrestling. If you can't get into the rhythm of what the workers are trying to do or the rhythm of a particular style, you're going to struggle. You often hear people say that a lucha fall was rushed because it wasn't long enough or shorter than the falls surrounding it, but I sometimes wonder if those people haven't gotten into the rhythm of lucha libre yet. This match had rhythm. The exchanges built on top of each other and it was worked at a fun pace. The ending was the kind of mano-a-mano showdown that I love in IWRG matches and I came out of the whole thing as satisfied as I would've been had it been three falls. Gran Apache is so underrated. I always forget him when it comes to judging the best workers in Mexico. If you asked me tomorrow who the ten best workers in Mexico are, he'd probably slip my mind. I don't even know how active he is these days, but man is he good. Those opening exchanges I mentioned were so much snappier than the usual IWRG matwork and like the match in general made a nice change from the norm.
I went into the 12/20 Fuerza Guerrera vs. Black Terry match with low expectations as I'd read it wasn't the type of match they could have had if they'd put their minds to it and that it was basically an angle to further the hostilities between their two wrestling schools, but it was Fuerza and Terry in a singles match. It wasn't a Black Terry special like some of the carry jobs he's done in the past, but there was plenty to like from the point of view of it being two of the biggest legends of my time taking off the gloves. Would've been nice to see them settle it like men, but the interference was what it was. Can't say I blame them for trying to give the rub to their students.
Another match I really enjoyed was the 4/28 Black Terry/Negro Navarro vs. Solar I/Super Astro maestros tag. I'm not sure if it's because I haven't watched a maestros tag for a while and was watching with fresher eyes, but this seemed to have a better flow to it than the last round of maestro tags I watched. The Navarro/Solar exchanges were excellent without being overbearing, they changed dance partners more often and the match had more of a three part rhythm than usual. I'd read all the comments about Super Astro's decline and while he does have trouble doing his signature spots these days, the fact that I'd braced myself for it made it less jarring than I expected. He's the guy I'd most like to see everyone in the lucha world wrestle and for that reason takes my top spot.
This was all pretty fun stuff, and again, thanks to Black Terry Jr for making it possible.
I'm hopeless at keeping up to date with lucha, so I thought I'd throw out some thoughts on what I watched over the holidays.
Apparently, CMLL had an awful year business-wise. Personally I enjoyed the in-ring product more than I have in years.
Virus vs. Fuego, 10/1 was an excellent, old-school style title match. The matwork wasn't as fluid as classic lucha, but it was similar to IWRG matwork in that both guys seemed to be laying down a challenge. I thought Fuego's bridging spots were a fantastic response to that challenge, and although many of the holds were static, I was impressed that they managed to avoid the pitfalls of "your turn/my turn" through natural athleticism. Fuego impressed me in general. I thought he hung with Virus tremendously well and even added plenty of his own touches. The transition on the outside where Fuego pulled Virus from the apron after the big tope spot was clever stuff. I think that's what I've noticed most about CMLL this year: instead of the same telegraphed transitions in every match, the work has been tighter and the rhythm a whole lot better. I'd probably put this third behind Panther/Casas and that Santo tag at this stage.
Casas/Oro, 9/2 was also good. Someone once joked that Casas sleeps upside down in the CMLL booking office like a vampire bat, but I think the key to his longevity is the way he's tweaked and adjusted his offense over the last decade or more. There was a period where I hated watching Casas work these modern matches, but I've got to admit he's really good at the tit-for-tat modern style. This was counterrific and extremely even. Casas gave Oro a hell of a lot, and while I don't watch many Oro matches, I assume he looked better than usual. So it was a job well done. Casas/Maya Jr, 12/25 was soft, though. Some of the spots were okay, but Maya didn't seem up for it. You know it's a bad sign when I'm looking at the grey in Casas' hair and thinking how distinguished he looks.
Hijo del Fantasma/Rey Cometa/Valiente vs. Niebla Roja/Puma King/Virus, 9/21 had a typically excellent opening exchange between Virus and Valiente who arguably work together better than any other pair in lucha. The rest of the match was "there" and I had a hard time giving a fuck about what anybody else did.
Shigeo Okumura vs. Valiente, 5/1 was a cool showcase for Valiente, who is still obscenely underrated. He's such a fantastic worker. I really have no idea who Shigeo Okumura is, but considering how I usually dislike watching non-luchadores in lucha I thought he did a pretty good job. Match was far from a Match of the Year contender, and I lost interest in the street run partially because the sound was out of sync, but a Valiente singles match is always worth watching.
Lastly, the Rush vs. El Terrible, 9/14 hair match. I didn't know anything about the storyline going into this match. I'd never seen either guy and I didn't know this was the main event of the Anniversary Show as I wasn't aware of anything that was going on over the summer. The Rush guy seemed significantly better than El Terrible, but Terrible got better as the match wore on. Usually, I'd have a quiet bitch about how there's no-one who knows how to work a hair match properly anymore and how much it pisses me off, but this was like watching something like Rayo de Jalisco, Jr vs. Universo 2000 on speed and how a cool "CMLL is where the big boys play" vibe to it. And there was even blood, lo and behold. Some cool spots in this one, especially Rush's dropkick off the apron and both men's use of the barricade. The finish confused the fuck out of me as I was expecting all of the bullshit that's surrounded CMLL hair match in recent years and instead it ended clean as a whistle. Had to "rewind" it as I didn't know what was going on. Fun match, but neither guy has quite mastered the type of Perro Aguayo/Los Hermanos Dinamita flair for the dramatics in this sort of big match setting.
Emilio Charles, Jr vs. Atlantis, NWA World Middleweight Championship, 8/14/92
Emilio Charles, Jr was one of the first luchadores I became a fan of. In fact, it was Dean or one of the other playa's review of the 12/89 Charles/Dandy title match that sparked my interest in lucha in the first place. After I saw that match, I tracked down the rest of their '89 feud, kick starting one of the more satisfying love affairs with any style in my wrestling fandom history. I was shocked to hear of his passing the other day, as I'm sure everyone was, and decided to watch one of his matches.
Having read about Charles before I ever saw him, the first thing that stood out about him was his name. In a world filled with Satanicos and Villanos, Emilio Charles, Jr seemed a tad bit ordinary for a heel. It reminded me of a cross between Emilio Estevez and Charles in Charge, but it had a certain ring to it, and sure enough if there's anything to be said about Charles it's that the man had personality. He was as entertaining doing apron work as he was in showcase matches, and even in the smallest of bit parts his trios work was always memorable. He had a face only his mother could love and hair that practically goaded opponents into wager matches. And above all, like every great heel, he had a shit-eating grin the size of the gulf of Mexico. He was a great worker, as equally adept at grappling as he was brawling, and he was a fantastic bumper, rivalling at times even Pirata Morgan. Like all the great bumpers, his body eventually broken down, as I've mentioned a thousand times on this blog, but he was always savvy even if it was a slippery slope down from his late 80s peak.
This was a much better match than I remembered. I think I was turned off it the first time because people had praised it as a mat classic. I don't think some arm work and a couple of cool submissions from Emilio make for a mat classic, but this match is something different. You don't often see the type of sustained armwork that Emilio works here or the long term limb selling that Atlantis exhibits, and luchadores usually tap instantaneously rather than fight for all death like Atlantis does here. I don't know what prompted them to work the match like this. Emilio wasn't Atlantis' best opponent (that would be Blue Panther) and Atlantis wasn't Emilio's best opponent (that would be Dandy), but they had a certain chemistry together which is best evidenced in their match from '88, which is sometimes confused as being from '84 and is really fast paced, cutting edge lucha. Rather than being great on the mat together, they were awesome at fast paced rope work, slick counters and exciting nearfalls. All of those trademarks can be found in this match, but there's also the narrative of Atlantis surviving a ton of work on his injured arm. It's actually quite a superhuman effort if you look at it from a technical viewpoint of what Emilio actually did his arm, and I suppose there has to be question marks over how believable it was, but I kind of looked at it from the perspective that Atlantis had held the belt for over two years and defended it at least twenty times (with a worked, possibly real number that was even higher) and they really wanted to put Emilio's challenge over out of respect or some other reason. That's what I'd like to believe anyway as they really went out of their way to make it seem like Emilio could win. I didn't think it was one of the truly epic lucha title matches, but it was rock solid. I've never had a problem with the rapid fire, equalising fall as I think it's a great storytelling tool and helps turn the momentum, and the finish didn't bother me other than the fact that the rhythm could've been better. All told it was a fine defence and Emilio looked good for 1992 Emilio.
It's hard to believe he's gone, but y'know, I was having this conversation with my co-worker the other day about how weird it is when you're watching an old movie and you suddenly realise that everyone in this movie is dead, and I guess that Emilio's career will keep playing out on youtube and grainy VHS tapes for decades to come. Always young, always great, always one of the very best. Emilio Charles, Jr.
Emilio Charles Jr. vs. Dr. Wagner Jr. (CMLL 2/20/98)
This was rudo contra rudo from what I could gather, but since Emilio was about to turn it was set up to garner him face heat. Broken down Emilio had his moments (as we'll see later), but a match this length was beyond him. He kind of struggled in that '93 hair match against Dandy let alone in a singles match five years later, and while I like Wagner he wasn't a good enough worker to make this interesting. They did all the things you're supposed to do in a mano a mano bout but with none of the intensity of say Santo and Casas. There was a title match the week after, but I'm not in any hurry to watch it.
El Hijo Del Santo, Emilio Charles Jr. y Satanico vs. Shocker, Mr. Niebla y Negro Casas (CMLL 3/23/98)
This set up the Emilio Charles Jr./Satanico hair match and was the catalyst for Emilio's face turn I suppose. Halfway through the match, Satanico was holding Shocker on the outside for Emilio to hit with his tope when Shocker ducked out the way. Emilio dove straight into Satanico's shoulder area and Satanico spent the rest of the match selling the injury. Apparently, accidental collisions between rudos do more damage than Emilio's tope would have done to Shocker, but bear with me. Later on, Satanico tagged in, but he bailed out and Emilio took his place. Emilio was on fire and cleaning house when Satanico suddenly attacked him. The execution of all this was a little off, but the brawling was good. There was one punch from Satanico which absolutely clocked Charles. Other than that it wasn't much of a trios. Rudo Santo was really old at this point and I was sick of Santo vs. Casas no matter how good their chemistry was.
Lizmark and Atlantis vs. The Head Hunters (CMLL 10/25/96)
Not a fan of tag matches in lucha. Trios are brilliant, but regular tags aren't something luchadores do well and this match was no exception. Lizmark and Atlantis are two of the greatest technicos of the latter half of the 20th century as far as classical, masked luchadores go, but at no point in this match did they seem like a great tag team. There just isn't the culture of standard two on two tag wrestling in lucha that there is in the States, for example, and I dislike the parejas psychology where one member from each team is pinned and effectively eliminated. It also didn't help that I wasn't into the spots that Atlantis and Lizmark did with the Head Hunters compared to the sort of things I saw Satanico, Dantes and Wagner do the other day.
Misterioso, Volador y Mano Negra vs Javier Llanes, El Supremo y Espectro Jr. (CMLL 5/31/91)
This was good stuff. You can tell a promotion is doing well when its lower card stuff is this enjoyable. The rudos didn't do much but the technicos were exciting. Match flowed well.
Olimpico vs. Damian El Guerrero, mask vs. hair (CMLL 8/6/96)
This was a really good lower card, almost junior-esque hair vs. mask match. It was mostly big dives with some brawling mixed in, but they really nailed it. The crowd threw them money after it was over and Olimpico was asked to kiss a baby.
Universo 2000, Mascara Año 2000 y Dr.Wagner Jr vs Atlantis, Hector Garza y Canek (CMLL 11/24/95)
This was also really good. 1995 was right around the time that Wagner started to get good and he had great chemistry with Atlantis here, but the guy who has impressed me most during all his random viewing has been Hector Garza. I don't think it's any secret that I don't really like young workers, but Garza in '95/96 was quite possibly the most exciting young worker I've seen. I don't find him charismatic like I did with a young Dantes, but his offense was insane and I swear I almost popped for the win he gets here. The match almost descends into the type of mask removing that gets a bout thrown out, but it gets back on track and features some great action.
Villano III vs. Atlantis (CMLL 2/11/00)
This was a title match that was part of the build-up to the famous mask match between these two. It was also proof that bullshit finishes involving the Villanos began as early as 2000. Atlantis injured Villano with his torture rack to end the second fall and it seemed like he was primed to take Villano's Light Heavyweight title until Villano IV draped his brother over his shoulders and took him backstage for what I guess amounted to an injury break. The ref began counting him out, but when he returned he had recovered enough to win, at least I think that's what was going on. Before all that was some pretty good wrestling. Not as good as what they had been capable of only a few years earlier, but some of the stuff they did was fantastic and made you wish they'd had a straight up title match instead of an angle. These two in particular really brought the fantastic submissions you think of when you think of lucha.
Emilio Charles Jr. vs. Silver King, hair vs. hair (CMLL 9/27/96)
I can't remember if I've seen this before, but I think I would have remembered it because it was really good. In fact, it's probably the best match I've seen Silver King have. I'm probably wrong in saying that, but I really dug this. It started off with Silver King getting a quick pinfall off a hot start. I guess most people dislike that trope in lucha, but his timing was perfect and it looked really good. Emilio's transition onto offensive after being rocked early was awesome. Silver King went for a plancha suicida and Emilio caught him with a punch. From there they bled and fought and all of the nearfalls were great. I think the key to the match was that it wasn't that long, which helped with Emilio's stamina issues. Emilio with his beard keeps reminding me of Helmsley if Helmsley ballooned out and suddenly had the body of Jim Duggan, but I think to a certain extent that the good part of his career was longer and more productive than I imagined. This was certainly choice.
Brazo de Plata vs. Gran Markus Jr. (CMLL 5/29/98)
In my world this should headline the Anniversary show.
Mascara Año 2000, Fuerza Guerrera y Herodes vs. MS-1, El Dandy y Astro de Oro, circa '89
For some reason El Dandy and MS-1 were on the same side here. That didn't last long. Match was pretty much an angle to set up Dandy vs. MS-1 and Mascara Año 2000 vs. Astro de Oro matches. Wouldn't mind seeing that Dandy/MS-1 match if it ever took place.
Satanico, Apolo Dantes y Dr.Wagner Jr vs. The Head Hunters y Emilio Charles Jr., circa '98
This was a lot of fun. Satanico was sporting a skinhead here and I'm guessing this was after Emilio took his hair as the rudos paid Emilio plenty of attention. Broken down Emilio was pretty spry here. The rudo side was really solid and he had to fight his way out of a number of predicaments. It's times like these you need a pair of fat men in your corner. The Head Hunters slotted into lucha well, which isn't usually the case with foreigners but these guys got a lot of mileage out of their girth. The rudos had a field day with the sight gags they were able to create but there was also some good hard hitting action. Most of all I was impressed with the amount of effort Emilio and Satanico put in to this midcard spot. Once a pro always a pro.
Javier Monarca Cruz, Eddie y Mando Guerrero vs. Cachorro Mendoza, Apolo Dantes y Mano Negra, circa '91
This was a pretty standard trios. The match-ups were mostly good but nobody really stood out. I enjoyed watching Apolo Dantes. He was really young here and there was a real fire to everything he did. Watching him here I would have picked him to be a headliner in the mold of Cien Caras. I'm not sure he ever lived up to his potential, but I'm equally unsure that he was given the chance. The highlight of the match was Mando getting right in Apolo's face. He looked like somebody's dad who coaches the local football team, but he sure as hell didn't have any time for snot assed punks. Also worth tracking was Mano Negra, who was always a quietly solid worker. Eddie had a night to forget, including possibly the worst botch of his career. He tried leaping onto the top rope from the apron and fell over face first. I was always under the impression that when this happens in lucha the other worker (in this case Dantes) lays in some stiffer than usual shots to recover, but Dantes went for a rolling cradle where they came out looking even.
Negro Casas vs. El Hijo del Santo, circa '95
I'm guessing this is their September '95 match. This was a really brilliant mano a mano bout. Neither guy could take the upper hand so it descended into this niggly, underhanded brawl with a lot of cheap shots. It was actually the worst I've seen Santo behave as a technico, which laid the seeds for his heel turn presumably. If you like Casas' stuff with Panther you'll love this as his brawling was even better here. He almost had Santo in a mount position and was pummeling him with great looking punches. I don't know if Casas bleed hardway or not, but he wound up with one of the most realistic looking cuts I've seen in wrestling. It was like a boxing cut and provided some great visuals. The finish was this wonderful mass of confusion as the ref caught an elbow from Casas flush in the face, then Santo gave Casas a sunset flip powerbomb off the apron. Somehow there was a DQ in all this and Santo wandered around with his mask torn to shit asking a member of the public whether he thought it was a DQ while Alfonso Morales tried to interview the ref. I need to watch this again.
Pierroth, Satanico y Kung Fu vs. El Dandy, Mogur y Kato Kung Lee, circa '91
I'm not sure what the deal was with this match. There was some sort of karate exhibition before it began, which was embarrasing in how little it resembled karate, and then Satanico cut a promo. By the time all that was over there was only time for one fall. Whether this was a one fall match or the rest of the match is missing or the uploader made a mistake, I'm not sure, but they went through the pairs once and then a second time and that was all that was uploaded. The action was fantastic, though. Even Mogur looked good in this.
Blue Panther, Black Panther y Fuerza Guerrera vs. Hector Garza, El Dandy y El Hijo del Santo, circa '95/96
This was the best of the lot. I don't know if Black Panther was the Puebla worker or not, but he was pretty damn good and led Garza through some pretty decent grappling exchanges to start this. That freed Dandy up to partner Panther and allowed Santo to pair off with Fuerza, two match-ups you don't see enough of. Hardcore fans may be disappointed that they brawl instead of having classic exchanges, but their brawling is every bit as good as you'd expect and the match is packed with wild spots. This was in that period where Garza did insane shit every match and I swear he takes this bump to the outside where his head bounces off the top rope. Deep into the third, Panther's mask is all torn up and it's amusing how easily you can recognise him now with half his face showing. Fuerza also has a torn mask and it never really occurred to me how much hair he has packed under that thing. Match ends with a sensational dive train: Garza's corkscrew plancha, Santo's plancha suicida and a double topes from Santo and Dandy that made them look like the greatest tag team that ever lived. Excellent match.
Ultraman, Stuka & Kung Fu vs. Herodes, Masakre & El Satanico, Arena Coliseo 80s
This seemed like an exciting match on paper, but it was very much a houseshow match. That wasn't so bad, however, as there were a couple of good laughs. The first half of the match featured a bunch of physical comedy designed to make the rudos look foolish while the second half was a beatdown where the technicos paid for their cheekiness. I love how rudos from this generation could switch from comedy to asskickery without missing a beat, and of course they were led by Satanico, one of the all-time great workers at leading an ass kicking. Satanico's range never ceases to amaze me. He had a comical exchange with Kung Fu that was Shaw Brothers in its choreography then during the beatdown he paraded around like the joke was on the technicos only to lay in the type of shots that showed how pissed he was at being humiliated. I also dug watching Herodes in this match. He's a guy who there's not a lot of footage of but who deserves his rep. Some funky stuff as a base for Stuka, great barrel roll bumps to the outside and cool immovable object spots. Masakre was better later on with the Infernales and Ultraman and Kung Fu weren't at their best here, but for a regular night out at Coliseo it was a nice little slice of 80s lucha.
La Fiera vs. Babe Face, hair vs. hair, 8/15/86
This was a good match. It didn't really deliver like a great hair match does, but still worth a look.
The first time I watched it I thought the first two falls were a bit innocuous looking. I always get defensive when people say the first two falls in lucha are nothing falls as most of the time I think they work within the rhythm of a lucha libre match, but with these 80s matches the crowds are so poorly mic'ed that it's difficult to get a feel for the rhythm at times. Watching it again, Fiera gave a slightly more nuanced performance in the opening falls than I realised but there were still a few things I had a problem with. One of those problems was Fiera's offense: I'm not a big fan of Fiera's high kick offense to begin with, but I thought it looked particularly strange with the size difference between the workers and Babe Face not being a big bumper. I also thought he used too much high end offense for the first fall of a hair match. I prefer hair matches to be straight out brawling; if they use big moves to try to win the match in the final caida then that's understandable, but I think the matches should start with some haymakers. These guys had some pretty good trash talking/finger pointing going on before the bell, and this was the 80s where a worker would show up for a hair match in some kind of awesome jacket and cut a promo at ringside directed at his opponent; but they went with a slow burning, smouldering start to this match and although there was blood I thought Babe Face's transition back onto offense and his winning submission was weak by hair match standards.
Where this match got good was in the third caida. There wasn't any major catalyst for the improvement in the match; they just started brawling in earnest. Fiera's selling was top notch. I loved the slight delay on his flailing bump anytime Babe Face delivered a headbutt or knockdown punch. He was also excellent at pacing his way through the opening section of the fall. He had his back to the canvas a lot and was in danger of succumbing to a second straight submission, and his first comeback attempt was for naught as his arm was too weakened to punch properly. The rest of the match was filled with lots of great little details as that big Fiera offense I mentioned left him increasingly groggy every time he tried to land a knockout blow. The highlight of the match was a face plant he took off a missed plancha from the apron. True dedication to his art. I was just getting into this match and there had just been a moment of typically great controversy in a match like this when all of a sudden it ended. That was a real buzz killer. I thought they could have gone a few minutes longer, though it was pretty obvious that it was Fiera doing all the work. I'm not sure that Babe Face had much chops, at least at this point in his career. Still for what this was I enjoyed it and it was good to see some prime Fiera.
El Hijo del Santo vs. El Hijo del Solitario vs. Angel Blanco Jr., Triangular de la Muerte, 3/31/12
There are about three or four handhelds of this available on youtube. The handheld with the best angle is broken down into half a dozen parts. It's also the most complete, from entrances to post match unmasking and celebrations. A couple of the other versions are clipped.
This was fairly typical for a Triangular de la Muerte match. As soon as a three-way match was announced I had an inkling that it would be along these lines rather than a classic. The early falls are perfunctory, but there's always the hope that the mascara contra mascara section will be something special. In this case it was the standard Santo singles match. After such a bloody and violent feud, I was disappointed by the lack of blood. The heat, on the other hand, was fantastic and something which won't be captured in the televised version. If you ever want to hear Santo draw huge heat for his signature spots then this is the match for you. Blanco did the long lineage of unmasking rudos proud by kicking the bottom rope a couple of times and attacking Santo after he was given Blanco's mask and the post-match celebration was enjoyable, but nothing about this was great.
I thought it would've been far cooler to do Santo and Villano vs. Solitario and Blanco Jr. masks vs. masks match.
El Hijo del Santo & Villano IV vs. El Hijo del Solitario & Angel Blanco Jr., Todo X El Todo La Venganza, 3/23/12
This was nowhere near as good as their first match, but as the middle part in the feud it was still pretty good.
The February tag defied a lot of lucha libre conventions, whereas this was more along the lines of a traditional pre-apuestas match. The rudos milled about drawing heat while the technicos bled, then they switched roles. The rudos didn't care so much about winning this time round and just wanted to rub salt into the wound. The technicos gained a measure of revenge by winning the match, but were denied a total victory and will have to sit and stew for longer. The difference between the two matches is that this one didn't go the distance. The third fall was short and as with most matches pre-apuestas they held back on the big stuff. That said, there was still plenty of cool shit. I really liked Santo in this match. I thought he took a tremendous back against the ropes beating and bleed so much his mask looked burgundy. The highlight of the match was the set-up for his tope, which looked like it was cut and paste from 1986. There aren't too many people who do a better tope than Santo, but this one was particularly nasty. Blanco took an awesome backflip over the ring barrier and looked like he'd been knocked into next week. He looked like the off-stump after a West Indian fast delivery for those of you who understand cricket. Other highlights included Solitario playing Fuerza-like rudo tricks with a kid and folks shielding themselves from Villano's blood which splattered with each blow. Like I said, the rudos won't have minded losing this match, and for that reason this was a bit of a slow burner to build more heat for the mask match, but it was another chapter in what just might be the feud of the year and well recommended.
Virus vs. Guerrero Maya Jr., CMLL World Super Lightweight Championship, 7/6/11
This was a great match. It was almost assuredly the Match of the Year for 2011 and hasn't been topped since.
The early part of the match was a clinic from Virus. There's plenty of matwork where you get a more even contribution from both participants, be it Navarro and Solar, Casas and Panther or even Virus and Valiente, but in terms of carrying a guy this had as much rhythm as any of those match-ups and was a testament to what a great worker Virus has been for the past fifteen years or so. He spent most of the first fall circling Maya, applying one hold while all the while thinking two or three holds ahead. At one point he clung to Maya's back like a parasite trying to worm its way into a submission opening. When nothing came of it, he tried a different route, probing and circling and all the while waiting... Recently, there was some criticism on this site that lucha matwork rarely plays into the finish. I'd argue that you're much more likely to see a submission finish in a lucha match than the NWA style it was patterned after; but in this match, after a cool looking segment where Maya had to bridge his way out of a head scissors, sure enough they took to the ropes. Now the argument goes that this usually leads to one guy missing a move and the other guy scoring either an instant tap-out or flash pin. And to be fair, it's true that this happens a lot in the most uninspiring of lucha. But let's take a look at this match: instead of Maya scoring a flash pin from taking it to the ropes, Virus went in for the kill. And what a kill. When I said he was waiting, it was like a shark waiting for the right time to strike. Objectively speaking, I don't see how anyone can say that Virus didn't set that finish up. And when people say the grappling wasn't as good as the IWRG style, that may be true but you don't see the same psychology in those matches.
The second half of the match was an offensive showcase for Guerrero Maya Jr. I haven't seen much of Maya so I don't know how good he really is, but it's difficult to imagine that he's the former Multifacético. What really made this match was how great the tercera caída was. Maya reminded me of 1984 Atlantis in his second fall comeback, but in the third caida he took it up a notch with all sorts of nasty modern offence. The third caida was a really modern CMLL fall, but these can be exciting with the right rhythm and plenty of cool spots. The difference between this and so many other matches like it is that they got the timing right on every single spot. From the dropkick from behind to the senton to the outside to the armdrag takedowns, the match kept building and building; and for the first time since probably Sombra's match against Ephesto I found myself actively rooting for a technico to win. You can't beat that sort of drama in a wrestling match and that's why they haven't been topped since last summer. Probably the Match of the Decade thus far.
Blue Panther vs. Negro Casas, hair vs hair, CMLL 3/2/12
This was the match that pretty much everyone expected it would be. I won't go into too much detail about it as I assume everyone's seen it by now, but I'll share a few thoughts:
There wasn't any blood and it wasn't a hair match. You're not going to see blood at Arena Mexico, but it's still worth mentioning that it wasn't a hair match. The workers lost their hair but that was about all it had in common with classic lucha. It was a tightly worked affair with a lot of holds applied, and the tercera caida was notable for the lack of big moves and nearfalls that you usually see in a hair match. In other words, there was a hell of a lot more wrestling. The upside of all that wrestling was that the match had a ton of psychology; the downside was that it was short on storytelling. People can always come up with a story if they want to, that's a trait of any match that people like, but I don't think this match had the level of selling that you'd expect from a performer like Negro Casas and the tercera caida wasn't dramatic enough to compare it with a Sangre Chicana hair match or a Pirata Morgan hair match. They made up for that by having a keen contest, but it was a different sort of match. The best parts were similar to their lightning match and involved plenty of invention and skill, but I was disappointed in the tercera caida which I thought dragged and was more suited to a title match than a brawl. The match was geared more towards a technical brawl than biting each other's foreheads and spraying blood everywhere, but it slowed down in the final fall and there wasn't the same level of intensity. It didn't stop me from appreciating what an excellent match it was, but I watched it three times and it never got any better. I did think it was a better match than they could've had in their primes, since their collective age and experience has played such a big part in it being a maestros feud and Panther was never that great at apuestas matches, but at the same time I thought it exposed some of the weaknesses in Panther's work since he unmasked. No matter how hard he tries, he's just not that expressive. To really excel at these matches you have to be charismatic. The deranged old man act and the biting through the boot bit are fine but not enough to carry a match. I liked the Fujiwara armbar in the opening fall, though it seemed to me that they blew the spot later in the match. But again, it wasn't enough. Not to make this a truly great match. I actually liked the Black Terry/Chico Che hair match more than this as I thought Terry outperformed both Casas and Panther. The wrestling might have been better here, but I thought Terry captured what a hair match is all about.
Still, Casas/Panther, it's stupid to complain. Sticking these two together has been great and dream match-ups like this are something you rarely ever see in lucha. Therefore, it'll be in the reckoning come Match of the Year time.