Angel Blanco Jr./El Hijo del Solitario vs. El Hijo Del Santo/Villano IV, TXT 2/25/12
This was an excellent match and a vintage Santo brawl. I guess the surprising thing about that is that Santo didn't feature prominently. With the focus squarely on El Hijo del Solitario and Villano IV and an excellent performance from Angel Blanco Jr, Santo was left to do his bits. Santo being Santo it was all very crowd pleasing.
The most outstanding thing about the match was the amount of blood. All four guys bled buckets and by the end of the match both Santo and Blanco's masked were stained red. It was an authentic lucha brawl, perhaps the most authentic we've seen in a while. You could've taken any number of still shots, printed them in grainy black and white and imagined you were reading an old-school lucha libre magazine. But it also had a clever structure. What seemed like it would be an easy first up fall for the technicos was cut off and turned into a long beatdown. El Hijo del Solitario and Angel Blanco Jr, neither of whom is a worker of note, spent a long period working the technicos over, and you know it's not easy to make ripping a guy's mask open interesting. They actually spent longer working a cut than a rudo typically would in one of these matches and the fact that they could keep it from being dull was commendable. I watched the match twice and the second time I was tracking Angel Blanco Jr during the rudo control segment and I really felt that he contributed some excellent spots, including my favourite spot where both he and El Hijo del Solitario began punching Villano IV simultaneously on the mat. El Hijo del Solitario is a tall, sort of thinnish worker, who reminds me of how Cien Caras used to move in the 80s. His stuff doesn't look that good and he has these sort of swiping punches that almost look like open handed strikes (only his fist is closed), but either he was hitting Villano for real or Villano was selling them like a champ because it was all pretty effective. After so much abuse, the technicos' comeback was super hot. The Villano boys know how to brawl and there was plenty of swinging chair shots and sweet payback. A lot of people moan about lucha structure, and in truth the technicos probably took over too easily in this fall, but it's the heat for the comeback that really matters. The third fall is always a back and forth slugfest, but the point of the second caida is to give the technicos momentum heading into the final fall and show that they can deliver later on in the match. That momentum came in the form of Santo's famous plancha to the outside, which is one of the most perfect spots in all of wrestling and still breathtaking after all this years. The twist here, however, was that the technicos couldn't take the fall and so that momentum eventually whittled away. The rudos winning in straight falls was a smart piece of booking, I thought. The finish was great and the post-match wet everyone's appetite for the mask match at the end of this month. The rudos definitely came of this looking stronger than anyone could have possibly imagined. It also showed, from a structural point of view, that those easy falls that people complain about in lucha are only small windows of opportunity much the same as any other sport. You don't see that type of psychology in lucha often, but it exists.
I will say this, though: it didn't grab me as the Match of the Year. The latest in a run of excellent matches coming out of Mexico, but not the Match of the Year. We'll have to wait and see about that.
Blue Panther vs. Negro Casas, lightning match, CMLL 1/27/12
-- for a lightning match this was extremely good. Ten minutes can either be too short or too long in a lightning match, and many workers struggle to deliver something substantial, but this was as close to a proper match as you'll get with this stip. It wasn't perfect as they couldn't transition into the finish very well and the finish itself was contrived, but what shone through was how good these guys are at keeping things interesting. Panther was especially good with his selling and transitions, but both guys dug into their bag of tricks and the time simply wasn't an issue. It wasn't a MOTYC or anything like that (that's a bit of an overreaction), but as far as setting up a hair match goes it was as good as anything I can remember.
Atlantis vs. Ultimo Guerrero, CMLL 2/3/12
-- this is the sort of match I'd usually give a wide berth, but I was impressed with both these guys in that January trios so I thought I'd give them a chance. Ah, I thought it was all right. They tried to have a physical match with mask ripping and punch combos and plenty of body shots. A few people commented that it was indicative of the modern CMLL main event style, but there's nothing special about trying to have a huge tercera caída in a lucha libre match. Atlantis has been working this way his entire career. Things petered out on this occasion, but at least they tried to add something extra to each transition. It wasn't Casas vs. Panther, but it wasn't exactly spotty either. Atlantis is looking good this year, but I was kind of shocked by how grey he is.
Negro Casas vs. La Sombra, NWA World Welterweight Championship, CMLL 2/20/12
This was an excellent match. I'm struggling to think of any Casas matches I enjoyed more than this in the past 14 years. I don't know why everyone's working so hard lately, is it because business is down? I don't know what it is, but my opinion of CMLL has changed dramatically in the past few weeks. I haven't had this positive a vibe about the promotion since I first started this blog. This wasn't the classic lucha of 20 years ago, but it was smart and provided the perfect framework for how to have a modern match with a little bit of thought put into it. Sombra's been in more exciting matches than this, but I doubt he's been in anything as well worked. Casas was fantastic in this. His selling has always been his stock and trade, but what really stood out to me were the clever transitions. I'm starting to sound like Herb Kunze in this entry, but in the transitions in CMLL (and all wrestling really) have been so telegraphed for so long now that the work I'm seeing of late is exciting. Really smart use of a striking game against a bigger man and two big counters in the third caida that were sold about as well as the guy on offense can sell. Suddenly, I'm looking forward to CMLL matches.
Fuego/Valiente vs. Arkangel de la Muerte/Virus, CMLL 2/21/12
Here's another excellent match. What is in the water? This was fabulous. Just pure lucha. The opening exchanges between Arkangel and Fuego weren't the greatest, but I'm not sure everyone appeciates the beauty of cooperative lucha holds. They didn't get the rhythm right here but it's a beautiful thing when they start flipping holds. The closest comparison I can make is a "veronica" in bullfighting. Valiente and Virus were outstanding. They're such a natural pairing and their opening exchange was gorgeous. I've never really made the connection before, but Virus reminds me of Dandy in a way. One thing that was really noticeable was how much better Arkangel's exchanges were with Valiente than Fuego. The monkey flips were awesome as was the begging off. Those are the moments to savour in lucha and a good example of what I'd like to see more of in those maestro tags where Navarro and Solar never wrestle anybody else. I know I've been saying this a lot, but I can't remember the last time I saw a rudo comeback this good. Perhaps it's because I didn't watch lucha much last year, but that karate chop foul was brilliant. And how much fun was the third fall? It was a bit short, but the rudo beatdown, the technico comeback, the fast paced exchanges, tope and the all in finish were fantastic. I feel like I'm being spoilt.
Pierroth vs. Mascara Sagrada, Mexican National Light Heavyweight title, 2/1/91
If ever there was a test of how good Pierroth was during this time frame then this is it. Mascara Sagrada was not... very good... After a while, you accept him as part of the crew and sometimes you're impressed with what a rudo can do with him in trios, but we talking about trios. This was a twenty minute, two out of three falls title match. It wasn't exactly a miracle match, but it could've easily been a disaster. It was more of a heel vs. face match than a true title match, partially because Pierroth wasn't good enough on the mat to carry Sagrada but also because his strengths lay in being a "character worker," which he'd use to great effect the following year when his charisma exploded. The work is outrageously bad when Sagrada is on offense as you'd expect, but pretty entertaining when Pierroth is in control. Pierroth was sort of a second tier worker (as much as I like him), but he pulled this off. Would've loved to have seen him against Octagon, who was the best possible Mascara Sagrada on the roster.
Hoping to keep more up to date with lucha this year.
Black Terry/El Hijo Del Pirata Morgan/Skyde vs. Negro Navarro/Trauma 1/Trauma 2 Arena Neza 1/1/12
-- This was ok. I read some criticism of the Terry/Trauma II matwork but it was nowhere near as frustrating as it can be. Navarro vs. Skyde was a nice change of pace but they could've done more. The best parts were the Terry/Navarro exchanges. Ever since those clips of Terry and Navarro fighting each other cut to Metallica's Unforgiven I've been clamouring for a singles match between the two. I could quit watching and die a happy man if it ever happens. El Hijo Del Pirata Morgan was a bit disappointing in this and played an odd role as fall guy.
El Hijo Del Santo vs. Angel Mortal Jr., Arena Neza 1/1/12
-- This was boring as shit. The same match Santo's been working for twenty years against a bad worker.
Blue Panther/Atlantis/Solar vs. Ultimo Guerrero/Felino/Negro Navarro, 1/14/12
-- This was a good match. Panther and Felino were awful on the mat, but the Solar/Navarro exchanges were amazing. I'm one of those people who think they wrestle too often, especially in matches like these, but I was floored by their work here. More surprising, though, were the Atlantis/Ultimo Guerrero exchanges. Atlantis looked great, but Ultimo Guerrero was fantastic. I don't want to get carried away and call it the best match he's ever had, but it was certainly the most I've enjoyed him.
Atlantis, Delta, Guerrero Maya Jr. vs. Morphosis, Psicosis, Volador Jr. [MEX TRIOS] CMLL GDL 1/17/12
-- This seemed okay. I think you have to be in rhythm with the match to enjoy this type of wrestling as there's no breathing space between moves. Prefer the darkened arenas to the usual CMLL lighting.
Chico Che vs. Black Terry, IWRG 1/22/12
Chico Che vs. Black Terry, hair vs. hair, IWRG 1/29/12
-- This is what I'm talking about when I say Terry is better at working brawls than maestro tags or IWRG matwork. Both these matches deserve their own posts, but let me just say that the first match is an excellent mano a mano bout and the second is best Terry match I've seen. You should all go watch it now instead of reading any more, but long time IWRG viewers will be pleased to know that it takes the best aspects of Terry's feuds from '06-08 and pits them against a legitimately good worker in Che. Both guys bleed buckets, the strikes are great and the headbutts legendary. The key spots in the hair match work really well, especially the stuff lifted from Terry's match against Multifacético that Raging Noodles and I reviewed a few years ago. Loved all the involvement with the seconds and thought Alan Extreme's tope was sensational (and extremely well caught by BTJr.) The opening falls were fleshed out, the decider was dramatic while still being appropriate for the size of the arena, and the bullshit with the ref was fun. Terry was in his element bleeding and selling and these matches ruled.
Black Terry/Negro Navarro vs. Trauma I/Trauma II, LUCHA POP 8/27/11
This was a fairly typical match between these workers. It was bare bones in terms of layout and structure; Navarro dominated, Terry played second fiddle, and yet it was still pretty good. When Black Terry Jr's videos first started appearing it was Trauma II who showed the most potential among Dinastía Navarro, but for the past year or so Trauma I has been beastly. I don't know if he's overtaken Trauma II, but it sure looks that way. Mind you, everyone gets relegated to secondary status when Negro Navarro is in the ring. That's what happened to Terry & Trauma II, who worked the usual "my turn/your turn" pattern. The selling was decent, but Terry's a stronger character than Navarro and I don't really like seeing him in this environment. Sure he can work holds, but his forte are those Terribles Cerebros brawls where he does his best character work. Here Terry and Trauma II spent most of their time trying to hook each other, but it's obvious who's hookin' who if you keep taking turns. Not only that, but they always manage to go too long. I don't know if I've ever seen a Terry/Trauma exchange that ended on an upbeat. Navarro vs. Trauma I was outstanding, however. They worked this tiny little story where Trauma slapped the old man, and talk about teaching your boy a lesson. Trauma did a fantastic job of screaming basically, as Navarro taught his ever-improving son that he still doesn't know squat. Trauma I vs. Navarro has tremendous potential as the younger Trauma has the size to fight back against his old man, whereas big brother would have to work from underneath and probably get mauled. Navarro eased up on his boy after the armlock and ended up giving him the bout, but the signs were there that Navarro vs. Trauma could develop into one of wrestling's better match-ups. Here's hoping they wrestle each other more often than Navarro and Terry do.
Blue Panther vs. Super Astro, Mexican National Middleweight Championship, AAA 10/9/92
I've always thought this match was a disappointment and still do. The matwork in the first caida is nothing special and actually pretty weak by lucha title match standards. When you consider that it's a Blue Panther title match it's even more frustrating. Worse still is the second caida. I'm sure we've all made concessions for a weak caida in the past, but a soft fall is not what you'd expect from an oft-cited classic. I'm not against short falls by any stretch of the imagination, but a pinfall or submission shouldn't just fall into your lap. They do some good things in the third fall but it doesn't happen in rhythm with the rest of the match so it's hard to get excited about. It does salvage the match to a fair extent, but not to the point where it's a classic. Panther vs. Angel Azteca was better than this and that's hardly a classic either. When I think about what's missing from this match it's difficult to imagine what people see in it. There's none of the beauty and struggle of Panther's matwork against Atlantis or the breathtaking work of Super Astro in trios. I'm not sure what causes people to elevate this match beyond its proper station, but at least their impression is favourable. Hopefully, they use it as a gateway to the better stuff because I just don't see this as a high point in either guy's work.
Virus vs. Stuka Jr., Arena Coliseo de Guadalajara, 8/30/11
Wow, after crying out for CMLL to give Virus more time to work they finally went and did it. Thank you, CMLL.
This was a wonderfully old-school match. The matwork was short and not much more than a feeling out process, but the rope exchanges and transitions were classic lucha and the slower, more deliberate pace had a strong resonance with me. The match didn't have a big arc, but in this particular case the simplity of the match outweighed the need to make it dramatic and I liked the fact that Virus was able to end the match cleanly and simply from a series of moves that Stuka should have kicked out from. You could probably argue that it made Stuka seem like more of a jobber than is usually portrayed in lucha, but it was worth it to be free from the trappings of the modern day style. I didn't really follow lucha last year, but more matches like this and I think I'll enjoy catching up on it over the New Year period.
La Fiera v. Jerry Estrada, chain match, Monterrey, early 90s
This is the first time I can remember seeing a chain match in lucha. I've got to say it's one of the better borrowed gimmicks I've seen in Mexican wrestling. The thing I liked about this most was how random the match-up was. One of the great things about lucha is that when you think of a chain match in Monterrey, there's probably a hundred different match-ups it would suit, but you look at the billing -- Jerry Estrada and La Fiera in a chain match -- and you think, "yeah, that works." Totally random, totally great. I can't think of another style of wrestling where there's so many match-ups you have to watch in case the match is great. This is a case in point, as long time readers will know how I feel about Jerry Estrada, but there's no way a sane man can resist watching this. I'll give Estrada his props now -- he was badass in this. They both were, really. It was basically a mano a mano match with a prop, but they did a lot of cool things with that prop and there was all of the blood and violence and selling that you'd expect. Brutality aside, I don't know if I'd call it a truly great match as it lacked the type of big finish that kicks the nearfalls into overdrive, but I kind of liked the finish they came up with for the sheer goofiness of it. After the tope and big spill to the outside, the idea was basically that the match was too violent to have any sort of resolution so they threw down the chain and did a double clothesline spot. Estrada barely connected with his clothesline, but it was one of those "only in lucha" moments where throwing down the chain and doing a double clothesline seems like a good idea. Yeah, it would've been better if one of them had tortured the other into submission but the match ran out of gas as a whole. Still, these matches are about atmosphere more than anything else and this definitely had its share, from the torn canvas to the workers bringing extra objects to the fight (for no other reason than they were scheduled to fight that night.) Plenty to dig even if it's incomplete.
Blue Panther vs. Negro Casas, CMLL 4/24/11
Neither of these guys rank among my favourite lucha libre vets but this was an excellent mano a mano bout. I think it's fair to say that mano a mano bouts don't have the grandest of traditions in lucha libre. Historically, they remind me of studio matches from the territories system where the purpose was to further an angle or tease an arena match. For the most part, they were an excuse for both guys to spill a little blood before a wager match while holding back their big moves and doing the sort of fluff you see in the first two falls of any hair or mask match. Things don't really work like that anymore, but to be honest the classic mano a mano probably works best in a dark, dingy arena with a promoter who's teasing a wager match that will never, ever happen in his territory.
What made this Casas/Panther match so good was that it was more or less worked like a straight-up singles match between the two. They also kept it really tight. I still don't like maskless Panther and I hate the way he waddles around the ring, but his work was snug in this match and I felt like he was keeping everything close quarters like in an old school mano a mano bout. I've mentioned many times in this blog that I think Panther's brawling is suspect, while acknowledging the times when it's been very, very good, but he managed to pull off what I'd describe as "technically minded brawling" in this particular bout; something that Negro Navarro and the Villanos are very good at. He's nowhere near as vicious at it as those examples, but then he's not a prime candidate for a hair match either. Nevertheless, he was looking to exploit Casas' injuries through submission and the finish was a ridiculously good shoot move.
As for Casas' performance, I'm a big Casas fan without being a huge Casas fan. I agree with people who claim that Casas is one of the greatest workers of all-time, but for my mind it's a very old-school Casas that's one of the greatest workers ever. Casas was a guy who could generate massive amounts of heat through his magnetism and flamboyance, his sheer ability to get under people's skins, and many other things that didn't involve ring work. As times changed and wrestling became more and more offense driven, Casas had to move with the times, but offense was never Casas' biggest strength. Others may praise him for adapting to a changing wrestling environment and staying at the top or thereabouts for so many years, but for me the appeal of Casas begins to wear thin from about 1998 onwards. This match had pared down offense and a very dogged focus, but there was a long submission struggle that didn't really work for me where I thought it was clear that Casas came off second best in terms of pure technique. Mind you, even in the work from his prime I think he's been overrated as a mat wrestler.
Sluggish matwork was really the only fault in what was otherwise an enjoyable mano a mano bout, however. Considering how forgettable most mano a mano bouts are even when they have blood and mask ripping and pillar to post brawling, this was a really decent match.
Villano III vs. Rambo, mask vs. mask, 10/25/87
This was awesome. I don't know how much of it exists on tape since it was a Cronicas y leyendas de la lucha libre hatchet job that I watched, but I presume it's the whole thing since it's a handheld shot from ringside. Whatever the case, it was every bit as bloody and violent as the pictures suggest:
And everything you'd expect from a Rambo vs. Villano mask match. In fact, having watched their later hair matches it's pretty much the capper. In lieu of a review let me just say that you know you're watching a hair match when Villano looks like that in the opening fall.
El Canek vs. Don Corleone, UWA World Heavyweight Championship, 2/14/82
This was okay, but I was expecting something different. I guess I was anticipating some sort of non-existent Ray Mendoza mat game from Canek, but it was pretty much your run-of-the-mill Canek match from this era. Canek was a guy who could do a lot of things athletically, but he was a bit of a boring prick really. The highlight here was Don Corelone, who had a great build for pro-wrestling and moved really beautifully. He was spry throughout this bout and did a number of cool spots, but they never went anywhere because of how lazy Canek's pacing was. Heavyweight bouts are obviously going to be wrestled slower than other lucha libre bouts to distinguish the weight classes from each other, but Canek loved the resthold/action/resthold/action pattern of heavyweight wrestling and seledom did anything to lengthen or shorten the periods of action and inaction. There was no flow to this and no discernable theme, but it all built to a tope like a lucha libre title match is supposed to, so I suppose it was job done as far as Canek was concerned. It didn't help that the crowd wasn't mic'ed, either. Without crowd noise, matches always look muted. The handheld footage of this show is much better than the Japanese TV coverage, IMO.
Atlantis vs. La Fiera, NWA World Middleweight Championship, 4/3/92
It's weird watching a match where one of the participants gets stabbed to death years later but that's wrestling I guess. I'm not going to eulogise La Fiera too much, but he was part of that generation of luchadores who debut in the late 70s and ushered in a more contemporary style of lucha libre. By the time the 90s rolled around, his body was already showing the effects of that new working style, but he managed to make the transition into "seasoned vet" and remained a useful player. He also stuck with CMLL when everyone jumped to AAA, which protected his spot somewhat, partly out of loyalty and partly out of necessity. This match was somewhere between the Fiera of old and the seasoned vet, and probably a good example of how you manage a pro-wrestling career (Atlantis) and how you don't (Fiera); but let's just concentrate on the match.
Atlantis was in his absolute prime here. Much like "real" athletes, wrestlers only have two or three years where they're at their true peak. They may be good workers either side of that peak, but if you look back in retrospect there's a clear crest. The first fall here was among Atlantis' career best. One of the things that people complain about when it comes to lucha is the length of the opening falls, which are almost always too short for people used to other styles of wrestling. By and large the third fall is the one that counts, but as I've documented many times in this blog, the workers have choices about what they can do in the first, second and third falls. Here, they worked in essence a "mini match" in the primera caida. From the lock-up to the break, and the matwork and submissions to the standing exchanges, there was a clear arc between the opening bell and Atlantis winning fall.
I'm not sure what the heat between Atlantis and Fiera was, but the part where Atlantis ignored Fiera's handshake and used it as a takedown instead was boss. There was an edge to their lock-up work and it continued in a competitive vein on the mat with great side headlocks from Atlantis and niggly counters from Fiera. The side headlock for all its simplicity is an amazingly visceral move when done correctly and this would be exhibit A in how to make it look good. The finish saw them return to their feet, which is something that drives me up the wall about the NWA style matwork that influenced this match, but this was about as natural a transition from matwork to standing exchanges as you'll ever see. Fiera scored a rope break off a nice counter-reversal from Atlantis and the match was reset. Atlantis positioned himself for the lock-up, but was caught by surprise by a kick to the gut and whipped into the corner. This set-up the chain of events which led to the finish, and while it may seem rather elementary when I type it up, rarely do you see workers link the matwork and the stand-up exchanges together like that. Nine times out of ten, they simply release the hold, back-off and reset the match with a whip into the ropes. Here, it seemed like Fiera seized an opportunity to change tack, which had the added effect of making it seem like Fiera was thinking about the win and not simply going through the motions of a typical primera caida. Unfortunately for him, Atlantis was stellar on his feet and reeled off a sequence of offence that was good enough to be the finish to the entire match. This ended up being a problem later in the match, but more on that in a bit. The first fall was a cracker as far as first falls go in lucha.
The second fall was designed for Fiera to hit back straight away, but was entertaining all the same. Atlantis continued to have the upper exchange in the standing exchanges, which was a nice bit of overlapping from the first fall, and Fiera wasn't getting much purchase with his signature kicks (which were noticeably lower than in his prime; something us aging guys can sympathise with.) Fiera's opening here wasn't quite as strong as in the first fall as he did the over top rope bump that Pirata Morgan and Emilio Charles Jr. were fond of but didn't sell it to any great extent. Back in the ring, he finally clipped Atlantis with one of his kicks and that was the set-up for a massive swan dive plancha that they replayed over and over again. This was an unnaturally big finish for a second fall, which left me wondering how they were going to top things in the final caida, but there certainly wasn't any short changing of the fans in falls one and two.
Unfortunately, they weren't able to top their efforts in the final caida. Ironically, it may have been a case that the first two falls had too much action. Traditionally, the reason why the first two falls are short in lucha is because the third fall is supposed to be a big 50/50 fall where the winner takes all and both guys come desperately close to winning on numerous occasions. This can stretch believability at times because the pinfalls and submissions often come simply in the opening caidas and take a superhuman effort in the finale, but the basic idea is that the jeopardy increases and the tension and drama escalates. If you pack too much into the first two falls, it's like a movie that runs out of story or a record release that has great singles put not enough songs to make an album. Fiera slowed the match to a crawl by working over Atlantis' arm, which was an understandable strategy, but completely out of place in a tercera caida where the action should flow back and forth. Atlantis sold it well, but it really needed to start in the segunda caida (as Fiera's avenue back into the match) to have any dramatic effect. The idea was that Atlantis would get heat for fighting off Fiera, but they needed to establish it as more of a turning point, i.e. Atlantis is in control of the match until Fiera injures him.
It was an odd fall, really, as they both wanted to put the match over but didn't give themselves a hell of a lot to do. The finishing stretch and everything leading into it was pretty lacklustre. I don't know if they ran out of steam or if they were just out of synch at the end, but it didn't do the match any favours. My take on it is that they got the order of the spots wrong, which hurt the progression of the match. They should've split the armwork over two falls and saved the big plancha for later in the match where it would have more impact. It's strange that two guys as experienced as this would falter like they do, but there's no denying the match falls flat. It's still worth watching even if it isn't perfect; you just have to downgrade what was a pretty promising match.
Haven't checked in on my favourite mat worker for a while. This may come as a shock, but he's still wrestling Solar.
Negro Navarro vs. Solar, Ultimo Dragon Produce, 7/19/10
Negro Navarro vs. Solar, AAA Arena Neza, 1/8/11
It was interesting watching these back-to-back. The Korakuen Hall bout was their typical touring match which we've seen them do in Japan before, while the match from Nezahualcoyotl was a lucha libre title match for the belt Navarro holds. On the surface, it seems like the Arena Neza match is the more serious of the two because it's a title match being wrestled in Mexico, but a closer look at both matches reveals that this is not really the case. In fact, the only real difference between the two is that one is pro shot and the other is a handheld. The crowd has more of a hum about it in Mexico, whereas the Japanese fans are happy to sit back and watch the match and laugh at "chotto matte" jokes, but that doesn't appear to have any impact on how they work the matches. For all intents and purposes, they're the same match.
At first glance, the Neza match appears to be all business, but I think that has a lot to do with the uploader editing out the parts where Navarro and Solar play to the crowd. You could maybe argue that there are less holds and that they're held for longer, but the matches basically build to the same finish in exactly the same way. Whether this means they've tweaked their touring match, I'm not sure, but these guys are pretty much tireless when it comes to adding new variations to the holds they work. There was one awesome stretch in the Tokyo match where they started out doing a Dos Caras-like submission, hooked each other on the mat with leglocks around the head, and turned this contortionist act into a Fujiwara-like chinlock submission. Quite the gauntlet.
Neither match was what you'd call a traditional lucha libre singles match (with a three fall structure and proper arc), but they did have a throughline (what you'd call the theme of the work, if you were to think about a match in literary terms.) Solar and Navarro are often accused of being "exhibitiony," but I think it's the finishes that hurt them more their tendencies to give up or release a hold. I'm not sure why they keep short-changing us on the finish. There's no reason that I can think of why there can't be a winner. When you finish a match the way they do here (it was a double pin in both matches), you pretty much consign things to the "that was a nice bit of wrestling" basket. It really takes the wind out of a match's sails, because there's no way that you can really say you saw a match, with all the connotations that implies. On the other hand, it's a bit like those maestro tags, where you just have to accept that they're never going to be worked with a satisfying match structure.
Unnecessary finishes aside, I enjoyed both these matches. The Nezahualcoyotl match wasn't quite as special as I thought it was before I had the bright idea to compare it to the Korakuen bout (which was very good for a lucha in Japan match, I must add), so that takes it down a few points in terms of the best of 2011, but it really is amazing that these guys are still wrestling at such a high level ten years after they started this junket.
Negro Navarro/Black Terry vs El Apache/Angel Mortal, IWRG, 1/9/11
Negro Navarro/Black Terry vs El Apache/Angel Mortal, IWRG, 1/16/11
Speaking of maestro tags, these are the matches that are getting everyone excited in the small lucha indy community on the net.
A few years back, maestro tags were the high point of the lucha year because of how difficult it was to get indy footage (think Terry/Navarro vs. Mano Negra/Solar), but with more footage available it's been easier to become critical. Most of the maestro stuff in recent times has struck me as a waste of talent because of the way everyone not named Solar or Negro Navarro is reduced to a passenger, as well as the refusal to swap partners and work a proper match with shifts in momentum, overlapping falls, and all the rest. But these were interpromotional maestro tags; a fact which managed to breathe new life into an old dog.
The difference between the first tag and other matches that BTjr has shot is plain to see. One of my biggest complaints about maestro tags (at least the Solar/Navarro ones) is that there's nothing to tie the falls together; no through line to give the matches any sort of focus. The reason for this is that they forgo the traditional lucha structure of overlapping the falls, whereby the momentum from one fall carries over into the next, leading to a turning point in the present fall where momentum shifts back the other way. Since lucha is ultimately a back and forth, 50/50 style of working, this toing and froing helps build overall momentum in the match, leaving it unclear who's going to win heading into the third. In theory, anyway. The through line here was pretty simple -- the worker's competitive instincts boiling over (or however you want to describe it) -- but they executed it fairly well. I wouldn't say it was worthy of excessive praise, but I was pleased that they shifted from Terry/Apache and Navarro/Mortal to Apache/Navarro and Terry/Mortal and back again. There's nothing worse than watching these matches and seeing guys seagull on the apron. The only gripe I had with the way they worked the match was the finish. I'm not the first person to mention this, but it really was stupid.
Forgetting for a moment the miscommunication spot between the AAA guys (since there was a revancha instead of them not teaming again), the reason for the aggression in the match was because Navarro was behaving like a bastard gym teacher. Watch how he behaves when he squares off with Apache to start the second caida. Maybe it's just me, but as soon as Apache retaliates to let Navarro know that they can grapple too (essentially), the AAA guys automatically become the technicos to me and not some outside rudos. Terry's comeback was (or rather would have been) a decent finish, but I actually think the AAA guys should've won, which would've added more fuel to the fire and been earnt in my eyes.
Still, it didn't really matter because the revancha was awesome.
The first fall was a neat "let's forget the last match happened and start again" fall and finishes with a reminder that the last match did happen when Apache and Mortal lose again. The second fall is the lucha equivalent of hitting below the belt in a title fight; well, luchadores do hit below the belt in some title fights, but what I really mean is that there are unwritten laws in lucha about how you work a hold and the parts of the body you target and the AAA guys were purposefully shitty in the second fall. As for the third fall, it was as good as any Terry brawl since I started taking notice of his stuff three or four years ago. Terry's a good mat worker, an excellent mat worker even, but as a brawler he may very well the best of all-time. The only guy who'd give him a run for his money (and I'm talking about in lucha here) would be Sangre Chicana. Other guys have been better at doing the brawling, but it's Terry's selling that sets him apart. Most people who read this blog are going to go ahead and watch this match on youtube anyway (or already have), so I won't go into great detail describing what Terry does, but the whole thing reminded me of the intro to the Lee Van Cleef spaghetti western The Big Gundown. Just an epic piece of violence.
Pierrothito vs. Demus 3:16, CMLL 8/24/10
I can't be the only one who didn't know that Pequeño Damián 666 changed his name to Demus 3:16, can I?
This was the final of a "Bicentenial tournament" to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Mexican independence and the 18th anniversary of CMLL's Mini-Estrella division, with the winner earning a shot in the regular CMLL weight classes much like Virus did many years ago. The finalists were determined with torneo cibernetico elimination matches, and in a neat piece of booking the final was rudo vs. rudo. Pequeño Damián has been one of the best workers in Mexico for a number of years now, and Pierrothito is a respected veteran of the Mini-Estrella division and a great worker in his own right, so this was one of those rare match-ups where you have two really good workers facing each other.
The first two falls here were a perfect example of how you can be compact but still natural through beautiful execution. The first caida was full of jockeying both on the mat and with pin attempts, and there were some neat shows of strength as both guys engaged in the lucha equivalent of puffing your chest out. Demus is a beast in terms of both his look and physique (probably the complete package in Mexico right now) and had Pierrothito's barrel chest to line up in this match, so he brought the stiffness early on. Both these guys are built like a brick shithouse with Pierrothito looking like a smaller version of Rick Steiner and Demus being a hefty guy with a big upper body, and given that they weigh more than many of their compadres they also have the force of that extra weight behind their moves. Demus did a plancha in the second caida, for example, that had some extra venom to it because of his larger build. Stiffness wasn't the only standout feature, however. The finishing stretch to the second caida was a really standard stringing together of moves, but the pacing was just right, and the moves were weighted in such a way that it was an important two or three moves which had been strung together. That may seem a lot of fuss over small details but getting those first two falls to mean something takes some skill in lucha libre. There are thousands of matches worked in Mexico each year; many of which are really quite innocuous or tepid at best (I'm trying to be more polite this year.) This match was for promotion into the higher ranks, and I, for one, appreciated the extra effort.
The third fall was the kicker, of course. Phil Schneider described the way the heavy hitting broke down into an actual slugfest as being like Frye vs. Takayama, which is an apt and clever description, but really the structure of the entire fall was brilliant. The only part that didn't work was the mask ripping and bladejob, which felt out of place but was clearly done to create a visual. It didn't really hamstring the match, however, as they were back to brawling within a few seconds, and to be honest it was better than IWRG. Early on in the third, they were like two bulls charging at each other, and then later, Pierrothito's headbutt and Demus' punch combos were just sick. This was a hell of a fight and probably my match of the year for 2010 lucha libre. Both of these guys have worked incredibly hard over the years and I was thrilled that they were able to have a match this good. And thanks to CMLL for letting it happen!
Pierrothito/Demus 3:16/Pequeño Warrior vs. Astral/Mascarita Dorada/Ultimo Dragoncito, CMLL 8/13/10
This was a beautiful match. On a certain level it was what you'd expect from the CMLL Mini-Estrella division, but either I haven't watched the minis in a while or they hit upon the perfect rhythm, because I thought this was sensational. It wasn't a particularly long match, but well balanced over the three falls. Particularly impressive was the beatdown section on Mascarita Dorada. One of the things that turned me off CMLL was that the rudos would basically do the same beatdown in the same order in every match on the card, but the beatdown here struck me as far more imaginative -- making good use of not only Dorada's size, but also enjoying their work. If you were a rudo, then Mascarita Dorada would be the perfect target: this small, weedy guy, who looks like the runt of the litter but at the same time is extremely virtuous. The enjoyment in beating the shit out of Mascarita Dorada would be quite the adrenaline rush, I imagine. Dorada, for his part, did a good job underfoot. It's hard for him to sell anything in his suit (aside from shaking his head about and flapping his arms), so bumping becomes more important and I liked the way he was chewed up and spat out in this match. He really is awesome. His big offensive run in the third caida was exciting as shit and everyone followed suit with cool spots. Even spots that are hopelessly set-up looked awesome in this match, and the finish was Demus at his decapitating best. The minis rule.
Two excellent matches from CMLL.
Comando Negro vs. Pollo, mask vs. mask, IWRG 12/26/10
This is the fantastic mask vs. mask match from Boxing Day between Comando Negro and a guy in a chicken suit. Just an outstanding rudo performance from Comando Negro -- everything you'd want from a rudo beating up a guy in a chicken suit. I really can't overstate how perfectly this worked. First you had Comando Negro completely and utterly outclassing his opponent, stepping out of the way on the best missed dive I've seen in ages. Then you had a really classic technico comeback with the chicken all battered and bloody and woozy, and a third fall where the chicken would not be vanquished. I mentioned in my previous entry that it's difficult to have great matches at Arena Naucalpan but this was positively epic. The crowd were in full voice and right behind Pollo, which gave them a nice rhythm to work from, but the timing on the selling was equally great. Pollo surprised me by throwing both himself and unfolded chairs with equal abandon; I never expected the chicken to put up such a fight. The timing on everything was positively old-school and if there was any sloppiness it didn't matter because it was a guy in a chicken suit who'd lost a bucket of blood. Comando Negro was far from sloppy, however. I don't know if this was his coming out party but it sure as hell impressed me. His finisher was sick.
Chico Che vs. Comando Negro, hair vs. mask, IWRG 12/9/10
Chico Che had a fantastic year in 2010. Last year it was Trauma II getting all the plaudits as most improved; this year it has to be Che. He started off as something of a fatboy novelty I suppose, but this match confirms what a good worker he's become. Usually, I'd fire off a bit of hyperbole about how much better he is than everyone else for the hell of it, but the message I want to get across is that he's a guy who everyone should be following. If you have even an inkling of interest in lucha then Che is a guy who can spark that interest further. He reminds me of a latter day version of prime Brazo de Plata, which is another way of saying that he reminds me of the characters who first drew me to lucha. Plata was part of a carefully orchestrated and successful act and as such used a lot more schtick than Che, but you can see a lot of Plata in Che particularly in the way he moves.
We've seen a lot of good offence from Che this year and some fine brawling and selling in his trios matches with the Cerebros, but I was surprised to see it all come together here. This wasn't a great apuestas match, but in terms of what passes for a good apuestas in IWRG it was really good. You could tell that both guys were drawing upon every hair and mask match they'd ever seen, and there were a number of cool touches that in the hundreds of matches I've reviewed for this blog I've come to view as real staples of lucha apuestas matches. There were a few moments which were less than desirable, but you get that with any match. What I liked here was the attempt to make the match meaning something.
The first two caidas are often the most difficult in an apuestas match because you have to get them out of the way before the big back and forth third caida, and that was pretty much the case here despite some nice looking punches from Chico. The third fall, however, was a real gem. That was where the brawling and the blood and the topes all came together. I haven't seen much lucha in the past few months, but there seemed to be an edge to Chico's work. He threw his full weight into each move and his offence was almighty. Comando Negro looked the part mainly by having a ripped mask and bloodied forehead, but I was also impressed with his impact moves. Arena Naucalpan is a difficult place to have a great match because it's so small. You have to hold back a bit and realise that smaller is bigger when there's bugger all people watching. With this in mind, I thought they did a good job of picking their spots. Their transitions could do with a bit of work and they could spend more time selling instead of pausing a beat or two before continuing but it's not a big arena match and I know these things are difficult to concentrate on. The end result was that there was blood, controversy, a bit of heat and some classy, classy offence from Che.
El Hijo Del Santo, Octagon, Rey Misterio Jr. vs. Blue Panther, Fuerza Guerrera, Psicosis (AAA 6/30/95)
Perhaps it's just me, but I've always considered Santo/Octagon/Mysterio Jr vs. Blue Panther/Psicosis/Fuerza Guerrera to be the premier trios match-up from this era of AAA. I guess it's because their 3/16/95 match was one of the first tapes that was recommended to me when I was starting out. I can still remember the enjoyment I got from that early taste of lucha libre; and while I've seen many better matches since, I would be remiss in ignoring the role it played in my infatuation with lucha. These days, much of my enjoyment of pro-wrestling comes from discovering new and better matches/workers, which often smacks of revisionism (in so much as one can revise something which has had as little written about it as the wrestling which I presently enjoy); but after watching two more matches from these two teams, I can safely say that their position is unchallenged despite my natural bent towards revisionism. In other words, their matches are still good.
This wasn't a huge, operatic trios, but it was a well worked match, and as I've said many times on this blog I take great heart in watching professionals perform lucha libre well. It was a match where the rudos essentially decided to pick on Rey Misterio Jr; not excessive rudoism, but sometimes the rudos' general demeanour is all it takes to piss off a technico. It was the technicos who started throwing punches in this match with Santo throwing better rights than when he was a rudo. He had some awesome exchanges with Psicosis, who was having one of those nights where his contribution was immeasurable. Their exchanges were wilder, and far better, than anything they ever did against other in singles competition. The real star of the match, however, was Rey Misterio Jr., who had the heat put on him early and rose to the occasion with one of the best performances of his young career. I'm not always impressed by early Rey, but he had wonderful control here and the timing of his moves matched the narrative well. The only downer was the finish, which, while not completely unrelated to what had gone before, was gutless in light of Misterio's strong performance.
Nice body to this match. I recommend checking it out on youtube.
El Hijo Del Santo, El Mariachi, El Mexicano, Octagon vs. Blue Panther, Espanto Jr., Fuerza Guerrera, Psicosis, AAA 8/19/94
I was expecting this to be mat heavy since it read Blue Panther vs. El Mariachi, but actually I don't think it had much to do with Blue Panther vs. El Mariachi at all. It was loosely structured around Fuerza and Mariachi ripping each other's masks, but the action was more tit for tat than anything else. I can't think of a solitary reason why anyone would watch this beyond the week it aired, but I will say that the work itself was extremely fluid.
From the rudo side, I was impressed with Fuerza and Espanto. This wasn't the type of match where the rudos impose their will on proceedings and stem the flow of technico offence; it was the type of match where one worker takes over from the last and the exchanges continue along the same rhythm. To that end, I thought Fuerza and Espanto made near perfect working decisions. Wrestling is as much about the choices workers make as anything else. I've long admired the ability wrestlers have to make choices on the spur of the moment, but what set Fuerza and Espanto apart is the effort they put into even the most basic of choices. Even their transitions in and out of the ring were convincing, and that sort of care and attention to detail was in direct contrast to Blue Panther who had an off night. His open-handed strikes swiped the air a lot and his kicks weren't much better. As a result, he had a tendency to wander in and out of the match a lot. Psicosis was much tidier, but his participation was limited to guillotines off the top and so forth.
The technicos were all pretty good in this. It wasn't a match with huge momentum shifts or important turning points, so the transitions onto technico offence were all pretty soft, but once they started busting out the ring clearing exchanges, the match had, for the briefest of moments, the sort of cracking pace and electrifying exchanges that wow even the most hardened of fans. This is one of the reasons why I don't like to criticise Octagon. While he'll never win the Palme d'Or for lucha workers, he was perfectly capable of pulling out these Black Man moments when a trios demanded it. Credit often goes to the rudo who bumped, but Octagon had a spectacular way of contorting his body. Santo was also industrious in this match and gave a good performance.
Solid stuff, but like I said, not a lot to immortalise it beyond August of 1994.
7/29/94 AAA: El Hijo Del Santo/Octagon/Rey Misterio Jr. vs. Blue Panther/Fuerza Guerrera/Jerry Estrada - Arena Coliseo De Monterrey
Not a lot going on in this match. It seemed like they wanted to put their 20 minutes in and get it over with. The structure wasn't bad, since these guys know how to put on a 20 minute trios match, but there wasn't the extra bit of effort that's need to make a trios stand out from the hundreds of others that are wrestled each year. Can't say I blame them considering they probably worked somewhere else the same day or were on a back-to-back or something, but there wasn't a single highlight in 20 minutes of wrestling. Forgettable, really.
The cover to Love and Rockets 46 reminds me I have a blog to update.
7/15/94 AAA: El Hijo Del Santo/Octagon/Rey Misterio Jr. vs. Blue Panther/Fuerza Guerrera/Psicosis - Gimnasio Juan De La Barera
After saying my piece about Santo last time, allow me to turn around and praise him this week. Santo was phenomenal here and gave arguably his best AAA performance in this little known trios match.
The difference between this and a lot of Santo's other performances is that this actually started out on the mat. One of the things that bugs me most about this era of AAA is the lack of matwork. The other day I was watching a match where Satanico squared off with Solar. Rather foolishly, I expected them to work like maestros, and well, you can imagine how I felt when all they did were shoulder-checks.
I understand why AAA had the style that it did and I realise that my tastes in lucha are far more in line with Juan Herrera than Antonio Peña. I also acknowlege that there was a large fanbase for Peña's ideas and that many of them made money, but that money has been long since spent and it's just so frustrating to see great workers tumbling when they should be working the mat.
That's what made this much such a wonderful exception. Santo and Panther wrestled on the mat for a good two to three minutes; and while it may not have been as deep or as long as some people would like, it was matwork that Blue Panther and Atlantis would be proud of. The thing that struck me most about watching them work is that unlike the lousy, assisted matwork of the Psicosis title match, their knowledge of the ins and outs of each hold extended to the proper counters, which meant that none of their escapes looked aided or assisted. It's not a very original thing to say, but for once the term "mat clinic" can be applied without sounding like a lazy cop out.
I was also impressed with their second go-around, which was much more in keeping with the "Bull and the Matador" routine where one luchador clears the ring of the other but more inspired than usual. To top it all off, Santo produced once of the most exciting finishes to a caida I've ever seen. Octagon had Psicosis in the set-up position for a powerbomb, and all in one motion, Santo managed to turn a leapfrog into a forward somersault and a forward somersault into a huracarrana and the pin. Just a fantastic piece of athleticism from El Hijo del Santo and a kickass way for a technico to prove their superiority.
The rest of the match was fairly decent too. It was pretty much standard fare for AAA with the technicos looking to get out on the break and the rudos being fooled into running with them, but it went down to the wire and had an exciting final play. AAA trios basically amount to either a technico showcase or a bone for the rudos and this was a case of the latter. None of the other parties gave an outstanding performance and Santo was less involved after the first caida, but he absolutely flew on one of this planchas to further prove he was on point.
Regular readers will know that I don't like classic, hot period AAA very much, but I do like it more than any of the current stuff that's being put out so for the time being there will be an AAA season here at the Great Lucha blog w/ the occasional interlude should anything catch my eye. Some of these reviews will be critical and some will be filled with praise, but we start the season off with some criticism of a man who's hardly ever criticised: El Hijo Del Santo.
2/16/94 AAA: El Hijo Del Santo vs Psicosis (WWA Welterweight Title) - Aguascalientes
Some time ago, I was prompted to watch Psicosis and El Hijo del Santo's 1995 WWA Welterweight title match again after reading the only criticism of the match I had ever come across. It was a bit of an eye opener really, not only because it changed my opinion of a match I had thought was pretty good, but because it drove home how little there is in the way of lucha match discussion. I figure most people who read this blog will agree with me that it can be tough finding match recommendations let alone a discourse. The reason for this is that there just aren't enough people who care, but one of the side effects of this lack of discourse is that folks tend to believe what they "hear," and one of the things folks tend to believe (without really knowing) is that El Hijo Del Santo is one of the greatest workers ever.
Now before this starts sounding like tall poppy syndrome, let me just state that I like El Hijo Del Santo. Not as much as some people, but the next review I intend to write will be full of praise for Santo's performance. My gripe with Santo is the notion that he can't put a foot wrong. In many ways, this type of thinking was a by-product of this hot period of AAA where lucha went from being something Dave Meltzer didn't particularly like to a hot ticket that he could get behind. 1993-95 AAA was the peak of lucha's popularity among sheet readers (most of whom aren't around anymore), and because its popularity never grew from there, we're left with even more tired ideas than usual. I mean, Santo as superworker is a really 90s idea. It's the equivalent of a bunch of sheet readers saying, "oh, he's the Jushin Thunder Liger of Mexico."
The point of this entry isn't to belittle anyone but to point out the lack of discourse, because I'd put it to folks that not only is El Hijo Del Santo not a superworker but these two years represent the worst two years of El Hijo Del Santo's prime.
Take this match, for example. Santo coasted through plenty of trios matches in AAA but trios matches are there to be coasted through sometimes. This was a singles match and those are rare in lucha. It came on the back of some truly awful matches between Santo and Heavy Metal in 1993 and can't be explained away easily. Santo was given three falls, 20+ minutes and all the scope in the world to have a great match. It's difficult to say how much influence Peña had over the style Santo worked, but Santo certainly had all the allowances he needed to have a great match with 1994 AAA matches being longer and much more mat based than they would later become. But you take the first fall alone and it's just a shockingly bad fall.
One thing I've noticed about Santo over the years is that there's really two Santos: the one who's in there with a great worker and the one who's not. The one who's in there with a great worker tends to test his skills against those of his opponent and is exceptionally creative. The one who's in there with a lesser worker tends to lead them through the standard Santo match. That's not a terrible knock on Santo; the guy's a pro who understands a house and always gives the fans what they came to see, but it seems to me that he judged Psicosis as being in the lesser category, and well, 20+ minutes of the Santo show isn't particularly inspiring.
As uninspiring as it may be, was it necessary? I've always told people who judge Psicosis on his US work that he can't be judged on his US work for the sheer reason that he never showed even a fraction of his true personality in the US. It's night and day comparing WCW Psicosis to AAA Psicosis. One had a cult following and the other fell off the map completely. His strength wasn't in singles matches, however. Psicosis' strength was being an outrageous character in trios matches. In time, he may have been the heir to Fuerza or Pierroth in terms of being "that guy" in a trios match. You could argue that he was on the way already, but despite being most famous for his matches with Rey Mysterio, Jr., he wasn't a singles guy.
You can see it in the first fall matwork here, which was an embarrassing series of released holds. Psicosis was more often than not taller than his opponent and this appears to have added to his difficulties on the mat, but you are what you are on the mat and the best you can do is try. My beef here is with Santo who did little to lead Psicosis through an acceptable opening fall to a lucha title match. His matwork was just as disjointed as Psicosis' attempts at countering it and to make matters worse he went to one of his worst finishes to end the fall.
The subsequent fall only confused matters more. Psicosis sold the second fall like a technico while Santo dominated it like a rudo. It started off with the old "there's no timeouts in wrestling" schtick that Southern heels loved to pull, but then Santo started beating on him pretty hard. Call me crazy, but it made for uncomfortable viewing. No technico looks good injurying a rudo even if that rudo is stalling. It was better matwork than the first fall, but it was unbecoming of Santo as a technico and didn't really belong in a title match either, especially when the champion was a fall up. I can only imagine that Psicosis had done something penis like in the trios matches leading into this bout for Santo to behave like this. They may have been trying to get the crowd behind Psicosis since Peña liked to book him over Santo during this era, but the crowd didn't seem to particularly like it and who can blame them with no discernable story? There wasn't any particular rhythm to it either. I didn't really understand what they were playing at here and Santo over-sold some back bumps to finish the fall. Two bad falls in a row.
The third fall was lucha at its worst and bored the shit out of me the first time I watched it. Watching it again now, I can't believe how much they're selling between rounds. They're obviously trying to heighten the drama but it's completely unwarranted. Had they been through two tough falls it might have geared me up for the third but it was completely Santo ran through his staples like a Saturday morning cartoon. It was probably their best work of the match but I don't care about nearfalls deep in a match when I didn't give a shit about the first two falls, and watching Santo whiz overhead for a tope is just so predctable even if it was picture perfect. A few seconds later (i.e. right on cue), Psiscois did an unbelievably awesome dive. A few seconds after that, he did his corner shoulder bump through the ropes and out onto the concrete, and Santo followed that up with a dive (you can guess which one.) I can't really fault the effort here. They were trying to hit the right spots and have a great match and Tirantes was getting into it with his counting, but a match doesn't start with the dives. (Well, they do these days, but that tells you what's wrong with modern lucha.) To sum up the night, the match ended with someone being out of position for the ref bump, which was more like a forward somersault into a takedown than an accidental collision.
Look, it's never easy to create drama in a wrestling match, but this match was majorly botched. Santo didn't set the right sort of platform in the opening fall and Psicosis' selling was off-key. Santo tried to sell the same as Psicosis to give it the match the sort of symmetry that luchadores like to give their matches but by that point they were lost at sea. This match probably needed to be a carry but it was poorly done by Santo. They came back a year later at the same venue and had another ugly match. Obviously, they couldn't iron out the flaws.
The point to all this isn't to prove Santo is shit, it's to point out the inconsistencies within his work. It's not my intention to disprove the notion that El Hijo Del Santo is a superworker, though I certainly don't believe it, but I'd like to float the idea because when I first got into lucha there was practically no criticism of name workers. I'm sure of the reasons for this, though I suspect it has something to do with the fact that because lucha is so underappreciated its fans constantly have to promote and protect it. Anyway, I've stated my case on Santo being an inconsistent worker. Decide for yourselves.
Los Intocables vs. Octagon/Apolo Dantes/Mascara Sagrada, 4/3/92
Los Intocables was the trios Pierroth Jr. formed in 1992 with Masakre and Jaque Mate, which represented probably the highwater mark of Pierroth's career. Individually, they weren't as good as the Brazos or Infernales, or even some of the more randomly thrown together trios in Mexico at the time; in fact, you could probably argue that in this case the whole was equal to the sum of the parts, but the trios gave Pierroth a chance to shine as leader of a group and he took the bull by both horns and had a fantastic 1992. This wasn't a particularly outstanding match (in truth none of Los Intocables' matches were), but it was interesting to see what the rudos did with their share of the match. Pierroth was always a guy with a flair for the dramatic. He used to take the kraziest of bumps in even the most banal trios matches until a particularly nasty one almost marked the end of Pierroth Jr. Now that he was starting to get noticed, he shelves the killer bumps, but he still loved attention and nowhere was that more noticeable than in the extended and incredibly detailed sell he did from a slap to the face. For a guy wearing a mask, you'd swear he was Brando. The rudo beatdown was good too. I swear it was more measured than all of the rudo beatdowns in the last three years of CMLL combined. How difficult is it to kick, punch or knee someone then sell like you think you're great for kicking or punching someone? Here's another thing I swear, the next guy who watches old tapes and copies this will be declared a genius new wrestler.
The other interesting thing about this match was watching a young Apolo Dantes. Dantes would go on to become a good worker and modest star, but man was his style all over the place. Somebody should've put him on the straight and narrow. The great failing of lucha is similar to Japan in that the next generation of great wrestlers never emerged. Workers like Dantes should've taken us through to an early 2000s full of great matches but it never happened and the seeds for that are back in the early 90s as good as that period was.
Mano Negra/Gallo Tapado/El Misterioso vs. Espectro Jr./Espectro de Ultratumba/Fuerza Guerrera, 2/24/91
This was part of the fun mini-feud between Fuerza Guerrera and Gallo Tapado, the Rooster. CMLL had a habit during this era of bringing in older guys who were willing to drop their masks to rudos like Fuerza and Pierroth Jr. who could benefit from an apuestas win. It was all very respectfully done and in this case Gallo Tapado was a maestro of Fuerza, so there were no problems. Fuerza is a guy who I always forget about for the sole reason that he doesn't have a lot of singles programs that made tape, so this is a rare-ish opportunity to see him in a lead role and to be honest I think his charisma is on parallel with someone like Negro Casas. Casas was a little different in that he was maskless (along with being one of the greatest actors in the history of professional wrestling, as well as one of the most multi-faceted characters), but for a guy with a mask Fuerza was remarkably expressive. It seems that for awhile their careers were on a similar trajectory, but Fuerza never really got that career defining push possibly because he was too small. Anyway, this wasn't a great match, otherwise I would've devoted an entire entry to it, but it had its fair share of fun moments. Some nice comedy from the Espectros.
El Satanico/Kamala/Pierroth vs. Rayo de Jalisco Jr./Black Magic/Ringo Mendoza, 3/24/91
Kamala vs. Rayo de Jalisco Jr is worthy of a Jack Kirby splash page. This was another fun "Kamala in Mexico" match. It didn't quite live up to the last Kamala match I commented on, but there was a krazy Pierroth bump (as referred to above), a glorious experiment in how to remove a limb from its joint between falls (whatever happened to that sort of work?), and a rough end to the night for El Gran Davis. Lucha should be fun and that's exactly what this was.
Los Misioneros de la Muerte (Negro Navarro/El Signo/El Texano) vs. Jason/Leatherface/Chessman, LLL, 11/16/03
Disappointing. It would be easy to blame the AAA guys and say they can't work but the Misioneros were just as uninspiring.
Villanos III, IV & V vs. Blue Panther, Pimpinela & Enterrador, 5/18/00
Decent "scientific" match. I love that term -- scientific wrestling. The only problem with the match was that it was too slow. The Villanos have always been a trios that struggled with rhythm and IWRG matches are wrestled at a slower pace than most lucha but this was slow even by those standards. In isolation it may not have been a problem, but contrasting it with those early 90s matches it seemed a bit faded.
El Satanico/Herodes/Kamala vs. El Dandy/Atlantis/Rayo De Jalisco Jr., 11/30/90
You can't judge a book by looking at the cover and you can't judge a trios by looking at the workers.
This was fucking choice. It was on the undercard of the Fabuloso Blondy/Ringo Mendoza fight (a neat memphis style performance from Timbs let down by some inconsistent selling from Mendoza) and was really just a precursor for the action later that night, but it continued the ridiculously awesome cat and mouse game Satanico and Dandy were playing at this time. Kamala, for his part, was actually really good and certainly beat out a lot of other superheavyweights I've seen in Mexico. His selling was fantastic and his reactions really added to a match that wasn't meant to be taken that seriously. This was a ton of fun. All of the Kamala spots were awesome.
Sangre Chicana vs. Heavy Metal, Toreo de Cuatro Caminos, 6/15/97 (clipped)
This was a bloody street fight that couldn't have been more 1997 if it had tried. Half the clip was spent tracking the workers through the crowd with a spotlight. When they finally made it back into the ring, there were some typically good punches from both guys before a shitty AAA finish, but there was enough here to suggest that maybe (just maybe) there exist some quality AAA Sangre Chicana brawls. I dunno who Heavy Metal was trying to style himself after here, but he was straightening his hair to look like someone. Perhaps the dude from Type O Negative?
Blue Panther/Negro Navarro/Enterrador vs. El Dandy/Mr. Niebla/Super Parka. IWRG, 4/5/01
Only worth watching for the El Dandy/Negro Navarro exchanges, but well worth watching for those exchanges. Has it really been ten years since the DVDVR guys were pimping this shit? Almost.
El Hijo del Santo vs. Perro Aguayo, Sr.
I'm not sure when this took place but Aguayo was fairly old. It was *exactly* what you'd expect a Santo vs. Perro Aguayo match to be like. You could've sat down before the match, blocked it out and got it almost exactly right, but in the end it was still fun as hell. I guess that sums El Hijo del Santo up for me: predictable as hell *and* fun as all hell. There were familiar elements from some of the Monterrey brawls Santo has had in the past and Aguayo was a relentless old bastard who wouldn't stop coming at him. The finish was cool and surprisingly decisive.
Los Infernales vs. Los Brazos, Arena Coliseo, 1991
This wasn't their famous match from Arena Mexico but a smaller match from Arena Coliseo. There appeared to be missing a fall, and the finish was pretty crappy, but the main thing I took away from this was just how good everyone was in 1991. Six of the greatest trios workers ever, each of them capable of playing the lead role. I've thought long and hard in this blog about the differences between old-school and modern lucha, and finally I believe it boils down to this: these guys were able to take exchanges they'd done a thousand times before and make them seem original. Modern guys take exchanges they've done a thousand times before and make it seem like the thousandth time. And while I think there are huge problems with pacing in modern lucha, it's really the performance aspects that are the biggest thing holding it back. The Infernales and the Brazos were over the top characters that had a unique lucha charm, but there was also a flesh and blood element to them that made them compelling. These days nobody can act anymore and I can't understand why the promoters don't see fit to change that since characters are ultimately their lifeblood.
Negro Casas/Satanico/Mano Negra vs. El Dandy/El Brazo/Ultimo Dragon, CMLL 1/17/93
You know you're watching real lucha when the picture has snowy reception. This was another match from Arena Coliseo, which is generally speaking an easier night's work for most wrestlers, but it speaks volumes of these guys that they were able to put on a compelling match without exerting themselves too much. The match was wrapped around the simple idea of El Dandy having to fend off his two biggest rivals at the time, Negro Casas and El Satanico Daniel Lopez. Satanico was starting to show his age here and 1993 would mark the beginning of his decline, but he was still good enough to make Ultimo Dragon look like a passable luchador, which was no mean feat at this stage. Negro Casas, on the other hand, was flirting with the peak of his powers. It's a shame that as Casas was approaching the peak of his powers, CMLL had the core of its talent ripped out and that many of the UWA guys choose to go with the hotter ticket, as Casas spent a number of years without any true competition. I say this as a fan of course, since he cemented a CMLL position for life and will still be wrestling there when I'm long gone, but you can almost leapfrog the years between the Casas/Dandy feud and the Casas/Santo feud and that's a shame really. He was going through his football player phase here, complete with socks and boots, and was letting his ass hang out too. But more on that another time! He lined up a lot of goals during this era and his aim was true. The other cool thing about this match was the scrapping between Mano Negra and El Brazo. I kept thinking how cool it would've been if Brazo had taken Negra's mask instead of Atlantis. It probably wouldn't have drawn as well, but it would've surely been a better match.
Los Villanos I, IV & V vs. Apolo Dantes/El Texano/Mascara Sagrada, 4/22/90
This was a rare appearance by the Villanos on the CMLL undercard during the tail era of the CMLL/UWA working relationship. For some reason or another, it didn't have a very big arc, whether that was because it was an undercard match, a "guest" appearance by outside workers or simply the short comings of the workers, but it was rock solid and as technically good as you'd expect from Los Villanos. Villano I is another guy whose name you can add to the list of guys who've made Mascara Sagrada look good (and he really did make him look surprising competent on the mat) and the mat exchange between Villano IV and Texano was off the charts good. It's easy to forget how much of a beast Texano was on the mat, but the guy was phenomenal and tore shit up with cuatro
Satanico/Emilio Charles, Jr./Fuerza Guerrera vs. Atlantis/Kato Kung Lee/Octagon, 1991
This was beautiful. To be honest, I watched a lot of awful matches for this "random matches" entry, to the point where I was wondering whether I liked lucha anymore; but this right here, this reminded me why I eat this shit up. The match started off in the best possible way that any lucha match can start off and that's by having Satanico get into it with somebody. There are certain wrestlers (not many, but a few) who can get into it with anybody, and Satanico is one of those wrestlers for the simple reason that he fucks everyone off. I've told this story before, but it's like my father used to say about Precious Pupp: "he had a face that just made you wanna kick him up the backside." Invariably, the best guys for Satanico to get into it with are veterans (think Ringo Mendoza and Gran Cochisse), and Kato Kung Lee did not disappoint. They were building towards an Arena Mexico hair match with this trios, and if there's ever a Satanico comp made anything that's available from this feud ought to be included because this shit was tight. One of the things that Satanico truly excels at (and this is no faint praise since he excels at everything) is the "second go around." The second go around is my term for when wrestlers pair up for a second time in the same fall. I've seen Satanico do this a hundred times but it never ceases to entertain me when Satanico gets a head of steam up and gets his ass handed to him. Sometimes he recovers to win the fall, sometimes he doesn't, but it's a great example of how a well-honed act is what sustains a wrestling career. Other highlights in this match include quality exchanges between Fuerza and Octagon and Emilio Charles, Jr. and Atlantis, including an awazing series of punches from Emilio worthy of some local district belt. Watching the Octagon/Fuerza stuff, I still maintain that Octagon gets a bum rap. Yeah, Fuerza bumped for him better than anyone but that was some tricked out, intricate shit that Octagon was pulling off. The dude was a perfectly good poor man's Black Man.
Black Terry, Cerebro Negro, Dr. Cerebro vs. Bombero Infernal, Maldito Jr., Samot [captains hair], 6/24/10
Black Terry rides again!
This was uploaded by an occasional source for IWRG on youtube and shot from the balcony, giving it a more classic handheld look. The first fall was rubbish, really, as both Maldito Jr. and Samot are useless at delivering a rudo beatdown. How you can be useless at your bread and butter is beyond me, but the next two falls were impressive. Los Terribles Cerebros have been resurgent of late after going through a late season funk last year. This match swung on their comeback and from the balcony it was noticeable how much the Cerebros' brawling opens up a match.
You don't often see carries in IWRG. The workers tend to wrestle exactly to their level and the good matches are predominantly wrestled by the good workers, but this was a strong carry. The Cerebros struck me as the only old-school trios left in wrestling and looked resplendent in their matching outfits. Cerebro Negro hit a couple of topes that looked fantastic from the balcony and there were some cracking exchanges between Dr. Cerebro and Bombero Infernal. Terry was less prominent than usual, but that's okay since the best trios have always been three-pronged attacks. The "Cerebros" picked up the slack here and the third fall was geninuely good stuff.