Solar/Black Terry vs. Negro Navarro/Rambo, UWE, 10/17/09
This continued the trend of matches failing to be anything special, but it did feature some high end Solar vs. Negro Navarro.
In all of their recent matches, they've shown that they're not content to rest on the laurels of local MCs hyping them up as maestros extraordinaire. The 10/5 Misioneros vs. Space Cadets match from Futrap de Nuevo Laredo and the 11/22 Solar/Platino/Perro Mastin vs. Negro Navarro/Fishman Jr/Arcanos trios from Arena Ray Alcantara were good examples of this. There's no doubt that these guys see themselves as the premier workers in lucha libre and the fact that they keep adding new crinkles to their work means that this match and the one from Alcantara were as good as anything they've done this decade. That's not the problem -- the problem is that this match-up is beginning to dominate everything else around it.
In every Navarro vs. Solar match, you know that they're going to square off three times. A singles match within a tag or trios, basically. There's nothing wrong with having a predominant match-up in tags, especially when these guys are feuding over a title (the Salvador Americas Title to be precise), but the constant emphasis on Navarro vs. Solar reduces the other workers to bit-part players. That might be okay when they're working with locals, but not when it's Terry. You never wanna see Black Terry's role reduced. Ever.
Sure, Terry had his ring time here with Rambo (who appears to have lost a lot of weight, incidently), and if we're being honest it wasn't one of Terry's better performances (more scrappy than good), but the fact that they didn't switch match-ups in the second caida was a major disappointment to me. There was barely any Terry/Navarro in this at all and the scraps that we did get was a transition for Navarro to leave the ring. A few years ago, when footage like this was scarce, this would've had MOTYC written all over it, but with a proliferation in lucha uploading in recent times, I've started to expect more. Despite having more Navarro footage available this year than any point in the decade, I still feel like we missed out on a large chunk of his work this year by not having IWRG's Thursday night tapings available. We never got to see any sort of finish to the Terribles Cerebros vs. Dinastía Navarro feud, so I was hoping for some killer Black Terry/Negro Navarro exchanges here to tie me over until the New Year. I don't mean to sound ungrateful to the good folk who make this stuff available to us, but it's frustrating when these workers who've been upholding the virtues of actual lucha libre let their match structure fall by the wayside.
I don't expect a match where the falls overlap each other and tell a story. Sadly, that just doesn't happen in lucha anymore. Before I get too carried away, let me state that the third caida in this match is excellent and well worth watching for the awesome Navarro vs. Solar submission work -- nevertheless, they could've easily worked this a regular tag match instead of two separate matches. This was a two out of three falls match with more than enough time to do something special. Instead of concentrating on holds, they ought to be baiting each other. I'm not asking for some almighty struggle between good and evil, just a bit of needling. We've all seen Terry and Navarro beat on each other and we know that Solar and Navarro talk shit and mock each other. Ultimately, a bit of prickish behaviour would do these matches some good, because as much as I like Negro Navarro, his hard headed approach to wrestling and demands that his opponent be a man, he's not really forcing the issue with his in-ring behaviour, and I don't think these guys are doing lucha any great service by having matches with no swing in momentum. Navarro ought to have been champing at the bit to take on both these guys, but instead it was just another exhibition.
There's a roadshow quality to these matches and they're really just another payday, but when the top workers in Mexico aren't trying then the entire country is full of lacklustre wrestling, which is a shame, because if these guys actually worked matches in an aggressive manner like Satanico used to we might see great matches for a change instead of a cool spot here and there.
Freelance vs. Oficial Fierro, hair vs. hair, 11/29/09
This was more like it.
Fierro came into the match with his arm bandaged up and Freelance spent most of the match going after the injury and telling the ref to fuck off. Nothing outstanding, but at least he did the whole una sopa de su propio chocolate schtick without any qualms. If anyone's going to be a Black Terry type figure in ten, fifteen years time, then it has to be Freelance, since he's one of the few young workers with any sort of clue.
The ref screwed him over in the second caida when he blamed Freelance for an inadvertent ref bump, and I really liked how Freelance responded by upping the ante on the asskicking he was dishing out. Fierro did a nice job bumping and selling and managed to fend Freelance off so that Oficial 911 could soften him up on the outside. 911 gave Freelance a decent working over, while Yack stood around gaping... useless Pumpkin thing. This led to an awesome bit of chaos where Freelance pulled 911's mask off and Fierro took a nasty bump on a missed tope. This was a shockingly good bit of camera work by IWRG standards, as you could clearly see Fierro try to stop himself in mid-air to no avail. It wasn't quite up there with those Akira Nogami guard rail bumps, but it got a pop out of me.
911 returned to the scene and tried slapping some sense into Fierro before rolling him back into the ring. They danced a little more until Fierro caught Freelance off guard with a pinfall that really ought to have been a nearfall, cutting the match short somewhat. I dunno why they cut it off just as it was getting good, but I guess that's IWRG for you. On the whole, it was a pretty good match. The potential's definitely there to do this sort of match right if they give the tercera caida enough time. Whether they can still blade on TV is the real question.
RAMBO VS. VILLANO III, 6/14/01
RAMBO VS. VILLANO III, HAIR VS. HAIR, 6/21/01
Eight years is a long time to wait for your revenge, but that's how long it took José Luis Mendieta Rodríguez to finally meet up with senor Señor Mendoza again.
PART ONE -- THE MANO A MANO
Watching this I was thinking about how certain essentials and basics have been lost in pro wrestling matches as the years go by. There is nothing excessive here like most modern pro wrestling matches, but that's not to say this was a minimalist work. For example, the matwork was very well paced and the reversals were pulled off effortlessly. I guess one can say that both these guys were a bit limited physically at this point, I mean, I can only imagine what sort of injuries Rambo's had over his journeyman career. But that doesn't matter at all in this match, since both these guys are real workers and are very familiar with each other. The match they had in 1993 holds up remarkably better than a lot of the pimped AAA stuff of the early 1990s. Being a big fan of the AAA Mask vs Hair match, led me to be both excited about the potential here but also worried since it's hard to guess how a match is going to turn out quality wise. But I was really satisfied with what Villano III and Rambo pulled off here.
There were two parts in this match, the first part being the matwork and it boiling over at the middle point into a great brawl. The matwork section had some great grappling action, and counters like Rambo headbutting (plenty of headbutt's in this bout) Villano's chest to break Villano's bridge. Another great moment was when both guys got tied up in each others' double headlock, and rolled all the way out to the arena floor and then all the way back to the ring without letting go of the hold. They looked like two old dogs, fighting their hearts out and never letting their grip of each other go. This leads to some more natural matwork, until they stand toe to toe and Villano III just lets loose and delivers a big ole headbutt and it's on.
It's very difficult to pace a match that goes back and forth with both guys building towards a draw. But Villano III and Rambo managed to pull it off here and it didn't feel contrived at all. This didn't have the big bumps that Rambo did in the past, but Rambo still had some nice moments like his missed bottom turnbuckle silla and the way he bumped and sold Villano's knee counter to his big running splash. When Rambo missed his silla, Villano immediately went after Rambo's head with some biting and the juices started flowing. As Rambo starts coming back and is about to get his revenge by posting Villano, the video cuts off for a brief amount of time. It's a huge shame, but watching lucha libre, one gets pretty much used to stuff like that happening. But as the video comes back, both crimson faced guys are on their knees in a brilliant exchange of vicious headbutts and manly slaps. It was so awesome that I have hard time articulating how great that was. As they start building towards the finish, Rambo hits this great big senton that looked so crushing as Rambo is pretty big at this point. A little after that, we get another great exchange, this time with each guys taking turns biting each other and it ending with a Villano III punching combo. As I mentioned earlier, this ends in a draw and the best part about that is that it gave us another great match to look forward to. The post-match stuff might be the best part of this match, as both guys can't stop going after each other and their emotions are so passionate at this point. They are both wounded and hurt, selling the previous 15 minutes of action, but they are still trying to fuck each other up with headbutts, kicks, and punches. This was pretty great.
Rambo was billed as the rudo in this feud, but I'm not buying that.
There was something of Satanico Daniel Lopez in Mendoza that made him a natural rudo. Sure, he'd had the big unmasking with women crying and his family around him, but a leopard never changes its spots. There was something vain about the way Mendoza courted babyface attention, despite being the same shit as ever. It reminds me of an amusing story my father used to tell about how he could never enjoy the Precious Pupp cartoon as a child, because all he wanted as for someone to ram their big toe up the dog's arse. Besides, Mendoza was the prick who took Rambo's mask in the first place, then turned around and took his hair... A man doesn't forget those things.
The reason I like watching older luchadores is because they simplify everything. Rambo was never the greatest worker in the world, but he wasn't the type to hide behind his limitations. Hiding behind his limitations would've meant he couldn't hang with the better workers, and that just wasn't Rodríguez' style. He was gonna give himself his best shot at winning, especially against a bastard like Mendoza.
So while this had some awkward moments, particularly in the stand-up parts, you have to appreciate how simple and direct it was: get the takedown, grind your opponent's face into the mat, and when that doesn't work, start with the short arm punches. Mendoza had a straight-up advantage on the mat. His father was inarguably the greatest mat worker in lucha history, and Mendoza probably spent his entire childhood trying to take his father down and failing. He knew his way around the mat like a child knows its way around the nursery, but I was impressed with how Rambo hung in there and even managed to turn him on a few occasions. The fact that Rambo was such a big guy made this even better.
The other thing I liked about this was how slow it was. OK, you can argue that Rambo was out of shape and selling because he was short of breath, but lucha is a style that should be worked at half-speed with a large amount of exaggeration. This was roughly the same length as younger workers' matches, but with far less moves, more exaggerated selling and a greater emphasis on desperation takedowns. Mendoza, being a tweener at best and the prick who started this fight, was the first to start with the biting, and didn't he look like an old Dracula? That carney bastard has been in so many of these matches that there was a real gleam in his eyes when Rambo started bleeding.
The finish was great too with the beautifully timed missed splash, Rambo selling Villano's tucked knees as if it were a foul, the accidental and convincing looking double pin, and the tooth and nail brawling afterwards. Neither guy really got a piece of each other, so we got more --
PART TWO -- THE HAIR MATCH
This was classy, well, as classy as a bloodbath between two middle aged grapplers could be. We get the big hair vs hair match really soon after the previous singles match and both of these veterans delivered. Unlike the match from the previous week, this was a 2 out of 3 falls encounter. At the very opening, Villano III gets on the microphone and asks Rambo for a gentleman's agreement to have a high class wrestling match without any blows. This leads the announcers to debate about this and if it's right to do for such a high stakes bout. So the first fall is a little over 5 minutes, and is some lovely matwork. I thought this was more impressive than the first match in the series, and had a rhythm that was easier to get into. It wasn't complex like El Satanico's best matwork, but it was simple matwork pulled off gracefully by two old masters. They each knew every little openings and countered at just the right time. They did some awesome struggling as well, like when Rambo was fighting for an armbar and Villano for a leglock. The first fall ends after Rambo starts to nail his butt butts, and locks in a submission hold for the win. Second fall is short, as Villano makes a quick comeback with a dropkick and a hurricarana roll at the :17 second mark.
As the third fall beings, Rambo brings out the best staple of all the hair vs hair match, the biting and the announcer enthusiastically cries "This is what we've been waiting for gentlemen". One of the concerns about luchas de apuestas, is how well the workers are able to gel the violent nature of this type of match with their nearfall attempts. Nearfalls are probably the worst thing to have happen to pro wrestling over this decade, as a lot of workers can't help it and they start to have these superfluous long finishing stretches that have no flow. Villano and Rambo are too smart (and probably too physically limited) to even attempt a ridiculous amount of nearfalls. They keep it pretty simple in the third fall with Villano III doing an excellent job of selling a shoulder injury from the first fall and Rambo working him over. Villano III starts to make a great comeback, fighting on the top rope with Rambo. They are slowly working towards a super DDT spot, but the way it's set up with Villano III weakening him with biting and headbutts was a neat touch. Both guys are now working towards finishing each other, and in a great moment, Villano hits a clothesline and just clutches at his injured arm.
After a crucifix pin, they start trading these great punches on the mat. A short while after this, Rambo botches something from the top, but Villano quickly covers that up and goes for a tirabuzón pinfall press. We get some great pinfall and submission attempts throughout the 3rd fall, including Rambo going back to his combination that finished off Villano previously but it failed him in this case. They start throwing some more bloody headbutts, and the doctor starts to check Rambo's cut. The doctor is teasing a stoppage as Rambo valiantly refuses, so as the match continues, it leads up to my favorite false finish of the match: a great sunset flip from the apron from Rambo. After a cool crossbody block by Rambo that gets reversed and some more headbutts, we get this classic visual of the referee dragging a bloody wreck of a Rambo to the doctor to check on his cut one more time. This might seem like a bullshit finish in some cases, but I loved it here. The way Rambo sold it and performed it here was great. The whole post-match stuff was classic stuff with lots of words being exchanged, more punches and headbutts being thrown, an outright refusal from Rambo concerning the hair shaving, and Villano III lecturing how he didn't want to remove his mask when Atlantis beat him but he was a man so he did it. This was all wrapped together in a tight package. These were two guys with a lot of pride on the line and a lot of hate in their history. They went out there, kept it simple, fought to a bloody pulp, carved themselves up and it was a manly example of how great lucha libre can be.
A gentleman's agreement?
Look at how Rambo stops to sign autographs for the kids. Mendoza blows them off and stares at his valet's ass.
Mendoza's ploy to have Rambo mat wrestle blew up in his face when it became apparent that the General had close quarters combat training. This was the kind of fall you'd show people to determine whether they could ever get into lucha, because the holds were so loosely fed, the counters so slow and the finish so inexplicably lucha, that I could see a lot of people thinking it's ridiculous. For the aficionado, the rhythm was near perfect (as Raging Noodles pointed out), and I honestly didn't bat an eyelid when Rambo took the fall on a roll-up submission move. There's a thousand ways to win a fall in lucha libre, but what really matters is what comes next. Villano came out his corner with a drop kick that caught Rambo high in the chest, and we got a nice slow motion replay of the bump and roll, and Villano following up faster than Rambo could react. Seventeen seconds into round two and the one fall advantage was gone -- seems unfair, but the whole of lucha libre is predicated on what is fair and unfair.
Rambo threw the gentleman's agreement out the window to start the third fall, as well he should considering how many times he'd lost to the guy. Villano's selling in the tercera was pretty great, as he ignored the cut that Rambo had opened and focused solely on the pain shooting through his arm. There was a great shot of Rambo working the joint while Mendoza bleed into his opposite arm, his face buried as the blood found a way to trickle and escape. Mendoza waved off the referee and Rambo released the hold, but not before punching his shoulder. When Mendoza surfaced, it was like a drowning man gasping for air. He staggered around with blood seeping into his left eye and shit smeared all over him from when he'd been in the hold. Rambo likely had visions of taking whatever hair Mendoza had left, but Mendoza is a cagey son of a bitch.
This was a great fall for the reasons that Raging Noodles spelled out, but what really impressed me was how well they paced it in terms of Rambo catching up to Villano's groggy state. Villano didn't just pop up and start taking Rambo to the cleaners, it started with Rambo taking whiplash bumps that knocking the stuffing out of him and proceeded at the pace with which Rambo bled. I don't know how many times I've seen workers throw it all away from this position, but not here. There wasn't a single moment where it looked like they'd undo all the good they'd done, not even when Rambo overtook Villano in the fucked-up stakes. In fact, I'm struggling to recall a hair match with a tercera caida as well paced as this. The stoppages were exceptionally well done and they even had the confidence to throw in a comedy spot where the referee looked foolish on a double knockdown count. The finish was awesome: Rambo kept coming at Villano with punches, but it was all he could do to put one foot in front of the other. When Villano slipped free and Rambo kept walking towards the ropes and his cornerman, it was clear he was done. He didn't want the fight to be over, but like I said, lucha can be distinctly unfair.
So there he was, hunched over and bleeding as much as any other worker in memory, and he had to suffer the indignity of Mendoza telling him to take it like man. And that's not the worst part -- Rambo lost the next hair match they had.
Thwarted, again and again... That has to grate.
Dr. Cerebro vs. Suicida, hair vs. hair, 11/15/09
This was the most poorly booked hair match I've seen in a long time.
There was no reason for these guys to be fighting, IWRG just threw the match out there like they usually do. The workers were given about a week's turnaround to have a hair match and there wasn't even time to have a series of low blow finishes like Policeman and Centella de Oro. Given the confines of what they were asked to do, it wasn't a bad match, but there wasn't a single bit of effort from the bookers.
All year long, we've relied on a handful of good workers to provide us with entertainment but even they appear to be struggling. IWRG do a good job of dressing their frontmen in tuxs and having the editors go back, back and forth on cuts to make it seem like they're putting on a show, but they haven't given their workers shit to work with all year.
Dr. Cerebro and Suicida falling out doesn't get the blood boiling on a week's notice, so what you got here wasn't really a hair match; it was a singles match where the loser lost his hair. There's a big difference, even if it appears to be lost on IWRG bookers. These guys tried as hard as they could to stiff each other on the punch exchanges, but it's a bit disheartening when tradition is replaced with modified spot after modified spot. Cerebro's old-school enough to know that you've got to take liberties in a hair match, but he's fallen prey to the idea that you have to modify the set-up to everything you do for the tens of people in attendance and the hundreds watching at home. The old-school approach to working a hair match was so simple, and so easy to pull off if you sold well, that it just seems like these guys are breaking their backs for nothing.
Dr. Cerebro's been one of the top 5 workers this year, but he's no hair match worker. It wasn't so much that he didn't brawl -- at the rate things are going there won't be any brawling in lucha hair matches -- it was more a case that he didn't give Mike Segura anything to retaliate to. Segura tried, but it was difficult to spot where his grievance was. The reason there haven't been any great matches this year is because nobody's been bothered to work the second fall comeback. Even in the various Misioneros/Space Cadets matches that have popped up, there's been nothing tying the falls together. The attitude has been to get the first two falls out of the way and tack on the third fall which everyone knows is the one that counts. You might as well make them single fall contests if you're not going to use the structure that distinguishes lucha from other forms of wrestling.
The highpoint of the match was a slick submission exchange that looked like it was cribbed from the Black Terry/Multifacetico match. I should've seen the writing on the wall at that point, but I'm dumb and wasn't expecting the seconds to get involved. It was the same rubbish as Terry/Multifacetico. Whoever's booking this shit, even if it's Terry himself, obviously thinks this little show number would be even better with dancing girls and a troupe of elephants. Ah well, the double tope spot from Segura and Freelance was pretty spectacular. Segura has the best tope in the business.
Segura won and a minor dispute was settled. I wonder what Cerebro was thinking while he had his hair cut -- "Why the fuck did they book us in this?" would've been my first thought. That's a whole lot of bitching for what you'd probably call a three star match, but there was no effort to make this a great match. I honestly think as soon as Black Terry and Navarro are done, that's me done too.
BLACK TERRY VS. MULTIFACETICO, hair vs. mask, 4/17/08
Black Terry in a singles match. This has gotta be good, right?
The opening video promo for this match makes me want to get a hold of all the Black Terry footage that's available on video tape. Even of stuff that doesn't look too promising, I have this impression that it will at least have one bright moment somewhere. Black Terry's like Anthony Mann, as he is able to overcome a lot of tough limitations and still be able to do create something compelling that's fun to watch. Terry is very aware of the obstacles in front of him and he sets out to craft an entertaining gritty show around the weaknesses he observes. Since Multifacetico did not inherit his father's greatness, this is the Black Terry show and it's an easy show to appreciate.
It seems like in this decade, babyfaces from all around the world have gotten worse at being able to work the crowd and getting the crowd to believe in them. Multifacetico is a bit limited offense wise, but that shouldn't be a problem in a match like this. But what is a problem is that his brawling is way too similar to that shitty sort of brawling that one finds on the American workrate indie scene and the way Bret Hart brawls on the DVDVR NJPW set. I did appreciate that there were moments were he at least attempted to sell the beating he was taking, although I won't say it was great selling at least the thought was here. As usual, this match has some great touches from Terry, like I loved his pre-bell attack back firing on him and the way he sold it was great. The 1st fall of offense is the usual stuff you see in these matches, and it takes someone with great basics to be able to make it work. Terry has some awesome basic stuff, like his punches (he hit some great hooks throughout the match), his overhand slaps, chokes, and some fierce kicks to a downed opponent. The idea of the ending was Multifacetico's high risk maneuver costing him the fall, but the execution was rough and it came off pretty bad. The awkward finish also injured Terry's ribs, although I admit I initially thought the injury was part of the match since it made some of the later nearfalls a bit more dramatic.
The 2nd fall has Terry using the objects around him to continue his beating and I really dug his use of a beer bottle to bust Multifacetico open. Since Black Terry knows what these matches are all about, we get some bloody mask ripping, biting, kicks to the cut and some more great punches. Saying Multifacetico's comeback leaves a lot to be desired would be a huge understatement. It's really bad to the point that you can't blame the audience for shitting all over him and his comeback. In the 3rd fall, in another one of those brilliant Black Terry moments, Black Terry splits his own eyebrow open on Multifacetico head in a really violent headbutt. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the exchange of submissions and finishers in the first half of the 3rd fall. I think a large part of why I thought it worked was the excruciating pain that Terry revealed on his face, as it ended up adding a lot more drama than it would have had otherwise. But everything from the point of when the seconds got involved to the finish was very annoying and it felt like way too much bullshit for this match. With an ending unfolding the way it did here, it's really hard to come away thinking strongly about such a shitty technico.
But man, what a great gutsy performance from Black Terry, it's really hard not to admire such a hard working maestro. I wish someone like Blue Center was in IWRG, as I could see him and Terry putting on a great show together.
This was like one of those Peckinpah films from the 70s where the studios wouldn't give him any money anymore, so he rustled it up some other way and set about shooting a film. It didn't matter whether he had a script or not, so long as he was shooting. Black Terry didn't have shit to work with here, but with a bit of blood, and by injurying himself, he turned this into a match. It may have been a B-grade match, but it was gutsy as hell. Terry did a far better job carrying Multifacetico than I ever thought possible and the first three quarters was Black Terry playing Warren Oates in Bring Me the Head of Multifacetico.
Noodles has a point about Multifacetico, but he bled, and sold about as well as he could. He can't throw a punch, but I dug how every time he hit Terry, Terry would hit him back twice as hard. I'm kind of leaning towards Terry's injury being real. He was like a deadman walking through the final two falls. For fans like us, Terry was the obvious technico here, and while I thought this was pretty much great for the first three quarters, I completely agree with Noodles about the finish. The best thing you can say about this match was that it was violent. Terry beat on his man, there was a mini concession stand brawl, Multifacetico bled from a bottleling, Terry worked the cut, dragged his own carcass around and split open his eyebrow... what the match needed was a Peckinpah style death scene. The submission battle in the third fall was epic and one of the best things I've seen in lucha this decade, but I'd rather the tape had cut out than the shit that followed. In the end, we got the dramatic head shaving and the post-match promo where it sounded like Terry had punctured a lung, but a killer finish and this would've been one of my favourite matches of the decade regardless of how good Multifacetico was. As I keep alluding to, it was Terry directing an apuestas match. Workers don't get enough credit for authorship in wrestling, and I've gotta say I dug Black Terry's take on an apuestas match in 2008, bar the ending, which probably wouldn't have been necessary if Multifacetico hadn't been such a failure as a technico.
But what do you expect from a guy who came out to an A*Teens cover of Mama Mia? A little girl was dancing since it appealed to her fucking demographic. I did dig Santa Esmeralda's version of Gloria at the end. If Multifacetico had been the slightest bit cool that would've been worthy closing music. If Dandy had won to that music, he would've told everyone to keep on having that party.
Anyway, Black Terry fans will want to see this. Ignore the finish and pretend he met his end like an anti-hero.
Dr. Cerebro & Suicida vs. Oficial Fierro & Trauma I, IWRG Castillo Del Terror, 11/01/09
This year has seen a lot of sources for IWRG come and go as guys get their accounts suspended or burn themselves out on uploading every single bit of TV. Not that I'm complaining. Without these people, I wouldn't have seen any IWRG this year. Thankfully, a new source for IWRG's Sunday show has emerged and I am hellbent on enjoying it while it lasts.
Man, it was good to see Dr. Cerebro again. I dunno if it's because I haven't seen IWRG for months but everything about this match was a welcome return. It started out with some fairly typical IWRG matwork where you work your way into some kind of stretched out pose, hold it for a while and reverse, but they wrapped each other up in more knots than a month's worth of CMLL TV. Possibly two or three if you discount Puebla. There was some early dissension between Fierro and Trauma I and it looked like they wouldn't get along for the remainder of the match, but Trauma bowed to the wisdom of Oficial Fierro and they ended up having more chemistry than their opponents.
The last time we saw Trauma I, he was making a strong case for the most improved wrestler of the year, and it looks like he's gotten even better. His brawling has come along nicely; lots of good looking knees and back elbows as opposed to chest slaps. El Suicida is Mike Segura, long time boy of Robert Bihari. He was on hand to trigger the comeback and did an awesome tope that sent Fierro all the way into next week's TV, which may or may not be uploaded. Fierro was really solid in this match and gave one of the better Oficial performances I can remember seeing this year. Modern lucha involves a lot of orchestrated spots, so once have the patterns down you just need to make sure you bump well and time everything okay and you'll be all right. That's pretty much what the did here and the match had impetus. It was a good enough match that I was looking forward to the third caida.
As fate would have it, it was the team of Dr. Cerebro and Mike Segura who fell apart. The spot where it happened was actually mistimed, but it mattered not since it led to the two of them fighting on the outside and a twin tope spot from Fierro and Trauma. Cerebro attacked Segura after the match and I'm desperately hoping that their hair match airs next week.
After the match, there was an entertaining vignette between Yack (Jack?) and Oficial 911. I don't speak a lick of Spanish so it may not have been funny but it seemed amusing. Can't tell you how happy I am to have IWRG back and with it the possibility of maaaybe following something on a weekly basis.
Blue Panther vs. Atlantis, La Copa Victoria final, CMLL 12/5/97
This was awesome. Twenty minutes of grappling with neither guy leaving their feet.
Like a lot of lucha fans, I'm always on the look out for a pure mat contest. Most of the time, you get a caida or two of matwork before the match starts heading in a different direction, so to find a match like this is pretty rare. Searching through tape lists is a lot like digging for gold. You start digging in the wrong places and come up with nothing but dirt, but when you find a match like this it's like striking it rich.
The match starts out with an amazing lock-up that's like two bulls locking horns. Atlantis works these awesome leverage spots from an armlock and Panther keeps trying to reverse into a dominant nelson position in what is basically a show of strength. Finally, they end up in the lock-up again and you know whoever comes out of the lock-up stronger will take the fall, because of the way the momentum is building. Mesmerising stuff and one of the best opening falls I can remember seeing. The whole time I kept thinking about how underrated Atlantis even among aficionados. Raging Noodles touched on this point recently. I think it's because I'm used to seeing him as a classic luchador in trios matches, so I forget what a good mat worker he was. Blue Panther brought out the best in Atlantis' wrestling ability, but at the same time, Atlantis is one of the best mat opponents that Panther's ever had. I haven't seen their 8/91 match in years, but this particular match is as good as any mat contest I've seen.
Watching the slow motion replay of the first fall submission is a lot like watching the replay of a sumo bout, where you see exactly what it was they were doing coming out of the tachiai (the part where sumo wrestlers charge at each other and collide.) The fact that it's a Fujiwara armbar makes it all the sweeter.
The second fall has the same arm lock and Atlantis does a series of armdrag takedowns into a crucifix armbar. All of this is ridiculously good. The armbar isn't as over as it is on all the New Japan we've been watching, but fuck it if Blue Panther doesn't reverse it about as well as you can in a lucha mat situation. Panther starts working some more traditional lucha holds, including an awesome "rolling surfboard variation" which Atlantis sells extremely well. The great thing about this match is the consistency in their approach. Atlantis keeps going back to the arm because it's working for him, whereas Panther is eager to get better position so he can start working from the top instead of from underneath. And just so I can avoid any of that 90s rubbish about limbwork and psychology, Panther is such a maestro that he doesn't target any limb in particular just the nearest opening. The reason for this is because he's a fucking great wrestler and not some mindless drone. I hadn't seen Panther work like this in a while, and just so you know, I'm immediately high on him again.
I actually fibbed a little when I said they don't leave their feet. What they don't do is use the ropes. And it's a two fall match, which means the cut out the segunda caida and just give you one big long tercera caida with all the momentum shifts you could hope for. It's not until the end that they start working the rolls-ups, but it's not too bad. The finish is a bit staged, but you expect that when a guy loses in straight falls. The ego takes a battering whenever this happens in lucha and you've got to make it look a margin of error. Both guys were buffing hard down the stretch and you could tell they were working hard without that second break between falls. The upshot of that was some great selling towards the end.
I managed to find the RSPW report for this match and the guy watching it said: "This was a good match, but too old fashioned. There were no dives, no brawling, just old fashioned wrestling." It's funny how values change. I sure as hell wouldn't mind if every match was like this. I dunno if I'd call it an old-school bout myself. If it had been wrestled in 1987, they would've worked the ropes more and had more flat back bumps. This was similar to the style that Santo, Casas and Felino were working at the time, pinching stuff from the juniors work they admired. Ray Mendoza was on hand to present the Copa Victoria, and considering he's my own personal god of lucha matwork it was all good to me.
Just a great match from a great year for 1997. I really thought the old '97 mine shaft was barren but it struck gold again.
Máscara Año 2000 vs. Mogur, mask vs. mask, 9/23/88
This is the other match on the Viva Lucha Libre Part II commercial tape.
You've got to love the old school CMLL entrances. There's a bunch of kids at ringside to begin with, hoping to get Máscara Año 2000's autograph or something. Moguar has the most nonchalant entrance possible and the kids run back to their seats as the two start hitting each other.
I remember Jose being keen to see this because he reckoned Máscara Año 2000 was a good worker in the 80s. It was reasonably okay, but so badly mic'ed that it seemed like they weren't getting any heat. That can't have been the case, because after it was over the arena floor was packed. I don't think I've ever seen such a big crowd at ringside. Nevertheless, whatever heat they got sounded like background noise on tape and that hurt the match because it was one of those slow, blow for blow matches where they work at a moderate tempo.
It was a fairly simple match, actually. There wasn't much in the way of brawling or mask ripping, and no real blood that I noticed. No bullshit, either. They tried pacing the third caida like the all-important fall that it is, but the slowish tempo didn't go well with the poor mic'ing. Basically, they didn't do a hell of a lot wrong, it just seemed like they were going through the necessary motions, partially because of the structure but largely because we couldn't hear anything other than cat calls. The most interesting thing about the match was the finish, which was a fairly nasty looking backdrop driver by lucha standards. Mogur sold it like death afterwards. He was still unconscious when the ref unmasked him and photographers stood over him taking snapshots as he lay on the canvas. He slowly came to, and the crowd were bobbing to-and-fro trying to get a look at him.
The whole thing was kind of downbeat and I wasn't sure what to make of it.
El Dandy vs. Pirata Morgan, hair vs. hair, 9/23/88
So, here it is -- the elusive hair match. Only available in Japan and at a rental store to boot.
This will have its grand unveiling on the DVDVR Lucha set, so you'll have to wait until then to see it. I know a lot of people are dying to see it, so I won't tell you too much about what happens, but if you've ever scanned through lucha records and let all those untaped matches kill you, then have I got a present for you. Where it rates in the grand scheme of things is up to the voters to decide, it was hard enough just getting it. I've actually seen it once before, and took my sweet eff time getting it out to people, but it's in the can and ready to go.
Consider this a teaser:
Dandy blades from the get-go. He's still in his gym sweater when Morgan attacks and blades on the outside. Morgan knees him in the back and he spends most of the fall with his arms crossed in front of his chest. There's blood in his eye and shit splattered all over his chest. It even trickles down to his waist. Morgan gets a decent handprint out of it and licks it off his palm. They have these awesome punch exchanges where Dandy follows up a Morgan right with some flush uppercuts, but Gran Davis keeps hooking Dandy's arm and Morgan plays them both for suckers. Morgan has a field day in the opening minutes. The trigger spot for Dandy's comeback is awesome. I don't wanna give it away, but it leads to a flying headbutt right into the sternum. Morgan sells a foul on a Dandy leg trip, and Dandy is incredulous when Davis threatens him with a DQ. Lots of heavy breathing and finger pointing. Morgan bleeds from his eye socket in the third caida and the left hand side of his face is a mess.
The third caida is the most tape inspired fall I've seen from El Dandy. He does a whole bunch of Dynamite Kid spots, including the standing version of the diving headbutt where you sell the impact afterward. Somebody tell me whether that was a regular El Dandy spot. To be honest, the selling wasn't as good as in later Dandy matches and they only needed half the amount of spots, but there's always a temptation to crank up the tercera caida. I wouldn't have minded so much if the transitions hadn't been there for all the world to see. Guess I'm used to a slower rhythm from these guys and not as many spots. I'll give you an example: after a swandive tope from El Dandy, he met up with Pirata Morgan in the ring and transitioned into a German suplex. It kind of made me want to watch that '89 title match with Emilio again to see whether juniors inspired El Dandy holds up.
On the other hand, you never really know whether it's you or the match. A different day and I might go along with the nearfall blitz. I rewound it a couple of times and found some nice little touches. With so much New Japan on the brain, I think I'll watch it another day. Can't spoil the post-match but it wrapped up pretty well. The crowd gave them money, so don't let my two and a quarter falls worth of enjoyment curb your enthusiasm.
Perro Aguayo vs. Máscara Año 2000, hair vs. mask, AAA Triplemania, 4/30/93
I guess I could be watching better stuff than this, but I'm into these bullshit mainevents lately. I don't know what's come over me, because I actually thought this was pretty good.
To be fair, it wasn't a difficult match to work. The layout made it difficult for them to fail: a bit of brawling, a couple of quick falls, outside interference from the rudo corner, a smidge of controversy over the referee El Chocolate Amargo -- pretty much a baker's receipe for how to work a hair vs. mask match. Mascara Ano 2000 scrapped his way through the fight, Perro Aguayo made anguished Perro Aguayo faces and both guys were disfigured by the end. Perro juiced first, but Mascara Ano's was the sicker of the two.
Jake Roberts was in attendance for this show, and you can just imagine Jake cutting a promo on this match: "It never ceases to amaze me what the human mind can come up with. I mean you think of the whole concept. Hair vs. mask? The man that wins this match is not gonna be the man that is the best wrestler, the best athlete. It's gonna be the man who will do anything. The man that will take that extra step. Do just a little bit more than anybody else. Maybe sacrifice a little bit more than anybody else. Now me, it never ceases to amaze people what I do after a show."
Máscara contra Cabellera is an interesting wager. I mean you think of the whole concept. Lose your hair and it'll grow back eventually. Lose your mask and you have to live with that for the rest of your career. Makes you wonder why a rudo would ever put his mask up. I guess that crop of hair is just too tempting. The key to making it work is a drawn out struggle in the third.
Since the match structure is almost always the same, the quality depends on how well you can sell. Great workers work a 50/50 caida where the match could go either way. Lesser workers are given a helping hand by the booking. I was surprised by how little bullshit there was in this match. Perro had a couple of highspots -- his tope and his La Silla (a Lou Thesz Press turned into a dive) -- but most of the fall was spent wriggling around on the mat. Timing is important here, especially if you don't have a lot of moves. For a match to hang in the balance, you need the workers to slowly come around. Perro Aguayo's childhood was straight out of Los Olvidados. The guy started working when he was five years old. He's not lying down and everyone knows it. You've got to kick out of his best stuff and sell for all you're worth otherwise there's no suspense. The longer this went, the more it seemed like Mascara Ano 2000 would find some avenue of escape. Perro Aguayo fans had to be squirming in their seats over some of these nearfalls. Most crowds have a fair idea of when the end is nigh, but the workers took it a beat beyond.
Actually, they took it several beats beyond, and I would've preferred a tighter finish, but they had a face saving finish in mind. Mascara Ano was low blowed into the history books and erupted into a fit of rage. Mind you, post match antics are half the fun. Mascara Ano 2000 and his brother ripped the shirt off El Chocolate Amargo's back and pulled him around the ring like a hog tying contest. Mascara stalled for as long as he could as the suits started making their way to ringside. It was one of those great unmaskings where the rudo tells everyone to go fuck themselves. In New Zealand vernacular -- you're a pack of arseholes and you're not bloody gawking at my face. And off he went.
Entertaining end for the Mask of the Year.
EL DANDY VS. ANTIFAZ DEL NORTE, hair vs. mask, Monterrey, 9/17/00
Antifaz del Norte goes to the dance with El Dandy.
I think my positive reaction to this match has a lot to do with when it occurred. If this match had taken place in 1989-1992, I know it wouldn't have stood out amongst the great stuff that was taken place at that time. No doubt it's a flawed match but in 2000 and after years of El Dandy having 4 minute matches on WCW Worldwide, this feels like a blast to watch.
El Dandy does a good job of working Antifaz over and getting some nice juice. To get the match heated, Dandy brings out some quality biting, good punches, headbutts, and mask ripping, and it was very effective. Nothing complex, but one doesn't look for complex things in a simple match like this. It was kinda surprising to see Antifaz attempt to make a comeback at the end of the 1st fall but I dug Dandy quickly cutting him off and the execution of la casita was pretty neat.
In his youth, El Dandy had these really athletic and beautiful looking bumps that were breathtaking to watch. He had incredible form when he took a back body drop and I've never seen anyone else do it as good as him. It was very graceful and aesthetically pleasing to watch him bump around when he was at his athletic peak. But at this point in his career, the much heavier El Dandy has bumps that were closer to a huge sack of potatoes being thrown in the air and it landing with a hard nasty thud. Drastically different but the bumps were great and had a lot of impact. In a way, they had this "realistic" feel to them and felt more painful than his earlier bumps.
In one of the previous entries, the issue of bullshit and overbooking was discussed. Zumbido was involved a lot in this match, and at times it felt like it was just too much. Zumbido handing weapons to El Dandy was a bit of a distraction, but I did like the payoff of Zumbido eating a huge shot with the fridge top. Also, one of the major spots, which was Antifaz headscissoring Zumbido off the apron, was really embarrassing and horribly executed. Although it should be pointed out that it was Antifaz's fault and not Zumbido's. Antifaz had some other awkward moments throughout the match, and one of the cringe worthy moments involved El Dandy attempting to lock the figure four leglock a second time. Everyone could see this counter coming a mile away, except Antifaz. El Dandy was just there bending over forever until he finally just rolled himself up for an inside cradle attempt. Pretty lame job from Antifaz considering this was supposed to be a big match for him.
In a career that has matches against Satanico, Casas, Navarro, Azteca, and Charles, this is a minor work in the career of El Dandy. But on El Dandy's side of things, this was a very good performance out of him and it was pretty enjoyable to see Dandy lead a lesser worker through a big stip match at this point in his career.
Dandy looked fantastic here. Honestly, when I turned this on, I thought I was watching something from earlier in his career. This just makes the Dandy booking situation all the more mysterous.
This being Monterrey, it didn't take long for Antifaz to bleed like a stuck pig. The brawling was on par with the better stuff from Guadalajara, but if you squint hard enough it looks like it's taking place in 1989. Monterrey always gives you that sort of atmosphere because of how poorly lit Arena Coliseo is. The cameras can barely follow the workers into the crowd, and when they do it's all about guys beating the shit out of each other in the dark. Add to that the fucked up camera angles, line crosses and mismatching shots, and you have all the production values you could ever hope for. You wouldn't want them to shoot this clearly, even if they could. It's Monterrey, pretty much a refuge for broken down luchadores and blood stained canvas. I hope to God they never pump any money into it.
The match was all about the deciding fall, as most apuestas matches are. It seemed to me that Dandy was working more along the lines of his middleweight days than the light heavyweight he ballooned into, presumably because of his opponent. Antifaz was a youngish guy whose mother was the promoter. He had a good body and the moves that really move 'em, but at least he tried working old-school. The headscissors spot was fucking awful, and Zumbido looked like a fool for standing there waiting for it to happen, but Antifaz made up for it with the kind of dive that gets people gigs in CMLL. Could've done without the unnecessary pose, though.
Dandy was kicking it old school, pacing this sucker like the matches he worked on his way up. There wasn't as much care or attention as in the past, i.e. not as many minor details for us to gawk at, but I have no idea why CMLL didn't snap Dandy up to lead their guys through a good match for a change. As RN pointed out, Dandy was a guy who could feed Antifaz del Nortes stuff they couldn't figure out for themselves. CMLL has fuck all guys like this and that's been one of their big problems from a work standpoint. Obviously, there were other factors at work that put the kiabosh on seeing weekly El Dandy, I just think it's a damn shame. He was good for another run here.
All told, it was a decent match. The finish kind of sucked, but we're not talking about a match with a lot of big ideas.
EL DANDY y ULTIMO VAMPIRO vs. NEGRO NAVARRO y PANTERA (IWRG 4/4/02)
Dandy vs. Navarro! This is the match where they use their fists a lot.
This past weekend I saw this match for the first time in years and was blown away by the Dandy/Navarro exchanges. Most of the pimping of Negro Navarro centers around his incredible matwork, and it's obvious why. But Navarro's someone that should get much more praise for being a complete worker with tremendous brawling skills and this is one of his great performances. In this bout, Navarro appears to be in the elite league of great brawlers like Bill Dundee and Dick Murdoch with his masterful use of fists and his selling of Dandy's strikes. Late in the final fall, Navarro nails Dandy with a KO looking punch that sends Dandy crumbling to the mat. One announcer starts to compare Navarro to Marco Antonio Barrera and later on the other announcer talks about how Navarro's fists have sent many people to the hospital. Navarro's striking ability is so strong that you actually believe the announcers! I guess the best way to describe Navarro's performance is "Dick Murdochian".
I always thought Pantera was one of the more underrated workers in lucha libre, and a really smooth technico worker. He's a rudo here, and spends a lot of time leading Ultimo Vampiro through the match. Pantera is solid enough in this role and does some good work with Ultimo Vampiro, who is without question the worst worker of the match. Pantera has some nice holds along the way, bumps good for Vampiro's stuff, and hits a great looking springboard senton. But it was awkward and ugly to see Vampiro lock a loose submission hold over Navarro and it was something one would have a hard time buying. Also, it's a major shame that the final showdown of the match was Pantera/Vampiro instead of it being an epic final conclusion to the great Navarro and Dandy story.
Like Dick Murdoch's giant bag of selling tricks, Navarro demonstrates a variety of ways to put over Dandy's strikes. In the match, he'll get hit by a punch and sell it as if his legs are buckling below him, he'll slightly lose his balance and try to regain his composure. At another moment, Dandy nails him and he slowly collapses against the ropes, and then he takes that Jerry Estrada bump on his head to the outside. One other example is he'll draw closer to Dandy to shorten the distance between Dandy and himself after a blow has rocked him. Dandy gets the better of Navarro with counter punches, and he has some cool moments dodging Navarro's stuff. Dandy absorbs a lot of punishment and it makes him look like such a tough badass. He takes Navarro's best right hooks, straight rights, uppercuts and bodyshots against the ropes. Dandy has that selling that is hard to pull off, the selling where he's trying to act like it's not hurting him but it's really killing him inside. It's awesome and it feels like a brutal war.
A few months after this, El Dandy started a AAA feud with El Hijo Del Perro Aguayo that turned out to be very disappointing and underwhelming. In 2004, he had a title match with LA Park that had both guys working hard but it was nothing more than OK. Of course, there is the possibility that some hidden post-2002 El Dandy gem gets discovered any day now, but this appears to be the final great El Dandy match. On the other hand, Navarro is still one of the best workers in the world and has had some great performances in 2009 against Solar I, Black Terry, Mike Quackenbush, and Dr. Cerebro.
This really was the tale of two wrestlers -- one of whom went on to become the wrestler of the decade and the other who faded into obscurity.
Flashback to 1992 and it seems unreal. Dandy was the middleweight champion of the world and still a draw at the main event/semi final level. Navarro was working a dying territory and hadn't been a draw since the Misioneros broke up in '86. I'm not sure what the story with Dandy is. Most people assume that he's burnt all his bridges and doesn't have a good enough relationship with the promoters to earn a veteran spot. I guess those were heady days back with the suits and shoes, and the nice watches. Big things had been predicted for Navarro early in his career, but according to Dr. Lucha, by 1991 he was reduced to working small independent shows, living off his reputation. I would've loved for the Misioneros to have jumped ship in '92 and reformed with Texano in the trios scene back then, but from all accounts, Navarro wasn't charismatic enough or a big enough draw to interest anyone. That should've been the end of Negro Navarro, and would've been if not for two things: the digital revolution and Navarro's rise from El Misionero to El Maestro.
The growth of digital technology has given us access to shows we would've never seen before, and while it's a pretty small circle of fans who'd consider Negro Navarro the best wrestler of the decade, fuck it, veterans working the indies has been the best thing about this decade. I'd love to know what motivates Negro Navarro and other UWA cast offs, but whatever it is, it's the difference between El Dandy and Negro Navarro in 2009.
To be fair, Negro Navarro is something of a late bloomer. Los Misioneros de la Muerte weren't the most charismatic group in Mexico. They were hailed by the lucha magazines for their new breed of skill, speed and athleticism, and Navarro was very much the "middle worker." I've seen scraps of Misioneros footage, and Navarro, while an excellent worker, never stood out from his peers. The interesting thing about this match is that it's somewhere between a Misioneros style performance and the focus on Navarro as a singles worker this decade.
Navarro's selling and bumping was straight out of his Misioneros days. We didn't really see his famed submission knowledge until the final fall, and even then it wasn't the single takedown stuff that's made him so tough in recent years. This was brawling style Negro Navarro, similar to how he's worked with Black Terry of late. I think I've said in the past that Navarro was never much of a brawler, but this match and a handheld I saw from '84 knock that idea on its ass. Navarro ducking and weaving like a pro-boxer was awesome, and the comparisons with Dick Murdoch and Lawler and Dundee are apt. Dandy was still the man here and the charisma from both workers was off the charts. Back in the Misioneros days, the Dandy/Navarro exchanges would've formed a small part of the overall match. Here, the match was stripped back, and Navarro and Dandy were able to shine in all their bareknuckled glory. It was great watching Navarro emerge as a singles worker of note, even if there was a reversal of stature going on every time Navarro landed rights and lefts. Like I said, I have no idea what happened to Dandy this decade, but I hope he's still driving around in an El D Cadillac getting paid in full.
The match was a bit too scrappy for me to call it great, but if there were more matches like this available, fans like me wouldn't have to bother with the travesties that other companies promote.
PERRO AGUAYO, JR. VS. UNIVERSO 2000, hair vs. hair, 3/17/06
Just to get our readers up to speed:
After Universo Dos Mil laid Perro Aguayo, Sr. out and took his hair, Perro Aguayo, Jr. took on the age old quest of avenging his father's defeat. Perro, Sr. wound up returning on the 2004 Homenaje a Dos Leyendas show, where the Aguayos took the hair of Cien Caras and Máscara Año 2000 in a pretty good match actually. Sadly, Lover Ice's account was pulled before we could give it a proper review, but it all lead to one defining moment -- a showdown between Perro Aguayo, Jr. and the man who ended his father's career.
Another match from one of the hottest feuds of the decade, and another example to point to if you want to show people a strong Universo 2000 performance. The Dinamitas were always some of the more charismatic performers in lucha libre, and El Hijo Del Perro Aguayo had more star quality and more charisma than anyone else in 2006. Also, this might be the last great lucha de apuestas match that still feels part of the same style of hate-filled brawls that EMLL loved to built to. While I thought the 2009 Villano V-Panther match was excellent, the work in that bout felt stylistically closer to a modern WWE main event brawl than it did with an old fashioned lucha libre fight. As the years have gone by in pro wrestling, almost everybody has started working for the TV cameras, and this has played a part in making a lot of CMLL matches forgettable and generic in recent years. But Universo 2000 and El Hijo Del Perro Aguayo were elite arena performers that worked for the people there in attendance and this had the feel of a big time Mid-South Coliseum main event. Just like the Perro Aguayo match from 2001, Universo was the worker of the match and he deserves a lot of credit for how impressive this turned out to be.
Right at the opening, Universo goes straight at Aguayo with a flurry of tight looking strikes and throws Aguayo around by his hair. Universo also takes him over with a nice hip toss throw and hits a hard senton. Universo is not giving him any time to recover and is closing in the distance to go for the kill. Universo puts him away with a fireman's carry slam and a medio cangrejo to win the first fall in a direct fashion. Aguayo never had an opening and the attack was violently straight forward. Between the falls, he is still after Aguayo and gives a slam on the ramp and poses at the crowd to show them who's in control.
The second fall starts with Univeso 2000 entering the ring with a sloppy but painful looking dropkick on Perrito. Universo just continues the onslaught with a nasty looking camel clutch as he tries to rip Aguayo's mouth wide open. Aguayo refuses to submit, so Universo hits him with another hard senton. Perro's selling the punishment with a lost stare and Dr. Alfonso Morales cries out that he's in another Galaxy! Universo hits a HUGE dropkick on Perro, and then makes the timeless mistake of going to the top rope. Of course, the high risk move fails and Perro makes a quick comeback and hits la lanza for the win. I guess one of the criticisms here is that Aguayo's comeback didn't have the impact it probably should have had and his strikes weren't as good as what Universo was dishing out.
At this point, it's a little surprising that the seconds in the match, Cien Caras and Perro Aguayo Sr., have not had any huge role on what has taken place in the ring, but that's going to change soon. In the third fall, neither guy has a significant advantage over the other, as it progressed into a more back and forth struggle between the two. It's a pleasant surprised to see how organic it felt rather than the problematic "my turn, your turn" stuff that infects too much of pro wrestling these days. In the opening moments, Universo takes his awesome corner bump that just sends him flying to the outside in a great looking visual. It's a trademark bump that Universo takes, and the impressive thing about it is how reckless and out of control it feels. When Universo steps back in, he quickly surprises Aguayo with a great flying elbow blow and hooks on the Gory Special. Aguayo reverses the Gory Special quickly into the Octagon special for a nice counter. After that, Perro avoids Universo's charge and Universo takes another great bump, this time into the ringpost and it sends him flying to the floor again. Aguayo immediately sees the opening and follows it up with la silla from the apron. As the match unfolds, we see more nearfalls, counters and the usual moves we see in these type of matches. As expected, Universo starts to cheat as the match starts drawing to a close by using the assistance of ropes in a couple of nearfalls. Aguayo also takes a huge over the top rope bump, and Universo quickly goes flying out of the ring with an impressive tope that sends Aguayo into the 2nd row. Finally, the seconds get involved and we get martinete teases, a low blow false finish, and a furious Perro Aguayo Sr. punting Universo between the legs for Perrito to finally score the victory. Confetti rains down from the sky while Perro Sr. and Cien Caras have a brawl.
Epic encounter, amazing atmosphere and one of the great CMLL brawls of this decade. Universo 2000's facial expressions and him clutching at his crotch as they cut his hair is one of those great postmatch moments.
I thought Perro's performance here was crap.
Think about it like this -- here's a guy who humiliated your father and ended his career. Your father is a guy who got over by ripping El Santo's mask and bloodying him like few had before, which, according to legend, saw Santo retaliate by going back to his rudo beginnings. He made enemies his entire career, til finally he was shot down in the street like an aging gunslinger. It's an archetypal revenge story: Los Capos are Frank and his men in Once Upon a Time in the West, and you're Charles Bronson.
Steve Sims describes a hair vs. hair match as follows:
Gone are the days of "blood, sweat, tears and more blood," but if any feud fit the bill this decade it was Aguayos vs. Los Capos. This ought to have been one of the fights of the decade, with Perro, Jr. showing the same intensity as his father. After all, he'd waited five years for this apuestas.
So how did Perro play it?
Like a chump.
It's all well and good to have the big, dopey offence befitting an arena performer, but it doesn't mean shit if you can't act or sell. The writing was on the wall when he come to the ring as though he were the Rock or some shit, and later on he took off his shirt and posed to the crowd. Jesus Christ, you're supposed to be avenging your father not auditioning for a WWE development spot.
This match was a complete waste of Universo 2000, arguably the best main event performer CMLL have had this decade, who I thought gave an excellent performance. The match would've been better off as a one fall contest, but no amount of bullshit could've saved this since Perro Aguayo, Jr. was working like a rising CMLL superstar and not the son of the man whose honour he was defending. Perro was so misguided, so focused on his own heat, that he barely gave any shine to Universo Dos Mil or the meaning behind the bout. Perro's comeback here was the worst I've seen in a big match, and Universo really should've sandbagged him, which he could've done in a single fall contest by cutting off his comeback attempts. Watch how Perro pops up on offence like Kurt Angle. This is the type of shit that gets ignored when wrestling debate boils down to favouritism.
The highlight of the match was Universo's tope, which was an awesome spot but came off like a title match spot. That's the problem with CMLL hair matches these days -- there's nothing to differentiate them from title matches or any kind of singles match for that matter.
The finish was bullshit too. Technicos should never win a hair match like that, even if it is "una sopa de su propio chocolate," and Perro, Sr. was a famous rudo in his glory days. Full credit to Universo 2000 for the way he sold the aftermath. That put the young Aguayo to shame.
Let me set something straight: I don't think Perro Aguayo, Jr. is a hopeless worker. It was just a hopeless performance in a hopelessly modern CMLL hair match, and a massively disappointing way to cap off one of the better feuds this decade. Universo was shifted from the main event scene after this -- a shitty exit for such a proven performer. Perro, Sr. and Cien Caras retired amid a storm of controversy. Universo should've got a better send off. Raging Noodles thought this was great, and he's a much nicer guy than me, so you've got two opinions. If I learnt anything from doing these reviews with him, it's that Los Capos were gun.*
* Aussie slang -- to be gun at something is to be very good or the best at something.
Mil Mascaras vs. Perro Aguayo, Olympic Auditorium, 1982
I believe this is from Hollywood Wrestling, the LA promotion which Kurt Brown immortalises each week on the Slammin' Stan Podcast.
It was taped off the Spanish International Network, and featured guest commentary from British wrestlers Chris Adams and Ringo Rigby, who sounded like the Beatles. I shouldn't really say that, since I'm from the Commonwealth and have been familiar with British accents my entire life, but still I got a kick out of Chris and Ringo.
The match was your typical sort of one fall contest where they grapple for ten minutes before the rudo gets frustrated and calls it quits. Neither guy was about to job here, but I've never understood why bookers and promoters think an "early showers" match will satisfy the paying customer. There was nothing wrong with the work mind you, they just cut it off at the knees.
Mil gets a bad rap as a worker. He may have been difficult to work with, but I like a guy who doesn't give away too much. His brother often fed guys shit they had no business getting over him. With Mil, there was a shootish edge to his matwork. Perro plugged away in this match, and Mil gave him a sniff here and there. I suppose you could argue that Mil had no intention of making Perro look good, but let's face it, aside from some good looking takedowns, Perro was no Wonder Mike on the mat. Perro's big moment in the match was his punch combos in the corner.
I also saw a short clip of a Lucha Leaves Town, Mexican Death Match from the same territory. I'm not sure what classified it as a Mexican death match, but it was a tag match between the Americas champs, Carlos Mata and Kiss, and the Misioneros de la Muerte (Signo and Texano.) The finish wasn't shown, but I'm assuming the Misioneros were run out of town. According to Negro Navarro, Texano was the best mat worker of the Misioneros, and sure enough his grappling was solid.
Last, and definitely least, was a nothing match between Canek and Mario Valenzuela. I can never quite figure Canek out. Mechanically, he did everything a luchador should, but for a guy of his fame and notoriety, he could be as soulless as Blue Demon Jr at times. Valenzuela provided what little there was in the way of interesting spots, but he was a loose sort of a worker and had trouble with his execution. Canek did the worst job of hiding a foreign object in his tights that you will ever see in professional wrestling.
PERRO AGUAYO VS. UNIVERSO 2000, hair vs. mask, CMLL El Jucio Final, 3/30/01
So here's the deal: 2009 is almost over, and I'm no closer to figuring out what the best matches of the decade were, so from now until whenever we drop this project, Raging Noodles and I will search for the likely candidates. Judging by the wrestling this decade, we'll probably watch anything and everything.
First up is a mascara vs. cabellera match from Perro Aguayo's lengthy retirement tour.
Wow, this was far better than I was expecting it to be. Crowd heat is incredible for this, and Perro looks like he belongs more in a wheel chair than he does in the ring. But even though Perro looks like he could barely walk, I'm surprised to see him taking bumps off of Universo's offense in the early portion of the match. Universo tries that spot where you fall back and monkey flip a guy over you, but Perro just stomps him in the face. Smart man.
Perro then clotheslines Universo to the outside, and follows up with a tope! I would be dishonest if I did not admit that it might be the worst tope in the history of Arena Mexico, but it was gusty as hell and made Aguayo look like an insane old crippled man that doesn't give a fuck. So, that was awesome and I loved it. Mascara Año 2000 is Universo's second, and he starts to beat the shit out of Aguayo. While this is going on, Aguayo's second Villano III, is furious and starts to argue with the referee Tigre Hispano. Back in the ring, Universo misses a charge in the corner and takes a great back body drop bump and then takes another one of those to the outside. Man, Perro seems to be in a lot of pain yet he still busts out la silla spot. Some more interference from Mascara Año 2000, and Hispano attempts to restrain a furious Villano III. Whoever laid out this match deserves all the credit in the world for how great of a spectacle it's turning out to be. Back in the ring, Universo attempts to submit Aguayo and then gives Aguayo a back body drop which must have felt like hell for Aguayo. Aguayo is sent out to the floor, and Universo accidentally wipes out his brother with a tope. Perro starts counting Universo out, but Tigre Hispano continues to be a dick and refuses to count Universo out. This is really entertaining. A rudo referee breaking up the rhythm of a Santo/Panther match in Monterrey is really stupid. But this stuff here is really smart and it's working.
Perro is now in control and starts to unleash some of his usual offense to try to put Universo away. Perro does a nice samoan drop and hits a big senton off the ropes for a cover. Perro continues to be in charge until Mascara Año 2000 trips Aguayo and Universo hits a low blow on Aguayo. Villano III is awesome as the second, and his reactions to all this interference is incredible. Universo goes to the top rope for a big move, and Aguayo moves out the way and quickly goes for a pinfall. Tigre Hispano refuses to count up to three, and Dr. Alfonso Morales screams that it might be arthritis that's preventing him from making the three count. That was hilarious. Aguayo knees him in the face and hits an elbow drop, and Hispano refuses to count to three again. Perro Aguayo can't believe this and is flabbergasted at all this bullshit. Perro's acting and body language has always been one of his strongest points. Probably the best thing he does in this match is the masterful job of being able to convey all his emotions to the Arena Mexico crowd. Universo fails to clothesline Perro, but hits Tigre Hispano and the ringside commissioner orders Tigre Hispano to the back. Aguayo is awesome at stirring up the audience to chant for Hispano to leave the ring. In the brief moments where there is no referee, Mascara Año 2000 just pops inside the ring and both brothers double team Aguayo. Roberto "El Guero" Rangel comes out! Awesome, Rangel blocks a martinete attempt from Universo and orders Mascara Año 2000 to the back. Behind Rangel's back, Aguayo hits a low blow for a nearfall. After a couple of more false finishes from Aguayo, and with the crowd chanting "Si Se Puede!", Aguayo finally sets him up for La Lanza. He hits it, does a huge fun celebration and is in a state of ecstasy about it. But when he makes the cover, a "fan" with a Pierroth mask, throws a drink in his face to blind him. As soon as Universo recovers, he picks up the blinded Aguayo and hits the piledriver for the win.
Dr. Alfonso Morales is screaming about this injustice and is furious at everything that has taken place. He starts interrogating the commissioner, Roberto Rangel, Mascara Año 2000, and screams at Universo 2000 that he couldn't beat Aguayo like a man. Morales also goes on to accuse him of getting one of his family members to throw the drink at Aguayo's face. Morales is awesome as a pissed off, truth seeking journalist trying to get to the bottom of this conspiracy against Perro Aguayo! The audience appears to be shocked and appalled at seeing an unconscious Perro getting his head shaved.
As much as I love Perro Aguayo, he was so limited and broken down at this point, that it's a miracle to see how awesome this turned out to be. Universo 2000 deserves a lot of the credit for carrying Aguayo along the way, and I would love to know who was in charge of booking all the smoke and mirrors bullshit.
Eight years ago, I wouldn't have watched this match. Nowadays, I figure that if anyone can make a CMLL match work it's a 55 year-old Perro Aguayo and a 37 year-old Universo 2000. It's not that I automatically distrust anyone under the age of 40, it's just that a match like this needs a whole lot of bullshit and a whole lot of heat, and these guys spent forever working that style.
The Arena Mexico is set-up these days, the way it's lit, and even the way they shoot the matches, means you have to be a big match worker to pull this shit off. Many of the lucha classics would look out of place in present day Arena Mexico. They'd be better suited to smaller venues like Arena Coliseo. It's possible that past workers could get heat for their rudo tactics, but not at the same pace. There used to be an unbearable tension to the way a rudo would brutalise the technico. These days, they've filled in the "down time" with crooked refs and over involved seconds. You need to be larger than life to stick out from all the bullshit, and that was always one of Perro's strengths. A lot of workers are poor at playing to the crowd, even great workers who've been in the business for decades. Blue Panther, for example, is hopelessly bad, but a lot of other masked luchadores struggle with this as well. Perro was a guy who got over by channeling his intensity into a confrontational style. Win or lose, he set about making an impression, and was able to project that intensity onto the entire arena.
55 year-old Perro was difficult to watch at times, but he worked this match like he would've ten years earlier. In fact, the booking was straight out of 1992, right down to the heel ref being ejected and Rangel taking his place. I guess it's no surprise that two guys who headlined "Pena style" main events in the early 90s were so successful in this match. In many ways, it was the culmination of not only Aguayo's feud with Los Hermanos Dinamita, but a bookend to the Pena driven boom of the the early 90s.
Matches like these are full of bullshit, but when it comes to booking, there's good bullshit and bad bullshit. The bullshit here was phenomenal. The key to the match's success was that they booked it as a single fall contest. If they'd booked it as 2/3 falls, they would've had to chop up the fifteen minutes and overbook the finish to each fall, similar to wager matches of late. With a single fall, it meant they could work a simple match where Perro kept having his offence cut off and was a step closer to being screwed over. But the clincher was the finish. I have no idea what the feeling was at the time, but watching the match it seemed just as likely that Universo would lose his mask. I've got to admit that I had no idea whether the fan was a plant or not, but Perro taking the martinete on his back neck came as a complete shock. To have a legend like Perro Aguayo laid out like that is just about the ballsiest finish I've seen in lucha.
Aguayo deserves credit for jobbing like that. It was only his second apuestas loss in fifteen years. Granted, he'd had the better of Los Hermanos Dinamita over the years, but it was an awesome way to put over Universo. I know there's been a reappraisal of Los Hermanos Dinamita in recent years, but up until now I haven't really bought it. I like their early 90s stuff, but I don't think they were good in the 80s. Watching the bullshit here, it kind of dawned on me that Universo was better than any other point in his career. The work here was pretty basic, but his bulked up frame made him a tougher looking proposition than his prime years. I think this match turned me into a Capos fan.
Policeman vs. Centella de Oro, hair vs. hair, Arena Puebla 56th Anniversary show, 7/20/09
I only saw the second and third falls of this on Tercera Caida, but from the looks of things it's one of the better matches this year.
It was given about as much build-up as you can possibly get for an Arena Puebla match, starting with Policeman feigning a foul and Centella de Oro being unjustly disqualified. This was followed up by a couple of weeks of legit fouls, and really, there's two things that lead to a wager match. One is a bunch of mask ripping and the other is a kick to the balls.
Of course this was a modern hair match, so there was no blood. Tercera Caida showed footage of their match from last year where Policeman bladed, but I guess you can't do that shit on TV anymore. So what you're left with is a little bit of brawling and selling and a greater focus on moves. This is a trend that began in the mid-90s, so I won't go on my usual rant about how shitty this decade has been, but the problem with a bloodless hair match is that it takes away all the hate and animosity and leaves you with a high stakes singles match. There's two ways to look at that, I suppose. You can either say it's not a great brawl, there's no blood, it's not a real hair match, or you can give up caring.
Personally, I thought they did a pretty good job for two guys who are usually part of the opening card attractions. The match was heated and reasonably well paced. It was kinda obvious that they're fun trios workers and not exactly great at singles matches, but this was a legit attempt at an epic Puebla match. To make a CMLL match epic these days, you need a whole bunch of bullshit happening at ringside. The bullshit here was pretty good. Espíritu Maligno was Policeman's second and spent the entire match trying to cost Centella de Oro his hair, which is the booker's way of stirring up controversy without anyone getting the shit beaten out of them. The contrast between this and the eventual DVDVR Lucha set, where guys bladed at the drop of a hat in dimly hit, smoke filled arenas probably says something about the difference between the 80s and the 00s. One of the most annoying things about lucha these days is that the fans closest to the ring are self-aware that they're on TV. The fans who'd lose their shit over rudo interference are in the cheap seats, fenced off like they're at an ice hockey game.
Anyway, the coolest thing about this match (and the coolest thing I've seen in lucha all year) is that after it was over, Centella de Oro put Policeman in a bunch of holds to make sure he had his hair cut. Amusingly enough, it was the best work they did all match.
Arena Puebla 9/14/09
Asturiano & Centella de Oro vs. Ares & El Bárbaro
Mascara Dorada, Sagrado, Valiente vs. Dragon Rojo Jr., Misterioso II, Sangre Azteca
Most of the sources for Puebla have disappeared lately. I know Alfredo gets a steady supply of Puebla, but unless someone releases a "Best of Arena Puebla" set, I think I'll stick to whatever I can nab. From the little I saw, the locals vs. minis feud was the best idea a CMLL booker has had in years, which naturally means it's over.
The locals didn't have much spark this week. They did their bit and hit the showers. Centella de Oro looked as smooth as ever, but the highlight of the match was the finish. Ares was in the ring and Bárbaro was on the floor. Asturiano set his sights on Ares, but floated backwards on a no-look dive to the outside. Centella de Oro scored a big takedown on Ares for the submission finish, and the technicos got a nice pop from the balcony. Moves are just tools of the trade as far as I'm concerned, but I have to admit I watched that Asturiano spot a few times. It was beautifully done and well caught by Bárbaro.
I haven't seen any Valiente lately, so I decided to watch his trios here. Earlier in the year, Valiente and Freelance were neck and neck for technico of the year. Freelance injured himself and fell off the radar, while Valiente threw all his charm out the window by looking positively scrawny. The good news is that Valiente looks bigger than before and is still pound-for-pound one of the best workers in Mexico.
The match began with a tribute to veteran luchador, Roberto Paz, who died on September 12th. The rudos and technicos joined together to give him a send off, and everyone worked hard out of respect for the man.
Perro Aguayo vs. Gran Hamada, WWF Light Heavyweight Title (UWF 4/17/84 handheld)
When Hisashi Shinma broke away from New Japan with a group of workers to form the original UWF, he really had no idea how to promote it other than christening it as a mini version of New Japan. So on the first tour, he brought in UWA guys Perro Aquayo, Mano Negra, Negro Navarro, El Signo and Texano, Los Misioneros de la Muerte. The idea was to create a juniors division with Gran Hamada as the lynchpin.
Some people will be familiar with the match Perro Aguayo and Gran Hamada had on the UWF's debut show in Omiya, a mano a mano brawl where Gran Hamada bled a bucket. That match was on the DVDVR Other Japan set. This is a handheld of what is essentially the blow-off match from the final night of the April tour. To the best of my knowledge, it has not been widely circulated. It took place at Ryogoku Kokugikan in Tokyo, otherwise known as Sumo Hall.
This wasn't your typical lucha libre title match. I'd classify it as a junior workrate sprint with some super libre brawling.
Gran Hamada was a small guy, probably a good inch or two shorter than he was billed, but what he lacked in stature he over-compensated for by developing his body. He had gigantic legs for a guy his size, but they enabled him to have a powerful springing action whenever he got up from the canvas. I don't think I've ever seen anyone spring into action quite like Gran Hamada. Perro Aguayo was a tremendous brawler in his time. His style was simple and direct, but he knew how to get heat, and he was just about the perfect rudo. Gran Hamada never short changed a bump once, going the whole hog on all of them, so the two of them had good working chemistry.
The match started off with Perro ruling the roost. He could've legitimately won the first fall by overpowering the smaller Hamada, but it didn't take long for him to whip out his folk, or some other type of foreign object, and get himself unashamedly DQ'ed.
The stage was set for Hamada to brace the odds like all true babyfaces, and while I wasn't enamoured with the sudden drop kick he used to fight his way back onto offence, after a rather glorious "pocket rocket" style tope, he became one of the only guys I've seen sell a tope like it took more out of him than his opponent. A lot of guys stagger around after a tope, waiting to transition into the next offensive stretch, but Hamada climbed back into the ring, used the top rope for support, staggered past the ref and collapsed into the ropes on the opposite side. The ref checked whether he could keeping going, and the whole sequence was good pro-wrestling drama.
What followed was a neat "juniors" period where they traded moves and pinfall attempts. If I felt like quibbling, I'd mention that this is the part where Aguayo showed why he was never a truly great worker as the order he rolled his spots out in, and his inconsistent selling, meant that it was a little shaky, but for the live audience it was an exciting sequence of nearfalls. My favourite part where the forearm exchanges, where Hamada knocked Aquayo to the canvas, but his roll-up moves were also slick. Hamada also did a great job selling Aquayo's kicks and the famous big boot, dropping to one knee before heading straight to canvas.
Aside from the junior exchanges where "if your move doesn't beat me, I'll get up and do mine" comes into play, the only real problem with the match was the submission attempts. The heat was good, but they dropped them after a certain number of beats and the follow-up work after dropping the holds wasn't as good as it could've been. Nevertheless, the stretch run was peppered with a few solid transitions (like Hamada flooring Aquayo with a strong looking punch), and Hamada's big impact stuff looked great since he either bounced with the impact to accentuate the force or rolled over onto his face to show he was throwing everything into the fight.
The finish came after an Aquayo tope, when he tried to suplex Hamada back into the ring and Hamada flipped over the top and hit a huge (and awesome looking) backdrop driver. For some reason, the ref did a fast count and the crowd became all talkative about how fast it was. Nevertheless, Hamada was their new champion.
Good match. There wasn't a hell of a lot of substance, but it was a good match nonetheless. Hamada's selling and execution were the highlights, and Perro showed that while he wasn't a perfect worker, he was plenty good in the 80s. The crowd were into it, too, which is something I remember from my own experience of going to a live show in Japan. Japanese fans are enthusiastic about nearfalls and get sucked into each "chance," as they say in Japan. There was a lot of coaching for Hamada to "cover, cover, cover," and the match worked, which is what it's all about.
Cassandro/Rudy Reyna vs. El Matemático/Ninja Sasuke (UWA 1992)
This was from the tour to Mexico where Murakawa Masanori first donned the Great Sasuke ring attire; going by the name Ninja Sasuke.
For a Japanese wrestler in Mexico, he certainly looked the part. It helped that he looked like Octagon or one of the Fantásticos (Blackman, Kung Fu, Kendo, and later Avispón Negro), but he had the agility and suppleness to do similar speed work, and he was working Cassandro, who at just 22 years of age was a brash young worker full of confidence.
Reyna, on the other hand, looked like a washed up transvestite trying to turn a trick. He spent more time fixing his outfit than doing any serious grappling, though he did have one amusing spot where he used the martial arts to poke Matemático in the eyes. El Matemático was probably the most impressive guy in the match from a nuts and bolts perspective. Just a solid vet, who did the sort of things that would make him top five if he were around today.
The match was your breezy, all-action undercard filler that was common in UWA at this time. There was nothing remotely outstanding about it. The only difference between this sort of match and the modern style is that the timing was slightly better. It was several notches down from the up-tempo, all-action midcard bouts of the 80s, but an easy watch. The way UWA used to edit these matches for TV is that they'd cram the entire thing into a fifteen minute slot, so there's never any time to let it all soak in. Still, I'd sooner watch Sasuke in Mexico than Ultimo Dragon, so it's not a complete waste of your time, provided you don't have too many other things to watch, which is always the case I guess.
Lizmark/Kung Fu/Siglo XX (The Killer) vs. Los Infernales (El Satanico/MS-1/Masakre), CMLL 1987
I've been in a funk lately and haven't liked anything I've watched. I can't be bothered writing about any of that stuff, since this blog is negative enough as it is, so here's something I know and trust -- Classic Infernales.
At first glance it seemed like the Infernales were taking the night off, but I should've known better. The Infernales knew exactly how to pace a fall. They were masters at the "change-up:" switching from a slower, methodical pace to sudden bursts of action. They knew how to put over a "rudo" fall, and never skipped a beat.
The match started off with a bit of comedy as Masakre picked Kung Fu up with one arm and placed him back in his corner. Masakre was clearly the least of the Infernales, but he had this shit eating grin on his face, and it's always a great rev up when the least talented member does the most amount of shit talking. The technicos tried a bit of matwork, and Siglo impressed with some of his armlock work, which just goes to show you can never underestimate anyone's technical prowess, but the Infernales took over and won with the ease of their shitting eating grins.
What the match needed next was a technico comeback, but I liked the way the Infernales cut off the technico's first drive. When the technicos stormed back into the match, there was plenty to enjoy. I dislike karate gimmicks immensely, but Los Fantásticos have always been an exception. Kung Fun had put on some beef since his Toreo days, but his schtick was still top notch, and I doubt readers out there will have too much difficulty imaging Satanico or MS-1 bumping for it. There were a lot of great sight gags in this bout. My favourite was Siglo suggesting that Satanico was too short for him. Satanico run to the turnbuckle and backed up onto the second rope to make himself taller than The Killer. Naturally, the great one started charging in like a bull terrier and anytime Satanico gets a full head of speed up the results are hilarious.
In fact, anytime they get the ball rolling like this, you're guaranteed a laugh or two. Lizmark was on hand to provide some actual quality as the rudos bumbled one, and a good time was had by all as the rudos were kicked in the ass repeatedly. This wasn't a classic, but most nights the workers don't go out there to have a classic. Instead, it was perfectly entertaining and more than enough to pull me out of my rut.
El Hijo Del Santo vs. Negro Casas, NWA World Welterweight Championship, 12/1/95
This was the final of a 16-man tournament for the vacant World Welterweight title.
It wasn't a particularly long match (about 10-12 minutes), but felt longer due to how slow it was. I guess the most striking thing about the match was how different it was from the style Santo worked in AAA. Whether that was a conscious decision on the part of the workers or a Japanese influence, I'm not sure. There was a definite hybrid feel to it, but it would be wrong to say it was new since they were leaning that way in their January '92 match.
Anyway, I didn't like this at all. Maybe it's because I've been up to my eyeballs in mat wrestling lately, but I found it completely uninteresting. It wasn't that the holds were uninteresting, more the way they applied them. And I thought they completely effed up the hybrid elements. There was a lot of worked shoot stuff that they didn't know how to sell, and the ref had no idea what they were doing half the time. Mat wrestling has never been Casas' forte. He's more of an "all-action" worker, to quote the legendary Kent Walton, and I guess I've been overrating Santo's mat prowess on the basis of some pretty limited footage. That doesn't mean I think they're poor mat workers all of a sudden, I just think as an "all-matwork" match this was a colossal failure and somewhat ill-advised. The crowd was pro-Casas, and I don't think they wanted to see a third rate shoot hybrid.
Or perhaps I don't want to see that in my lucha?
The best thing about mat wrestling, when it's done well, is that both guys look like tough motherfuckers. Neither guy looked tough here. There wasn't enough struggle, nor was there any kind of maestro wrestling.
Avisman vs. Trauma II, IWRG Intercontinental Lightweight Championship, 8/16/09
This was OK.
They put each other in interesting holds, and the selling was good, particularly from Avisman, who reminds me of this angry little kid I went to school with. The problem with these guys is that every time they work the mat, they put each other in submission holds. When they can't get a submission, they release the hold without being told to break. It doesn't make sense to give up position in a wrestling match. They'd be better off countering their way out of a hold, or better yet, countering the hold before it can be hooked into a submission. The annoying thing about all the resets is that you know that every single time they return to the neutral position that they're going to swap positions on the mat. So what you get is a bunch of highspots on the mat and some weak transitions.
You almost get the feeling that these guys want to be maestros before their time. The difference between these younger guys and Terry and Navarro is that Terry and Navarro are looking to hurt each other. When Terry or Navarro release a hold, their selling tells the story. They're bastards, who've mastered the art of hurting each other. The second fall was better in this respect, as Avisman went after Trauma's injured shoulder, but the other thing I couldn't understand about this match is why Avisman went over. Trauma had a kayfabe reason for losing the belt, but he'd only just won it. IWRG booking just doesn't make sense. The finish was awful as they threw in a couple of unnecessary topes and Avisman wrenched the arm about twenty times before Trauma would submit. Was that supposed to make Trauma look tough? That was ridiculous.
IWRG - Festival de Máscaras - 8/20/09
Cerebro Negro Dr. Cerebro
Orito El Panterita
This was a tidy match, but I was expecting at least one spectacular sequence. Freelance was strangely subdued.
Los Misioneros de la Muerte
El Signo Negro Navarro
Black Terry Shu el Guerrero
This won't be to everyone's tastes, but I was really enjoying it until IWRG decided they'd had enough and blinded me with white light.
The Terry vs. Navarro feud has morphed into Bill Dundee vs. Jerry Lawler. Both guys have developed amazing punches, adding another dimension to the best feud in wrestling. It's a shame that lucha doesn't do loser leaves town matches, as that would be the match of the decade. Terry lost his hair to Chico Che on the 16th, so now he truly looks as craggy and windswept as the great Western films and the directors who made them. He had a cut above his eye, which Signo did an expert job of reopening. Signo can't move like he used to, but he's still pretty useful with his mitts.
The match itself was bare and minimalistic, just the way it ought to be. The match wasn't about matwork as much as it was about hurting people. Signo had his old mask on, where the mouthpiece makes it look like he's grinning the whole time. Shu worked an arm injury, so naturally Terry tried evening the score, but he had a tough time dealing with Signo's wrist strength. With some of the reverse holds they did, it looked like Signo was laughing at him. Navarro, as usual, was on another level. The finish was bullshit, like it usually is in Terry/Navarro matches, but Navarro is untouchable. I've seen some unbeatable workers in my time, guys who only ever lose because it's a work, but Navarro is on a whole nutha level. Now that he can throw rights and lefts equally well, he's just untouchable.
Be warned: this was a slow match. There was a time when Signo and Shu el Guerrero would've torn it up in their opening mat exchange, but not anymore. Still, if you like selling and killer holds, here's this week's recommendation.
Homenaje al Matemático
This was a trophy presentation to honour Matemático's 40th year in wrestling. Very cool. You're better off watching this than the main event.
IWRG 8/10/09 (taped 8/6)
We have a new benefactor on youtube!
Barba Roja - Pirata Morgan Jr - Hijo del Pirata Morgan
Los Terribles Cerebros
Cerebro Negro - Dr. Cerebro - Black Terry
This was the first time I've bothered to watch Los Piratas, and I must say I approve. They've got matching outfits, matching masks, can wrestle on the mat, brawl when they need to, and more importantly, they've got the right build. Thick and stocky, none of this skinny abs crap.
Los Terribles Cerebros have been by far and away the best trios in Mexico this year. Black Terry isn't the worker he was in 2007 or 2008, but the two Cerebros have stepped up to the point where Terry doesn't have to be the workhorse for the team and thus they've become a slick unit. If fact, if it wasn't for Hijo del Pirata Morgan tossing his mask at Terry, Los Terribles Cerebros would've won this in straight falls. That allowed Terry to do some brilliant pleading with the ref and a bunch of awesome finger pointing once the Piratas were awarded the fall, and it's those performance aspects which are really Terry's forte these days. Don't get me wrong, he can still work the mat and still throw a punch, but he's not in the kind of shape he was a few years back.
What I liked about the Cerebros' team work here were the finishes. They were classic trios finishes, similar to how lucha was worked back in the days of Los Temerarios. Considering Terry wears the same jacket as his Temerarios days, it's only fitting that his present side work the same way. Classy team work is something that's missing from a lot of trios matches today, not to mention finishes that carry an idea. Watch how well they work the second fall DQ finish. The Piratas were all set to take the second fall, but the Cerebros pushed past the point where the Piratas would usually win the fall. Negro and the Doctor hit topes on the outside, leaving Morgan's kid all alone with Terry. The timing of Morgan's unmasking was perfect, and the look on Terry's face when he realised what had been flung at him was one of those moments that only happen in Black Terry matches.
Strong match. I'm looking forward to the revancha.
Oficial 911 - Oficial Fierro - Oficial AK-47
La Dinastia de la Muerte
Trauma I - Trauma II - Negro Navarro
Haven't seen the Oficiales in a while, and more to the point, haven't seen a good Oficiales match since last year.
This was a brawl, which was understandable since the semi-final was a long, traditional style match, but the first two falls bored the shit out of me. It was noticeable, however, how much better La Dinastia de la Muerte were at taking the reigns. The Oficiales don't brawl with enough intensity and haven't added anything new to their routine. Fortunately, the match came to life in the third fall when Navarro unleashed an ass kicking on Fierro -- lefts and rights, knees to the head, kicks to the face and head stomps... those Oficial caps were made for head stomps. 911 is clearly the best of the Oficiales and did a cool brawling takedown in this match, but the Oficiales will need to strike a little harder if they're going to make this feud interesting. And when will luchadores realise that you don't go mano a mano with Negro Navarro when the match is on the line? Another awesome submission finish.
One pleasing note from this show -- the card was well attended and the crowd were vocal. Good shit.
Sergio El Hermoso & El Bello Greco vs. Yoshiaki Fujiwara & Kengo Kimura, New Japan 2/3/89
Oh, man. I'm a huge fan of Fujiwara, so there was no way I could resist watching him work against exoticos.
This got over with the crowd better than I thought it would, since there were nowhere near as many gay entertainers in Japan twenty years ago as there are now. There were a couple of genuine laugh out loud moments, and Sergio El Hermoso in particular was fantastic. They worked a pretty simple match around Fujiwara's old New Japan gimmick of having a harder head than the ringpost or the steel behind it. His weakness, as it turns out, is that he doesn't particularly like being kissed by transvestites. I've got to admit that I actually expected Fujiwara to be funnier than he really was, but the exoticos made up for it by being gold. Poor Kengo didn't have much of a personality, though. Jesus.
The highlight of the match were the spectacular bumps Sergio took off Fujiwara arm whips. Man were they good. His performance here totally made up for how shitty he was in that WWA tag against Solar and Super Astro. Sergio El Hermoso, you are back in the good books.
Sangre Chicana, La Fiera y Mocho Cota vs. Los Infernales (MS-1/Satanico/Espectro Jr.), EMLL 9/30/83
This was a revenge match a week after the famous MS-1/Sangre Chicana hair match, and I don't think I've ever seen a more fired up group of rudos in all my life. Their whole purpose seemed to be to keep the other technicos out of the ring so they could beat the shit out of Chicana. Cota tried making a save one too many times, and the Infernales got stuck into him, giving him a nasty cut over the eye.
The cool thing about all this was that MS-1 was staggering around the ring looking for someone to punch, which I don't think he was doing on purpose but made it seem like has having a difficult time controlling himself. The editing and dark picture made this difficult to follow, but this was one of the hottest crowds I've ever heard at Arena Mexico. It may have been the loudest support I've ever heard for a technico comeback, and what I liked about the comeback was that these weren't technicos who point to the crowd and signal they're going to use a closed fist. Guys like Chicana and Cota were at one time or another absolute cunts as rudos, so there was a viciousness to their comeback that you wouldn't ordinarily see from technicos. There were no real winners here, however, and no spoils despite Cota claiming Espectro's mask as a trophy. The post-match scene resembled a battlefield with both sides tending to their fallen. Unfortunately, the match was too short to be anything other than heated. It would've made a good first two falls, but the rudos never got a look in once their ass stomping began and there was never any sort of showdown between MS-1 and Chicana. It felt like their feud had been aborted, and along with it, the entire reason for having such a match.
Martín Karadagián vs. La Momia, Titanes en el Ring 1972
OK, so technically this isn't lucha libre, but it's in Spanish so we'll pass it off as a cousin.
The only reason I'm writing about this match is because I've never seen a guy play a gimmick better than the guy who played La Momia. Seriously, the guy was incredible. He moved and fought exactly as a mummy should. He even got up like a mummy should whenever he fell over. According to Kurt Brown, Martín Karadagián was the Vince McMahon and Hulk Hogan of Titanes en el Ring all rolled into one. He looked a like Rip Rogers if Rip Rogers were Argentinian and had a ginormous nose. He pounded away at La Momia with right hands, but the mummy kept walking into him with big open handed strikes until he could get close enough for a chokehold. This was from a movie, so there were countless inserts of bewildered children. I couldn't really figure out what happened at the end, but there were countless inserts of happy children so I'm guessing Karadagián was the victor.
Dr. Wagner Jr. y Espanto Jr. vs. Celestial y Coloso
Man, Espanto Jr. was good.
This match confirms what we already knew from the Santo title match -- Espanto Jr. was in the top handful of workers in 1992. Sadly, this match, a couple of other tags, and the two Santo matches, are the only footage that exists of his UWA work, but there's enough evidence to suggest that he's one of the lost workers of the 80s. I know there's people who point to his AAA work, but I don't think he was anywhere near as good in that promotion (an argument I'd make rather strongly about El Hijo del Santo as well.)
Wagner, on the other hand, had been in the business since '86, and yet nothing, not even that piece of information, could persuade you from thinking it was his very first match. As far as sons of famous luchadores go, Wagner was one of the all-time worst at this point.
Celestial was actually Black Man of Los Fantásticos fame, but you wouldn't know it to look at him, since he did none of his signature spots. In fact, the only good thing he did was a pescado off a Coloso lift. Coloso had the type of build all the technicos want these days and the moveset to match. He did herd Wagner through a cool rope exchange, where he leapt over the top of him and did an awesome mid-air snapmere. That's a move the young guys should crib, since it's such a virtuoso looking throw.
The match itself was only really good when Espanto Jr. was in the ring, which is unforunate since it went a good twenty minutes. One guy, no matter how talented he is, can't carry a tag match by himself, so this was another of those half-pie UWA matches that make up most of the existing footage.
Can't say the same about this match, however:
Espantos IV y V vs. Las Estrellas Blancas
This was very good, and a sure fire recommendation for lucha enthusiasts.
Traditional tag wrestling is by far the weakest match format in lucha libre, largely because they always try to work a trios style match instead of a Southern style match, but this had all the elements of a good lucha match -- matwork, rope exchanges, bumps, brawling, awesome lucha style submissions, you name it. The heel ref even put one of the Blancas in a wristlock. I'm not sure if the Estrella Blanca here was the original, since luchawiki puts his birth date as 1938 and he kicked so much ass it would make him the greatest 54 year-old technico ever. What I can tell you is that judging by this, the entire Espanto "family" was talented, as these guys smoked a lot of what the other trios combinations were doing in 1992, and that includes the Missioneros, the Brazos, the Villanos and even the Infernales.
The third fall was too short for this to truly be great, but they jam packed more well-paced action into five minutes than you'd see in a year's worth of trios matches these days. The execution was a bit sluggish, since most of these guys were over 40, but the spots were glorious by design. They did this awesome tope sequence, where Estrella Blanca II and Espanto IV did topes on opposite sides of the ring. When Espanto IV looked up, he did these fantastic headshakes as the crowd told each other that the other Blancha was heading their way. With both Espantos tope'd out of their boots, the finish was unusually thoughtful for this type of midcard tag. Espanto IV rolled forward in a sunset flip, and held the legs to save the brothers from losing, which set-up a nice mano a mano finish where Estrella Blanca II took a committed face plant off a no-look moonsault.
Definitely worth checking out if you're a lucha fan.