El Dandy vs. Emilio Charles Jr., hair vs. hair, CMLL 10/23/93
The most obvious thing about this match is that it's a hair match without any blood. Normally, I'd go on a spiel about how you can't have a hair match without any blood, but I never promised to be fair or consistent with these reviews.
This was a great fight and one that carried a bit of extra meaning for me.
The great thing about getting into lucha libre is that you have to want to get into lucha libre. There's not that many people who can tell you what to watch, so you have to figure it out for yourself. Everyone has a different entry point and for me it was 1989 CMLL.
1989 was a great year for CMLL and one of the highlights of that year was a lengthy feud between El Dandy and a rudo named Emilio Charles Jr. Emilio was a guy I'd never heard of before, since to this very day he doesn't have a big rep as a worker, but watching those '89 tapes it struck me that Emilio was every bit the worker that Dandy was. Guys like Steve Sims or Kurt Brown, who were lucky enough to watch CMLL in the 80s, point to Pirata Morgan, La Fiera, Negro Casas or Jerry Estrada as workrate guys, but if you watch something like Emilio Charles Jr. vs. Atlantis from '84, you'll see that Emilio was pushing the envelope as much as any of those guys. According to Jose, he was put into Los Destructores to learn the ropes, but if you ask me, CMLL had a diamond in the rough.
Dandy's star continued to rise in 1990 and Emilio settled back into trios wrestling. This wasn't that uncommon in the late 80s/early 90s. A guy like Satanico would bide his time in trios until the bookers were ready to use him for another mainevent run. This was how CMLL were able to book so many different hair and title matches, and for the most part it was a successful formula. Somewhere along the way, however, Emilio's body began to break down. I don't know the full story, or if there's even a story, but he was a huge bumper in trios and had a fondness for that high arcing bump over the top rope that Pirata Morgan was so famous for.
What I didn't realise until recently is that CMLL brought back the Dandy vs. Emilio feud in a down year. The chance to see a competitive Emilio Charles Jr. match in 1993 was a complete bonus for me.
Dandy came to the ring to a remix of I'm Too Sexy by Right Said Fred that had the lyrics "soy un sexy luchador." Sometimes the down years are greater than the boom years. Emilio had his Andre the Giant hair going on here. His ability to grow his hair out was rivaled only by Mocho Cota. Cota was unbelievable at preparing for hair matches. Seriously, the guy would go from looking like like Shakespearean villain to Dr J in a matter of weeks.
The opening fall was pretty standard. There were a number of spots where usually the blood would flow, but for whatever reason Dandy didn't blade. There was plenty of niggle, however. Emilio pulled Dandy's hair in the ropes and straight out of the break Dandy fingered him in the eyes. Emilio won the first fall with the type of simple move that I know bothers a lot of people about lucha, but you have to get into Emilio taunting the crowd to appreciate these type of matches. His fist pumping, chest beating, fnger pointing taunt told the crowd in no uncertain terms who the man was in that fall.
The second fall was likewise nothing special, with Dandy taking the most direct approach available to him, which mostly consisted of punching and kneeing Emilio in the face. Dandy did a good job of selling the work Emilio had done on his back, but there was nothing in it in the first two falls. Dandy's crucifix pin to win the fall was beautiful (especially on the replay), and the tone was set a winner takes all third fall.
The third fall wasn't the greatest contest I've seen in lucha, but you have to remember how broken down Emilio was by this point. The best parts of this fall came across as a high-end title match and Emilio's selling was fantastic. There was one stretch where Dandy had Emilio in a headlock and it truly looked like Emilio was struggling to breath. The vicious elbow he gave Dandy to break the hold complemented the vibe he was giving off and his selling of Dandy's figure four leglock bordered on the sublime. It didn't matter how slow Emilio had become, he was one tough bastard and the match kicked into high gear when he tope'd Dandy into the second row. The transitions were rough as guts, but so was CMLL in 1993. What I loved about this fall is that both guys wanted the win and they fought to the bitter end.
And Emilio fucking won!!
I wasn't expecting that at all. How awesome is that?
Dandy went for La magistral and Emilio low blowed him while he was in the armbar. He clotheslined Dandy from behind and applied a crucifix pin of his own. Such a brilliant finish. The instant he low blowed Dandy the crowd were aghast. There was a rudo fan sitting in the front row and on the replay you could see that photographers were blocking his view. He sat forward as the ref began to count, and as soon as that hand came down for a third time, he lept into the air and rang his bell for all the arena to hear. Other fans looked like they wanted to rip their tickets up.
So there you have it. A competitive Emilio Charles Jr. match in 1993. Maybe not worth its weight in gold, but there really aren't that many great Dandy matches after the Casas feud, so like I said at the top -- it's a bonus.
Los Infernales (El Satanico/MS-1/Masakre) vs. Rayo de Jalisco Jr./La Fiera/Tony Salazar, CMLL 1987
When I say "Classic Infernales," I really mean older footage of the Infernales in action, since Pirata Morgan had already left the group by this stage. Nevertheless, the Masakre version was a good team in its own right, and this was an awesome Southern style tag match.
The Infernales were fantastic as Southern heels -- backing into the ref when the technicos wanted to duke it out, attacking from behind when the technicos turned their backs. Each of the technicos took turns playing FIP, and there were long stretches of two-on-one brawling, but not once did I feel like I was watching a sluggish opening fall. A lot of modern brawling relies on video editing to prevent it from being static, but the Infernales had an endless array of shit they could do to to keep a match ticking over. La Fiera was the best of the technicos here, but he was carrying a leg injury into the match. This was back when Fiera used a lot of high kicks. Needless to say, the Infernales saw an opportunity. The Little Master was in his element here. Some of the holds he put Fiera in, and Fiera's selling, made this worth including on a Best of the 80s set.
After a fall and a half of rudo treatment, Rayo snapped into a babyface pose. There was a tremendous pop for Rayo, but unfortunately most of the workers were scattered at ringside. Rayo had to go to the floor to dish out his haymakers, which kind of killed things for the audience on the far side, but Satanico flung himself head first into the ring post for those of us at home.
Back in the ring, the technicos cut loose. The Infernales did the most awesome punch drunk selling off whips into the turnbuckle. The contest was on to see who could collapse in the most entertaining fashion, and MS-1 may have been the winner. His unicycle act was incredible. Exaggerated bumps were a big part of 80s lucha, but looked awful when technicos did them. Kurt Brown told a great story the other day about how Dusty Rhodes flipped out the first time he saw Pimpinela Escarlata live. I think Big Dust would've lost it over most lucha if he'd had the opportunity to see it more often. If you think Arn Anderson was good at comic stooge bumping, the Infernales made an art form out of it. Fiera's offence was hot on the heels of The Karate Kid, Part II and straight-to-video kickboxing movies, but fuck me, you HAVE TO SEE his KO of Masakre on the outside.
Really good match. Could've used a third fall, but it had a nice mano a mano finish between the captains MS-1 and Rayo de Jalisco Jr. I'd put it on the level of the trios leading into Satanico/Dandy, Dandy/Casas and Santo/Casas despite Rayo vs. MS-1 being a lesser feud.
Lizmark vs. Jerry Estrada, Mexican National Light Heavyweight Championship, AAA 6/18/93
I hate Jerry Estrada.
He's probably my least favourite lucha worker of all time. To me he's like the anti-Sangre Chicana. Sangre Chicana was out of his mind the entire time and took it to surreal heights. Jerry Estrada was out of his mind the entire time and was a train wreck.
But like him or not, this was one hell of a match.
By far the most coherent performance I've seen from Jerry Estrada and also the best Lizmark performance to ever make tape. It may even be the 1993 MOTY, and if it's not the greatest AAA match ever, it's certainly in the top five.
Lizmark was brilliant in the first fall. This wasn't CMLL style, Satanico vs. Gran Cochisse or El Dandy vs. Javier Llanes matwork, so don't expect anything mindblowing like that. It wasn't the holds or matwork that impressed me here, but the psychology. Anybody who thinks lucha has no psychology, hasn't watched the right matches. Estrada played the challenger role to perfection. He tried everything he could think of to gain an advantage, but the maestro was on top of his game. Every time there was a break in the action, Estrada would stare Lizmark down. He couldn't believe how well Lizmark was wrestling. He tried changing tack, tried changing the point of attack, but Lizmark had a counter for everything.
They used to call Lizmark The Little Blue Genius, and if you watch this match you'll get some idea why. He wrestled most of this fall from a defensive stance, standing ever so slightly on the back foot. This meant that whenever Jerry charged at him, he could use Estrada's own momentum to counter his offence. Jerry, as retador, was just a little bit guilty of forcing the action, and Lizmark was able to tie him in circles.
The second fall was your typical two minute fall where the challenger strikes back straight away. Jerry was bumped for this fall and they started off by shoulder charging each other. Lizmark wouldn't back down from the challenge and sent Estrada to the floor with a flying headscissors. I haven't seen any of the trios leading into this match, but I can only imagine there was tension between the two. After dominating the first fall, Lizmark let his guard down and was suckered into working a rudo fall. Jerry leveled the score, and from the way he kicked the bottom turnbuckle, it was clear that he wasn't finished yet.
The third fall was the type of fall that separates the great matches from everything else. It's not often that a third fall does justice to a match, so you have to sit back and admire this one. Estrada threw away the "retador" tag here and began working rudo, which I suppose is an effective way to deal with a counter wrestler like Lizmark. He can't counter much of anything if he's getting the shit beaten out of him. Lizmark tried some counter-offence and ended up sailing through the ropes, which set-up a tope from Estrada. It wasn't the fastest or nastiest looking tope I've seen, but if you've seen a better set-up than that from the current lot of workers, you are lying to yourself.
The last few minutes with full of drama as Lizmark hung onto his title reign by a thread. They worked some great nearfall submissions, where Lizmark had to power his way out of the holds with all of his upper body strength. One of the ways to judge a match is by its arc, i.e. how far they've come since the opening bell. Lizmark was so smooth, so assured in the opening fall, but now he was scrambling. Time and time again, he avoided Estrada's Media Cerrajera hold, countering with a high risk gamble. He was sucking wind on a bridged suplex and at other times could barely pin the man. It's not every day of the week where you see a match where they lay it on the line like this.
I won't spoil the finish. The tension was palpable and neither of them had anything left. It could've gone either way and the post-match was tremendous. The selling was fantastic the whole way through and perhaps my disdain for Estrada stems from his hair matches. If you'd like a copy of this, leave a message somewhere.
Enrique Vera vs. Dos Caras, UWA World Heavyweight Championship, 2/26/84 (slightly clipped)
Dos Caras is a great wrestler. One of the finest to ever step foot inside a squared circle. But this isn't a great example of his work.
The difference between Caras and workers like Lizmark and Solar is that Caras was a heavyweight, which meant he had to work from a dominant or standing position. Guys like Lizmark could zip around, but Caras had to maintain the illusion that he was difficult to take off his feet.
He also worked the 70s NWA heavyweight style -- a style UWA honoured until the very end. This was similar to the 1992 heavyweight match between Caras and Canek; a slow building match, where matwork gives way to increasingly dangerous moves. There's a certain charm in watching wrestling where a carefully executed piledriver can put people out of commission, but there wasn't enough artistry here. It started off with the usual armlocks and grapevines, holds that peg your opponent to the mat and let him know he's not going anywhere; but the thing about Caras is that once he got into his mat sequences, there's never been a worker in the history of lucha libre with as many mindblowing holds as Dos Caras. He worked a few holds here -- holds that would blow away most workers' repertoire -- but as great as they were, they just seemed like standard fare from a guy as legendary as Dos Caras.
It wasn't clear from watching this whether Vera was ever a good worker. He made his debut in '68 and was still quite young here (35), but his knees were taped and he didn't appear to be moving well. He wasn't as clumsy as Alfonso Dantés in his All Japan match against Mil Máscaras, but he was pretty ordinary. He looked as though he was cut from the same cloth as Ray Mendonza; big, strong, wearing wrestling tights and a pair of boots, but showed almost nothing on the mat, which is unusual for a Diablo Velazco student. He may have been a brawler turned technical wrestler, or perhaps he was better in the 70s, but in any event he was a disappointment.
The other problem with the match is that it was technico vs. technico, which oftentimes is too polite. Caras was somewhat aggressive with the title in his sights, but for the most part this was pretty spineless. I do, however, recommend the Caras brothers' fight against Wahoo McDaniel and Frank Hill from 1979, which is anything but spineless! It's on youtube. Check out the chops.
Negro Navarro, Trauma I, Trauma II vs. Black Terry, Cerebro Negro, Fantasma de la Opera, 7/9/09
I dunno what's been going on with IWRG lately, but there hasn't been any TV available and this is the first match I've seen in almost a month.
Things got off to the worst start possible really, when Navarro called Fuerza out on the house mic. This led to some group conference over an angle I haven't been following, while the match time became shorter and shorter. Fuerza said his piece, the Cerebros + Fantasma got the jump on Dinasta Navarro, and we were away! Talk about your false starts -- the ref and the timekeeper ought to have called them back because this was the worst caida I've seen all year and that's covering an awful lot of territory. At this point, I was kinda worried that this angle -- whatever the fuck it is -- had ruined the only promotion I give a damn about these days, but something SENSATIONAL happened in the second fall.
It happened towards the end of the fall when Navarro said "fuck this shit" and started throwing punches. The mark of a great worker is whether he can stem the tide, and this match was going nowhere until Navarro brought it to life. Terry's selling was fantastic -- everything you'd want from a 56 year-old guy selling like a 56 year-old guy, and the Traumas got stuck in with knee strikes. The refs tried lecturing the Navarros over their tactics, but Negro was so pissed that he had one of them flinching in the corner. We don't usually think of Navarro as a great actor, but he looked like every member of the Dirty Dozen rolled into one.
Terry's blood pressure was soaring in the third fall and he had a chippy little exchange with Trauma II that left IWRG with no alternative but to book them in a singles match. Trauma I finally looked convincing in his role as the one who got all of Negro's size, and while strikes and submission attempts aren't to everyone's taste, but this was manly. The only way it could've been more manly is if Terry had told Trauma II to keep his lovin' brother happy.
Watching this again, it wasn't quite as exciting as I'm making out, but it's pulp drama. The kind of rag you read once and throw away. But mark my words, one of these days Terry and Navarro are gonna have the showdown to end all showdowns.
El Hijo del Santo vs. Blue Panther, University of Essex, 10/8/04
Y'know when see a band play and the second night is better than the first? Didn't happen here.
This was a mess of the highest order.
The ring set-up meant that they couldn't dive into the crowd, so they threw in an "over the top" rule as a means of beating your opponent. In the first match, Santo tossed in a dive whenever he needed a highspot; here they tried eliminating each other.
That's a fucked situation.
If you can't dive, and you can't use the ropes, you grapple, right?
When Santo was asked what London could expect from Lucha Libre, he answered: "You will see a contact sport but a great part of it is close to art. This is because in lucha we wrestle close to the canvas where you will see a lot of movement with ‘castigos’, holds and locks, it becomes harmonious and this beautiful skill converts into art."
Whoever came up with the "Battle Royal" idea didn't have much faith in the art of lucha libre.
Then again, neither did the workers.
Santo dominated this match for long stretches at a time, but it wasn't what you'd call lucha matwork. He worked from dominant clinch positions, such as a front headlock or waistlock. Now I like matwork, but those are stationary holds. The longer you keep them applied, the longer you're stalling for time. There wasn't a lot of movement from Panther and not a lot of countering. Not once was there a flurry of holds, a rolling bump, or even a proper submission. I realise they had a turd for a ring, but these guys are supposed to be maestros: two of the greatest mat workers of all time. If this was your first time to see Panther, you'd have to wonder what the fuss was all about.
Without the two-out-of-three falls format, they couldn't find a rhythm. Santo kept going back to clinch positions and there wasn't a whole lot going on. Far be it from me to suggest the Emperor had no clothes, but it certainly seemed that way.
The other day I watched a UWA trios where Casas was running around like madman, pulling some guy's hat over his eyes. Santo was so pissed that he started brawling with Casas on the outside, and while all this was happening, Solar was leading a green as shit Dr. Wagner Jr. through classic lucha exchanges. Yeah, they were working in the trios format, and yeah, they had the benefit of shortened falls, but this UK match was dead. They didn't vary the pace enough and there was no energy to the performance. The final stanza was a disaster. Their timing was awful and they blew an extraordinary number of spots. Hell, even the spots they made they had no business doing in a third caida.
I can't understand what Santo and Panther were thinking here. These appearances were organised by a University, an Arts Council and the Mexican Embassy, which ought to have given them a license to wrestle any way they liked. This was a chance for Panther and Santo to show us lucha the way it ought to be; the way it's meant to be. The way they're always telling us it should be wrestled.
Forget these matches ever happened. If you want the real thing, I recommend their matches from Monterrey.
Atlantis vs. El Faraón, Mexican National Middleweight Championship, 3/22/85
A villainous El Faraón!
I hadn't seen Faraón's rudo work, in fact I've never really seen him in his prime. He was a hell of a vet during the Dandy run, but this was another echelon altogether.
I've always put a great deal of importance in how a guy moves in the ring, since I don't think it's something that can be taught. You can change the way you bump and sell, but movement can only really be aided by the right body position.
Faraón was tall for a luchador (5'11") and his shoulders were slightly hunched, which made him seem slower than he really was. Watch how he trapped Atlantis in this match. Atlantis couldn't match Faraón for strength, so his aim was to avoid the lock-up. He was probably expecting Faraón to have a clumbersome first step, but Faraón swooped in, using the full length of his reach to overpower Atlantis to the mat. Once they were on the mat, they did a fall's worth of wristlock work. Faraón showed great agility with his reversals, but technique is for the birds.
If Faraón had continued to dominate the matwork like he was capable of, it would've made a mockery of Atlantis' standing as middleweight champ, so little by little he gave away the ascendency. He did this by gradually selling pain, until he had an excuse to opt out of the matwork. Most workers ditch matwork in favour of the ropes, but Faraón didn't just settle for a pin fall. No sir.
He used the ropes to dismantle his opponent.
Atlantis became his whipping boy, literally. It was fantastic stuff from the rudo, because it was rough-housing, and the crowd knew it. He tread the thinnest of lines between legitimate strength and unsportsmanlike behaviour, which would've been perfect if Atlantis hadn't sold with all the enthusiasm of an amateur. His theatrics didn't hurt the match; Faraón had provided too excellent a platform for that. Instead, it was one of those WTF moments that leave you thinking, "shit, he was only 22!"
Actually, Atlantis' age played something of a part in this match.
Faraón won the first fall by submission, but held on for longer than necessary to rub in his gamesmanship. Faraón knew he was on to a good thing and began measuring Atlantis with short arm lariats. A few of them slipped too high and the crowd ripped into him for ungentlemanly conduct. Like a rudo great, Faraón protested that he was being villified. The ref started to issue a stern warning, but Atlantis was pissed. He tore into Faraón with an armbreaker, which Faraón sold in Murdochian fashion. It was impetuous stuff from the technico and hardly becoming of a middleweight champion. Faraón made sure the heat stayed on him, however, by rolling under the ropes. There's no time outs in wrestling! Jim Ross tells us that ad nauseam. Faraón was more brazen with his lariats after that and his selling was brilliant. Watch how he sells Atlantis' backbreaker. The cry he lets out gives you a full sense of how much weight Atlantis lifted.
This seemed to exorcise the bloodlust from the technico, and once he got his revenged, he settled into more of a composed game plan. He tried to get the jump on Faraón in the third fall by flying at him with topes. This was a clever ploy from Atlantis, who realised he had to do something to negate Faraón's reach, but the rudo was too quick footed and soon he was on the offensive. Faraón began picking his opponent apart piece by piece, which is not that common a style for a luchador. It's not often that they work as methodically as Faraón did here.
The problem was that Atlantis was still too green to edge ahead with more dazzling technique. Relatively speaking, he was the same as a 22 year-old middleweight in a modern lucha match. There was no way he was the "best in his class" at this point in time; he was a popular young technico holding one of the middleweight straps as part of his push. To "beat" an opponent like Faraón, you have to make it seem like you can actually beat him. Faraón jobbed for Atlantis here. It was plain to see and for that reason the third fall was flatter than I would've liked. There was some king sized selling from Faraón, who took each dive like the walls of Jerusalem were falling down, but the finish was a surprise rana, which was straight out of the playbook in 1985.
I loved the Flair-like selling at the end, though, with Faraón scrambling and falling on his ass. More Faraón, please!
El Hijo del Santo vs. Blue Panther, Colchester Arts Centre, 10/06/04
This was first of two matches Panther and Santo worked in England, as part of an exhibition of prints by Mexican artist Demián Flores Cortés.
'Flores Cortés' work, which is inspired by Mexican pop culture and in particular lucha libre, was described by the Gallery Director as "full of the raw energy, movement, and the staged drama of the wrestling world." Santo and Panther were invited to "animate" that work and did so in front of a packed Arts Centre.
Can you imagine Panther and Santo coming to your town? Me neither, but I've gotta tell you -- it wasn't that good.
I won't beat around the bush here. I was expecting them to work like maestros, and in a way, I was hoping for something to remember Panther by. He doesn't have a lot of great singles matches and this had to be one.
But instead of them working like maestros, we got a "lucha" exhibition with Panther working rudo.
Lucha is never really lucha when you take it out of Mexico, for the simple reason that the fans view it as a work. We've all seen Mexican fans who were caught up the drama and allowed themselves to be worked; women who chastised rudos, men who were escorted back to their seats, rudos who were so hated they had to be out of their mind to incite the fans further.
What ends up happening in a match like this is that Panther becomes the worker "in the corner of the bad guy" and Santo becomes the worker "in the corner of the good guys." The crowd cheer the technico on, urging him to take over and run through his offence. Usually, but the crowd know it's a work and keep on with their rallying cries. It's difficult to take heat away from the technico, because there's never any sense of the laws that govern lucha libre. Never any sense that the rudo has caused an indignity and that the technico must defend his honour. The rudo winds up being the token villain "in the corner of the bad guy." No one gets worked and no one gets suckered in.
I have no interest in a match where the workers chase pops, which is why I would've preferred a straight technico contest. The only way to get around the "rudo problem" on an exhibition match is to go the London/Delaware route and work in a charismatic manner. There's no point trying to fool a crowd who know it's a work, so you might as well be self-referential and have some fun with it.
The catch with that is that Panther's not a charismatic worker. The only charisma he's ever had is that he's Blue Panther, which to us means he's a maestro. His approach here was to work stiffer than usual, but the ref didn't admonish him enough, and Santo showed him up by throwing better punches. The end result was that he played second fiddle.
That's surprising for pros like Santo and Panther, but a lot of these issues stemmed from the match structure. For some reason, they chose to work the match as a single fall over 30 minutes, which surprised me, since anyone who's ever watched All Star Promotions would be familar with a rounds system and a strong heel/face dynamic for that matter. They also tried working the same shifts in momentum that you'd find in a two-out-of-three falls match, but without the overlapping falls it's difficult to create the same sense of rhythm. The ring was too small to use the ropes like they usually would, so Santo tended to throw in a signature dive when he might usually do a rope exchange, and while it was cool to see him hit topes and planchas in such a confined area, they occurred at the most inopportune times.
This did give us the chance to see the "real" Santo, however. I call this Santo the "UWA" Santo, because aside from the summer of '97 he never wrestled this way on TV, which makes me wonder why people care about him making TV appearances at all.
His matwork was nothing you haven't seen before, but as usual it was his execution that stood out. Sims describes lucha as "the age-old fight between good and evil", where "good tries to overcome evil by superior work rate and abilities", and since there can be no greater technico than the son of the most famous luchador, this has always been an area where Santo Jr. has strived for perfection. In that sense, the hero's welcome he received in Colchester was fitting; it's just a shame that they forgot about the rudo's role in all this.
Watch the "second caida" that wasn't and you'll see what I mean. The second caida is where the rudo begins to pummel the technico. If the technico's smart, he sells it like he's down and out. If the rudo's smart, he plots his own demise through pride or through avarice. Santo and Panther botched a surfboard and Panther laid in a stiff kick that was more of a slap on the thigh. This led to a brawling that was about as effective as the last time I watched CMLL television.
If I were to sum up my disappointment with the match, I'd say it lacked the "raw energy, movement, and the staged drama of the wrestling world." It seemed like the print version to me.
It has to be said that the crowd loved the match. They really did. It was a rare opportunity to see lucha libre workers in the flesh and there was a chant of "Santo! Santo! Santo!" from a kid who couldn't have been older than four or five. It may have come across better live than it did on tape or perhaps I'm living in an ivory tower of Satanico matches and Negro Navarro matwork.
If I ever have a kid, I'm taking him to a show before the magic wears off.
Satanico vs. Lizmark, NWA World Middleweight Championship, 4/84
With both these guys retiring on the Luchas 2000 show, I thought I'd pay tribute to two of my all-time favourite workers.
This isn't a great match, and to be honest, I wish it had been much better, but it's as close as we'll ever get to the heart of the Lizmark/Satanico rivalry.
There's a moment towards the beginning of the match that sets the tone for everything that follows. The ref is giving his instructions to Lizmark and has to call Satanico over to listen. Satanico is as cool as ever, nodding and gesturing that it's fine, but he's somewhat bemused as the ref continues to explain. Suddenly, he gets this glint in his eye and grins at the pair of them. The ref brings them together for a handshake, but Lizmark gets the brush off.
That may seem like a minor detail, trivial even, but Lizmark looked foolish and it was a high class insult.
Watching that moment, it struck me that no-one could outperform Satanico. There's not too many workers you can say that about, but it's true. He was impossible to outperform. I've seen dozens of Satanico matches and the psychology is always the same. He had a bag of tricks he liked to use; brushing off the handshake was one of them, losing his temper was another. But no matter how many times he did them, it never came across as stage craft. He was this supremely confident, supremely arrogant guy, who was quick to anger and prone to tantrums. A lot of guys have played rudo and played it well, but Satanico was a natural.
He was also a fairly demanding worker, who expected guys to work at his level, and nowhere was this more true than in title matches. Steve Sims describes the lucha title match style as "almost always a technical-style match, putting over the championship, where both men wrestle as cleanly as they can to see which is the more deserving of being 'best in his class.'" There's more to it than that, but if you look at the middleweight title histories from this era, you can see that only the most capable of middleweights held the straps. Satanico's credentials as a middleweight champion don't need any introduction, but I think a lot of people are unaware of how good Lizmark truly was.
Unfortunately, only two of their matches exist on tape; this one from '84 and a later one from AAA. Neither of them are classics, which doesn't help my cause very much. It could be that they were too good for each other as opponents, or it could simply be that their best matches are lost, but nevertheless this '84 match pits arguably the best rudo worker in Mexico against the best technico worker.
The first caida is beautiful, with Satanico wrenching on a side headlock and Lizmark looking for a submission straight away. This was a return match, and either Satanico had done something illegal to win the title in December or he'd been baiting Lizmark in trios, because the technico was unusually aggressive here. They needled each other on the first break and it seemed like there was more to it than the brush off.
Satanico lost his cool the way he always does, by being outwrestled and outgrappled. What I love about these temper spots is that Satanico always responds with such authority; this time with a series of throws. He landed a single leg takedown, but was too caught up with swatting away Lizmark's free leg and ended up having the hold reversed. It was one of those cases where the reversal is more painful than the original hold, and as you'd expect, that's how Satanico sold it. Watch the way that Lizmark springs into position. He was such a fluid wrestler in his prime. Just beautiful technique. The armlock reversals to end this exchange are incredible.
One of my favourite Satanico tricks is when he'd appeal to the ref for help. Rudos usually wrestle a title match cleanly. They may wrestle aggressively, they may push the boundaries and be cautioned by the ref, but by and large they adhere to the rules. Foul play is rare and disqualifications even rarer. Occasionally they cheat to win, but the goal is to outwrestle the so-called "technico" with technical wrestling, thus proving their superiority. This was particularly true in Satanico's case, since he was a supremely talented wrestler who believed he was a supremely talented wrestler, but whenever he was down on points, he'd start reminding the ref of the rules and the sanctity of a title match. The same rules he didn't want to listen to at the outset.
It was always a sign that he was getting his ass kicked and boy was that the case here. Satanico didn't have an answer for Lizmark in this fall. Lizmark wrapped things up with a double underhook suplay, which is about as definitive a throw as it gets.
What strikes me as odd about this match is how aggressive Lizmark is in the second fall. Satanico is still feeling the effects of the suplay and doesn't want to lock-up. Lizmark is so pumped up, so aggravated that he launches an all out attack on the head and neck area that not even the crowd are sure about. I can only imagine that Satanico had done something to Lizmark at some point, because it's not the type of behaviour befitting of a technico in a sanctioned title match. It was, however, a sight to behold.
Things get even stranger with Lizmark refusing to break and targeting the eye area. Satanico is unable to mount any sort of a comeback and Lizmark ends up piledriving him not once but twice. Just deserts for the diabolical one? It's not a turn of any sort, but it's not exactly premeditated either. And it's tough for the ref to officiate on. The fall ends with a rather weak Satanico counter, where he falls backwards clutching his head. I dunno where that caida came from, because Satanico didn't put up a fight at all.
The third fall followed more traditional lines with both guys hanging on for dear life. The highlight of the fall was Satanico charging at Lizmark only for the technico to step aside and send him hurling through the ropes. He crashed into the padding, and by the time he looked up, Lizmark was already halfway through a spectacular Plancha Suicida. No-one has ever done that move better. He was an amazingly flexible guy and you could see that in the way he'd contort his body on the mat.
It was sudden death after that, and to be frank, the offence was poor. This was a revancha match that didn't bring with it any revenge and ended in a double pin. Satanico retained the title and had a hell of a sore neck for his efforts, but Lizmark lost his way in the final fall and didn't deserve the win. That's OK in legit sports, but in a worked sport, as lucha libre title matches present themselves, it's pretty average when you compare it with something like Satanico/Gran Cochisse or even Zatura/Trauma II from a few weeks ago.
We'll never know whether Satanico vs. Lizmark ever lived up its billing, but there was enough quality here to suggest that they were pound-for-pound the best in this or any other weight class. But can anybody explain the story to me?
Zatura vs. Trauma II, IWRG Intercontinental Lightweight Championship, 6/18/09
Somehow we ended up skipping an episode of IWRG. It must've been an eventful one, since this week was all about singles matches and recriminations.
I haven't been as high on Trauma II as other people who watch and write about IWRG on a weekly basis, but I figured this match would showcase one way or another whether the kid's any good. And I'll say it up front -- the kid blew me away.
There were a few things they could've done better, but I feel churlish just typing that. This was an excellent title match for this type of weight class. None of the criticisms I've had of Trauma II as a submission grappler applied here. Both guys were quick with their takedowns and there was enough movement on the mat that it seemed like they were going for a straight pinfall submission with every hold. I've mentioned before that Trauma II ain't no chip off the old block, but judging by his strikes, I've been far too harsh on the kid.
I guess I've been beating the drum too hard, because Trauma wasn't alone in impressing me.
A few weeks ago, Zatura showed he could hang with Cerebro Negro and here he took that one step further with some nice counter wrestling to take the first fall. He opened up the second caida working from the top and it was a nicely weighted fall. It's not very often that the second fall is a turning point in a lucha title match, but it was very much the case here.
Both of these guys came into the match with taped shoulders, but Trauma was the first to aggravate his injury when Zatura caught him with the counter submission. And he made no bones about going after the arm in round two. That rocked me a bit, as I didn't know he had it in him. Previously, he'd seemed like a guy who could only grapple from the defensive position, but he scored an early takedown here and was Satanico-like in seizing control. So often these guys relinquish holds and give up position, but there was nothing easy here. Trauma had to fight every inch of the way to get an early break and slumped into his corner clutching his shoulder.
What followed was a piece of grappling that was well beyond Trauma's years.
Realising he had a bum shoulder, he opted to attack off the ropes and did the most spectacular leg takedown into a shoulder submission. It was a fantastic move that really underlined his championship credentials.
Having saved match point, we headed into a third and deciding fall with both guys looking like they belonged in a lucha libre title match. Trauma's selling was fantastic throughout and even Zatura's dives seemed nastier than usual. I loved the spot where they started throwing body punches and Zatura drove him into the mat with a double leg takedown. I guess the highest compliment I can pay a match like this is that even though I knew the result beforehand, I was genuinely excited by the outcome. It's rare for young guys to pull off this kind of finish. They timed it to perfection and the finish came on exactly the right beat.
I would've never picked these guys to have a match this good. I dunno if it's a sign of things to come, but I sure as hell sat up and took notice. Probably the most positive and exciting thing to happen in Mexico all year.
On a parting note, Trauma's outfit was class. I swear it made him look like a better worker. I can't really justify that comment, but as a wrestling fan, you know it makes a difference.
Arena Puebla 6/15/09
Ares, Espíritu Maligno, Siki Osama vs. Black Tiger, Blue Center, Centella de Oro
This was the Puebla boys at their best.
The opening matwork wasn't just good by Puebla standards, it was arguably the best matwork to come out of Mexico this year, but what really made the match were the follow-up falls. Usually, the Puebla guys lose their way after the first caida, but here the rudos did a good job of pushing the action. They kept changing the point of attack, which kept things interesting and went a long way toward maintaining a rhythm. The finishes were ambitious and didn't flow all that well, but it was cool to see them grandstanding. If not for the ending, it would've been the best of the local trios matches, but it was a bit of a swing and miss. The rudos almost had the technicos on the rack, and it was very nearly last ditch stuff, but they couldn't pull it off. They went for the three-pronged dive attack and it was all a bit uncoordinated.
Nevertheless, it was more of a ride than most Puebla openers. Blue Center came up limping, which put a cool spin on the usual post match celebrations. I dug how they chased the rudos out of town. Endings are tough to do. We see that all the time in Westerns and in comic books, but the local matches are always about the thought outstripping the execution and this was just behind the two other Puebla trios I've pimped.
Tzuki, Bam Bam, Pequino Olímpico vs. Pequino Universo 2000, Pequino Black Warrior, Pierrothito
I was under the impression that this was the best minis trios since Bracito De Oro/Cicloncito Ramirez/Mascarita Magica vs Damiancito El Guerrero/El Fierito/Pierrothito, and while it was heading that way with the early matwork, it wasn't meant to be. It was a good match, and I'd definitely like to see the minis as a regular fixture on Puebla cards, but the technicos couldn't match the rudos' performance here. It was fantastic stuff from the rudo mini veterans, Universo 2000 and Pierrothito; the kind of rudo beatdown you don't see much of any more, even from good workers. I won't win any points with Rob here, but I thought Tzuki dragged this down with his performance. Bam Bam carried his side somewhat with some pretty slick rope work, but this was a night where the rudos outclassed the technicos and left me wondering where the heroes have gone.
Rudos should lay down the groundwork, but there's not enough technique on the technico sides these days.
CMLL en la ARENA PUEBLA 6/1/09 Siki Osama, Espíritu Maligno VS Iron, Blue Center
Espíritu Maligno and Siki Osama! I like both these guys, so I got a kick out of this.
The first caida had a real old school feel to it. Blue Center is such a classical thinker. He may not have the athleticism of a Lizmark or Solar, but he thinks like a technico and has all the right ideas. There were a lot of neat exchanges in the first fall and they were nicely spaced; the way lucha used to be before it lost its sense of fun and adventure.
Espíritu Maligno continues to be the incarnation of Espectro Jr and his ilk and Siki Osama is probably my favourite big man at the moment. I adore everything about him from his gimmick and ring attire to the way he works. I was impressed with his matwork here. For a big guy, I thought he did a superb job of leading from the top.
The rest of the match wasn't that crash hot, but my boys won. For some reason, I've been on a Jack Kirby kick lately, and I dunno if it's because of all the primary colours, but the Puebla locals have a real Kirby feel to them. Lucha libre isn't really a style, and it's wrong to say there's only one way of doing it; but the more it looks like a Jack Kirby splash page, the more I dig it.
IWRG 6/4/09 Black Terry, Cerebro Negro, Dr. Cerebro VS Trauma I, Trauma II, Zatura
I dug the Traumas' hoodies here, as well as the Cerebros' matching tights. They also posed in their masks, which was pretty cool.
This was another vaguely interesting IWRG trios. It started off with some stalling from Cerebro Negro, before a mat sequence where he really put the brakes on Zatura. That's something we haven't seen for a while and was somewhat refreshing. Trauma II and the Doc followed that up with some submission grappling. It wasn't the prettiest of matwork, but they managed to stay on the mat and keep the breaks to a minimum.
Next up were Terry and Trauma I, which presented an interesting mismatch. Terry took over in the maestro role and it was a return to the more pain inducing holds of recent months. Trauma I, who's being made out as bruiser, caught Terry in a leg lock and there was a fantastic reaction shot from Dr. Cerebro. The move spelled trouble and sure enough the technicos took the first fall.
Terry spent the rest of the match looking to get even and he did something of a number on the Trauma's arm. Trauma basically fought with one arm the rest of the way and was almost too consistent with his selling. I'm not sure if he tweaked something, but he hasn't been a noted seller to date. Cerebro Negro, on the other hand, did appear to tweak his neck from a Trauma II hold. He was attended to by the ring doctor while guys stood around brawling, and the match pretty much lost its shape, which must be the upteenth time I've written that about an IWRG trios.
Anyway, the upshot of all this to-ing and fro-ing was some miscommunication between the technicos and Zatura copped an earful afterwards. I'm starting to lose track of all the beefs in IWRG and God knows if any of them will ever be resolved. If the Trauma arm mangling was an angle, I'm assuming the return of Poppa Bear can't be too far off, but the tag against the Guerreras was on the show after this, so stay tuned kiddies!
Fuerza Chicana, Mr. Rafaga, Sauron vs Asturiano, Centella de Oro, Tigre Rojo, Arena Puebla, 5/25/09
Ah, the Puebla locals.
What I like about these guys is that they come in all shapes and sizes. A real mix of odds and ends. Centella de Oro was the only worker here, but there was no shirking from the match-ups and no hiding in the trios. They all took their turn here and were all rolling with an 80s bent. It was standard fare from these guys, but more praise worthy than anything from last week.
Angelico, Chico Che, Freelance vs. Capitan Muerte, Durango Kid, Tetsuya Bushi
This was an abomination of a match, but Freelance is on a tear right now. Valiente's been earning the plaudits, but Freelance is taking them back. The pleasing thing about this run is that he's cut back on the number of dives. Watch his exchange with Capitan Muerte and you'll see where he's improving. If I had my way, Freelance would blow up into something huge in Mexico.
Oficial 911, Oficial AK47, Oficial Fierro vs. Trauma I, Trauma II, Zatura, IWRG Intercontinental Trios Championship
This started off with a lengthy mat sequence between Trauma II and Oficial 911, with every exchange ending in a submission attempt. They weren't bad holds, but the set-up was poor. They released holds, gave up position and were far too slow. When it was over, Trauma fronted him, but the Oficial hadn't been anywhere near aggressive enough for that to be the story. I kinda dig Trauma II as a skinny guy who's dangerous from the guard position, but if they go down that route there needs to be better takedown work from 911.
In came Trauma II, who was looking to establish himself as the enforcer, but again the execution was poor. The Oficiales took over, and as with much of their wrestling this year, they were short of ideas. They kinda pulled it together in the end and Zatura did a cool dive, but it was a pretty average effort. I'm not sure what's happened to them this year, but they've gone right off the boil. The Traumas are kids and you expect them to struggle , but what's up with the Oficiales?
Mike Quackenbush/Kendo/Solar v Negro Navarro/Mr. Ferrari/Claudio Castegnoli, Invasion Azteca, 3/08/09
Well, for the second year running, it looks like my match of the year will come from outside Mexico.
Perhaps this wouldn't have been a MOTY in years gone by, but these days you have to search every nook and cranny. It's a bit like diggin' in the crates.
I won't deny that finding lucha in Delaware is half the fun, but the important thing is that it was lucha through and through.
There's a certain aesthetic that says this match is cool: the crowd, the building, the colour of the mat, two all-time greats in a scaled back trios. But I'll tell you what this match had: it had charisma.
If I were to describe trios wrestling, I'd say it's one or two good workers, a guy with some shtick and a couple of apron warmers. The workers do the bulk of the wrestling, the comedy guy does his schtick and the apron warmers pick their spots. These days it doesn't take much imagination to work a trios match. The only guys who do it well are the Puebla locals, but here you had Navarro/Solar, Navarro/Quackenbush, a little bit of comedy and a bunch of guys working around the edges. So when I'm talking about charisma, I'm talking about that real shit from back in the day.
You had three guys nowhere near the level of the others and the match was better for it.
Watching Navarro here, I had no doubts I was watching an all-time great worker. How many wrestlers revent themselves at Navarro's age? How many guys are better in their early 50s than they were in their youth? And how many guys get better year after year from the age of 45? It just doesn't happen. I thought Solar had one of his better outings in recent times, but I'd go so far as to say this is THE Negro Navarro match: the match that encapsulates why he's the man right now.
I don't think I've ever seen Solar and Navarro go at each other like this, with amazingly quick go-behinds and strong takedowns. but what really impressed me was Navarro and Quackenbush. Quackenbush doesn't look like much of a wrestler, but in the past six months I've seen him wrestle Johnny Saint, Cassandro and Negro Navarro, and I've gotta give the guy his dues. Navarro was lording it here, trashing talking in Spanish throughout their exchanges; but every time Quackenbush hooked a limb, he did not disappoint. In all honesty, he was one of the better sparring partners Navarro's had. I don't know how he did it, but he did it and fair play to him.
So what you had was a bit of clowning around, some killer match-ups and an awesome setting. What more could you ask for? The imperfections are what really made it: the scrappy finishes, the ref's mistakes, the looseness at times. You know they're working when they're ad-libbing comedy between matwork. You can't do that without some personality and a whole lot of confidence in your mat skills. Navarro's takedowns are like Ray Mendoza's. Everytime he slams someone to the mat, you expect him to come back up with his arm raised. He's a killer. I don't think anyone could take him in a fight. But he's seen it all, done it all and has a sense of humour about it.
A lot of indie matches strike me as the sincerest form of flattery, but this was the real deal. Hell, Solar even sold the low blow like a pro. He was stretching that thing at the end and there was no aggravating it. What a champ.
Blue Panther vs. Averno, CMLL World Middleweight Championship, 5/29/09 (clipped)
This was a difficult match to judge since it was clipped, but it made me wanna throw in the towel.
The opening matwork was there or thereabouts, with Panther making it look more spectacular than it really was. Averno is an average worker, but he at least brought his A game and Panther has enough credibility to work an opening caida along traditional lines.
The third fall is where my apathy grew, especially when they reprised that shitty mask match from last year. Where others see Panther cutting this sympathetic figure, I just see a guy who can't salvage the third caida. What's the point of going for three topes if they're not sold? Why can't they space their moves properly? The Chicana/Aguayo topes put this shit to shame.
This is what lucha has become: shit basically. I've tried finding new ways to enjoy it, but it's a losing battle. When you have one of the most respected workers of the past 30 years towing the company line, it's a difficult pill to swallow.
I'll say this much -- it was better than the Mistico/Casas matches and probably better than Averno/Santo from 2004, but still not enough. The decade's almost over and there's no relief in sight. The 2010s are gonna be bad.
El Dandy vs. Javier Cruz, hair vs. hair, 10/26/84
This was just a bad match.
Way too much offence for a hair match and not enough selling. That should come as no surprise. Dandy was only 22 here and Cruz 25. Collectively, they didn't know shit yet. It kind of reminded me of Kiyoshi Tamura's early fights, where he's all limbs and no control. Sadly, we'll probably never seen their '86 feud and won't be able to pinpoint when Dandy entered his prime or if Cruz was ever a good singles worker.
Felino vs. Pantera, CMLL World Welterweight Championship, 12/27/94
I like Felino, I really do, but this was a piss poor performance with the most atrocious matwork I've seen in a lucha title match. In lucha, there's certain things you accept -- the first two falls are academic: the loser of the first fall will win the next and winning is as easy as a few simple moves. After awhile, you take it for granted. Occasionally, you're surprised. But they've got to be good, even if you're half stepping. 90s Felino had the same workrate tendencies as a Chris Benoit or Eddy Guerrero, but here, in a lucha title match, the only matwork was a foul. Pantera's not the most impressive worker, probably serviceable at best, but all he could do was sell and Felino gave him fuck all to work with. The third fall had multiple dives, but who gives a shit after being short changed? This was disturbingly close to modern CMLL. They should've nipped it in the bud in 1994.
Apolo Dantes vs. Miguel Pérez Jr., hair vs. hair, 10/13/95
This wasn't a bad match per se, but it was excessive and once again there were too many moves for a hair match. This was rudo contra rudo and Mexico contra Pérez; a revenge match for Pérez taking Silver King's hair (in another workrate hair match.) Pérez was one of the better workers to come through Mexico in the 90s; perhaps the best, unless I'm forgetting someone obvious. He's a guy who could clearly brawl, but he also had a lot of spots, and I mean a lot of spots. In 1995, if there were two guys who could work the semi-universal 'Best of the Super Juniors' style, Apolo Dantes and Silver King were those guys., so it's no surprise that they booked these matches, and the publico absolutely LOVED it. The third fall went on too long for mine, but there were all sorts of crowd shots (shot from a classic documentary angle), and while those inserts are easy to manipulate the assorted reactions were the most interesting thing about the match. Especially the guy with a hook for an arm.
Hair matches should always be brawls in my view, but if you're a Dantes fan this was a solid performance.
Freelance, Miss Gaviota & Diva Salvaje vs. Xibalba, Carta Brava & Avisman
Usually I'd skip a match like this, since you have to sit through so much crap to get to the Freelance parts, but it was worth it this week. From the opening matwork with Avisman to all of his rope work and bumps, it was a really solid outing from the world's foremost technico. There were a few hiccups on the mat, but they worked through it and I liked how pissed Avisman was at himself.
The exoticos tried hard, but they're not very good. The crowd seemed to enjoy their schtick, but I've seen better. One of the problems with Freelance is that despite being a great technico, there's really no-one for him to feud with. And since there's no rhyme nor reason to IWRG, he's stuck in these random trios matches.
Negro Navarro, Durango Kid & Capitán Muerte vs. Black Terry, Dr. Cerebro, Cerebro Negro
This was the match of the week.
It started off with some solid matwork between Dr. Cerebro and Durango Kid and then Cerebro Negro and Capitán Muerte, before Terry and Navarro took over. Over the past few weeks, Terry's conceded that he can't beat Navarro on the mat, so Negro put him away in style. Nobody but nobody fucks with Navarro on the mat and Terry's selling was vintage as usual.
The second fall was a nice change of pace. The Cerebros looked to push a three on two or three on one advantage for the quick fall, but Navarro's boys had a fall in hand, which led to some good exchanges. The third fall opened with more of the same, which made sense from the Cerebros' perspective, since they're the champs. They're making a push for trios of the year; in part because they're getting all the opportunities, but Navarro just can't be fucked with. He'd take on all three guys at once if he had to, and threw the best punch combos I've seen him do.
The finish saw Terry faking a low blow and so it continues. You have to think Navarro is getting the belts. The question is who his partners will be. The matwork was considerably better without his kids involved, but I can't imagine them not being involved.
Traumas I y II & Zatura vs. Oficiales AK-47, Fierro y 911
Crap. Gave up watching it. The Oficiales have been pretty average this year.
Blue Panther, La Sombra & Volador Jr. vs El Averno, El Mephisto & Efesto, 5/22/09
I only watched this to see the Averno/Panther matwork, since I hear they're having a singles match soon. I approve of CMLL pushing Panther as an authentic lucha maestro and I also liked the Navarro style tights. Anything to move away from the image of a maskless Blue Panther. The matwork was good and their singles match should at least be as good as Panther's anniversary match last year, provided there's no bullshit.
The rest of the match was a heated spotfest and of no interest to me.
Black Terry vs. Fantasma de la Ópera, IWRG Intercontinental Welterweight Championship, 7/19/07
Black Terry is a guy who's more or less had a second career in IWRG, and you'd have to say 2007 was the peak of that career.
He was tearing shit up in this feud. In one trios, they did a huge old school bladejob, where both guys worked the cut until Fantasma looked like something out of a Dario Argento film. Terry's brawling was fantastic. It wasn't the strikes or the DQ for excessive rudoing or even the way he put over Fantasma's headbutts, it was the way he sold the entire thing.
The secret to wrestling is to be quick with your holds and not show any daylight, but Terry does more than that. He's one of those rare workers who seem to be "in character" the entire time, so that when the camera is fixed on him, it's almost like a character study.
The other trios I watched was more notable for his matwork with Freelance, but he did show that you can beat up a guy like Multifacético and make it interesting, provided you treat him like a complete and utter whipping boy.
I think it's fair to say that Terry has slipped in recent months, which is understandable given that he's entering his late 50s, but there were a number of other interesting contrasts between then and now. The crowds were much better then than the are now and the style was different too.
This was a small scale title match, and I knew it wouldn't be some kind of epic due to the match length, but I figured that if the matwork was solid it would be pretty good. What I didn't expect is that Terry would work a style somewhat closer to his roots. There's been a tendency in recent IWRG matwork to isolate each hold and make them seem painful instead of showy, which is how lucha holds used to be, but here Terry worked some classic first caida matwork. And it was cool. Aside from the lower weight classes in World of Sport, where else can you see guys wrap each other up like this?
Fantasma de la Ópera isn't the most mobile guy, and he's not particularly smooth either, but his ring sense is solid enough. He relies on the ropes a bit too much for my liking and his suplexes are wildly out of place, but he's earnest and Black Terry singles matches are rarer than hen's teeth, so I enjoyed this. The feud kinda devolved into RAW vs. Smackdown booking with a "fatal three-way" that had all sorts of questionable offence, but I like it whenever Terry goes "small", whether it's against Freelance, Turbo or in this case Fantasma.
Perro Aguayo vs. Sangre Chicana, 3/20/92
Ha, this was awesome!
Easily the best Perro Aguayo match I've seen and probably the best thing Konnan's ever been involved in. There was so much bullshit going on in this match and it all worked beautifully. They couldn't have booked or executed it any better.
It started off on the perfect note with Chicana beating Aguayo over the head with the charro hat he wore to the ring, and was filled with hokey shit from La Fiera, Konnan and the heel ref Gato Montini. Perro Aguayo has some of the deepest blade lines of any wrestler you'll ever see and it doesn't take much for him to bleed, but once it started flowing Chicana went into overdrive. He cleared some front row seats, stood up on them and dared the crowd to do something about it. They say Jake Roberts is a master of psychology, but I've got this little theory that Sangre Chicana is more Jake Roberts than Jake Roberts. Just fantastic shit. At one point, he was jawing with a technico fan and he was OUT OF HIS GODDAMN MIND.
Konnan and Aguayo did this mindblowingly awesome spot where Konnan was willing Aguayo on, telling him to get up and jog it off, which he did. That was borderline Apollo Creed/Rocky Balboa stuff. Konnan ended up being escorted to the back for some reason and then Pena came out and personally removed Montini. He signaled a timeout and brought out this wiry old ref who was either badass or a cunt. Some fan tried to embrace him on his way to the ring and he gave him the big fuck off. The final flurry saw some awesome topes, with Chicana crumpled under the chairs and an awesome shot of La Fiera's smooth ass wrestling boots under his awesome civvies.
The finish was glorious, as the old man came charging off the ropes and caught Chicana in a signature cradle. Aguayo ran around in a half circle and jumped up and down. Then he went and pat the head of the world's oldest living lucha libre fan, who was a little concerned when her program fell out of her lap. God bless you, honey.
Just a marvelous piece of bullshit. Chicana is the king of doing nothing and getting heat for it. I'd put this in my top 10 for 1992, it was that entertaining.
Back to work for these guys.
Oficiales 911, AK47 y Fierro vs. Zatura, Chico Ché & Freelance, 5/14/09
This is the first Oficiales match I've seen all year. A decent hit out, I suppose, but largely forgettable. It was the type of trios where they pause in the middle for the Freelance show; he hits a bunch of cool spots and then it's back to the same old, same old. The beatdowns were mildly interesting, but it's difficult to care about technicos like Zatura and Chico Ché.
Fuerza Guerrera, Juventud Guerrera & Dr. Cerebro vs. Negro Navarro & Traumas I y II, 5/14/09
This began with some nice matwork between Fuerza and the Trauma kid who always starts off trios matches for Dinastía Navarro. It was low stakes stuff and very much the role the Trauma kid's been assigned to, but on the whole I thought they struck a better balance than Terry and the Navarro kid. Negro and Dr. Cerebro followed that up with an up tempo submission duel. Cerebro has a bunch of cool tricks in his holster and has been quietly having a great year. I thought he was the most consistent of the Terribles Cerebros in their pre-H1N1 feud; just a really good spot worker.
One of my favourite things about trios wrestling is the number of directions a match can take, but it's always a little disappointing when they toss aside the matwork. This turned into a pier six, and while it was reasonably tidy, I stopped paying attention. For some reason, the Guerreras turned on Cerebro and Black Terry made an appearance. I guess the Cerebros and Guerreras will feud, though continuity has never been a strong point in lucha. Juventud's a guy I haven't seen wrestle in ten years. He looks like shit. Can't say I'm excited about him biding his time in IWRG.
Solar vs. Negro Navarro, Campeonáto de las Américas, 5/16/09
Good, mat based title match that probably deserves another watch. I was distracted by my wife wanting to buy a house, but it looked as though there was no quarter asked and no quarter given. I had a problem with the rhythm, however. Title matches are always broken into three falls, but here they were clear "breaks" in the match. There wasn't much in the way of overlapping; they'd start again from the neutral position as though they were recycling the first fall. I need to watch it again to pick up on any shifts, but it seemed to me that this was straight up grappling with nothing much in the way of story. I've got no problems watching them grapple, but they seem to have an aversion towards real finishes, and as a result, it wasn't a step above their usual stuff. At this point, I'd say it's a better tag and trios match-up than a singles one.
EDIT: Watched it again. The second fall was the best, which doesn't surprise me since it was Navarro's fall. There was some overlap between falls, and I liked that Solar had to become more physical to shake Negro, but the finish was weak. If you're serious about matwork, you should stay away from ropework and pins and earn the win the hard way.
Dandy/Faraon/Lizmark v Casas/Pierroth/Brazo de Oro, 6/22/92
Casas v. Dandy; whoever booked this feud had a rare stroke of genius.
It only just occurred to me how early this was in Casas' run. By booking Dandy as his first opponent, it brought Dandy out of a slump and saw Casas leapfrog his way to the top.
The booking itself was fairly simple. Casas and Dandy had a bunch of exchanges where neither guy came out on top, and therefore a singles match was a must; but it was remarkably well played by Casas. Just because you're two of the best, doesn't mean you have chemistry. With a guy like Satanico, there was always a hint that he was the superior worker in every feud he had, but Casas didn't mind if the other guy looked better. Skills wise, he and Dandy were evenly matched; and in fact it was Casas who pushed a lot of the action, but Dandy was content to kick back and ride out the early exchanges. If there was an opening, it was going to come later in the match, so he was prepared for that and was in no rush to pin back the shoulders. More often than not, it was Casas who resorted to a pushing and shoving contest, which, as Jose's little old ladies would tell you, was a sign that Casas felt more evenly matched than Dandy. As a competitor, Casas knew Dandy was good. As a rudo, his first instinct was that technicos are bullshit. The line he tread between competitiveness and his rudo instincts was really quite superb. He would've dearly loved to have beaten Dandy cleanly, but cheating was in his blood. It ran through his veins; he'd do it and pass the whole thing off as being the better worker anyway.
What was cool about this trios, however, was that it was one of those nights where they get heat for the main guys, but the secondary guys step up and get even more heat, which means you save your main match-up for another bunch of trios. In this case, it was El Faraon who was all fired up and looking to hand Pierroth; and if you're familiar with Pierroth and Faraon, you'll know that's a very good thing. There was also a subplot about Brazo de Oro having respect for Dandy's abilities, which Pierroth thought was ridiculous, and it led to the rudos turning on him unceremoniously. Another cool touch was seeing Casas/Lizmark exchanges, which is the first time I've seen those guys work together.
All these subplots and through-lines is what makes trios wrestling so great. Someone should put all these matches together and make a custom comp. There you go; there's an idea for somebody.
Santo/Azteca/Muneco v Satanico/Parka/Psicosis, AAA 1994
RagingNoodles is the king of finding good AAA matches. Angel Azteca has always been a guy I've been fixated with, since in the earliest lucha I watched, they were really building him up as the next great technico, then suddenly -- POOF -- he was barely on TV anymore. If you watch all that TV from '89 and 1990, you'll wonder what the fuck happened to him. Here he is popping up in a '94 trios and he has an unbelievably great exchange with Satancio. Like all great lucha exchanges, it wasn't well worn spots, but creative and completely original stuff. The rest of the match was standard AAA fare, with up tempo rope work and a whole through-line about Tirantes not supporting the rudos, but it was never short of entertaining and I was amazed by how well Super Muneco hung with these guys. Unless he had a bloodbath in Monterrey or somewhere, he's pretty much useless, but he bobbed and weaved his way through this match and it was pat on the back stuff.
Engendro v. Solar v. Negro Navarro, 12/13/08
These triangular matches are a little odd; they're basically one-on-one and you can tag out anytime you like, which doesn't make a lot of sense, but since this had a whole bunch of maestro matwork, it didn't really matter. The early exchanges between Navarro and Solar were the type of matwork that never gets old: it can never get old, since it's the single most skillful thing about professional wrestling. But you've seen it all before and read all about it -- the real story here was Engendro. Engendro's a weird looking guy. I can't figure out if he's the least looking guy to rule it on the mat, or the most likely. I suppose matwork was such a staple of Engendro's era that he was able to work his way through mat exchanges, even if he wasn't the most skillful guy. The Solar/Engendro exchanges in this were really great and the match-up was fresh. I was a little disappointed when Engrendo was the first to go, since Solar and Navarro are inexplicably poor at ending for their singles matches. This was no different, but the match was two thirds goodness.
Mascarita Dorada vs Pequeño Damian 666, Lucha Fiesta, 3/20/09
I've never been a big fan of lucha in Japan, aside from the 70s when Baba would bring in guys like Mil Máscaras, Dos Caras and Dr. Wagner. The UWF stuff I could never get into. The crowds always felt the need to do something, whether it was booing or cheering, and the hardcores were more interested in the masks, which still fetch a price if they were actually worn. But I was surprised by how well this got over.
I haven't seen anything from the minis this year, and only really watched this to see how Pequeño Damian is doing, but it was cool. It was the same length as a lightning match, and could've easily turned into a juniors style match, but Damian gave a really solid rudo performance and the response didn't sound canned at all. In fact, Damian jawing with a fan is probably the closest you'll get to a Japanese guy acting like a front row fan at Arena Mexico. And Dorada was outrageously good, pulling off all these awesome spots that make you say, "fuck the old school." Well, for five seconds anyway.
But seriously, he was really good. He span like a record at the end and the crowd gave him plenty of coin. He came across like the miniture star that he's supposed to be, and Pequeño Damian might as well be Pequeño Virus the way he carries a Dorada through awesome exchanges.
The different camera angles were cool too, especially the one that showed just how far Dorada leapt from the turnbuckle. It's pretty far when you're that small.
Valiente vs. Virus, Match Relámpago, 4/3/09
These two guys have gotta be the best workers in CMLL right now.
I've been thinking lately about why their match-up is so good, and I wanna say that it's the old adage that styles make fights. Virus has bulked up a lot since he became a regular sized worker and likes to lead with the shoulder; Valiente prefers the armdrag. Virus uses his strength to lift guys off the mat; Valiente works counters and reversals. Virus is an excellent rudo foil; Valiente a beautiful high flyer. What makes it beautiful is that Valiente has the size to lay in the shots and Virus has the agility to match him hold for hold. It's like a "mini" version of Casas/Dandy in that they have the ability to mix it up any which way they like.
I haven't seen two many Relámpago matches, so I don't know how you work a good one, but I figure you put some exchanges together and go for the win. I'm a little skeptical whether this type of match can ever be great, but they tried. I've seen them have better exchanges in trios matches, but trios matches are about pairing off and a cool spot like Virus' apron bump would see another pair take over. There's no time for resonance in this sort of match, so they kept at it. I'm not sure it swung in Virus' favour enough, but how to you stop Valiente right now? The man is hot.
Since styles make fights, it would be interesting to see a return match between these guys. Lightning matches are probably the only way we'll see them go mano a mano, but it's what we've been begging for. I kinda doubt Virus could win without cheating, but Lord knows I wanna see how he'd counter him next time. Make it happen CMLL.
Black Terry, Cerebro Negro y Dr Cerebro vs Negro Navarro, Trauma I y Trauma II, 4/23/09
There's been a lot of "lost lucha" over the years, but not this feud...
Chapter four started off with a lengthy mat sequence between Black Terry and one of the Trauma kids. It wasn't a bad mat sequence, but it was fairly typical of IWRG matwork in that the guy applying the hold allowed for a reset, which to me isn't much of a mat contest. I realise that it's largely about machismo and letting the other guy know you've got the upper hand, but they trade holds a bit too evenly. If you watch some great trios matwork, you'll notice that one worker dominates the mat for several exchanges at a time before the other guy shows his wares. Terry's a bit too generous, which, to my mind, lessens whatever impact there is in the age and experience gap and the fact the Cerebros are champs. Nevertheless, the matwork was more than perfunctory and I thought the Trauma kid, whichever one it was, had a far better stance than usual.
Lately, these guys have been working a lot of individual exchanges, but this saw a bit of a departure from that. Trios wrestling actually came into play, with the champs deciding to use the numbers. The Navarro family fought back in an aggressive manner and I guess the big story here was that Negro was in no mood to be fucked with. This was presumably because Terry low blowed him in the previous match; if in fact we're allowed to give wrestlers the benefit of the doubt that they follow-up on their previous matches. Anyway, Negro was surly here. You could see it early on when Terry had his kid in a hold, and he was staring at it like, "fuck, is that all?"
Negro's been threatening to cut loose in recent weeks and maul someone, which we know he can do 'cos he's a monster, but it was actually one of his kids who got the best shot in. He nailed Terry with a wicked kick, which left me in two minds about whether it really connected. It was all business from there -- Negro was in no mood to be fucked with and the Cerebros were a little disorganised, so it wrapped up quickly. The eminent mike187 says this was a MOTYC, but I dunno if I'd go to the wall for a MOTYC that doesn't have a big finish.
In fact, this feud reminds me a lot of the old Infernales/Intocables feud in that every match is entertaining but none of them stand out as classics. Still, I dunno when we'll be seeing new IWRG, due to the swine flu, which made its way back home to New Zealand. So, we might have to wait a while for the next part in the serial. In the mean time, enjoy the shoot kick action.
Black Terry, Cerebro Negro y Dr Cerebro vs Negro Navarro, Trauma I y Trauma II, Distrito Federal Trios Championship, 4/16/09
This is the third Terribles Cerebros/Dinastía Navarro match to find its way onto youtube in the past few weeks and lo and behold there were multiple versions of it. Watching the handheld copy, I wasn't that impressed, but the televised version ended up being far more enjoyable.
In a longer, mat-based match like this, there are a lot of details which you can only pick-up on with the camera in close, and switching angles not only provides you with a fresh perspective, but shows the work from the dominant side.
This was a long-ish title match with two solid falls of matwork. The biggest difference between uploads was Terry's work. It was a lot better than I originally thought, so I didn't pick up on the injury theme. Terry's a guy who's been looking noticeably older in the past few weeks and I haven't been overly impressed with his work against the Navarro kids. At first I thought it was the size difference, since Terry was going great guns against both Turbo and Freelance, but watching this two or three times it's clear that the Traumas ain't no chip off the old block. I don't think it's a coincidence that the only time they're interesting on the mat is when they're working with Dr. Cerebro. With Cerebro, they can tie each other up in knots and do all sorts of wacky submissions. In fact, Cerebro's work here was reminiscent of when he first came to attention; prior to losing his mask. Terry's more of a takedown guy and I don't think Navarro's kids are particularly good from a vertical base. Working with Cerebro allows for constant movement and mat "highspots"; and if there's one thing younger workers crave, it's highspots.
The first two falls were good. If I had any criticisms it would be that they were kinda slow and didn't have the greatest rhythm, but they made up for it with some heavy duty selling, which you don't always see in lucha, and their new found love of chokeholds. Negro Navarro was badass in that respect and his submission finisher in the first fall is one of the highlights of my lucha viewing this year.
The third fall was a bit of a waste, since it was clearly designed to set-up the revancha, but the build-up to Terry vs. Navarro was interesting. It was a bit lighthearted at first, as Navarro, in a former life, was often times a comedy bumper (if you can believe that), but things grew serious in the final fall. They had this fantastic exchange where they were beating the living daylights out of each other; Terry contemplated tagging out, but thought better of it and circled back round. If they'd gone back out it, it would've ruled, but these guys haven't quite reached the MOTYC level that some of us are hoping for.
So, yeah, good match, but I keep thinking there's more where this came from.