Atlantis/Lizmark/Ultimo Dragon vs. Emilio Charles Jr./Bestia Salvaje/Negro Casas (7/31/92)
Standard rudo brawling followed by a standard technico comeback, but it all looked fairly good. Emilio and Atlantis continued to brawl, which explains the extra edge to their '92 title match.
Espectro Jr./Espectro de Ultratumba/Ponzona vs. Angel Azteca/Apolo Dantes/Eddy Guerrero (9/13/91)
Not good. Not much of anything really. The clip began with a lengthy vignette of Angel Azteca and some ladies pretending to be either statutes or figures from an Aztec relief. Ponzona and the Espectros may have had fun gimmicks, but they didn't do anything in the ring to take advantage of their get-ups in the way that Pena did when he wrestled as Kahoz. Match was pretty much an excuse for Apolo Dantes and Eddy Guerrero to gallivant around being second generation superstars and jocks.
Blue Panther vs. Octagon, National Middleweight Championship match (8/4/94)
The first time I saw these two wrestle I called it one of the worst title matches in history. This wasn't that bad, but it was still rubbish. What a colossal waste of Panther in his prime. Only AAA could produce matches that are worse than Panther's modern bouts. I'd almost call them a blight on Panther's career, but it was obvious that the booking was the millstone here.
Felino vs. Ciclon Ramirez, CMLL World Welterweight Championship match (5/21/93)
This had everything going for it -- Felino interrupting a Ciclon Ramirez interview in the gym and brawling with him, a contract signing with both men wearing three-piece suits, Ciclon wearing a beautiful boxing robe to the ring and Felino clinging to the oversized welterweight championship like a cat staking out his territory. Even Casas was swanning around with his butt cheeks hanging out of his baby blue trunks. Given all that, the match was a hefty disappointment. The matwork was only decent when Ramirez was in control, which is fairly typical of Felino's early title matches. He didn't really improve at title match matwork until he started working with Santo in '96. Beyond that it was mostly dives before the Casas/Felino angle. Casas does a really good job of selling his bewilderment at Felino pushing him around before throwing in the towel. The angle wasn't as hot as it could have been, but that's 1993 CMLL for you. It was still a beautifully dickish move on Casas' part. It's too bad they didn't give us the full title match before running the angle, and I still think it was a dumb move to unmask Ramirez.
Atlantis/Satanico/Angel Azteca vs. Pirata Morgan/Emilio Charles Jr./Jerry Estrada (4/20/90)
This was a real "fall out of bed" trios. It was good, but nothing I wouldn't expect from these workers. The novelty of Satanico being on the technico side wasn't lost on anyone and he had some fun exchanges with all three of the rudos. The best match-up was Emilio Charles v. Angel Azteca, as they built to their title match. There was a lengthy brawl at ringside after the bout was over, and it looked like someone through some trash at Emilio and got a receipt for it. Satanico and Morgan put on a bit of a show in front of Doña Vicky, who seemed to enjoy it. I recently saw the finish to their 1986 hair match, which looked wildly disappointing as there appeared to be a lack of blood and an abundance of juniors moves (plus they had an exceptional whiff on a missile dropkick from the top rope.) Their brawling here was much better, but this still a bit of a throwaway bout all the same.
Pierroth Jr./MS-1/Ulises vs. Mogur/El Dandy/Popitekus (1/5/90)
A week before their title match, it's the match-up the internet never told you about, Mogur vs. Pierroth Jr. Their exchanges here may have been even better than during their title fight, as they really slapped the shit out of each other. At one point, Mogur was lying prone on the canvas and Pierroth went all romper stomper on him, kicking him in the back until he had finally cleared the ring of him. Another outstanding match-up here was El Dandy vs. MS-1, which was every bit as good as you'd imagine it to be. MS-1 was fantastic around this time. I remember when I first got into lucha thinking that MS-1 was almost like a Mexican Jumbo Tsuruta. Like Jumbo, he got old fast, and when I think about that Infernales/Dinamitas match I watched the other day, his decline sticks out even more. Dandy also slipped from this level really quickly, which makes this an in-ring encounter to savour. Popitekus was a wee bit disappointing here, but Salazar under the hood and MS-1 mostly went the comedy route with him. There was a nice violent rudo control segment in the bout and Pierroth was in fine form. I always thought he took a while to come into his own, but this feud was a nice showcase for him. Match of the night as far as my viewing goes.
El Dandy/Ringo Mendoza/Sangre Chicana vs. El Satanico/Fabuloso Blondy/MS-1 (11/16/90)
I wouldn't call this weak, but there weren't really any special moments. Dandy and Satanico brawled and there was double juice, but that's nothing we haven't seen before. Everybody else just sort of chipped in without shining.
Mascara Sagrada/Octagon/Atlantis vs. Pierroth Jr./Fuerza Guerrera/Kung Fu (1/25/91)
Before the match we got a lengthy vignette of Pierroth working out in tight blue bicycle shorts while some up tempo smooth jazz played over the top. If you'd told me that would be the highlight I would've stopped the clip right there. This meandered. A lot. I was so bored that I became overly fascinated by the size difference between Fuerza and Pierroth. I often don't click about things like that until my mind starts to wander. One thing I'll say for this match is it shows how easily these pre-singles match brawling trios can descend into complete bores. The next time you see a really good one remember that.
Jerry Estrada/El Satanico/La Parka vs. Lizmark/Octagon/Mascara Sagrada (6/4/93)
This started off with a decent effort by Satanico to make Mascara Sagrada look competent on the mat, and some decent enough exchanges between Lizmark and Estrada, but aimless pre-singles match brawling trios were almost AAA's forte, and this dragged on and on without any spectacular moments.
Jerry Estrada/El Satanico/La Parka vs. Lizmark/Octagon/Mascara Sagrada (6/11/93)
This was also a dull rudo dominated trios. For some reason, Satanico vs. Octagon was one of the least compelling match-ups of the early 90s. It's not like Satanico didn't bump or sell for him, or try any of his bag of tricks; it was just interesting. I was begging for a hot babyface comeback here with the kind of dive train you know AAA is good for, but it never came. These are the kind of matches which have long soured me on AAA, and the fact this was worse than the previous week makes things even worse. Lizmark should have been up against it here against three of his major foes, but they couldn't even thread the Lizmark/Estrada issue through properly and the narratives were pretty pathetic in general.
Not a great night for lucha libre watching.
Atlantis/Apolo Dantes/Octagon vs. Blue Panther/Javier Cruz/Emilio Charles Jr. (8/2/91)
It's always exciting when you see a rudo line-up like that. I don't know if they cranked up the pace or it was just edited that way, but this was one lively trios. Under ordinary circumstances, they might have meandered along setting up the Cruz vs. Dantes hair match and Panther vs. Atlantis title match, but in this case there was always something interesting going on. Dantes wore a purple wrestling leotard that made him look like an exotico (lilac even, for those of you who get the reference.) I'm sure his dad could have pulled it off, as dad wasn't the sort you messed with. Still, it's not the colour of your leotard that counts but how hard you pack a punch, and Dantes' fists caused Cruz to blade here. Cruz was good value here as the annoying little jackass alter-ego to his awesome fired up babyface act of 1990. Interesting enough, Atlantis v. Panther brought the violence during the technico's comeback. Their title match may have been a breathtaking display of pure lucha libre, but they beat the tar out of each other here. The finishing stretch was wild with everyone going for broke. Octagon, who I'll defend until the day I sign off from this blog, pulled off a big dive which he sold beautifully, and Panther caught Atlantis in no man's land for the submission finish. As soon as he got the call, he dropped Atlantis like a sack of potatoes and motioned for the title around his waist. I was pumped to say the least. Fun trios.
Pierroth Jr. vs. Mogur, National Light Heavyweight Championship match (1/12/90)
This was surprisingly good. I almost passed up the opportunity to watch it as it didn't seem that interesting, but by the first fall I was hooked. It was a lengthy Arena Coliseo match with a heavy focus on (light) heavyweight style mat work. There was a lot of selling, which gave it a slightly different feel stylistically. One really cool thing they did was sell the impact of such heavy bodies being thrown about and slammed into the canvas. They'd do an armdrag, for example, and sell both the impact and the strain on the person's shoulder. It was probably took long for what these guys are capable of, and being a traditionalist I didn't particularly care for Pierroth cheating during a title match, but there was a lot to like here in terms of details. It's also a side of Pierroth that he didn't show a lot of later on, particularly his mat game. Worth checking out as a match that's well under the radar.
Atlantis/Lizmark/Ultimo Dragon vs. Emilio Charles Jr./Bestia Salvaje/Felino (7/24/92)
I don't know who runs the channel that I'm getting this stuff from, but whoever it is he's a Godsend. I'm hauled up inside with a stuffy nose and my second bout of influenza in a month and this stuff is the perfect tonic. I continue to change my tune on Ultimo Dragon. Sometimes when a guy is flashy it's easy to go off him, but flashy works well in trios matches and his exchanges here were lightning quick. This had a cracking pace. I just sat back and enjoyed this one. I need to reel myself in before I start comparing it to my recent obsession with New York disco funk. What was really cool here was that Atlantis started brawling with Emilio, which is the closest we're ever going to get to an Altantis vs. Emilio apuesta match, and it was awesome. It's a shame that Atlantis didn't work more mask matches in places like Monterrey as he looked as good a brawler as Santo.
Cien Caras/Mascara Ano 2000/Pirata Morgan vs. MS-1/Satanico/Pirata Morgan (7/9/93)
Not as awesome as I imagine some of those rudos contra rudos bouts from the early 80s to be, but still a pretty fun trios. It's debatable how well the Infernales fit with what AAA was going for, but I get the feeling that Pena was like Eric Bischoff with Turner's checkbook just buying up everyone from the competition. The Infernales were still a polished act and had a number of fun moments, but Los Hermanos Dinamita weren't so cohesive and their control segment lacked imagination. Mascara Ano 2000 bled, but having just lost his mask his selling was a little weak. Caras, looking suave with an almost Richard Gere-like hairdo, slipped in here and there to have a neat exchange with MS-1, but it was all too fleeting. Regardless of all that, Satanico looked good with his punch exchanges, and it was still a dream match of sorts.
Espectro Jr./Espectro de Ultratumba/Bestia Salvaje vs. El Dandy/Angel Azteca/El Jalisco (5/1/92)
Ha, Bestia was with his boys the Espectros. This wasn't as smooth as some of the other trios I watched since the workers weren't as good, but Dandy was oozing with confidence and his mat exchange with Espectro de Ultratumba (of all people) is a must-see if you're a Dandy fan. Azteca continued to look like the next in the Lizmark/Atlantis lineage, and I still regret that his rise to that top babyface worker level evaporated after his super push. I dug the rudo comeback here, and I loved the way it continued through to the beginning of the third fall. Trios were so fluid in this era and the action seemed so close to the crowd, not like the current sterile Arena Mexico set-up. Nice babyface ending here. Dandy would've looked cocky if he was anyone but El Dandy.This is a wonderful YouTube channel.
Perro Aguayo vs. Sangre Chicana vs. El Faraón vs. Villano III (Elimination Match) (10/84)
Skip all the stuff at the beginning and head straight to the Chicana tope on Villano III. That has to be one of the best topes I've seen. An absolute bullet that was made even better by the camera being fixed on Villano III on the outside, and Chicana rocketing into frame at a million miles an hour. For a guy who's mostly known for brawling and selling, Chicana had an awesome tope and the big gamble on a tope suicida is something that really fit his character.
This was a four way elimination match featuring Perro Aguayo against three of his biggest rivals at the time. It came down to Perro vs. Chicana, one of the best match-ups in lucha history if not all of wrestling. Watching these two work is fantastic, even in a match like this where they're essentially holding back. I love the theatrical spin they put on every bump and every bit of selling.They get so much mileage out of the kick-punch style that typifies 80s lucha brawling. The nuts and bolts of what they're doing couldn't be simpler, in fact it's very Memphis-like the way they're able to weave a compelling narrative around knocking each other to canvas. I also love how the highspots are missed or teased more often than they're hit. The message is clear on the big tope bailout and the DQ finish: nothing's settled here, but if the crowd's lucky they'll get that hair match sooner or later.
Virus vs. Titan, Mexican National Welterweight Championship, CMLL 1/28/14
Of all the older maestros in CMLL who regularly take on young guys, Virus is by far the best at putting young guys over. This was a title defence for Titan, and given the disparity in skill levels, Virus could have eaten him alive on the mat and just about everywhere else, but you never get the feeling that Virus needs to prove himself. He's not busting his workrate chops to prove he can still hang, he's just guiding a young guy through the closest he'll come to an old school lucha title match.
The first fall is a classic lucha title match opening caida, featuring parity on the mat followed by some rope running and a submission maneuver. A mat section in a lucha title match shouldn't be a welcome sight, but too often even maestros forgo mat work against workers they know aren't technically proficient enough. When they do work the mat, they either spend too much time with back to canvas or put the young guy through a labyrinth of holds where the only way out is for the maestro to feed them an arm. Virus, respecting the old school traditions, went hold-for-hold, and while to the trained eye it was obvious that Titan isn't much of a mat wrestler, they successfully created the illusion that he was good enough to be a champion. Virus had the edge because he's a maestro, but he didn't flaunt it.
After opening his account, the challenger did what he does best in working a methodical, slower paced fall where he kept the young flier grounded and stirred the pot for the champion's eventual comeback. Much has been made of Titan "popping up" after so much legwork, but the pop up didn't bother me as he couldn't follow through on his celebration and collapsed to one knee, making it obvious that adrenaline had propelled his pop up. What made me despair was the cartwheel he's added to his hurricanrana. I understand that he's young and concerned with what he can do to stand out and get noticed, but cut that shit out.
The third fall was beautifully laid out and further proof that Virus is the best third caida guy in the business. Titan started to over power Virus on the strike exchanges and wouldn't bite on any of Virus' counters. A monkey flip off the apron led to Titan following up Virus' big bump with a gorgeous moonsault plancha that the crowd had been waiting for. Third caidas are traditionally 50/50 when it comes to offence, but Virus gave the champion a large part of the fall to put over the rising star. A spectacular somersault plancha was a crowd pleaser, with a shot of a little boy getting positively giddy over it. Virus rolled with the punches and drew on all his experience to put up a fight, but the young champion was moving from strength to strength and almost powerbombed the challenger out of his boots. The great thing about all this was that it wasn't rushed. The pace was measured, the camera work picked up on the selling and the crowd were into it. Virus had one last throw of the dice on an insane springboard senton to the concrete below, which led to a somewhat sloppy finishing stretch that unfortunately hurt the quality of the match, but the crowd didn't care and there was a genuine outpouring of emotion as the young champion proved his mettle by submitting Virus in the middle of the ring. Regardless of how I feel about the new breed, it's always great to see them earn a reaction like that, and I'd like to think it was because of the way the match built. Titan's second did a tremendous job of putting the victory over and his enthusiasm was palpable. I don't think this was as good as the Guerrero Maya Jr. match, which was my MOTY for 2013, but it's the best thing in 2014 by a fair distance, and an example of how you can do the modern style well while still retaining some old school sensibilities. Virus is the best singles worker in the company and it's odd that he's still so underrated even by hardcores.
Emilio Charles Jr., Negro Casas & Bestia Salvaje vs. Atlantis, La Fiera & Apolo Dantes, 6/3/94
Fantastic looking match-up on paper that was just some bullshit excuse to turn Casas technico. CMLL became hopeless at turning people once the TV boom began. In the 80s when rudos turned on each other, it would lead to these incredibly heated matches where the rudos would ratchet up the violence and turn Arena Mexico into a madhouse. Rudos would have these ongoing feuds with each other that wouldn't be settled until there was a wager match and even then the bad blood would continue. Here, Casas whimpered and cowered while his rudo partners flogged him. Instead of fighting back and starting a blood feud, he looked meeker than at any point in his career. Casas had done the same thing to other rudos in the past and knew the rules that the rudo fraternity abide by, but the stupid thing about these matches is that it's not like you get the hot match and then the angle. There's no Good God Almighties in CMLL; they suck dry whatever dramatic potential there is in these turns with the shittiest of execution. The commercials you see on old lucha tapes for Mexican soap operas and B films look like brilliantly penned dramas compared to the amount of effort CMLL puts into its television angles. Not something you want to watch if you're one of those guys who believe all wrestling is story; but hey, you get a bit of Casas vs. Atlantis, which isn't a match-up you see a lot of.
Hayabusa, Pantera & Ciclon Ramirez vs. Mogur, Cachorro Mendoza & Javier Cruz, 6/3/94
What was the point in turning Cachorro Mendoza heel? He ambles to ringside like a technico, patting kids on the head, looking to get a legend pop from the one or two guys who can remember when he was a big deal. In the ring he does a reasonable facsimile of a rudo, but it's not like his heart's in it. And then there's poor Mogur, the failed "next big thing." In case you didn't realise he's rudo, he's wearing a black leather jacket. And what about Ciclon Ramirez? Of all the bad ideas floating around CMLL at this time, his unmasking may have been the worst. So, okay, maybe I'm the biggest Ciclon Ramirez fan I know, but compare the masked guy with the best looking tope in lucha history with the goofy looking bugger who unmasked. And the faux pas of wearing the high top lucha tights without the mask. There was no way this unmasking was doing for him what it did for pretty boys like Faraon and MS-1. This was right before his hair match with Cruz and they both did these small bladejobs that were like trickles down the bridge of their nose. Nobody told Hayabusa what you're supposed to do in a trios where the wrestlers are brawling around ringside, so he just stayed in the ring and watched. Yip.
Cachorro Mendoza, Mocho Cota & Jaque Mate vs. Hayabusa, Blue Demon Jr & Hijo del Solitario, 7/15/94
About as bad as it looks on paper. Didn't do the "Cota was never as bad as we thought in the 90s" bandwagon any favours.
Emilio Charles Jr, El Satanico & Negro Casas vs. El Hijo del Santo, Corazon de Leon & Ultimo Dragon, 9/15/95
Someone forgot to tell Santo and Casas that this was a trios match and a mano a mano broke out. This was pretty badass, actually.
Rayo de Jalisco, Atlantis & Pegasus Kid vs. Pierroth Jr, Emilio Charles Jr & Bestia Salvaje, 7/15/94
This wasn't the most spectacular trios you'll ever seen, but it was pretty comfortably the best of this week's batch. The action was carried by Atlantis and Emilio Charles, who had lost none of their chemistry in 1994. Even their brawling was good. Atlantis doesn't have much of a rep as a brawler, but I reckon he can throw a pretty good right hand and he delivers a pretty solid looking posting too. Pierroth vs. Rayo is almost like a dream match as far as I'm concerned and was every bit as dopey as I could have hoped for. Bestia was solid, but if anyone ever writes the Bestia Salvaje story they better acknowledge how quickly he fell from his '92 heights. Benoit was better than most foreigners. Only two falls here, but Atlantis vs. Emilio stuff is always worth seeing.
Pierroth Jr. vs. El Boricua, mask vs. mask, 9/29/95
On one hand, this is the kind of big, cumbersome main event I love in lucha. I'm a sucker for Pierroth and he had his mask ripped here with a big dark crimson stain everywhere. And the crowd were heavily into the Mexico vs. Puerto Rico theme with people bringing full size Mexican flags to the area and fans running around on camera with huge Pierroth signs. On the other hand, it's pretty sad that this was the main event of the Anniversary show. It probably would have been better in Puerto Rico where they would have been able to bleed far more than at Arena Mexico, but when you look at the past apuestas on Anniversary shows this kind of sums up where the promotion was at. I'm not a huge of the Santo vs. Casas feud, but it sure did turn things around, and I have a new appreciation for it in that sense. At least Pierroth got to be the man here and score the winning goal for Mexico. That was cool to watch as a Pierroth mark.
CMLL "The Lost Years" (1993-95)
Mocho Cota, Felino & Kahoz vs. Silver King, El Texano & La Fiera, 8/22/95
Is it time to re-evaluate old man Cota?
He was pretty damn good here. He didn't move as well as the 1984 version we've been watching, but he brought a little mat work, a little brawling and some great trios bumping. It helped that he was working against world class workers in the shape of Silver King and Texano, but long time fans of the blog will know that I've never been the biggest fan of Los Cowboys and yet here they looked like absolute world beaters. It may have just been the occasion as even La Fiera looked surprisingly athletic for this point in his career and was doing all his old spots with gusto. This had a little bit of everything and was given enough time to be one of those neat Arena Coliseo matches that pop up from time to time. Felino and Silver King had a mat exchange to begin with where Silver King looked like the most exciting guy in Mexico, and then Cota and Texano had themselves a good old fashioned contest on the mat. The finish to the first fall was really cool as Cota was resisting a sunset flip attempt by Texano and Silver King nailed him with his super kick. Between falls, they tried lifting Cota from the mat and he fell straight back to canvas. Later on, he sold one of Fiera's kicks by taking an amusing bump to the outside where he signaled that he'd had enough of Fiera and stumbled into his corner. Back in the ring, he had Texano in a suspect choke hold, which led to a punch exchange between the two of them where Texano kept delivering jabs to the face. Basically, everybody was ruling it here. Not to be outdone, Felino took a bump off Fiera's spinning high kick that looked like it could have easily decapitated him. The only weak link was Kahoz, who was a fairly average worker, but had been in a thousand career trios and at least knew what to do. The big talking point, though, is whether Cota was some sort of 90s maestro. It's too early to say whether this is the start of a reappraisal, but if I were scything through '95 looking for the good stuff this would definitely be a keeper.
Dr. Wagner Jr., Gran Markus Jr. & El Hijo del Gladiador vs. El Dandy, Silver King & El Texano, 7/15/94
On one hand this version of La Ola Blanca were better than I expected as El Hijo del Gladiador (Talisman) served as the the workhorse and Gran Markus Jr.'s involvement was kept to a minimum. On the other hand, they weren't that good. Talisman was a decade past his best, and while Wagner did plenty of his father's mannerisms, he wouldn't really get how to work until he went to Japan. This was a title match for the CMLL Trios titles, but you wouldn't have been able to tell that by watching the match as it wasn't treated as special. Having said that, for as important as trios matches have been in Mexico in the past 30 years, the various trios championships have never been accorded the same prestige as the national and world singles titles, and you'd be hard pressed to recall too many classics for the trios titles. The trio of El Dandy, Silver King and El Texano should be a dream trio, but something about them felt a bit off. Their opponents weren't ideal, but to be honest I don't think this was the best period of El Dandy's career. He'd get a lot better when he started working for WCW, ironically, as whenever the WCW luchadores worked Mexico dates they tended to blow the cobwebs out of their working boots.
Dr. Wagner Jr., Gran Markus Jr. & El Hijo del Gladiador vs. El Dandy, Silver King & El Texano, Arena Coliseo 7/94
This was an earlier match that set-up the trios shot. I'm not sure of the date as cubsfan didn't have anything listed for Arena Coliseo. I suppose they were holding something back for the title match, but both the match and the post-match challenges lacked conviction.
Samson Fuyuki, Pierroth & Emilio Charles Jr. vs. Ultimo Dragon, Vampiro Canadiense & Atlantis, 6/10/94
This was a decent enough match for what it was. There are times during this period where Atlantis feels a bit stale as he'd been going at it with the same gimmick for a decade, but he ran through his classic exchanges with Emilio and no matter how many times I've seen them they always warm the cockles. In the past, I've tended to be down on Ultimo Dragon's early years in Mexico, but he's been serviceable in these past couple of matches. And God help me, I kind of dug the Pierroth/Vampiro kick-punch exchanges. Mind you, I'm an unabashed Pierroth mark. He could kick and punch the corner ring post and I'd dig it. The finish here was kind of weird as Vampiro went to the top rope, slipped and took a bad spill. Emilio pounced on the opportunity by entering the ring and pinning him, and on the replay Vampiro could be seen selling it as though he'd blown out his knee. I couldn't really figure out whether they were covering for the blown spot or it was real, but either way the match ended on a flat note. For those WAR enthusiasts out there, Fuyuki didn't do much, just stereotypical East Asian heel stuff.
El Dandy, Negro Casas & Ultimo Dragon vs. Ray Gonzalez, Bestia Salvaje & Felino, 8/11/95
Disappointing given the talent involved. There was a lot of focus on El Dandy vs. Gonzalez as they were scheduled to meet for an NWA World Light Heavyweight title match in a fortnight. Gonzalez wasn't the most talented of the Puerto Ricans they brought in around this time so I wasn't really feeling this as much as I would have if it had been say Miguel Perez Jr.
Kato Kung Lee y Shogun vs. Kung Fu y Xavier Monarca Cruz, 10/2/92
Javier Cruz in 1990 had one of the best babyface runs I've ever seen. There are a lot of classical babyfaces in lucha, but Cruz played the fired up babyface to perfection. He was like a lucha version of Tito Santana, able to play a perpetually pissed off babyface without coming across like a complete dick. The trouble with Cruz is that outside of that run his career really wasn't that interesting. He was a team player more than a leading man, but with the AAA defections beginning to take their toll, there wasn't much of a team to have a run on. Still, they turned him heel and he began wearing a black studded glove to distinguish him from his technico look. They also played up his history of hair matches. He'd won so many hair matches in the past that he'd earnt a rep as an El Tijeras de Oro (Golden Scissors), but after two straight losses to Apolo Dantes he needed some midcard hairs to build him back up, and that's how he wound up in this feud with ex-Fantasticos, guys he'd knocked around with in the past. I'm not sure Shogun was. I don't think he stuck around CMLL for long. At first glance he looks like another guy trying to cash in on the Fantasticos gimmick ala Octagon. This was a fairly tame tag that was build for the year-end show, a card which usually featured a couple of lower profile apuestas matches to see out the year; in this case, Cruz vs. Kato Kung Lee and Pierroth Jr vs. El Supremo, though it would be remiss of me not to point that out that El Supremo's mask had some historical value.
Los Brazos vs. Los Infernales, 10/2/92
This is exactly what you'd want from Los Brazos vs. Los Infernales in a midcard spot as opposed to the main event. Some violence and intensity from the Infernales, a bit of blood from El Brazo, and the usual dive train from both sides. It was fun watching the guys walk around in various stages of their hair regrowth. MS-1 was recovering from a hair loss to El Faraon in the summer, El Satanico had just had his head cleanly shaven after losing to El Dandy at the Anniversary show, and Brazo de Oro had short hair from an issue with Chicana. This wasn't your four star hidden classic, but it was guys you know are good putting on a good performance.
Atlantis, Love Machine y Mano Negra vs. Bestia Salvaje, El Supremo y La Fiera, 10/2/92
This never got going, and aside from a few glimpses of what Atlantis vs. Bestia Salvaje might have looked like around this time was nothing to write home about. It did have a cool ending though, as Fiera was passed a towel which concealed his favourite weapon, the chain. He proceeded to whip the absolute shit out of Love Machine, which may have been hinting at something bigger, but Barr left shortly thereafter.
King Haku, Ultimo Dragon y Vampiro vs. Black Magic, Negro Casas y Pierroth, 10/2/92
King Haku, Ultimo Dragon and Vampiro, that's my trio right there. This started off with a disagreement between Pierroth and Smiley over who the captain was and squabbling among the rudos. Negro Casas squaring off against King Haku has to be seen to be believed. He sold Haku's chop like he'd been shot in the chest with a double-barreled shot gun. The rudos began beating Pierroth up, and in one of those lucha quirks he kept tagging with them instead of an instant technico turn. Ultimo Dragon tried to bring some workrate and had some pretty slick exchanges with Casas, but this match was all story. Pierroth had gotten so big in '92 that they turned him technico, which killed probably one of my favourite runs in lucha history, but he was getting big cheers and they needed to do something with business sagging. Vampiro was surprisingly okay in this, in that "every once in a while Konnan was surprisingly okay" sort of way.
Black Magic vs. Rayo de Jalisco Jr., 11/20/92
I was hoping for a big, dumb and dopey Rayo match and instead I got a grounded, not so good mat display from Smiley. It was kind of interesting that they made him the heavyweight champ, I guess.
Los Metalicos vs. Los Cavernicolas, 12/18/92
This was the most wonderful undercard match I've seen in a mighty long time. I might even go so far as to say it was the perfect lower card CMLL workrate match. Los Cavernicolas were a short-lived repackaging of Popitekus, Verdugo and Hombre Bala as cavemen. All three were breaking down physically, but were still fantastic bases (especially Bala.) The Metalicos were your perfect trio of sensational young fliers, led by the incomparable Oro. Awesome bumping and catching from the rudos and absolutely gorgeous tope suicidas from the Metalicos. This stuff is so beautiful when done right. The highlight was Oro doing a springboard moonsault that will long be embedded in my memory as how to do that move. Really exciting match that I almost didn't watch until I decided I'd watch everything available to me. Would definitely make my short list for best matches of the year.
Xavier Monarca Cruz vs. Kato Kung Lee, hair vs. hair, 12/18/92
This was the type of hair match which you know isn't going to reach any grand heights, but it was simple and effective and stuck to the basic tenets of hair match wrestling: blood, brawling and submission attempts. So long as you stick to those tenets pretty much anyone can have a good apuestas match. It's the great workers that take it to another level. Cruz wasn't really in that category, you'd have to say, at least not without an opponent who was equally as good. Still, this was a decent way to cap a fairly insignificant feud and it probably wouldn't have made sense to have a legendary bloody match in a token end of year apuestas match, though it would have been cool.
As many of you will know, I'm a big fan of the '89-92 CMLL period, but the strain on the promotion was really starting to show here. The guys who you'd expect to be good were good, but dark days were on the horizon and you could tell that the clouds were gathering. Still, I love this era, out of nostalgia if nothing else. Next I'm going to take a look at some CMLL from the lost years of '93-95, where the hardcores stopped taping CMLL and we literally lost stuff.
Jerry Estrada vs. Ultraman (3/2/84)
Since I've now learnt more about Ultraman than I ever thought possible, I thought I better watch his title match. But this match was more about Jerry Estrada than it was Ultraman. I won't re-air my historical grievances with Jerry Estrada, instead I'm going to praise the kid here. He was a fresh faced young rudo who'd been working in Mexico City for less than two years but looked really comfortable. He didn't have the charisma of other rudos on the set like Sangre Chicana, Satanico or Mocho Cota, but those guys weren't born legends. Everybody makes a start somewhere and this was a very good start for Jerry Estrada. It's easy to see why people within the company thought that he was the future along with El Dandy and La Fiera. If you're expecting the coked out, manic bumper that Estrada later became you're in for a disappointment, but for a year two guy in the big leagues this was really impressive and a big moment for him.
I liked the way he stuck with Ultraman's arm through the first two falls as though he was working to a strategy. This was clearly past whatever athletic prime Ultraman had so there as nothing really slick about the mat exchanges, but for sheer tenacity I liked how Estrada stuck to his game plan despite some pretty sharp looking take downs from the man from the future. I actually thought they'd give the champion the first fall on those swinging neck breakers and was a bit surprised by how many beats they went beyond that, but I'd rather complain about a fall being too long than too short. Jerry went after the arm to start the second caida and his psychology was better than a lot of vets. Ultraman had to resort to some Space Cadets style counters to work his way out of trouble and open his account before a pretty rousing third caida where the arm damage got the better of him. Ultraman was pretty great at stumbling around hurt, falling into the ropes and hitting a tope that looked equal parts ugly and reckless. It may have been a poor tope, but if it was it fit with the narrative and Ultraman even struggled rolling back into the ring. The injury was an interesting way to put Estrada over without having Ultraman job. Usually I'd be kind of ticked off about that, but I loved Estrada's goofy overselling and Ultraman being carried from ringside draped over his second's shoulders. This wasn't a classic; the rhythm and pacing could have been better for starters and the third fall could have lasted longer and been more dramatic, but I thought it was a neat bout that worked well in the smaller setting of Arena Coliseo. Ultraman's no super worker, but Estrada showed a lot of promise even if he wasn't completely there yet. Definitely a case of young Estrada being better than I would have given him credit for before the bout, which makes this a better match than I was expecting and a plus as far as the set goes.
This may be the most positive entry I have ever made about Jerry Estrada. I really am softening up, but he really was very good. Dug his early look too, before the earrings and the leather jackets and Marty Jannetty tights. Good shit.
Blue Panther vs. Negro Casas, lightning match, 12/13/13
Looks like Casas is starting to shrink in his old age, and man did that close-up of him at the start look bad. They should have struck while the iron was hot and had the Rush/Casas hair match in the summer when things were at a fever pitch. Now things have cooled off and we've got shit like lightning matches and other shortened bouts. I hate lightning matches even when they're between great workers. There's nothing satisfying about watching workers you like in Nitro length bouts.
The opening mat-work was fine. Nothing life changing, but it served its purpose. I still maintain that Casas isn't an elite mat-worker; he knows how to grab an arm, but the early portions would have been better if Panther had been in control. Still, the point of the mat-work was to provide a stalemate and the work flowed nicely into the Casas dive and the various pin attempts. I'm not sure the Santo head-scissors was as pretty as it could've been, but it kind of worked in the context of two greying adversaries battling it out. Panther's tope was a bit like that. The first time I saw it, I thought it was awful. On repeat viewings, I thought it suited an aging maestro.
Not to harp on about them getting old, but I can't be the only one worried about these guys aging. I remember watching this match-up in 2008. That was five years ago. In another five years both these guys will be 60. They can't keep working at this level forever and when they fall there's going to be a pretty big void to fill. To their credit, what they've done since they began feuding in earnest has been better than what they did in 2008, but it's a worry.
I suppose I should enjoy the match more if that's the case, huh? But remember we're always looking for great matches on this blog.
The finish was a finish for the sake of having a finish to a lightning match, which is a bit of an odd thing to say about lucha as you can make the same argument about the finish to most falls, but I still thought it was a bit of a token fall. I do applaud the effort they made to craft a logical lightning match that worked as a self-contained bout rather than an exhibition of lucha, but Casas vs. Panther aside it wasn't anything to get excited over.
Blue Panther vs. Averno, Arena Puebla 12/9/13
This was... a match. It had a really shitty beginning and end, both worked around a Fujiwara armbar, which is an insult to the Fujiwara armbar. In between that we got Panther working a company match. Averno tries hard, but he's extremely limited and thus there were a lot of repetitive exchanges. There was a long stalemate on the mat through the middle portion of the match, which featured some cool punches from Panther, but it didn't make much sense given the instant submissions that permeate the company style. Match wasn't really an improvement on their Anniversary Show bout.
Kevin Von Erich, Mascara Ano 2000 y Halcon Ortiz vs. Coloso Colosetti, Pirata Morgan y Herodes (9/23/83)
Since I did a write up for this in the Lucha History Lessons thread, I thought I better get around to watching it properly.
The reaction to this match so far has been interesting. Since it's the first trios on the set, there seems to be this mix of confusion and anticipation over how a trios match should go. There's also been a lot of comments on how lost and out of place Kevin Von Erich looked. On the second point, by the standards of foreigners looking lost or confused in Mexico there have been far worse instances than Von Erich. I'll admit that I'm biased towards him because I find his barefoot quasi shoot style work fascinating, but I don't think he was bad. He didn't seem to understand the flow of a trios match or what the other workers were trying to do, but like I said I dig his strange offence. I think someone raised the point that his offence didn't fit a lucha setting, but Mexico has always been a melting pot of different styles. That's apparent even in this match where you have heavyweights mixing it up with light heavyweights, brawlers working with technicians, bumpers taking on fliers, comedy guys jousting with bleeders, and an American to top it all off. There's a sense that anything goes in trios wrestling because most of the time the matches are just thrown together. Which brings me to my next point, that this was a nothing trios.
I don't necessarily mean that in a bad way. It was one of those trios matches where there aren't any spectacular individual performances but everybody involved is a pretty good worker and the match has a bunch of solid exchanges. It was stock and trade stuff from pretty much everyone involved. The main story was the feud between Halcon Ortiz and Pirata Morgan, who had taken Ortiz' Mexican National Heavyweight title from him earlier that year. They touched on it throughout the match, but really it was an issue for another time and place and would escalate into a hair match. That's why if you take a "Who's feuding with whom? What's the story??" approach to lucha trios you're bound to be disappointed as the majority of the time they roll out of bed and there's the match. What impresses the long time fan are small details in the work or interesting spots. There was no big crescendo in this match because they didn't make an effort for there to be one, so structurally there wasn't anything to get excited about, but the bread and butter stuff was what you'd expect from the rudos and Ortiz held up the technico side of things well. There were at least six memorable things about the match and that's not too bad. It's unfortunate that it's the first trios on the set as we're missing a big chunk in the history of trios wrestling from the front end of the decade, but like so many other trios matches over the years it's more of an introduction to the workers than a great match. The highlight for me was Ortiz body slamming Morgan over the top rope and doing that close quarters tope. That was an impressive spot sequence for heavyweights.
Black Terry & Jose Luis Feliciano vs. Rocky Santana & Skayde, Luchas 2000 4/1/04
Black Terry vs. Rocky Santana, hair vs. hair, Luchas 2000 4/1/04
This was interesting stuff. I've spoken before about the transformation that Navarro underwent from a balding, somewhat classical maskless luchador to the shaven-headed, shit talking ass-kicker he became circa 2006, but Terry also went through a similar shift, from a veteran guy still doing his 80s trios schtick to the phenomenal brawler and character actor we know today. In terms of his evolution, it was very much in the early stages here. That was evident in Terry and Feliciano wearing their Los Temerarios outfits and behaving very much like two thirds of a trios instead of the dominant personality that Terry would become, and in essence what we saw here was an older version of the little Terry we have on tape from the early 90s, but Terry is such a great worker that any Terry is key Terry.
The first fall of the tag featured decent "lucha-looking" exchanges. Feliciano was out of shape at this point so his stuff was perhaps a tad bit sluggish, but Skayde was in his element. Where the match got fun was in the second fall when the Temerarios took over. Their teamwork looked as smooth as ever and had that old-school UWA feel to it; the kind of trios work where you can almost smell what a hotbed LLI was for trios with new teams springing up left, right and centre and guys pushing the form with their teaming and triple teaming. And even with Terry not being Terry as we know him, his brawling was still sharp. I can just imagine what it must have been like to watch some of the Temerarios matches, perhaps not at El Toreo but at the smaller, more intimate venues.
Terry cheated to take the second fall and the match, which set up an impromptu hair match with Santana. It was a one fall, bloodless hair match that was more or less a third caida to the tag, but Terry rolled through some sweet looking offence and even showed his guile by pulling out of a top rope dive he would have missed and hitting a move off the apron instead. While I still maintain Terry's forte is brawling and hair matches, this was a reminder of how good younger Terry was offensively. I just love the career of Black Terry and what his talent has carried him to over the years. I'm sure he wishes he'd headlined the biggest arenas in Mexico, but I wouldn't have it any other way. The dude is the hero of this blog.
Villano III vs. Flama Roja, mask vs. mask, Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua 5/87
This was uploaded by DJSpectro a couple of years ago, but the video quality made it difficult to follow, and I never got around to writing about it. Recently, a more complete version surfaced which is easier to watch. It's not the biggest mask match of Villano III's career and it's not the most important, but it's from smack dab in the middle of his prime and any addition to the 80s lucha picture is most welcome.
Flama Roja was a wrestler of some repute in Cd Juarez. He was trained by the legendary Diablo Velazco and was such a cold blooded rudo that he earned such nicknames as "The Lord and Master of the Scandal" and "The Scourge of Technicians." I love that second one -- The Scourge of the Technicians -- not only is it the epitome of what every technico hating rudo should be, Roja faced a litany of face talent in the 70s and 80s in both Texas and Juarez. By '87, he was in his early 40s, which nowdays would make him a maestro but in the talent rich 80s made him an older wrestler looking for a payday. Make no mistake about it, this wasn't a shabby mask for Villano to win, and they did it very professionally, but I doubt Roja got too many more payoffs like this one.
The match itself was a pretty traditional mask vs. mask match. Mask vs. Mask tends to be different from hair vs. hair in that the first fall is often wrestled like a title match with an emphasis on submissions. Lucha is often a show of superiority and making your man submit in a mask vs. mask match is the ultimate expression of this. There's also a sense of how important the masked wrestler's identity is and what a match like this means in a worker's career, hence the slow burn on the mask ripping and violence. Thus, the opening fall was a real arm wrestle with Roja showing his strength in submitting Villano first. There were some technical problems with the video and it skipped ahead deep into the third caida before cutting back to the finish of the second caida. The third fall was your meat and potatoes tercera caida. It had everything from a really nice tope from Roja to blood to Villano attacking the rudo's leg. There were plenty of cool submission attempts and nearfalls and Roja went down swinging, which is all you can ask from the loser in this type of match. It was a pretty cool match, easier to follow than the Rambo mask match and probably a top 30 contender if it had been included on the DVDVR set. It wasn't the kind of match where Villano comes out of it with his reputation enhanced even further, but it was a good watch. The final images of Roja unmasking and Villano holding up the mask to show the crowd the respect he had for his fallen opponent were the stuff that lucha fandom is made of. Make sure you check it out if you're an aficionado.
El Canek vs. Dos Caras, UWA 02/02/92
This was on one of the earliest lucha combo tapes I bought and I remember thinking it was pretty great. Not too many people had seen it at the time, but it's been floating around on YouTube for a while now and it was part of the yearbook project where it got positive feedback. I'm not in the habit of re-watching stuff and haven't seen his in a decade or more, so I'm coming at it from a different angle.
Over the years, I've enjoyed piecing together this early 90s UWA TV bit by bit and I think it would make an interesting comp at some point. The UWA style was clearly different from what CMLL were doing at the time and what AAA would present and that includes the heavyweight style. On top of that, the UWA heavyweight style was different from what was happening on the promotion's under card. It's quite fascinating to watch what has become an antiquated style. Every time I watch Caras, I have to remind myself that he was a heavyweight and not a middle or welterweight like so many of the guys I enjoy. I also find I have to increasingly curb this notion I have that he's some kind of mat genius. I think that's a notion deeply ingrained in my generation because of the artistry of his match with El Samurai, which predated the lucha maestros era, and while he certainly could wrestle that way, it wasn't the way he worked heavyweight title matches from the footage which exists. This match was all Caras and all leg locks. The matwork was good, but not good in an "Oh my God, lucha is the best thing ever" kind of way. Probably the most outstanding thing about the match was that they worked a no-nonsense pace while adhering to the traditional structures, though I suspect that may have been because of how cold it was. Canek is a guy who I've thought in the past is mechanically good, but often dead weight. I don't think he added a ton to this, but he gave Caras a lot of the offence and put him over strongly and I was certainly pleased to see Caras win the match, so it wasn't a Canek performance you could really fault. I'm not so sure how great a match it was, however. There's nothing about it that's quintessentially "lucha," which for me is a big problem, and while I appreciate the difference in the more 70s stylised UWA heavyweight wrestling, I think if you were to study the mechanics of this as a wrestling match and not a particular style, the pace of the match didn't really make up for it not having the sort of dramatic, back and forth deciding fall you associate with lucha. It was good without really kicking into great territory, although Caras continued to salvage his reputation with me with another rock solid performance.
Cien Caras, Máscara Año 2000 & Sangre Chicana vs. Konnan el Barbaro, Perro Aguayo & El Rayo de Jalisco Jr, CMLL 03/01/92
This was an excellent trios. It was actually uploaded for my benefit, but I slept on it the first time presumably because I wasn't in the mood for a brawling trios. It was more of a ringside brawl than a proper match, and it was really these guys plying their stock and trade, but the lengthy heat segment was extremely well done. The main narrative thrust was Konnan vs. Caras, but the star of the show was Sangre Chicana. It was one of those matches where you've got a guy who's charisma is so palpable it's like the glue holding everything together. Here it shone through when he tried to hold onto the leg of a guy in the crowd or when he accidentally slipped from the apron and drew laughs from the crowd. There was a tremendous range in what he was capable of, as he'd do these comedy spots where he looked like some half drunk vagabond and then jaw with the crowd and raise their ire. If you want to see a guy who is to lucha what Jake the Snake is supposed to be to US psychology then Chicana is the guy, especially this older version. Everybody else was solid and what you'd expect from this crew. Konnan had a few weak moments, but this made me want to go through his main events and see if any of them are worth a damn. That may be a dangerous proposition, but it speaks highly to how good this was.
Blue Panther/Negro Casas/Atlantis vs. Black Terry/Negro Navarro/Solar, CMLL 8/16/13
This was Blue Panther's 35th Anniversary match so he got to wear his mask again for the night and work with probably the five most recognisable lucha maestros in the business. The most notable thing from a Panther perspective was his opening exchanges with Solar. When I first got into lucha, Solar vs. Panther was supposed to be this legendary match-up kind of like Solar vs. Navarro before You Tube was inundated with Solar vs. Navarro. Later on, when I got wised up a bit, I realised there's not that much Solar vs. Panther on tape and what does exist isn't that legendary. Still, the exchanges here were fun and the type of lucha you don't see a lot of in CMLL these days.
This was also a good opportunity to see Terry and Navarro work. There hasn't been a lot of good Terry & Navarro this year, not because they've slipped but because there hasn't been much that's made tape and Terry hasn't had a feud to sink his teeth into, which is the kind of wrestling he excels at as he's a real character actor type of wrestler. I liked that Navarro and Casas tried to get something going between falls instead of this being your typical maestros exhibit, and Terry vs. Casas, for the time that it lasted, looked like a match-up I'd like to see.
This isn't essential, but it will appeal to maestros fans. Do yourself a favour and watch the TV version though as the handheld doesn't capture the matwork well.
Rush/Terrible/Vangellys vs. Shocker/Negros Casas/Valiente, CMLL 9/3/13
The only reason to watch this is for the Casas/Rush exchanges, but after a slow beginning it picked up with the technicos' comeback. This feud seems to have breathed new life into Shocker and he actually looked pretty good here working between the ropes and not only punching. Vangellys was pretty solid too. It wasn't a match with a huge amount of substance, but they went at a decent clip and there were some cool spots. Valiente had a nice dive. As a weekly kind of Rush vs. Casas installment it was enjoyable. Actually, it was even pretty decent as a Rush showcase. What I'm getting at is that it's a recommendation.
Super Porky vs. Rey Escorpion, hair vs. hair, CMLL 10/18/13
The first time I saw this I thought it sucked. Not because it isn't the bloodbath that I think cabellera contra cabellera matches should be, but because it sucked as a worked shoot. I didn't expect it to be RINGS and I braced myself for the fact that it was Super Porky and Rey Escorpion trying to do a worked shoot, but I still thought it sucked. Watching it again, I don't think it sucked. It wasn't any good, but there were a couple of spots I thought were okay. Still, it's not something they should ever try again. At least not with Porky or best two out of three falls.
Pirata Morgan, Babe Face y Cien Caras vs. La Fiera, Lizmark y Rayo De Jalisco Jr. (1986)
Babe Face, Cien Caras y Mascara Ano 2000 vs. Lizmark, Rayo De Jalisco y La Fiera (1986)
These were a pair of excellent lead-in matches to the Babe Face vs. Fiera match. Not quite up there with Satanico/Dandy, Dandy/Casas or Santo/Felino in my own mini-pantheon of these type of matches, but quality nonetheless.
Babe Face was a UWA guy working the talent exchange program at Arena Mexico, and as with other feuds from the 80s, good things came from talent sharing. The theme to this feud was how many times Babe Face could withstand Fiera's spinning high kick vs. whether Fiera could survive the blood loss, his bad shoulder and just being fucked up in general. What made the lead-in matches so good was that the others complemented them well. The second match in particular is one of the better trios on the set, largely because they achieve what I always bang on about in having a secondary thread to go along with the main issue in Fiera vs. Babe Face. In this case, it's Rayo getting the absolute shit beaten out of him by the Northern ranchers. There's these huge tuffs of hair sticking out of his mask and blood splattered all over his chest; at one point he staggers about ringside like the sole survivor of a car wreck. It's a tasty appetiser for the main course, but both times that Fiera is about to really get his hands on Babe, the devious ltitle squirt worms his way to victory, denying hard working folks the payoff to their working week.
I found their hair match a tad underwhelming in isolation (you can read the review on this blog if you're so inclined), but with my appetite whet I was interested in reviewing what some are calling a top 10 match for the decade.
La Fiera vs. Babe face (8/15/86)
This was more fun than great. I don't think Fiera wanted to hurt Babe Face enough in the beginning. If they wanted to go the route of having Fiera dominate the opening fall and a half, he should have whipped Babe Face from pillar to post and made him bleed sooner. The match doesn't get good until Babe Face holds on to his winning submission for longer than he should and then stands there wiping the blood from out of his eyes. After that, it's the standard you expect from a hair match with some intense brawling from Babe and tremendous selling by Fiera, but that intensity should have been present from the start. Both guys were excellent in the final caida, however, with Babe trying to exploit Fiera's shoulder injury and Fiera trying to score that one big knockout move and almost knocking himself out several times in the process. If you chart where the match ends up from where it begins it's a fairly satisfying arc, so even if it's not a perfectly structured match it at least goes somewhere. Of course, controversy is never far behind when Babe's around and his low blow gets the crowd going. The finish s one of those ethical situations that you could argue about into the night. Personally, I'm not in favour of the technico cheating, but I can see the justice in it. The match was only half a classic and not one of the best matches of the decade in my opinion. There was a whole bunch of stuff I would have liked to have rearranged and ultimately Babe was too limited a worker to really deliver a classic. Fiera gave an excellent performance, but didn't lead from the front enough. It was a fun match though, and I've got to say that Mexico had some awfully competent barbers in the 80s. Nice job shearing those locks.
Lizmark, Alfonso Dantes y Tony Salazar vs. El Signo, El Texano y Negro Navarro) (8/15/86)
This was a tricky one. If there was more Misioneros footage available from the 80s I could see myself picking out small details and praising the Misioneros for their work, but since there's not this came across as disappointing. Taken on its own it wasn't a bad trios, but it's not the classic you're looking for and it's not even really a precursor to a classic.
I thought the Misioneros looked better individually than they did as a trios. It's often said that Texano was the best worker of the three during their heyday and I can see the case for that. Signo wasn't as good as he is in the early 90s incarnation with Black Power and Navarro's role within the team was extremely different from the Navarro we know today, although there was one instance where Navarro was about to put an arm lock on Lizmark where I suddenly had a flash forward to Navarro v. Solar. The opening fall was poor. I kept waiting for the Misioneros to show they had a thousand tricks up their sleeves like the Masakre version of Los Infernales, but instead they did the most generic double and triple teaming imaginable. They may have been innovators of the trios form, but this fell way short of the showcase I was imagining. The second and third falls were better as the workers matched off individually, but it didn't make much sense that after the beating the technicos received in the first fall they were able to go one-on-one as though nothing had happened. Usually, the beating would continue until the technicos made their comeback and then the third fall would see the momentum shift backwards and forwards until there's a winner. The beatdown the Misioneros delivered would ordinarily come in the second fall as retaliation for coming off second best in the opening caida, and so it seemed to me that the Misioneros got the order wrong in what's a pretty standard trios formula. But it was all kind of forgotten by the time it got to the exciting parts.
The match had a really awesome post-match punch-up that was almost like a fourth caida. To be honest, it was more exciting than anything that happened in the match. Dr. Alfonso Morales did my favourite trick of his where he tries to interview workers in the middle of their post match brawling and the Misioneros got huge heat their mic work. Lizmark busted out his "float like a butterfly, sting like a bee" footwork, Navarro was awesome running around and jumping folks, and Signo looked fantastic with his longer hair and runty little moustache. You could totally imagine him bleeding like a stuck pig. "Low Blow" Tony Salazar's gimmick in the 80s seemed to be getting his team DQ'ed and this was all leading to a hair match, but I kind've wished the whole match had been wrestled with the same friction.
Americo Rocca, Ringo Mendoza y Tony Salazar vs. Negro Navarro, El Signo y El Texano (Hair vs. Hair) (9/19/86)
This was savaged by the World Pro editor and the replays to stop and describe the moves hindered the flow even further, but the Misioneros looked much better here, as you'd hope and expect from a big hair match. Lots of highlights here (and that's all this was really, highlights within a series of highlights), including Signo being an awesome heat merchant, a fantastic double team submission from Navarro and Texano, two superb pairings in Navarro and Ringo and Texano and Rocca and Signo with the best tope in the west. The finish was awesome as well and foreshadowed all those great one-on-one showdowns in modern Negro Navarro matches. I suddenly remembered why I love Ringo Mendoza when he countered into the submission finish. Hot damn, I wonder if the masters of these matches still exist.
Blue Panther vs. Averno, hair vs. hair, CMLL 9/13/13
This was a mixed bag.
I loved the opening fall. I thought it was a tremendous battle of strength with the counter from the headlock to the cobra clutch being the kind of tough, gutsy wrestling I love. Averno's efforts to flip Panther off him and Panther continuing to hold onto the clutch were beautiful, and when Averno finally did counter the clutch into an arm lock and began guillotining Panther in the face, the only thing that could have been cooler than Panther's transition into the winning submission would have been if he'd gone for a palm strike, which of course Panther wouldn't do.
I didn't mind the immediate reply in the second fall and thought Panther sold it well. Panther's selling has improved since he first lost the mask and has become a strength of his it seems. The third fall started with a pointless dive and then settled into some decent submission work, but it went on for too long and really started to drag. There's only so many submission attempts and so many dives you can do before they become redundant. I would have loved the match to continue in the vein of the first fall, which obviously wasn't going to happen on a big show at Arena Mexico, but the alternative of Averno not knowing the stip (or pretending not to know) kind of sucked. It was a silly distraction considering how great their submission battle had been in the first two falls, but the thing with Averno is that even though he was perfectly solid in this match he's not a guy who's able to do a whole lot of interesting holds. So there were more dives and some bullshit with Averno's second, who threw in the towel and caused Panther and the ref to be distracted which let Averno win with a choke hold. The best thing to come out of all this was Panther selling the choke while his head was being shaved.
I'd say it was the best of the big Panther matches outside of the Casas hair match, but still not great.
Guerrero Maya Jr. vs. Virus, CMLL 10/6/13
Now this was a great match. I've thought for a while now that Virus is the best worker in the company and this pretty much confirms it. The surprising thing for me personally was that it wasn't the opening two mat falls that pushed this over the top for me, but the final juniors-esque third fall that I fell for.
The opening stretch-work was stellar and very UWA in the way they worked in and out of wristlocks and hammerlocks and abdominal stretches. It wasn't all Virus either. Guerrero Maya for his part wrestled extremely well. But one of the things that sets Virus apart from his contemporaries is his ability to construct awesome finishes and in a neat bit of detail Virus was able to turn a Russian leg sweep into an octopus like submission that put pressure on the shoulder Maya had already strained from the hammerlock. Nice. The second fall continued with more arm work until Maya realised he'd be better off creating more space during their standing portions, which was smart given their size and reach difference. He caught Virus with a nicely executed shoulder breaker move and won the fall with a cool looking submission of his own.
That set the stage for a scintillating final caida where both guys went hell for leather. They were able to maintain a cracking pace while still selling, still putting some thought into their transitions and bridging their spots with good looking strikes. The Maya tope, which had to be a little lower to strike Virus properly, was stunning, and the new CMLL cameras are really cool. It was one of those caidas where every time they ran a sequence, like the Maya scoop slam or the baseball slide into the top rope plancha, they made good choices. When that happens, it's pretty magic. The new camera that seems to give high definition handheld shot that made Maya look like Spider-Man descending from a building. The nearfalls and slow ref counts added to the drama and the struggle over the simplest of things like a schoolboy was beautiful to watch. The escalating big moves were what made the fall so juniors-esque, but it was wonderfully done. Virus' arm drag off the ring post was superb and his final submission and pose sealed this as a classic.
I would have no problem calling this the match of the year.
Máximo, Stuka Jr. & Super Porky vs. Dragón Rojo Jr., Pólvora & Rey Escorpión, CMLL 10/4/13
Escorpión really is a c-nt to beat on poor Porky like that. This was extremely well done for what it was. I haven't seen much Escorpión, but he seemed to have a Michael Hayes vibe to him. That was my take anyway. Porky gave Escorpión some receipts for that beating and a hair match is in the works. That could unseed Maya/Virus as MOTY.
El Hijo del Santo vs. Negro Casas (Mask vs. Hair) (7/18/87)
I think this was the only match to make Jeff Bowdren's Top Matches of the 80s list, and since improving Bowdren's list was the original impetus for the 80s sets, I thought it would be interesting to see how it holds up. The verdict?
It holds up well. It's not a violent match like Santo vs. Espanto the year before, but the work is excellent and if anything I like it more than when I first saw it a decade ago or more. Back then I was framing it against cruiserweight matches and junior heavyweights, now I can appreciate it as a lucha match. The degree to which they struggle over holds is surprising, although not that surprising as the Espanto match shows that it was a Santo staple at the time, but still there were a lot of details that I didn't pick up on as a lucha neophyte.
Probably the most interesting thing for me ten years later is watching 80s Casas. We don't have a lot of 80s Casas as he mostly worked for UWA and the indies, and of the Arena Mexico appearances he made only one of them has been preserved if memory serves me. I don't think he'd been to Japan at this stage as he hadn't adopted the Choshu look yet, and it was evident throughout that he was Casas without really being Casas. That's true of just about all the 90s stars on the set, but Casas would have such a dominant personality by '92 that it was fascinating to watch it in the formative stages. Also of interest was how much Santo had grown into the role of Son of Santo. When you compare this to his Arena Mexico debut where he's so nervous and has that overly long opening exchange with Lobo Rubio, it's amazing how much he'd grown in confidence. His dives here were exquisite. I often bitch and moan about formulaic Santo, but when he hits dives like that the whole world stops for a second. Man are those a thing of beauty.
Pirata Morgan, Hombre Bala y Verdugo vs. Atlantis, Angel Azteca y Ringo Mendoza (3/88)
There's been a lot of brawling trios on this set, which isn't surprising given the viewing committee's tastes, and there's been some straight filler that I'm not sure would've made the set if more footage was available. There's also been a lot of matches that were only ever meant to set up hair matches which we don't have. That's a bit like putting all those great Satanico/Dandy trios matches on the 1990 yearbook and not having the hair match. The reason that I'm saying all this is to emphasise that *this* is a trios match that I thought was a really high quality trios match.
Naturally, not all of the viewing committee were sold on it, which probably makes me an outlier on all things lucha, but let me state my case. A really good trios match should have a little bit of everything: brawling, either matwork or quick fire exchanges, bumping, stooging & selling, a bit of comedy and dives. Of course there are plenty of good trios matches which are predominantly one thing over the other, but I always appreciate a trios that shows the depth and variety of lucha libre wrestling. Add overlapping falls, the right rhythm and pacing and clever finishes and you've generally got a great trios. Everything clicked here for me. I liked the early rudo beatdown on the technicos as well as the technico comeback, which was the right mix of Ringo being a credible enough asskicker to deal to the stockier rudos and Atlantis and Azteca having the skill to both confuse and embarrass the rudos. I really loved Ringo in this match. All of his punches and brawling were great, as were his spinning kicks, no matter how tired they got in the 90s. He was probably a loving family man, but he was one guy I don't think you'd be wise to mess with. You could probably argue that the Azteca fake out spot didn't work so well, though the editing didn't help. To me the only real weak point in the match was the Azteca pinning exchange after Atlantis had done his always brilliant three on one spinning back breakers sequence. No matter how many times Atlantis does that sequence I always mark out like it's the first time I've seen it. Azteca needed to follow it up with something as spectacular or better, similar to the moonsault move that Atlantis does to end the fall, but that's splitting hairs on a great trios. Azteca was still a little green here, but his arm drags were as sensational as ever. Atlantis was out of this world good and really '88-91 marks his absolute peak in my opinion.
It's pretty rare that you get a trios match where all three technicos are good and add to that a solid rudos act and you've got something really good. The match reaches its zenith with an incredible tope from Atlantis, which tomk described as vertical and will live long in the memory of people who watch this set, before the footage cuts out right before an almighty uppercut to the groin area. How the match ended we'll never know. Maybe it's still going on somewhere out there in space.
El Hijo Del Santo vs. Espanto Jr. (4/10/88)
I didn't love this as much as I love their masks match and the '92 title match, but I'm glad we have another match in what is probably Santo's Garvin feud to his Casas Steamboat rivalry.
As we've seen with a lot of this 80s stuff, there's a fantastic atmosphere with the ring being flooded with kids before the bout and later on they're sort of loitering about climbing back in it when Santo and Espanto are selling on the outside and running around during the stretch run. There's one kid who jumps a feet in the air every time Espanto kicks out of a nearfall and actually a section of the crowd seemed to be right behind him despite being largely pro-Santo. These two had wrestled so many times from '85-88 with Espanto losing so many times, including every year in their annual hair match, that I suppose to some people he was the underdog in this feud. He entered the match as champion having finally wrestled the UWA's World Lightweight Championship from Santo the previous summer and was determined to stay that way by the night's end.
I wasn't overly thrilled by the matwork, which involved a lot of jockeying for position and ultimately led to a sort of macho battle where both guys would arm drag the other guy to the outside. The needling I liked, but I don't think the wrestling was top draw. I might change my mind on a re-watch, but that was my gut feeling this time round. The third caida was fantastic, however. I loved how Espanto fought his way out of Santo's submissions and how he managed to kick out of each of Santo's pin attempts, even when Santo would really sit in them. Espanto's submission finishers were awesome. I don't know that he had to cheat to win, but the final submission he got Santo with was a beaut. There's nothing like a little bit of controversy to end a lucha match, but a lot of folks seemed legit happy. You'd think they were swarming the ring because their guy had beaten the touring champ.
What this did highlight for me is just how much we're missing in terms of UWA not taping this stuff. You look at the lists of title defences right through to the early 90s and it's either awe-inspiring or heart breaking. There's nothing you can do about it I suppose unlike the Televisa situation, but I don't think we can even begin to capture what an amazing decade it was for lucha libre with the footage we have. Which is all the more reason to enjoy discoveries like these.
Kato Kung Lee vs. Kung Fu (Mask vs. Hair) (4/29/88)
One of the best things about lucha is that you can take two guys who aren't that good and put them in a mascara contra cabellera match where big moves and basic timing are all they need to draw heat. A Satanico or a Sangre Chicana will add all sorts of details and craft a masterpiece, but even the goofiest of shit gets over in the cauldron of an apuestas match.
I'm a big fan of Los Fantasticos, especially Black Man, who is sadly absent from the set. but their karate shtick isn't exactly conductive to the brawling environment of a hair vs. mask match. So what they did here was use elements of their trio formula to add the exclamation mark to falls and employ their karate to deliver some wicked looking shots. Kung Fu had a pretty good match with Javier Cruz on the same disc. Cruz was a kid who I really got into when I was going through the 1990 stuff who then fell completely off my radar. Kung Fu wasn't the greatest worker in the world and Cruz didn't have a big enough personality to really put the match over, but the important thing was that the crowd bought into Kung Fu as a rudo. There's a great image in this match of Kung Fu walking around with his mask pulled down below his eyes; he may or may not be bleeding, it's hard to tell, but his eyes pierce through the grainy haze of degraded, handheld video footage and right into your living room. The crowd throw rubbish at him and he throws it back, prompting members of the publico to challenge him to their own apuestas matches.
The real highlights were in the third caida where Kung Fu delivered a vicious looking kick to Lee's head while Lee was backed up in the corner and Lee responded with a chop to Fu's face like some kind of quasi lucha shoot match. Their big moves were on point, and while the match could have done with some more obvious blood, it had all the basic drama you need. Unfortunately, they went for the shittiest finish imaginable denying the crowd something they could really pop for, but this was still an example of how simple and manageable the apuestas formula can be.
Arandu vs. Guerrero Negro (Hair vs. Hair) (1988)
This was a shitload of fun. I'm not sure if it was technically any good, but if there's been one match on the set that screams "fuck yeah!" then this is it.
Arandu's hair was out of this world. It was like Mocho Cota's afro on steroids. The building was ready to come unhinged at the prospect of him losing it. Every time they went to the outside the heat was amazing, as though there was this push to the front to get at the wrestlers. At one point a woman tried to start a fight with Arandu's manager, which caused all sorts of commotion at ringside. The manager preening Arandu's hair and strutting her big ass was gold. You don't see valets in lucha too often. During the TV boom they'd accompany the workers to ringside and pose with them before the bouts, but this chick was clearly Arandu's woman and together they were like a superior version of Fit Finlay and Princess Paula.
Guerrero Negro didn't do much in this except bleed, though he did throw a couple of great looking punches. He also threw some shitty looking spin kicks, but Arandu's bumping and selling (and hair) made up for Negro's lack of bite. After the valet was accosted, the match swung back and forth before Arandu won the match with an outrageous cheap shot. This lashed the crowd into a fury; one false step and they would have rioted. Instead, the TV crew entered the ring and interviewed the seconds over the foul, treating it like Zidane's send off in the World Cup final. Fans begged for the result to be overturned while others threw their trash in disgust. Arandu's afro could be seen bobbling between the officials as he goaded Negro over his loss, while Negro just knelt there like he was receiving the host. Once his hair had been cut and he'd made the customary lunge at Arandu, the biggest mass of humanity you'll see at a lucha match descended upon the ring and tested the thing to its absolute limits. It still amazes me that they allowed people in the rings in 80s lucha, but that was a different time and a different place.
If this is what Monterrey was like in the 80s, it was wild.
Americo Rocca vs. El Talisman (3/29/85)
This was a nice little title match. Nothing fancy just solid lucha.
It didn't have a huge arc in terms of dramatic structure, but the narrative was decent enough. Rocca and Talisman were frequent rivals in the welterweight class and ended up having a hair match a few years later. This date was Rocca's chance at reclaiming the title Talisman had taken from him months earlier, and more or less pit Talisman's strength against Rocca's skill. I liked that it built to a key dive in the third caida and the final submission was one of the best on the set. I'm so used to the workers submitting straight away that it was a real surprise to see someone hold on. You could sense the crowd willing Rocca on and they waited the perfect number of beats before Talisman gave in.
Rocca continues to be one of the better babyfaces on the set, partially because of his wrestling ability, but also because of his babyface charisma. It's a difficult thing to describe, babyface charisma. With rudos you can write screeds about why they're so great, but what makes a babyface likeable? For some it may be their ability to play the underdog, for others it may be their take no bullshit attitude, but Rocca was neither. What struck me about him in the Cota matches was that he never let Cota get under his skin. Cota talked an amazing amount of trash in those matches and Rocca just smirked as though he enjoyed it. He was obviously a guy with a lot of confidence in his ability. He didn't have the greatest foil here as Talisman wasn't an overly skilled worker and not the most charismatic of the rudos, but my interest in Rocca as a babyface was enough to overcome all that.
This probably would've been better if they'd worked more dives and nearfalls into the third fall, but it still did the trick.
Enrique Vera vs. Dos Caras (2/26/84)
I usually take for granted that Dos Caras is a gran maestro despite the fact that there's really not that much Dos Caras out there. Recently I was watching a tag match of his from his 1980 All Japan tour where he teamed with Jumbo Tsuruta against Dr. Wagner Sr. and Caribs Hurricane. Caribs Hurricane wasn't a luchador but rather Texas draw Ciclon Negro. The match was the usual watered down shit with the Japanese not really getting the lucha spots. To illustrate just how little they understood, the ring boys kindly taped together Wagner's mask after he did the lucha mask ripping spot. But what really stood out was that the matwork between Caras and Wagner wasn't that good. Which got me thinking, is there a mythology we've built up around Caras?
I was anxious to see this again, and y'know what, I was pleased with it. The first thing that's obvious is that Caras was very much a heavyweight worker. He doesn't work the same as the other lighter weight workers on the set. His style is very much in the mold of 1970s NWA heavyweight wrestling, at least in this title bout, and there was little of the surreal expressionism that Caras is often associated with. It's almost as though there was exhibition Caras and serious heavyweight wrestler Caras. I'm a bit iffy on whether I like El Toreo as a venue as I think the outdoor ring set-up looks a bit cheap and there's not the same atmosphere that you get with Arena Mexico where kids flood the ring trying to pocket the coins that people throw. This got good heat and no doubt El Toreo was the site of some legendary bouts, but I wonder if the action might've been better in one of their indoor arenas. The third caida didn't work that well for me. The dives were predictable and always seem to the same dives on the same side at El Toreo, but the match itself quelled my doubts over Caras.
Tony Salazar vs. Herodes (3/2/84)
This was the first time for me to see Herodes in a single match let alone a mano a mano grudge match. For those of you who don't know, Herodes is considered one of the great forgotten workers of the 80s. This recent discovery sheds some light on that claim and is set up on the disc by a classic brawling trios similar to other blood feuds over the years. Herodes and Salazar bleed heavily in that match, giving the audience a taste for the gore to come.
This wasn't a luchas de apuestas match as far as I'm aware, but that didn't abate the hatred. Salazar was a former lucha golden boy who was a twenty year vet at this point and Herodes was equally well established having worked a "Tijera de Oro" gimmick on his way up, a "golden scissors" shtick where he claimed to have taken the hair of numerous men. The two had crossed paths the previous Autumn with Salazar taking Herodes' hair, so there was bad blood between them.
The opening falls where okay. I can see people possibly having a problem with their length, but as a relatively long time lucha fan, the length of the falls isn't as important to me as the rhythm and timing and what they actually do in those falls. Here they were going for a "technico gets off to a hot start" take on the opening caida with Herodes having to work his way back into the match. They didn't quite pull it off as neither man was the most polished performer, but Salazar busting a gut in the opening fall set the tone for a high stakes grudge match.
First impressions of Herodes are similar to what others have said: he looks like a shorter, stockier version of Harley Race, especially with that beard. I'm not sure his strikes were really that good as there were a lot of lunges and he didn't lay in his shit as much as I would've liked, but for a heavyweight he was a super fun bumper and this match really turns on Salazar's bulldogs on the outside.
The blood in this match is gruesome. Seriously. Salazar looks like he's been shot in the face. They do this long close-up of him trying to stop the bleeding with the palm of his hand and it looks like something out of a Peckinpah film. When Herodes blades, there's so much blood on his hand that he could coat the ring with it. Herodes was attracted to bullfighting in his childhood; the pair of them look like they've been gored.
With all the bleeding and the heavyweight tope and planchas and sentons this match got seriously good. I thought they went a beat or two too far with the nearfalls at least in terms of how I was feeling the rhythm, but that may be because the crowds are so poorly mic'ed that I wasn't sure if the crowd was still with them. It's not the first time on this set that I've felt a fall could've ended at a better point, but I was cool with the finish. It's true that you don't often see a ref take the crowd's word for a DQ, but since this was a mano a mano it didn't demand a proper payoff and since Salazar had lost the trios for the technico side with the same foul it was cheeky of Herodes to think he could make Salazar pay from the irony of it all.
So, this got hot in the third and ended up being pretty great. Herodes' not really a Cota or a Satanico and I thought for large stretches of this that because he was the one selling that he was out on his feet, Salazar was more responsible for the match being good, but still this was a cool find.