If you're wondering what happened to 4, the link is dead.
#5 Octagoncito vs Mini Abismo Negro, AAA 6/5/98
This was a typical AAA match. A bunch of flashy moves, a lot of moving around the ring & outside area, never settling into anything I can get a handle on. The seconds were too involved.
#6 Mascarita Sagrada Jr. & La Parkita vs Mini Karis La Momia & Espectrito I, AAA 10/96
I liked this match. The rudos pick on the technicos, the technicos fight back through mini highspots, the rudos bump big & the ref is heelish. Not a great match, but pretty classic lucha libre.
#7 La Parkita/Mascarita Sagrada 2000/Octagoncito vs Mini Abismo Negro/Mini Psicosis/Rocky Marvin, AAA 1/16/03
This was supposed to be an elimination match or something, but it was difficult to follow.
#8 Mascarita Magica vs Damiancito El Guerrero - CMLL 2/27/96
Solid, straight forward lucha libre title match. Good match, but didn't reach the heights of the Ramirez match as Mascarita Magica is the heads down, toiler type. Hard working & honest, but lacking imagination.
The top 3 blew away the rest of the matches. The 10/97 trios & Cicloncito Ramirez/Damiancito El Guerrero match were as good as any lucha I've seen, while the Espectrito/Mascarita Sagrada match was a great AAA style match. I was definitely inspired to track down more CMLL minis from the same period & my feeling about the AAA stuff was the smaller the mini, the more fun the match is.
So, after heaping all that praise on minis from 10 years ago, I was encouraged to check out the current crew of CMLL minis:
Pequeño Black Warrior, Pequeño Damian 666, Pierrothito vs Atomo, Mascarita Dorada, Tzuki, 12/14/07
Pequeño Black Warrior, Pequeño Damian 666, Pequeno Halloween vs Atomo, Mascarita Dorada, Tzuki, 12/21/07
Bam Bam/Fantasy/Mascarita Dorada vs Pequeno Damian 666/Pequeno Halloween/Mr. Aguilita, 12/25/07
Going into this, I tried to keep in mind that:
1. Nothing about CMLL is as good as 10 years ago.
2. The new style is the new style is the new style.
Having said that, I was actually surprised. Not so much by the first match, but the Christmas week matches.
My favourite match was the 12/21 trios. The rudos came out like a house on fire. Pequeño Damian 666 and Pequeno Halloween obliterate Damian and Halloween. I mean, Damian was smoked by his mini in a previous life too, but this time it's carnage. They were out to fuck-up the technicos & the part where Halloween kissed the old lady at ringside, while Damian showed her some tongue; fucking foul little minis they are. This was only a 10 minute match, but it felt like longer because the rudos set up the match so well. It was a similar story in the follow-up match, where Mascarita took another beating. Mascarita has all this spinning offence, which looks cool, but is ten times better when he's dishing it out because the rudos tore a hole in his pants. The Christmas Day match is probably better, but I hate Bam Bam's look. Aguilita too. Reminds me of all the Heavy Metal/Jerry Estrada matches that were ruined for me by their shitty look.
This was fun stuff. I was suckered into downloading the Altantis/Ultimo Guerrero vs. Averno/Mistico match, which was fucking awful like all CMLL tag title matches these days... Watch the minis instead.
Mocho Cota vs. Americo Rocca, 1/27/84
Mocho Cota always looked great whenever he showed up on tape as an ancient rudo brawler. This discovery was a chance to see him as a masterful rudo. In Kevin Cook's words, "Cota's Dickensian sinsterness is something to behold; what a crabbed, warped rassler" and indeed Cota has an awesome sneer and Cook a way with words.
The match starts out with some conventional, US-style matwork, which leads to all sorts of impossible to answer questions about the evolution of lucha matwork in a title match setting, & whether all pro-wrestling matwork originated from the same place, taking twists and turns as it spread out over the territories. Certainly, luchadores were schooled in the US style, since they moved around the territories more often during this era. And they showed similar habits to US pro-wrestling -- not all of them good, like dropping the matwork to run the ropes for the finish -- even if the finish was distinctly lucha. The second fall was where the match took off. One of the greatest second fall rudo comebacks I've seen in a lucha title match. So many times lucha has a quick second fall to even up the stakes, but Cota was masterful at working his way back into this fight, and his tope was completely unexpected. But what really sold me on Cota was his cheating to win. A wrestler of Cota's calibre needn't cheat to win -- Rocca was all flash, Cotta a grappler -- but he does, because he's rudo... How satisfying for a rudo to watch as a technico crumples to the mat in sheer frustration. A rudo is always looking to bring a technico to his knees, and what better way than to completely screw him?
This was a nice blend of the fair fight & the machiavellian, all wrapped up in a time capsule.
El Hijo del Santo vs. Negro Casas, mask vs. hair, 9/19/97
I've never liked this match. I was hoping that watching CMLL TV of the Santo vs. Casas brothers feud would reveal exactly what's great about it, but it remains a mystery.
I have no idea what they were trying to do in this match. Portions of the match are kinda like shoot-style -- a junior heavyweight approximation of shoot-style, really, like BattlARTS -- but lucha has no counts for rope breaks or downs, so most of the match is worked in the ropes. This is meant to imply a brawl, since they stay tied up in the ropes a lot... The ref can't get a clean break & it spills outside at times... but as a blowoff to a feud it's pretty damn listless. Lucha has a great tradition of brawling, and an even greater tradition of brawling in wager matches & this was a pretty fucking epic wager. Again, I have no idea what they were thinking. Casas simply doesn't have the offence to work "shoot style." And he can't sell it, either. It's kinda cool when Santo comes out of the ropes with a strike, but he's never gonna stiff him, Casas drops to the mat to do his face down, death selling & there's no count, naturally. That sounds like the criticism of someone who's never watched lucha before, but this was a crappy hybrid style & not lucha.
Even as a fight, Santo completely owns Casas in this. At no point does Santo ever look like losing. It may be the lack of three falls, but I saw a shitty Casas/Bestia Salvaje hair match where Casas sold death for two falls only to mount a comeback based around some crappy missile dropkick offence. I dig a lot of things about this era of CMLL but Casas' technico singles match run isn't one of them.
I'm generally of the opinion that you have to take a match for what it is, not what it could've been or should've been,.. Yet this was disappointing in the context of what they'd done up until then. I'd rather watch the most predictable Santo/Casas match imaginable than this. Which puts me in a camp of one. But there you go.
Pequeno Reyes Del Aire, 1/04/08
Pequeno Damian 666 vs. Mascarita Dorada, 1/11/08
Bam Bam/Pequeno Olimpico/Ultimo Dragoncito vs Pequeno Black Warrior/Pequeno Violencia/Pierrothito, 2/15/08
Mini FdT vs Dorada, Tzuky, Shockercito, 2/24/08
Bam Bam/Tzuky/Mascarita Dorada vs Fire/Pequeno Pierroth/Pequeno Damian, 3/21/08
What I appreciate most about the current crew of minis is how they build a match from the ground up, even if the results are sometimes average. They'll start on the mat before getting into the faster exchanges & dives, or vary the pace through rudo work. You'll even find lucha comedy spots. It's almost all in rhythm, especially the dive trains. Tricked-out variations in spots is not my favourite thing about modern lucha, but these guys won me over a little. Dorada went into overdrive with the spinning variations in the Dos Leyendas match, but it was OK because I was enamoured with Tzuky & his chemistry with Pierrothito. I still think they're searching for greatness, but they manage a fair bit.
The title match was average. If Espectrito/Mascarita Sagrada had a big match feel, then this had a small match feel. With everything happening in quick succession in trios, the crutches are gone in a singles match. Still, I don't think this was all to do with the limits of the new style; I just think Mascarita Dorada needs to be seriously carried & Pequeno Damian isn't there yet.
Perro Aguayo, Jr vs Hector Garza (hair vs hair), 3/21/08
This was more of a spectacle than a match.
I suppose the actual wrestling was OK, but it was more or less finishers the whole time. There was a big crowd on hand & lucha crowds these days only seem to care about whoever they want to win. I guess there's no reason to change the current style when you're drawing sell-outs. Nevertheless, Perro has delivered some pretty good performances in singles matches over the last four years. This wasn't one of them.
I guess Garza plays his new gimmick well. I'm not really sure what it's all about, but it involves a padre & some angels or something. You'd think Perro would get under Garza's skin about that, but he's way too into his heat these days. I thought Garza used to be part of Perros del Mal? There really needs to be blood in Arena Mexico again, but what do I know? Old ladies were losing it. A kid was crying.
Kinda reminded me of a WWE match, but with a better crowd.
Negro Navarro vs. Solar, 10/12/06
This was from an UD show at Korakuen Hall. Korakuen Hall's not my favourite place for lucha -- some of the early Hamada shows were all right, but lucha is a novelty for Japanese people & that's the way it always comes across. If you wind up talking pro wrestling at a bar or something, older guys will always talk about Mil Mascaras, which is why Mil still gets gigs & is "mobbed" by salarymen on his way to the ring, but lucha itself is a curiosity. Hence this was a lucha libre exhibition. Solar and Navarro did spots they routinely do & keyed the crowd into when to applaud. Solar/Negro Navarro spots are a beautiful form of lucha libre, but they're better viewed in small lucha indies. Wouldn't go out of my way to see this, unless Solar & Navarro are your saving grace these days. Plus it was clipped.
Pierrotito/Damiancito el Guerrero vs Ultimo Dragoncito/Cicloncito Ramirez, 4/97 TV
This didn't have the beautiful structure of the Mini Classics from '97, but even in an average sort of a match (average meaning "good" or "very good" by comparison), there's a ridiculous amount of talent on show. I've seen a few comments about how Damiancito el Guerrero (now Virus) is one of the great, underrated workers of the last decade or so, but I'm not feeling that in so far as they were all great.
Whenever Damiancito steps into the ring with Cicloncito Ramirez, it's a rare instance of luchadors matching each other hold for hold. Most luchadors try to work hold for hold, but either the technico is poor, meaning the rudo has to bump a lot, or the rudo is crappy & nothing the technico does looks good. The former is OK if the rudo is great. The latter never good. Watching these guys here and in other trios, whatever sequence Damiancito pulls out, Cicloncito can match it with something equally spectacular, until one sequence is so spectacular that you have a "winner" & the next pair take over. For people new to lucha, these pairings can be confusing as they don't build to a finish in the way you might expect, in fact the finish can seem disconnected from what's come before, but as you start to learn about patterns in lucha, you'll get a sense for momentum -- how showmanship builds momentum & how you can pick the winner of the first caida based on who has the upper hand in the exchanges. Finishes seem random at first, with everybody entering the ring & walking into a finisher, but falls are won in the exchanges.
Now if a technico and a rudo match each other hold for hold, the technico should ultimately win, since they have superior technique (in theory anyway.) In lucha, falls are won on virtue more than anything else -- the technicos win through superior technique, the rudos through their rudo ways... If the rudos get jostled into one-upmanship in the first fall, it won't be too long until a rudo like Pierrotito decides beating the crap out of the technico is a much better option than wrestling him, & man do Pierrotito (and Damiancito's) cut-offs rule in this match. This doesn't go three falls, so you don't get the true pay-off, but they do such a great job of slowing down the pace & dictating the second caida, until coughing up the fall. Pierrotito was so awesome -- he wasn't as quick or agile as Damiancito & maybe couldn't bump as big or get as deep on an armdrag -- but he was great at cutting off technico offence & working the punches & he could go toe-to-toe in any style, most importantly on the mat and in comedy spots.
Ultimo Dragoncito had a little bit of a gut, which made him a tad awkward at times, but as many people will attest to, he was a crazy motherfucker with insane topes. Put them altogether & you have a crew with great chemistry.
Brazo de Oro vs. Sangre Chicana, hair vs. hair, 6/19/92
Jesus Christ this was awesome. The heat was amazing.
Most of us are familiar with Sangre Chicana as the sympathetic babyface who takes one hell of a beating from MS-1 in their '83 bloodbath, selling every blow as sheer brutality... Here he's a veteran rudo, who only has to take a few steps for the heat to start rising. Unbelievable charisma. At one point he starts jawing with a fan and it's so convincing that you can believe those crazy lucha stories about fans waiting outside to shoot/knife a rudo. Hell, he can hardly work. He's in his 40s, with 20 years in the business, but he can still sell. Brazo de Oro takes his leg apart in the third caida, really doing a number on it. Chicana sells it for everything he's worth. Theatrical, but not too big. Just enough that everyone in the building can see him pleading, begging for mercy... The ref's all suckered in. He doesn't know where he should draw the line. Brazo de Oro's unsure whether he should break the guy's leg. Super Porky keeps urging his brother to "attack!" So, of course the ref wants Porky to pipe down. Getting the ref to turn his back. One of the oldest cons in the book.
This is a really simple match where the heat never dies off because the rudo's so good.
Atlantis, Cien Caras & Rayo de Jalisco Jr vs Mocho Cota, La Fiera & Sangre Chicana, CMLL '84
This ruled. It was a trios built around punches, heel shtick & cheap shots. Mocho Cota may be one of the great, all-time rudo stooges if this is anything to go by & worked the comedy as effortlessly as he worked the mat against Rocca. The two sides barely locked up once. So entertaining. And the kids swarming the ring at the end was awesome.
Miguel Perez Jr./Ricky Santana vs Los Head Hunters I y II, CMLL 8/5/94
Here's a match I wasn't too sure about that ended up being pretty damn good. I guess I'm a bit iffy about foreigners working Mexico, but these guys took to it well. It's a beatdown to start with; Los Head Hunters cutting off the face comebacks, before taking it to the outside & working the foreign objects. An older lady complains to the ref while Santana blades at her feet. Awesome. Bloodied & battered, the faces fight back & it's all big moves and even bigger misses. I reckon the Head Hunters' huge splashes when Santana or Perez roll out of the way are even cooler than their planchas, though it does look cool when guys that big do planchas. The Head Hunters are massively fun. Love that rolly polly bumping. Santana and Perez, Jr. are straight out of 1994. Haircuts, tights, "bulked-up" power based offence. You name it. Great lucha finish, though. This smokes almost any other foreigner's work from '93-95.
You can find this on youtube.
Everybody needs to check out this clip of Los Brazos vs. Los Fantasticos:
Such an amazingly great caida of wrestling.
Everything you need to know about lucha, you can learn from watching Los Brazos.
Brazos vs. MS-1/Pirata Morgan/Emilio Charles, Jr. (early 90s, aired WWO)
Brazos vs. Kato Kung Lee/Super Astro/Volador, CMLL 2/8/91
Brazos vs. Atlantis/Mascara Sagrada/Octagon, CMLL 5/17/91
These aren't outstanding matches, in fact they're mostly Brazos shtick, but shtick is part of what makes lucha great.
Porky's girth was a big reason why Los Brazos were a success. If Porky hit a splash, they won a lot of falls, but he was a simple soul; easily distracted & forever getting yelled at by his brothers. Which always led to Porky crying & wanting to leave. If you've never seen Porky cry, it's a sight to behold. Fans would pull him by the arm to keep him from leaving, & El Brazo would try to console him, but the classy part was when the technicos won the fall. They'd invite Porky to celebrate with them, & after it slowly dawned on him, he'd leap for joy. The brothers were never very happy about that, and Porky would have to be nudged back over to his side.
Some people might wonder how the middle of a match can be consumed by comedy like that, or how a potentially great match-up in Brazos vs. MS-1, Pirata & Emilio can be built around miscommunication between Pirata & Emilio and still be a blast... Simply put it's part & parcel of lucha libre. The reason it's gold is that it's actually funny. The comedy's never based on stupidity. It's always genuine humour. Charisma and humour. Like The Destroyer or Fujiwara.
Aside from the skits, I've seen a few people express frustration at great workers like Atlantis being paired with Mascara Sagradas or Octagons in trios... That's not a problem when the rudos are Brazos. When searching for lucha, there's no guarantees about match quality. The greatest looking trios can be letdowns, while entertaining matches feature the worst workers. General rule of thumb -- at least one great technico & two great rudos. Lucha is this kind of all-embracing style where even the shittiest of workers have their moments.
Villano III vs. Rambo, hair vs. mask, AAA 9/24/93
Rambo was such an awesome gimmick as he looked less like Rambo & more like your average mercenary/militant from an 80s action flick. He wasn't much of a worker aside from easy to set-up spots & big bumps, but this was AAA & the style revolves around big spots & bigger bumps. Brawling Villano is my favourite kind of Villano III. I saw him brawl with El Hijo del Santo the other day, which made me wish there was a widely known match between the two. Likewise I saw him reignite the hate between the Villanos and the Brazos, this time with de Plata Jr & Platino, which was right up my alley. This was a big, dopey AAA style brawl, but a fun match. Rambo took a huge bump to the outside, which was your typical insane AAA bump. I'm still searching for another AAA Classic, but I think a lot of people would dig this.
Trio Fantasia v. Thundercats, masks vs. masks, 12/8/91
Trio Fantasia are Super Muñeco, Super Raton & Super Pinocho. Thundercats are actually Leono, Tigro and Panthro. Complete costumes and everything. THIS IS A FUCKING GREAT BRAWL. One of the best Monterrey brawls I've ever seen, and definitely one of the best lucha matches of the 90s. I had no idea this was a mask match when I started watching it. I was expecting comedy, maybe a bit of flying. This was amazing. They beat the fuck out of each other in front of 17,000. Super Muñeco's sucked in a thousand matches, but was awesome here. Super Raton was fucking boss. Mangled bodies, ripped masks, one hell of a stained canvas. Panthro's mask was soaked in blood. It was surreal to see gimmicked workers maul each other like this. And to top it all off, Los Thundercats unmasked as the most veteran, journeymen workers you're ever likely to see. Amazing!
El Brazo vs. Rambo, hair vs. hair, CMLL 3/22/96
Thought I'd compare this to Rambo's earlier fight in AAA.
CMLL hair matches always feel like more of a fight than AAA matches. More punching, ramming each other's heads into the ringpost, the mat... Just more scrappy in general. Yet they're far more narrow in scope, even with a double bladejob like this one. Even though they're more solid than AAA hair or mask matches, they lack that big time feel. The structure is largely the same -- two quick falls & a longer one -- but there's much ado about finishes in AAA. To get that big, flashy feel they play up the crescendo of each fall, while CMLL is low key. I like the work better in this match, but the arc of where the match begins & where it ends is really small, despite how pissy the loser is. Sometimes a match needs heat to take it to the next level. Perhaps this wasn't a big feud. Perhaps the approach is too direct, with not enough weight given to the finishes. In any case, the match doesn't resolve anything. There's a sense of justice or injustice in even the screwiest of AAA finishes. Maybe this is just a fight. Kinda seems like a waste of a guy's hair, though.
Gran Apache vs. Oscar Sevilla, 3/19/00
Gran Apache is a favourite of a lot of people these days, which doesn't surprise me as he's over 40 & all the best guys in Mexico seem to be over 40. I tried getting into the whole Apache family saga. It seems like a pretty cool angle (apart from the baby being scared out of its wits), the only problem is that Billy Boy sucks.
Apache, however, is quite the worker. So I sought out a technico who might not suck as much, and here you have it -- Super Libre in the rain. I also watched their hair match & was amped to see it when the clowns started fighting, but it didn't pick up until the third fall & this was much better. I wasn't so interested in them fighting in the rain, I just thought it was a decent Super Libre brawl. Apache is agile enough to catch all the pretty boy stuff young guys like to do in Mexico and work the junior-esque spots, but compact enough to throw a pretty good punch & I'm sure he'd work circles on the mat if young guys weren't so terrified of the mat these days.
Anyway, his blueprint was all over this. I wasn't too sure what they were trying to package Oscar Sevilla as, but he fought through the overbooking to prove himself as a technico who could stick up for himself. Match was a little bit light heavyweight-ish, and a typical AAA-product, but they fought hard & that's what I like to see.
Pirata Morgan/Gran Markus/Ulises vs. Popitekus/Atlantis/El Dandy, 05/28/89
Wow, this wasn't good... I was surprised since 1989 El Dandy, Atlantis & Pirata Morgan is what hooked me on lucha in the first place. It was almost technicos v technicos, complete with matwork. When it comes to lucha matwork, I'm as big a sucker as the next guy, but this was... middling.
Javier Cruz v. Jerry Estrada, hair vs. hair, 10/20/89
For the life of me, I can't figure out what other people see in Jerry Estrada.
If you ever wanted to see a wrestler work a match from their lizard brain then this is the match. If I were Cruz, I'd be scared for my safety. You never know what the fuck Estrada's gonna do next. It's like watching a method actor work with an old school Hollywood type. Consensus says this is a great match, so you should check it out for yourself. This is the second or third time I've subjected myself to it, and it's bad. So very, very bad. Estrada's in a stupor from the beginning & can't do the simplest of moves without his brain wiring his extremities. Cruz may have been just as tanked, but he was never the type to take a match by the scruff of the neck. In a sense, I admire him for trying to sell such shitty, slow, botched offence, but the finer points are lost. Estrada is grandiose. If grandiose means showing up to a match all fucked up.
Atlantis vs. Emilio Charles, Jr, CMLL Lucha Libre 1984
OK, a match I liked... There's no way of knowing for sure, but this felt like a new kind of lucha. It had an old school build to it, in that there was more emphasis on winning each fall (including working your man over far more than in later lucha), but instead of grounded, leverage-based matwork, they did a lot of awesome fast-paced exchanges. You forget how much of his game Atlantis shelved, or indeed how quick he was... and Emilio was an awesome worker in the 80s. This was the best showcase of 1984 Atlantis I've seen. The kind of match where he reminds me of Lizmark. Given it was a year or less since his debut, credit ought to go to Emilio for being a new school rudo. It would appear that these guys were part of a generation who were shaping a new kind of rhythm in lucha.
El Hijo del Santo vs. Espanto Jr, mask vs. mask, 8/31/86
This is a classic Monterrey bloodbath, but the best thing about it is seeing Santo as a young luchador. There wasn't any semblance of a traveling act yet. It was like the match unlocked a period in Santo's early career where he didn't have fixed ideas about working; where he was still searching for the best way to bump and sell & make face comebacks. The Santo roadshow is a great roadshow. Many times I've thought, "Here we go -- same moves, same patterns, different order," yet been surprised by how great the match is. If it's not the greatest traveling act of them all, then it's certainly the most enduring. But this was different. It was like watching old Santo films & getting half a clue to the kind of worker senior was. I may be overreacting due to the fact I just saw this, but I'd go as far as saying it's the most interesting (El Hijo del) Santo match I've seen. It hit me from the beginning that I've never seen Santo grapple like he does here, or sell a bump with an arched back in such a flailing way.
Match is a tribute to their seniors (
), with the usual mask ripping & blood of a wager match. It's not the bloodiest Monterrey brawl, but there's plenty of visuals of bloodied masks & tuffs of hair. It pretty much smokes Santo/Casas from 7/87. Santo/Casas is a great sprint; Casas is magnifico & it's a joy to watch, but hold-for-hold this match is tough to beat. Stakes are high and they really do look like El Santo & Espanto grappling. The camera work gives it an edge too. It's shot from a single camera at ringside, but the guy knew what he was doing. Your average Joe can't hold a camera like that. He got some great pick-ups, especially a shot of Santo kneeling in front of the ringpost, trying to pull himself together between the first & second caida. A bunch of kids come over and pat Santo on the shoulder. It's an awesome scene that would be lost to replays ordinarily. It gives it a raw documentary feel. What you do miss, however, are Espanto's reactions. The match is shot from Santo's corner, so it tells the story from his perspective. Given who's losing, that's a bit of a loss. There's a few jump cuts as well, but nothing too bad.
If you're gonna drop the mask, you might as well do it in a Monterrey type setting & hope you have a great match. And that's exactly what they did.
El Hijo del Santo vs. Psicosis, AAA 5/3/95
There was some talk over at the surviving Smarkschoice board about whether this is any good. MJH mentioned that "at other times (especially the matwork and the finish) some of the execution is just really, really poor" and that "for a full singles match, Psicosis and Santo were having a bad night together." I thought this couldn't be right, but after a dozen sendspace attempts, I gotta admit -- stock's going down.
Whenever people used to doubt Psicosis, I'd always argue the case for his lucha work, not only his bumping & catching, but the hair, the mask, the whole persona. His execution was never the greatest, but it fit the out of control, recklessness of his style -- the baseball slide off an armdrag, throwing his hands in the air before catching a dive, intentionally slipping on the apron... It was a trainwreck style. I like performers in wrestling. Anyone with a semblance of creativity. Psicosis played to the crowd & thus I thought he was a good worker, but having seen this & Psicosis/Juventud Guerrera vs. El Volador/El Mexicano (awful), he's looking more and more like a guy who was lanky & awkward.
This is a match that's been pimped at various stages for having great matwork, or rather, for having matwork (i.e. the lucha matwork we love.) You can't have a lucha title match without matwork. AAA strayed about as far away from that as you can, but what matwork there is isn't great by lucha standards. By lucha title match standards, it's exceptionally poor. Whether it's Santo or Psicosis' fault, I don't know. It is what it is. MJH claims Psicosis is "horrid" on the mat, but whatever the case, they only got one spot to work -- the Santo headscissors. The rest of the time they either slipped or dropped the hold completely & the second fall was a mess. I wanna blame the AAA style for being flashy & making workers look crap, but they couldn't even work a surfboard spot without Psicosis having to balance with one hand on the mat.
Now I don't have the most analytical mind for watching matches. I don't pay attention to stuff like transitions because it takes me out of the rhythm. I generally go on overall impression. The September Psicosis/Rey match had execution problems, but it was OK because of the shape of the falls and the overall arc. What I'm looking for here is a good two-fall shape. What I think you'll find is good dives. This match has two of the best topes I've seen from Santo. MJH is confused as to why rudos usually get up before technicos on a dive, and I didn't have a very good answer for him, other than it's a suicida type spot. The seconds come over and wave their towels & basically the rudo gets up because it's a common transition into his dive attempt. Sometimes they get a little lazy with it. Psicosis actually sells it pretty well. The dives more or less salvage this match. It would be wreckage otherwise, and not in a crazy Psicosis kind of way. It saves the rhythm in any case, since it picks up when Santo is going full throttle through the ropes.
I'm pretty convinced that Santo never had a great singles match in AAA. Given how great Santo's singles stuff is from UWA that says a lot about the style. Now I'm wondering if Psicosis is the embodiment of that style -- all flash and little to show for it.
El Engendro vs. Negro Navarro (NWG Intercontinental Title), 2/15/03
Negro Navarro's one of the only guys I enjoy in wrestling anymore, so if there's any dirt on him I don't want to hear it. I just want to enjoy seeing him do what he does for a living, even if it's in front of a tiny crowd in some gym in Guadalajara.
The match is a throwback to when wrestling was about holds. They work their way in and out of holds, trying to catch each other out. There's not a lot of "fight", so to speak, just nous. It's one of those bouts where it's a mini victory to get a guy in a position he doesn't wanna be in, and they only sell when it makes sense from a grappling point of view. I wouldn't call it a great match, but I enjoyed it all the same. Towards the end, Engendro starts pulling out some fantastic looking stuff (a pretty clear indicator he's jobbing), but that cue to take it home was the only part that jumped out. Which isn't to say it's monotonous, it's just good stuff. That's all.
Espanto Jr. vs. El Hijo Del Santo (UWA World Welterweight Title Match), 5/14/92
This was such a beautiful Lucha Libre match & made a fool of me thinking Santo wasn't one of the great Lucha mat workers. If more of his UWA work was available, I think we'd get a bigger picture of how good Santo really was.
Again, the single camera at ringside gives this a raw documentary feel, only it's not a glimpse of Santo working Durango. Sure he looks every bit the superhero during the introductions, with the belt around his waist & a glorious red cape, & his matwork in the first fall comes across as the height of old-school lucha greatness, but it's really about the other guy. It's kinda hard to pick it, but Espanto Jr. was a 36 year-old wrestler with 21 years experience and this was his night. The great thing about his challenge is how it swings. He actually manages to shake off Santo's matwork in the first fall, sending him to the outside, but back in the ring he gets faked out and takes a high back bump (a spot Espanto liked to do.) It's over after that. So in the second fall, when he shakes Santo off again, this time he stays on him. There's no room for Santo to breath, with the Lucha equivalent of body blows. He gets kneed, elbowed hurled into the turnbuckle... All of which he sells like the K metal from Krypton, but he's OK with it. Espanto pushes his luck in the third fall, however. Santo collapses into the bottom turnbuckle & Espanto can't help himself. Man, you do not piss El Hijo del Santo off. He springs out of the corner & starts hitting the nastiest looking stuff. It's his usual stuff, but you rarely see it this nasty. From there on out it becomes a survival game for Espanto. He'd lost to Santo a bunch of times before; his hair, his mask. And again it looked like he'd blown his opportunities, but the bleaker it became, the more he took on this sort of underdog quality. Santo even kicked the bottom rope. Until finally they reached that level of Lucha where they're just going for it, and it wouldn't matter who won, the crowd would throw coins anyway. But this was Espanto's night. He throws himself back into the ring after Santo's plancha, he kicks out of everything & he finally catches him out.
Maybe not the most important title win in wrestling history, and it didn't last very many days, but a special night for a guy who spent a long time plying this trade (and very nearly died in the process.) If you're the least bit interested in Lucha Libre, the El Espanto Jr.: Un Guerrero Nunca Muere DVD is essential. Hell, if you like wrestling it's essential. Santo & Espanto had many other matches and this might not be their best, but it's a hometown boy done good and everyone likes that story.
Negro Navarro/El Signo/Black Power vs. Silver King/El Texano/El Gran Hamada - 10/17/92, UWA
This wasn't as awesome as it sounds, but it did make me lament that AAA became popular & UWA died out.
(There's perfectly good reasons why that happened, but I'll take vets working a style I like. Even if it's non-drawing Misioneros w/ a bum partner.)
Black Power's a third stringer, but the rest of these guys could work. There's something reassuring about that in this day and age. The physicality surprised me a bit. Hard, fast exchanges. Committed bumps. It was Misioneros vs. their ex-partner, so there was some talk. Mostly it was guys who knew they were pros, finding ways to work as a trio -- a skill that's really waned these days.
El Satanico & MS-1 & Pirata Morgan vs Atlantis & El Faraon & Brazo de Plata, 6.29.92 CMLL
I loved this...
You see, El Faraon was a 44 year-old, 19 year vet, who knew he was a 44 year old, 19 year vet. He was about a week away from a hair match with MS-1 & he worked the match like a vet would. And everybody was tuned to that. They kept it real tight with a tremendous amount of restraint. Atlantis could've torn the house down with Satanico, instead they worked tests of strength. Porky was super-charismatic, but ditched the shtick and looked like he belonged in Faraon's corner. Pirata didn't bump huge, instead he did this great selling where the impact of Porky's gut looked like it took the stuffing out of him, just like Faraon's lariat or elbow might. The effectiveness of narrow offence became a type of reoccuring theme. And MS-1 didn't bump for Faraon like he would for a young guy. He didn't mind looking old at all. I often talk about how there's so many ways to work a trios, but a large part of that is guys knowing their roles & why they're out there.
Like the following match:
Negro Casas & La Fiera & Bestia Salvaje vs El Dandy & Ringo Mendoza & Ultimo Dragon, 7.12.92 CMLL
There's no mistaking who this trios is about. Trios are often used to build-up single matches, but this was especially well done. Dandy & Casas were the two best guys in CMLL at the time and evenly matched. Dandy was the Middleweight champion, but Casas had never played second fiddle to anyone. Bestia and La Fiera were the perfect stooges for Casas to bring to his corner. La Fiera was such class that he didn't take his trainer off the entire match. But they were really there to take care of the mugs on Dandy's team. Casas and Dandy were squarely focused on each other. There was no skirting or avoiding each other. On the mat, it was impossible to separate the better man. And when they couldn't settle anything, the jawing began. And when that wasn't enough, they started slapping each other. They pulled each other's hair and scuffled into the front row. Back in the ring, Dandy wanted less fouling... Casas wound up taking a shot to the jaw; didn't appreciate it, and made no bones about it. He didn't low blow Dandy as much as he punted him. From there on out, Dandy was pissed and Casas couldn't give a fuck. Mendoza and Ultimo pitch in where they can since Dandy and Casas can't always be the legal men, but try telling those two they're not the legal men. Even from the apron they're seething. Casas exploding at the crowd is some of the best acting/selling I've seen. Ever.
El Hijo del Santo vs. Negro Casas, 5/17/91, Tijuana (handheld)
Not a great match compared to the matches Santo had against Brazo de Oro and Espanto Jr, or the stuff Casas was doing with El Dandy a year later, but it had the usual awesome atmosphere, with local kids climbing all over the ring and plenty of activity in the audience.
One kid in particular leads a pretty rousing ovation at the end, while the other kids bang on the apron. Once again, the handheld gives you a feel for what a real lucha experience is like. A lot of people struggle with the logic behind lucha, but there's a flow to it & crowds understand this.
Ostensibly, lucha matwork doesn't mean much since holds don't build to submissions in a logical manner as perhaps they do in other styles, but holds and counters are important. There's an ebb and flow to them & you can see from the tape that the crowd knows that countering a counter is a key part of the mental game. Countering a counter won't lead to a submission (usually). but at the next break, that wrestler is one up in the mental stakes. And those small battles for one-upmanship usually shape the way a fall is decided. So, you can see the crowd pop for those moments. A guy in the front row is pretty into it. I love a crowd who "know the score", since they have a bit of a say in momentum, and while this wasn't a great match, I would've been happy to be there.
Kahos/El Engendro vs. El Celestial/El Coloso, 10/3/92, UWA
The matwork was pretty simple, and perhaps a bit slow, but I dug the selling points.
Engendro gives a great burlesque performance. The trick to that, of course, is being an asskicker after the comedy spots, which Engendro most certainly is. There's about five or six genuine laughs, which is pretty good for an undercard match. Engendro lords over proceedings, working the refs, crowd and his opponents, but he exits the match in spectacular fashion... Wiped out by a tope, never to be seen from again. Nice way to bow out.
Villano III vs Negro Casas (IWRG 11-1-07)
Another decent sort of a match.
Villano III is in his late 50s and kinda creaks around the ring, but he still looks like he could break a guy in half if he wanted to. Casas has always been good at hiding his age, partly out of vanity (one would assume.) Here he's wrestling a guy who's at least ten years older than him, so he doesn't have to hide it so much, but he kinda wrestles what's in front of him, which I thought was decent of him. The match is probably too slow to get a watch out of most people, and some might question what Villano III is doing looking for bookings anymore, but there's a couple of times (like when they throw in a headbutt) where you can kinda appreciate how many wars these guys have been through. Would've liked it to have been more explosive, or perhaps more mat based, but I guess it's difficult to rev up the engine on this type of circuit.
El Hijo del Santo vs. El Averno, 10/22/04 (WWA World Welterweight Championship)
Man, Lucha has lost its charm.
After watching raw, grainy footage of Santo and Espanto Jr, this came across as pretty damn lifeless.
I was kinda hoping that Averno would prove himself to be more than a foil, but he took little or no initiative in the matwork and despite Santo still being pretty slick, this was just a series of spots.
It's all neatly packaged, but I saw better work on the Todos X el Todos show & those guys are truly ancient.