Black Terry vs. Aero Boy, Funcion Estelar, 3/18/16
Black Terry, what drives this man? What keeps him in the fight game? Lacing up the boots, ignoring the lumps and bruises, tending to the cuts. Terry is almost the same age as my father but still he fights. The early exchanges here showed that Terry isn't as quick as he used to be. He can't bump like he used to, can't pull a kick to the back like a young man might, but as soon as this goes to the outside Terry is in his element. Outside the ring. Terry is a master. No matter how many times I've seen Terry brawl around ringside it's still an awesome sight. Aero Boy does his part by bumping into a row of chairs, but in the main it's Terry's measured brawling, his use of colour (blood) and the ripped shirt motif that make this memorable. Terry may not be able to work lucha exchanges like he used to, but he can still tease a lucha submission with the best of them and he also knows how to get plenty of bang for his buck out of that well worn backcracker of his. The aesthetics also help here. Lucha brawls always work best in a dingy environment. Back in the day, even when they held matches in major venues, the poor lightning and grainy footage created a unique environment for lucha brawls. That's been lost in the bright new era where major lucha venues are fully lit and have electronic hordings advertising Japanese camera makers. The handheld approach to Terry's apuesta feuds creates a Dogme style effect like we're watching some kind of documentary about Black Terry's soul searching on the 2016 circuit. This was only a mano a mano. What awaits us in the apuesta match?
So, it's the first day of 2017, and as usual I've done a piss-poor job of following the modern lucha scene as it happens. But in this day and age of YouTube playlists, there's no excuse to not get caught up.
I'm going to start with the Black Terry vs. Aeroboy apuesta match, which is where I left off last time.
Black Terry vs. Aeroboy (mask vs. hair, 6/10/16)
This was a nice, scuzzy apuesta match. I liked how they started fighting before Aeroboy had taken his jacket off just like in the good old days of yore. They ambled about a bit in the beginning despite Aeroboy hitting a nice looking tope; but as soon as both men were bleeding and Terry had his shirt off, it was another masterclass in how to have an indie apuesta match. Terry's forte is usually character work and brawling outside the ring. This was mostly worked between the ropes, and for an apuesta match, really only had a minimum of violence. What made it work was the stiffness.
These days when you watch a lucha indie match, you can choose from all sorts of different angles. It's almost like watching the special features on a DVD. I watched this match from three different angles, and it was the handheld footage that added the most. A complain complaint with lucha is that it's not worked stiffly enough, but when it's shot from ringside, you can really hear them lay their shots in. Terry's always been good at working offense exchanges with young professionals like Aeroboy, and he's able to draw on years of experience in laying out a bout; but it was the stiffness, and laying those shots in, that made this seem like an apuesta match and not some regular bout.
The submission work was also excellent. Terry, in particular, had a couple of pearlers. Both men sold them like death, and in the handheld footage you could hear them scream as soon as a submission was applied. Aeroboy only had one hold that he went to, but Terry was a maestro on the mat.
Stiffness, submissions, some well-worked offense exchanges; these were the ingredients of an apuesta match as honest as the blood that was shed. Blow-for-blow, it was everything it should be with a wager on the line. While I was watching this, I saw the highlights of the Wofan match, which looked amazing. I desperately need to see that match as it looks like a prime example of a Terry masterpiece, but Wofan is a different worker to Aeroboy. I thought Terry did an excellent job here of working to his opponent's strengths and adapting to what they're good at and how they prefer to work. What we're witnessing now feels like Terry Funks' 90s run in ECW and other indies and the work Funk did in that era with younger workers. Yep, Black Terry is fast becoming the Terry Funk of Mexico.
Trauma I vs. Canis Lupus (mask vs. mask, IWRG 9/4/16)
It seemed impossible for this match to live up to the hype. Over the past few weeks, I've seen it described as one of the best brawls ever, one of the best mask matches of all-time and a match of the decade contender.
For the first two falls, it failed to live up to the hype. The work in the first fall wasn't bad but there was too much pandering to the crowd instead of the intense focus on maiming your opponent that you expect from an apuesta bout. It was a flashy rudo fall instead of a violent one. The finish was nice, though, and would play an important part later in the match. Lupus maintained his advantage in the second fall, but his strikes were weak and looked as though they were baring glancing Trauma's head and chest. That meant that the physical toll of the beating wasn't registering -- a cardinal sin in apuesta matches where pain and exhaustion are the biggest selling points. It didn't help, either, that the turning point in the fall was badly telegraphed and that the finish was poorly executed.
At this point we were two falls into the bout and nothing that solid had happened. Then they did the double chair spots and I was ready to write this off as an average piece of business. But as soon as they bladed the bout took on a whole new dimension. They began selling the exhaustion, and fatigue, and blood loss, and moreover they began fighting for their masked lives. Suddenly, it didn't seem so bad that there was nothing behind Lupus' strikes because there he was bleeding half to death. They worked some classic nearfalls with both men clinging on for dear life. With every passing hold the bout began looking more and more like a classic mask match. And the fact that they didn't get there in the smartest, or best, way began to fade into insignificance. It was like watching a playoff game where the first couple of quarters are crap but the second half is engrossing. In those situations it doesn't matter how the match begins but how it ends. Like all great tercera caidas there were dramatic counters and near things. People often shit on the refs in lucha, but personally I think those added seconds it takes to reach a decision add to the drama over whether a near fall or near submission will succeed. You need to hang on for a little bit longer in lucha bouts and those seconds feel like an eternity if you're rooting for one gladiador over another.
Not only were they working dramatic submission attempts and pulling out dramatic counters, they were bleeding buckets in the process, and you could pretty much track their desperation based by how much blood was on the canvas. There was blood all over Lupus' hands and forearms and Trauma's mask was taking on a hue not seen since the halcyon days of Santo and white costume La Parka. The bullshit with the ref bump and the tombstone piledriver was delicious bullshit served up on a plate. The foot under the ropes, the ref waving it off, Lupus sitting there leaning against Trauma having a spell, taking a breather, wiping blood off his hand, wondering what he should try next... that's an apuesta match on a razor's edge right there. Lupus slammed the mat out of frustration and it took him more energy to get to his feet and drag Trauma away from the ropes for a pin attempt. Trauma blocking the ref's three count with both palms was a fantastic touch and it really felt like the fight was ebbing out of him with every raised shoulder. Then drama! The all-or-nothing splash from the top from Lupus. Trauma didn't catch him cleanly, but he clipped Lupus' ribs and it sure looked like it hurt. How can anybody not like this? The canvas is growing redder and redder and a doctor comes in the ring to check Trauma's neck after the tombstone. It looks more like a crime scene investigation than first aid. Lupus pulls off a wonderful rudo move of attacking the medico and the finish literally sees Trauma attempting a reversal with a neck brace half attached. Lupus resists violently, but Trauma hooks on the same move that Lupus used to beat him the opening fall. It's not hard to imagine Trauma's father teaching him that move when he was ten years old and there it was saving his mask.
Trauma's second rushed into the ring and dived on him. People began throwing money immediately. Lupus lay in a pool of his own blood while the doctor finally put a brace on Trauma's damaged neck. Lupus' second shed a tear into his towel while the medico went to check his man's cut. There were thick globs of blood everywhere at this point and the doctor's coat was a mess. The aftermath of this bout was incredible. The part where the seconds held both men up, Trauma in a neck brace and Lupus stricken from blood loss and they looked at other like trauma victims was disturbing and awe-inspiring all at once. Lupus collapsing in the ropes whether it was real or just selling was amazing. The close-up on Trauma's bloodied mask looked like he'd been to the gates of hell and back. Incredible scenes. It was almost beyond what they had done in the third caida but at the same time it was riveting. Lupus knelt against the ropes in front of a group of photographers recovering, recuperating, regathering his thoughts in silent recognition of what had happened and what was coming next. He'd given his name and his place of origin to the MC and in mask matches like these it's customary to give the loser some breathing space to prepare for their unmasking. There were plenty of support from his fellow luchadores and consolations from Trauma's camp. It was all heartfelt and emotional. I didn't know Lupus from a bar of soap before watching this match, but apart from Villano III in 2000 and Ultimo Guerrero in 2014 this was the most emotional unmasking I have seen. Lupus was defiant, proud, conflicted. He didn't want to unmask but he was fully aware of his responsibility. The spirit of lucha was alive and well on this evening. The two gladiadores embraced and it was a beautiful moment in an otherwise brutal match. Finally, Lupus unmasked in the time honoured tradition and if anything his proposal was a reminder that lucha is about family, brotherhood and the ties that bind.
A tremendous tercera caida, a raw post-match unmasking and an incredible second half to a bout. I don't know if it deserves the accolades it's getting, but it's a match that I will never, ever forget.
Negro Casas vs. Rey Hechicero (Arena Coliseo Monterrey 4/24/16)
This was a decent match, but would have to have been a hell of a lot more dramatic to be in the running for Match of the Year contention.
The match peaked with the primera caida, which isn't a great place for a two-out-of-three falls match to peak. The idea of Casas working holds with Hechicero appealed to me. Casas isn't a great mat worker, but he knows how to hang in there, and I thought the flow of the matwork and Casas' selling made for an excellent first fall.
Unfortunately, they moved away from the submission-based stuff right after Hechicero's dead weight lift of Casas and from there on out worked a match that was neither here nor there. It wasn't the small, maestro style match that you'd expect from a indie date like this nor was it a traditional Monterrey style brawl. Hechicero tried a bit too hard to get the crowd into the match by imploring them to make more noise while Casas did stuff like posing for the camera while he had Hechicero in a hold. Something he would have never done in his prime, but which seems to amuse him these days. The end result was that the match wasn't quite gritty enough for its surroundings and a bit too exhibition-y. It was mano a mano, which usually has a smaller arc than matches where the stakes are higher, but it wasn't a blood feud mano a mano and there weren't enough dramatic near-falls or near-submissions in the third fall to make it better than your standard Lucha Memes or Chilanga Mask match. If they'd upped the ante from the opening fall it would have been a different story, but the intensity level wasn't there. Not something I'll remember as fondly as Terry/Aeroboy or Lupus/Trauma even if it's an unfair comparison.
Volador Jr. vs. Cavernario, NWA World Historic Welterweight Championship, CMLL 10/7/16
Well, it was obvious watching this that CMLL title matches are no longer mat-based classics but generic singles matches, and that lucha is more influenced by outside influences than ever before. That said, I still enjoyed this.
What I liked about it was that the rudo, Cavernario, had the momentum for most of the bout. and the tecnico, Volador Jr, had to keep fighting back even after he'd squared things up. Not only were the dives crazy, it also felt like they were right on cue. There's nothing quite as pretty in lucha as a dive that happens exactly when it ought to. You're into the flow of the match, the timing is right for the dive, and off they go. Of course, it helps that Cavernario is mental. He takes some of the nuttiest bumps in the history of lucha. It's like Psicosis turned up to 11.
I don't watch a lot of Volador Jr., so I found a lot of his offense novel. I could see how it would wear thin if he does it in every match, and I wasn't sure how much of it was the way Cavernario took the bump, but that sunset flip thing he does where it looks like he piledrives the guy was a hell of a punctuation mark to end a fall.
The shit they did on the set sucked, but that's one of those things where as soon as one guy does it, everybody has to do it, and they're constantly having to up the ante. It seemed WWE influenced to me. There was nothing authentically "lucha" about it, but they wiped the bad taste of my mouth pretty quickly, and overall I have mostly positive things to say about this.
Volador Jr. vs. Cavernario, 2016 CMLL Reyes del Aire final, 9/30/16
I didn't start enjoying this until deep into the terceda caida. The crowd was at a fever pitch and there was a lot of selling and drama. Prior to that, it was move after move, dive after dive, with it all feeling pretty hollow. People often complain about the first two falls in lucha being short and pointless. You watch a match like this and it's hard to dispute that claim. The first two falls were rubbish, especially the segunda caida with its unearned comeback. If they're going to work like that, they might as well kill the tradition and start working one fall matches. The only thing I really enjoyed about the first half of the match was Cavernario's pretty tope through the turnbuckle ropes, but he does that spot a lot so it wasn't like he was pulling out all the stops. The two most spectacular spots in the match were Volador Jr's springboard plancha into the crowd and that over-the-top-rope, sunset flip powerbomb thing that was gorgeous. Cavernario's diving splash to the floor also looks like it hurts every single time. Ouch. Then, just like that, all of the good was swept away by the finish. What a horrible finish. It was the kind of finish Pena would have booked. A horrid, awful thing. Not worth the thrashing they put their bodies through. All in all, this felt like more of a Volador-led, offense-minded bout. I preferred their title match by a considerable margin. Awful finish.
Negro Casas, Lizmark & Olimpico vs Blue Panther, Bestia Salvaje & Scorpio Jr. (CMLL 01/18/00)
I thought this was excellent while it lasted. I could have sworn I'd had my fill of Casas vs. Bestia & Scorpio over the years, but it's been a while and I dug watching Casas and Bestia trade blows. Panther was excellent in this, which isn't always the case when he's the lead guy in a rudo team. I wasn't sure how legit Olimpico's injury was considering how long Panther kept him in the armbar, and the fact that the rudos kept getting their licks in while the doc checked on him, but the replay looked pretty nasty. They could have had the tecnicos take the next fall a man down and given us a few more thrills, but as a TV match, it had a lot of workers I like and was more than passable.
Zumbido, Rencor Latino & Arkangel de la Muerte vs. Ringo Mendoza, Tigre Blanco & Pantera (CMLL 01/18/00)
This was a fun undercard match. You know CMLL is humming when the undercard is good. Arkangel de la Muerte is a favourite of the Segunda Caida crew. I've never really viewed him as an elite-level talent, but he does have a lot of nice looking offense and I was impressed with his stooging here. He made Tigre Blanco look like a million bucks during the finish, and let's face it, Tigre Blanco wasn't the most outstanding tecnico on the CMLL roster. The most impressive tecnico was Pantera, who contributed a beautiful dive, but I couldn't believe that Ringo was still kicking about in Jan 2000. Very Gran Hamada-esque of him. The match was clipped like all of the January TV has been, but it purred nicely.
Arkangel de la Muerte vs. Tigre Blanco (CMLL 01/25/00)
I thought this was a good undercard match. I watched it twice, the first time by itself and the second time after watching the trios that led into it, and I enjoyed it more the second time. The clipping hurt the rhythm of what they were trying to do, but I liked the way that Tigre Blanco picked up where he left off after his strong finish to the trios match and that Arkangel had to draw on his experience to win the segunda caida and take the tercera. Sure, it was a forgettable match in the grand scheme of things, and workers have done better in CMLL in similar positions like Olimpico and Halcon Negro, but I thought this was worth taking the time to watch.
Emilio Charles Jr., Lizmark & Tinieblas Jr. vs. Bestia Salvaje, Scorpio Jr. & Shocker (CMLL 01/11/00)
This was a perfectly fine trios match. I can understand being disappointed with it if you were expecting something special but oftentimes trios matches are more about the workers than the matches themselves. Here I was interested in seeing how Emilio would captain a tecnico team, how effective Scorpio Jr. could remain without a mask, and what, if anything, Lizmark could bring to a match in the year 2000. I expected it to be fairly one-sided, but they gave Lizmark the opportunity to shine here, which I was happy about. I liked Emilio's look here as well. He'd moved away from the Remy-inspired Hunter look to something a bit more suave.
Zumbido, Mr. Mexico & Violencia vs. Solar I, Antifaz del Norte & Pantera (CMLL 01/01/00)
This was all right. In a month that was dominated by rudo beatdowns, I appreciated the fact that they started off with a tecnico fall and worked a rudo comeback. Solar did a decent job of directing traffic. He was a couple of years away from the beginning of his rivalry with Negro Navarro. A rivalry that would reinvent if not revitalise his career. The first match of theirs I've seen is from around 2002. Navarro still has hair and hadn't adopted his asskicker gimmick yet. Zumbido showed some promise here and would go on to play a bigger role in CMLL in 2003-04.
Tarzan Boy vs. Rey Bucanero (CMLL 01/01/00)
This was an effective mano a mano bout. Mano a manos usually have a glass ceiling on how good they can be but this had a bit of meat to it. The double juice helped. Blood is so rare in CMLL these days that it was a surprise to see Bucanero bleed so much. There were a couple of gaffes on the bigger action stuff, like the blatant calling of the flash pin in the segunda caida and Tarzan Boy overshooting his dive, but it was a decent Coliseo bout, and Satanico beating Tarzan Boy down after the bout warmed the cockles of my Satanico-loving heart.
Olimpico, Antifaz del Norte & Tarzan Boy vs. El Satanico, Rey Bucanero & Ultimo Guerrero (CMLL 01/14/00)
This was an excellent brawl. It reminded me of the wars that the older Infernales had with Los Intocables and the Brazos in '92-93 before they jumped to AAA. Those were also pared down trios matches with plenty of brawling. Satanico is so good at marshaling these sort of bouts, controlling the action when his team is on top and feeding the tecnicos comebacks. Just another reason why he's one of the greatest of all-time. The sudden victory that the tecnicos score in the second fall is the type of thing that will bug people, but I liked how they had to keep fighting their tails off in the tercera caida and the dive train was fantastic. Tarzan Boy is pretty much Latin Lover plugged into a program with Mocho Cota when it comes to this feud with Satanico but there's nothing like a trios match where the captains are left to duke it out at the end. Tarzan Boy fought fire with fire and justice was done. I'm not expecting Dandy vs. Satanico from the apuesta match, but so far the lead-in is just as good.
El Satanico, Ultimo Guerrero & Rey Bucanero vs. Antifaz del Norte, Felino & Tarzan Boy (CMLL 01/21/00)
Another great brawl. Gotta love those collars on the Infernales' jackets and how they keep them on when they jump the tecnicos. Tarzan Boy bleeds straight away and the Infernales are rabid. Especially Satanico, who seems to relish the amount of pain they inflict on the helpless Tarzan Boy. Tarzan Boy bleeds like a stuck pig in the opening caida, and even when the referees disqualify the Infernales, they still don't give a shit and keep beating up the poor kid. The doctor comes out to check him and you can almost feel Satanico growing in stature here as he paces about the ring seeking to reclaim his mantle as El Numero Uno. A reversal signals a change in fortunes for the tecnicos, as it so often does, but they have to fight really hard to get back on an even keel. It's anybody's match after the dive train and again Satanico and Tarzan Boy go at it like a matador and a charging bull. Satanico is beyond incensed, though, and even a second disqualification can't stop him from headbutting Tarzan Boy to the point where TB's blood is all over Satanico's face. The Infernales lost the battle here, but they sent Tarzan Boy to the hospital, that's for sure. The apuesta match is being set up beautifully and I can't wait to see whether they can really deliver us a payoff.
Olimpico, Tony Rivera & Tarzan Boy vs. El Satanico, Ultimo Guerrero & Rey Bucanero (CMLL 01/28/00)
Another perfect lead-in match. The Infernales with the Horsemen beatdown in the corridor. Anybody else notice the extra length to Satanico's hair? The Infernales do an absolute number on the tecnicos to start with. I loved the way Satanico's minions took out Rivera and Olimpico with the chairs. Ultimo Guerrero impressed me with the amount of dirty work he got through. He's never been a guy I've warmed to, but he's done an excellent job as Satanico's lieutenant. Tarzan Boy is getting killed in this feud. The only thing keeping his spirit from breaking are the constant disqualifications. Otherwise he'd run off home and never show his face again. Folks keep mentioning how short these matches are, but it's clear that they're clipped. After the Satanico interview there are highlights of a dive train we never saw prior to Satanico bottling Tarzan Boy. They cut large chunks out of the Villano vs. Atlantis trios the week before and it's the same here. Tarzan Boy gets stretchered out and we have ourselves a hell of an apuesta build right here. I'm not sure the hair match can live up to the build as Satanico keeps murdering Tarzan Boy and our pretty young friend doesn't have a lot to come back with, but this is a really memorable lead-in.
Atlantis, Negro Casas & Mr. Niebla vs. Dr. Wagner Jr., Villano III & Pierroth Jr. (CMLL 01/14/00)
This was another strong lead-in match. I'm not a huge fan of trios matches where the wrestlers rip each other's masks off but it wouldn't be much of an apuesta feud if they didn't do it. And to their credit, they didn't spend an eternity doing it. Villano looked badass in his alternative strip and I liked how he used Atlantis' mask to clean the dirt off his boots. Atlantis' comeback was good and he got plenty of mileage out of throwing Villano into a row of chairs and dropping a section on him. The only thing that held this back was that there didn't seem to be much of a personal issue between Casas and Pierroth or Wagner and Niebla and the best trios matches usually have that second and third string story to contrast and illuminate the main feud. The kind of role that an Emilio Charles Jr. or La Fiera played to perfection. The rudos were fairly united but Casas and Niebla felt like they were making up the numbers while we waited for Atlantis and Villano to go at it again. Mind you, it's pretty hard for Casas to play second string to anyone and Pierroth was badly broken down compared with his glory days of '90-92. I haven't checked the match listings but it'll be interesting to see whether they plug anyone better in there.
Atlantis, Mr. Niebla & Emilio Charles Jr. vs. Dr. Wagner Jr., Shocker & Villano III (CMLL 01/21/00)
The build for Satanico/Tarzan Boy and Atlantis/Villano was a hell of a one-two punch. This is the kind of thing that CMLL does really well when they bother to do it. This installment was heavily clipped so it's not fair to judge it as a match, but I liked the fact that we got a true blue tecnico fall to start with. I think that's the first time there's been a tecnico fall in this January footage. The clipping sort of ruined the rudo comeback, but they got a nice pose in with the submission. Shocker was in his prime here and it was pretty clear that he and Niebla were the best conditioned of the workers involved. They were heavily involved in the early part of the Atlantis/Villano rivalry, as I'm sure you're all aware, but it wasn't clear from the clipping how much that played into the bout. They did pull a dive on one another, though. Atlantis vs. Villano wasn't as heated as in previous matches, which may be why they shortened this, but Atlantis got a tope in, which was a statement of sorts. The rudos were the ones who mugged the camera in the post-match interview, though, and not for the first time. Villano sure was proud of taking Super Astro's mask. I wonder how he felt about Astro reneging on the deal.
Negro Casas, Atlantis & Emilio Charles Jr. vs. Bestia Salvaje, Villano III & Fuerza Guerrera (CMLL 01/28/00)
ust in case you thought the Villano/Atlantis build was living in the shadow of the Satanico/Tarzan Boy feud here is a match to remind you which match-up has the higher stakes. It wasn't until the Villano brothers got involved at ringside that the Villano feud with Atlantis matched the intensity of the hatred between Casas and Bestia, and I do kind of wish that Atlantis would fire up a bit more, but given the gang warfare mentality of the CMLL booking in January 2000 and the fact that it feels like a rudo promotion right now, this was a timely reminder to Atlantis where the power lay. When you take on the Villanos you take on the family. Let's see how Atlantis responds.
NB: I watched these out of order but am posting them chronologically.
Mr. Niebla & Olimpico vs. Blue Panther & Rencor Latino (CMLL 02/01/00)
Not content with two blood feuds, CMLL decide to add a third. This is some old school booking from CMLL. It reminds me of the early 80s when they'd have an apuesta match nearly every week. This was a bit different as it was being booked toward a mano a mano and not a mask vs. mask match, but you wouldn't know from the bloodshed, Olympic bled buckets and Panther's mask was so badly ripped at the end that you could see his face years ahead of his unmasking. I'm often critical of Panther as a rudo, but I thought he was excellent here. When you think of Panther, you don't think of a worker who licks another man's blood from his fingers or parades his bloodied foe for others to see, but that was the Panther we got here and it was quite a surprise. The match was short because it was a one night tournament and lucha tournament matches are notoriously short, but it packed a fair-sized punch for such a short match.
Atlantis, Emilio Charles Jr. & Tarzan Boy vs, Fuerza Guerrera, El Satanico & Villano III (CMLL 02/01/00)
This was the first match from February that felt like it was on par with the January stuff and I don't think it's a coincidence that it takes place at Arena Coliseo. Coliseo seems tailor-made for the Satanico v. Tarzan Boy feud. You sense that it loses something in Arena Mexico kind of like playing a larger venue vs. a smaller, more intimate one. Here you've got fans holding Tarzan Boy signs whereas I'm not sure he's that over Arena Mexico. And Satanico looks king-sized this smaller setting. He looks like he's on a different plane from everyone else. No one can match the ferocity with which he attacks Tarzan Boy. Villano III looks like hes moving in slow motion by comparison and even Fuerza couldn't keep up with Satanico's intensity. The only thing that comes close is Panther licking Olimpico's blood and showing off his kill to the audience. Tarzan Boy is pretty low rent but I liked the fire on his comeback here and I thought the injury storyline off the missed plancha was a nice twist after he'd finally shown some fire. Satanico stomping the ankle was wonderful as was the finger biting. Atlantis vs. Villano can't really hold a candle to the Satanico/Tarzan Boy ring work, though I did like their punch exchange. I'm sure the mask match is still a classic, but Villano comes across as slower and less vicious than Satanico and Atlantis comes across some squeaky clean do-gooder who can't understand why the Villanos are picking on him. Acting was never his forte, but you've got to be prepared to fight fire with fire in an apuesta match and I don't really get that feeling from him. Which makes me suspect that the mask vs. mask match may be closer to a pure lucha match than a brawl, but we'll see. It's been a long time since I watched it.
Blue Panther vs. Olimpico (CMLL 02/08/00)
I liked the booking here with Olimpico's DQ victory in the tournament final setting up a mano a mano bout. And I liked the continued viciousness from Panther who has never looked better as a rudo. I also liked the idea of giving Olimpico a huge victory over Panther even if he held the ropes to do it. But you'd think they would have shown more than they did on the TV broadcast. The clipping in February is worse than January.
Black Warrior, Zumbido & Pimpinela Escarlata vs. Antifaz del Norte, Felino & Safari (CMLL 02/11/00)
This was another match butchered in the edit. This was extra frustrating as we never got a proper look at Pimpenela in CMLL. Instead they clipped the Black Warrior vs. Felino exchanges together even though it wasn't a feud. After an exciting January this company is starting to nosedive.
Negro Casas, Emilio Charles Jr., Mr. Niebla & Tarzan Boy vs. Bestia Salvaje, El Satanico, Scorpio Jr. & Shocker (CMLL 02/11/00)
I believe this is the first 2000 match from Arena Mexico and oddly it's an atomicos match. God only knows how long this lasted but it as clipped to shit on the TV broadcast. There was enough shown to demonstrate how much better Satanico was at brawling with his partner than Shocker was, for example, and a lot that you could study about his rudo performance. But ultimately it was another asskicking for Tarzan Boy, who hasn't done enough to fight back in this feud, and a disconnect with the other participants in the atomicos. Not that strong a match in my view.
Atlantis vs. Villano III (CMLL 02/11/00)
This was so badly clipped in the first two falls that it was hard to get any idea of how the match was flowing. The third caida was slightly better, but the switcheroo made the entire thing seem like an angle, which it was, really. If you ask me, the build to Atlantis vs. Villano has been less than perfect.
Negro Casas, Ringo Mendoza & Emilio Charles Jr. vs. Blue Panther, Cien Caras & Black Warrior (CMLL 02/22/00)
I don't know what lit a fire under Panther but he is officially the second best rudo in the company. I think it was April and May that Panther had his classic matches with Santo in Monterrey and it's clear now that he was enjoying a rich vein of form heading into those appearances. I loved every second of Panther vs. Ringo regardless of how decrepit Ringo may have looked. I also liked the Casas vs. Black Warrior build. CMLL has a habit of phasing guys down the card after long programs. and after feuding with Bestia and Scorpio for what seemed like an eternity, Casas didn't seem like he had much to do in January. Here they gave him something to do and it was the best he's looked so far. This was edited to shit but still enjoyable. That may be the new barometer of a good CMLL match.
Atlantis, Mr. Niebla & Rayo de Jalisco Jr. vs, Dr. Wagner Jr., Bestia Salvaje & Scorpio Jr. (CMLL 02/25/00)
I'm back on the CMLL train with this match. I never thought I could be so excited about a "non-match" but this was tremendous. Wagner needs to stop spending so much time in Japan because he turned shit on its head right away by slapping Perro at ringside. I love how Perro's son, or his nephew, or whomever it with him at ringside, looked like Chris from the Sopranos. With their dye-jobs, Bestia and Scorpio look like the Fabulous Ones or some other Southern heel tag team. I'm pretty much a Bestia fan for life at this point as I thought he looked great here. For some reason, Atlantis showed more fire here than in his trios matches against Villano and seemed more affronted by Wagner attacking Perro than the Villanos stomping a mudhole in his own hide. Somebody in CMLL was watching the WWF for clues because Villano III's appearance couldn't have been more WWF unless his theme music dropped. It worked nicely, though. Perro getting involved meant the segment as a whole was longer than most of the trios matches that have aired thus far. It was also a reminder of how great Perro's match with Universo 2000 was. Crash booking lucha style, but crash booking done well.
Negro Casas vs, Black Warrior (CMLL 02/29/00)
This was a bit of a letdown after Satanico vs. Tarzan Boy and the angle with Perro Aguayo, but it was mano a mano, which carries with it a glass ceiling. Clipping or no clipping, the point was for Casas to defeat Black Warrior and earn a title shot or at least prove worthy of one. This was never going to be anything more than build.
Emilio Charles Jr., Mr. Niebla & Tinieblas Jr. vs, Fuerza Guerrera, Scorpio Jr. & Violencia (CMLL 02/28/00)
Not much to report about here. Emilio tried to breathe some life into things with a spirited comeback after being fouled in the primera caida, but aside from the old lucha trope of the tecnico fouling the rudo back there wasn't much to this.
El Satanico vs. Tarzan Boy (CMLL 02/25/00, Hair Match)
Here we go! I'm psyched. Satanico's Phantom of the Opera entrance was amazing. Just when you thought the lucha GOAT couldn't get any greater he produces one of the finer Arena Mexico entrances in living memory. Tarzan Boy has lipstick kisses on his torso and upper body. He stops to give us the Rick Martel view of his six pack and I wonder if his valet gave him a kiss on the pecker for good luck. That seems to be the implication. Tarzan Boy seems like he's on a hiding to nothing in the intros. He's busy posing while Satanico is limbering up. And sure enough, Satanico wrestles a perfect fall in the primera caida. Olimpico launching himself at Bucanero was another amazing moment. It's rare that you see seconds fight like that and never as wild and out of control as that was. In true CMLL fashion, I didn't realise that Bucanero had tripped Tarzan Boy until the replay. In real time it looked like Tarzan Boy had slipped and that the rudo crowd were riding him. Olimpico's reaction was awesome. I loved the way Satanico's head jerked when he saw the fight break out.
The rudo fans got on Tarzan Boy's case during this match. You can't really blame them since it was at the cathedral where Satanico had fought so many wars. The smaller, less vocal tecnico contingent popped for him. Satanico was amazing in this match. Every time the camera was on him he was selling beautifully or doing something great, and always in the right measure. Such a masterful performer. To lose that way in such amateur fashion was galling. Watch Satanico during the post-match. He is filthy with himself. While he's getting his head shaved you can see him replaying the finish in his mind and working through what he should have done differently.
I thought this was tremendous. It was never going to be like Satanico vs. Dandy or that AAA match against Morgan. That was Satanico versus fellow all-time greats. For a match against a young talent like Tarzan Boy this exceeded my expectations. Folks have been arguing that there wasn't enough blood and that Satanico didn't suffer any sort of retribution, but losing hurt more than any cut ever could. It was the ultimate humiliation especially given how dominant he'd been in the feud. I actually thought it was a brilliant payoff to the beatings he gave Tarzan Boy night after night. I don't think it elevated Tarzan Boy in any way but it was beautiful and poetic and Satanico sold it like only he can. Another one for the Satanico GOAT scrapbook. Tremendous.
Atlantis, Tarzan Boy & Rayo de Jalisco Jr. vs. El Satanico, Cien Caras & Bestia Salvaje (CMLL 03/02/00)
Stone Cold! Stone Cold! CMLL is getting more WWF by the second. I liked how you had all these old school luchadores working a classic rudo beatdown and suddenly there were run-ins and shit. That wasn't unprecedented in Mexico but for CMLL it was like reinventing the wheel. A couple of things stood out to me here. The first was that they did a nice job of intertwining the various story threads in the match. You had the eternal feud in Rayo vs. Caras, the recent humiliation of Satanico by the upstart Tarzan Boy and Stone Cold vs. The Rock They also mixed up the pairings which is an underrated aspect of lucha trios matches. I really liked the part where Satanico gave Atlantis a working over. There was no reason for him to have a beef with Atlantis but he was keenly aware of his fellow rudo's vendetta with him and did his best to soften Atlantis up for Villano. In fact, the Satanico vs. Atlantis segment was so good I half-wished it was Satanico taking on Atlantis at the PPV. That wouldn't have been anywhere near as monumental as one of two legends losing their mask but I thought Satanico in this bout looked better than Villano has at any point during the build. Satanico's handprints were all over this and he looked badass with his shaved head. Few workers manage to be a ring general and a superstar but Satanico is right up there with Casas as the cream of the crop. Really fun TV match in this new era of CMLL booking.
El Satanico, Rey Bucanero & Ultimo Guerrero vs, Lizmark, Olimpico & Tarzan Boy (CMLL 03/07/00)
This was heavily clipped but from what we saw there was a clear throughline. The opening fall was sloppier than we're used to from the Infernales but it established a clear narrative: the Infernales were out to extract revenge and it was up to the tecnicos to prevent themselves from being bullied. Tarzan Boy wasn't a natural aggressor, but fortunately for him, Lizmark and Olimpico managed to fire up in the second caida and Olimpico, in particular, was hellbent on using his skill to outclass the rudos. I liked the part where Tarzan Boy took the fight to Satanico and Lopez shook him off, ready for a fist fight. Unfortunately, it disintegrated into a screwy finish instead of rabid brawling. Still, the tecnicos got the moral victory even if it left Tarzan Boy with sore balls.
Pierroth vs. Mascara Ano 2000 (CMLL 03/10/00)
This was a fun mano a mano from two broken down gladiatores. The use of plunder and the backstage brawling was arguably the most WWF thing that CMLL has done yet, but a nasty blade job from Pierroth and some gritty ringwork made this feel more like cockfighting than your average WWF bout. This probably would have been pretty bad if the blood hadn't made it so edgy. I guess what this proved was that Satanico vs. Tarzan Boy could have been more like bloodsport if they'd wanted it to be. But then Tarzan Boy is hardly the kind of worker that Pierroth was. In any event, this surprised me. Much more worthwhile than I would have expected and I'm already a certified Capos fan.
Atlantis, Perro Aguayo, Mr. Niebla & Rayo de Jalisco Jr. vs. Villano III, Shocker, Bestia Salvaje & Scorpio Jr. (CMLL 03/10/00)
I enjoyed what we saw of this. It doesn't get much more emphatic from the rudo side than Villano III pulling off Atlantis' mask while Los Guapos destroy Perro Aguayo Sr. You could feel the WWF influence with the Villano Bros. run-in, but without the pyrotechnics and all of the bells and whistles it really did feel like 1980s Crockett, especially since the Villano Bros appear to shop at the same menswear stores as the Andersons. Honestly speaking, I don't really rate Atlantis as a brawler and I have a problem with how easily he applies the Atlantida at times. He also bounces up and down a bit too much not unlike the overselling he did when he was younger. But I'm expecting the emotion of the mask match to overcome all that. We'll find out shortly.
El Fierito & Pierrothito vs. Cicloncito Ramirez & Ultimo Dragoncito (CMLL 03/14/00)
All right, minis! This was perhaps the most classical lucha match we've seen thus far. It had mat exchanges, arm drags, ropework and even a little bit of character work. There were multiple dives and some pretty decent back and forth action. It wasn't entirely smooth as Fierito wasn't the most fluid worker but it was a nice holdover from the classic minis period of '96-97 and it was nice to see some of those names again. Plus it had two falls end on a count out which is pretty rare in lucha.
Blue Panther, Black Warrior & Mr. Mexico vs. Tony Rivera, Ringo Mendoza & Emilio Charles Jr. (CMLL 03/14/00)
CMLL is new school and old school at the same time. The vignette with Rivera judo throwing everyone in the gym and Mr. Mexico disguising himself as the ref was straight out of a WWF quarter hour but an apuesta match every other week is straight up old school booking. This match demonstrated the power of a gripe in lucha. Give two workers a reason to dislike each other and lucha is every bit as easy to follow as Puerto Rico or a Southern territory. Rivera was a bigger version of Tarzan Boy and Mr. Mexico far down the list of marquee lucha heels but it didn't matter. A bladejob from Mexico and some frantic action was enough to carry this to a satisfying conclusion. The best dive train of the year was followed by some classic foul shenanigans and a bout you could have easily cut when scanning match lists turned out to be a bonafide piece of fun. CMLL has been nonstop feuds thus far.
Mr. Niebla, Ray de Jalisco Jr. & Tinieblas Jr. vs. Bestia Salvaje, Pierroth Jr. & El Satanico (CMLL 03/14/00)
Meanwhile, at the Hall of Justice, Los Campeones de la Justicia meet to discuss the threat of Villano Tercero. Alushe has grave concerns while Atlantis and Niebla prove luchadores can wear a tracksuit anywhere. This was fairly unspectacular given how good the rudo side was but there were some nice moments. I liked the way Bestia interacted with the crowd and the part where he slapped the shit out of Niebla. Tinieblas looked like less of a freak when partnered with Rayo and Niebla and I enjoyed his dust-up with Pierroth at the end. Pierroth continues to be the most unexpected surprise of 2000. This Puerto Rican gimmick sure is doing wonders for him. He almost reminds me of a Mexican Invader 1. I'm keenly awaiting the Los Boricuas vs. Los Capos feud now. That should be a fun series of brawls.
Tony Rivera vs. Mr. Mexico (CMLL 03/21/00, Hair Match)
This was a solid apuesta match but they clipped a chunk out of the tercera caida which hurt the overall impact of the bout. Instead of building toward the big moment, they cut straight to a submission nearfall for Mr. Mexico and Rivera's match-winning Gori Special. We missed out on the excitement of the tercera caida swinging back and forth but what we did see was solid. Mr. Mexico was a better in-ring talent than I would have ever given him credit for prior to this feud and Rivera was seasoned enough to feed off his rudo charisma and win the people's favour without a stripper gimmick like Tarzan Boy. So long as you don't expect Chicana/MS-1, Chicana/Aguayo or Dandy/Satanico, this delivered a decent standard of work.
Villano III, Shocker & Bestia Salvaje vs. Perro Aguayo, Rayo de Jalisco Jr. & Atlantis (CMLL 03/31/00)
Coming off an all-time great apuesta match and a strong PPV overall, the question now is whether CMLL can maintain its momentum. This was a storyline match with Villano Tercero refusing to engage in rudoism and frustrating his partners. In typical CMLL fashion, it looks as though they'll draw things out for another couple of Fridays. Less typical of the serious and stable CMLL was the Los Capos run-in. Not exactlly lucha crash TV but I'm not sure it sat that well with all of the CMLL brass. In fact, the situation reminds me of 1990 and the Pena driven changes to the conservative CMLL booking. As far as segments go it was fairly uninspiring but let's see whether the Perrro vs. Capos and VIllano Tercero turns can escalate into feuds worthy of the benchmarks CMLL have put forward this season.
Torneo Cibernetico (CMLL PPV 03/17/00)
I thought this was a terrific Cibernetico. The famous Ciberneticos from '97 featured well-known names and high profile feuds. This threw a spotlight on the midcard, showcasing how much depth there was on both the rudo and tecnico sides. The most interesting thing about the bout for me was that even though it felt like a pure lucha libre bout with the rapid-fire exchanges and the off-kilter submission and pin attempts, you could feel how heavy the juniors influence was. Workers like Dr. Wagner Jr. had been working regular dates in Japan and bringing back Japanese moves throughout the late 90s, but Ultimo Guerrero was one of the first workers from his generation to be exposed to those moves and regularly tour Japan. You can see the influence in his offensive set. Instead of the usual armdrags and rolling bumps, he has a barrage of suplexes and other high impact moves. He wasn't the only one, though. This could have easily been a Japanese juniors match with Japanese wrestlers or perhaps an MPro or Toryumon match with a lucha flavour. It managed to keep its identity, though, in large part to Mr. Mexico furthering his feud Rivera. Mr. Mexico vs. Rivera! Let there be blood. Olimpico had a nice run in this, too. But how good was Ultimo Guerrero? I know I'm late to the party, but Ultimo Guerrero was very, very good in 2000. Thus far, he's been biding his time looking solid in Infernales trios but here he got a chance to shine and ran with the ball. Maybe not a game-winning touchdown, but he definitely made some yards. Really solid undercard to this PPV.
Brazo de Plata, Emilio Charles Jr. & Mr. Niebla vs. Apolo Dantes, Cien Caras & Universo 2000 (CMLL 03/17/00)
If you love Porky then you'll love this match as it was really a showcase for him to entertain the fans. And entertain the fans he did. I was kind of surprised that Los Capos were the rudo foils for Porky's Looney Tunes schtick since they'll be moving onto bigger things soon, but they were good sports. It was nice to see Apolo Dantes too. An underrated pro who had all the tools but lacked the charisma of the upper tier rudos. He did a good job holding this together. Pretty good match for a comedy bout. The humour was good natured and much more enjoyable than the stinkface et al. Still the King of Comedy, i wonder if anyone can top Porky for best comedic performance by year's end? Meanwhile, "The Game" Emilio Charles Jr looks like he is chomping at the bit for someone to feud with.
Mascara Ano 2000, Scorpio Jr. & Shocker vs. Rayo de Jalisco Jr., Perro Aguayo & Tarzan Boy (CMLL 03/17/00)
This was such a wonderful Arena Mexico crowd. The reverse angle shot of people packed to the rafters made it seem like one of the last truly old-school Arena Mexico crowds, In fact, this entire event feels like the closing chapter of the period of lucha that ran from Atlantis' debut in 1983 through to March 2000, the only real historical period we have footage from and consequently my favourite era of lucha. The match was simple and formulaic but the crowd heat was a treat. Perro was such a beloved legend that all the rudos really had to do was mug for the audience, which I thought they did really well. Tarzan Boy kind of suck (let's be honest), but at least Shocker showed him up wonderfully. I always enjoy it when rudos get the better of chump tecnicos. It makes it seem as though there's a natural balance. Perro's comeback was fun and I loved the throwback to the MA2K match. Best of all, we got to see a complete match for a change which made this seem much more special than the regular Televisa bouts. Nice bout. Arguably the best trios match of the year thus far.
Atlantis vs. Villano III (CMLL PPV 03/17/00, Mask vs Mask)
I wasn't a huge fan of the buildup to this match. There are countless other apuesta builds I've enjoyed more. But the match itself is incredible. As soon as Villano Tercero enters the arena, you can feel the knot that must have been in his stomach and the goosebumps on his arms. You can feel the magnitude of the stip bearing down on you like a weight. Think of how many matches end with bloodied wrestlers demanding apuesta matches. Tempers flare, torn masks and bloodied foreheads leave wrestlers' enraged and they lose their heads over what they're proposing. Rarely do the matches reach fruition and only a scant few can be called legendary. This is a legendary apuesta match. I don't know if it's the greatest apuesta match of all-time, but it may be the closest thing our generation has come to a wager match on the level of Black Shadow vs. El Santo,
Has Atlantis ever been more popular than he was this night? For one evening he was an idol on the level of the great Golden Era stars of lucha libre. The match was built to along strong rudo vs. tecnico lines but transcended those battle lines. There was too much at stake for it to simply be about good vs. evil. They set this up nicely with Villano Tercero agreeing to Atlantis' demands to change the ref. If they had followed their WWF inspired booking to a tee, Baby Richards would have made a run-in at the end and Atlantis would have screwed Atlantis, but this was as traditional a lucha libre mask vs. mask match as you will see with a wonderful Arena Mexico crowd that was in full voice. The ringwork was simple and effective and they squeezed everything they could out of the gigging they did. Atlantis' selling, which is so often hammy and overwrought, was nigh on perfect. The drama with the doctor was outstanding and the rest of the match was awash with amazing visuals and phenomenal nearfalls. People often complain about the referees in lucha but I thought Rafa El Maya was fantastic in this, especially his finger wagging and bobbing from side to side during the submission nearfalls. That added extra drama to whether the combatant would submit. It also illustrated how the quick submissions in regular matches provide a norm that is transcended in important matches where both men refuse to quit. The crowd shots were wonderful. The blood was a gruesome and fantastic visual especially when soaked up by the white of Atlantis' mask and offset by the pink of Villano's attire. I liked the knee strike transitions and I thought Atlantis' plancha was an extremely effective sequence that provided a nice piece of symmetry to the initial VIllano tope. The finishing stretch after the plancha with all of its counters and nearfalls was an inspired passage of work and the finish was a thing of absolute beauty. That may be the best finishing stretch I've seen in lucha. The part where Villano escapes from La Atlantida is an incredible moment in the match and his desperate, lunging clothelines are incredible. The nuanced back sell and Atlantis dropkicking the injury were wonderful details that further illustrated the high level they were working at. Just tremendous lucha.
And of course, there was the post-match. Arguably, the most emotional and genuine post match aftermath of any recorded lucha we have. The outpouring of passion and joy and endurance from everyone in attendance was spine tingling. The workers sold the post-match beautifully and the narrative turned to themes of family, pride and time-honored traditions. Villano Tercero gave the speech of his life, the crowd supported him wonderfully and the entire unmasking was magnificent. My favourite moment was a slightly doddery Ray Mendoza overcome by emotion and receiving a kiss from Dr. Morales. That moment transcended any comment anyone could ever make about the silliness of fake fighting. It was a small but touching moment on an incredible night for lucha libre. One of the greatest matches of all-time and a true lucha classic. Match of the Year, Match of the Decade, maybe even the Match of the Century. And now I've run out of words.