Blue Panther/Sergio el Hermoso vs Solar/Super Astro, 10/18/87
This is a match I've seen a few times before and never cared for, but after being so impressed with Sergio el Hermoso in the Exoticos match, I thought I'd give it another run through. In all honesty, I wish I hadn't. I can't believe such a poor match gets touted as some kind of 80s find.
It starts off with the promise of Solar/Panther matwork, and Solar is awesome on the mat, but Panther's counters are awful by his standards. On a good night, you'd expect Panther to take charge and match Solar hold for hold, but his counters were unimaginative and amounted to surfboard variations. The rest of the match was just as uninspired. For the most part it was a rudo beatdown, and while Panther threw some great punches, the match just drifted. Solar did his upmost to put some extra zip into his whips and so forth, but he was the only guy having a good night. Sergio el Hermoso was slow and didn't want to bump. He didn't make the slightest difference by his presence and could've easily not been there. Solar was the only guy who tried to up the tempo, and if you don't vary the pace in a match, it meanders. The highlight of the final two falls was Solar getting amazing lift on his backbreaker. I think they had problems with the ropes, but there's other ways to rally back.
There's a point where a match goes from being a letdown to pretty much crap and that happened when there was no technico fight back and no rudo bumping. The match was underwhelming and then it just went under. Chief whinge this, but it's bad.
Dandy/Chicana/Lizmark vs Satanico/Charles/Estrada, 11/9/1990
This was a teaser for the big hair match. I hadn't seen 1990 El Dandy for a while, but before the match they showed him visiting a family and he looked every bit the champion of the world, with his black eye and open collar shirt. And check out the shoes.
This was Dandy at the peak of his powers. I liked how Satanico wouldn't grapple. El Dandy had to fight 3 on 1 just to get a piece of Satanico and even then Satanico wouldn't give a sucker an even break. My favourite spot was when he got caught one-on-one with Dandy and pulled his hair back in despair. He stepped into Dandy and hooked him square in the jaw. Such an awesome ruse. The body shots were as good as ever, but the skirmishs were better. They had one flare up where Satanico kept shrugging off the blows and leading with the knee, and Dandy was just pummeling him.
It wouldn't be much of a trios if the other guys were spectators, and they matched the pace. Chicana was nailing guys like a golden gloves boxer, Lizmark ripped through his spots and the rudos took huge bumps. The third fall dives were awesome, and it ended like all trios should, with Dandy quicker on the draw.
Casas/Espectro Jr/Espectro De Ultratumba vs Mendoza/Dandy/Negra, 6/19/92
Dandy vs. Casas. If you woke up and found it was all a dream, you'd swear nothing could ever be this good.
Maybe the strikes weren't as good as Dandy v Satanico, but Casas has to be the most audacious wrestler to ever set foot in a ring. A lot of wrestlers start clean and cheat when they can't get an advantage, but not Casas... He fouled his way through the entire match; pretty much spat in Dandy's eye... Then at the end, when Dandy was trying to hook him in the surfboard, he wouldn't give his arms. Dandy slapped him in the face, but Casas kept his upper body tucked. Finally Dandy straightened his arms, but as he was leaning back, Casas pulled forward, breaking the hold. And if that weren't enough, he pinned him, clean as a whistle, with his very own hold. All those slaps, punches and jabs to the eye, and when it comes down to it, he's the better man on the canvas. You have to marvel at how Casas worked backwards from foul to clean pin.
For the most part, the others steered clear and let Casas and Dandy go at it, but they chimed in when they could and the Espectros were fun in their role. I've got a soft spot for Ringo Mendoza, and he got into the swing of this with some great punches and a tope. When the main theme is contempt between rivals, you have to shadow that and they made sure there was no shortage of animosity.
A good pair of trios. Close call as to which was better. The difference was probably 1990 El Dandy vs. 1992 Dandy. He was bigger in '92 and blew up from time to time, whereas in 1990 he was in the shape of his life and a phenom.
El Toreo "Requiem por una Era", 12/3/08
This was a farewell show for Toreo de Cuatro Caminos (aka El Toreo), the famous wrestling venue, which, after 64 years, is being torn down and replaced by a shopping mall and apartment complex.
Elimination tournament for the Copa UWA Toreo:
- Scorpio Jr./Shu el Guerrero vs. Super Astro/Ultraman
- Villano IV/Villano V vs. Rambo/Kahoz
If you've ever seen any of the tournaments that the lucha promotions run, you'll know what to expect from this. A little bit of this, a little bit of that, but not much in the way of matches. Still, there was a good crowd on hand and I enjoyed it for what it was.
The Space Cadets were a bit disappointing and Shu got stuck partnering Scorpio Jr., who was gravely ill only a few months before. As you can imagine, he wasn't about to bump and guys took it real easy with him. Try as he may, he hasn't got a knack for the bastard rudo thing, where a broken down guy gets by on charisma.
A lot of guys are high on Villano V at the moment, and I can see why, since he hits hard, but once you get past that, the guy doesn't move particularly well. One of the highlights of the tournament was Villano IV working the mat with Rambo. Another was his tope. I don't think there's any question who the better Villano is. With all this talk about how good a brawler Villano V is, the final was rudos contra rudos and an old style brawl, where they actually ripped each other's masks; something a certain mask match could've used.
Dos Caras/Canek vs. Dr Wagner Jr./Mil Mascaras
Dos Caras is amazing. The guy is almost 60 years old, but man can he go. If you enjoyed the Santo/Caras matwork on the Todo x el Todo show, you need to see this, as Caras wrestles for longer and actually makes Wagner work for a change. This was fantastic stuff.
Mil Mascaras, on the other hand, was hilarious. He's gotta be pushing 70 by now and saying he's decrepit would be putting it nicely. Wagner did all his usual bullshit, and Mascaras kept staring at it like "what the fuck is this guy doing?" Finally he demanded to be tagged in and did some of the frailest looking shit you'll ever see. Canek was working with him, and I've never seen a guy work so softly with another guy in all my life. There was a whole bunch of Wagner bullshit at the end, and Mascaras stood there adjusting his crotch. Wagner challenged Canek to a mask match and Mascaras stopped, listened for a while and walked off like an Alzheimer's patient.
Seriously you want to see this for the Dos Caras matwork and submissions.
Mystico De La Juarez/Silver King/Rubi Gardenia v. Cassandro/Magno/El Hijo Del Santo, 12/9/08
This was by far and away the match of the year. So, alright, it wasn't wrestled in Mexico and didn't have a lucha crowd; in fact the atmosphere was difficult to describe, with the announcer putting it over like a cabaret show and DJs playing between falls, but it was a hell of a trios match and an awesome live show. Hell, it made me wanna fly over to London for the next foray.
As others have noted, Cassandro is an incredible live performer. Rubi Gardenia had a grand entrance, but sorry honey, Cassandro is twice the woman you are, and twice the man. He was promoted as a "lip-locking, transvestite wrestler," and in lesser hands it might've been a sideshow, but he strut his stuff like he was on West End. He completely won the crowd over and someone threw him flowers at the end. It was like that old Cukor film A Star is Born with Judy Garland. But enough of that. His main job here was clueing the crowd into how lucha works. For fans like us, this was a classic lucha trios, but the crowd were mostly unfamiliar with lucha. For them it was a night out. They were a bit iffy on the rudo beatdown and technico comeback, and it was Cassandro who keyed them in to the babyface comeback.
As far as the work goes, when you see a match where the guys you think will be the weakest of the lot turn out to be really fucking good, you know you've got a trios on your hands. I'm talking about Mystico De La Juarez and Magno, who were fantastic in this. There was a classic progression from matwork to dives, and rudo beatdown to technico comeback, and as you'd expect, the falls overlapped each other. Santo saved himself for the finishes and they were AWESOME lucha finishes, just spectacular stuff. I was enamoured with those finishes. And the ending! That was one of the great endings to a lucha trios. The DJ's choice isn't what I'd play, but damn did I wanna get on my feet. I love how Cassandro wept on the turnbuckle.
This was the final match on the December tour, and with the summer shows getting rave reviews, this was another outrageous success. Their website says, "Is it wrestling? Is it theatre? Is it cabaret? Who knows?" I'll tell you what, it might be the best lucha live show around. The crowds might be better in Mexico, but the festivities sure beat half empty arenas.
The only thing I didn't like was Silver King aping his brother, but he made up for it by slapping the shit out of guys. Here's to many more shows. And kudos to the guy who shouted "joint promotions" for no reason.
Solar vs. Blue Demon Jr., NWA World Heavyweight Title, 12/9/08
When Santo was asked what London could expect from Lucha Libre, this was his answer: "You will see a contact sport but a great part of it is close to art. This is because in lucha we wrestle close to the canvas where you will see a lot of movement with ‘castigos’, holds and locks, it becomes harmonious and this beautiful skill converts into art." Perhaps so, but not when junior's involved.
Solar's a great worker, but Blue Demon Jr. is such a difficult carry. Some of his holds are OK, but the set-up is so listless. The beauty of wrestling is in the struggle, but with Blue Demon Jr. there's no fight, no understanding of what makes professional wrestling great. You can't expect a crowd like this to be into a lucha libre title match, it's a tough ask. You've gotta take your time and win folks over. That takes skill and charisma, neither of which the Demon possesses. I wanted to enjoy the Solar matwork, but by the end of this, even I was bored. Blue Demon Jr is a bland motherfucker and the crowd were forced to sit through his kind of match. They weren't enjoying it and made it plain. Either pick up the pace or end it.
The lulls in this were brutal, but it made me appreciate Cassandro's performance even more, because if you don't sell and have no charisma, you've no hope of entertaining people. Blue Demon Jr. is more than 40 years old and all he's ever learnt are the mechanics of pro-wrestling. He's half a worker... You can't have something beautiful and harmonious without a little bit of soul, and Blue Demon Jr's a guy who never found himself in the ring. He's a luchador with a mask and a tenuous connection to the past, and I don't see the hunger. There's a type of vanity to performing and the guy doesn't have it. Makes you think he chose the wrong profession, but y'know, Solar wasn't great here either, so in the end they couldn't pull it off.
These are based on the Tapatía Awards over at cubsfan's site.
Best Wrestler -- Negro Navarro
Negro Navarro is the best wrestler in Mexico. He looked good in everything I saw from him and his matwork was amazing every time he wrestled. Moreover he deserves credit for reinventing himself in his late 40s/early 50s, because the Navarro you see today is different from the guy who resurfaced in the 2001 El Dandy matches. Not a lot of guys change what works for them, and even fewer get better with age, but Navarro's become a more fearsome grappler than at any point in his career. And the promising thing is that he's so good from a vertical base, and so good on the mat, that he doesn't need to take a lot of bumps. So long as he maintains his leg strength, he's got plenty left in him.
A top five would go something like this -- Navarro, Black Terry, Solar, Virus and Blue Panther. If Panther were working the independent scene, I'd probably be gushing over him, but he has to dumb his shit down in CMLL. To me, Panther has always been a mat guy, who developed his skills between the ropes so he could work with anyone. Present CMLL has a strong emphasis on the latter, cutting matwork to a minute or less. And while Panther had some decent throwback matches, I thought he was noticably slower and more awkward looking doing the standard CMLL filler. Plus they had him brawl for most of the year, in a promotion that runs amazingly shitty brawls, when it's not his strength and doesn't suit the way he's sold over the years. Those are my critical reasons for not picking him as the No.1 guy, but he's still Blue Panther and he would've been awesome in a better setting.
Black Terry and Solar speak for themselves, though I never got to see the Black Terry matches I wanted to watch and Solar was disappointing in the latter half of the year, but Terry is ageless doing the same shtick that's made him a living all these years and Solar is still the complete luchador. The big surprise was Virus. I watched a bunch of stuff I wouldn't ordinarily watch and man can he go. He's the kind of guy who seems comfortable with his spot; a hard working rudo foil who makes everyone around him better. You've gotta admire that, because he's out there night after night with kids who don't have a quarter of his talent, all vying to move up the card, and the guy's giving them a helping hand. But the real treat is when he works with another vet. Why CMLL don't let Virus and Felino tear the house down on one of their smaller shows is beyond me. They had some of the best exchanges all year.
Best Match -- Mystico De La Juarez/Silver King/Rubi Gardenia v. Cassandro/Magno/El Hijo Del Santo, Lucha Libre London, 12/9/08
Up until I saw this match, I didn't have a match of the year and thought it was either the youtube clips of Black Terry vs. Negro Navarro, or, in all likelihood, something we never got to see, but this was the most entertaining thing I saw all year. Others might not appreciate it as much, but that's like coming out of a movie and your friends not matching your enthusiasm; it doesn't take away from the luster. Everybody has their own sense of rhythm and this was a triumph as far as I'm concerned. What can I say, it was fantastic.
Best Technico -- Freelance
I haven't heard what happened to him since he almost pulled an Oro on a botched dive, but he's so good at the stuff between dives that he doesn't need to do that shit. There's no point risking life and limb on tiny IWRG shows, so I hope he cuts back on the high risk, low reward stuff. Anyway, he's got a lot of fight for a guy his size and was the most charismatic technico I saw all year.
Best Rudo -- None
I saw a lot of great rudo foils this year -- Virus, Arkangel de La Muerte, Skandalo, Ephesto, even Mini Damian, and there's always guys like Black Terry, but when it came to feuds, rivalries or programs, there wasn't much to say about the rudos. The rivalry of the year was probably Villano V vs. Blue Panther, and Villano V may win this in the actual Tapatía Awards, but I wasn't too shocked by Panther losing his mask. The morning of the show I logged onto cubsfan's site and there was a guy who reckoned Villano would win, so it was kinda in the back of my mind. I don't think he's a good enough worker to win this category, but CMLL won't let them brawl Monterrey style, so who knows how heated it could've been.
Best Unit -- Los Oficiales
These are the only guys I'd consider. From what I saw, they got better throughout the year, but footage of these guys was few and far between. It's a great gimmick and they started gelling as a three man act, whereas before I thought they were better at individual match-ups. IWRG threw some pretty limited guys at them, and while I don't think they can carry anyone, they bumped their way into the collective consciousness.
Best Promotion -- The Scraps
All the best stuff came from AULL, IWRG, NWA Mexico, Lucha Libre London, etc. We were living off the scraps.
La Sombra/Volador Jr. vs. Averno/Mephisto, CMLL World Tag Team Championship, 1/16/09
Where do you start a match? Do you start from dives or do you start from the ground up?
If you ask this layman, you either start from the mat, or from rudo brawling, and you hold off on your dives until the time is right. But the only building blocks these guys have are their dives and tricked out moves, so they go to them early.
Stuff happens... It just happens. None of these guys time their moves to get a proper response. It shouldn't be this easy for a rudo to counter a hold or a technico to do a dive. It makes the whole thing look choreographed, because the only rhythm is the rhythm of them performing a move. "Less is more" is lost on these workers, along with a lot of other basic skills. But I don't just blame the workers. The crowd don't give a fuck about the falls either. They'll toot their horns no matter what. Once they cottoned on to the fact they were part of the show, the caidas became less important than the cheering sections. They don't give a shit what happens so long as their favourite side wins.
The biggest problem, however, (and I'm gonna go to town here), is how insipid Averno and Mephisto are. There was an injury in this match that basically left Volador Jr. two-on-one, and you know what happens in the end, right? So this is the part of the match where the rudos are supposed to slow things down, because that's what rudos do. They don't play the high stakes moves game, they beat people up and later on they pay for it. But not our demonic little friends. They do the same bullshit they'd do with Volador if Sombra were still on the apron. Honestly, if you can't beat a guy up while his partner is laid out, what the fuck are you a rudo for?
Forget about the great rudos of the past, journeymen rudos would've worked this better. Ephesto did a better job than this back in December. The moment that summed it up for me was when they were backing Volador Jr. into the corner and the idiot was playing to the crowd. Watch this! It's my turn to do a move!
I should've prefaced this by saying that I hate tag title matches more than anything else in CMLL, and I haven't enjoyed one since the Mistico/Casas vs. Averno/Mephisto one back in 2006, which had shifts in momentum through three falls, but you can't tell me that this was as dramatic as it could've been. There were some good ideas in the finish, but, like the rest of the match, they didn't build to it. You got a sense of how Mephisto's downfall came about, but if they'd just pause for half a second we could take it all in.
If this were a script, you'd say it needed a re-write. They've gotta weight things more, time those cut-offs and comebacks and earn momentum. And for God's sake, rudos have to hurt people. Ask yourself this -- would it have been better if Sombra had broke his arm off a missed dive or because the rudo broke it for him? Then ask yourself, why is CMLL so soft?
Sangre Chicana vs. Villano III (12/3/83; may be from '84)
Eighties lucha! Where men were men and mano a mano meant hideous bladejobs.
Sangre Chicana has always been one of my favourite workers to watch. You watch a fight like this and he gets so much out of nothing, whereas today's kids get nothing out of too much. He took a beating here and his forehead was gashed, and not only was his selling better than anything I saw out of CMLL for the entirety of last year, but his offence amounted to a punch and tope. The tope was incredible, just a sickening clash of heads... You completely bought that Villano wasn't gonna make the count, and that Chicana couldn't keep fighting, even if no ref was gonna stop him. Villano was a mess and despite the fact he'd only been hit by a tope all match long, he was a sick man.
There was no way they were gonna go on fighting after that and the finish was a double DQ. These guys fought each other throughout the 80s, in what was essentially an EMLL vs. UWA match-up, so this was just another tease for a hair vs. mask match, but it's a nice ode to "six moves or less" lucha, that leaves the mat a little stained and the workers a bloody pulp.
Negro Casas vs. Blue Panther, CMLL Guadalajara, 8/3/08
I enjoyed this.
It reminded me of those old school mano a mano contests, minus the blood. Mano a mano is neither a title match or a hair vs. mask match, so you have to take it down a notch (or two) in the event that one of those stips takes place. A Negro Casas/Blue Panther program is unlikely to happen at this point, but these guys were schooled in the old ways. They told a simple story about Casas cheating, the ref preventing Panther from retaliating and Panther becoming frustrated at rudo and ref alike, and while they weren't wrestling for anything as such, it became a matter of pride as to who would win. And while the work was enough to convince anyone that these guys can still wrestle, what I took away from the match is that after 30 years in the business they care enough to try and get a small Guadalajara crowd into an otherwise meaningless match.
All told it was just another night at the lucha, but the entertaining part was that while it was a matter of pride, the point of pride was of that of a rudo vs. that of a technico. Casas wanted to win by cheating. Panther, who'd usually win with technique, wanted the win as a matter of principles. Maybe that sounds old fashioned, but I think that heel/face dynamic is lost on a lot of workers today, who just wanna win with the most spectacular move they can conjure, regardless of whether they're a technico.
Anyway, I'm holding out hope for whatever Casas does as a rudo this year.
Los Oficiales vs. Black Terry/Cerebro Negro/Dr Cerebro, Distrito Federal Trios Championship, IWRG, 9/18/08
Black Terry is such a legend. There was a close-up of him early on, watching from the apron... A little tape from the cut man, a bit of gum to loosen up...
He looked a little weathered, but without geting out too out there, that rough, charismatic look kinda summed this match up.
This wasn't a classic, and it was a little rough around the edges, but it had a sort of magneticism about it. It was rudos contra rudos and the way they chose to express that was through stiffness. Even when they took it to the mat, they were looking to hurt each other. There was a lot of stand and deliver stuff, with guys trying to make hard hittng sounds, and Terry's ability to take a shot and fire one back is almost as spectacular as the matwork he did with 911. The match generally followed a theme of what Larry Z might call "manliness" and that's what you want from fringe stuff like this. I could've done without some of the indie looking moves, but I suppose they're inevitable these days. Los Oficiales were a bit subdued compared to matches where they rule the roost as rudos, but with Black Terry at the helm this was one of the better matches of 2008.
Terry's matwork is the reason I gravitate towards this type of lucha. He was thinking ahead the whole time. He'd get 911 in a hold, release it and back off. From the neutral position, he had a counter for everything. 911 wasn't sure what Terry was aiming for, until Terry finally had the submission he wanted. He was never gonna submit, but lucha, in many ways, is about denting the other guy's pride. 911 walked away knowing he'd been beat. So the next time they squared off, he wanted to duke it out, which made sense considering his height advantage. And while it must be pointed out that 911 didn't work this exchange particularly well, Terry busting the guy's nose up and tossing him out of the ring like a piece of garbage was badass and another reason why Black Terry is a legend.
Blue Panther vs. Mr. Niebla, Arena Puebla, 11/17/08
What is the deal with Mr. Niebla? Fuck he's an awful worker.
But the real problem here was Panther.
And ever since he unmasked, he's been doing this "old man in peril" act where he looks piss weak. It doesn't matter whether he fights back with a punch or a tope, it all looks weak. Guys like El Faraón never showed their age, but Panther can't seem to help it. His selling is shitty, and I hate the way he draws support by lying on the mat and clenching his leg... He's already got the stigma of losing his mask, yet he takes one beating after another. When he is gonna stop working like this and show some fight?
If you put Panther and Villano III in a hair match tomorrow, I wouldn't buy that Panther could take Villano's hair. He needs a major attitudinal shift. The stuff he does now was OK when he wore a mask, but he shouldn't be taking shit from anyone at this point, especially a guy like Niebla.
What was the point of Niebla conning Panther into a DQ finish? Is everyone gonna pile on Panther? How fucking dumb is CMLL? I'm slowly realising/coming to terms with the fact that nobody can work anymore, but booking is a whole nutha matter. Panther has got to be the weakest looking guy in Mexico right now and that's fucking stupid. I can't think of any older technico who'd put up with this. They'd all be demonstratively against it.
Get angry Panther.
El Toreo Requiem Part 2, UWE, 1/23/09
This is a long goodbye. Not that I'm complaining or anything.
LOS CADETES DEL ESPACIO SOLAR, SUPER ASTRO Y ULTRAMAN
LOS MISIONEROS DE LA MUERTE NEGRO NAVARRO, SIGNO Y BLACK POWER
This was all about Negro Navarro vs. Solar, and I'd go on and on about how great it was, but you know how much of a junkie I am for this stuff. The other guys weren't so bad on the mat, but their timing isn't what it used to be and neither is their strength. The Cadetes stay grounded these days, though Solar and Super Astro managed to work a classic Space Cadets tope spot. That left Solar alone v Navarro. I'm a real mark for these Negro Navarro standoffs; they're like a spaghetti western showdown with the bounty-killer. This wasn't quite up to a Ennio Morricone score, but Solar was awesome, incorporating stuff they'd done for show into a match winning bid. The finish was supremely satisfying, and while the match wasn't up to the one they had when Texano was still alive, I couldn't have asked for much more.
VILLANO IV Y V
SHU EL GUERRERO Y ENGENDRO
This was another good match. Shu is feuding with the Villanos at the moment and coming dangerously close to losing his mask to Quinto, but I'm enjoying this far more than the crap with Panther. The Villanos look far better in UWE than CMLL, especially Villano V. What impressed me most about this match was Engendro. It was supposed to be a revenge match between the Villanos and Shu/Scorpio Jr., but it was all the better for having Engendro involved. He was everywhere he needed to be to keep this ticking over as a brawl. This was a strong mascara contra mascara riff running through this, and the fact Engendro lost his mask to Villano IV once upon a time was a neat twist. Most of all it was nice to have a Shu showcase in the early part of 2009. The guy plays second or third fiddle a lot, and he's good at that, but it's cool to see him in a feud, even if it can only end badly for him.
CANEK, ENRIQUE VERA Y VILLANO III
MIL MASCARAS, DR. WAGNER JR. Y DOS CARAS
This was an attempt at working a classic UWA style mainevent brawl. Villano III wore his mask for old time's sake and it looked like an old man version of youtube clips you might see from El Toreo's heyday. Wagner toned it down a bit, which was a blessing, and Vera got stuck into him from the moment he entered the ring. We can only imagine he was saying, "fuck your bullshit, Wagner." Vera's brawling was pretty decent. No Dos Caras matwork, instead it was Canek's turn to look pretty good. Not much to say really. They pulled each other's masks off too much, and Villano III kept trying to hide his face until finally he walked around without his mask on (which was in Wagner's mouth.)
I skipped the opener, but check out the middle two matches.
Villano III/Gran Hamada/Eddy Guerrero vs. Shu el Guerrero/Scorpio/Scorpio Jr., Arena Neza, early 90s
With all the El Toreo shows taking place, I thought I'd do a little reminiscing of my own.
This was a fun fifteen minute match back when these guys could move a whole lot quicker. It started off as a non-descript rudo beatdown, but Villano got this inspired idea to beat everyone with a stick. He used the thing until it was just a handle and even swung it at the ref. I'm not a fan of guys using props, but I dug Villano as marshal, especially since he had a new mask on, with the old one flapping around his neck. As with most UWA guys, there's not a lot of footage of Villano III in his prime, but his fingerpints were all over this. The heat grew as a result of how pissed he was and that upped the tempo of the match. Suddenly they started having awesome exchanges. Shu was a fantastic bumper in his day and made Eddy look like a great lucha worker, taking rapidfire bumps off arm drags. Scorpio Sr. was a big guy at this point, as big as Shu in the past couple of years, and Gran Hamada bodyslammed him in yet another awesome spot. Junior was also a much better bumper in his younger days and so quick. He even looked like Fuerza at times. But in the thick of it all was Villano III, ripping away at Shu's mask and sending him crashing out of the ring in a great tailspin bump. There was another great spot where Scorpio Jr. tried to run away from Villano III on the outside, while Villano lay in wait.
Comedy spots, boxing, springboard dropkicks as your highspot... This was back when lucha was entertainment.
Gran Hamada vs. Centurión Negro, UWA World Middleweight Championship, 2/14/82 (2nd & 3rd falls only)
This was from a UWA Anniversary show at El Toreo De Naucalpan, and is supposedly one of the great lucha matches, but to me it was more of a juniors match than a great lucha match. That's not a knock on the match, I can just live without seeing backdrops and bridged suplexes in lucha.
Hamada's a good grappler, with awesome leg strength, and he's the kind of guy I like because he looks like an actual wrestler, but he was pushing the workrate here. Admittedly it was joined in progress, but the only semblance of a lucha title match were some octopus-like submissions from the mystery man, Centurión Negro. Whether Negro was good enough to have a Roman-Greco classic is anybody's guess, but he hung OK in the juniors style. There were a couple of topes onto the wet El Toreo floor, which left them covered in some sort of shit, and it turned into a bit of a sprint.
Aside from the setting, they could've had the same match anywhere in the world. When I watch lucha, I wanna see something you could only see in Mexico, not something with an early 80s juniors feel.
Satanico, Rambo y Fishman vs Villano III, Lizmark y Panterita del Ring
They only aired five minutes of this, but what was shown was pretty awesome.
Satanico was his usual maniacal self, ripping at Lizmark's mask and throwing in headbutts. When Lizmark rolled under the bottom rope, Satanico tried to reach through the ropes and grab him. I swear Satanico is the greatest improviser I've seen in wrestling. Not only does he follow-up on everything, but he's forever selling his obsession with that particular opponent. Later on, it was Lizmark who was obsessed, laying in the most awesome looking kicks and hitting perfect back breakers. He nailed some flush looking dropkicks and this was better than anything they did in their singles match. Hunched over Lizmark, ready to rip someone apart was an awesome visual. He was just about the best technico in AAA at this time, at least when it came to trios matches. His singles matches weren't that great, but he brought an old school vibe to tag matches.
Psicosis, Espectro Jr y Parka vs Rey Misterio Sr y Jr, y Lizmark
This was a good example of what I mean. I'm not gonna win any friends with this comment, but the Psicosis/Misterio Jr. exchanges in this match were pretty much the pre-cursor for the crap we see today. Lizmark and Espectro, on the other hand, had an awesome 80s style EMLL exchange that was one of the best mat exchanges I've seen in AAA.
The match itself was really good. It had a perfect rhythm for an AAA style match and they managed to work a number of dives and bumps onto the match without turning it into an AAA clusterfuck. It was a blend of comedy and big spills from the rudos. Nowdays all the rudos want to match it with technicos, but these guys sold big time, worked in the miscommunciation spots and didn't mind looking foolish in front of the crowd. Lizmark had a classic tope fake, which the rudos sold to comic perfection, and to me that's more spectacular than a slow-mo on some tricked out dive to nowhere. And they could flip the switch and get back to some serious brawling, whereas today's guys can't even brawl let alone bump in unison and wind up on their asses. The finish was really simple, but in lucha simple means beautiful. Misterio Sr. threw Psicosis over the top rope for an insane bump to the concrete, which Misterio Jr. followed up with a spectacular dive. Sr. went to the top rope for a plancha, and Lizmark won it in the ring like the classy technico that he was. I'd love to see today's technicos do a simple three part finish.
Satanico/Espectro/Psicosis vs Lizmark/Santo/Aguayo
This was a really good brawl that began with some great triple teaming from the rudos. Espectro was an original member of the Infernales and therefore the rudos worked that EMLL style that I favour so much. They cut each technico off from his partners and Satanico worked mano a mano with Perro Aguayo. Perro was pretty bad at this point, but he could still fire a crowd up and the technicos worked a great brawling comeback. Psicosis and Espectro were similar sorts of workers and had some awesome chemistry here. They must've bumped into each other a million times in the course of this match, and y'know, whenever Psicosis knuckled down, he was as good as any of the veteran rudos. It was a close call as to who was better between Santo and Lizmark. I tend to think that Santo dumbed his style down in AAA and mostly worked rope exchanges, but Santo was pretty fucking awesome at the flashy stuff. Lizmark mostly worked with Espectro and again their stuff was brilliant. The finish was a little weak, as it ended with Psicosis giving Santo a low blow, but on the replay you could see how the opportunity arose for Psicosis. It was too good to pass up and he just went for it.
I dunno if it was on account of Perro being incredibly slow, but Satanico looked past his prime here. He did some awesome selling, but the AAA style demanded pace, and as hard as Satanico charged at people, there's only so many miles you can clock.
Negro Casas/Heavy Metal v. La Sombra/Volador Jr., CMLL World Tag Team Championship, 2/13/09
Negro Casas and Heavy Metal made a great team here.
Heavy Metal's a guy I never liked watching in AAA. In fact, if there's a hell below, the only lucha I'll find is Heavy Metal vs. Jerry Estrada on an endless loop. Yet somewhere along the way he's developed into a real asskicker. He still looks like he's on something, but I liked how he carried himself here. I guess it was a combination of the short hair, tattoos and the way he avoided looking his opponents in the eyes. He was staring a hole in something, but hardly ever looked up. That was the sort of intensity the Casas brothers brought to the match and I enjoyed the opening exchanges. Heavy Metal was fierce with his grappling. He hung on for a second or two before making his move, which is one of the basic elements missing from lucha today. And he'd pause ever so slightly before wrenching a hold or throwing a punch, just to give it that extra effect.
So from the Casas brothers' side it was quite a kick ass little match, but there was still the problem of Sombra and Voldor sucking. All they really did in this match was dives and springboard moves, and while the set-up was better than usual and the Casas brothers sold well, the technicos were as weak as ever. The match rocketed along at a fair clip and some of the dives were genuinely exciting, as was Casas' awesome selling at the end, but fuck those masks looked ridiculous. The rudos completely outclassed the technicos, which rudos shouldn't do, and it wasn't much in the way of a carry. It was more like two great workers imposing their will on two shit workers.
Negro Casas/Felino/Heavy Metal v. Sagrado/Mascara/ El Volador, Arena Puebla, 2/8/09
So, Negro Casas fits the mainevent scene like a glove, Heavy Metal has his working boots on and it's great that Felino's getting some sort of push again; potentially the Casas Brothers are a really good trios. But what a sorry bunch of technicos. They all look the same, they wrestle the same and I don't know how I'm supposed to tell them apart. If it were up to me, I'd shoot the lot. Obviously that's not going to happen, so the onus is on the rudos to have better matches with them, and if you think the rudos did that here, you're glossing over how utterly crap this was.
There was some semblance of trios structure, but no focus. If you don't pair off at the beginning, then you just end up going through the motions. The Arena Puebla crowd were in good voice and banged away on their drums merrily. The problem these days is no one gives a fuck. Casas was even joking around with a photographer. I wouldn't say they mailed it in, but I don't wanna see fat cat comedian Felino. I wanna see the Felino that tears it up with Virus. And when a technico gets a pop for taking his shirt off, I'm sorry that's just pathetic.
Not a good start for the Casas Brothers.
They shoot technicos, don't they?
Asturiano/Black Tiger/Centella De Oro vs Espiritu Maligno/Fuerza Chicana/Siki Ozama Jr., Arena Puebla, 1/26/09
This was my first look at the Puebla locals and I was impressed.
It wasn't a perfect match, but cubsfan nailed it when he said: "being there to hit your move just as the guy turns around to take [it] is such a great skill but one seemingly missing from a lot of CMLL guys." These guys showed that with the right timing you can hit upon a far better rhythm than "baseless" lucha. Add to that some colourful characters and a Black Terry-ish veteran in Centella De Oro and you have the best undercard action since 1997. The match was mostly spots and guys acting as bases for each other, but even in the slower patches I thought the work was good. In most trios matches, the falls overlap each other. If the rudos win a fall, they'll pick up where they left off, forcing the technicos to mount a comeback. It's a transition period of sorts, and can be difficult to execute, but in recent times the tendency has been to view it as dead air. Workers have started skipping over it or culling it altogether, but without that down time, the comeback is forgettable. These guys weren't exactly seamless with their transitions, but they carried momentum through three falls and filled in the early parts of each falll, and for that they ought to be saluted. Fun match.
Hijo de Cien Caras, Mascara Año 2000 Jr. y Negro Navarro vs. El Pantera, Mano Negra y Halcon Ortiz, 8/21/08
No matwork in this one, just a soft brawl. Still it was pretty harmless. Mano Negra and Pantera did some neat spots off the ropes and Halcon Ortiz looked better than Mil Máscaras.
Los Oficiales vs. Fantasma de la Opera, Dr. Cerebro y Cerebro Negro, Distrito Federal Trios Championship, 8/24/08
I really dug this. They may have been a little safe with the structure, but it was at least recognisable as lucha libre. Nothing outwardly spectacular, just guys chiming in at the right time. There were some decent mat exchanges between 911 and Dr. Cerebro & Fierro and Cerebro Negro, and Fantasma de la Opera did a good job as the guy who swings the momentum. It was a little telegraphed, but a cautious approach to structure is better than no structure at all.
The Oficiales lack the journeyman instincts that a lot of older rudos have, and I get the feeling that they don't have much in the way of shtick, but what I'd like to see from them (if IWRG ever gets TV again) is more bite. Fantasma de la Opera & Co. were chippy here, and I think in a better trios match they would've made more out of that, but the Oficiales tend to rotate the strike. 911 was the captain, but there was never a sense that he was the key guy or that 911 vs. Fantasma de la Opera was the key match-up, because they don't pair off enough. They're great at backing each other up. They'll hit the ring and build off the previous exchange, and either retaliate or take the bump, but what's lacking is the chieftain factor. I hate to bring Satanico up, but he was a master at singling out the mano a mano contest within a trios match, and I think the Oficiales need to take turns being the chief. You don't need to be feuding over a singles title to work an inbuilt rivalry into a trios match, you just need to take charge and single each other out. The way Black Terry singled out 911 in their September title match.
Despite all that it was still a good match. You could pretty much call it, and it was a little cushioned, but damn it feels good to watch something that makes sense.
Black Tiger, Centella de Oro, Tigre Rojo vs. Karisma, Mr. Rafaga, Siki Ozama Jr., 1/5/09
What I like about the Puebla locals is how they come in all shapes and sizes. Add to that the weird assortment of gimmicks and you have the sort of charm that's been missing from CMLL since they decided to push guys with abs. I also like how they stick to the game plan, regardless of how good they are. The first caida is matwork, the second is either a rudo beatdown or a technico comeback and the third is the crowd pleaser. It's a faster paced style than classic lucha, but everyone works the mat, the finishes are intricate and they aren't chained to the dives. Centella de Oro is just about the best technico worker you'll see on a CMLL card. Not all of the locals are good and they sometimes get bogged down, but Centella de Oro always comes up trumps and worked the smoothest of exchanges with Siki Ozama Jr.
Akira & King Jaguar vs. Mr. Rafaga & Toro Bill Jr., 1/19/09
TORO BILL JR. is awesome. Remember that name, you'll be hearing a lot more about him in the future. Not only is he ridiculously good at just about every aspect of lucha libre, it's all wrapped in a Dick Togo package. And damnit if he isn't a rudo. He actually had the gumption to tear King Jaguar's mask completely, and they were about an inch away from what would've been a bladejob in days gone by. He bit Jaguar's forehead and even gnawed on Akira's fingers when he had him in a wristlock, and his headbutts to the stomach were reminiscent of how rudos used to work. His partner in this was an older rudo by the name of Mr. Rafaga, who was only semi-good, but together they put a lot of guys to shame. They did the dirty work and let the technicos get the better of them, whether it was on the mat or off the ropes. Toro Bill Jr. took a nasty bump over the turnbuckle, ate a spectacular plancha from King Jaguar, had his mask torn off, ate all of Jaguar's best shit and jobbed hard. All in a day's work.
Asturiano, Centella de Oro, Lestat vs. Policeman, Toro Bill Jr., Toro Bill Sr., 2/2/09
This was a wild match that threatened to go off the rails, but managed to stay on track because of how good the rudos were. Toro Bill Sr. was having a whale of a time. He's a fat, older rudo, who knows he's a fat, older rudo and has fun with it. I loved how he bit on the tope fake by falling ass backwards into the crowd. There was a great shot of the big man sitting on a couple of guy's laps, wiping his forehead after such a close shave. And he was pretty spry for an older guy. He bumped well, ran the ropes at a reasonable clip and used his girth like a battering ram. Policeman is a journeyman type, who I wasn't sold on until he started having the most awesome punch exchange with Centella de Oro that demanded a singles match somewhere. And Toro Bill Jr. was incredible again, especially his tope. Heads clashed, just like they're supposed to. I wasn't too high on the other technicos, but sometimes three rudos and a good technico is all you need and watching Centella de Oro fight back was fun. The finish was something only a couple of luchadores are capable of.
Ray Mendoza vs. Tatsumi Fujinami, WWWF Junior Heavyweight Title, El Toreo, 8/13/78
Cubsfan pulled out a quote recently from El Santo's final interview, where he said: "back in my day, we wrestled on the mat - using holds that could kill a man - and now all they do is flying and clown stuff." It's the same lament you hear from every generation, but after watching Mendoza, I'm inclined to believe it. This was the twilight of his career, one of his last competitive fights before retiring in 1983. Even with a dodgy knee, his takedowns and matwork were phenomenal. Whatever skepticism there is over the halcyon days, there's no denying that this guy could wrestle.
Based on this match alone, I'd say he was the best mat worker I've seen. I love Satanico and his matches against Gran Cochisse and Ringo Mendoza, and I dug Mocho Coto v. Americo Rocca, but those guys were pinballs by comparison. Mendoza was fierce and had the look of a wrestler. If it had stayed on the mat, I have no doubt he could've killed Fujinami. Fujinami was a flashy junior, who fully embraced that 70s trope of leaving the mat to win a fall. He was a fantastic athlete (back when Japanese wrestling could attract fantastic athletes), but all limbs. Watching Mendoza school him with takedowns and leg locks was nothing short of amazing.
When he overpowered him to win the fall, I found a new lucha hero.
Cassandro vs. Rubi Gardenia, Chikara Welterweight title, Lucha Libre London, 12/7/08
From a star of the golden age to one of the biggest stars of 2008. Or at least I thought so. Judging by the Tapatia Awards, I'm completely out of touch with the lucha fanbase. Mind you, Cassandro was 8th in the Best Wrestler category and 5th in Best Technico, and I forgot to vote for him in both.
This was a fun 10 minute match with a little bit of everything. They floated through some dives and matwork and there was a bunch of hair pulling and bitchy slaps. It was a perfectly good houseshow match, with Casandro working the crowd like you'd expect. There was a cry of "C'mon, Wonder Woman!" which prompted Cassandro to leap over the barricade to find thes guy. The lucky bugger got a peck on the cheek. Gardenia was a good base and bumped well, and I think the comments about him being somewhat worthless are somewhat unfair.
Cassandro just happens to be the perfect mix of charisma and working ability, and the fact he's playing technico means he can show what an awesome worker he is without having to stooge. Thus, his star shines brighter. But Gardenia was everywhere he needed to be in this, he rolled with his bumps, sprang to his feet and got into position again. And that made for a tidy little showcase.
Nice one fall match.
Brazo de Plata vs. Asesino Negro, hair vs. hair, Arena Coliseo Guadalajara, 6/6/04
BATTLE OF THE SUPERHEAVYWEIGHTS! This is why lucha is so much fun. Just an awesome brawl between two fat guys. The crowd loved this and there were kids jumping up on the apron, despite a hideous double bladejob. I loved the front on collision when they charged at each other and all of their brawling. I also loved how Asesino Negro wouldn't accept the loss. That's right, Asesino. It ain't ever over. Colossal stuff.
Los Oficiales vs. Freelance, Marco Rivera, Veneno, 8/9/2007
With no new IWRG, I figured it's worth checking out the back catalogue. I dunno if it was the low bit-resolution or the fact the Oficiales were only a few months into their run, but they seemed fresher here. They were a well-oiled machine in this, cutting off the ring and working slick triple teams. Their brawling had a real snap to it and it was great to see them working as a unit.
As for Freelance -- the first chance he got, he almost killed himself. I realise that happens in every Freelance match, but this was amazing. He took off for a plancha suicida like he was taking off from the free throw line, but overshot the Oficial and landed head first on the floor. The doc seemed concerned, but in true Freelance fashion he shrugged it off and worked the most spectacular exchange of the match.
Everyone followed suit hitting big moves and wiping each other out. If lucha was this exciting all the time, I wouldn't have any cynicism about the younger generation.
Valiente vs. Rey Hechicero, WWA World Middleweight Championship, 1/27/08
This was good stuff. If I'd seen it earlier, I would've voted for it in the Tapatía Awards.
It was a genuine attempt at a lucha title match, with Valiente showing how skillful and competent he is on the mat. I'm sick of sounding like a broken record, but I can't understand why CMLL don't give us matches like this. With the numerous TV shows they have, you'd think they could throw out something authentic from time to time. There's no reason why you can't mix the old with the new, as this match aptly demonstrated. It was chock full of matwork and submissions, but had newish moves and pretty flying -- modern moves with a classic structure.
I'm sick of guys hiding how good they are on CMLL cards. Shit this good shouldn't be a throwback.
Anyway, y'all need to watch this and appreciate what a guy like Valiente is capable of. Rey Hechicero also looked like a quality worker and it was a deft little encounter. Some great struggles on the mat, smart use of the dives, jinking footwork. Good showing.