EL DANDY y ULTIMO VAMPIRO vs. NEGRO NAVARRO y PANTERA (IWRG 4/4/02)
Dandy vs. Navarro! This is the match where they use their fists a lot.
This past weekend I saw this match for the first time in years and was blown away by the Dandy/Navarro exchanges. Most of the pimping of Negro Navarro centers around his incredible matwork, and it's obvious why. But Navarro's someone that should get much more praise for being a complete worker with tremendous brawling skills and this is one of his great performances. In this bout, Navarro appears to be in the elite league of great brawlers like Bill Dundee and Dick Murdoch with his masterful use of fists and his selling of Dandy's strikes. Late in the final fall, Navarro nails Dandy with a KO looking punch that sends Dandy crumbling to the mat. One announcer starts to compare Navarro to Marco Antonio Barrera and later on the other announcer talks about how Navarro's fists have sent many people to the hospital. Navarro's striking ability is so strong that you actually believe the announcers! I guess the best way to describe Navarro's performance is "Dick Murdochian".
I always thought Pantera was one of the more underrated workers in lucha libre, and a really smooth technico worker. He's a rudo here, and spends a lot of time leading Ultimo Vampiro through the match. Pantera is solid enough in this role and does some good work with Ultimo Vampiro, who is without question the worst worker of the match. Pantera has some nice holds along the way, bumps good for Vampiro's stuff, and hits a great looking springboard senton. But it was awkward and ugly to see Vampiro lock a loose submission hold over Navarro and it was something one would have a hard time buying. Also, it's a major shame that the final showdown of the match was Pantera/Vampiro instead of it being an epic final conclusion to the great Navarro and Dandy story.
Like Dick Murdoch's giant bag of selling tricks, Navarro demonstrates a variety of ways to put over Dandy's strikes. In the match, he'll get hit by a punch and sell it as if his legs are buckling below him, he'll slightly lose his balance and try to regain his composure. At another moment, Dandy nails him and he slowly collapses against the ropes, and then he takes that Jerry Estrada bump on his head to the outside. One other example is he'll draw closer to Dandy to shorten the distance between Dandy and himself after a blow has rocked him. Dandy gets the better of Navarro with counter punches, and he has some cool moments dodging Navarro's stuff. Dandy absorbs a lot of punishment and it makes him look like such a tough badass. He takes Navarro's best right hooks, straight rights, uppercuts and bodyshots against the ropes. Dandy has that selling that is hard to pull off, the selling where he's trying to act like it's not hurting him but it's really killing him inside. It's awesome and it feels like a brutal war.
A few months after this, El Dandy started a AAA feud with El Hijo Del Perro Aguayo that turned out to be very disappointing and underwhelming. In 2004, he had a title match with LA Park that had both guys working hard but it was nothing more than OK. Of course, there is the possibility that some hidden post-2002 El Dandy gem gets discovered any day now, but this appears to be the final great El Dandy match. On the other hand, Navarro is still one of the best workers in the world and has had some great performances in 2009 against Solar I, Black Terry, Mike Quackenbush, and Dr. Cerebro.
This really was the tale of two wrestlers -- one of whom went on to become the wrestler of the decade and the other who faded into obscurity.
Flashback to 1992 and it seems unreal. Dandy was the middleweight champion of the world and still a draw at the main event/semi final level. Navarro was working a dying territory and hadn't been a draw since the Misioneros broke up in '86. I'm not sure what the story with Dandy is. Most people assume that he's burnt all his bridges and doesn't have a good enough relationship with the promoters to earn a veteran spot. I guess those were heady days back with the suits and shoes, and the nice watches. Big things had been predicted for Navarro early in his career, but according to Dr. Lucha, by 1991 he was reduced to working small independent shows, living off his reputation. I would've loved for the Misioneros to have jumped ship in '92 and reformed with Texano in the trios scene back then, but from all accounts, Navarro wasn't charismatic enough or a big enough draw to interest anyone. That should've been the end of Negro Navarro, and would've been if not for two things: the digital revolution and Navarro's rise from El Misionero to El Maestro.
The growth of digital technology has given us access to shows we would've never seen before, and while it's a pretty small circle of fans who'd consider Negro Navarro the best wrestler of the decade, fuck it, veterans working the indies has been the best thing about this decade. I'd love to know what motivates Negro Navarro and other UWA cast offs, but whatever it is, it's the difference between El Dandy and Negro Navarro in 2009.
To be fair, Negro Navarro is something of a late bloomer. Los Misioneros de la Muerte weren't the most charismatic group in Mexico. They were hailed by the lucha magazines for their new breed of skill, speed and athleticism, and Navarro was very much the "middle worker." I've seen scraps of Misioneros footage, and Navarro, while an excellent worker, never stood out from his peers. The interesting thing about this match is that it's somewhere between a Misioneros style performance and the focus on Navarro as a singles worker this decade.
Navarro's selling and bumping was straight out of his Misioneros days. We didn't really see his famed submission knowledge until the final fall, and even then it wasn't the single takedown stuff that's made him so tough in recent years. This was brawling style Negro Navarro, similar to how he's worked with Black Terry of late. I think I've said in the past that Navarro was never much of a brawler, but this match and a handheld I saw from '84 knock that idea on its ass. Navarro ducking and weaving like a pro-boxer was awesome, and the comparisons with Dick Murdoch and Lawler and Dundee are apt. Dandy was still the man here and the charisma from both workers was off the charts. Back in the Misioneros days, the Dandy/Navarro exchanges would've formed a small part of the overall match. Here, the match was stripped back, and Navarro and Dandy were able to shine in all their bareknuckled glory. It was great watching Navarro emerge as a singles worker of note, even if there was a reversal of stature going on every time Navarro landed rights and lefts. Like I said, I have no idea what happened to Dandy this decade, but I hope he's still driving around in an El D Cadillac getting paid in full.
The match was a bit too scrappy for me to call it great, but if there were more matches like this available, fans like me wouldn't have to bother with the travesties that other companies promote.