Time for some lucha awards.
2009 was a frustrating year that saw a lot of sources for IWRG and Arena Puebla appear and disappear, but at the same time a lot of random lucha indy footage made its way onto the internet. These awards are unashamedly based on the Tapatía Awards at cubsfan's site, and this year I asked Raging Noodles to give us his thoughts too. Don't bother reading them if you like CMLL and AAA.
RN -- Negro Navarro
This was one of the best years for Negro Navarro. He looked great in all of the Dinastía Navarro vs Terribles Cerebros trios, especially when working against Dr. Cerebro and Black Terry. He brought his underrated brawling skills to the memorable feud, and had some awesome moments of brawling with his fellow maestro Black Terry. When it's the right time in a feud, Navarro can throw down like he's Bill Dundee. He had a MOTYC with Solar I back in May and his Delaware Chikara match (which popped up for one Summer night on a Brazilian video streaming site before disappearing forever) featured some incredible action with Solar I in the primera caida, and a great destruction of Quackenbush in the segunda caida. Has had scattered matches all throughout YouTube over 2009, some were great while others were merely routine contests. His last great match of the year involved Navarro teaming up with Fishman Jr. & Arcanos to take on Perro Mastin, Platino, & Solar I (11/22/09) in another match with some brilliant Solar/Navarro matwork.
OJ -- Negro Navarro
Navarro wins this by default simply by being the best wrestler in Mexico.
An interesting tidbit about Negro Navarro came our way this year courtesy of Mike Quackenbush, who wrote: "Super Crazy, like my mentor Jorge Rivera, is a generous person, and if there was some bit of information or knowledge you'd like him to share, he wouldn't hesitate. Anything he knew he'd be happy to teach you, from the tiniest transition to the most intricate of holds. This stands in contrast to the disposition of another luchador I crossed paths with earlier in the year - Negro Navarro. Well-respected for his mastery on the mat, Navarro is anything but generous, and delights in taking advantage of his opponents."
When Raging Noodles asked Steve Sims about Navarro, he got the following reply: "[Negro Navarro] has little respect for people not in his generation, and does not care for the path that modern day lucha libre has taken away form the mat work. He will really stretch people with whom he is working, if he is not very respectful of them prior to the match."
All of that makes Negro Navarro seem incredibly badass, regardless of how unfair it is on the workers he doesn't respect, but I have to admit that the stretching got a little old this year. If Navarro doesn't care for the path that modern day lucha libre has taken (and God knows why anyone would), I'd like to see him working proper matches for a change. It seems to me that we got more Negro Navarro this year, but less quality matches than in previous years.
1. Zatura vs Trauma II (6/18/09)
Excellent match from two young guys, and Trauma II's coming out party. They had some ambitious and creative ideas that were interesting to watch unfold. But while some didn't turn out smoothly in execution, this deserves a million points for what they were able to create as a whole. It was an earnest effort from both these grapplers and they managed to pull off some really complex matwork that felt totally fresh and alive. One of the best things about this match was how unique it was, at certain moments it felt like a BattlArts contest, with some beautiful matwork naturally blended in with some very violent bodypart work, some headbutts, the very memorable striking exchange in the 3rd fall and a couple of awesome highspots. They did a lot in this match, but they still managed to pace things, create a nice flow, and they actually sold their shoulder injuries in a remarkable manner. These two give me a little hope that maybe the future of lucha libre won't be so bad if these guys continue to get better and better.
2. Toro Bill Sr., Espiritu Maligno, and Mister Rafaga vs Tigre Rojo, Black Tiger and Blue Center (3/2/09)
This felt like an actual classic lucha libre match, and all the workers in this match made it look so easy. The effortlessness displayed in this match shows how good these guys are and how familiar they must be with each other. Toro Bill Sr. is such a great veteran rudo, dude can work the mat, take lighting quick roll bumps, and lead a good rudo beatdown. Blue Center is a great technico that works so gracefully and moves around the ring like Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire. Everyone else fills their role nicely, and Espirutu Maligno is a pretty insane bump maniac and takes some nasty bumps. All the finishes to the 3 falls are spectacular as well. Beautiful wrestling.
Zatura vs Trauma II (6/18/09)
Originally, I was going to go with the Delaware trios for the same reasons that I chose the Lucha Libre London trios last year, but in the end I decided that Zatura vs. Trauma II was the most promising thing to come out of Mexico since I started writing this blog. Those of you who read this blog on a regular basis will know that I have almost nothing good to say about young workers or the path that modern lucha libre has taken, but this was an excellent match. I wouldn't say that it left me optimistic about the future, because it was wrestled in IWRG and I've barely seen anything from either guy since, but the best thing about this match is that it wasn't some sort of throwback lucha libre match; it was a perfectly modern match, which shows that if these young guys want to wrestle in a way that's different from the older generation, they can, so long as they're good enough.
RN -- Solar I
If Blue Center had made more tape and had performed at the level he was performing in his 3/2/09 and 6/15/09 matches, he probably should have gotten the pick. Maybe in 2010, some great Blue Center work will suddenly appear and I'll be able to retroactively pick him for this category. But as it is, in 2009, the best technico is still Solar and he's the Kiyoshi Tamura to Navarro's Volk Han. Such a graceful worker, can still pull off some of the most beautiful matwork sequences in the world, as he proved many times throughout the year in numerous matches in front of crowds of under 100 people. Some of the quickness and speed he displayed is astonishing for a guy his age. His work in Chikara and in the 11/22/09 trios are the matches to check out to see a perfect example of this. He's still a charming technico that you get up and root for.
OJ -- Valiente
Earlier in the year, Freelance and Valiente were neck and neck in this category. One guy would give an awesome performance and the other guy would challenge it, and there was a bit of a duel going on (in my eyes, that is.) Then Freelance injured himself and Valiente decided the best way to get ahead was to look like those CMLL callboys in pose in bodybuilding contests each year. Both guys are shittily booked and qualify for this award on potential more than anything else, but I'm going with Valiente since he's one of the few guys whose stuff looks good in CMLL.
RN -- Negro Casas
I was thinking about rudos in general, and no one really stands out the way MS-1, El Satanico, Perro Aguayo Sr., or Sangre Chicana stood out in previous decades. Even a few years ago, we at least had Universo 2000 standing tall as a top notch charismatic rudo that knows how to work great arena matches. This...to put it nicely, wasn't the best of years for professional wrestling. I was impressed by some undercard workers like Toro Bill Sr., who proved to be a great journeyman and a few others caught my eye as well. But for best rudo, I guess I'll go with the obvious pick of Negro Casas. Casas' has always been a guy who works so much better as a loud expressionistic rudo than as a technico. I wasn't as crazy about his work as others seemed to be, and his rudo shtick seems a bit minor compared to his previous great rudo runs like in 1992. But in a year like this, Casas seems like the right and obvious answer. His tag team title match, some trios and his matches with Mistico (which I enjoyed while still thinking they were ridiculously overrated) still had small moments of Casas' past greatness, and he is still a guy that can sell a technico comeback as good as anyone. Not to mention, his inring charisma and facial expressions are still pretty great.
OJ -- Policeman
Fuck La Peste Negra. You couldn't pay me to watch Negro Casas' crap this year.
I had to think long and hard about this category. To be honest, I don't think there's anyone deserving of this award. The best thing you can say for most rudoes these days are that they're decent foils for the technicos, but did anybody really work rudo this year? I mean really work rudo. Policeman may seem like an absurd choice, but he's a guy with an obvious rudo gimmick who managed to have an entertaining feud with Centella de Oro. It was mostly built around lowblows, but led to one of the better hair matches this year and was one of the only successfully booked things to make it onto TV all year, presumably because the CMLL higher ups don't give a fuck about the Puebla shows. So my vote goes to a guy who bumped and stooged, was ran out of town and came back for more.
RN -- Terribles Cerebros
I mentioned their memorable feud with the Navarro family earlier, but they also ended up being in a bunch of other really good IWRG matches. Black Terry is a great captain, a grizzled journeyman who's done it all, and one of the handful of workers that is Navarro's equal. Dr. Cerebro has stepped it up to become one of the most talented workers in the world, and Cerebro Negro is such a reliable solid smart performer. Another match worth checking out is a Terribles Cerebros vs Pirata Morgan Jr., Hijo Del Pirata Morgan, and Barba Roja from 8/6/09. Both teams felt like real trios teams, and created an excellent match full of matwork, great trios teamwork, and very creative finishes to the segunda and tercera caidas.
OJ -- Terribles Cerebros
These guys were hands down the best trios in Mexico this year. They developed their act so that any of the three guys could be the lead-off guy, but it worked best when Dr. Cerebro started things off on the mat. Cerebro had arguably the best year of his career in 2009; I say arguably because it's not like we're actually in a position to know, but he was oustanding nonetheless. Cerebro's strong form meant that the Terribles Cerebros could keep Terry in the back pocket, which is really where you want a guy like Black Terry to be, to work that last exchange before everyone hits the ring for the finish. It's just a shame that we can't see IWRG's Thursday night tapings anymore, since everyone appears to work individually on this weekend show of theirs. Oddly enough, last year's clear cut winners, Los Officiales, looked remarkably better in individual matches this year.
RN -- IWRG
Although CMLL Puebla also offered some good stuff, I have to give the nod to IWRG. It offered us the most interesting matches of the year, but at the same time, frustrated us since they could have done a much better job at so many other things. They had Freelance and they failed to do anything special with him.
OJ -- IWRG
IWRG offered the best matches this year, so they win this award, but anything good that comes out of this promotion is happening by accident.
RN -- Terribles Cerebros vs. Dinastía Navarro
One of the few feuds in 2009 that provided us with some great matwork AND great brawling. It also helped developed the most improved worker of 2009...
OJ -- Terribles Cerebros vs. Dinastia Navarro
This was a match-up that we got to see four times this year. Each match had its flaws and none of them were the MOTY candidate that they looked like on paper; in fact, the feud reminded me of Los Infernales vs. Los Intocables in that all of the matches were entertaining yet none of them were outstanding. Having said that, Terry vs. Navarro is the best thing in lucha right now. Bringing in Navarro's kids and having Terry's boys rumble with the Navarro family makes it even cooler and gives their on again/off again feud a trios base to work from. IWRG brought this match-up back in October, which we didn't get to see, but hopefully they get bored and run it again next year.
RN -- Trauma II
In 2008, Trauma II was working some nice holds but lacking confidence and exhibiting nervousness. He was struggling quite a bit, although he always exhibited a lot of effort. In 2009, throughout the Terribles Cerebros vs Dinastia Navarro rivalry, he grew in confidence and as a worker. He started showing incredible potential and finally started performing like what one would expect the son of Negro Navarro to perform like. His peak was the aforementioned MOTY and I hope he continues to grow as a worker.
OJ -- Trauma II
Yeah, Trauma II went from being this weedy guy who couldn't throw a strike very well and was frustrating to watch on the mat to a legit top ten guy this year. Most of this happened "off screen" since we were living on scraps, but it was an amazing transformation. The last time I saw him, I couldn't believe how confident he'd become. I kinda wonder how far he can go with that skinny frame of his, and right now he's idling since IWRG never really have anything for anybody to do, but he ought to sweep this in the actual Tapatía Awards.