Haven't checked in on my favourite mat worker for a while. This may come as a shock, but he's still wrestling Solar.
Negro Navarro vs. Solar, Ultimo Dragon Produce, 7/19/10
Negro Navarro vs. Solar, AAA Arena Neza, 1/8/11
It was interesting watching these back-to-back. The Korakuen Hall bout was their typical touring match which we've seen them do in Japan before, while the match from Nezahualcoyotl was a lucha libre title match for the belt Navarro holds. On the surface, it seems like the Arena Neza match is the more serious of the two because it's a title match being wrestled in Mexico, but a closer look at both matches reveals that this is not really the case. In fact, the only real difference between the two is that one is pro shot and the other is a handheld. The crowd has more of a hum about it in Mexico, whereas the Japanese fans are happy to sit back and watch the match and laugh at "chotto matte" jokes, but that doesn't appear to have any impact on how they work the matches. For all intents and purposes, they're the same match.
At first glance, the Neza match appears to be all business, but I think that has a lot to do with the uploader editing out the parts where Navarro and Solar play to the crowd. You could maybe argue that there are less holds and that they're held for longer, but the matches basically build to the same finish in exactly the same way. Whether this means they've tweaked their touring match, I'm not sure, but these guys are pretty much tireless when it comes to adding new variations to the holds they work. There was one awesome stretch in the Tokyo match where they started out doing a Dos Caras-like submission, hooked each other on the mat with leglocks around the head, and turned this contortionist act into a Fujiwara-like chinlock submission. Quite the gauntlet.
Neither match was what you'd call a traditional lucha libre singles match (with a three fall structure and proper arc), but they did have a throughline (what you'd call the theme of the work, if you were to think about a match in literary terms.) Solar and Navarro are often accused of being "exhibitiony," but I think it's the finishes that hurt them more their tendencies to give up or release a hold. I'm not sure why they keep short-changing us on the finish. There's no reason that I can think of why there can't be a winner. When you finish a match the way they do here (it was a double pin in both matches), you pretty much consign things to the "that was a nice bit of wrestling" basket. It really takes the wind out of a match's sails, because there's no way that you can really say you saw a match, with all the connotations that implies. On the other hand, it's a bit like those maestro tags, where you just have to accept that they're never going to be worked with a satisfying match structure.
Unnecessary finishes aside, I enjoyed both these matches. The Nezahualcoyotl match wasn't quite as special as I thought it was before I had the bright idea to compare it to the Korakuen bout (which was very good for a lucha in Japan match, I must add), so that takes it down a few points in terms of the best of 2011, but it really is amazing that these guys are still wrestling at such a high level ten years after they started this junket.
Negro Navarro/Black Terry vs El Apache/Angel Mortal, IWRG, 1/9/11
Negro Navarro/Black Terry vs El Apache/Angel Mortal, IWRG, 1/16/11
Speaking of maestro tags, these are the matches that are getting everyone excited in the small lucha indy community on the net.
A few years back, maestro tags were the high point of the lucha year because of how difficult it was to get indy footage (think Terry/Navarro vs. Mano Negra/Solar), but with more footage available it's been easier to become critical. Most of the maestro stuff in recent times has struck me as a waste of talent because of the way everyone not named Solar or Negro Navarro is reduced to a passenger, as well as the refusal to swap partners and work a proper match with shifts in momentum, overlapping falls, and all the rest. But these were interpromotional maestro tags; a fact which managed to breathe new life into an old dog.
The difference between the first tag and other matches that BTjr has shot is plain to see. One of my biggest complaints about maestro tags (at least the Solar/Navarro ones) is that there's nothing to tie the falls together; no through line to give the matches any sort of focus. The reason for this is that they forgo the traditional lucha structure of overlapping the falls, whereby the momentum from one fall carries over into the next, leading to a turning point in the present fall where momentum shifts back the other way. Since lucha is ultimately a back and forth, 50/50 style of working, this toing and froing helps build overall momentum in the match, leaving it unclear who's going to win heading into the third. In theory, anyway. The through line here was pretty simple -- the worker's competitive instincts boiling over (or however you want to describe it) -- but they executed it fairly well. I wouldn't say it was worthy of excessive praise, but I was pleased that they shifted from Terry/Apache and Navarro/Mortal to Apache/Navarro and Terry/Mortal and back again. There's nothing worse than watching these matches and seeing guys seagull on the apron. The only gripe I had with the way they worked the match was the finish. I'm not the first person to mention this, but it really was stupid.
Forgetting for a moment the miscommunication spot between the AAA guys (since there was a revancha instead of them not teaming again), the reason for the aggression in the match was because Navarro was behaving like a bastard gym teacher. Watch how he behaves when he squares off with Apache to start the second caida. Maybe it's just me, but as soon as Apache retaliates to let Navarro know that they can grapple too (essentially), the AAA guys automatically become the technicos to me and not some outside rudos. Terry's comeback was (or rather would have been) a decent finish, but I actually think the AAA guys should've won, which would've added more fuel to the fire and been earnt in my eyes.
Still, it didn't really matter because the revancha was awesome.
The first fall was a neat "let's forget the last match happened and start again" fall and finishes with a reminder that the last match did happen when Apache and Mortal lose again. The second fall is the lucha equivalent of hitting below the belt in a title fight; well, luchadores do hit below the belt in some title fights, but what I really mean is that there are unwritten laws in lucha about how you work a hold and the parts of the body you target and the AAA guys were purposefully shitty in the second fall. As for the third fall, it was as good as any Terry brawl since I started taking notice of his stuff three or four years ago. Terry's a good mat worker, an excellent mat worker even, but as a brawler he may very well the best of all-time. The only guy who'd give him a run for his money (and I'm talking about in lucha here) would be Sangre Chicana. Other guys have been better at doing the brawling, but it's Terry's selling that sets him apart. Most people who read this blog are going to go ahead and watch this match on youtube anyway (or already have), so I won't go into great detail describing what Terry does, but the whole thing reminded me of the intro to the Lee Van Cleef spaghetti western The Big Gundown. Just an epic piece of violence.