Fuerza Guerrera vs. Misterioso, NWA World Welterweight Championship, CMLL 12/8/91
So let's recap: Misterioso was a modern style worker (great build, pretty athletic, not much in the way of wrestling ability) who was given a mask and a back story and pushed to the moon by Antonio Pena. As with other Pena creations, charismatic rudo Fuerza Guerrera was the go-to guy for a star making tilt. Just about everything in the lead up to the title match was good except for the Fuerza vs. Misterioso exchanges, which didn't instill a lot of confidence in their ability to work a traditional title match. It's doubtful that Pena cared as tradition was the domain of Juan Herrera. When it came to title matches, Pena creations "worked round the gimmick," a turn of phrase coined by our very own Gregor. Fuerza was more than obliging. Could he carry Misterioso through a mat exchange? Could he work the mat himself? It didn't really matter so long as it was entertaining. The only tradition Pena cared about was whatever he could use to make Misterioso more marketable, and in that sense he was clever enough to realise that title match victories still counted for something and that the NWA titles still carried some weight.
Misterioso was so ahead of his time even his valet looked like she had implants. Pena was a creative guy whose unused ideas are probably better than half the gimmicks out there today, but the question mark vest plate? Was that the cherry on top? The finishing touch! You've got the brawn, I've got the brains. Let's make lots of...
God bless Rangel for going through his pre-fight instructions. This definitely had a big fight feel even if you knew it was going to be smoke and mirrors. I had my eyes glued on Fuerza during the preamble. Watching him shake out the cobwebs and limber up was awesome, and he even went for a legitimate handshake. As expected they didn't stick to the mat for long. There's two ways of looking at that: one is that it's obviously pretty shitty in a lucha title match, the other is that if you can't really mat wrestle then it's probably better to go the story route. That's what they chose to do with a fired up Misterioso looking to expel his nervous energy and the champ looking to lay down a marker. Unfortunately, there were execution issues and Misterioso's nerves looked very real, but they got the first fall under their belts, the finish looked good on replay, and Misterioso continued his rich vein of form from the trios matches, proving to the crowd (at any rate) that he belonged there and that his falls over Fuerza had been no fluke. It was good booking even if the work itself was less than stellar.
In between falls there was a cartoonist showing sketches he'd drawn, which reminded me of the 1992 Cricket World Cup. That won't mean much to most of you, but it was devastating for me at thye time as New Zealand lost in the semis. Fuerza was depicted as a mosquito, which had something to do with his nickname, El Mosco de la Merced. I've gotta say it was a pretty crappy sketch. Graham Crackers does a lot better work.
Back in the ring, Fuerza gave the crowd a laugh when his second (one of the Espectros) got a little too close with the towel. The second fall was a total beat down. First Misterioso tried beating Fuerza down, then Fuerza beat Misterioso down. Fuerza fouled Misterioso and gave him a little shimmy kick while Rangel wasn't watching. Fouls in title matches; you all know how I feel about that. Fuerza claimed Misterioso did one in the first fall, which he didn't, then feigned innocence on his own indiscretion. It was the same old bull that you get with smoke and mirrors. On nice touch was that Misterioso crawled to the ropes instead of submitting in the scorpion deathlock, which at least signaled he wasn't going to lie down on a foul.
Up until now the match had been flimsy as a two bob watch, but the third fall was where Fuerza took over. He guided Misterioso through a steady stream of missed moves, key transitions and dramatic nearfalls. Some of the spots were more benefiting of an apuesta match than a title bout, but it was beautifully paced and washed away any of the bad taste Fuerza had left with his knee to the nether regions. There wasn't really any Fuerza Moment of the Match aside from maybe the missed senton off the crane pose, but that's a spot he liked to do in most of his singles bouts and not a spontaneous moment of genius. Instead it was his selling that was sublime. The way he'd rest on the ropes after Misterioso came close on a pinfall or submission, panting and trying to gather his thoughts. The basic takedowns and transitions he used to fend Misterioso off while still selling the effects of his tope, and the huge gamble he took on a senton to the outside. This is the stuff Fuerza should be known for -- the sell on Misterioso's tope where he had to be lifted back to the ring by his second, and the kick he gave Misterioso after his own dive to the outside even though he was selling some damage to his hand. We didn't see a lot of this in the trios matches, but deep in the title bout were details not seen by even Casas or Emilio Charles Jr during this era. You have to watch it more than once, for example, to pick up on Fuerza biting Misterioso's finger to break up the camel clutch.
Fuerza thought he'd won it on a single leg Boston, but Rangel waved it off and no amount of complaining to the commissioner (presumably) was going to overrule the referee's decision. Then, in what was a major upset at the time, he got screwed when his leg touched the rope during a backslide reversal and the ref counted three. Not the most emphatic way to crown a new champion, but a heck of a fall once Fuerza went into overdrive. Proof positive that so long as you finish stronger than you started you're all right. It felt like a colossal waste of Fuerza's talents to begin with and ended up as the best showcase possible, and while it may have snubbed tradition it also felt like a win for Pena and another of his creations. It was smoke and mirrors in terms of Misterioso truly being a good enough welterweight to carry the belt and to that effect the pinfall could have been more decisive, but perhaps it was booked that way to placate Guerrera. In any event, a match that will teach me to be less sarcastic, and a great Fuerza performance (eventually.)