Anibal/Mano Negra/Gallo Tapado vs. Fuerza Guerrera/Espectro Jr./Espectro de Ultratumba, CMLL 2/8/91
This is the kind of match the Observer would have given a single * to back in the day. Actually, I just checked and it was given * 1/2. Now matter how you feel about the Observer and it's lucha coverage over the years, you're not getting a revisionist *** match out of a * 1/2 rating, just like you can't make a silk purse of a sow's ear; but you can enjoy Fuerza's performance.
Fuerza came to the ring wearing a haori-style kimono jacket he must have gotten on the cheap in Tokyo. He had his boys the Espectros with him, because when you need two good men why not the undead?
During the intros, Fuerza pulled off the hood Gallo wore over his mask and ripped into pieces, scattering the remains among the front row patrons. This was the sort of feud Fuerza was reared on; in fact, Gallo Tapado was one of the men who trained him. It's interesting that in the US a rooster gimmick can dog a guy for the rest of his days whereas in Mexico you can make a 20 year career out of it. There's a difference in philosophies there that I don't think anyone's really tapped into. As a feud, Gallo vs. Fuerza would have been better in a smaller arena somewhere in the provinces or in the smaller city arenas near the markets, as it needed a more dingy atmosphere where Fuerza wouldn't be afraid to go for the jugular and wring the chicken's neck. It was more fun than surreal, though it did feature the classic moment where Fuerza beat Tapado with a live chicken, which has to rate as one of the all-time great Fuerza Guerrera moments.
The early exchanges were really slow. Anibal looked about a thousand years old. It's hard to believe he was ever something in lucha, but he was. I suppose Anibal vs. Espectro de Ultratumba (Gran Cochisse) was "maestros wrestling" before the need for maestros wrestling, but Fuerza and Mano Negra left them in the dust. I'll try not to pick on Anibal too much since his hip was wrecked here and he wouldn't live for too much longer, but the real awkwardness came when either Anibal or Tapado tried to take on two or three rudos at the same time. Normally a real crowd pleaser, neither man had the timing to pull the sequences off and they came across as dud exchanges. Gallo Tapado even tried a Super Astro style sequence where the rudos are mesmerized by his footwork, but that has such a tenuous connection to kayfabe even when performed well that you need perfect timing to make it work and Tapado was struggling to say the least.
Of course, you're only as good as the rudo you're facing in lucha, and Fuerza immediately tried to make things more interesting when he was partnered with Anibal. He fish hooked the mask openings, which more rudos should do, and tried to escape the clutches of Anibal's side headlock by tangling himself in the ropes only to be dragged to and fro. It wasn't great, but Fuerza was trying. All through the match, I got the impression he was working overtime to make something of this bout. Fuerza and Tapado finally squared off in the segunda caida, which led to the funniest moment of the match. Tapado was jukin' and jivin,' and doing his chicken dance, and caught Fuerza flush with an uppercut. Fuerza was laid out on the canvas, and Espectro de Ultratumba came rushing in to raise Fuerza's hand in victory, or maybe to stop the ten count. Either way it was amusing, and the Fuerza Moment of the Match.
After that there was a lot of crappy mask ripping, though Fuerza again impressed me with his kick/punch offence, and Espectro pulled Tapado's mask around so it was back to front which greatly amused me since I'm a simpleton. There was an unflattering close-up of Vicky Aguilera that made her look a bit doddery. Fuerza's mask was so badly ripped you could make out what he looked like and he showed a lot of ass; literally, as his butt really hung out of those leotards. The tecnicos took the tercera and the match ended with more shitty mask ripping before cutting to that cartoonist again, whose work wasn't any better even when he had time to render it.
So, yeah, not a hell of a lot more than * 1/2, but it's easier to watch a match like this these days than it must have been back then when people were collecting tapes. That ties into what I was saying the other day about how easy it is to cherry pick older wrestling. I can watch a match like this on YouTube without worrying about what the company's dishing up. If it's no good, it's just wasted time spent on YouTube and no real skin off my nose. If I were watching it back then, I'd probably be pissed at the direction Pena was taking "la seria y estable" CMLL in, but 25 years later I can pick and choose what to watch, filter it through my tastes, block out the bad stuff and ignore the Pena influence completely if I wish. I'm firmly in the camp that says lucha used to be better, but clicking on YouTube links is a hell of a lot easier than watching things in real time waiting for something good to happen, and in many ways can make an era seem better than it really was. So it doesn't hurt to see some average stuff from the past from time to time to be reminded that not everything was milk and honey in the olden days.
After the match there was an interview segment with Vicky Aguilera. For those of you who don't know, Doña Vicky was a little old lady who attended wrestling shows from 1934 up until a few years before her death in 1997 and had her own front row seat. She showed off her collection of masks, which had to have been the envy of just about every collector in Mexico as she had such gems as a 1964 El Santo mask and the very first El Solitario mask. They also showed some of her awards, such as the one she received from the wrestlers' union for 50 years of unbroken audience, and a clip of the triple dive spot where Misterioso and Masakre left her with a bloody nose. I think they were celebrating her 90th birthday because the Brazos made a big fuss over here, which she loved, and Lizmark presented her with a cake while El Brazo sang to her. She really was a grand old lady; the self-proclaimed "granny of lucha." You can read more about her here -- http://tinyurl.com/psl4yg7