Torneo Cibernetico (CMLL PPV 03/17/00)
I thought this was a terrific Cibernetico. The famous Ciberneticos from '97 featured well-known names and high profile feuds. This threw a spotlight on the midcard, showcasing how much depth there was on both the rudo and tecnico sides. The most interesting thing about the bout for me was that even though it felt like a pure lucha libre bout with the rapid-fire exchanges and the off-kilter submission and pin attempts, you could feel how heavy the juniors influence was. Workers like Dr. Wagner Jr. had been working regular dates in Japan and bringing back Japanese moves throughout the late 90s, but Ultimo Guerrero was one of the first workers from his generation to be exposed to those moves and regularly tour Japan. You can see the influence in his offensive set. Instead of the usual armdrags and rolling bumps, he has a barrage of suplexes and other high impact moves. He wasn't the only one, though. This could have easily been a Japanese juniors match with Japanese wrestlers or perhaps an MPro or Toryumon match with a lucha flavour. It managed to keep its identity, though, in large part to Mr. Mexico furthering his feud Rivera. Mr. Mexico vs. Rivera! Let there be blood. Olimpico had a nice run in this, too. But how good was Ultimo Guerrero? I know I'm late to the party, but Ultimo Guerrero was very, very good in 2000. Thus far, he's been biding his time looking solid in Infernales trios but here he got a chance to shine and ran with the ball. Maybe not a game-winning touchdown, but he definitely made some yards. Really solid undercard to this PPV.
Brazo de Plata, Emilio Charles Jr. & Mr. Niebla vs. Apolo Dantes, Cien Caras & Universo 2000 (CMLL 03/17/00)
If you love Porky then you'll love this match as it was really a showcase for him to entertain the fans. And entertain the fans he did. I was kind of surprised that Los Capos were the rudo foils for Porky's Looney Tunes schtick since they'll be moving onto bigger things soon, but they were good sports. It was nice to see Apolo Dantes too. An underrated pro who had all the tools but lacked the charisma of the upper tier rudos. He did a good job holding this together. Pretty good match for a comedy bout. The humour was good natured and much more enjoyable than the stinkface et al. Still the King of Comedy, i wonder if anyone can top Porky for best comedic performance by year's end? Meanwhile, "The Game" Emilio Charles Jr looks like he is chomping at the bit for someone to feud with.
Mascara Ano 2000, Scorpio Jr. & Shocker vs. Rayo de Jalisco Jr., Perro Aguayo & Tarzan Boy (CMLL 03/17/00)
This was such a wonderful Arena Mexico crowd. The reverse angle shot of people packed to the rafters made it seem like one of the last truly old-school Arena Mexico crowds, In fact, this entire event feels like the closing chapter of the period of lucha that ran from Atlantis' debut in 1983 through to March 2000, the only real historical period we have footage from and consequently my favourite era of lucha. The match was simple and formulaic but the crowd heat was a treat. Perro was such a beloved legend that all the rudos really had to do was mug for the audience, which I thought they did really well. Tarzan Boy kind of suck (let's be honest), but at least Shocker showed him up wonderfully. I always enjoy it when rudos get the better of chump tecnicos. It makes it seem as though there's a natural balance. Perro's comeback was fun and I loved the throwback to the MA2K match. Best of all, we got to see a complete match for a change which made this seem much more special than the regular Televisa bouts. Nice bout. Arguably the best trios match of the year thus far.
Atlantis vs. Villano III (CMLL PPV 03/17/00, Mask vs Mask)
I wasn't a huge fan of the buildup to this match. There are countless other apuesta builds I've enjoyed more. But the match itself is incredible. As soon as Villano Tercero enters the arena, you can feel the knot that must have been in his stomach and the goosebumps on his arms. You can feel the magnitude of the stip bearing down on you like a weight. Think of how many matches end with bloodied wrestlers demanding apuesta matches. Tempers flare, torn masks and bloodied foreheads leave wrestlers' enraged and they lose their heads over what they're proposing. Rarely do the matches reach fruition and only a scant few can be called legendary. This is a legendary apuesta match. I don't know if it's the greatest apuesta match of all-time, but it may be the closest thing our generation has come to a wager match on the level of Black Shadow vs. El Santo,
Has Atlantis ever been more popular than he was this night? For one evening he was an idol on the level of the great Golden Era stars of lucha libre. The match was built to along strong rudo vs. tecnico lines but transcended those battle lines. There was too much at stake for it to simply be about good vs. evil. They set this up nicely with Villano Tercero agreeing to Atlantis' demands to change the ref. If they had followed their WWF inspired booking to a tee, Baby Richards would have made a run-in at the end and Atlantis would have screwed Atlantis, but this was as traditional a lucha libre mask vs. mask match as you will see with a wonderful Arena Mexico crowd that was in full voice. The ringwork was simple and effective and they squeezed everything they could out of the gigging they did. Atlantis' selling, which is so often hammy and overwrought, was nigh on perfect. The drama with the doctor was outstanding and the rest of the match was awash with amazing visuals and phenomenal nearfalls. People often complain about the referees in lucha but I thought Rafa El Maya was fantastic in this, especially his finger wagging and bobbing from side to side during the submission nearfalls. That added extra drama to whether the combatant would submit. It also illustrated how the quick submissions in regular matches provide a norm that is transcended in important matches where both men refuse to quit. The crowd shots were wonderful. The blood was a gruesome and fantastic visual especially when soaked up by the white of Atlantis' mask and offset by the pink of Villano's attire. I liked the knee strike transitions and I thought Atlantis' plancha was an extremely effective sequence that provided a nice piece of symmetry to the initial VIllano tope. The finishing stretch after the plancha with all of its counters and nearfalls was an inspired passage of work and the finish was a thing of absolute beauty. That may be the best finishing stretch I've seen in lucha. The part where Villano escapes from La Atlantida is an incredible moment in the match and his desperate, lunging clothelines are incredible. The nuanced back sell and Atlantis dropkicking the injury were wonderful details that further illustrated the high level they were working at. Just tremendous lucha.
And of course, there was the post-match. Arguably, the most emotional and genuine post match aftermath of any recorded lucha we have. The outpouring of passion and joy and endurance from everyone in attendance was spine tingling. The workers sold the post-match beautifully and the narrative turned to themes of family, pride and time-honored traditions. Villano Tercero gave the speech of his life, the crowd supported him wonderfully and the entire unmasking was magnificent. My favourite moment was a slightly doddery Ray Mendoza overcome by emotion and receiving a kiss from Dr. Morales. That moment transcended any comment anyone could ever make about the silliness of fake fighting. It was a small but touching moment on an incredible night for lucha libre. One of the greatest matches of all-time and a true lucha classic. Match of the Year, Match of the Decade, maybe even the Match of the Century. And now I've run out of words.