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[1974-07-25-AJPW] The Destroyer vs Mil Mascaras

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The first fall of this match is about fifteen of the most beautiful minutes of professional wrestling I’ve seen, combining Destroyer’s methodical old-school approach with the lucha elegante matwork of Máscaras. With Destroyer, every movement has significance, every strain or expression conveys meaning. The transitions, reversals, counters, evasions, and takedowns are all so masterfully executed, not only from Destroyer, but Máscaras as well, who seems more in his element on the canvas than pinballing around the ring. While "Woken Twitter" is quick to proclaim wrestling as an art form over an impressive but largely meaningless aerobatics display, the way these two seamlessly thread their exchanges together throughout the match is a testament to the thought and sensibility put into the telling of a clever, believable in-ring story. There’s something special about the way Destroyer rolls the audience around the palm of his hand like putty, whether it’s his comical “No-no-no-no-no-no”s during Mil’s standing surfboard or the fear he instills when he’s attacking the leg to set-up the figure-four leglock. During the first fall, Máscaras seems as if he's in a perpetual state of change, the way he watches for variations in Destroyer’s step, reading his energy levels and transitioning accordingly if something isn’t working. The sequences are, again, a thing of beauty. As they head toward the finish of the first fall, Máscaras starts to build some momentum as his speed overwhelms Destroyer but when he slips up, Destroyer takes full advantage, driving him headfirst into the corner and following up with the knees to the neck to take the first fall. He lives up to his namesake by continuing to destroy Mil’s neck with elbows, knees, and a neckbreaker into the second fall, which didn't really work, out, as Mil ends up taking the second fall via a flying crossbody. The third fall brings back the fear of the figure-four as Destroyer goes after Mil’s leg a wild dog and when he finally locks it in, the arena freaks the fuck out. Destroyer built such a great atmosphere around it and this final fall features some of Máscaras best selling. Mil gets in plenty of offense with his flying around and his scoop-style suplexes, and the non-finish wasn’t ideal but it also kept in tune with the general unpredictability of the match.

 

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This was very similar to their 1973 match, only with even better matwork! The general pace of the first fall, but every hold felt like it had a purpose and it felt like you were watching a game of chess play out in the ring. Give this match the attention it demands from you and you will have a hell of a time with it. Every near-fall feels like it could end the fall. You know your move is over when the crowd shriek in horror when you execute it, as was the case when Destroyer finally got Mascaras in the Figure Four during the final fall. I'm used to non-finishes during this era, but I wasn't a fan of the finish. Mascaras can't continue because of the damage done to his leg and the referee calls this one off. This felt like a cop-out. If you could trim the final few minutes of their 1973 match with the body of this match, then I'd be hard-pressed not to give it the full five stars! ★★★★½

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