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Sunday, February 07, 2016

NXT Episode 214 3/27/14 Review

1. Mojo Rawley vs. CJ Parker

Still can't believe they were dumb enough to have Parker cut a promo wearing a nice suit the other week. You might as well wear a shirt that says NARC when you go on your Umphrey's Mcgee cruise. And man Mojo stinks. He doesn't take an interesting beating, and this whole match was CJ dominating with nice offense, until the go home sign gets lit and Mojo hits his two pieces of offense (butt butt and a light as a feather Bombs Away) for the win. Terrible structure. Parker looks good in the ring though, and knows how to carry himself and somehow not seem phony. He hits a nice standing spin kick (think Booker T's old standing leg lariat) and throws decent punches, had a nice immediacy to things while he was putting the boots and fists to Mojo. But they seem pretty committed to making Mojo "a thing" sooooo...I mean it looks good when Gronk is sitting in the crowd with his family all wearing your shirts, but as far as defensive linemen making a transition to wrestling he doesn't appear to be quite as good as Steve McMichael. They talk up his freakish strength but none of that strength comes across in his matches. I don't think he's been doing this too terribly long and he's obviously a high level athlete, so there's obviously room for improvement, I just wish he was doing his improving off TV.

2. Xavier Woods vs. Tyler Breeze

Fun match. The more I see Breeze the more I really like him. He's really smart in the ring and lays out spots in a fun Finlay type of way. He's not an ass kicker like Finlay obviously, but he's creative in similar ways. He has cool fake outs and comes up with neat ways to play possum, plus he does a lot of little things really well like hold snug headlocks and bump appropriately for the move being delivered. He's a big bumper, but he doesn't go big on every single bump. He and Xavier match up nicely but watching the two of them it's clear how much Breeze outclasses him.

3. Corey Graves vs. Yoshi Tatsu

Poor Yoshi Tatsu. Knocked down to losing 3 minute matches on NXT. So much for his revenge for the Graves attack on him a few weeks ago. Although I suppose him getting paid by WWE for 5+ years is something nobody would have predicted, so good for him! Tatsu is fun here keeping Graves off balance, with hard chops and neat things like kidney punches and leg kicks to the front of Graves' thighs. Graves starts targeting Tatsu's knee and Tatsu sells it well enough to make it look like an actual injury. Graves has cool leg whips, like when Mike Modest would whip a guy's arm into the mat, but with Tatsu's leg. He ends the match by doing a sliding tackle into Tatsu's patella which is just gross. Never seen a guy do a chop block to the FRONT of someone's leg before. Yikes. Graves gets the tap but this was tragically short, like 3 minutes. I'd love to see what these two could do with 9 minutes. Shame. Guess we all needed that Mojo Rawley match.

4. Charlotte vs. Natalya

Hey this was quite good as well! And again, they seemed to really be going places with it until the inevitable run in finish. Charlotte works sort of sloppy but here it works for her as it makes her strikes feel dangerous in an untrained way. She throws a few elbows that seem to land hard, and a big lariat with full follow through. The mat stuff is really engaging too, Nattie getting to break out some tricks she doesn't really get to break out on the main brand. There were a couple of spots with Charlotte attempting to lock on a poor figure 4 which lead to nice Nattie reversals, including a small package that I thought was the finish. I was getting ready to include this in my list of recommendable NXT matches before the finish.

5. Bo Dallas vs. Adrian Neville

Eh, pretty disappointing for the time allotted. They didn't make very good use of the early minutes, and then when Neville hit a moonsault to the floor Alex Riley and Tensai acted like it was something they had never seen before. Neville does some things that most people can't do, but it's like they were dying to talk about Neville's flying and just couldn't wait to use the line for something more uncommon. Things pick up when Dallas hits a big clothesline which, naturally, Neville bumps all haywire for. But the pacing just never quite clicked and Riley/Tensai kept trying to make it sound like they were going through an EPIC WAR, with stuff like "how are both men even on their FEET right now!?!?" even though it was about 6 minutes into the match. Neville hits a nice kick from the apron and then goes for the Red Arrow, but Dallas gets knees up and you know Neville planted right into those knees. That looked like a finish right there. It's not, and that's fine, but then they lose me by having both men knocked out and struggling to get to their feet, as I guess Neville landing gut first on Dallas' knees really took it out of Dallas. And mere moments after just being barely able to beat that count back to their feet, Neville has found the strength to hit his inverted 450. Okay. This was very disappointing coming off their good ladder match from Arrival. That match was laid out really nicely but perhaps I gave them too much credit for that. It's possible that show had more hands on match layout from agents, and they leave guys more up to their own devices on the regular shows. That's probably too broad and I'm sure it's not totally that way, but it doesn't sound that crazy.

If they had divvied up the allotted match time a bit better this could have been a very good week of TV. But they did not and so it was not. This week it became more apparent just how lousy Alex Riley is on commentary, and Tensai isn't much better. Both come off incredibly insincere and often come off like total shills. It's not a shock to hear a bunch of worthless platitudes being spouted on WWE TV, but people like Regal and Renee Young sound so natural and genuine on commentary that it's tough listening to these hacks.


NXT EPISODE GUIDE




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Saturday, February 06, 2016

2016 Ongoing MOTY List: Hero/End v. ZSJ/Callihan

2. Chris Hero/Tommy End v. Zach Sabre Jr./Sami Callihan EVOLVE 1/22

PAS: Pretty great US Indy approximation of an 90's All Japan tag. End and Hero are total ass kicking heels, working together great, laying in a huge creative beating on the overmatch but game pair of underdogs. Sabre is pretty great as spunky young kid who can take a hellacious asskicking, but can always pull out a submission, meanwhile Sami is flying all over the ring making saves, kicking people in the mouth, diving to the floor. He is just a whirling dirvish of energy which is really where he shines. Loved Hero and End's double teams,  they did a cool version of Total Elimination with a leg sweep and straight right. Finish doesn't go into overkill which this style of match is bound to do, instead we have Sabre dying on his sword, trying desperately to grab an arm or a flash pin, while getting overwhelmed. Awesome stuff, and a real contender to stay high on this list all year.

ER: Man Hero was an absolute monster in this. Now that he's being exclusively sponsored by Jack in the Box Late Night Munchie Meals he's become like Kraneo, in that he's clearly the biggest guy in the fed but he's going to show everybody he can still go. He is now indy Buddy Rose and it's awesome. He picked on Sabre the entire match and has gotten to the point where he's using his body as offense, and I love it. His sentons land with a thud, he dropped an elbow at one point that was far more body than elbow. At one point he just jumps with both knees right down on Sabre's stomach. Hero's elbows are obviously nasty, and Sabre must have one hell of a chin. Also absolutely loved Hero's snap piledrivers. I'm sure he's done them before but I don't recall seeing them and they looks both cool and deadly (Cool and Deadly was probably a fun straight to video James Remar flick). But while Hero was my favorite, really everybody brings violence in this one. Sami has been in NXT and injury purgatory for years, and it's great seeing him back doing his thing. Sabre always finds unique ways out of things, and it's impressive how he can keep his head straight in a match like this where he's taking so many shots the whole time. How he can have the presences of mind to take an elbow sandwich from End and Hero and still grab an Americana makes his character come off like he's fighting for survival and that adds to things. To be a negative nelly, however, I don't think Sabre for the most part is a very good FIP. He doesn't have a lot of dramatic range, and doesn't have the kind of expressive face you need to have when putting over a violent beating. He was doing the same kind of selling 8 minutes in as he was doing after 28 minutes. Now obviously he's taking these beatings, and that counts for a lot, but he can come off very robotic and that hurts things. We also had a problem of some big things down the home stretch missing (like End's foot stomp during Hero's Backlund lift of Sabre), but overall this was a real war and a real beast of a Hero performance.


2016 MOTY MASTER LIST


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Friday, February 05, 2016

MLJ: Black Terry Boot Camp 1: Black Terry, Cerebro Negro, Dr. Cerebro vs Trauma I, Trauma II, Ultramán Jr.

2009-10-29 @ Arena Naucalpan
Black Terry, Cerebro Negro, Dr. Cerebro vs Trauma I, Trauma II, Ultramán Jr.


Alright, everything's on hold because I need to watch a lot of Black Terry. There's nowhere on the net that's covered Terry better than Segunda Caida, so I just didn't feel the need to look in this direction. Because I didn't feel the need, I ended up checking out other things instead. This is an issue because the Greatest Wrestler Ever poll centered over at prowrestlingonly.com is due in a month or two and Navarro and Terry weren't going to be able to make my list because I hadn't seen enough to fairly rank them. I'm sure Phil/Tom/Eric did enough when it comes to these, but I'm going to run through and watch as many matches as I can in a short period and try to figure this out.

This was fairly late into the year and was a pairing that they seemed to run a lot in 2009, just with Ultraman, Jr. in instead of Navarro. Very long primera with Ultraman/Dr. Cerebro, Trauma I/Terry, and Trauma II/Cerebro Negro pairings. At least I think T1 was T1 and T2 was T2. I always have problems with that. Differentiating them through work is another pro here. Primera was very long mat exchanges. Segunda picked up the pace. Tercera had the constant break ups as they moved through wrestlers, with dives at the end and a foul finish.

I haven't seen a lot of Dr. Cerebro either, but in a match where everyone was pulling the most tricked out stuff in the primera, what I found interesting was how he, after trying a couple of such exchanges with Ultraman, simplified things considerably as it was obvious his opponent couldn't really keep up. That, to me, is the sort of course correction you don't see often and it was appreciated.

The big story, however, were the aforementioned tricked out submissions, the slight little leverage moves used to escape and reposition, and most of all, the selling. While sometimes a match will be built around limbwork or selling, what stood out here, especially from Terry and Trauma I was the way they'd sell, both in holds and especially after them. This didn't play into any specific part of the narrative. What it did instead, however, was to make all of the submissions seem more believable and more effective. Everything had weight, and when they're tying people up in knots that defy the general laws of physics, a little bit of that goes a long way. Terry went so far as to shake off an arm while on the apron after a tag.

This match worked exactly as it should have. The matwork didn't come off as collaborative or choreographed but was hugely engrossing (save for the Cerebro exchange, but that, at least, was not disruptive). There was a sense of escalation from fall to fall. It's really the perfect structure. Feeling out matwork, rope running, everything breaking down with spots and cut offs and dives. It's the three faces of lucha (past the brawling but the tercera had some of that too). I'm sure most people who come here have seen this, but if you haven't go out of your day and do so.

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Thursday, February 04, 2016

Lucha Underground Season 2 Episode 2: The Dark & The Mysterious

1. Johnny Mundo vs. Killshot

ER: D'oh! I know I was cursing myself last week when I kept saying things like "They featured all the most important people on the first episode!!" Then right out of the gates they give me the double middle finger Killshot appearance. But really, as a whole, this wasn't bad. Killshot has really poor body language and sometimes appears to be moving in slow motion, but he also hit some of the better sequences I've seen from him here. Mundo is clearly way better as a heel as he tends to tighten some things up, and it was satisfying seeing him blast Killshot with a big elbow. The Killshot DDT off the ropes was real nasty, and him being in the wrong place kind of added to a couple moments of this match, like when Mundo hit the springboard kick that Killshot almost forgot to turn around for. This was probably the best match anybody could have hoped for.

PAS: Naw bruh, this stunk, it didn't have the blown spots one might expect from these guys, but this was also clearly chopped to shit. I can only imagine how bad the uncut version of this match is, lets hope there isn't a Lucha Underground Classics show in 10 years where we see the full versions of all the matches. I don't know if a good opponent for Killshot exists, but I know Johnny Mundo is the worst possible opponent for him. Also if you are debuting Justin Gabriel why have Killshot do a shitty 450 the match before, Gabriel is all 450, he is more 450 then the pair of guys working Mr. 450 gimmicks (WHAT UP JERELLE CLARK!! I SEE YOU HAMMETT!!), don't snatch that dudes only thing.

ER: Oh hey, Sexy Star is back. But as long as the Moth keeps her tied up and away from a wrestling ring he'll be the biggest tecnico in the company.

ER: PJ Black pulling over to fight skinny motocross guys in a motel parking lot was a little silly, but I guess you gotta give a guy something to do in vignettes. Darewolf? There wolf. There castle. Maybe he was actually supposed to do an Airwolf gimmick and the printer messed up the shirts? I know if he brought out an eye-patched Alex Cord as his manager it would be a clear upgrade over whatever a Darewolf is supposed to be. Wait was Jan Michael Vincent the wrong one legged man who Ace signed instead of Gowen??

PAS: This was one of the lazier vignettes. Don't we already have a biker stable? Don't we already have a smooth chested ex-WWE midcarder with long black hair and elaborate kick combos? When LU writers are out of ideas they just have someone randomly street fight luchadores, it has lost its luster a bit.

2. The Mack vs. PJ Black

ER: Fun debut for Black, and naturally the whole time the match was going on I was getting ready to type about how they really backed themselves into a corner by booking the debuting Black against a guy who should be featured more prominently, and how this is a step backward for Mack after having his big match with Cage at Ultima Lucha, and how he really needed to be seen winning after taking the curb stomp through the cinder block, and how he's now gonna have to take another loss and blah blah blah I was totally wrong and should have had more faith that this is not TNA and they won't just bring in any old WWE worker and immediately push them as a far bigger star than their existing talent. This was exactly the way the match should have been handled: a nice back and forth match with a decisive Mack victory, showing Black that he has his work cut out for him in this new company. Mack has potential superstar written all over him and it seems like the company realizes it. Some of Black's capoeira looked a little dodgy, but Mack was always right there with a big kick or chubby moonsault to snap me out of it. Fun stuff.

PAS: Mack looked good as usual, I loved his open hand Ronnie Garvin chops, but I am not going to give them too much credit for not doing the dumbest booking move. I was amused at how Vampiro shit all over Black and his stupid gimmick on commentary, but I don't really get the point of having an announcer do that.

ER: I'm not sure who Moon Kobra is. I couldn't recognize her from her chin/eyes. I don't think the promotion was hurting for another female as I'm not interested in seeing even more intergender matches, but if this is a step toward a woman's division I'd be happy with that.

PAS: That vignette was exactly the same as PJ Black's without the motorcycling, this fed really has a problem with doing the same thing multiple times on one show.

3. The Disciples of Death vs. Prince Puma & Pentagon Jr.

ER: Decent match, although not a great way to make your trios champs look very formidable. I like the storyline idea of Muertes the Insatiable trying to take out the people who he views as his biggest competition, but DOD didn't ever come across as very threatening even with the handicap advantage. That aside this is the best I remember the DOD looking, with the one in a white skull mask (sorry don't know their names) throwing some especially snug strikes. Puma does some crazy dives to the shock of everybody. Although I really don't like Pentagon as a put upon guy fighting the odds, I like him more as lawless monster serving a master for purposes of evil. Having him on the short side of a handicap match is just opposites day, and took away from things for me, even though the ring work wasn't bad (though it did feel choppy and a little disjointed at times).

PAS: This felt like a very lazy bit of RAW booking. Feuding tag partners in a handicap match is a lame-o wrestling trope I can't imagine anyone actually liking. Thought the work was fine, although the DOD are pretty much the Cruel Connection at this point.

ER: Final segment was really cool and exciting, and right when I heard a voice off camera I thought it sounded like Rey. I avoid spoilers as best as possible for this show, but I had heard Rey rumors. This is exciting stuff. So even though it was a clear step back from last week's debut, it was still a pleasant (and quick) hour of TV.

PAS: I am jazzed for Rey, but I would rather not have him stuck in the dipshit tar pit of the Dragon Azteca storyline. Still Rey is the best.


LUCHA UNDERGROUND EPISODE GUIDE

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Wednesday, February 03, 2016

MLJ: Virus vs Rocky Romero [CMLL SL]

2004-12-10 @ Arena México
Rocky Romero vs Virus [CMLL SL]

22:23 in

So in my search for Negro Casas vs Tarzan Boy, I came across this. We really don't have a ton of Virus online from 2000 to 2009 or so. And this isn't just Virus but title match Virus against, at the least, an interesting opponent. Romera was in as Habana Brother I and he was the first Super Lightweight champion. Virus had beaten him back around a year before, though it doesn't look like he defended it too many times. Averno and Volador, Jr. were the seconds.

I'm really glad I bumped into this one, because it's a great look at a younger Virus, firmly into the gimmick, and with some momentum. Some of the general rules that apply to younger Negro Casas apply here too. He showed his usual mastery on the mat, had that sense of competition and struggle, even when they were doing quick pin spots, but he did everything about 25% faster than he does now and while that's not the most important thing in the world to me, it was still great to see him lock in his complex holds at the higher speed.

Romero was fine. He had some vaguely indytastic offense but it fit the match they were working. Even the more elaborate strikes didn't seem nearly as choreographed as they could have. He also brought enough attitude and general emotion (especially frustration) to things that it made the fans get behind Virus when he was fighting his way out of holds. I don't think I'd ever heard a Virus chant before seeing this match.

I just wish more Virus from this era was online. One of these days I'm actually going to go out and try to see if I can find the Ricky Marvin title matches and the Fuerza/Juventud singles matches. Virus is worth it. Anyway, check this one out.

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Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Dick Togo is the L. Ron Hubbard of the Cupboard

Sato/Shiryu/Great Sasuke v. Gran Naniwa/Super Delfin/Jinsei Shinzaki AJW 11/20/94- GREAT

This was a MPRO signature match on the All Japan Women's Big Egg Universe, and was a nifty version of their signature pre-KDX trios match. This was clearly meant to be a pallet cleanser for a long AJW show, and was more comedy focused then the stuff they were doing on their own shows. Still this shtick is great shtick, and Naniwa and Delfin have great comic timing with each other. Probably goes a bit long to be truly high end, but the finish run was pretty exciting with great dives by everyone including two nutty Sato dives with one being a tope where he almost goes vertical.


COMPLETE AND ACCURATE DICK TOGO

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Monday, February 01, 2016

MLJ: Negro Casas vs Tarzan Boy [HAIR]

2002-09-13 @ Arena México
Tarzan Boy vs Negro Casas

26:39 in

I had to go digging a bit for this one. That's one of the bits of madness about this whole thing. There's more lucha online that I'm ever going to get to, and that's just online, and really that's just the stuff that interests me too. There are things I prioritize though, and a Negro Casas hair match I've never seen anyone talk about is up there.

I have a soft spot for Tarzan Boy too. Because it's one of the first things I came across starting this a couple of years ago, I'm a sucker for the Ultimo Guerrero, Rey Bucanero, Atlantis, Tarzan Boy, Olimpico version of GdI. He's like the world's best, smarmiest Paul Roma, but you know, in a good way. He's absolutely insufferable here, coming out to Simply Irresistible with four girls, tights with 69 on them, and lipstick kisses all over his body. There's a great camera shot early on of Casas entering the ring with Tarzan Boy in the foreground, standing on the second rope posing, partially obscuring the entrance. Later on, he wouldn't stop posing and grinding even as the ref was trying to give him instructions. That'd distract Casas enough that he could rush in and take the early advantage in the match.

This was the main event of the 2002 Anniversary show, so it's not exactly totally under the radar or anything. This footage claims to be unedited but the only way that seems to matter is with some longer pan shots than usual and the fact they don't split screen the replays. It's very watchable.

This was a one-fall match for some reason (not unlike the Damien vs Satanico match from around this period). It could have used a few more minutes certainly and almost functions as a hair match sprint, without long spurts of selling you'd expect in the tercera, but it's a very good match for what it is.

What's telling, too, is that you could see where the act breaks would be. Tarzan Boy loses the advantage early as Casas hits this great spear, but he gets it back with a really nice Drop Toe Hold, and they go back and forth a bit until he hits this a killer half nelson slam/chokeslam thing, following it up with a springboard spinning splash. That'd probably be a fall. A few moves later, Casas escapes from a Gory Special/pin, and manages to get in the Scorpion Deathlock; that'd be the comeback and the second fall. Then they brawl back and forth for a bit until Casas puts him in a chair on the outside and as he gets up, hits his running seated senton. That would be the transition point to the finishing stretch in the tercera. So it all makes sense. It just happens to be one fall. In this match, given the time it had, it helps because there's never a real feeling of disappointment from short falls. It all feels like more than the sum of its parts. In situations where they're going to have three or four minutes between the first two falls, maybe they should go this way instead.

So, it's missing some of the drama that you'd get in the end of these because it doesn't nearly have the number of near falls you'd usually expect (Though one at the end is really good). It also does have a slight veneer of its times. Tarzan Boy hits a Scorpion Death Drop and later in the match, Casas hits a full nelson spin out into one. Tarzan Boy launches this pretty silly cradle suplex too which didn't quite have the execution it needed. Those are minor things in the grand scheme though. As part of the Casas canon that doesn't get talked about much, it's worth seeing (But then every part of the Casas canon is worth seeing), and hey, Tarzan Boy's such a jerk in it that a fan even runs in to attack him after the match.

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Sunday, January 31, 2016

2016 Ongoing MOTY List: Gulak/TJP v. ZSJ/Callihan

1. Drew Gulak/TJ Perkins v. Zach Sabre Jr./Sami Callihan EVOLVE 1/23

ER: I loved this and it might have even been my favorite Gulak performance. The term "ring awareness" gets tossed around by commentary crews in practically every match you ever watch. It's basically a meaningless term at this point. But damn Gulak was so good and just so aware of where he was at in the ring and in the structure of the match that it really felt like the definition example of the term. Flashy submission style wrestling tends to work better in a singles match setting, as the subs need time to build and tag settings make it easier for partners to break things up. But he (and the others) were really good about cutting off the ring, tagging in and out at proper times to keep the flow going, and doing neat things like saving partners from a sub while actually doing damage to his opponent. I loved when Sabre had Gulak trapped in a kind of backpack Americana, while Sami has TJP trapped in a sub, and Gulak just falls on top of the pile effectively ending all submissions. Gulak and Sabre were so fun together, with fun flashy counters and learned mistakes. Sabre did one of my favorite reversals by pulling his own leg close with his own leg to get out of a sub, and then when Gulak did the same moments later Sabre countered it, but Gulak was right there to quickly roll through Sabre's counter surfboard. It's all happening so quick and laid out so smart that it's really wonderful when it works out as well as it does. Gulak was really a terror throughout, though. His ring positioning was killer, both for his own subs and to not make his opponent look like a boob (how many times have you seen somebody supposed to be trapped in a sub, but then have to move AWAY from the ropes so as to look more in danger, due to his opponent's lousy positioning?), and his timing was on point. He always knew the right moment to tag in TJP, and the right moment to do cool things like a fast surprise tope towards the end of the match. Sabre Jr. feels like a guy with a million cool tricks up his sleeve and is able to do flash without making it look rehearsed and exhibition-y. Callihan is a welcome return to the indies and I like him diving back to this style, and also like him breaking from formula by doing things like bailing to the floor to plaster Matt Riddle in the face with a kick. I thought all the subs worked great in the tag setting, and I think that's much more a testament to the 4 guys in the match than anything else. This was really great.

PAS:  I really enjoyed this a bunch too, the main the night before was more of a bomb fest, this was almost a hyped up version of a maestros tag, all four guys tried to whip out a bunch of crazy submissions and the constant saves stopped them from doing a catch and release which can weaken Lucha versions of this match style. I have been a bit of a Sabre Jr. agnostic before, but he has really kicked it into gear in the last year and is already on a hell of a roll in 2016, I loved him as the flashy submission artist in contrast to the more subdued Gulak, they just meshed great. Callihan is so much fun in these tags too he wrestles like he's on speed and it is a great contrast to the submission work, we get some pretty counter mat wrestling and then this lunatic runs in to kick people in the face. Didn't love the finish, as partner dissension is an old school wrestling trope which bores me, still this was overall a heck of match.


2016 MOTY MASTER LIST

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Saturday, January 30, 2016

Lucha Underground Season 2 Episode 1: A Much Darker Place

PAS: I am very weary about the added focus on vignettes but I admit Vampiro in the mental institution was pretty cool. I liked how the days without an incident graphic changed during his hallucination. Not really sure how visible hallucinations fit in professional wrestling, but I am just going to have to get over that.

ER: That opening was absurd and cheesy and completely awesome. Vamp in his videotaped special cell was great, and I loved the psychiatrist too. Him meeting up with Striker in the wastelands was hilarious. And I love Catrina's new bangs (though I'm pretty sure it's a wig), and love Muertes looming above everything in the Temple from his throne, like some Golan the Insatiable type godlord. Felt like it needed a couple slave girls around him. Maybe a head on a stake. Definitely some platters of meat. Probably a flagon of mead.

1. King Cuerno vs. Fenix

PAS: Very good match, one of the better non gimmick singles matches this promotion has run. Really glad to see they are doing something with Cuerno, as he seemed to flounder near the end of last season. Always love his awesome tope, and Fenix looked very good as well. New Cuerno finish felt like a real nasty finish

ER: Man what a great start to the new season, and a nice fresh start for Cuerno who was probably the biggest victim of the fed dropping the ball in season 1. He was deservedly treated like a big deal here and it's obviously an important thing to be chosen to be in the first match of the new season, so I like that as a sign. And it also helps that both guys tore it up and broke out some extremely cool stuff. Only complaint really is that they did maybe too much cool stuff, and because it was so go go go that meant some stuff that looked wicked was kind of forgotten about a moment later. For example, Fenix gets absolutely spiked by an apron-to-floor DDT, getting nice and vertical for it, but had to stand up seconds later to get ready to catch the arrow to the heart tope. It's the kind of thing that's forgivable when the entire match execution is this damn good, and also considering the spot the match was in on the debut episode. Both guys locked in and were really perfect dance partners for the other. Cuerno was so smooth, not just in taking ranas and leaning into kicks, but look at the way he gets ole'd up to the top rope. He gets up there so quick it's like he teleported. I loved all the strikes in this, loved the superkick variations we got. For a move that's probably the most overused move in workrate wrestling today, they made their superkicks look nasty and effectively built them into the match (the EXTREMELY loud sound sweetening I thought added to things as well). Really really dug this. Great start.

2. Son of Havoc vs. Angelico vs. Ivelisse

PAS: This was good stuff too, I didn't like the intergender stuff last year, but that maybe more of a function of Sexy Star sucking so much, and being booked so weird. I totally bought into Ivileese being credible, she laid it into both guys, took a nice beating and got an opportunistic win.

ER: Also liked this, as it managed to avoid a lot of the awkwardness with three way matches. There was some weirdness, like Angelico seemingly working this match as a handicap against Ivelisse. Every time he would accidentally hit Havoc he would act all apologetic, which is weird since he is just as much of an opponent as Ivelisse. And then Vampiro's sound bites seemingly fired off at random times, so things like "It doesn't get more old school than that" were being said after a Havoc springboard crossbody. But there was plenty of cool stuff. I liked Havoc's double tope, Angelico absolutely pasted Ivelisse with a running knee in the corner, they cranked the sound sweetening on all of Ivelisse's chops but she does a fine job showing that she can hang and didn't seem wildly out of place against *gasp* men! Angelico's full body motocross outfit looked absurd.

3. Ivelisse vs. Mil Muertes

PAS: Man this was shockingly great, they did such a good job of teasing Ivilese moments of hope, only to deflate them perfectly. The missed spear into the roll up was a great near fall and I actually bought a quick title change (which was helped by the unexpected Cuerno title win). Puma coming to the rescue and then Pentagon Jr. running out was just a great bit of pro-wrestling. The whole thing was just a masterful bit of wrestling booking and execution. I have been critical of some of this feds booking, but this was great. Loving Pentagon as loose cannon anti-hero.

ER: This whole thing was handled incredibly well and also logically introduced all the main players of the season in a tidy 6 minutes. I was skeptical they'd be able to avoid making Muertes look weak while keeping Ivelisse strong, but this was about as smart and satisfying as I imagine it could be done. The nearfall roll-up was incredibly effective and I fully bought into it. Catrina confirms her wig status by selling Muertes' spear by grabbing the sides of her hair and holding onto it while rolling to the floor. Puma is smartly reintroduced by saving Ivelisse, and then Pentagon gets a badass spot of snapping Muertes arm. Awesome segment.

PAS: What exactly is Black Lotus's character arc? She comes to the temple to avenge her parents death, gets trained by a wise master, gets betrayed by Chavo, captured and thrown in a cage, weirdly decides that her arch enemy who keeps his cannibal brother in a cage next to her is telling the truth about her parents death,  decides to murder her mentor and now is acting as bait for some sort of Hostel of slaughter.  Is this their attempt to do Shakesperean tragedy? I am excited for Matanza to start wrestling, and Cueto is a great actor, but this whole story line is beyond stupid.

ER: I love that Dario gamed those dudes out of only $60 before sending them to their death, and then counts it afterwards, like he's already imagining a really nice dinner at Applebee's. "Black Lotus, feel free to order any of the Endless Apps you want. I'm thinking mozzarella sticks and a Fireball whiskey lemonade."

ER: Well top to bottom this was right up there with the best shows in company history. All of the right characters were the ones being featured, and they were all featured in super satisfying ways. There should be zero complaints about this show.


COMPLETE LUCHA UNDERGROUND REVIEWS


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Friday, January 29, 2016

MLJ: Sombra Spotlight 13: Volador Jr./La Sombra/Sagrado vs. Sangre Azteca/Black Warrior/Dragón Rojo [MEX TRIOS]

2009-02-03 @ Arena México
Volador Jr./La Sombra/Sagrado vs. Sangre Azteca/Black Warrior/Dragón Rojo [MEX TRIOS]


Last offramp for now. I thought it would make sense to watch at least one of the Mexican National Trios tag title matches that Sombra had as well, just to cover all the ground before we move on. I like looking at a luchador in all of the different roles he might play and while I won't do that entirely for every stage of Sombra's career, a trios title match seemed logical. I'm not going to go back to the match these three had vs Hijo de Fantasma, Maximo, and Mascara too even if that does look interesting. See, I have some restraint. That's online, for anyone curious though. If you do watch it, let me know how it is.

This was a match that had a lot of time and that showed off a lot of the strengths of the genre, with all the dives and cut offs and fast action you'd want, with a little bit of heat and a spattering of early matwork that I'd call middling, and some big spots and really solid character work. It's not necessarily a trios title match I'm going to remember in two years but I'm not going to hesitate in calling it good.

My biggest takeaways were:

1.) Sombra really stood out at this point. Volador did too, sure, but Sombra felt like more of a total package, even at this point. The biggest example I can give is this: at parts of the match, just from their gear, it was almost impossible to tell Sagrado and Sombra apart. They all had team gear and while Volador had the silver mask, both Volador and Sagrado were in black. Despite that, I never had a hard time here. Why? Because Sombra was so much smoother, so much faster, so much more graceful, and so much more dynamic in almost every aspect of his work, and that's including the opening matwork.

2.) I got a real kick out of the rudo side and it's disappointing to me we don't have more title matches with them. I'm no big fan of Sangre Azteca in general, but he was a little younger here, a lot faster, and didn't JUST launch creative shots to places he shouldn't be striking (though he did that too). Black Warrior was hugely emotive. I need to run through his big matches at some point.

3.) Dragon Rojo, Jr. came off as a very solid foil for Sombra. I've got a number of their matches ahead of me, and I'll probably end up diving a little deeper than I first intended.

and 4.) The crowd was really into this, straight down to the finish. That's another reason I'm sad that there weren't many defenses (if any) by the rudos. This felt like a big deal and some of that was due to the big entrances, some to the work itself, and some just to the time they had.

I'd definitely point to this as another indication of how far Sombra had come up to 2009. It takes a different set of skills to be a cog in a trios match like this than a singles title match, and at this stage Sombra was a solid fit for matches like this.

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