MLJ: Hijo del Santo vs Blue Panther 15(Final): 2004 in the UK, Part 2
2004-10-8 - Arts Exhibition "Arena Mexico"
University of Essex, UK
Hijo del Santo vs Blue Panther (One Fall)
It's hard to believe that this match was just two days later from the earlier one. It's in front of a similar crowd, worked to one fall, and goes even longer than the first one, but it's world's better. This is the last Santo vs Panther match I have for this series and in a lot of ways it's a great one to go out on. It's not perfect, but it was two masters of their craft bouncing back from an awkward (if well-received) situation a few nights before and really showing the audience what they could do.
Even though Panther received his share of cheers when he came out, and spotted Blue Panther chants throughout the match, this time he knew he was the rudo from the first moment. There was a sense of scrambling in the earlier match but here it was all very focused. The match was one fall but had a sense of three acts. In the first, they mat wrestled with Santo taking the advantage but Panther slipping out or getting shots in between superior strength and roughness. It ended in a natural sort of place after a 'rana and nearfall. After that, Panther really started to open up with his rudo stylings, playing heavily to the crowd but falling pery to Santo's technique and determination. This was a somewhat circular process but unlike the first match, it built to something, escalating more and more until Santo finally had enough, and after Panther got a cheapshot in after a rope break, he began to finally fire away, which lead to a surprisingly heated third act with a number of nearfalls, some legwork, and deep fatigue selling.
So there was focus and there was escalation and there was heat, and because of these things, there was a much higher sense of stake. Past one annoying person in the crowd who would shout "rudo" every time Panther did anything less than clean, the crowd was a little more clued in here. They didn't start Santo chants whenever there was a lull in the action to amuse themselves and Panther gave one of the more dickish performances of his career, I imagine, playing to them after almost every move he hit. I think that's been one of my favorite things about seeing him so much in this. He was far more multifaceted than he gets credit for. Yes, he played the technical role in a lot of those classic trios, but that's because Fuerza or Psicosis or Espanto/Pentagon were there. Now we mainly see him as the old man tecnico. When it was his role to play, however, he had this blunt sort of deluded rudo charisma that was very fun, especially when it was coupled with the technical skill.
There was quite a bit of technical skill on the table here too. The holds were more elaborate than in the first match and the jockeying for position during the ins and outs of them were great. This is a fancam from a few rows back so the views are limited but the little strikes they used to soften each other to escape holds or to set them up were plentiful and meaningful, as was attempts to grab a hand or foot or anything else. It was all competitive and all very organic and it's probably the best I've seen Santo on the mat. That might have been the nature of the relatively long match, of his opponent, or just the setting but it was thoroughly enjoyable and way more effort and detail than they needed to put into the match. There were still a couple of flubs on more complex holds but this time around, it felt more like a side effect of the struggle and not old age or sheer complexity flummoxing the wrestlers trying to work together.
This went more than thirty-five minutes on one fall, so there really is a lot to see. I wish the legwork had been a bit more meaningful in the context of the match. It would have fit better into that second act and helped lead to a clearer comeback. That's not the sort of match they were wrestling though, which is an excuse I find much easier to make here than for the one two nights before; here there was a real sense of vision from two absolute masters. If it was not the perfect match, and it wasn't, it was still great proof of just how good both of them were, the sort of proof that was sorely lacking from the match two nights before. Their first match from Monterrey was better, but there was so much to love here too.