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Monday, July 21, 2014

Reader Request: Drew Gulak vs. Green Ant

Drew Gulak vs. Green Ant, Wrestling is Respect 6/30/13

So after watching and loving the recent Gulak/Busick match from CZW a helpful and friendly reader of the blog suggested we check out some recent Gulak/Ant matches from the Wrestling Is… feds (I assume those feds are part of the Chikara banner?). Apparently there was a recent match between the two, and this one is from a year ago, but this match was a real beauty. Gulak is apparently a former ant (Soldier) and I haven't seen much Green Ant but I've watched a bunch of Chikara (granted much of it was from 2006-2009) and I don't remember the Ants being this awesome. Maybe my brain is just thinking of too many awful Egyptians matches, but I remember the Ants being fairly so-so. But now I find out Gulak was an Ant and here we have Green Any working as a non-ironic Volk Han. Shoot for all I know Green Ant could have been Timothy Thatcher. This match is just 10 minutes but didn't need any more time. There were no highspots the whole match, no rope running, no strikes, just a bunch of cool grappling based around headlock takeovers, wrist locks, knee bars and awesome leveraged pinfalls. Green Ant has a cool assortment of rolling ankle picks, and breaks out the old Volk Han flying body scissors. Both guys are really good at turning the other's knee bars and ankle locks into pinfall attempts, sometimes holding onto their own legs to get a better grip on a pinball. A lot of cool stuff with using the other guy's weight against them. At one point Ant reversed an O'Connor Roll into a sweet rear naked choke w/ body vice and I flipped out. This was an excellent mat display, really cool stuff. Makes me want to go back and watch all the Ants stuff from old Chikara shows.

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Sunday, July 20, 2014

MLJ: Hijo del Santo vs Blue Panther 2: El Hijo del Santo, Octagon & Rey Misterio Jr. vs Psicosis, Blue Panther & Fuerza Guerrera

1994-07-15 AAA Sin Limite
El Hijo del Santo, Octagon & Rey Misterio Jr. vs Psicosis, Blue Panther & Fuerza Guerrera

Now THIS is the good stuff. There is a ton of lucha out in the world, a ton, and I've been avoiding a lot of the big feuds and big matches and big moments as things to work up to. Sometimes, though, I sort of stumble into something great. This match was one of those, which might speak to the fact I stacked the deck with this particularly mini-project. It had everything I could have hoped for in looking at Panther vs Santo matches. Not only did it have a pretty extensive pairing of the two, but all the other luchadors in were a lot of fun, the structure was there so things had meaning, and Santo looked downright amazing. When people talk about how he's the greatest luchador of their lifetime, it's matches like this which make him that.

I have to admit that I was a little worried about this one too. I have a preconceived notion about a lot of the AAA matches from this era for one reason or another. So many of my previous notions of lucha have turned out to be false but I always thought they came from some truth and probably from this era when it was in vogue with Meltzer and what not. Almost through the process of elimination, since I hadn't seen it in most things I've watched so far, I was expecting spotfests and disjointed exchanges and meaningless matwork. That wasn't THIS match at all.

First, a brief note about the match's structure, so we have a roadmap for diving in and out of individual performances and match-ups. The primera was mainly exchanges, with Panther/Santo, Rey/Psicosis, and Octagon/Fuerza getting the most time. The tecnicos took the first fall spectacularly. The segunda had the rudos taking over, utilizing unsavory tactics and the numbers game. It bled into the tercera, an eventual comeback, and the finishing stretch. I've seen people complain about how one-sided the caidas were in this specific match but that's what lucha trios is all about, the match-ups, the shine or beatdown, the anticipation for the comeback, and the charge to the finish. This match worked all the better because it had very high-end wrestling within the confines of a framework that gave it all meaning. I just wish the comeback had been a little bit better, because that's so often the key emotional moment in lucha trios matches and it just came up a little short here.

Let's lead with Santo since he's the wrestler who stood out the most and also the one who we're ultimately examining. He showed amazing range and skill here, both in physical prowess and wrestling knowledge. Everyone got to work with everyone else at one point or another but Santo vs Panther led and they led with some top-notch matwork. Some of what they did has been copied and overused over the years but here it felt so natural and organic and real. There were moments in this exchange that were definitely collaborative but they somehow felt competitive. That's astounding to me because it simply shouldn't be possible and it almost never works that way. They had another exchange later in the fall that was just as good and then Santo ended the caida by flipping over Psicosis who Octagon had in a power bomb position so that he could hit a 'rana. It was fluid and agile and beautiful.

He spent much of the back half of the match on the other side of things. First off, he played fiery babyface on the apron very well to help fuel the rudo beatdown. Then he had a great stretch as FIP, including both eating some nasty offense like a killer knee drop onto the apron from Fuerza and selling and garnering sympathy. He capped it all off with a huge plancha from the top rope to set the stage for the Rey vs Psicosis finishing sequence.

Everyone else had a chance to stand out as well. All of the rudos were more than solid as bases for the tecnicos. Psicosis and Rey had quick exchanges. It was obvious that they were talented but maybe Rey didn't quite have quite the savvy he'd have even a year or two later. He served his purpose though, getting pinballed about to start the rudo beatdown (including eating Fuerza's power bomb rocket launcher) and hitting an amazing dive on Psicosis after Panther launched him to redirect Rey charging at him. He took the tecera with a lightning 'rana. Fuerza and Octagon worked more shtick into their exchanges but they still came off as showy and impressive. For I guy I've only seen in two or three matches, I really love Fuerza. He just instills so much character into what he does and he's able to do it while still working fairly complex sequences and kicking out big moves. It's a great balance. I can't say I got a great sense of Octagon from this match save for the fact he worked well with Fuerza and didn't drag things down.

The first fall was incredibly high end and the beatdown was a lot of fun. I love that the rudos used a ref distraction in order to take over and that they were picking up heat using both traditional southern tag team tools and the rudo numbers game advantage even as they were hitting memorable moves on Rey and then Santo. As I said, the comeback was the only thing lacking. During the tercera, and after a brief bit of instruction on the outside from Santo, Rey snuck in to assist Octagon who had just gotten overwhelemed by the numbers game. They sort of just walked up and double suplexed Psicosis and then the tecnicos recovered so they could take it towards the finish. It was sudden, sure, but definitely didn't pay off well the build of the match.

That said, everyone looked great in this and I could watch trios matches of this caliber all day. It's up there with the best lucha I've seen in this project so far. Santo's skill absolutely stood out the most. He was as agile as Rey and Psicosis, sold and drew sympathy as well as Rey, more than kept up on the mat with Panther, and portrayed his character almost as well as Fuerza. He was both subtle and spectacular when the match called for it, with spot on timing. Here, he was as good as his reputation, and that is saying a lot.

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Saturday, July 19, 2014

Uprising: Lucha Libre Workrate Report 7/19/14

This week they show more matches from the SF show we went to on 2/22/14. At least they're showing matches, plural, as opposed to stretching an 11 minute match out to fill 30 minutes.

Pistolero vs. El Campesino

I believe both of these guys are Pro Wrestling Revolution trainees. I've seen Pistolero before and he seemed fine, and this would be my first time seeing Campesino. We did not see this match live as we felt it was more important to savor our delicious meal at Papito than rush over to see an opener. I'm pretty sure this was the only match that happened before the woman's 3 way (that I wrote up a couple weeks back). I really liked Pistolero in this. He doesn't really work a "lucha libre" style but instead more of an American indy style (especially with his snap mare into big kick to the back), but he has nice chops, cuts low on a clothesline, commits to missing a big elbow off the top, feeds Campesino's armdrags well, and hits a mean Tenryu-style falling clothesline that had a bunch of speed and force behind it. Campesino didn't show me tons here, but didn't look bad. He didn't really have offense, instead doing some armdrags and sunset flip variations to win. I'd really like to see Pistolero against somebody else. His style would work easily with almost any worker, and while I'm not sure how long he's been working, he definitely had some polish.

El Mariachi vs. "La Migra" Derek Sanders

Live I remember this match being an evenly worked affair with no cheating, just two guys working a normal match, and with Mariachi coming off like the whiniest tecnico possible always whining about not getting a fair shake during the match. Here's what I wrote the other week about the promotion always making tecnicos look weak:

"Later in the live card there was a match between Border Patrol member Derek Sanders, against clear tecnico El Mariachi. I mean, he was the obvious tecnico, coming out in full mariachi gear in front of a 85% hispanic crowd, doing a stylish zapateado with his intricately dressed valet, facing a guy who came out shouting about sending Mexicans back home. And all through the match you had El Mariachi yelling at his valet, complaining about interference to the ref, and then threatening to break up with his valet when he lost. The thing is, there WAS no interference, and he lost 100% clean to Sanders. So your big tecnico just whined the whole match and then blamed his loss on his chica, and the promotion genuinely thought he would leave to a polite ovation from the fans. I mean just a completely clueless way to book tecnicos."

Watching the match again and match itself was better than I remember, with a finish way more confusing than I originally thought. Sanders looked good in this, working around the limited Mariachi. Mariachi worked a lot of headlocks and Sanders actually found ways to make them amusing. Another decidedly non-lucha match in a "lucha libre" fed (for the most part the only lucha thing in the fed is that they broadcast on spanish-speaking TV stations and a lot of their wrestlers wear masks). Mariachi's comeback is really just two clotheslines (nice ones) and a nice body press. The confusing moment I mentioned comes at the end, with Mariachi suplexing Sanders back into the ring, with Mariachi's valet then holding Mariachi's legs, allowing Sanders to fall on him for the win. I could not see that from where I was sitting. We were directly across the ring side that the "interference" happened on so from our angle it just looked like Sanders reversed the suplex for the win, and then Mariachi complained about interference that didn't happen.

But this finish was somehow even worse than that. What they did here was book Mariachi's own valet, who was not established in the least or had any sort of history with this audience, to turn on Mariachi…but then show immediate remorse and apologize to Mariachi. There was nothing whatsoever indicating that she was working with La Migra, and what would her motives be anyway? Is this some sort of far reaching plan that's been in the works for a year, just so Sanders could win the 3rd match on a card at some point?  She's wearing a traditional Mexican dress, does nothing to help Mariachi throughout the match, and apparently was only there to lead to a SHOCKING finish which nobody whomsoever could possibly care about. Just because something is unexpected doesn't make it good, or interesting. What could possibly be gained from telling an audience "Hey here's Mariachi's valet! SHE TURNED ON HIM! They're back together." All told over the span of 10 minutes. Introducing a character for the sole purpose of turning them is one of the cheapest, most narratively bankrupt ideas a writer can do, and here they didn't even have the balls to go all the way with it. Instead they pathetically tried to go for something deeper, really focusing on the valet's tortured facials as she held down Mariachi's boots. The ANGUISH she was going through! Hand to the temple, what had she done! Was it all worth it!? And it's not like this fed runs shows very frequently, so if god forbid this lamebrain story is something they actually intend to come back to, it will be months and months before the next chapter in this thrilling tale of betrayal. Truly one of the more clueless ways they could have chosen to finish this match. Unless they're really targeting a demographic of Mexican American males who feel like the only thing holding them back in life is their traditional Mexican spouse. That seemed to be the lesson I learned from this. Mariachi was making a name for himself, and about to win the title, until his traditional Mexican spouse held him back and crushed his dreams. Were men in the crowd supposed to go "hey yeahhhhh. My life would be WAY better without my woman holding me back!" So, so much dumber than I initially thought.

Thanks Pro Wrestling Revolution!!

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Friday, July 18, 2014

Chanoc y El Hijo del Santo vs. Los Vampiros Asesinos (1981)

Occasionally I will skim through my many hispanic TV channels, looking for old Jorge Rivero flicks or Isela Vega dramas. Looking through today and there was a Hijo del Santo flick from 1981 on one of our many spanish stations, called "Chanoc y El Hijo del Santo vs. Los Vampiros Asesinos" and watching Santo Sr. and Jr. battle vampire murderers with no subtitles to speak of seemed like not the worst way to spend a couple hours. My Spanish speaking experience includes: watching lucha for the last 15+ years, and taking one year of Spanish in high school. There is a good chance I will miss some of the subtle drama that Mexican peliculas are known for. And I figured that if I took the time to watch this flick, it couldn't hurt to take additional time to write about this flick for you, the reader.

We open on El Santo in some sort of cave fortress bunker speaking to El Hijo in what I imagine is some sort of torch passing. Santo is in full Santo regalia, whereas his son is wearing a tight striped polo, jeans, and is completely maskless. His face is covered, somewhat, by a bushy mustache, fluffy 80s hair and gigantic sunglasses. Like gigantic sunglasses. Like Ace Rothstein in San Diego doing sports handicapping, but deciding he needed some larger sunglasses. El Hijo del Santo looks like Giorgio Moroder on the From Here to Eternity album cover. Like the most hirsute bad ass dude in the room (cave). Santo throws a smoke bomb and then El Hijo is now in all silver. He is now ready to fight crime, whether it be local hoods, a crime syndicate, or vampire murderers.  

And then this movie reaches an impossible peak which it will never be able to top, when the cast of luchadores is revealed in the credits to be Voltio Negro, El Polaco, Maldito Mendoza and…

Charles Bronson Mexicano. You know, the Mexican Charles Bronson. You know, like Charles Bronson, only Mexican. You know, a Mexican guy who somewhat looks like Charles Bronson. A cursory glance online reveals that yes, this former masked luchador does indeed somewhat look like Charles Bronson, and I cannot think of another gimmick post mask-loss that can possibly be better than Charles Bronson Mexicano.

Plus this will give me ample opportunities to do my not-entirely-inaccurate Bronson impression throughout the whole movie. I'm a pretty big Bronson fan, with stuff like Mr. Majestyk and The Mechanic getting regularly watched in our household. I'm even a fan of bad 80s Bronson, like Kinjite: Forbidden Subjects. So, upside of Charles Bronson Mexicano: endless Bronson impressions. Downside: There is zero chance Charles Bronson Mexicano will be anything but a massive disappointment. He was like the 7th billed luchador in this thing. There's a chance the most that will happen is he'll get kicked off a boat or something.

So I'm going to kind of rush through the rest of the review, as I have over 400 words and we've had one short scene and the opening credits. 4 minutes and 400 words.  If I keep going at this pace I may as well just do a kickstarter to write a book breaking down the film in 200 pages. So for the rest of this I'll just highlight some of my favorite scenes and observations:

~Hijo del Santo didn't really wrestle in this. I was curious to see 1981 Santo wrestling thugs in a park because I don't really know how 1981 Santo moved. I'm really used to how late 90s/early 2000s Santo moved, but I was really curious to see how different he looked when doing moves. We get a brief match that doesn't have anything to do with the movie, but most of the time Santo fights guys using martial arts moves. A lot of thrust kicks. He does them very nicely but it's weird and I was expecting weirder (i.e. arm drags and headscissors done performed in a real fight against jewel thieves and vampires).

~Hijo del Santo is mostly unmasked during this movie. The only times he dons the Santo garb are during the few scenes where he disappears Clark Kent style from a bad situation, only to return in full Santo gear to thrust kick guys or save them from falling off a boat (seriously he saves like 4 people from drowning). Most of the time, whether it be lounging with ladies in a…lounge…, or lounging with ladies at a restaurant, or watching a lady sing at a restaurant, he is wearing a striped polo, gigantic shades and a bushy mustache. Full on Giorgio Moroder. Or Ad-Rock in the Sabotage video. Yes. Exactly like Ad-Rock in the Sabotage video. How much more do you fucking love Santo picturing him with a giant bushy mustache under his mask!? He could have agreed to lose his mask at some point for a lucrative payoff, and then worked the rest of his career as Detective Thomas Magnum Mexicano.

~Most of the next hour of the movie is merely Santo and his buddy hot on the trail of jewel thieves. There is comedy from an awful man who goes by the name "Tzekub". He wears a gigantic fake white mustache. His comedy style is "make the most of your time on camera. Play it beyond the back row. Play it to the guy past the back row, out in the lobby getting snacks." It's like he saw some Milton Berle and decided to add a few reaction takes into the camera. The triple take wasn't enough.

~There are no vampires. It was a couple guys in a vampire disguise, which was really just face paint. No Santo fighting vampires. Which makes this the most disappointingly misleading movie title since I watched The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing, which featured neither dancing, nor cats, nor dancing with cats. In this instance it's smarter to downplay the name, like what Radio Shack does. I've never been inside a Radio Shack, but I imagine it's actually much nicer than a run down lean-to.

Overall, I'd say it was still worth the time. Santo unmasked was truly…not what I was expecting, and the community at large now knows there was a man whose gimmick was Charles Bronson Mexicano. I'd call that a win for the wrestling community at large.

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Thursday, July 17, 2014

MLJ: Atlantida Rising 8: Heavy Metal, Máximo, Negro Casas, Rey Bucanero vs Shigeo Okumura, Tarzan Boy, Terrible, Universo 2000

Aired 2006-06-17
Taped 2006-06-11 @ Arena Coliseo
Heavy Metal, Máximo, Negro Casas, Rey Bucanero vs Shigeo Okumura, Tarzan Boy, Terrible, Universo 2000

This is another match that I initially thought about skipping but it's the earliest one I have after the Rey turn and Tarzan Boy's on the other side so you'd think there would be some interaction. There's some but not as much as you'd expect. It did allow me a few things: to see an 8 man tag which I haven't seen too many of, to see Okumura who's still hanging around CMLL and who was new to me, to see my first real look at Terrible, and to see Maximo when he was quite a bit younger.

I'm not sure that all of these things together did pay off but it'll let me talk about a different match structure, so there's that. It also let me hear Universo's theme which I kind of love, but that's sort of beside the point, even if it was in my head for the rest of the day. The main purpose to this match was to set up the 8-man apeustas cage match. It's kind of weird that there wasn't at least one masked luchador in there considering but whatever. That's, in part, why the focus wasn't really on Tarzan Boy vs Rey, despite the turn just happening, and it was why both teams were so awkwardly put together.

The structure was fairly straightforward but still a variation that I haven't really talked about yet. The rudos started out with the advantage, ambushing the tecnicos before they all made their entrances. It was a chaotic scene but very one sided and not all that compelling, in part because the rudos were so varied and not prone to working together. The tecnicos came back, hit a few things and took the segunda. Then they reset entirely for the tercera which involved a lot of different pairings and the sort of showing off of skills and match-ups that you might expect in the primera in other matches. With the number of guys in this match, it needed room to breathe and they chose to end-load it for that purpose. This led to the story driven finish and the post-match brawling and mic challenges.

Let's talk briefly about some of the different luchadors. Rey was sporting a new look with a white open shirt and no facepaint. He looked a little like Gangrel. From what I understand, despite being over here and the turn leading to a title win upcoming and a few other big matches, it didn't set in all that well and just a few years later, he was a rudo again as part of La Peste Negra (with more of a pirate character, which is where we got Zacarias). He was over here and energetic and dynamic with the stuff he hit. Despite eating a fun, if kind of weird looking double submission in the first fall, he was more or less protected and was in the driver's seat for the finish.

It was my first look at Okumura, but he didn't really stand out. Past hitting his seated senton off the apron, neither did Casas, which always amazes me because he stands out so much in 2013-14 no matter his role in the match. They did have one brief but fun strike exchange together. Maximo showed strong character work in his exchanges with Terrible, like always, but he didn't seem nearly as smooth as he is currently. There was a false start or two and he was lacking that crispness. Heavy Metal continued to impress. He had some very fluid exchanges (including a great one with Universo) and hit an awesome dropkick on the apron. He was a great part of the CMLL roster in 2006. Terrible is a guy I definitely need to see more of. He has a killer look, like he's the heir to Emilio Charles, Jr. or something. I'm going to have to double back for his feud with Los Guapos in 2003 and probably for the Rush feud at some point, since I bet we have a lot of footage of the latter.

The finish was well done and set up the match to come. The tecnicos had taken most of the exchanges in the tercera up until Universo cutting off Maximo as he prepared to hit a dive. He then went for a dive himself but due to a quick evasion and miscommunication, he hit Terrible with it by accident. Back in the ring, Okumura was able to lock an Octopus on Rey, but broke it when he saw Universo going for a tombstone on Maximo. Rey quickly hit Universo from behind, blamed it on Okumura and the rudos started brawling with each other. One sudden roll up later and the match was over. I thought this was fairly effective for what it set out to do, being a showcase for everyone and a way to build up rivalries and anticipation for the gimmick match. It was pretty harmless but fun enough. For the sake of this project, it really didn't have a ton of heated wrestling between Rey and Tarzan Boy. They had one good exchange in the tercera but that was about it. So long as we have it, I'll be glad to watch the cage match in sequence though.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

MLJ: Atlantida Rising 7: Dos Caras Jr., Heavy Metal, Negro Casas vs Averno, Mephisto, Rey Bucanero

Aired 52MX: 2006-05-27
Taped 2006-05-21 @ Arena Coliseo
Dos Caras Jr., Heavy Metal, Negro Casas vs Averno, Mephisto, Rey Bucanero

One of my basic rules of this project was that I really wanted there to be at least two of Los Guerreros in a match for me to look at it. This is an exception as much for what we don't have as what we do. It was the first part of Rey's turn which is going to be the focus of the next series of matches, so even though he's teamed with Averno and Mephisto and not his usual partners, the fact that we have this and not the later parts of the turn made it worth a look. That I got to see more Metal/Casas and masked Averno, which I haven't seen much of, didn't hurt.

So this was basically a lighter style match that told the story of Rey aligning with the tecnicos over his partners. I think it was an interesting way to do it since Averno and Mephisto weren't the Guerreros, and in fact, if he was in there with his usual partners, he probably wouldn't have been swayed by the tecnicos and the crowd, even if he might have had longer-seated frustrations. It let them draw it out and probably provided some real anticipation of what would happen the following week.

Averno and Mephisto surprised me a bit here. I was expecting something a bit more nefarious from them. I've liked what i had seen in 2013-2014 of Averno without the mask. He seemed like a rudo's rudo and very much the heir to Satanico, in personality and temperment and maybe on some level skill. Here, he and Mephisto were about as goony as they come, between getting in a muscle pose off with Dos Caras and snatching a fallen Heavy Metal away so they could pin him instead of letting Rey hit his back somersault senton. They didn't exactly come across as fearsome. That said, they took all of the tecnico offense quite well and they were believable as obnoxious jerk rudos even if they weren't exactly fire and brimstone.

The tecnicos were there to be fairly flashy and inspire Rey and they served that role competently. Heavy Metal stood out as the real inspirational force, with a solid little opening mat exchange with Rey, a tit for tat: his initial advantage was broken up by Mephisto, frustrating Rey. When Rey managed to do the same back to him, he went for a handshake that was almost taken. Later on, after his rudo partners had further annoyed him Rey and Metal had two other good exchanges, the first ending with the payoff of that handshake and the second with a plancha that took them out of the way for the finish. Both Metal and Caras had nice looking two-on-one exchanges with Averno and Mephisto.

Caras and Casas were pretty much there to goof around. Caras had his pose-off with Averno, but he also ended his two-on-one sequence by flipping Rey up of the ropes to dropkick his partners, after which, he made sure to applaud for Rey. This led to Averno and Mephisto tossing Rey out and, thus distracted, walking into a couple of big moves to lose the first caida. In between falls they tried to do the Guerreros huddle with Rey only to have him walk away and turn right into Caras' own huddle. Late in the match Casas, who was cheerleading the crowd in a Bucanero chant, got the better of Averno in the corner and after stomping him all over, made sure to high five Rey on the other side of the ring before hitting the corner dropkick. Funny stuff.

All of this was definitely goofy but certainly entertaining, and it paid off in the third fall where Rey insisted on wrestling like a tecnico, much to the dismay and ultimate defeat of his partners. Rey did have a fairly natural charisma and the crowd seemed to want this turn, save for the Guerreros fans who didn't seem to know what to make it of it. It's a shame we don't have the match from the next week online because I'd love to see how this played out when he was put in a situation with his usual stable once again. We have plenty of the aftermath of that, though, and that's what I'll be looking at shortly.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

NOT THEE 2014 Ongoing Match of the Year List

El Torito v. Hornswaggle WWE Extreme Rules 5/4

Placed on the PPV pre-show and treated like a bad joke the entire time by the announcers, none of the actual participants actually seemed to care and went out and had probably the best match possible. The whole spectacle came off much more like something you'd see in IWA-MS in a bowling alley parking lot, with stupid bumps and a noticeably drunk midget ring announcer. The whole affair is plagued by horrendous commentary (going beyond the standard horrendous WWE commentary) as you had the addition of 3 mini versions of Cole, Lawler and JBL. I admitedly chuckled at "Micro" Cole's name, but the best the next guy could do was Jerry "Mini King" Lawler (which Lawler immediately one-ups by suggesting "Jerry Smaller"), and the whole time the "big" announcers just laughed at the absurdity of the whole thing, reminiscent of WCW announcers laughing at a MEXICAN hardcore match while guys took dangerous bumps. But forget those guys because we get stupid bumps and a drunk ring announcer, doing that drunk over-concentrating thing where you actively try to show people how not drunk you are, while looking like the drunkest person in the room, while kind of wafting in place, announcing every single name wrong (Hornwaggle, Matadordes). We even get some Frye/Takayama stuff from Torito/Hornswaggle to start! Every member of 3MB takes an exponentially stupid table bump, with McIntyre doing a swanton through one and Mahal crashing and burning through a few stacked onto ladders! Welcome to getting released a month later boys! Hornswaggle brings amusing comedy (kicking himself in the head on a missed punt, hitting the ropes on a dive attempt, etc) and some stiff strikes and generally looks like an untrained wrestler, Torito puts him through a table with a springboard Thesz press, Torito also hits a huge dive on 3MB which probably felt like getting a full Alhambra bottle thrown into your chest. This was a real amusing spectacle and I always admire guys taking advantage of any given opportunity, no matter how…small…that opportunity may be.

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Monday, July 14, 2014

CMLL on LATV Workrate Report 6/1/14

These matches were all from the 5/18 Arena Mexico show. I wish they would go back to showing Coliseo shows, but for whatever reason it looks like they've run a couple Sunday Arena Mexico shows. Still these LATV shows are nice as the Sunday afternoon matches always get way more time to breathe than the Friday night ones. We get more matwork and guys don't seem to rush to get all their stuff in nearly as much.

Virus, Tiger & Polvora vs. Black Panther, Triton & Stigma

Just what I was saying about more mat stuff, and the primera here features long Tiger/Triton segments and most excitedly a Virus/Black Panther mat off. Triton's stuff is kind flashy and substance free on the mat, but Tiger is really good and had some leg picks and always finds cool ways to tie up guys at the ankles and wrists. Virus vs. Panther was awesome as both can go and the work looks super cool. I'm glad Panther has gotten so much mat time in his first real year, and even more glad that Virus has gotten tons more mat time as the year has gone on. He was in some more spotty trios at the start of the year but he's had a lot more mat focus the last month plus. Stigma is a guy who I don't think I've ever seen pop up on TV before. Pretty sure he's a Puebla guy but not sure how long he's been on the main roster. He hits a killer slingshot rana to the floor so he has my attention. Stigma in general seems to be in the role of hitting unsuspecting rudos with ranas on the floor, as later he surprises Virus with one off the apron. Stigma hits a pretty wild Valiente springboard moonsault to the floor, but really as long as Virus is in the fed nobody else should be doing that. His is too fast and too pretty. Panther's stuff with Tiger and Virus is the (predictable) highlight of this. Virus is an awesome guy to watch against rookies as he seems like he takes pride in working circles around them, but it never looks like he's showing them up or trying to make them look like trash. It looks like they hang with him, but aren't quite there yet. This didn't quite hit next level, but you knew with some of the guys involved it would be worth it, and it was.

Euforia, Niebla Roja & Gran Guerrero vs. Rey Cometa, Marco Corleone & Titan

Interesting that Marco's left hand is treated as more of a normal punch now. I'm not sure when that change happened. It used to be a spot that rudos would run from or get KO'd by, now here he hits three straight on Gran Guerrero just to back him into a corner. I love Gran Guerrero's baseball slide dropkick that sends dudes crashing and burning off the apron, and Cometa gets into position for it better than anybody else I've seen. He actually looked like he was struggling to get away from the apron while being held in place, unlike most guys who clearly lie still bracing themselves for impact. And Cometa goes flying into the ring barrier and it looks great. Titan seems to always overshoot guys on his flip dives. I'm not sure if this is the catcher or small sample bias or what, but it seems like every flip dive sees him glance off the rudos' shoulder and splat face first into the barricade. It could be Roja is a bad catcher. But Cometa's always seem to hit flush. The Cometa/Euforia stuff in this was a blast. Euforia hits a sweet floppy armdrag and Euforia responds by knocking his fillings loose with a clothesline. Poor placement though as right afterwards Cometa hits a silly handspring headscissors. Niebla Roja wins me over by merely stepping out of the way of Titan's handstand headscissors. He just walks around it and still gets caught by a rana, but this is growth people. And gee whiz Cometa almost dies horrifically taking a flapjack slam off the top rope. He initially came down a little head heavy but luckily landed more on his chest/stomach. It looked nasty as is, but could have been fatal.

Rush, La Sombra & La Mascara vs. Mascara Dorada, Valiente & Volador Jr.

Damn I cannot recall the last time I saw such a one-sided beatdown in lucha. This match was allll Rush's team for the first 10 minutes, until the tecnicos got about 30 seconds before Rush did a combo ball punch/schoolboy to win the whole thing. Seriously there was just no hope for the good guys in this one. It was 10 minutes of Rush and Sombra standing on dudes throats while Mascara tossed off superkicks to unsuspecting victims. Rush and Sombra were dickhead extraordinaires in this, jut beating down all the tecnicos from the word go and never letting up. At one point Sombra throws like 8 straight awesome knees in the corner and it's strange watching a match with no comeback in sight for the good guys. At one point you felt the comeback bubbling, and Rush just cuts everything off and you can just kinda feel all hope slowly draining out of things, like in Bad Lietenant when things start horribly for Harvey Keitel and the whole film just gets worse for him.

Lucha libre as Abel Ferrara urban crime cinema everybody! According to the judges I just got a triple word score for "Worst Possible Simile"! Thanks for reading, everybody!

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MLJ: Hijo del Santo Vs Blue Panther 1: Negro Casas, Blue Panther, Fuerza Guerrera vs El Hijo del Santo, Yoshihiro Asai, Gran Hamada

WWA, 1990
Negro Casas, Blue Panther, Fuerza Guerrera vs El Hijo del Santo, Yoshihiro Asai, Gran Hamada

I think there's a slight danger in me just watching random matches without purpose or point. Lucha's a giant ocean of decades and what seems like a near infinite number of matches. I've been trying to jump off from one point to the next. It means maybe I watch ten Marco Corleone matches, but if I hadn't done that, I wouldn't have necessarily ended up where I did in 2006 enjoying the stuff I'm enjoying now. I'm also trying to build to more classic feuds and matches as I go, so that I develop some sort of context and theoretical underpinning.

I do want to watch more Hijo del Santo but I wanted to find some sort of structure in my watching. What I came up with, sort of on the fly, was to find the matches online where he was pitted against another person I want to see more of, Blue Panther. For now Santo One-Shots has become Hijo del Santo vs Blue Panther. This means three or four singles matches and a bunch of tags and trios over a span of fifteen years or so. I've been warned that they don't actually face off too many times in the tags I have in front of me, but they're both so good and they're in there with such good partners for the most part, that I think I'll be perfectly okay with that.

Case in point is the first match here. It's true: there really wasn't much Panther vs Santo interaction. That's okay when the others guys in the match were Fuerza, Casas, Hamada and a young Asai. There were some great exchanges and sequences in this match and even though the key match up didn't take place at any length, everyone else paired off, sometimes multiple times, and it was all great, compelling action.

That said, it wasn't the most satisfying match I've seen in this project, even if the work itself was all very crisp and sharp and high-end. The big problem is that the tecnicos took so much of the match. There wasn't any sort of prolonged heat segment and past a blip where the rudos snatched a fall in the segunda, it was all quite one-sided and a little "samey." It especially stood out since Asai was staged almost perfectly in his role in the match to have been the victim of a few satisfying minutes of rudo dominance to build to a comeback.

Here, my lack of context hurts. One thing I've noticed from watching so many matches from 2006 on an almost weekly basis is that they did change things up from show to show. You'd get a differently structured match each week. Things would be balanced. There's a lot about this match I just don't know. It's from WWA, which was a promotion I haven't seen much of. It's from 1990, which was a year (and even a decade) I've seen little of. It's in a geographic setting I'm not as used to. They presented trophies to the tecnicos at the end.

So basically, I'm not sure if they worked this was worked a bit more like a title match or if it was part of a tournament with these two teams working a number of matches against different opponents or if they had just worked a match the week before with a long beatdown on Asai, or even if there was another match on the same show with that sort of structure. Maybe the purpose of the match WAS to get over the tecnicos strong for some future encounter with other opponents or because they had just debuted or maybe the rudos were on the way out. Maybe it was just meant to be a celebratory match to end a big show, etc. I just don't know, so therefore, it becomes a bit harder to hold it against the match. I say this because I know these guys know what they're doing. For instance, I've seen Hamada paired with Sayama in the Asai role and in that match, Sayama took a lot of offense the way that I kind of wanted Asai to here.

Now, then, all that said, there was a lot to love here. Past Panther vs Santo (ironically enough), everyone got paired with everyone else. I love the rudo side as they all brought something slightly different to the table, but all of them served exceptionally well as bases for the tecnico offense. Panther really got to shine on the mat in the opening segment with Asai, who held his own as they played up his agility as a way to counter Panther's skill. Fuerza had the most personality though he never went too deep into shtick at the expense of the competitive mood they managed to create. He's someone I badly want to see more of. Casas fell somewhere in the middle and was also the most frenetic of the bunch. He also had a pretty awesome punch exchange with Hamada.

This was a showcase for the tecnicos, in that the rudos mainly got to show off by eating their offense and stooging well. Santo looked great, hitting all sorts of elaborate stuff in his exchanges, especially with Casas. The end of both the primera and tercera were pretty with Santo hitting big spots while action went on around him. I wish we had multiple camera angles and replays. Hamada was gutsy. My favorite spot of the match with him was when he fought off all three rudos in the primera, which culminated with him kicking Fuerza in the butt so that he would dropkick Panther through the ropes by accident. Asai served his purpose, showed a lot of promise and felt like he belonged in the ring with them, though again, I don't think they used him well enough as a foil. There were little moments like when Fuerza goes for a handshake and then a hug and he's left bewildered in the face of the mindgames.

It was just too much in the way of tecnico control. In the primera, that felt intentional, like a shine, with the tecnicos getting the best of the exchanges due to their skill and agility. As the match went on though, it became an issue. The rudos momentarily caught them to end the segunda, yes, but they went right to a reset after the fall ended. Then there was a moment late in the match where Hamada had an armbar on and the rudos all sort of looked at each other and decided they had enough and that they were going to rush him, but after a moment of swarming advantage it went back to another reset and they started on towards the finish. A little bit of heat would have gone a long way. Good action, fun start to Santo vs Panther, but not ultimately what I'd consider a great match.

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Sunday, July 13, 2014

Lucha Azteca Workrate Report 6/7/14

These matches all happened on the 5/23 Arena Mexico show.

Rey Escorpion, Ripper & Mr. Aguila vs. Maximo, Marco Corleone & Titan

Well this is becoming a bad trend. Short, short matches with practically non-existant primeras. Remember when the primera used to be awesome? It still happens occasionally, but it's becoming more and more rare. Aguila may be the worst worker in CMLL, especially among the ones higher up the card. He looks horrible here. Can you name me a worst moonsault in wrestling? He still insists on doing it in just about every match, but I can't remember the last time it actually hit. Usually it ends with his arms draped over the other guy's knees, and usually it ends a fall. Woof. This whole match was plagued by poor timing and sloppy work, namely from Aguila and Ripper. Titan didn't do any of his silly stuff, and hit a nice springboard somersault dive. Corleone looked good, hitting a few nice rolling arm drags and the Superman bodypress from the ring to the floor, still doing it with no hands. That looked great, and I don't know if I've ever seen him do that. He almost always hits it from the rampway to the ring, really don't remember him doing to the floor before. And with this, we're well underway in our Complete & Accurate Marco Corleone project.

Dark Angel, Marcela & Princesa Sugheit vs. Dalys, Princesa Blanca & Zeuxis

So are piledrivers and ball shots totally cool in Mexico now? Are the times a-changin'? Last show had Mascara win a match with a plain view shot to the balls, and Zeuxis wins a fall her with a package piledriver. Match was short and fun. I really love the nasty streak that Dalys has embraced ever since getting her head shaved. Her charisma is coming through more now and her work with Marcela in this was quality. Loved the running double knees into Marcela's chest from Zeuxis and Dalys. Blanca and Sugheit were kind of working their own match this whole time, constantly going at it and tearing each other apart.

Relevos Increibles!

Rush, Ultimo Guerrero & La Sombra vs. Atlantis, Shocker & Volador Jr.

A bit of a letdown compared to other Relevos Increibles but still exciting because you have Rush and his sneak attack lacky La Sombra. The other guys kinda did their own thing. UG and Atlantis tore into each other during the entrances and didn't stop, replete with mask tearing and I can only assume mask challenges post match off camera. But Rush and Sombra delivered and Shocker really ramps up his work when facing Rush, at one point hitting a heavy body press from the top rope to the floor. Haven't seen him do something like that in awhile. Sombra continues his awesome dick trend of blindsiding guys, really leveling Shocker with a dropkick to the back that Shocker couldn't have seen coming. Right between the shoulder blades, sends him face first into ropes. He and Rush each take their shots on him in the corner with Sombra hitting the running double knees and Rush caving his chest in with a dropkick. Match ends when Rush and Sombra get disqualified for beating the hell out of Shocker for too long, which is really the dry hump of the lucha match finishes.

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