Segunda Caida

Phil Schneider, Eric Ritz, Matt D, Sebastian, and other friends write about pro wrestling. Follow us @segundacaida

Friday, September 22, 2023


Dory Funk Jr./Terry Funk vs. Abdullah the Butcher/Kimala II AJPW 12/7/90

MD: On paper, this played out pretty much how one would think it might. Actually, even on paper, it had a little more to it than a lot of the Funks' matches on these 1990-1991 tours and the Abby/Kimala ones around the 1990 RWTL. I like almost all of those matches but so many are handheld so you don't quite the full smack of Dory's uppercuts or the fully joy of Terry's antics and they usually have a bit of a ceiling to them. Still good, still full of mastery, but they don't push it quite over the top.

This goes over the top and we get to see it in jarringly crisp video quality. The first third of it was back and forth. Dory's uppercuts were brisk. Terry's punches were amazing. Even just seeing them do a spinning footwash onto Kimala 2 looked gnarly giving the sheer size of his head. They were even able to double slam him. Kimala always had just enough "stuff" too, coming off the top with a headbutt as Abby held on to a poor victim, that abrupt dropkick that could change the trajectory of a match. And then Abby's throat shots or clothesline drop looked great in this VQ. Amazing moment here to end that first third as they set things up for Terry vs Abby, only for Abby to give a maniacal smile and tag out to Kimala once again.

It was the prelude to blood and panic; Terry would almost immediately get the spinning toehold on Kimala only for Abby to rush in for the fork and go right after his ear. What followed was a beautifully symphony of Terry Funk, blood running down the side of his head, flailing, bumping, writhing, and menacing a poor cameraman as he convalesced around the ringside area. Also lots of crazy, wild punch combos that were pure Terry. This, of course, let Abby and Kimala have the advantage (including bloodying Dory up too) until we rolled into the third act with Terry getting the fork and the fans going nuts for the Funks' revenge. We've seen some of this act before: Abby with the fork, Abby getting comeuppance from it, he made a career partially out of it, but the Funks had a way of making it weightier and more visceral than anyone. At a time where they felt a little more like an attraction in their All Japan matches, they still do a match like this whenever they wanted.

PAS: Man I loved this! Chaotic Terry Funk is one of the true treats in pro-wrestling, he is the greatest wrestler ever and his true mastery is when things go off the rails. When he gets stabbed in the ear and everything goes pear shaped, we get some awesome out of control Terry including him roughing a poor innocent cameraman and bleeding all over his shirt. Terry and Abby is as great a match up in 1990 as it was in 1979, Abby isn't as mobile, but mobility isn't his calling card anyway. I am a low voter on Dory as a technical wrestler, but have always enjoyed him in brawls, and he was super fun here, throwing thumping uppercuts, bleeding, and even doing a spot where he propelled Kimala over the top rope with a legscissors. Kimala 2 is a guy with a lot of bounce and was fun as sort of a hyperactive brother to Abby's more slow moving menace.  Still this is special because of the GOAT, and anytime we get to see him add another page to his novel it is a blessing.

ER: Man I could watch exclusively All Japan matches to the very end of my days. I loved every man in this tag, all doing the exact things they do best. But of course, the most exciting thing to all of you is the fact that none of us have ever seen Terry Funk square off against Kimala II before. Kimala works a lot of this match and seemingly has zero issue getting the shit beaten out of him by Funk. It's hilarious that Terry appeared to be throwing worked punches at Abby - even after Abby started to slice the man's ear off with a fork - but appeared to actively hit Kimala as hard as possible. When Kimala misses an avalanche, Terry hits a BEAST of a standing lariat, making some of the hardest contact you can make from a flat footed swing, then drops the full weight of his knee on Kimala's face with a very much Not Worked kneedrop. When Kimala gets to his feet after that kneedrop, Terry shoot punches him in the face in the exact same spot he just dropped a knee. Later on when the square off again, I was shocked to see how excited Kimala looked when Terry tagged in, slapping his belly and running in place as if he couldn't wait to walk out with a shattered orbital bone. And sure enough, Funk almost instantly overwhelmed him with punches to knock him to his back, then threw more pounding fists from his side while Kimala lay motionless. 

But while Funk/Kimala was the unique unseen match-up, the Terry/Abby interactions were legendary. When Abby pulled out the fork for the first time on the apron he did it with the showmanship of a magician, turning to the crowd and wiggling his fingers and making lil' stinker faces. "You know what I'm getting out!" before just walking into the ring and stabbing Terry straight in the head. Abby stabs the fuck out of the Funks, and when he starts stabbing Terry in the ear Terry goes nuts at ringside, sprinting at and then getting tangled up in a camera guy, then falling over a table like only Terry Funk can fall over a table. Not one fucking person can ape Terry's body movement, and his falling glacier bump onto and over a table is Uncut Terry. I love the first full reveal we get of Terry's badly bleeding ear, that realization of "Oh yeah obviously Abby was just stabbing him as hard as possible in the ear with the fork" leading directly into him forking the hell out of Dory's bald head. 

Abdullah's fork work here was incredible. The reaction he gets pressing it into Dory's fucking eyeball was real, and I loved the sicko fucking way that Kimala kept tagging in and going mouth first after every fresh fork slicing that Abby opened up. Kimala and Abby were such a fun team, as aside from Kimala licking and chewing up all the Funk's blood we got two different moments of Abby running full speed into Kimala as he had a Funk pressed into a corner. One of the most special things in pro wrestling is seeing one of the fattest men you've ever seen, running as fast and hard as he can into another one of the fattest men you've ever seen, for the sole purpose of squishing a third man. Terry gets a Stone Cold level reaction when he finally wrests the fork away from Abby and starts stabbing and punching him around ringside, and Kimala takes a flat out instant bump tumbling headlong over the top to the floor from a Dory low bridge headscissors, and his screams as Dory locking in the spinning toe hold made that hold feel as dangerous as it ever looked. Men Kimala's size aren't built to fall that fast onto concrete, and him fucking up his leg should be almost expected from such a fall. Hearing him yelp while Dory pulled on his leg added realism I was not expecting from a match that already had a fake Sudanese man stabbing two men hard enough to get 8 years for assault, had he done it anywhere other than in a ring at Budokan. 

Rusher Kimura vs. Haruka Eigen AJPW 1/27/91

MD: This was the last show of the tour so they were in a singles match instead of a tag. It amazes me that these two would still be going at it ten years later in NOAH, but it really was a timeless act. In the months that preceded this, Baba was teamed with Andre in the RWTL. At this point, he was out with an injury I think, and wouldn't be back til June. That meant Rusher was captaining the comedy for AJPW and Eigen was a perfect foil for him, just a total shitheel. From around this period, we have a few tags with rough vq as they're HHs and an even tougher singles encounter that you can barely make out. With tags, they usually did a good job of delaying the gratification of Rusher getting his hands on Eigen. It was trickier with the singles match but still worked out pretty well here. It started with Rusher chasing him around the ring to get a handshake, Eigen shaking, and then Eigen immediately slapping Rusher to a big reaction. 

Following that were a few unclean breaks by Eigen and then some real advantage. He was even able to position Rusher on the apron, facing the crowd to hit the smack to the chest (like Sheamus') which were his own signature spot to take. Eventually, he started chopping the heck out of Rusher and Rusher went from wincing in agony to powering back, flooring Eigen with one shot and taking over, never to look back. He'd smack him on the apron twice; Eigen always spit into the crowd when taking this and we have two good shots, first of the crowd grossed out by it and then all of them running from the impending spit like they were at a Gallagher show. Post match, we even can translate a bit of what Kimura was saying (hopeless on old fancams). He ended the show and his part of the tour by reminding Eigen that it was cold out there and telling him not to catch a cold, cracking the crowd up. I love watching these guys do their thing.  

ER: I'm sure it's easy to see the names Haruka Eigen and Rusher Kimura and write this off as comedy, but you'd be missing out on one of the most savage Eigen matches you've ever seen. Haruka Eigen's All Japan/NOAH run is one of the best comedy runs of any wrestler ever, maybe the funniest comedy worker of my life not named Super Porky. And he is plenty funny in this match, he just decides to segue from comedy to outright ass kicking in a way that he rarely did once he hit his mid-40s. When Rusher offers him a handshake at the bell, he accepts it and then slaps Rusher, skipping away and running behind the referee, then slaps Rusher again when they finally lock up. I laughed hard, and was fully expecting a match filled with his cherubic face making pleading faces as Rusher softly punched and shuffled after him, but instead Eigen begins throwing stiffer and stiffer strikes until he is hitting Rusher harder than I've seen him hit anyone during any part of his 15 year King's Road career. Rusher chimes in with open hand chops directly to Eigen's throat (which Eigen sells with alarmed screams), but Eigen is the one throwing headlock punches, hard flat boot kicks into Rusher's ribs, and graduates to caving in Rusher's chest while turning his own legendary comedy spot on its ear. 

"You guys think it's funny to splay me out on the ropes and have me spit on the fine Korakuen attendees? Here's how it feels. You think I'm a joke? Am I a joke to you? Here's what it feels like you motherfucker." Eigen clubs Kimura in the chest as hard as I've ever seen him hit anyone, forcing the ref to hold him back by the shoulders as he kicks at Rusher from the apron. In a world where Eigen typically uses the referee as a shield, we have now seen the referee forced to hold him back from furthering a beating. I love him. And when it eventually all catches up to him and Rusher throws him to the floor, you know he turns the tables and makes Eigen spray spit into the 6th row. Haruka Eigen is a man who tried to break free from his comedy roles and make his way into action dramas, only to be dragged back into comedy. The finish is excellent, as both men start wailing on each other with punches and chops, and Eigen gets up steam to elbow Rusher right in the ear. Rusher's selling is excellent as Eigen hits the ropes to comeback with a killshot elbow, but Rusher hooks him with a clothesline hard enough to put down any man. I have waited far too long to start a Haruka Eigen Complete & Accurate.  

Konaka Pale One vs. Nori da Funky Shibiresasu Sportiva 10/3/18

MD: There will always be room for Japanese warehouse nightclub wrestling here on Segunda Caida. Sebastian tells us that Nori da Funky is a guy who was in a Japanese hip hop group that did the opening song of Naruto and who wrestles like a powerhouse. Konaka we've seen before with his white face paint and ghost look and awesome combo of tiny close-up adjustments to get in and out of holds and abruptness in putting things on. The video's 30 minutes but the match itself is more like 15. It's a war though.

Konaka has Nori da Funky's number early, able to twist him about in hold after hold. Nori's able to at least put up a fight and just power his way through and into certain things. They go into strike exchanges a couple of times and I appreciate the way they sell each and every shot. There's no standing and taking everything. It all has weight and consequence. Every hold, every shot, every suplex. Even the roll-ups and kickouts seem grueling. Konaka's abruptness plays into his mid-match strategy as he keeps locking in a sleeper hold out of nowhere with Nori having to use all of his strength and savvy to escape, never the same way twice. In a test of strength Nori's going to win. In a game of chess, Konaka has the advantage, and the finishing stretch roll-ups leans more towards chess, ending with a clever spot that Yuta should steal. There's stuff on the mic after and entrances to start so don't be daunted by the time on this one. It's well worth watching.

PAS: We are in the glory days of weird Japanese indy footage shaking loose. Mutoah is selling their stuff and other micro indies, guys are finding tapes over in Japan, and digging into weird archives like this. Pale One is pretty cool, he really wrestles like the ghost of Shu El Guerrero or something, and I love the fact that the Japanese version of Shaggy 2 Dope wrestles like a WAR trainee in 1995, and the strength versus technique part of this match was really nifty. Love the final roll up, such a cool way to get a pin when you are out matched physically. Really looking forward to digging in to this stuff further. 

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Thursday, September 21, 2023

El Deporte de las Mil Emociones: Bronco Boricua 1989

Week 2: Picture it! Puerto Rico. August 1989.

EB: It’s the first weekend of August in 1989 and Capitol Sports Promotions (today known as WWC), the main wrestling promotion in Puerto Rico, is preparing for its 16th anniversary show (or Aniversario ‘89) in about a month and half’s time (September 16 to be exact). Since the first official Aniversario show in 1983, it has been the promotion’s big show of the year. We’re at the point where feuds are underway or being set in motion to pay off at the Aniversario show, but we’re not there yet.

Before we drop in on who’s who and what’s going on, a quick primer on Capitol Sports Promotions (or CSP for short). Founded in September 1973 (with Victor Jovica, Carlos Colon and Gorilla Monsoon serving as owners), the promotion was able to eventually establish itself as the leading wrestling promotion in Puerto Rico, becoming successful enough to become an NWA member around 1979. The decade of the 1980s saw a huge surge in popularity for CSP and it’s viewed by many local fans today as the golden age of local wrestling. But like many surges and booms, eventually a downturn comes. As we’re finishing the 80s and 1990 looms ahead, things aren’t as they were just a couple of years ago. Still, locally things are moving along for CSP.

The top title in the promotion is the Universal title, which was established in 1983 when a series of matches (that started back in late summer of 1982) were held between the WWC and NWA World champions (mainly Carlos Colon vs either Harley Race or Ric Flair). This series of matches ended with Carlos Colon defeating Ric Flair in a cage match on Dec. 18 of 83 to determine ‘the undisputed champion of the universe’.

Besides the Universal title, there are several other secondary singles titles as well as two tag titles active in the promotion at this time. Due to the number of titles and the roster size, it’s not uncommon to sometimes see wrestlers hold more than one title concurrently, with the frequency with which the titles are actively defended varying based on emphasis given and which wrestler holds it (meaning if it’s a local who is regularly here week after week compared with a semiregular who comes in for the big shows every month or two). We’ll get into more detail about who holds these titles soon enough.

As we start our journey, we begin during Fan Appreciation weekend for CSP (around this time they traditionally would hold their Fan Appreciation Days during the first weekend in August just before the school year would start). Our first stop is a segment of the Chicky Starr’s Sport Shop airing Saturday Aug. 5. Chicky’s guests are heel (or rudo) manager El Profe (the masked man sitting to the left) and three of Profe’s charges: Abudda Dein, Kareem Muhammad and Kendo Nagasaki. In Puerto Rico, the bad guys are the rudos and the good guys are the tecnicos. One important detail, the tecnicos are known as El Ejercito de la Justicia (which means ‘The Army of Justice’ or ‘Justice Army’). As for the rudos, for the most part (not always but usually) they are aligned with one of the heel managers in the promotion. Currently there are two of them, Chicky Starr (his stable is named El Club Deportivo which means ‘The Sports Club’) and El Profe (his stable is La Real Academia which means ‘The Royal Academy’). Just to give you an idea on how they are presented, Chicky is more of a wrestler who also manages while El Profe is more of a manager who also wrestles. Chicky is usually the lead heel or involved with the lead heel, while El Profe typically handles the tag teams and an occasional top heel. In a bit of a departure, at this moment in time most of the rudos with a manager are aligned with El Profe. Chicky is focusing on wrestling and managing one client in particular (we’ll discuss this in more detail next time).

The topic of conversation for this Sports Shop segment is the Bronca Boricua match (which can be translated as Puerto Rican Brawl) that is taking place on that night’s card. The match features a $10,000 prize for the winner and is also for La Copa Medalla (the Medalla Cup), so named because it is sponsored by the national beer brand Medalla. Chicky welcomes the viewers to the Sports Shop and starts talking about the big match happening tonight, mentioning that El Profe has seven chances at winning (he has seven of his wrestlers in the match) and Chicky himself will be competing as well in order to win the money and the cup. Chicky says whether it’s Profe or him that wins the money, it’ll be in good hands, as long as it’s not El Ejercito de la Justicia that wins.

El Profe agrees with Chicky, saying it will be the Real Academia’s night, he has seven chances at winning the money and cup. He has three of his wrestlers here with him and also mentions the Battens who are not here but are in training. No matter if it’s him or Chicky (‘preferably me though’) the important thing is that the money will be coming to them. Profe also mentions the rematch for the TV title where TNT will defend against Kendo Nagasaki and that he feels it’s unfair that he is barred from being in Kendo’s corner (‘TNT accused me last week of ringing the bell’). Doesn’t matter where he is though, what matters is where Kendo is and that is in the ring against TNT. The people will finally have a TV champion they can be proud of representing them, they’ll stop feeling the embarrassment and shame of seeing TNT as their champion. Chicky agrees with Profe, calling the stipulations for the match cheap on the part of the WWC. He closes by repeating again that they’re going for the $10,000, he and El Profe (at the mention of his name Profe pops into camera view for a second and taps his chest), but naturally Chicky is rooting for himself.

The action takes place tonight at Hiram Bithorn Stadium as the card rundown starts.  Let’s take the opportunity as they roll call the participants to introduce them. There is a Universal title match featuring a beast vs a monster, as Sadistic Steve Strong defends the title against Abdullah the Butcher. We’ll talk more about these two next time. For the Bronca Boricua match we have the following participants:

Invader #1 – I’ll address this once. Yes, that Invader. This journey will focus on Puerto Rican wrestling and he’s going to be appearing a lot throughout our reviews. Has been back since mid-to-late February and is one of the top tecnicos in the promotion. Currently is in a feud with Ivan Koloff over the Puerto Rican title. Is also the reigning North American champion, although this title is rarely defended and will be retired before the year is out. In addition to competing in the Bronca Boricua tonight, he has a match vs Ivan Koloff for the Puerto Rico title.

Kamala – He has made sporadic appearances in CSP since the mid-80s as a monster heavy that is brought in by one of the managers when needed. One such example is taking on Kerry von Erich on tonight’s card. He will make a few more appearances on a couple of the big shows for the remainder of 1989.

Ivan Koloff – Although he made a couple of appearances back in 1985 when JCP and CSP were members of the NWA, this is Ivan’s first run as a regular in the territory. He is managed by El Profe and is the reigning Puerto Rican champion (won the title just a few weeks before), feuding with former champ Invader (including a match on tonight’s card).

TNT – The rising star on the tecnico side, you likely know him as Savio Vega. He is a face paint wearing karate ninja and the reigning TV champion. Has a title defense against Kendo Nagasaki also on tonight’s show, with El Profe banned from ringside due to bell ringing shenanigans in their match the previous week.

Kerry Von Erich – A name that way back in the late 70s/early 80s made a couple of appearances for CSP, has recently appeared on a few shows throughout the summer and is being brought in as a special attraction for the big monthly cards. Besides the Bronca Boricua tonight, Kerry is also scheduled to face Kamala in a singles match.  He doesn’t really make any more appearances for the promotion after this weekend.

The Junkyard Dog – Has also recently started a regular run in the territory during the summer, wrestling in the upper card and main events as needed. Unlike Kerry, JYD’s run will last a bit longer throughout the rest of the year.

Boogie Man Jimmy Valiant – Had previously made sporadic appearances for CSP in the mid to late 80’s, currently making a semi-regular run in the promotion from late summer into the fall.

Chicky Starr – Has been the lead heel since 1986 when he turned on Invader #1 (in a mentor / student angle similar to Sammartino and Zbyszko), serving as wrestler, manager and interview segment host. Currently focusing more on wrestling (including a recent World Junior Heavyweight title reign) but has one key client in the reigning Universal champion. The self-proclaimed inarguable king of wrestling according to him (as evidenced by the rope and crown he wears, a recent development in 1989 thanks to a feud with Rufus R. Jones).

Kendo Nagasaki – First appearing for CSP in mid-83, he has had several runs in the territory, most recently as part of the Ninja Express from late-87 to mid-88. Would continue to make sporadic appearances being brought in by a heel manager, in this case by El Profe. Is currently in for a few weeks and having a series challenging for TNT’s TV title (including the previously mentioned match on tonight’s card where el Profe is barred from ringside).

Rip Rogers – One of the key heels of 1989, having previously won the World tag titles (with Abudda Dein) and also is the reigning Caribbean champion. Has a no DQ match on tonight’s show teaming with Abudda Dein against the reigning World tag champs Miguelito Perez and Huracan Castillo Jr.

The White Angel – You may know him as Curtis Thompson or Firebreaker Chip. A masked wrestler brought in by Chicky Starr who, after a few weeks of unsatisfactory performance for Chicky’s liking, was booted from his stable. He unmasked and feuded with Chicky. Currently a tecnico.

Kareem Muhammad – First appearing in CSP in mid-82 and presented as Abdullah the Butcher’s cousin. Since then he has continued to make regular appearances throughout the years. Currently being managed by El Profe.

Abudda Dein – Managed by El Profe, has served as an upper midcard heel for most of 1989, challenging for the different singles titles (including a reign as Puerto Rico champion during the first part of the year) and also managing to have one reign as World tag champs with Rip Rogers. Has a World tag title match on tonight’s card.

Eric Embry – Responsible for one of the greatest heel runs in Puerto Rico from mid-85 to mid-86, a run that saw Embry have a feud of some sort with nearly every notable tecnico of the time (including announcer Hugo Savinovich). Has continued to make sporadic appearances since then, with this weekend being such an occasion.

Super Medico – A stalwart of CSP throughout the 80’s as both a tag and singles wrestler, initially serving as a rudo before turning tecnico. Returned in May to CSP after an almost two year absence (outside of a couple of one shot appearances). Is the reigning World Junior Heavyweight champion, having regained the title from Chicky Starr just one week before. You may know him as Jose Estrada or as one half of Los Conquistadores.

Miguelito Perez – Son of the legendary Miguel Perez. Made his debut in 1985 and has had different stretches of success as a singles and tag competitor. Currently teaming with Huracan Castillo Jr. and is co-holder of both the World and Caribbean tag titles.

Huracán Castillo Jr. – Son of the legendary Huracan Castillo (who served as commissioner and a manager after retirement up until he was paralyzed in a shooting), has been linked at times with Miguelito as a tag team across the past few years as well as competing in the junior heavyweight division. Currently holds both the World tag and Caribbean tag titles with Miguelito.

The Batten Twins – Bart and Brad are just about wrapping up a one year run on the island, with their most recent feud being against Perez and Castillo. Have held both sets of tag titles and even took Perez and Castillo’s hair a couple of months prior.

Carlos Colon – Making his return after suffering a shoulder injury in mid-to-late May, Carlos is the leader of El Ejercito de la Justicia and the top star of the territory for basically the past decade and half (yes, he’s a co-owner of CSP but the people still have to buy into what you’re selling). This is his comeback after being put on the shelf and he has his sights set on regaining the Universal title.

They also mention that an hour and a half before the show starts, wrestlers will be signing autographs and taking pictures with fans if they bring a camera (it is Fan Appreciation Day after all).  After the card rundown there is a brief tease about Aniversario 89, taking place on September 16 in Bayamon.

So, what exactly is a Bronca Boricua? It’s a battle royale where you can come dressed how you want and can bring one weapon of your choice to use in the ring. Eliminations occur when a wrestler is tossed over the top rope and to the floor. Last competitor remaining wins. Unfortunately, we do not have footage (outside of a small snippet in a recap video) of this Bronca Boricua match. According to the results available, Carlos Colon won the Medalla Cup in his return from injury. However, thanks to CSP typically running a similar card as the main San Juan Metro area card for the west region of the island on the other weekend day (usually Sunday), we do have

WWC: Bronca Boricua (1989) - YouTube

A Bronca Boricua from what appears to be the same weekend, most likely taking place on August 6. Our location is Mayaguez, the big town on the west coast of Puerto Rico. Unlike the Bronca Boricua advertised above, this one has 16 competitors instead of 20. From the advertised Bronca Boricua from the previous day we are missing Kamala, Kerry, Castillo, the Battens and Chicky. We have two new competitors serving as subs, El Profe and Victor Jovica (who as a wrestler in Puerto Rico is typically slotted as a lower card / JTTS).

Your commentary team is Hugo Savinovich, Carlos Colon and El Profe. As the Boogie Man makes his entrance (holding what appears to be a stake), Hugo says that you can bring whatever you want with you (belts, chains, wood, chairs, brass knuckles, etc.). Already out we have Super Medico (with 2x4), Rufus R. Jones, the White Angel, TNT (with kendo stick), JYD, Victor Jovica, the previously mentioned Jimmy Valiant, Rip Rogers, Abudda Dein (with what looks like a leather strap), Kareem Muhammad (with some weird looking piece of metal), Kendo Nagasaki (with a bigger kendo stick), Eric Embry and El Profe. Ivan Koloff comes out in his wrestling gear and with his chain. Invader #1 arrives with a large weight belt. Carlos Colon shows up in a blue tracksuit. On commentary, Carlos mentions that he likes to show up with a small weapon that he can use and not worry that it will be taken away easily. Miguelito Perez (with a stick) jogs out after Carlos and the match starts.

The first few minutes the commentators put over the danger of this match and that tempers get so high that you sometimes see tecnicos hit each other and likewise with the rudos. El Profe starts getting on Carlos over being on the apron attacking, saying he was hiding. Carlos says that he's not hiding, he's being careful since he has a big title match coming up and he wants to be smart in order to avoid injury. This leads to Carlos questioning how the heck El Profe ended up in this match:

Hugo (as El Profe starts hopping around in the ring): Look who's jumping around in there. El Profe going around in circles.

Profe: It's that damn Invader whipping me with that huge weight belt. That's all leather and all you feel is leather. It feels like it tears at your skin.

Hugo: There's Rip Rogers as well...

Carlos: Hugo, I don't know how El Profe had the guts to get in there.

Hugo: I don't know, but after those first few hits he took, he was probably thinking the same thing.

Carlos: I think one of his charges missed the match and the WWC forced him to fulfill the contract.

Profe: Are you insinuating that I'm not sufficiently brave to step into this match...

Hugo: I'm pretty sure that Carlos is right about what happened, because if I'm not mistaken, one of your Real Academia wrestlers was injured and couldn't compete. That meant you had to fulfill the contract, you were forced to enter the match.

Profe: No, no, no. I voluntarily entered because I'm afraid of no one. I know I can beat them all and finish them all off...

Hugo (in an incredulous tone): Wow.

The match continues for a few minutes with no eliminations. Carlos mentions that Nagasaki and Koloff have an advantage since they are so familiar with how to handle the weapons they have. El Profe brags that they are part of his Real Academia. At 5:50 we have our first elimination, Kareem Muhammad.
Hugo: There goes the first person. It's the giant from Sudan, Kareem Muhammad. And what is that thing he has in his hands Profe?

Profe: Well, that's a bicycle handlebar.

Hugo: Well, the bicycle just crashed Profe, because he is eliminated.

Rufus is next out, prompting the following comment from El Profe: "There goes Shaka Zulu's grandpa". Hugo proceeds to apologize and say that Profe's comments do not represent him or Carlos. Jimmy Valiant is the next one to go, as the commentators start talking about how anyone could win this match. We go to commercials as Jovica and JYD are eliminated.

We come back and Rip Rogers is circling the ring, apparently not eliminated but looking to pick his spot to get back in. Invader #1 has been busted open. Embry looks like he has a boot in his hand. Meanwhile, TNT eliminates El Profe and Hugo and Carlos get on Profe's case about that.

Carlos (somewhat condescending): What happened to you there Profe?

Hugo: Profe?

Profe: Hey, it took 5 guys to get me out, because one by himself couldn't!

Embry is eliminated by Carlos. White Angel is also tossed, as Profe says he's still in there in spirit since his guys are still in it. TNT and Nagasaki start exchanging blows with their sticks. Rogers eliminates Medico during this. We're down to 8 guys, four of El Profe's men and 4 Ejercito members. Dein and Rogers team up to attack Carlos, as Koloff starts going after Miguelito with the chain. Dein loads his boot, but Carlos blocks the kick. Carlos atomic drops Dein out, but Rogers comes up from behind and tries to toss Carlos. TNT tries to help Carlos, but Dein helps Rogers from outside and it results in all three men going out.

We're down to our final four: Miguelito, Invader (who's a bit out of it on the turnbuckle), Nagasaki and Koloff. On the outside, Carlos and TNT decide to stick around at ringside (Carlos: As the captain of El Ejercito de la Justicia, we stayed out there to ensure Profe would not do any of his tricks.; Profe: Hey, I left my guys alone out there). Miguelito and Invader stare down Koloff and Nagasaki as all four men ready their weapons. Invader goes after Koloff while Miguelito goes after Nagasaki with his stick. Koloff gets the better of Invader with the chain. Meanwhile, Miguelito is just teeing off rapid fire style on Nagasaki. Then Miguelito just goes nuts hitting the heels. Eventually, Koloff puts Invader in the tree of woe and the heels team up to get rid of Miguelito. Invader tries to go at it two on one, but eventually falls to the numbers game. Heel miscommunication leads to Nagasaki being eliminated and the final stretch of the match is Koloff vs. Invader.

MD: Just as a bit of disclaimer to start: I have a pretty good working knowledge of the 80s set. I didn't get all the way to the end but I'm filling in gaps as we go. That said, I have no idea what to expect in 90 and onward so I'm in Esteban's hands as much as you here. For instance, just in this one, Valiant, Koloff, and JYD are definitely guys I don't associate with Puerto Rico. When the ring was full, it had the sense of a match that was honestly dangerous but maybe didn't actually look so, when you ideally expect wrestling to be the opposite. It was just a lot of people and a lot of weapons and a lot of shots from behind.

Profe stood out as a Jimmy Hart-in-armor sort of out of place figure. He had some fun running around at one point. It's quite neat to see two of the best scummy heels of all time sharing a ring in Embry and Rip; they even team up on JYD at one point. People seemed fairly reluctant. Two guys that weren't were TNT and Nagasaki and there was a moment in the middle where they really started unloading on each other. This teased a match that I don't think we have, something to get used to with Puerto Rico. Colon wrestling in his tracksuit was a little offputting. They had a nice little cascading elimination sequence with Carlos eliminating Abudda Dein only for Rip to go after him and TNT to follow suit with all of them sailing over in the span of a few seconds.

That cleared the ring for Koloff and Nagasaki vs Invader 1 and Perez; again, I liked seeing Nagasaki and Koloff together as Cagematch (obviously no solid guide for PR stuff) only ever has them together in one other battle royal in 85. I know from Koloff's start-of-1990 AJPW tour that he still had some stuff in the tank at this point and it shows here. With the ring cleared, the four were really able to go at each other as the crowd went wild, with the heels able to work more as a unit and overpower Perez. You want every battle royal, even a bunkhouse style one like this, to have a compelling story at the end. A bloody and exhausted Invader having to fight his way back against two monsters brandishing trademark weapons pretty much fits the bill. He's able to duck Koloff's chain as Nagasaki is holding him to even the odds which leads to a three or four minute iconic battle between Invader and Koloff. The two of them slug it out, Koloff presses his power, and Invader both sells the agony and fires back with all he has, before he's able to find that extra bit of strength and savvy and duck at exactly the right moment to send Koloff out. It becomes a sea of elated rioting as El Ejercito de la Justicia celebrates with Invader. A great entry point to see who the usual suspects were at this time and to remind me just what the right mix of, let's say, Invader 1, a strong heel, and a hot crowd could provide in Puerto Rican footage.

EB: Next time on El Deporte de las Mil Emociones, find out how Carlos Colon got injured in the first place and why Puerto Rican wrestling fans, when asked about 1989, will always mention these three words: Sadistic Steve Strong.

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Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Espectáculos Promociones Panama: The Mystery of Atila Jr.! Exterminador?! Not Satanico! A Halcon! Impacto (not that one)!

Impacto/Halcon Vs Atila Jr./El Satanico - November(?) 1988

MD: A palette cleanser straightforward tag with clear lines that got a lot of time and went back and forth for the most part. It had a pretty solid balance of exchanges, rudo beatdown, tecnico dominance, and sheer shtick. Impacto was pretty clunky at times, especially when he tried to do something particularly complicated. He was fine when he was just splashing someone in the corner, for instance. Halcon on the other hand really stood out; he was very smooth and able to hit some impressive spots with nothing feeling particularly forced.

I'll fully admit that I spent most of the match trying to figure out if Atila, Jr. was in fact our old friend Exterminador. And, I'm not entirely sure. If I was just looking at him selling, feeding, stooging, interacting with his opponent and the crowd, I'd lean towards yes. I was looking for some "signature offense" and didn't quite see it but there were bits in how he chose to double team with Satanico and how they had it backfire which was reminiscent of the Idolo tag. I liked him though, at least for what he was called upon to do in this match. I was disappointed when things didn't break down fully between him and Satanico. I have to admit that instead of feeling like some lightning strike generational rudos, these guys felt more like the Gemelo Infernales' buddies and stand-ins. Competent, down to their matching tights, but you're not going to go look for their entire career collection. I'd sure like to see some more Halcon though.

GB: Let’s get the obvious out of the way; this is not the Satanico we all cherish. Instead, we have a perennial lower carder that is passable enough to continue the match’s narrative forward, even if the gimmick doesn’t quite match the wrestling. Through the few matches we have of him, his offense is a little light and he plays to the crowd in more of a comedic way than you’d hope. Which, all things considered, isn’t necessarily the wrong thing to do in Panama as intention is more important than the realism, for the most part. Stuff like this usually gets over well enough, though it’s not going to elevate you beyond a certain level on the card. Naturally, young Satanico here would find out as his push didn’t last so long and he’d still be wrestling opening matches as late as 2014 while his contemporaries, such as Red Master and Los Gemelos would be headlining.

It’s fitting in a sense that Matt mentioned Gemelos in his appraisal of Satanico and Atila Jr. The only proof I have that this is our buddy Exterminador is a polaroid from a Satanico/Atila vs Gemelos II y III match that happened on December 28th 1988 at el Orlando Winter de San Migelito:

Even though the two Panamanian videos showcasing Atila Jr have him in a slightly different getup, we can notice the familiar skull stitched onto his mask in the picture above. With no doubt I suggest this is him. Much to Matt’s dismay, the central feud here appears to be Satanico/Impact, though I’m also rather clamoring for a little violence between Atila and Halcon to pop up someday. Halcon’s cool. It’s unfortunate that this match doesn’t really play to Atila/Exterminador’s strengths. He’s such a unique case of someone being lost to time that I wish we had just one slam-dunk match as the “Eureka!” moment to get his case over. Alas, he’s saddled with Satanico during his return to Panama.

Equally alas is the placement of Atila on the card. We know from the Kendo/Idolo feud that Atila/Satanico were curtain jerkers, opening the match with freshly debuting talent. We also know the Impacto/Satanico feud lasted at least 9 months as they appeared opposite each other on the Varela/Baby de California cards. However, with two major changes. Firstly, by this time, Atila had gone back to Monterrey and seemingly better things with Septiembre Negro Jr as his partner. Secondly, Satanico/Impacto was headlining above bigger stars and seemingly bigger programmes. I guess we can add another luminary to the list of stars Atila/Exterminador made. Though I’ll go out on a limb and say Satanico’s push was more sustained due to the booker and after-effects of Atila/Exterminador than anything else as he slips down just as fast as he crept up.

Though all of this begs a few questions. If Satanico on top was the end goal, why would they not have him be bumped up the card alongside Atila? It isn’t as if Atila was an unknown entity. Exterminador gimmick aside, Atila Sr (Jr’s uncle) was a massive player in the Panamanian scene in the mid 1970s. And, unlike Septiembre Negro Sr, Atila Sr was very much one of the boys:

Atila Sr and Cesar debuted in early May alongside Montunito, wrestling a bloodbath against the Ursus, Titan and Sergio Galvez that left the Panamanian tecnicos licking their wounds. A week later Cesar/Atila did the same again to Ursus and Titan. They were presented immediately as a strong force to be reckoned with.

Thanks to his violence, Atila Sr was the beater at the top of the card, wrestling against names such as Mano Negra (yes, that one), Ricardo Diaz, Emperador and Chamaco Castro. The Mano Negra programme was quite popular across Panama and the two would jostle between technical title matches and bloody brawls:

Further, with the launch of a new wrestling company in Panama, Atila Sr found himself in hot programme after hot programme. So much so, he was specifically chosen to headline the company in a feud opposite Rayo Chapin in the  Guatemalan legend’s second and penultimate tour of Panama:

This was a feud which lasted but a few months until the company shut its doors due to “mismanagement”. “Too many bosses and not enough wrestlers,” Don Samy de la Guardia commented about them.

Regardless of the corporate side, Atila continued his dominance. Him and Valentin were (and still very much are) seen as the “tag team of the decade” despite their relatively short time spent in Panama. Why was the same not done with Atila Jr and Satanico? What a waste of talent in Atila/Exterminador.

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Monday, September 18, 2023

AEW Five Fingers of Death 9/11 - 9/17

AEW Collision 9/16/23

Bryan Danielson/Claudio Castagnoli vs Ricky Starks/Big Bill

MD: I take no joy in writing this one, but come on. What was Claudio even doing here? I get the constraints. Punk is fired. Danielson is rushed into that spot. The BCC is an entity. Claudio makes sense as Danielson's partner. Yuta might be hurt (maybe? You wouldn't want him straying from heel either though) and Mox just wrestled Bill on Wednesday and Claudio makes a lot of thematic sense as a counterbalance to the big lug. Moreover, part of the appeal of the BCC is that they can fight anyone. That's part of the gimmick. Except for Claudio vs Kingston, a blood feud, even if one side wants blood more than another, is Wednesday and anchoring Grand Slam as much as anything else. 

Is this an insurmountable situation? No. In a match with Bryan Danielson in it, it really ought to be an opportunity, right? It's not an easy or painless opportunity. It's actually pretty hard. How do you, Claudio Castagnoli, wrestle a match in an appropriate way when your opponents are heels, are going over, need to look strong in the case of Bill and capable but vulnerable in the case of a Ricky Starks that will stooge to the point of hitting his pose in the midst of a giant swing. You have to keep heating up the feud for the Texas Death Match. You have to do all of this while continuing to further the Eddie feud, a feud already hampered by Eddie leaning too hard in the fact that Claudio "didn't do business," whatever the hell that's supposed to mean. Everything would be better served here if Eddie just said that Claudio ran to New York instead of FIGHTING him one last time to see who was the best man. But he's not saying that because, one assumes, he's too focused on the real life issue that Claudio wouldn't lay down for him and give him his win back? Just a guess, but it's the best one I have, because this wording is definitely not the path of least resistance otherwise.

So so you're Claudio in that situation. Maybe you lean into the aloofness. This is a world you didn't make, in your mind, that you don't want to be in. You just want this over with. You play up being a tough guy babyface strongman and Danielson's partner and you pretend nothing's wrong. Good luck managing that when Kevin Kelly's going on about how you have Eddie on your mind. It doesn't matter. To do that you would have had to play things up even more. 

Maybe you're an absolute bastard in there instead. Maybe you take liberties. Maybe you're the heel who the babyface calls upon when things are dire, Colon teaming with Abdullah the Butcher in Puerto Rico or Lawler teaming with Jos LeDuc in Memphis. That sort of thing, just with a bit more actual bond between the partners. Starks is smaller than you. You bully him and he bumps and sells and stooges for you. He's good enough that he can still be the heel in that scenario. You get right in Big Bill's face. You don't care if he's got inches on you; you're the real monster out of the two. It's a headache overall, sure, but own it. Find a path that makes it work.

What did Claudio do? Not option A, not option B. He was just Claudio. He was present in the match. He wrestled the match. He was competent and capable and this match set up next week's Collision and didn't do a damn thing to help Grand Slam along. It wasn't that Claudio was worried about Kingston or not worried about Kingston or that he was pretending not to be worried about Kingston. It was just that Eddie didn't exist. Mad King's screaming into the night, is pouring out his heart in a promo, is picking at an ugly red scab over a decade old; you wouldn't know it from looking at his opponent. The best wrestlers in the world make the most of the most difficult opportunities. I wish Claudio had here.

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Sunday, September 17, 2023

2023 Ongoing MOTY List: Ospreay vs. Naito, Just Another 6 Star Match


Will Ospreay vs. Tatsuya Naito NJPW 8/12/23

ER: I decided to spend 45 minutes of my Saturday listening to Kevin Kelly lackadaisically call the 2nd 6 star New Japan match of 2023.

Match starts with loose headlock transitions, lot of space between all the matwork, few can look as disinterested in matwork as Naito. Nothing looked deliberate until OSpreay starting cranking the wrist, and I liked the way Ospreay committed to the misses on his running back elbow and a slashing front kick. 

It always strikes me as odd that Ospreay commits so much to the impact of so many of moves but always prioritizes the landing on his pescados with minimal regard to impact. Road Dogg ass pescado. 

I can't believe how little two front row fans flinched when Ospreay was whipped into the guardrail, but vaults right it at high speed, coming one inch from curb stomping each of their kneecaps upon landing. I have had my face smashed by a guardrail at a wrestling show, and got my picture photographed with Misawa for use in Japanese newspapers. But I would have flinched had I actually seen the danger that was right before me. 

The apron forearms didn't do anything for me, but Ospreay took a neckbreaker off the turnbuckles to the apron and an even worse looking one from the apron to the floor. He's a guy who seems to say the type of things that somehow who takes a lot of shots to the back of the head would say, so I guess I appreciate his commitment. 

Naito's Gloria into a cool pluma blanca had good application in reasonable time, and Ospreay's fight to the bottom rope looked strong, his face and neck getting squeezed harder each time he pumped his legs closer towards the ropes

Naito's short arm back elbow to the neck is his first good strike of the match, and I like how the first one acted as a harbinger of how he'd go after Ospreay's neck down the home stretch. 

Ospreay sticking the landing on Naito's poison rana looked great, but it immediately turned into Red Shoes making one of his classically retarded overreactions that never feels like he's actually reacting to what just happened. His arms held out in hooks, his hands clawed and his face pleading; he looked like a teen finding out his best friend drove drunk and as such won't be able to play in the big game Sunday, ruining the school's chances of going to State. It's always the dumbest fucking reactions from that guy. 

It's wild that Scoot Andrew's "making a guy hold himself on the ropes for 12+ seconds" is a move set up that has survived into 2023. We haven't found a better way to get there than this? Ospreay sets up Naito's balancing act with two hard knees to the face and hits a great shooting start press as the payoff, and while both of those are a much more violent set up for a much better payoff than what Scoot did, it's still a guy awkwardly holding himself in position for a really long time. I think most of the wrestlers that could have figured out the best way to look convincingly stuck in the ropes for that long had all stopped wrestling before Scoot Andrews innovated the set up. Finlay is the only one who comes to mind that I definitively remember being good at occupying time while balancing his body across the ropes. 

If I was impressed by Ospreay landing crown first on two neckbreakers earlier, I have to be excited about Ospreay landing on the top of his head for a great rope run tornado DDT and a smoothly followed up Valentia brainbuster.

I like Ospreay's desperate, opportunistic use of the Hidden Blade, after Naito missed the stardust press. It was a good point to set up a both-men-down situation, but the huffing melodramatic fight from their knees that they used to work back into the match was awful, and the stand and trade looked uninspired until Naito's short arm back elbows. It was a clunky way to ease into the big finishing stretch, but easily forgotten because of leading into such a hot finishing stretch. 

The back elbow to the neck that finally knocked Ospreay to his knees looked like something that would drop someone with lightning bolt nerve pain.

Ospreay hooks several kicks into Naito's left eye, easily the most WAR strikes of the match in terms of impact, great use of foot placement and thigh slap and Actually Kicking Face, Naito's falls looking really authentic. But naturally when Red Shoes prevents Ospreay from doing any kind of follow up ground and pound, he turns the entire focus of the match onto himself for the entire time he counts Naito down. This goof acts like the most important moment of the match is his humorless Frank Drebin routine, Naito down while doing Elvis That's the Way it Is kneeling finger point poses.

It's hilarious timing, because moments later, after Ospreay takes a rana reversal directly on his shoulders as fast as SUWA (just about the highest compliment I can give someone), Ospreay superkicks an off-balanced Naito fully in the mouth, Naito's bazoo resting on Ospreay's boot as if it was holding him upright for a brief moment, and once I realized Naito was clearly knocked out I understood why. Of all the times for Red Shoes to put the full spotlight on himself and make his dramatic count down the pivotal spot of the match, it does not happen when a man is actually knocked out.  

The knockout makes Naito's collapse on the follow up look that much better. It turns out that Naito becomes a really great seller when he gets knocked out and then forced to run at someone. 

You can clearly hear Ospreay calling the rest of the match, literally give Naito step by step directions to guide him through every movement, and what's that the movements were incredibly complicated AND lead to the best, most natural looking reversals of the match! Both of Naito's consecutive Destinos looked good, and neither felt expected or telegraphed. They looked like a guy who just knew how to use physics to his advantage, even though they were mostly being controlled by Ospreay. Ospreay was essentially working a lazy-eyed blow up doll and making the execution of his opponent's offense look the best it had looked all match. Ospreay's late kickout if the second Destino looked earned and burdensome, as if he was kicking out a blacked out man's heavy corpse off of him. 

On the third and final Destino he made sure to wallop the back of his head hard into the mat, and I love the insanity of not just calling for the finish to be the second Destino, which would have been a wholly valid finish. The fact he forced a kickout and then forced a corpse to do it one. more. time. is the kind of stupid wrestler brain I can really appreciate.  

This was not a 6 star match, whatever that is, or a 7 star match, or a 5 star match, or probably even a 4 star match. But the finishing stretch was good enough and unique enough because of the impressive literal carry job that I can see a scenario where you forget about the opening 15-20 minutes. I remain unconvinced by Naito as a worker, and wish Ospreay could integrate more selling into his epics, but carry jobs always impress me and this one was him literally willing a dead body through a complicated finish, and that's cool. 


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Friday, September 15, 2023


Blue Panther vs. Panterita del Ring CMLL 1991

MD: Panterita took on the identity as tribute to Blue Panther and they worked this one with the level of effort and intensity you'd expect accordingly. It was chippy throughout and this was my favorite iteration of Blue Panther, that perfectly balanced rudo, able to work the mask, beg off when the time came, play to the crowd, be absolutely brutal with the outside guardrail, but really to overlay all of that over the things that Panther is known for: crispness, technical soundness, etc. It's the best of both worlds. This is a guy who could tie you in a knot but that's also going to win the second fall here with a foul just because he can, both endlessly credible and a total shitheel all at once.

Panterita was the local hero that you'd expect, meeting Panther halfway with violence in the primera, eating his beating after heel ref Guerrero held him back in the segunda, and then coming back big in the tercera leading to a series of exciting nearfalls from both wrestlers. There were no stakes here. This was a prelude to the title match and that was supposed to be prelude to an apuestas match, but between the hard shots, mask undoing, and nearfalls, they worked it like it was a bigger deal than it was, like it was a feud ender instead of a feud starter. And hey, Guerrero even got his by eating an errant Panterita dropkick which allowed another official to reluctantly come in and count for Panterita. That gave all of this the proper air of disruption and unfinished business to set up the next match. 

ER: Oh the foolish things I would do for the woman in giant hoop earrings and white bike shorts who accompanies Blue Panther to the ring. I really liked the pace of this, how quickly Panterita takes Panther out with a tope, and how fast and violent all of the strikes look. Panther throws short arm fast knife edge chops that really sting like hell, and it's one way he's able to outquick Panterita. Panterita gets a quick primera win and Panther pays him back by kneeing him in the balls in the segunda. I love how Panther is able to switch back and forth from technician to asshole, with some small elements of John Tatum panic. The fought-for sunset flips looked great, with Panterita really looking like he was trying to drag him over and Panther looking like he was constantly adjusting his weight to stop it, but it got even better when Panther was nearly screaming while holding the ropes, freaking out until Panterita got off him. And of course, whenever Panterita was separated from him, Panther would go back to being an asshole with a fresh start, ripping at his mask after Panterita was stopped from doing so before the segunda. Heel ref Guerrero takes the best bump of the match, a dropkick from Panterita sending him crashing fast to the floor with Fuerza-like speed. The nearfalls were all strong and all felt like they could actually end the match, and the Panterita huracanrana win was a legitimate surprise, with Panther throwing a fit on the house mic after. 

Negro Casas/Ponzona/Monje Negro vs. Panterita del Ring/Gran Hamada/Shibata

MD: I was super high on the two Casas vs Panterita trios from last week but this didn't quite rise to the same level. Some of that was the VQ being as rough as we've seen in this footage, but a lot of it was a lack of that single-minded focus. This was trying to have it both ways too much, threatening to boil over again and again only to settle back down to stilted exchanges. There wasn't a long beatdown or big comeback. The finish was a Casas dodging a kick and pretending to be fouled.

There was still a lot to like though. Whenever Casas and Panterita got into it, it was strong scuffling, no question. They had great chemistry. It makes me wonder if there's not some random Negro Casas vs Hombre Sin Nombre or Ephesto exchange worth tracking down. Monje Negro is a guy I want to see more of, just a hefty monk who is like a brick wall out there. We got a tease of Hamada vs Casas but just that; he carries himself with so much confidence and certainty though. And Shibata looked really good too; he's a local known for training people as varied as Hechicero and Latin Lover if I'm not mistaken. Just a competent pro. So this was fine but it I would have liked it to commit a little more either to set exchanges or the chaos of Casas vs Panterita.     

Arandu vs. Panterita del Ring CMLL 1991

MD: Again rough VQ here with some clipping of key moves, but not anything you can't look past. We didn't lose the overfall flow, just seconds here and there. Given that there were less people in the ring, it was easier to follow too. Arandu was quite the journeyman and this had the making of a provincial grudge match. We've seen enough now to know that Panterita could hold his own in the role of local hero. Arandu made a great foil for him.

Here he ambushed him from the get go, dropkicking him off the apron on his way in. He took a lot of this overall, which was good because had plenty of stuff, slams and suplexes, plenty of asserting himself and pressing his size advantage. He had Guerrero the ref to help hold Panterita's hand so he couldn't punch too (tecnicos have to act like tecnicos!), at least until an errant shot knocked the ref back and allowed for the comeback in the segunda. This led to a pretty hot tercera with a lot of dives (hit and missed) and drama, including a pretty spectacular asai moonsault from Panterita and Arundu's flip dive off the apron. Good, complete, satisfying match overall.

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Thursday, September 14, 2023

El Deporte de las Mil Emociones: Introduction

EB: It’s interesting how our journeys as wrestling fans can be with regards to the things we share in common and the things we do not. We first come across this weird and amazing world of pro wrestling either by accident or by someone we know introducing us to it. Maybe it’s a family member or friend that watches and you happen to watch it along with them. Maybe you happened to be changing channels on the tv and happened across one of the wrestling programs you had access to (I fall into this group). No matter how your wrestling fan journey started, after that initial intro to pro wrestling, it’s usually shaped by two factors: interest in seeking more out and opportunity based on what you have access to. Regardless of when or where our wrestling fan journeys started, we all have that in common.
My wrestling fan journey started three and half decades ago when I would stumble every now and then upon wrestling on TV. Scattered moments and episodes from the mid to late 80s World Wrestling Federation. A random weeknight when I happened to come across a cool looking face painted wrestler from Japan in the ring, with someone running in and a failed fireball attack occurring, causing me to make a mental note of the channel and time, and then being disappointed when I checked the next week and wrestling wasn’t on (I didn’t know about the Clash of the Champions yet). Looking back, elementary school me wasn’t very good at remembering when or where the wrestling programs were on (I eventually did figure it out though). It was around 1990 that interest and opportunity came together for me, and I basically became an avid wrestling fan.

But while my wrestling fan journey shares that experience with many who watched the then WWF and WCW throughout the 90s, there is one key difference in my case. Growing up in Puerto Rico, I also would every now and then come across the local wrestling we had. While not a consistent viewer, I would become familiar with several of the local wrestling personalities, due to those sporadic viewings and also simply due to the local culture. I mean, when you have wrestlers in commercials, fast food promotional tie-ins (buy the Lucha Bucket from KFC and get a free wrestler poster!) and even as part of the local vernacular (‘Estas bregando a la Chicky Starr’), it’s hard not to be aware. I knew about Carlos Colon, the Invaders, Chicky Starr, Abdullah the Butcher and the voice of Hugo Savinovich doing the card rundowns.  Later, when I committed to being an avid wrestling watcher sometime in 1990, I also started regularly watching the local Puerto Rico wrestling and became familiar with even more names such as TNT, the Caribbean Express and others. From then on, I remained an avid watcher of the local wrestling heroes and villains all the way through college.

When I got online, my wrestling fan journey changed. It was during the middle of the Monday Night Wars, wrestling was in a peak period and there was this sense of finding other fans with similar interests to have a sort of kinship in enjoying (or being aggravated by) this world of pro wrestling. Initially one would gravitate to the news websites and message boards your web browser of choice would point you towards. But bit by bit, opportunity expanded as I kept discovering the different corners of wrestling related websites. Oh and what sights did I see. Different tape trader websites with listings of matches and angles that would boggle the mind since all I knew of certain wrestlers was what I had seen of them (“Wait, these two faced off where?”). You could spend a good chunk of your day just looking through John McAdam’s listings on his website. I’d see reports about wrestling from other countries such as Japan and Mexico and about the U.S. indie scene (thank you DVDVR). I’d find discussions about the current events in the major U.S. companies and even backstage rumors that made you feel like you were in on something. My interest met an increase in opportunity and a whole new world of discovery and discussion opened for me. Well, sort of.

You see, while I was excited about all of the wrestling areas I could discover, there was still interest on my part in talking about Puerto Rican wrestling and even learning about what had happened before I became a fan. But for various reasons, conversation about Puerto Rican wrestling was not exactly abundant. You had the footage accessibility issues (I could watch it on local TV, not the case for many of the other online fans), language issues (in Spanish), lack of familiarity with wrestlers or the style, and likely the biggest issue, all anyone really seemed to know or cared to know about Puerto Rican wrestling was the very unfortunate and tragic incident of Bruiser Brody being stabbed and killed in Puerto Rico. In the few places where the topic of Puerto Rico was brought up, the conversation would sooner or later circle back to Brody’s death and a vitriolic conversation would usually ensue. After seeing that dynamic play out a few times, I didn’t want to wade in. I was in no mood to feel and have to converse like I was being put on trial for liking Puerto Rican wrestling.

Because of that, I took to the idea of just being a lurker and not really getting into wrestling message board discussions because I felt (as weird as it may sound to you) that any conversations regarding Puerto Rican wrestling would sooner or later just circle back to that one topic. I just didn’t want to end up engaging in any heated, vitriolic discussion whenever the topic of Puerto Rican wrestling would come up. So I just didn’t engage. At all. For quite a few years, I just read and lurked.  Until about ten years ago when I saw a thread over at ProWrestlingOnly titled Puerto Rico Wrestling. I clicked on it and discovered that there were posters who were watching different matches from Puerto Rico and reviewing them based on whatever merits (if any) they found them to have. It was a case of people giving the wrestling I had grown up with a chance absent of whatever baggage it may carry and deciding if they liked it or not based on the wrestling itself. As I read the different posts, I started talking to myself about some background or context info that would help clear up some of the questions I was seeing. After about a week of this, I decided to sign up and started posting what I could offer for context and engaged in the discussion.  And my wrestling fan journey changed once more.

For the past decade I have been blessed by my decision to engage instead of lurking. I have learned a lot more about this pastime and hobby that is shared by many others. I have made connections and friends, had rewarding and sometimes annoying discussions, but have been enriched by the experience. It’s been a decade of providing context and background when possible about Puerto Rican wrestling, of helping out with footage projects and even appearing on a podcast or two.  And now, it is one such conversation about Puerto Rican wrestling that brings us here. A question about what my top matches from post 1990 Puerto Rico would be was thrown my way. It was a question I had some struggle finding a clear answer to, because it has been quite a while since I’ve really sat down and watched wrestling from that time. Memory can get fuzzy, certain details can be forgotten and mixed up, and there’s no abundant source of footage or reference to refresh the memory. But an idea evolved from that. It might be fun to go back and revisit the wrestling from that time I became a fan. And since I’m going to do that, why not document it? For the past decade I’ve enjoyed providing context when possible about Puerto Rican wrestling and just engaging with other fans. Time to take the next step in that regard.

So we welcome you to El Deporte de las Mil Emociones, where we are going to take a journey, one where hopefully we’ll learn and discover (or rediscover in my case) what exactly was happening in Puerto Rican wrestling. Our goal is to take a weekly look at the scene in Puerto Rico on a mostly chronological basis, with 1990 as our starting point. Our journey won’t be limited to just this time period though, at certain points we will also reach back to the 80s as well, since despite it being better documented there is still an opportunity to learn and discover there. But our overall goal is to give anyone with interest the opportunity at checking out Puerto Rican wrestling. If you end up liking it, great! And if you find that it’s not for you, that’s also okay, at least you gave it a chance. Our footage journey won’t be perfect, it won’t be complete since there’s still a lot of gaps in what’s available, but it will be an honest and hopefully engaging effort on our part. I have a great tag partner in Matt D for this journey and I hope you’ll enjoy coming along with us.

MD: My overall wrestling journey is not dissimilar to Esteban’s in that 1990 was my key year and that there was a similar sense of being introduced to a broader world. For me, on top of the wrestling itself, I had the WWF Superstars annual magazine with bios of all the wrestlers or the WCW Trading cards as well. Also, I was first exposed to Puerto Rican wrestling through that same thread on PWO, just from the other side. From there and the subsequent DVDVR 80s set, I learned to appreciate Invader 1’s selling, the Colon vs Hansen feud, or how a team like the Rock’n’Roll RPMs could really shine if just given the opportunity. Looking from the outside in and trying to make sense of it relative to the broader spectrum of pro wrestling, Puerto Rico was something of a Memphis even farther south mixed with a hint of lucha: big bloody brawls with riotous crowds, brutal beatdowns, huge comebacks, visceral stakes. At least in our circles, we developed a sort of ‘canon’ that was only further codified through the 80s set. 

For the most part, however, that canon doesn’t reach into the 90s and it certainly doesn’t reach into the years that follow. A lot of the elements I mentioned in the last paragraph are theoretically timeless; they draw upon primal emotions and are less reliant upon athleticism than other elements of wrestling. If you can throw a great working punch at 25, it’ll probably still look great at 55. If you’ve mastered how to move hearts and minds through your selling, getting older only gives you a deeper well of sympathy to draw upon. As Phil would be quick to remind all of us, blood is forever. Moreover, while some of the channels that footage was preserved and disseminated in the 80s didn’t make it into the next decade, technological advancements in recording probably counterbalanced that to a degree. Footage does exist. It’s just a matter of finding a guide through it, and we are very lucky to have Esteban as our guide here, and then doing the legwork of watching and talking about matches.

I’m hoping through this effort we can add to the canon, unveil new epic stories and matches, and light a path into years that are a little less traveled. While this isn’t the blind leap of faith that Graham and I have made with Panama, I know I’ll be building on what familiarity I do have and learning new things every week and I hope that everyone who reads this will as well.

EB: With all that said, next time on El Deporte de las Mil Emociones, we start our journey a few months before 1990 in order to set the scene. Get ready to meet many of the wrestlers and personalities we’ll be following throughout this journey and to learn a bit about Puerto Rico. So come as you are and bring one item of your choice as we head back to August 1989 and witness a match type that is a semi-regular occurrence in Puerto Rico.

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Monday, September 11, 2023

AEW Five Fingers of Death 9/4 - 9/10

AEW Dynamite 9/6/23

Darby Allin vs Nick Wayne

MD: Wayne's an interesting case. He's so young but he only has 50 less matches under his belt than a Daniel Garcia or Isiah Kassidy. I worry that the reward structure may have been skewed for him poorly on the indies (I worry about this with Billie Starkz who has more matches than half of the women's roster), like a tree that was allowed to grow strong but in a stilted direction because of obstacles in its path. Working with a good chunk of the AEW roster will help him, and working with some of the rest probably won't, so it's a roll of the dice how he ends up in a couple of years.

Still, this had to be a huge deal for him, main eventing Dynamite against Darby. While this was a babyface match and mentor vs student, there still needed to be a wedge to deal with the hierarchy and that came when Darby, on instinct as much as anything else, went for one of his early match dives and absolutely wiped himself out as Nick (instinctively himself) dodged out of the way. They had to burn two commercial breaks on this match for some reason and this let them burn the first even as it explained why Darby didn't just swallow him up early. In the time before Darby was able to mount a comeback, Wayne hit a combo superplex/fisherman's suplex. I didn't love it but when you keep in mind that Wayne hadn't taken any damage yet in the match and the fact that it's easier to take someone over with a fisherman's suplex than a standard suplex, or, you know, a falcon arrow, it was something I could live with in this very specific situation. It goes back to wrong lessons though. I'm sure that we'll see him do it again in his matches, especially down a stretch where it'll get a big pop but will devalue a standard superplex (poor Phil, who worked so hard to increase their value).

Darby kept coming back into it. Against a Luchasaurus that was demolishing him, he needed big hope spots. Against Nick Wayne, even with a damaged back, he was going to take back the offense. In fact, he brought things back to center so thoroughly that he got on the mic and told Wayne to hit him harder. Wayne responded with an opportunistic superkick. They were clever here in coming up with ways for Wayne to justifiably stay in it: the missed dive, said superkick, Darby hesitating on the coffin drop. Somewhere in there Wayne hit Wayne's World and it was all a little too abrupt to work as a nearfall. That's a needle Wayne will have to figure out how to thread: how to hit a move that should be sudden and unexpected, that needs a leap off the ropes and can come off as contrived if not careful, but also make it feel weighty enough to the crowd to come off like a finisher. I know people are split on it, but Van Dam always selling the impact of the five star frog splash gave it a little extra oomph. Maybe Wayne could kind of hit an overbump bounce as he lands with it? Anyway, while I was thinking about this, they went into a hot roll-up heavy pin exchange for the finish before Darby just decided to end it with a stretch and some stomps for good measure, something that felt totally believable that a "big brother" would do when he's had quite enough of his little brother. Like I said, I didn't love every part of this, but the parts I didn't love I'm probably at least ok with. I'll give Darby credit for that but with a pinch of optimism for Wayne's future.

AEW Collision 9/9/23

Darby Allin vs Roderick Strong

MD: Some interesting math on this one. They had to make Roddy look strong to counterbalance his nebbish sort of character. He can be sniveling and detestable but he still has to be potentially dangerous. They had to protect Darby, especially as he's coming off of that loss against Luchasaurus (no matter how that actually played out) as he'd be losing again. The finish was going to be at least moderately clean, or indirectly unclean at best. That is, Strong was, with no direct interference at the end, going to hit his finisher and get a clean pin on Darby. So what do they do? A lot, maybe too much. They led with a pre-match Luchasaurus ambush. They ended with Fox and Wayne getting in each other's way as they brawled with the Kingdom.

Somewhere in the middle, you had a guy with a hurt back against a guy whose whole deal is to target the back. Maybe, just maybe, that might have been enough? Strong's act was probably a little too cutesy twenty (or almost twenty) years ago, even though he figured out how to broaden it well in the 2010s. In today's world, though, when the percentage of matches focused on a body part is much lower than it was back then, it really does make Strong stand out. Darby is a selling machine. Most of the cutoffs of his comebacks in this one weren't do to anything Strong actually did, but just because his body gave out on him and he slumped down. That's fairly unique. You see a babyface fail to pick up his opponent due to the back giving way or the heel getting in a cheapshot to the back, but here Darby just hit a few shots and then slumped with Strong doggedly right back on him. So the little moments were compelling, and then the big shots of Strong crushing Darby on the top turnbuckle or the apron or the rail were as grisly as you'd expect from Darby. I don't know, maybe there were a few too many moving parts by the end, but say what you will about Darby's back or Roddy's neck, they were both strong enough to carry all the things this match had to achieve.

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Sunday, September 10, 2023

WWF 305 Live: Bam Bam vs. The Undertaker

Bam Bam Bigelow vs. Undertaker WWF March to WrestleMania IX 3/28/93 - VERY GOOD

ER: It's a drag that Bam Bam got cut from the WrestleMania card, even though the scrapped match with Kamala almost surely wouldn't have been even as good as this TV special main event. I've told this story a few times, but only one kid in my class "saw" WrestleMania IX on PPV as it happened, so Robert was the one giving me and several other kids the full rundown of every single thing that had happened on the show. I put "saw" in quotes for a reason. I don't know why I put Robert's name in quotes though, as that was his real name. Anyway, several years later I was made to question whether Robert had actually watched a single second of WrestleMania IX, when I rented the Coliseum Video and found no mention of the Kamala/Bigelow match that Robert had described in unquestioned detail. 

Honestly, I probably didn't even know that the match had been officially cut for time until years after that, when I got online in the late 90s, as up until then I probably assumed the match had just been edited off the Coliseum Video release for time, rather than eliminated entirely from the show. I had rented WCW PPV tapes, so I was familiar with matches being edited off home video releases. I've seen Bigelow/Kamala house show matches from around this time that were surely them working out their upcoming WM9 match, and honestly Robert's description of a match he never saw from a show he might not have watched was quite accurate, so even if he was a liar he was at minimum a liar who understood likely match layouts and booking scenarios of the show he was pretending to have seen. This might mean that Robert is/was dangerous. He was the only kid I ever know who went to juvie, but that would have been after WrestleMania IX. 

This match was a great Bam Bam show, as it was almost entirely him clubbing and headbutting Undertaker down to the mat, then making a bunch of "are you kidding me with this fucking guy?" faces as Undertaker would sit up regardless of what Bigelow had just done to him. Bigelow is really good at putting over Undertaker's size, flattening out on all of his bumps to make it look like Undertaker's powers included control over gravity. I liked how splat flat Bam Bam took a drop toehold and Taker's leaping DDT, and Bam Bam is someone who at least acts like his shoulder is really really hurting and demobilizing him while an undead zombie is taking an eternity to back up the turnbuckles and find his footing before jumping off of them. 

There was a good visual of Bigelow taking full control by ducking out of the way of Taker's flying clothesline, so Taker does a cool flipping rolling bump out to the floor. It's all clubbing and slamming and whipping into steps, hitting a high delayed back suplex, and then me swooning for Triple B as he places his hands on his hips in frustration as Undertaker still keeps sitting up. I can see them working variations of this bit on house shows, as here there's an amusing moment where Bigelow slams Taker and walks away, and then...kind of peeks back over his shoulder, like Undertaker is a Boo ghost who will stop sitting up if you catch him in the act. Everyone in the arena knows it's just building up to Bigelow's headbutt sending him diving into an empty pool, but I'd love to see how times in a row Bigelow could reset Undertaker's positioning without getting to the payoff. I think he has enough funny mannerisms and eye rolls to pull off an endless series of Just Trying to Prevent a Guy from Sitting Up. 

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Friday, September 08, 2023


Negro Casas vs. Panterita del Ring CMLL 1/3/92

MD: This isn't long and it leads off with Panterita and a bunch of kids who had competed in an art contest in a ring. The winner (and they claim Panterita chose the winner) got a mask.

Of the match itself, we get about ten minutes. It's clipped, but hard to say how heavily as it was artfully done, as in we don't miss momentum shifts. They matched up well, Casas and a local hero. The underlying story that the rudo ref, Guerrero, and Casas had a whisper to start and then a nice hug at the start of the segunda and he let Casas get away with murder. That all built to an errant dropkick in the Tercera where Casas took him out and a bunch of phantom pins by Panterita until a ref finally snuck in and caught Casas sleeping. Along the way, everything was smooth and flowing as you'd expect. Casas had these nice short kicks to the ribs that were almost Kawada-esque and since it's him, that led to comeuppance where his foot got caught and he was swept out as he went back to that well. I do think we lost some of the verve and feeling of this one due to the clipping but not the overall sense. Some of the specialness was almost certainly left on the cutting room floor since Casas is about the big picture and not just individual spots (though him getting kicked up into the ropes and bumping feet over head, for instance, will always be spectacular).

Negro Casas/Emilio Charles Jr/Medico Asesino Jr. vs. Panterita del Ring/Volador/Angel Azteca CMLL 1991

MD: This though? I really enjoyed this. Total sprint but with enough super talented wrestlers to make it work and resonate, with the focal point being on Casas and Panterita. Look, when you're putting Casas up as the top top, as maybe the greatest wrestler ever, one of the criticisms is that he can disappear a bit in trios matches where he's not the focus. I think this notion is kind of crazy because, one, it's endemic of lucha, and two, I don't actually think it's true. It's a case where you have to go a little out of your way to watch him, but if you do, you see amazing reactions and subtle bits where he's still hugely engaging and entertaining without drawing attention off of the main focus.

When he's the main focus, however, it's pure joy, and that was the case here. You barely remember anyone else is in the match for the primera (and one of those guys in the match is Emilio Charles Jr!) as Casas and Panterita just go at it. There's a moment where they exchange big throws and then sell after the fact and it's like the world's best possible "fighting spirit" bit but in Monterrey and in 1991. They're just constant motion in and out of the ring, fists always flying, like a cartoon where you just see a ball of dust as two people are scrapping. In the segunda we get some other exchanges, and Emilio and Volador look great together with some beautiful stooging from Emilio. For the finish in the segunda and the tercera, he's just in absolutely the right place at the right time in a way that I'm not sure that many other people in wrestling history could have done as well. But really, this was the Casas and Panterita show and what a show it was.

Negro Casas/Comando Ruso/Corsario vs. Panterita del Ring/Gran Hamada/Super Astro (Monterrey 1991)

MD: I was going to lead off by saying this was more of the same but that really underplays just how awesome this one was. On paper, it was more of the same, but it never really settles down to exchanges. There are a couple times both in the primera and the segunda where it looks like it's going to settle down and we'll get Comando Ruso vs Super Astro or something, but it goes quickly from the threat of violence bubbling up to things getting absolutely out of hand. They replay some of the spots from the last match early on but with slight differences. Really, though it's more just constant swiping and striking from Casas and Panterita. There's a little more of Casas withdrawing and then rushing back in, but overall, it's just consistent chaos.

Every time they headed outside, things really opened up in the best way. Panterita would just grind Casas' head into a chair and then Casas would return the favor by lawn darting Panterita into the fourth rope and then following that up by a slam onto the chairs that almost looked like he was about to drop him with a martinete and end his career. The end of the primera actually had the tecnicos get an advantage because Panterita (having caught Casas with a great sweeping kick as he was getting dragged out of the ring after a trip) hit the seated senton off the apron Casas would later be known for on Casas.

Anyway, by the time things did settle down in the ring after the segunda beatdown and said slam onto the chairs, when they did make it back into the ring, Panterita's mask was torn open and given the VQ I had no idea if Casas was gushing or just drenched in sweat. Much of the end of this was Panterita trying to take Casas' head off with a submission before everything just devolved into fouls and some crazy brawling towards the back. A wild scene over all and a definite escalation from the previous trios. The other tecnicos had tried to assert themselves at one point (including Super Astro's little hop and Hamada dropkicking someone between the eyes) but there wasn't much they could do to stand out through the whirlwind of Casas and Panterita's chaos.

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Wednesday, September 06, 2023

AEW Five Fingers of Death 8/28 - 9/3 Part 2

AEW All Out 9/4/23

Bryan Danielsion vs Ricky Starks (Strap Match)

MD: Well, this was special, huh? Where to begin here? What's my "in?" It has to be just how thoroughly this was thought out. In some ways, it felt like the exact opposite of the Okada match. There, Danielson, arm broken, had to adapt in-ring against an opponent he'd never faced, with a language barrier, in the main event of one of the biggest matches of the year. Here? Here, according to Danielson, they had run every single beat of this not just in front of an agent or Khan but in front of the AEW doctor. Like I said last week, we don't know what we don't know as it pertains to how he calls or plans matches generally, but we do know about these two matches, and I can't speak for anyone else, but for me it's the most impressive sort of range in the world. Think about it. How is it not an amazing testament to Danielson that he was able to work two completely different sorts of matches with such limitations and such stakes and that he completely nailed both.

Watch the thing back. He doesn't utilize his arm for anything. He doesn't lift anything heavier than the strap the whole match. There are one or two moments where he bumps onto the arm (his own corner dropkick and when Starks cuts him off with the clothesline out of the corner, which was such an important moment in the match). There isn't a single "move" out of Danielson or Starks in this one. Everything is a strike, using the strap, or using a part of the ring as a weapon, and even then, for those latter bits it's mostly jamming a head against something (stairs, post).

And yet somehow this coexisted on a show which had two other violent maulings in Mox vs Cassidy and the Darby match but also a super-maximalist encounter between Omega and Takeshita. And while some might disagree, to me, this eclipsed them all. It was the combination of brutality and character, the paradoxical weight of repetitive blows and the basking in moments between them. Starks created so much of the motion here, did so much of the physical lift, but just about anyone on the roster could have done that. What just about anyone could not do was to match Danielson in the moments in-between.

He started the match by running, stalling, checking his pulse, slapping a hand. During the ambush, he blew a kiss to the crowd. After opening Danielson up with the weight belt shot, he ran over to kiss a woman's hand (thus obfuscating the blading). As the match went on, he'd scream in agony or ecstasy depending on his point of advantage in the match. He'd gloat that it was his house or recoil in defiant disbelief as Danielson shrugged off blows and promised retribution. While he didn't wear his crimson mask as well as Danielson, years of emotion, of struggle and disappointment and perseverance bled out of the chip on his shoulder, all building to that moment at the end when the camera focused directly on face as his windpipe proved to be less formidable than his willpower and consciousness left his eyes. 

This was planned to a perfection, key emotional moments balanced carefully with the wild excess of leather striking flesh again and again and again, wild and reckless and measured and precise. It was the perfect combination of far too much and barely anything at all, the bridge between them blood and emotion and violence, that ultimate alchemy of what pro wrestling can be at its very best and most primal, not the reality of war, but the ultimate illusion of it.

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Tuesday, September 05, 2023

Espectáculos Promociones Panama: Idolo! Kendo!

Idolo vs Kendo (mascara contra mascara) - 2 October 1988

MD: The atmosphere for this is absolutely off the charts. This crowd lived and breathed with every single thing that Idolo did and trash flew at every one of Kendo’s actions. In fact, I get the notion they flew just a little too close to the sun here and it impacted the trajectory of the match. Kendo ambushed Idolo early and it’s just not the Kendo we all know and put up with. There’s no aping of Kato Kung Lee’s shtick. There’s nothing but driving violence here. He drives all the way to a chairshot on the outside. That’s when we see a giant white object fly in from off screen at him. It’s probably a chair, but whatever it is, it’s dangerous and everything grinds to a halt with its arrival. After that they decide for some pleasant mask ripping by the apron and back in the ring to let the crowd cool back down a bit. When they go back outside again Idolo has the advantage. He actually has the advantage for a lot of the back half.

It’s not the first course correction I’ve ever seen but it’s a fairly unfortunate one. I’m all for big tecnico comebacks in apuestas matches and certainly by the end of this, Kendo’s mask is comically destroyed, but the strength in this one was probably going to be in Idolo eating a beating and Kendo causing a riot. Instead, we get a lot of Idolo sizing him up for his long distance karate strikes. I’m not going to say that Idolo is an emperor with no clothes, because I do fully think he understands how to set up a moment and milk it, and that’s as much a part of being a star in wrestling as anything, and the fans are completely behind him, but past one nice looking dropkick and him pulling it together for the dive that set up the finish in the tercera, he just wasn’t physically there by this point. The fans don’t care. I know if I was in this crowd, I would take his early stumbles as him just trying to power back after the start-of-the-match beating that Kendo gave him. I’d see it as valiant and not deficient and I think, for the most part, the crowd absolutely saw it as such.

That, in and of itself, lets you forgive some of the things that probably didn’t work here and focus on what did, like when they were throwing fists on their knees, masks torn apart and exhausted, or the submissions towards the end, with Idolo going deep on a crab, only to have Kendo tap his back, pretending to be the ref in order to escape. I did love the finish: Kendo recovered first after Idolo’s tope but he was overconfident because of that and turned away from his prone opponent. That allowed Idolo to slip in with a cavernaria out of nowhere. Post-match, Kendo didn’t seem very upset by the loss, but that seemed to be part of a tecnico turn. If he no longer had the mask to make him feared and beloved, best to take a jovial approach, hugging Idolo and getting the crowd back behind him for whatever might be next; they’d be more likely to buy into his shtick then. This one was all about the crowd, and what a truly special crowd it turned out to be.

GB: I’m not sure what to make of this match. I really regret not enhancing my Spanish skills more as these videos probably have the answers I need but the audio quality is just so low I can’t make head nor tail of anything in the post match. Thus, I’m left with more perplexing questions than answers.

What I know is that Kendo came into this match strong, having taken Tahur’s mask in December 1987. Idolo, of course, was hot off the Exterminador mask win and enjoying the fan adulation he had been missing out on as a rudo. That’s as much as I can find on this match. 

The Kendo we have here is in stark contrast to the Kendo we’ve come to know in Mexico and Japan. He’s equally in stark contrast to the Kendo we’ve seen in Panama. A year earlier he was valiantly offering to train El Baron in hand-to-hand combat in his fight against Kendo’s real-life cousin, Bunny Black. He was also avenging Kato Kung Lee’s honor in facing off against El Tahur in a title match that we covered earlier. He was a fan favourite tecnico. Here he’s pretty much a straight rudo without the quirks and stylations that make him so obviously Kendo.

You get the jovial side in the post-match reveal but that just furthers the confusion, in all honesty. If I was to make guesses, I think it’s more Kendo playing to the fans in the hopes that they pardon his loss and let him remask (as they allow by fan-approval in Panama) but, again, I’m not so sure.

Kendo is very open about his history and career. There are many interviews out there to listen to and he goes into a lot of detail regarding each stage of his career. He laments a little bit regarding an incident with Sandokan and he obviouly puts Panama over as how he got to Mexico but he doesn’t go into his return to Mexico nor his fights with el Tahur. It’s a rather odd omission as this was a central feud to his 1980s. He’s also a largely influential wrestler to the territory with his work with el Baron, Kato Kung Lee and inspiration for other karetakas such as Kuman Chu and Kent Sui:

In broad strokes, the Luchawiki article on Kendo is more or less correct. However, there’s a dramatization that Aguayo/Anibal “found” him and gave him his first clean break. Truth be told, Kendo was already a hot commodity in Central/South America. The Mexicans just speedtracked the process, if you will, as his name was growing to the point he’d arrive there eventually.  The real person I think we can tribute Kendo’s international success to is Johnny Piña who brought Kendo out of the Domincan Republic first. After all, even El Santo asked for Kendo by name in 1981 when looking for people to practice with his son before his debut:

Having himself debuted officially at 14 and having started training a little earlier (with the odd match or two at 12 and 13), you get the sense from Kendo that his trainers were incredibly harsh on him. We lament that Panama had mats in dingy basements but Kendo had none even of those luxuries. He broke into wrestling at the age of nine, having to find work after the passing of his father. He spent his time filling out water canisters for the arenas, making a mere twenty cents a time along with free entry to the fights. Through this he met José Martín, the local mask maker and ultimate inspiration for his real-life career as a tailor. His trainers, El Cirujano and Gran Castillo, had him learn to bump on the hard ground with the rationale that if he could learn to land here, he’d learn to land anywhere. They’d even have him weighed down by cinderblocks as he did neck strengthening exercises. Listening to him speak, though, you realise he was fond of this method of training and seems to hold it against  the younger generation for not dedicating their bodies in the same way he did.

Kendo spent the next eleven years travelling around the Dominican Republic making a name for himself before Johnny Piña brought him to Panama at the age of 26 where he worked for Samy de la Guardia. In fact, he would travel through seven different countries before even getting a shot at Mexico. The usual names come up but, interestingly, Kendo mentioned his times in Curaçao and Aruba - territories I’ve never heard much mutter about before! Thanks to the prominence of Samy’s booking, Kendo got to work with many big names that he’d never have the luxury to work with otherwise. Wrestlers such as Septiembre Negro, Perro Aguayo and Villano III all laced up their boots opposite or alongside him. This was his way in and he was determined to show off his abilities. He was saving for a ticket to Mexico, already, but this was the much easier route he thought. Perro Aguayo and Anibal were both impressed enough by the young wrestler and agreed to recommend his name to Franscisco Flores, the promoter of the UWA. They had told Kendo it was no guarantee, it was only a name-drop, but they’d try. So, gambling everything on himself, Kendo travelled back with them to Mexico on the 7th of May 1983, at the age of 27. He was playing a dangerous game as he had a contract to wrestle for a month and a half with a promotion in Colombia that started on the very same day. He was burning bridges on the hopes of this recommendation. Thankfully, it paid off. This was Kendo’s dream. It was Mexico or death, as he said, and the plucky karetaka succeeded.

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