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Wednesday, May 06, 2015

MLJ: Virus Spotlight 3: Damiancito el Guerrero vs Cicloncito Ramirez [CMLL Minis]

Damiancito el Guerrero vs Cicloncito Ramirez [CMLL Minis]

I'm not 100% sure on the date. It doesn't match the match finder. That's not really important though. When you delve back deep enough into things and are only looking at a select few matches, it doesn't really matter. Here's what matters: this is a great match and you should watch it. It's not a perfect match and I'll get to why later. It's a great title match though and I'm kicking myself on the idea I almost missed it because I was daunted by the word "mini." I'm going to come back to that at the end. There's also a tag match from this period that I'll cover Friday that's really good too. It came right after this so even though I watched it first, not realizing, I rushed to see this. The tag match was good enough that I wanted to see if spots were repeated/built to/etc. and not give you guys things out of order.

Alright, so this was just a really pure, straightforward title match. There was very little rudo-ing out of Damiancito, which I think is a tenet of his title matches even now (though I'll come to learn that one way or another as I go forward) even though he can absolutely bring that element when he's in trios matches. I've only seen three matches so far and am only writing up my second here, but my impression is that Cicloncito Ramirez was very good. He had an awesome sense of timing and his ability to just jump up, get hold of someone with his extremities and flip them is a testament to his opponent, obviously, but also to him. He could also bring it on the mat, which this match is proof of, even if it was more a sense of hanging with Damiancito than bringing anything unique to the equation otherwise, except for, and really, this is the most important thing in any match, an honest sense of struggle.

I'm going to keep my cards to the vest on this one because I'd like people to take the time to see it and I don't want to spoil things. The primera was the feeling out process with matwork building to more faster paced things and a very exciting finish. I'm going to post a gif or too just to show the level we're looking at. Yes, Damiancito can do crazy tie-ups and at least one fall ends with one, but it's the little things that are so amazing to me, both how he moves his opponent around the ring and just tiny grasps such as this:

That's the coolest thing in the world to me because it seems so smooth and so natural. It seems like a small thing but when you realize how few wrestlers you see who can do it like that, it's suddenly no longer a small thing at all.

Likewise Ramirez' natural agility (I think even more so than his Mini-Estrella designation) has him do things that are just slightly different than you'd expect, like this clap kick that shifted the gears in the middle of the primera to lead it towards the finishing stretch:

So it was a nice long primera with a good build and great payoff. The segunda wasn't as long but there was more meat to it than you'd expect these days and everything was good. I try not to just post submissions and dives as a rule, in part because while I feel those are elements that make lucha stand out, they're the flash and not the substance, tools to the overall effect and not the point in and of itself, which is the opposite of the popular perception of lucha with more casual fans. Still, this submission was pretty damn cool (look at that torque):

It's not what finished the fall though. What finished the fall is so cool that I'm not going to post it, even though I want to. I'd never seen it done quite like that before and it came at a perfectly logical moment after a key reversal and it was awesome.

The tercera was very good but I thought just a little unbalanced with the selling, especially around the dives. I'm not sure if that's mini trappings or not, if the level of energy and stamina had to be just a bit higher due to what the fans expected. in a lot of modern title matches, there's a lot of laying around. Here, I think a few things didn't quite get room to breathe. They did a dive-dive-dive sequence where the recovery was just a bit too soon on each one for it to matter as much as it might have. Also there was a moment or two where Damniancito just went a bit too tecnico-y in his move choice (the way he plancha'd in especially).

I'm tempted not to pin these on the mini designation because this match was, in so many other ways, worked like any other title match would be worked, just with heightened agility at certain points. It wasn't nearly as "different" as I was expecting and I'm not sure either of the tag matches I watched this week were either. The one I looked at on Monday was a tecnico shine, get the crowd going, sort of match, with just a bit more comedy miscommunication. The one for Friday is more heated but with some of those same elements worked in. There's actually a decent amount of limbwork to it relative to most lucha matches. At the end of the day, wrestling is wrestling, and while the norms may shift slightly, the basic storytelling tropes and structures are what they are. That's true across genres, but it's especially true within them. I was able to overlay the models I've learned through watching lucha over this without much problem.

So, not a perfect match, but an excellent one. In some ways I'm glad we only have one or two more of these matches online, because I could absolutely spend quite a while in this era and I'm tempted to track down more from Ramirez, even after his gimmick change. Now, just saying, were someone to post some more of the matches from this 93-97 era, I'd probably review them, even if that meant putting some of my other projects aside.

Watch this. Make sure to stick around for the post match too.

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Tuesday, May 05, 2015

CMLL Worth Watching 9/19/14, 2/6/15 & 3/8/15

Negro Casas & Shocker vs. Rush & La Mascara (9/19/14)

PAS: I am never going to get tired of Rush and Casas beating on each, and Rush was at his douchebag best, smacking the old guys around violently slapping and dropkick them. Casas was firing back and using his guile to catch the younger more powerful team unaware. Rush was a beast in this, as was La Mascara and you really got the sense the veterans escaped with their titles by the skin of their teeth. I also liked Casas getting a bit of revenge for getting steamrolled for his hair.

ER: Just realized I hadn't watched this which is strange since I watched the rest of the Anniversario show. I think I just thought I had seen it as I know I've seen these teams square off a couple times, and I'm pretty sure that was in 2014 as well. And I thought this match was easily the best of the three, actually felt like a title match, and actually felt like a big match on a big Anniversary show. All guys work up to the show, and finally we get Casas not looking neutered in a match against Rush. It felt like he lost his hair too easily with no real revenge. Here he gets to lace into both guys, at one point stiffing up Rush on the floor with mean punches that all lead up to a thrust headbutt into the chin. Shocker also mans up here and really goes after both rudos. It's kinda shocking how Rush and his gang have really gotten to be such bullies for over a year. They've really been a part of some stunning one-sided beat downs and while they haven't necessarily won tag titles, they usually come out looking like ass kickers who cared more about being dickheads than winning gold. They still do those things here (pull up early on pinfalls, showboat) but never feel like they're quite steamrolling the tecnicos. I loved all of Shocker's roll ups and subs, loved Casas' aggression (and him hitting a somersault dive instead of the usual Thesz press!), Mascara bumped all over (him getting thrown into the barricade by Casas was brutal) and Rush was Rush. Really good stuff, glad I realized I hadn't watched it.

Negro Casas & Shocker vs. La Sombra & La Mascara (2/6/15)

Boy Shocker really brings it for these tag title matches, which is nice to see. He obviously has more physical limitations than he did a decade ago, and his gas tank empties quicker (a lot quicker, he usually looks pretty slow by the tercera), but you can tell when he's really busting ass and it's awesome. This was a match saved by a great tercera, and it really was a great tercera. The first two falls were nothing. Blink and you'll miss them, silly endings. The tercera though, was great. It got tons of time and our tecnico champions came out of the gates hard. Mascara and Sombra stooged all over for them and didn't do their too cool for school routine, instead showing ass all over. Shocker looked super motivated, even breaking out mat stuff that he usually doesn't, and flying with a reckless tope. Sombra does his great bump over the barrier, we get some nice pins broken up with superkicks, tecnicos finally get to look strong against these punks.

Virus, Hechicero & Comandante Pierroth vs. Blue Panther, Titan & Dragon Rojo Jr. (3/8/15)

You a see a match with a lot of these guys and expect it to be good, and look at that it is! I really dug Pierroth here. He's working like he should be, as a lost Dinamita. He didn't do anything fancy but was great cutting off guys with stiff kicks to the stomach, nice strikes and an occasional senton. He seemed on paper to be the weak link on a team with Hechicero and Virus, but I ended up digging him just as much as the two stalwarts. Virus always brings out the best in Titan and there stuff together here was as good as their best. Panther got to mix it up with Virus and Hechicero and of course that was glorious. Rojo was kind of a weak link in this but I just don't see a match with Virus, Panther and Hechicero being anything but good. But now I find myself more excited for Pierroth which is awesome as I don't recall ever being like "oh nice, a Poder Boricua match!!!" That family is looking like the super unfuckwithable wrestling family of 2015.

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Monday, May 04, 2015

MLJ: Virus Spotlight 2: Cicloncito Ramirez & Último Dragoncito b Felinito & Piratita Morgan

1993-03-05 @ Arena México
Cicloncito Ramirez & Último Dragoncito b Felinito & Piratita Morgan

So I'm moving backwards, not forwards. I was tempted to name this -1 but I'm sure my pointless and arbitrary numbering conventions are confusing enough as it is. Here's what happened. I wanted to really focus tightly on Virus, especially his singles' matches, and I wanted to start after he got the gimmick. There are obviously a lot of years to cover so I had to control it somehow.

Then, though, "Pogo" Pete Stein mentioned, offhandedly, that Cicloncito Ramirez vs Damiencito was his favorite minis match at all time. I was going to be veering too close to it to not stop. I don't like watching people's best/favorite matches without being more familiar with the genre that they're in. I like to build to them and not just jump right into the best before I can fully understand it. I haven't seen a lot of minis matches and even so, I was going to jump in on the idea I've seen a lot of Virus matches. Instead, I dug deeper and in digging deeper, I found this. So now we're going to do an extra week on Virus to catch up.

This is from 1993, which is cool, and thanks to Rob for posting it. Most of what we have out of Virus is ten to fifteen years later, so I'm glad we can see him at 24 or so. It's so far back that he's not even Damiencito, but instead Nuevo Piratita Morgan. I can't find a lot about Felinito easily. Apparently he ended up in AAA as a regular sized luchador as Mach-1 but with these guys you never know if it's the same guy in the gimmick or not. Apparently he was also called Punch Power at some point which is a ridiculous but awesome name. I think Ultimo Dragoncito is still going with that gimmick.

Cicloncito Ramirez, from what I can tell from a few scant matches, was really good. He's Pequeno Olimpico now. He, like Dragoncito, was only a few years into the business here but he stood out. Virus had been wrestling a while longer, and I need to try to track down a picture of him as his first gimmick "Bird Boy" later. Under that he beat "Super Archie" for the UWA Featherweight championship and because this is lucha libre, land of Thundercats and Ninja Turtles where a completely viable star is absolutely based on The Phantom, I half figure that Super Archie is exactly what it sounds like.

This was a bit more of what I expected out of a minis match, that preconceived notion. It's the sort of heavy tecnico shine match with some big spots and quick action to get the crowd going. Heat was kept to a minimum and quickly defused with miscommunication and comedy clowning.

Felinito and "Nuevo Piritia Morgan" were there to feed the babyfaces and they were more than competent at that role, but it was limited and I didn't really get to see much out of them, nothing unique at least. There was some opening matwork with Virus and he was smooth in moving his opponent around already, but I'm not sure there was a ton of meaning to it yet.

This was a pretty quick two fall affair. The first was a bit of evenness and comedy (like Felinito selling a foul after sliding across the ring and then rolling around the ring to the outside in a grapple) and then all shine, what you'd expect with quebadoras and armdrags. Ramirez hit a pretty jump back 'rana:

and the finish involved a nice reversal out of a back body drop into a flipping senton onto a standing Morgan.

The segunda had some attempts at heat (started by an ambush and then illegal double teaming), including this kickfest:

And they actually got the crowd going:

but this just lasted a minute or two before Dragoncito came back with the help of the aforementioned communication and the tecnicos hit big dives for the perfectly-acceptable-in-a-first-match countout win.

This was fun for what it was and I'm glad we have it easily available since it's an early piece of the Virus puzzle, but I'm ready to see something with a bit more substance to it.

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Sunday, May 03, 2015

Pro Wrestling Revolution Workrate Report 5/2/15

1. The Grapplers (Grappler III & VI) vs. Los Campesinos vs. Anarkia & Cazador del Alma vs. Los Chicanos (Memo Cuevas & El Pistolero)

You know you're hilariously bad at pacing your TV show when the show starts with ring entrances, then has to take a commercial break in the middle of the ring entrances, only to return for the rest of the ring entrances. I mean damn, guys. But you know? This match was actually quite good. Sometimes their multi mans can be kind of a mess, and this was still kind of a mess but had plenty of good. The Grapplers looked really good here. They're Rik Luxury and Bay Area vet Bobby Hart under masks with their long ponytail braids popping out the back. They're both the biggest guys in the match, but that doesn't stop them from breaking out some large dude topes. Hart has some cool offense and nice presence, his Psycho Driver looks crushing and rightly gets a pinfall, and I dug him slingshotting Anarkia into an ace crusher. He and Luxury bump around nicely for bigger guys. The dive train in this was a nice one, Anarkia especially had a nice one getting backdropped to the man pile. Oddly the match felt a little clipped, which would be amusing if they clipped the match but showed full ring entrances. Pistolero only got in towards the end, and other things felt rushed or skipped. Some of the match was designed to put over new valet Sada Simone who is a curvy pretty gal who apparently was on a TV show called The Real L Word, which existed, and she was on it. I don't know if it was reality or scripted reality or a drama or what. But she was on it. It is kinda funny to book a woman as distracting and foxy to men, when she's most famous for being a lesbian. The distraction spots were all clunky, through no fault of her own. The finish comes when a Campesino has Cuevas pinned for the likely win, but boneheaded referee Tom Castor stops counting the pin to tell Sada to get off the apron. I'm....unsure why he couldn't have finished counting the pinfall, as she was several feet away on the apron and not affecting the finish in the least. But then of course, as a tecnico, that Campesino has to threaten to forcefully tongue kiss Simone, while the announcer creepily chants "Beso". This leads to him losing. Woof. Still, with this fed it's best to ignore as much of the braindead stuff as possible and try and enjoy the good, and this match had more good than most. A bunch of big dives, really good performance from the Grapplers, some fun armdrags, and some decently paced action (until the too-quick eliminations).  This may have actually been the quickest paced match I've seen from this fed. Normally there is a lot of cliched rudo stalling, or ref shenanigans, or just guys that aren't good at working fast. Here they made good use of having a lot of fresh guys, as multi man matches always should. A pleasant surprise.

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Saturday, May 02, 2015

EVOLVE 41 4/17/15 Workrate Report

ER: Show starts with the Premier Athlete Brand (Nese, Conley, SoCal Val, Andrea, Su Yung) coming out, and Nese running down Yung for his losses at the WM weekend shows, even though she wasn't there. Val is always amusing in her chief bitch role, but this can't really go anywhere that interesting to me. Are we building to a Yung/Andrea feud? Is the payoff going to be Yung triumphantly leaving the team to go stand ringside for a different team?

1. Anthony Nese vs. Martin Stone

ER: I liked this more than I thought I would. Martin Stone is a guy I hadn't seen much and I came away really wanting to see more. His dedication to little things means his matches have a higher floor than most matches. When you fly into everything, cut low on clotheslines, have a snug side headlock,  hit firm shoulderblocks, miss like you mean it, take opponents' offense great, etc. I will want to see more of you. Stone seems like a guy that would match up great with Busick/Thatcher/Gulak and I'd be excited for any combo of that. Nese is...trickier. I don't think he's bad, and a lot of things he does has a nice crispness to it. The guy is very athletic (if you didn't notice that on your own, just wait a minute and you're bound to hear the announcers fawn all over his body. Their affections play as if they learned commentary from listening to Kal Rudman call Tony Garea matches. "Look at the body on Nese. These aren't just 'show muscles' either, they're functional. The fucking camera lens steamed up at one point.) and has a similar snap to his stuff as Stone. But it's when he reverts back to his old life as "athletic indie wrestler" that he starts kind of sucking. If he was just a grounded asskicker who worked more like a black trunks young boy, I like that guy. A mean dropkick and a wrenched half crab, sure, gimme that shit. It's when we get into those stupid athleticism for the sake of athleticism spots that plague your workrate indies that makes me not like him, so we'll occasionally get a springboard moonsault that overshoots and sees his arms barely graze his opponent. He seems to be getting away from that mumbo jumbo and has been better for it. He's moving in the right direction. But yes, I enjoyed this. Nice tight work from Stone, no overkill, mostly good performance from Nese, fine opener.

2. Caleb Konley vs. Rey Horus

ER: Well this one didn't do much for me, especially with the time allotted. It was not bad. But it went too long and neither guy's offense is something I'm into. I've seen Horus look better, I've seen Konley look worse. A lot of Horus' offense kind of reeked of dated early 2000s indy lucha spots, a lot of "hold my hand while I scale on the ropes and then bounce on them a bit before my armdrag!" or both guys going up top for a move but at a certain point they're just standing up there for way too long trying to help the other guy get balanced, instead of actually looking like guys that want to fight. I mentally prepared for Konley to have to hold himself balanced over the middle rope while Horus did a legdrop, but it never came. Horus needs to watch some more Scoot Andrews tapes. Konley throws a nice left elbow but both guys kind of get a little too cute with a lot of spots. Konley is part of the new wave of do-si-do indy workers, where so many of their reversals and reversals of reversals and scouting of the opponent is so up inside their own ass that it no longer resembles wrestling at a certain point, it looks more like pairs square dancing. Just hooking elbows and do-si-doing around each other.

3. TJ Perkins vs. Biff Busick

PAS: Perkins is a fun addition to the grappler EVOLVE crew. He throws in a really luchaish vibe to the matwork, lots of cool headscissors, and cartwheel counters out of Busick takedowns. Perkins is just silky smooth, really reminds me of El Hijo Del Santo in the effortlessness of his movements. Busick is a bulldozer as usual, he really has some cool throws and shots when he could get his hands on Perkins, finish was very cool as TJP avoids and avoids until he slaps on a cross armbreaker with heel kicks to get the tap. Makes me excited to watch Perkins v. Gulak and Thatcher.

ER: Perkins is a guy I've been seeing live since at least 2001. One weekend in 2007 we saw him in 4 matches in 3 days for 4 different feds while working 4 different gimmicks. He is a guy I'm quite familiar with. He's also arguably one of the most hit and miss workers that I watch semi-regularly. It is never a shock to see him in a meh match, just as it is never a shock to see him in a really really good match. I saw him live twice WM weekend, on an Evolve show and on the WWN show and did not think he looked great in either match. He looked better in the WWN match. I was disappointed in the Gulak match. So I tell Phil how I was disappointed in Gulak/Perkins and Phil is bummed because he liked the sound of that on paper. And now we have this match where Perkins looks really great and now Phil thinks I'm just a liar. Phil thinks many awful things about me, but he normally doesn't think I'm a liar. Perkins flaws are tough to work out, because they can also be his strengths. Sometimes I think he tries to do too many styles: lucha, workrate indy, grappling, faux-mma stuff, etc. Sometimes all those things jammed into a match doesn't work. Sometimes the execution isn't there. And then there's a match like this where he gels wonderfully with Busick and it's precisely because of his different styles. The opening was a really great mixture of Perkins' lucha mat stuff with Busick's more stretching style. At one point Perkins went for an armdrag and Busick rolled through and flawlessly rolled into a hammerlock. It looked outstanding, like something you could try and do several more times to make it look so natural and just never be able to. Both men managed to do a reversal style of wrestling without making things seemed rehearsed to the extreme. Little sequences like Busick blocking a kick, throwing an uppercut that gets caught into a backslide attempt, which Busick reversed into his great side headlock came off so naturally, these two just really gelled together. Ending was even cooler than Phil described it as Perkins rolled through into an armbar with Busick trying to reverse, so Perkins hammers down on Busicks face with his calf and heel until Busick starts to go out, his arm flopping on the mat, and the ref stops the match. Busick immediately comes to and has no idea why the match ended, as he didn't tap. Sometimes the MMA winks can get a little too cute, but I thought this finish was a cool use of it.

4. Ethan Page vs. Rich Swann

ER: You have never heard a quieter crowd than during Ethan Page's entrance. Even the crowd at WM weekend when he turned on Gargano was not this quiet. That weekend was my first time seeing Page, and I did not love what I saw. Nothing he does ticks any of my boxes in what I look for in wrestling. Swann I like more, but like him more in tags than singles. This match had a couple moments I liked, but didn't really care for the structure and pacing. So lets hit the things I liked: I liked Page's low angle leap Ace Crushers, starting from low and leaping up into it, delivering more of a spike. I loved Swann reversing one of them by hooking his feet on the ropes, sending Page crashing. It looked kind of freaky, but plausible. I also dug Swann's no hands pop up rana when Page went to the top. So those are some good things. The rest? I didn't care for the looooong Page control section, just stomping and slowly controlling Swann. Swann came out swinging before the bell with some nice punches, but from there the action slowed waaaaay down. All of Swann's comebacks came after taking some theoretically rough stuff, like a Gotch piledriver on the floor. We even went one worse than the standard forearm exchange portion, as instead we get a trade off of kicks to the head. The finish run seemed false with the tacked on long control stuff. If big kickouts were what they wanted they kind of wasted their time and everybody's time by having Swann sell so much so early. He sold far more when he was taking meager stomps from Page than when he was taking finishers. Overall just didn't work for me.

5. Davey Richards vs. Johnny Gargano

ER: For reasons none of us will ever know or understand, 22 minutes of my feed for this show were missing.

6. 2/3 Falls: Timothy Thatcher vs. Roderick Strong

ER: Thatcher has been my boy for quite a few years as he was a nice little well kept secret out here in the Bay Area. So seeing him get gigantic reactions WM weekend was super exciting. That Hero match really felt like it took him from crowd favorite to big star, and it was such a great moment seeing him win while the people who he came up training with were screaming their heads off across the aisle from me. This guy is way over now and it's exciting. I don't get to be in on the "ground floor" of many things, people.

This was a really really good match, my favorite on the show. Strong is a guy I kinda put in the same bucket as AJ Styles, as he's a guy I like, who is also sometimes trapped in a bad promotional style which leads to matches I don't care for. There always seem to be Strong matches that I dig, but also long stretches where he's working a certain style or certain opponents that I don't care for at all. But I think it's safe to say that the last 6 months of Roderick have been the best of his career. All of his cute offense has been dropped and now he's all about mat work struggle, nasty knees and elbows, and logical nearfalls. The first fall was almost all mat stuff and it ranked up there with any of the best Busick/Thatcher/Gulak stuff we've seen so far. I loved little things like Thatcher holding a go behind and trying to shift his hips to toss Thatcher over, but Thatcher just dropping down and widening his base to prevent it. Strong wins Fall 1 with a nice crucifix roll up, which sprang nicely from Thatcher going after Strong's arm with the blinders on. There was a nice moment where Thatcher uses Strong's leverage against him to grab the arm in the first place, but Strong uses it right back to hold onto the snug crucifix. 2nd and 3rd see us move into some nasty strikes. Strong throws some mean elbows and his leaping knee from a standing position is one of the best things in wrestling today. Outside Strong chops a post and even though it's a spot that gets used more now, the sound of a hand clanking off a metal pole always makes me gasp. Thatcher smells blood on that arm and it sets up the eventual armbar finish for the 2nd. We get some nice near falls in the 3rd. You know that leaping knee I mentioned as being one of the best things in wrestling? Well, Thatcher's momentum cutoff headbutt is even better. I never see it coming and it always looks great. Here Strong nails a pick left, spins around for a roaring back elbow, only to be met with a short thrust headbutt to the chin. Strong goes down great, and Thatcher drops to his butt. The whole match was filled with all sorts of awesome struggle. These two went great together, awesome stuff.

PAS: Very good match, I am concurring with Eric about how good Strong has looked lately, he really puts weight into everything he throws, he just lands some crushing looking stomps, elbows and knees here. Watching Roderick stomp Thatcher in the chest might have been one of my favorite spots in wrestling all year. The chopping the post spot in the second fall was great as Thatcher possums him in and has this great shit eating grin on his face when he slides down and Strong cracks the ring post. Thatcher did some nasty hand work right after that, although it got forgotten later in the match. Third fall was good too, although it got a little indy wrestling at the end for me with big moves and two counts. I also thought the ending was bit sudden which is strange for a match that went this long. Still all over a great match and a nice addition to both guys resumes for 2015.

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Friday, May 01, 2015

MLJ: Guerreros del Infierno B-11: Infierno en el Ring [Cage]

2001-09-28 @ Arena México (68th Annivesario)
Nuevo Nuevo Infernales (Satanico, Averno, Mephisto) vs Nuevo Infernales (Ultimo Guerrero, Rey Bucanero, Tarzan Boy, Mascara Magica) [Cage]

This one's obviously not on the comp since it's not a straight up tag match but it's such a key moment in the feud, really the blow off in a lot of ways, that I'm glad we have it online, albeit with slightly poor VQ. This was it, the battle over the name, with everyone's masks and hair on the line on the biggest stage of the year.

I don't know if this was a one match show because I don't have enough context but the match second to the top was an atomicos [Wagner, Fuerza, Juventud, and Universo vs Black Tiger III(Silver King), Lizmark, Jr., Casas, and Villano IV] which has a couple of interesting names but doesn't seem a huge draw to me. There was a Mexican Trios title match as well but everything seemed stacked for the main event. I don't see an easy to find attendance number for this so I have no idea how it drew, but my guess is "pretty well."

A few brief notes on Magica Mascara here, since he's the one who's going to end up losing this thing. He's the second guy to have the gimmick. The first, obviously, was Eddy, and him unmasking willingly on TV to claim his birthright was a coming of age for him. You'd think that would make the gimmick radioactive, but whatever. The guy playing it here was Talisman's kid, which you think would have been a good gimmick for him but he lost THAT mask relatively early in his career. He was in GdI to cover for Tarzan Boy when he was injured and he doesn't all that much longer in the stable after this match. He did keep using the name Magica Mascara, which was sort of ballsy on some level, given, you know, the lack of a mask. I have no idea if they promoted he was Talisman's son while wearing the mask.

So, this isn't your standard lucha cage match. I've only seen a few, mind you, but the general idea is that the "escape rules" actually mean something since those who don't make it out end up fighting for their life (well, their mask or hair, but those things MEAN something). One thing I stress again and again, even if not necessarily in these words, is that understanding lucha isn't about understanding the rules (that the last two in the ring have a one fall apuesta match or that they can only leave after X amount of minutes when the whistle blows, or that you only have to straddle the cage to get out, not get all the way to the floor) but the narrative elements, the stories being told, the way they tell them. Understanding wrestling isn't about knowing what a pile driver is called, but what a pile driver means in the context of the match. That to me, is the biggest mistake for people who introduce lucha to others.

So you have the extreme desire to escape here, but it's also combined with both the blood feud element of Infernales vs Infernales and the fact they're fighting over the name. It's not every man for himself. It's a four-on-three war and that gives it all a bit more substance than the average cage match. A little more focus too which was good because the VQ is kind of rough and there's a lot of chaos in the ring. They have a habit of switching camera angles at the worst times, too. Sometimes I'll get Mephisto and Averno confused, and I had to double back three times to figure out how Ultimo Guerrero got out at the end for instance.

That said, it was a really well put together cage match. By its nature, there couldn't just be guys brawling about. Maybe if it was 3 vs 3 they could have done that but this had to be more structured and the match lived and died not on its violence but on its transitions, on the momentum flows. I've seen tons of standard trios that were put together with less care and thought than this, despite its chaotic nature.

So, let's talk about the transitions. The story for the first part of the match was going to be the numbers game. I'm not sure why Satanico agreed to a four-on-three match with such high stakes, but it made his group the favorites for the Annivesario crowd. It also meant that GdI got off to an early advantage after just a bit of brawling. They hit a double kick on Satanico, the double choke drop on Averno and then a triple dropkick on Mephisto after a huge facebuster. Then we get transition #1. All of them tried to climb out at once, but it wasn't time yet so the explosions went off and they all fell off the cage. This let the Infernales take over, and they were awesome in this, outnumbered but using their momentary advantage to pick off GdI with shoulder blocks and nasty chops, really just stalking them. Then, they tried to climb out and got blown up as well. Everyone ended up on the ground (and Satanico laid in these great headbutts from that position, but that's neither here nor there).

Finally, the whistle went off so that's the end to the explosions. I'll admit I bought GdI's attempt to get out more than Los Infernales' attempt since they'd just seen what had happened to their opponents when they tried but it was the heat of the moment and that whistle might be easy to miss. The numbers game came back into play pretty quickly, and GdI took back over. This lasted for a minute or two before Tarzan Boy used it to basically kick and stomp his way over everyone's heads in the corner and get out. Thus came into play the endless problem of tag team cage matches with escape rules. By leaving, he theoretically "scored a point" for his team as now they only had to get three guys out instead of four, but he also sacrificed the numerical advantage for them. Since this match had additional stakes, it also had additional nuances. He left to protect his hair, and while he tried to encourage his partners on, the name was on the line too and they were more than a little furious at him. In fact, in the fit of them arguing from both sides of the cage, Los Infernales were able to recover and attack from behind, leading to another transition. GdI shrugged off headlocks into a triple charge, taking the momentum back but almost immediately thereafter, they did the alley oop body splash spot, with Rey landing on Mephisto but then immediately climbing over.

Now it was three on two and for the first time in the match, Los Infernales (very much due to how successful their opponents had been) had the numbers advantage. Ultimo Guerrero and Mascara Magica, realizing it, immediately rushed to get out of the cage but they were caught and pounded upon for a few minutes until UG was able to duck a double dropkick as Satanico was holding him, thus shifting the momentum again as GdI fought like hell against the odds. This was pretty brutal with heads going into cage, a tree of woe being utilized, and the senton de la muerte in the corner on Averno. When they tried to climb up and out, however, everyone ended on top of each other and Mephisto was the one to ultimately make it out.

That made it two on two and GdI immediately tried to swing the odds in their favor by rushing to the attack and tying Averno's mask to the top rope. Satanico took a bit of a beating but then came back in another momentum shift, with the crowd hugely behind him, hitting a slew of hangman's noose clotheslines and starting the process to untie Averno, who really played it up when he did get free. Satanico was really great here, punching and headbutting away. More than that, though, his character work was really solid. He had the most invested in the Infernales name and there was something almost fatherly in how he protected Averno, first by untying him but then, after he and Ultimo Guerrero hit big tandem moves (UG with a chokeslam on Averno and Satanico with a goardbuster on Magica), he let Ultimo Guerrero escape (this is where I had camera angle issues) but instead of escaping himself, rushed back in to make sure that Magica didn't make it out. He kept Magica contained so that Averno could make it out, leaving him in there vulnerable to losing his hair but in control of the fate of the Infernales name.

The match that followed was short but heated. Magica belonged in this match as much as Averno or Mephisto certainly. There was a real sense of stakes to this. Everything felt big and important and it was very much rudo vs rudo with Magica trying to win with his feet on the ropes multiple times. In the end, though, Satanico locked in the Satan's Knot, criss-crossing the arms and leaning forward to make a pin out of it, and he won the match, the name, and Mascara Magica's mask. He was elated. The fans were elated. The woman (his wife?) that he gave the mask to ultimately was elated. Magica removed his mask and stormed out of the ring, but tried to put on a strong face afterwards. It was a satisfying end to the feud and while gimmicky and lacking in blood, felt big enough to be the feud ender.

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Thursday, April 30, 2015

Pro Wrestling Revolution Workrate Report 4/25/15

More matches from their most recent show, the 2/28/15 San Francisco show.

1. Kianna Rivera vs. Savanah Riley

Who wants some ref shenanigans!? Not anybody! But as we all know, PWR is a big time fan of referees being the primary focus of a match. Yeah, sometimes is riles the fans up. But I bet if you asked every single fan in attendance if they'd rather see these two work a normal 7 minute match, or a 7 minute match with heel ref schtick, I would be shocked if anybody would request the latter. It's never something that makes a match better. It robs us of actual match time and replaces it with Rivera (who works more commonly as Nicole Savoy) having to argue with ref Sparky Ballard, complain about unfair treatment and slow counts. It also forces Savanah Riley to work like a total putz as due to all of the slow counts to put the ref over, she appears to have had 5 visual losses in just 7 minutes. Both wrestlers are okay workers, but hamstrung having to play second fiddle to the ref. Rivera hits a nice dive (that falls a little short) and keeps going for a KO kick, which eventually lands and must have been one hell of a kick as it keeps Riley down for an 11 second 3 count. I'm just thankful we didn't get Sparky pulling up with a bad shoulder. So in that respect, they fooled me.

2. Vaquero Fantasma vs. Gallo Tapado Jr.

This match is instantly notable as they completely edit out the ring entrances and start with both men in the ring. The main problem with this show is normally how poorly edited it is, with full entrances and unintelligible mic work and "which side of the crowd is louder" being shown in their entirety. This is one of the only times they edit out those things, which have never added one bit to the actual shown matches (that stuff is obviously only shown because the fed does not have enough material for a weekly show, so therefore must streeeeeetch every single match out for content). This shows they actually know how to properly edit a match for maximum impact, and they just choose to not ever do that.

Match itself was weird as we start with some serviceable armdrags and a crossbody exchange, but Tapado appears to get his bell rung taking a crossbody and things seem disjointed and odd the rest of the way out. Tapado is slow getting up, and Fantasma tries picking him up but Tapado clearly does not want to be picked up. But Tapado keeps bumping and going through spots, just much slower and clunkier. A couple of times Fantasma has to put himself into pins. There was supposed to be a pin reversal that ending up seeing Gallo not move a single muscle, so Fantasma had to wiggle himself into position to make it look like his shoulders were down. Then we just cut immediately to Gallo locking on a submission for the end. So....something happened here, not sure what it was. But it looked weird.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

CMLL Worth Watching 1/4/15, 1/18/15 & 2/1/15

Hechicero, Ephesto & Niebla Roja vs. Blue Panther, Valiente & Maximo (1/18/15)

On paper you look at that match and go "man I hope Panther and Hechicero match up a bunch" and if that's what you went in wanting, you'll leave a happy human. There are also many other things that happened that were a blast, but I personally showed up for Panther and Hechicero squaring off. They get a nice long exchange in the primera and more in the tercera. Primera is those two have a bunch of cool struggling matwork, which really is worth the price of admission (zero dollars, technically so easily worth that). Hechicero is a super adaptable mat guy and Panther still looks like Blue Fucking Panther on the mat which is one of the first things that made me fall in love with lucha. All the takeovers and sweeps and arms held painfully behind backs. It's glorious. Hechicero gets runs with all the guys and he really makes Maximo's stuff look spectacular. And all of Hechicero's little roll ups and submissions are so fluidly executed. I'm a fan. Segunda is short but we build to a nice crescendo in the tercera with Valiente hitting the mother of all great topes, just bending Roja in half over the barrier. Just a scud missile flying fast and accurately right at you. Wrestlers are crazy. Ephesto gets a big dive of his own and this delivered in the exact ways I was hoping it would.

Rey Cometa vs. Niebla Roja (Lightning Match) (1/4/15)

This was really cool as Roja throws way more rudo elements into a lightning match than almost anybody I've seen. Usually this format is used for guys to show off their highlight reel in heatless exhibitions. But here's Roja kicking Cometa in the face, ripping at his gear, choking him and being a dick. Cometa is a guy with plenty of great looking spots but he goes along with Roja's match plan and it makes a standard lightning match mean so much more, makes Cometa's few highlight spots seem that much bigger. The opening mat stuff is nice and engaging, and then things go to a new level when Cometa goes for a leaping tornado DDT off the apron but gets caught by Roja and tossed brutally into the barrier. It made Cometa's later rana off the apron mean so much more.We also build to a great Cometa tope that blasts Roja impressively into the barrier. Roja dicks it up the whole time, Cometa's hope spots come off better for it, and all that equals a much more satisfying 7 minutes than we normally get.

Kraneo, Olimpico & Ephesto vs. Blue Panther, Titan & Dragon Rojo Jr. (2/1/15)

So Cubsfan should get around to uploading this one so more people can see it, because it's really fun. I mean, it's not like that guy uploads hundreds of matches over the course of a year or anything. It makes me feel just a tiny shred of minimal importance to write about a match like this, since it does not appear to exist online, and one day somebody might ask "I wonder if anybody ever watched a Kraneo match from 2/1/15?" and then they will find that, yes, at least one man did watch a Kraneo match from that date, and documented it FOR THE WORLD. Match was really fun and would have landed on the MOTY list had the segunda and tercera gotten more time. Primera had some of Titan's best stuff, doing some lightning fast exchanges with Ephesto with no Titan silliness. Then Panther and Olimpico got to roll and that is all of a sudden one of my favorite match-ups in lucha. Olimpico has looked better in the last couple months than he has in 8 years. Now he's working a weird glammy Egyptian gimmick and looks like Ben Kingsley playing the Jaye Davidson role in Stargate. His mat stuff with Panther is great with BP always going after an arm or leg but Olimpico scrambling all over him, working more to disorient. Kraneo continues to be my favorite luchador of the moment as he's all massive shoulderblocks and big bumps and fatness. He always works as if he has something to prove, as if he gets ribbed about his mass all the time and wants to show everybody that he can work harder and better than anybody. He's like the modern lucha Buddy Rose. So yeah, upload this match Cubs! Pretty please?

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MLJ: Guerreros del Infierno A-10: Rey Bucanero & Último Guerrero vs Negro Casas & El Hijo del Santo [CMLL Tag]

2001-08-31 @ Arena México
El Hijo Del Santo & Negro Casas vs Rey Bucanero & Último Guerrero [CMLL Tag]

Alright, I know what match this is. I had my suspicions, but thankfully Rob made a music video of it so I can pin the thing down. Which means that I get to link it for you guys and even grab a gif of a spot, though just one. There are a couple of other good ones in there, but you can give Rob the view and check them out in the video.

This felt like a big deal from the get go. As far as I can tell, this was just another Friday night show, of which the other big attraction would have been Gigante Silva. They do the posing with the belts before hand. Olimpico is seconding the tecnicos (and he had teamed with Niebla and Silva vs Cien Caras, Wagner, Jr., Satanico, and Shocker in the semi main). Both Mascara Magica and Tarzan Boy are out there with the Rudos, but they instantly send Magica away.

I'm not going to go too in depth here in laying out the narrative. I want to focus on things more generally. We don't have the segunda here, which is a shame as this was a really great match. I give myself some credit in figuring it out sooner than not, though, and that's really such a testament to lucha structure and how rigid it is. When watching this, I thought things felt pretty weird and that's because they were pretty weird, but not necessarily in a bad way. The match was good enough that it would have worked, but I'm sure it would have worked better with the middle fall entact.

In brief, tecnicos took the primera off of Santo outfinessing his opponents. I have no idea what happened with the segunda. Early in the tercera (which started with the tecnicos recovering and with a reset), Tarzan Boy grabbed Casas' legs from the outside and I think his dad, referee Pepe Casas, there in an official's role, banned him from ringside. This whole bit got massive heat on the rudos. Things progressed with the tecnicos holding an advantage and some really gripping near falls especially after Santo's flipping rana position sunset flip, but not just that, before the rudos finally had a chance, with Santo up, ready for the Guerrero Special, only to have "Mascara Magica" run out and attack the tecnicos causing a presumed DQ which would have cost GdI the belts. It was really Satanico in disguise though and the match was tossed out. They'd run through the Infernales vs Infernales feud (soon to pay off at the Anniversary cage match) before going back for a rematch.

There's a lot of stuff in here, so I'm actually going to bullet point it. I promise I wont' do this often.

-Part of me kind of loves smiling tecnico Negro Casas who seems to hug Santo at every opportunity.
-I think that Rey, while getting better through working with great talents, just didn't have it on the mat, not to the level that his card placement needed him to be. He could follow along but half the time he'd have great struggle and the other half he'd be putting himself into things too obviously. He and UG were regarded highly at the time, but I really think it was a case where the sum was more than the parts.
-I've been watching too much lucha, because at the point that Santo hit his second diving arm scissors drop onto Rey, and locked in the armlock again, I was thinking "Alright, it's time for UG to run in and rudo it up," and that's exactly waht he did. That lasted a bit until Santo fought back against both of them which culminated with a reversal to the double facebuster that was so, so organic.

and immediately thereafter followed a propelled up dropkick and the tecnicos locking on cabelleras (with Casas' following a low dropkick).

-The dive spot was really goofy. UG and Casas were brawling on the outside, and Rey and Santo went for dives. a ducked clothesline meant that both guys crashed into their own partners though. At first glance it was a bit too cute but I liked it looking back.
-Santo looked great the whole match. He hit this elbow drop just running that was so king-sized and this awesome driving tope off the top into the ring.
-I can't get across how great some of the nearfalls were. The best (which is in the video) was Santo reversing a Splash Mountain into a Rana just as Casas was doing a somersault off of the apron onto UG on the outside.
-Obviously, there was a real sense that a title change was going to happen with both seconds on the rudo side getting sent back. I don't mind these finishes. I know there's something innately horrible about a screwjob non-finish on a title match (which isn't some sort of rudo foul to get heat or what not or the rudo getting his comeuppance), but I would MUCH, MUCH rather CMLL be running little angles and swerves and moments like this than not doing anything ever, which is where they are now.

Ultimately, I really liked this and just wish we had it in full. There are more matches in this feud too, which only makes me happy.

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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Pro Wrestling Revolution Workrate Report 4/18/15

We flash forward to their most recent show which is cool, this is from the 2/28/15 show in San Francisco. I have attended a few of their SF shows in the past, but this card really didn't do much for me on paper. Last year Timothy Thatcher was on the card in a singles match so that got my money. After this card I found out Fuerza worked it (in place of his son, who was announced and billed for well over a month, and shockingly* didn't make the trip) and it really would have been cool to see Fuerza work a high school gym. He seems like the kind of worker who would have some nice stuff to see up close in a high school gym. So hopefully they eventually show that match (and considering they milk every single match on a card so they can turn one card into 8 TV shows, I'm sure they will).

1. Willie Mack & Ultimo Panda vs. Los Luchas (Zokre & Phoenix Star)

Mack has been getting some nice TV time lately, not only through this but obviously Lucha Underground (I would be curious what kind of numbers this show draws. I can't imagine it's much, and it is possible that I'm the one person who DVRs it every week, but I'm curious nonetheless. PWR has not exactly been helpful whenever I've emailed them with questions) and he is a guy I love having on my TV. Crowds dig him as well and here he does a bunch of cool stuff, a guy who has some spectacular spots but also pays tons of attention to making his clotheslines, shoulderblocks and other contact look good. Maybe his best moment here was when Los Luchas were slumped in opposing corners and Mack kept charging back and forth with increasingly nasty avalanches. He kept building up more steam and just really went crashing into both guys. Sadly it seems like PWR always sticks him with Ultimo Panda, who outside of a cute mask brings next to nothing to the table. An amusing gimmick to hide a chubby bad worker, which becomes not amusing when he's holding back the best worker on the show. You would think he would end up being hidden more in tags, but more often than not he works more of the match than his partner. Most of his work is schtick, or moves that take way too long to set up. Here he hits a very nice crossbody off the top but my god the set up involved one of Los Luchas holding his hand while he got to the top, and both members just standing there waiting for him to stabilize his balance. The end result only looks good if you turn a blind eye to the previous 10 seconds of men standing around waiting. Los Luchas are a shade under efficient as they never do anything memorable, but they're often put into positions in this fed to not succeed. This fed specializes in "Heel in Peril" tags meaning that the rudos don't often get to rudo, and instead are just constantly put into a loop of taking offense. Los Luchas don't do anything spectacular, but I'm sure they would work up to an occasion. Match itself was fine enough and well worth watching just to see Mack do his thing.

*not shocking to anyone

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