Segunda Caida

Phil Schneider, Eric Ritz, Matt D and occasional guests write about pro wrestling. Follow us @segundacaida

Friday, July 29, 2016

MLJ: Gringo Loco & Skayde, Jr. vs DJ Z & Bandolero

Gringo Loco & Skayde, Jr. vs DJ Z & Bandolero

Cubsfan is a bastion of the online, English-speaking lucha community. I mean that literally too. A wall, holding the whole thing up. He's not the only place to get news, but it's there like clockwork. He's not the only place to get reviews, but lately, I know, if I miss a Puebla or Tuesday Arena Mexico show, I can figure out what I missed the next morning, and, to some degree, whether or not I should track it down. He's not the only place to see things in youtube, but you can basically watch the last six years of the big companies because of him. And the match finder isn't the only place... no, it pretty much is. I looked at over 300 matches in the last few years and I probably couldn't have managed a tenth of that without the resources he's brought to the table. So when he pushes people to watch a match, I figure the least we can do is watch it. I think Eric and Phil will tackle it at some point too.

So my understanding is that this is Cleveland's AIW, who often bring in luchadors. These four are relatively local (from Chicago, which feels close to Cleveland, relative to Monterrey or something). DJ Z's been on TNA but I've never seen him there. Unless I'm mistaken, this is the same Gringo Loco who was in IWRG. One fall. English announcers, not sure who, but they're generally fine other than a proclivity for Joey Styles high-pitched Ohmygods at times (unfortunate in a match like this where there were lots of opportunities to use such a thing).

There was a lot to like here. I was worried because it's indy lucha without anyone I'm really familiar with and that's usually a recipe for vapid, overreaching spotfests. I'll admit that there were a few, small, moments of excess, a couple of blown spots, and most egregious, a few instances of unnatural waiting around to set up a spot, but in general, none of this bothered me.

The excess was limited and generally ended up mattering in the broad scheme of the match. For instance, while there were clear act breaks instead of just a endless stream of spots, the first pinfall attempts didn't come until very late in the match. This made a kick out, even after something like a top rope Falcon Arrow believable, because it was one of the first kickouts in the match. There were a few moments of adding an extra twist or turn or reversal for what felt like the sake of it, but in the grand scheme, it was few and far between, and often surrounded by a lot of stuff that did work.

The blown spots didn't impede the match either. For starters, there weren't a ton of them. Bandolero, especially, impressed throughout with just how smooth he was, especially in the face of the complexity of what he was trying to do. DJ Z had this quirk to how he worked where he almost always looked a quarter second behind. There was always this sense that he was going to miss what he was trying to do or that it wouldn't work. I'm not sure if that's because he's just a little bigger than the others or just lacking a little bit of speed. Ultimately, though, because he did hit everything, it almost adds to the visual effect. It gives it an added sense of danger or doubt and somehow makes everything seem just a little more impressive. The early exchange between DJ Z and Gringo Loco had that sense of roughness to it, but it worked for what they were doing, coming off more as struggle and hugely helped by the fact that they centered their work around a test of strength base, going in and out of it. Then, there was the biggest botch, Gringo Loco's trainwreck dive attempt. Even that worked for the match. Intent isn't nearly as important as the illusion of intent, enough dots that can be put together in a match to create a story. Immediately after he blew the dive, they went on to the heat, where Skayde used nasty belt shots and he and Gringo Loco did a lot of double teaming and isolation. It worked in the match with the blown dive as a perfect excuse for the change in tone. Loco wasn't about to play the high flying game anymore. He was going to get down and dirty and just beat his opponents down.

I'm even willing to handwave some of the waiting around and spot setting up. Why? Again, there wasn't a ton of it, even though it stood out (with lucha it's more acceptable in general out of the ring than in the ring; here it existed both places). More importantly, it comes down to cost-benefit. Yes, they set up spots. Yes, there was waiting around. Guess what? The spots were generally worth the cost. Some of the springboards and vaults off of one another were hugely impressive and innovative. Almost all of them worked within the context of the match with just a little extra suspension of disbelief. It's not a science. It's not gospel. It's a sliding scale and so long as they can make it work and so long as it's worth the extra moment of collaboration, I'm ok with it. It usually takes quite a bit to make it worth that, but they managed it here.

And somehow it's taken me six paragraphs to get to the main appeal of the match: it was really innovative. They did a lot of cool stuff. That most of it hit, felt fairly organic, felt like a struggle, and worked into a broader narrative means that I can be positive on all of it and not frustrated, but that's just me and my quirks. You come into this thing for the apron assisted rana on the outside or the step up rana off of the shoulders or the assisted leaps off of a kneeling partner or the caught flip dive into an apron power bomb or even something as relatively simple as the tandem pendulum dropkick, let alone something as insane as the tope into a wheelbarrow that I can't even describe and had to go back and watch a few times to make sense of. Out of everyone, I think Bandolero came off the best to me. He hit his stuff the cleanest, did the most technically difficult and innovative things, and even sold the best over time, not forgetting his backpain throughout the match. I'd be very curious to see him in different settings.

There's something to see for everyone here, and it was made all the more striking and satisfying that they were able to make all work as a match. There's a lack of polish now and again but it never is enough to take you out of the match for long. People should check this out.

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