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Monday, March 06, 2017

MLJ: Volador Jr. vs Yoshitatsu Was Not Actually the Worst Match I've Ever Seen

2017-03-03 @ Arena México
Volador Jr. vs Yoshitatsu


I don't go out of my way looking for bad Volador matches. I hadn't seen any of Tatsu's run up until this. I'm behind in general. I haven't seen the Volador/Cavernario vs Guerrero/Valiente match yet, for instance. This had so much negative buzz, however, that I wanted to check it out.

The complaints, as I heard them were thus: Tatsu was careless/incompetent in taking spots/dives. Tatsu was lazy and Volador was hard working. Tatsu was just trying to figure out his new character and not have a good match. Tirantes did something beyond the pale stupid and inexplicable, presumably because he didn't have faith in Tatsu to get the finish right. Here, let me give a quick reminder on my Volador thoughts. He is excellent at hitting spots/dives. He's very hard working. His matches tend to have a lot of bloat/go on too long. He's wretched at transitions (even reusing the same one multiple times in a match in a non-story driven way), highlighting athleticism and spot over stories. So I can see how this might be horrible. You have someone in there who theoretically can't work to any of Volador's strengths and can't do anything to hide his weaknesses.

And it wasn't very good. You know what, though? I think compared to the general CMLL main event output it wasn't all that terrible either. This is a company that has Ultimo Guerrero basically having the same singles match ten times a year. It's a company that carts out Niebla in big places all the time. Very little of Tatsu's shtick was worse than that. He certainly wasn't mailing that element of his game in. If anything, he did way too much. Thanks to Volador caring enough to react to it, however, it worked decently enough within the match and they balanced it with more spots than I was expecting (though not all of them hit certainly).

There was a story. It was pretty straightforward. Tatsu was out there with the mind games, coming out and ambushing Volador. He hit a couple of big moves quickly and took an early fall. Mascara helped out a bit. Then he ended up goofing too much and stomping too little. He put his hands up to stop a potential Volador comeback across the ropes, which is a CMLL thing. It's something guys like Mascara or Sombra or Marco do all the time. It's a common CMLL trope. Then, when Tatsu went to goof on that and turned to take his shirt off, Volador rolled him up. Hell, the sheer joy on Volador's face after he got the pin was probably the most tecnico character that I've ever seen out of Volador. Moreover, I thought they did a decent job of delaying Volador hitting much here. Tatsu slipped back in to avoid/delay the dive and there was a roll up, so Volador's revenge was more comedy oriented which fit the match and frankly was a little bit refreshing in modern CMLL. This is a tradition which has tecnicos often clowning rudos at length. It's nice to see it now and again on top. We get so many matches a year streaming that it's okay for them to run one that's a little bit different now and again.

The tercera was a goofier and sloppier version of what you'd normally get out of a Volador match. There were superkicks and no selling. There were a few less spots than normal and a bit more shtick. I kind of liked the handshake stuff. I think the crowd wasn't shitting on it in the least. It was different enough and Volador, while a little exasperated, was also committed to selling it. He was having fun with it and that's a different sort of engagement than just "working hard" and hitting stuff well. There were even a couple of transitions/spots (like Tatsu missing the big boot in the ropes and then back body dropping Volador over) that I thought were pretty imaginative. Were there some bad points of execution? Sure. There was one pump kick which was terrible, but I'm not sure whose fault that was. And of course, there was Tatsu absolutely failing to catch Volador on the second dive. Volador probably didn't need to go for that second dive in the first place. In a match like this, the tope (which Tatsu took well enough) would have been fine. He could have leaned into the comedy a bit more and the crowd (who tends to like that sort of thing anyway) wouldn't have complained. Maybe it'd get a half star less from people on the internet who only care about spots and dives and not other elements of working. As it was, they hit a decent amount of stuff, maybe 2/3rds of what might normally get hit in a singles match with no stakes like this.

Then there's the finish. It wasn't good, certainly, but it kind of fit. You can logic it fairly easily, with Tirantes going into business for himself. This sort of thing happens a few times a year and people get up in arms about it. So long as it's not happening every week like in indy LA Park matches or something, it's less of a big deal. So long as it's not destroying great matches, it's less of a big deal. This was the perfect match for Tirantes to do something ridiculous in. What impressed me the most (and full credit to Volador here), was how natural the reactions seemed, and how well they recovered. This wasn't the sort of match which needed six finisher kick outs. Tatsu got distracted by the culture clash and the strangeness of what was going on. Volador was the more poised wrestler and took advantage of it. One finisher later and this was over. The lack of protection on the dive was a disaster. Tirantes was absurd.

Judging it on certain metrics, it was actually kind of okay. Not every match, and not even every Volador, Jr. match, needs to look the same. I liked this a lot more than I would have probably liked Tatsu trying to do a straight up Sombra vs Volador style spotfest (they had the most difficulty when they tried to be that) and there were elements in here that I wish I saw out of 2016-2017 Volador a little more. I think someone like Maximo or Casas or Marco could have a pretty fun match with Tatsu actually.

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