Segunda Caida

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

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Lucha Worth Watching: CMLL in Japan, 1998

Somebody uploaded a few matches from a 1998 CMLL Japan tour, and none of them have been released before now. Let's check 'em out!

El Hijo Del Santo vs. Fishman  CMLL Japan 8/22/98 

ER: Wow what a treat. I don't think this match has ever seen the light of day before now, it's the only listed singles match between the two, and it's really good. Fishman is in his late 40s and spry, Santo is in his mid 30s and the greatest. Santo is so fluid and graceful, but hits hard, lighting up Fishman with great chops the whole match. Just a couple minutes in and Santo already hits a gorgeous dive to the floor, landing far away from the ring, just crazy distance on a dive you knew was going to land you on a gym floor. I wish we could have seen more of the crowd brawling, as it's filmed semi-handheld style and the guy doesn't move, so you hear a bunch of crashing but only see bits and pieces. Still neither man hesitates to throw stiff blows and what we can see is good. The in-ring work is gold, with Fishman taking a nice backdrop bump to start (and Santo later taking an even higher, more graceful one), and I was really struck by the violence of Santo's knees, just the best kneelifts and flying knee strikes, done with a luchador's grace but the end result still being a sharp knee getting driven into Fishman. We get an awesome battle over the camel clutch, with Fishman bringing excellent struggle, twisting to get his arms free, Santo working for it and turning it into a twisting cravate, rolling it back into a nasty seated surfboard, all great stuff. And after another crowd brawl Santo even hits a rolling senton off the apron to a freshly bodyslammed Fishman. The finish is a great one, as Fishman is beating Santo in the ropes, undoes his mask, ties it to the top rope, and continues beating on him. He walks away to soak up the boos, and Santo merely removes that mask to reveal that he was wearing ANOTHER MASK, and gets a surprise roll up. Dude just wrestled a match wearing two masks, just for a cool finish. Legendary status.

PAS: Fishman was always a guy with a great reputation, who looked completely washed every time he showed up on tape. I remember when I did commentary on a lucha TV pilot in Monterey around the time of this match, Fishman was the worst guy on the show. Here though he is the spriest I have seen him, he is throwing pretty hard shots and bumping around. It is a little glance at why he has such a great reputation. Santo is of course brilliant, people mainly think of how graceful he is, but he isn't afraid to brawl and really lays it in Fishman. Loved that finish, what a fun BS twist on a wrestling trope. Feels like the kind of thing Eddie Guerrerro might come up with.

El Hijo Del Santo/Atlantis/Lizmark/Mr. Niebla/Rey Bucanero/Mano Negra Jr./Tsubasa/Ultraman Jr. vs. Satanico/Arkangel de la Muerte/Ultimo Guerrero/Fishman/Black Warrior/Tortuga/Super Cacao/Pirata Morgan  CMLL Japan 8/23/98

ER: A lot of this wasn't very good. It was not a cibernetico, instead it was worked like an All Japan battle royal, only it didn't have the alliances of the best AJPW battle royals, and the comedy didn't land as well. We did get an amusing early dogpile spot, with Arkangel and Santo really leaping up on top of a big pile only to have Tortuga eventually crawl out of the bottom unscathed (I assume because he has a tough turtle shell). Santo is probably the most active throughout, but the eliminations all come immediately from guys either taking one move or getting in one loose sub. BUT, Atlantis and Santo are the final two, and we get a 5 minute sprint between the two of them, and they aren't guys who ever had a singles match at this point (and I still think their only singles match is the 2005 Leyenda de Plata finals). So we get a big Santo dive and a somersault senton, and the handheld up close camera work really shows how damn hard those bodyslams are. Every bump is loud and painful, and the struggles over the camel clutch are all great. But my favorite moments is after the match, when Santo finally traps Atlantis in the clutch, and Atlantis is lying on his stomach holding his back......Santo then begins standing on Atlantis' back and buttocks to help with his back pain!! THAT is an awesome wrestling moment that I have never seen before, making all of this totally worth it.

Arkangel de la Muerte/Ultimo Guerrero/Fishman vs. Atlantis/Lizmark/Mano Negra Jr.  CMLL Japan 8/23/98

ER: A fairly by the numbers trios that picks up a bit down the stretch, but is mostly kept to the same marriage partners throughout (Arkangel/Negra, UG/Lizmark, and Atlantis/Fishman), working what feels like a CMLL house show match. But that's not a bad thing. My favorite combo was Lizmark/UG as it was fun seeing UG work some mat tricks that he basically stopped doing after 2002, he had this neat takedown where he wrapped Lizmark's arm around his own neck and then rolled backwards, taking Lizmark down with him, he takes a super high late rotation backdrop, and late in the match he even goes for a moonsault (and almost lands on his shoulder). Arkangel working with Negra is fun with both hitting cool leaping armdrags, and peaking with Negra hitting a mammoth tornillo over the ringpost to the floor that I really didn't think he had in him. Late 40s Lizmark and Fishman were far more lively than I remember them being, and while this never attempted to go into 3rd gear, it was solid work and a fun historical piece.

Now let's just hope this person uploads the Hijo Del Santo/Rey Bucanero match that happened on this tour...

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