Segunda Caida

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

Friday, June 10, 2022


Cirujano de la Muerte vs. Emperador Panamanian Lucha 1988

MD: I'm not sure if anyone else is keeping up with the vein of Panamanian lucha we've gotten over the last year but we'll be sure to revisit it now and again. This was a mask match that dropped recently and it was bloody, heated, minimalist, and at times a little odd in ways that's right down our alley. Cirujano de la Muerte, being the Surgeon of Death, had the traditional medicinal wrestler white mask look. He reminded me of the Assassin or Dream Machine in some ways. He had pretty solid strikes that came from interesting angles and once he ripped the mask and really got going on Emperador, used an object to high effect. He also had a way of stooging on his bumps and strutting around the ring like a chicken to get maximum heat. I'm a fan. Emperador, in his eventual comeback after getting bloodied up, had a novel sort of running, jumping hammer shot, but otherwise, his strikes weren't as good. Still, he ripped at the mask and worked a wound and the crowd went nuts when he got the objects and started to get revenge and made the surgeon's white gear red. It was short lived though, as Cirujano smashed a bottle over his head and went back on him as they moved towards a finish, an out of nowhere 'rana.  There were a copy of spots in this, coming occasionally at slightly odd angles like Cirujano's strikes did, but for the most part this was straightforward woundwork the whole way through. Post-match continued the antics as Cirujano got what was coming to him. A match like this isn't for everyone, but to us, it's timeless and effective and beautiful. Now if Emperador just had slightly better punches.

ER: It's always a joy to find stuff like this. We have some full territory documentation of several 1988 territories, and then you get something from Panama that looks comparable to other stuff from that era while also looking somehow influenced by nothing. You can't really tell who they learned on, and it reveals a lot about how a lot of this is just knowing when to hit your beats and pace the momentum. Both throw their signature strike in a way you haven't seen anyone quite replicate, Cirujano throwing a hooking jumping right hand, and Emperador throwing a variation on the Baba chop. Nobody else throws a Baba chop, nobody else has quite the same hopping headbutt delivery as Carlos Colon, nobody throws a punch like the Crusher; these two have their own strikes, that might not be as good as those others', but they are different and I always like that. Cirujano had an all time great dance taunt. It was part chicken dance, part merengue, just a flawless combination. It's like Paul Lynde doing Jagger. If Jeff Jarrett had learned this dance taunt instead of just aping the Fargo strut, he would have been the biggest heel in Memphis. Emperador has some fantastic stumble selling, rolling and bouncing into and off of the ropes, like a standing Red Bastien gag, theatrical but really great body movement. There's mask ripping, a fucking bottle of chianti used as a weapon, a real good crowd brawl that sends people running (including a great dad running off with a little boy under each arm), and a mirthful unmasking. Love it.  

Tracy Smothers/Chris Michaels vs. Well Dunn Brandenburg, KY 2000s

MD: Some of my favorite wrestlers are the ones that are always on, always in the moment, always engaged. Terry Funk, Negro Casas, Nick Bockwinkel, Eddy Guerrero 97-on, Eddie Kingston. There are those guys and then there's 2000s Tracy Smothers, the guy who breaks the meter. There's not a moment of this match, including the period before and after it starts, that he's not engaging, engaging with his partner, with his opponents, with the ref, with the crowd, with the ring announcer, with his valet, with the laws of physics. He engages so thoroughly, so constantly, so dynamically, that he invokes wrestling to one of its highest possible degree, he engages with a reality of his own making and forces us to watch. That's a bit different than drawing us all into a shared reality where we toss away, for a time our suspension of disbelief, but it's certainly fun to watch nonetheless. 

I'm not sure if the crowd believed any more than usual on this night, but they certainly felt something, and he didn't give them a second to catch their breath long enough to think about any of it. He was constantly and consistently jawing with the fans (almost causing one guy to charge the ring simply because Smothers called him old repeatedly), trying to trick the ref with phantom clap tags, frustrating the crowd by trying to start a babyface clap when he was clearly a heel, bumping off of his opponent's offense and taking an extra bump just for the hell of it, hugging Michaels when something went his way, taking a powder after feeding like a champ when they didn't, from the first moment he walked out, to the finish where he got his comeuppance after using an object, to the post match promo putting over their next appearance at the next show and getting his heat back almost instantaneously by teasing the crowd that there was more to come. Michaels and Well Dunn played their parts, but you could have sent him out alone with a mic or with a broomstick to wrestle and he would have move hearts and fried brains just as soundly.

ER: This was pure heaven. Tracy Smothers has an act that makes me laugh at things I've seen him do a couple dozen times, playing some of the oldest hits in wrestling and always playing them with passion. Tracy is the angry southern Iron Mike Sharpe, and I'd hope you know that is a high compliment of an excellent character. Mike Sharpe did some of these routines in opening matches in the Northeast for a good decade, and Tracy takes it and ups the anger and violence and death threats. It's beautiful. This is Tracy stooging, stalling, and aggressively pointing fingers at every person in attendance. He gets into it with an old man, threatens to punch an "old hag" in the face, threatens kids, anything but actually lock up. This is a match where Tracy does more fake tag hand claps than I think I've ever seen in a match. Tracy Smothers holds a good crowd in a small rundown Kentucky building in the palm of his hand for 15 minutes, and I don't think he did any offense other than a handful of well timed (and loaded) punches. 

I like Well Dunn a lot, and I like Chris Michaels, but this could have been Tracy with literally any three wrestlers on the planet and been the exact same show. A team like Well Dunn is almost wasted in a role like this, because this was a role any green babyface team could have pulled off. Tracy was the ultimate in-ring safety net in a match like this. There is a lot of Not Wrestling and it is all Very Entertaining Wrestling. Tracy takes a couple of big bumps, one on a noggin knocker on the apron, others just bumping for punches, one just because he didn't realize Steve Doll was behind him. The match built to a great Rex King hot tag where he lays out Smothers and Michaels with consecutive hard clotheslines, and does his awesome hooking heel kick in the corner. Tracy's valet distracts King and Smothers blasts him with a loaded fist, then does the most hilarious and ridiculous pin, sitting down on King's chest and flexing his biceps, leaving himself wide open for King to steal the win. The post-match is great, with Smothers and Michaels blindsiding Well Dunn with a great loaded fist (Smothers) and an excellent superkick (Michaels, far and away the biggest piece of offense in the match), then some classic Smothers mic work. When Smothers ends the night saying "I got a major surprise for you on the 8th. Somebody's gonna DIE!" you know that's the good stuff. 

John Cena/Rey & Dominik Mysterio vs. Roman Reigns/Usos WWE 8/1/21

MD: This was just last year, but it's found footage to us. It's a little amazing how conservative this was structurally, very Tito Santana, more so than you'd expect out of a Strike Force tag even. Rey started, teased Cena coming in but ate a cheapshot. That meant he had to handle things himself and when it came time to tag, he tagged Dominik. They hit a double team, but Dom got stuffed by the Usos pretty quickly and then played face-in-peril for most of the rest of the match.

Reigns came in sparingly, but I really liked how the first hope spot, where Dominik tried to fire back on him, was less about him potentially getting the tag and more about him daring to show defiance. There was a real sense of hierarchy there that almost never plays so well in WWE. As the beating continued, he got his reps in against the Usos, with some subsequent hope spots better than others (the one where he kicked them both over the top from a prone position was pretty dubious). Meanwhile, Cena and Rey worked the corner as well as you'd expect. Cena wasn't going to be in for more than a couple of minutes, but he was still having a blast out there. After the hot tag, Cena played the hits, though there was a pretty inexplicable ref bump that didn't feed into anything. I wouldn't call the structure of the match lazy so much as it was distilled and set up to hype the crowd as much as possible to see the attraction. It was still a little weird when you think about it, because in a babyface Andre trios, for instance, he'd do more in the first third and wouldn't be saved all for the end.

ER: I really liked this, and I think it's another piece of evidence that Dominik is an underrated worker. He's not ever going to be his father, but that's a dumb statement because no other wrestler is his father. This whole match settled down pretty quickly into a 12 minute Dominik vs. The Usos match, and I thought Dominik was just as good as the face in peril as the Usos were at bumping for him and preventing his tags. I liked how Dominik stood up to Roman on the apron, and how that got him an immediate headbutt that lead to his next 12 minutes of trouble. Everyone in the match had main event house show timing down perfectly, with Dominik really good at getting *this* close to Cena's reaching hand before an Uso would get him back to the corner, or a great moment late in the match where both Usos gets bumped to the floor and Dominik begins his slow crawl to his corner. Roman was great on the apron as his cockiness turned to frustration and his frustration turned to panic, yelling at both Usos to get up off the floor to stop the tag. Jey eventually ran in and dropkicked Cena and dragged Dominik by the leg back to their corner. 

It's all house show timing, but the timing needs to be there or it just feels rote. I don't think this ever felt rote, I think they teased it along really well and the crowd just wanted to see Cena the longer Dominik took a beating. When Dominik did finally make the tag it was explosive, making me feel a nostalgia for Cena that I didn't realize I had. I didn't actually know Cena worked any house shows last year, just thought he worked Roman at Summerslam. Seeing he worked 15 matches - all house shows and dark matches save Summerslam - was a surprise, and after years of hearing every male in the building loudly boo him, I loved hearing everyone cheering for him like they were little kids. 

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