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Thursday, November 17, 2022

2022 Ongoing MOTY List: Villano IV vs. Pentagon Jr. MASK MATCH!

1. Villano IV vs. Pentagon Jr. AAA TripleMania XXX 10/15

ER: There's nothing else in wrestling like a big lucha show with a mask match main event. AAA has run some major mask matches over the last several years. I really loved LA Park vs. La Parka, and the Psycho Clown/Dr. Wagner match from a few years ago turned Psycho into maybe the biggest star in Mexico, while also revealing Dr. Wagner Jr. to be the most handsome man in Mexico. CMLL ran my favorite modern mask match, Villano V vs. Blue Panther, the perfect combination of two legends defending two of the most legendary masks in Mexico, fighting to keep two of the most legendary identities in lucha history. Villano IV had an awesome 2022, a 57 year old man who worked the entire year as if he knew this was his final year, and this match was the culmination of that. AAA running a year long Ruleta de la Muerte tournament all around Mexico was an awesome idea, leading to big matches at all of the Triplemanias. Villano IV had big matches against LA Park, Psycho Clown, and this final against Pentagon Jr. 

Pentagon is a guy who became a big star when all of the taped Lucha Underground matches started airing in 2015, an immediate standout on a show that blew everyone away with their first season. No wrestling show over the past 15 years has felt more fresh than that debut LU season, and Pentagon was a major part of that. Once the messiness of the LU contracts was sorted out, he and Fenix were the guys who really capitalized on their LU presence, and began showing up on indy cards all over the country. As his star grew, Pentagon quickly became a guy who stopped growing as a wrestler, because it's a whole helluva lot easier to get by on catchphrases and the Cero Miedo gesture. When huge crowds cheer for you just as loudly when you do your catchphrase as they do when you fall head first through a table, the choice is insanely easy. Pentagon quickly became a guy I went from loving, to one that I rarely go out of my way to watch, but there was no way I was missing him in a mask match main event against one of my favorite luchadors.

Any time a Villano has been in a mask match this decade - and it's actually shocking how many big Villano mask matches we've gotten in the past decade - my brain always compares it to Panther/V5. That's really become the benchmark mask match for me, maybe the benchmark lucha match, maybe the benchmark match period. I love it. Villano IV and V are such in-ring clones of each other (they are no longer visual clones, as V looks like a B-movie mafia villain or a Bam Margera uncle now) that I always wondered what Villano IV would have done if he had his own mask match against Panther. And now that he's 57 and has wrestled for 42 of those years - 75% of his life! - we're finally getting all of the big Villano IV mask matches. This started with Pentagon flying into a backdrop on the entrance ramp and ended with both men dripping blood while their ripped masks barely covered their faces. This was a fight, with none of that old man lucha grace. Pentagon is in awesome shape right now, lean and mean and excited to punch and be punched by an old man in the throat. Villano really puts the boots to the young punk (late 30s is young in lucha years), with some sick trash can shots and a bunch of punctuated left and right hooks. Villano takes time to savor the punches, even holding Pentagon up by the mask to punch him. When Pentagon tries to powerbomb him, Villano just punches him in the neck. 

Pentagon threw himself into a lot of bumps, and when he started throwing his body into Villano he went big. Villano threw such disrespectful punches to start this thing that you knew the old man was gonna get those paid back. Pentagon wiped out IV and V with a tope con giro, and I loved how we got a ton of Villano family reactions as Pentagon laid in a beating on the floor. Pentagon threw Villano across the floor like Pedro Martinez throwing Don Zimmer, a real fight on the floor. Wrestling has a lot of strike exchanges  that I hate now, but I loved these exchanges. The timing was off just enough and they really connected on these shots. These weren't mirror exchanges, this was Pentagon hitting a superkick under Villano's chin and Villano responding with the hardest chop he can throw, with all of it devolving into punches. Pentagon threw some really damaging looking leg kicks, like he was really trying to tire Villano out. When he threw a leg kick to set up a punch that set up a superkick, he executed it all so well that it looked like the best version of Pentagon. 

The big push to the finish has big stuff, like guys going through tables and a 57 year old man getting his guts stomped out by an all time great double stomp. But they balanced the big stuff with missed submission swerve finishes, and great timing on all of the nearfalls. I loved how loud the crowd got when Villano locked in the octopus hold, and the octopus hold cradle felt like the most dangerous finisher in the moment. I always get choked up when they show people crying in the crowd during unmaskings, a moment that hits me harder than any kind of sad fan playoff loss crowd shot. The Villano legacy really felt honored, even though moments before this little old bald man was getting his arm broken three different times. The post-match emotion was as good as the match itself. The emotions felt real, the hand shakes to every member of the family and all of the crew felt sincere, the ride around on shoulders felt earned and lovingly received. Villano said he would be retiring soon, and that he wanted Pentagon to be his last match. I cannot wait for that match. 


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