Segunda Caida

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Tuesday, June 06, 2023

Espectáculos Promociones Panama: Mary Varela! Gata! Baby! Hiena!

Mary Varela/La Gata vs La Baby de California/La Hiena de Jalisco 7/30/89

GB: We’ve crossed over into a few new territories with this one. First of which is finally getting a glimpse of Panama lucha’s mecca, el Neco de la Guardia. Secondly, we’re wetting our toes again with a different promotion, as this is no longer Don Medina’s EPP but, rather, Empresa Arena Panama-Mexico (the same promotion that ran the Sandokan/Gigante Tataki handicap Matt wrote up all those months back). Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, we seem to have encountered our first real piece of juicy drama out of Panama. Of course there’s the hilarity of el Africano’s debut and the stories of the riots and destruction of government property after Sandokan lost his mask to Anibal but those were anecdotes - words and nothing more. Here, though, it appears as if we have real footage of a wrestler exercising their “that doesn’t work for me, brother” clause.

disclosure: the interviews and the match are the only part of the feud we have on tape (among a few article clippings) so there’s going to be a lot of “connecting the dots” on my part. Apologies if something misses, but I’m really taking a stab in the dark here.

Over the course of around three months, from the end of April to the end of July, La Baby de California and Mary Varela were engaged in a programme with the eventual outcome of the apuesta match we are covering here. Throughout the feud, the American-Mexican La Baby would run Mary and, in turn, Panama down as “mugre” (filth) and you get the sense that Baby really did believe those words. You can also get the gist of it all with the opening salutations. Baby is all dolled up and carries herself as a slice of “better-than-you” hot shit. Mary, on the other hand, is a lot more plain, sporting a minnie Mouse shirt that’s sure to put her #1 on my 2 year old’s greatest wrestler ever list. Instead of Baby’s judgmental eyes, she appears warm, friendly and akin to an old friend you’ve bumped into waiting for the metro. You can see she’s proud by her stance, she knows she’s hot shit but she won’t tell you that and she won’t make you feel less than that.

As the promos move forward, Baby gets a little scathing in her remarks. Despite Mary’s career victories over other Mexican talent such as Lola González, Irma Aguilar, La Monster and Martha Villalobos, Baby calls her worthless. There’s venom in the way she spits things with almost a manner of truth to her words. Again, as if she is buying what she’s selling. In the second promo of the video, a week before their apuesta, Baby says she doesn’t want to keep Mary’s hair. Of course, she promises to humiliate Mary by beating her in front of her fans but she refuses to take her hair as a trophy. She doesn’t want something “filthy like [Mary]”. Mary is slightly more composed but there’s a moment where things seemingly breakdown on set and Ricardo Pitti almost rolls his eyes in a way to indicate he’s not amused by these two.

But that’s our build. We have three months of everything centering on Mary and Baby. Leading in, the Relevos Increíbles two weeks earlier even pits the pairings as Baby/Gata vs Mary/Hiena. Gata/Hiena feel like afterthoughts along the way and their lack of appearances in the promos is indicative of this, too.

Then, the match happens and it all goes out the window. Panama has this tradition of putting off the big attractions in a match until later. They don’t tease and puppeteer things as you’d expect, with the feuding heel egging the face into the ring before tagging themselves out. Rather, it’s something that is progressed to after the opposite pairings have had their workover/shine (e.g. Hiena/Mary and Baby/Gata leading to Hiena/Gata and, the draw, Mary/Baby). Here, after some decent bloodletting to fill out the pattern, we come to Mary/Baby. However, Baby is nowhere to be seen. She’s jackjacking someone in the crowd on the opposite side of the stadium floor. It appears Hiena calls for her but by then Mary’s made her mind up. She beelines for the approaching Baby but, as they’re about to lock up, sidesteps her and attacks Hiena instead.

By this point, I think we can understand why. By the end of the match, we can almost sympathise with why. La Baby, for all the positives she does bring to the match (her size and smack talk) has no interest in wrestling a match that’s not on her terms. Poor Gata has her work cut out for her in terms of having to reset spots because Baby has different intentions in mind. Speaking of work, Mary really went into overdrive from this point and starts wrestling Hiena as the centerpiece with all of the other bad bullshit going on as fluff the audience should ignore. Hiena’s game for the most part and it gives us some really great visuals between the gore and mask-ripping - you’d expect so with her maestros being Villano I and Shadito Cruz. In fact, there’s a moment where she collapses and, in complete panic, scoots backwards on her knees away from Mary as they brawl around the ring. It’s something I can’t recall seeing before but it’s such a logical way to get to the next point without things becoming too cooperative. A lot of much more acclaimed wrestlers could learn to steal that spot instead of the walk-and-brawl nonsense we see from them.

As the match wears on, Mary has the audience eating out of the palm of her hands. So much, actually, that the audience, for the briefest of seconds, completely forgets Baby/Gata is existing on the periphery as they erupt in triumph after Mary beats Hiena. A hushed silence envelopes the room before Gata forcefully puts Baby down and the crowd erupts once more. Not for Gata but for Mary and for the triumph of Panama’s “mugre”.

We’re always quick to note how passionate Panamanian fans are for their sport, even if the attendance figures don’t quite bode well. Here, though, Neco de la Guardia was packed to the brim with diehard fans. Despite a loaded card with Sandokan/Invaider 1 (not that one) and being fresh off Ciclon/Baron taking the masks of the visiting Ray Tony/Viernes Negro, the crowd was here for one purpose - Mary.

MD: This was a historical drawing match all from all appearances and it should be examined and known as that. It was worked in one fall and went against expectations, in as, from what we can tell (and as Graham expounded upon), the build seemed to be primarily between Baby and Varela but the pairings were primarily Baby with Gata and Varela with Hiena. That was true at the beginning, when Hiena rushed the ring at Varela, in the middle when Baby and Gata started the mask ripping, and at the end when Varela submitted Hiena and Gata submitted Baby.

Baby was quite the heatseeker. She had the size of a Wendi Richter (and maybe elements of the sportiness as well, with her football jersey with #44 on it) and, how do I put this... the unearned valor of a Sexy Star, full of swagger but sure as heck not smooth in there. At one point she had to bump through the ropes after a missed shot and I can't quite get the physics of what happened to make sense. But hey, the fans really, really wanted to see her lose. It does make me wonder if Varela worked Hiena (who seemed far more capable) by choice. You think they'd switch back for the finish but by the end of it, between the size-related bullying and the mask ripping, the fans wanted to see Gata give Baby her comeuppance even if Varela was the one they were chanting for. Varela, by the way, clearly knew what she was doing. I've mentioned it plenty, but what I look for in these matches as much as anything else is that golden moment of heroic comeback, that one reversal or punch or dodge where everything changes, and Varela knew how to milk it and maximize it, and if you can do that, the sky's the limit. This had blood, chaos, mask ripping, and big comebacks. It may have lacked smoothness and overall cohesion but you look the other way on those in mask matches when the pop at the pop at the end bleeds through the screen even thirty five years later.

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