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Thursday, September 21, 2023

El Deporte de las Mil Emociones: Bronco Boricua 1989

Week 2: Picture it! Puerto Rico. August 1989.

EB: It’s the first weekend of August in 1989 and Capitol Sports Promotions (today known as WWC), the main wrestling promotion in Puerto Rico, is preparing for its 16th anniversary show (or Aniversario ‘89) in about a month and half’s time (September 16 to be exact). Since the first official Aniversario show in 1983, it has been the promotion’s big show of the year. We’re at the point where feuds are underway or being set in motion to pay off at the Aniversario show, but we’re not there yet.

Before we drop in on who’s who and what’s going on, a quick primer on Capitol Sports Promotions (or CSP for short). Founded in September 1973 (with Victor Jovica, Carlos Colon and Gorilla Monsoon serving as owners), the promotion was able to eventually establish itself as the leading wrestling promotion in Puerto Rico, becoming successful enough to become an NWA member around 1979. The decade of the 1980s saw a huge surge in popularity for CSP and it’s viewed by many local fans today as the golden age of local wrestling. But like many surges and booms, eventually a downturn comes. As we’re finishing the 80s and 1990 looms ahead, things aren’t as they were just a couple of years ago. Still, locally things are moving along for CSP.

The top title in the promotion is the Universal title, which was established in 1983 when a series of matches (that started back in late summer of 1982) were held between the WWC and NWA World champions (mainly Carlos Colon vs either Harley Race or Ric Flair). This series of matches ended with Carlos Colon defeating Ric Flair in a cage match on Dec. 18 of 83 to determine ‘the undisputed champion of the universe’.

Besides the Universal title, there are several other secondary singles titles as well as two tag titles active in the promotion at this time. Due to the number of titles and the roster size, it’s not uncommon to sometimes see wrestlers hold more than one title concurrently, with the frequency with which the titles are actively defended varying based on emphasis given and which wrestler holds it (meaning if it’s a local who is regularly here week after week compared with a semiregular who comes in for the big shows every month or two). We’ll get into more detail about who holds these titles soon enough.

As we start our journey, we begin during Fan Appreciation weekend for CSP (around this time they traditionally would hold their Fan Appreciation Days during the first weekend in August just before the school year would start). Our first stop is a segment of the Chicky Starr’s Sport Shop airing Saturday Aug. 5. Chicky’s guests are heel (or rudo) manager El Profe (the masked man sitting to the left) and three of Profe’s charges: Abudda Dein, Kareem Muhammad and Kendo Nagasaki. In Puerto Rico, the bad guys are the rudos and the good guys are the tecnicos. One important detail, the tecnicos are known as El Ejercito de la Justicia (which means ‘The Army of Justice’ or ‘Justice Army’). As for the rudos, for the most part (not always but usually) they are aligned with one of the heel managers in the promotion. Currently there are two of them, Chicky Starr (his stable is named El Club Deportivo which means ‘The Sports Club’) and El Profe (his stable is La Real Academia which means ‘The Royal Academy’). Just to give you an idea on how they are presented, Chicky is more of a wrestler who also manages while El Profe is more of a manager who also wrestles. Chicky is usually the lead heel or involved with the lead heel, while El Profe typically handles the tag teams and an occasional top heel. In a bit of a departure, at this moment in time most of the rudos with a manager are aligned with El Profe. Chicky is focusing on wrestling and managing one client in particular (we’ll discuss this in more detail next time).

The topic of conversation for this Sports Shop segment is the Bronca Boricua match (which can be translated as Puerto Rican Brawl) that is taking place on that night’s card. The match features a $10,000 prize for the winner and is also for La Copa Medalla (the Medalla Cup), so named because it is sponsored by the national beer brand Medalla. Chicky welcomes the viewers to the Sports Shop and starts talking about the big match happening tonight, mentioning that El Profe has seven chances at winning (he has seven of his wrestlers in the match) and Chicky himself will be competing as well in order to win the money and the cup. Chicky says whether it’s Profe or him that wins the money, it’ll be in good hands, as long as it’s not El Ejercito de la Justicia that wins.

El Profe agrees with Chicky, saying it will be the Real Academia’s night, he has seven chances at winning the money and cup. He has three of his wrestlers here with him and also mentions the Battens who are not here but are in training. No matter if it’s him or Chicky (‘preferably me though’) the important thing is that the money will be coming to them. Profe also mentions the rematch for the TV title where TNT will defend against Kendo Nagasaki and that he feels it’s unfair that he is barred from being in Kendo’s corner (‘TNT accused me last week of ringing the bell’). Doesn’t matter where he is though, what matters is where Kendo is and that is in the ring against TNT. The people will finally have a TV champion they can be proud of representing them, they’ll stop feeling the embarrassment and shame of seeing TNT as their champion. Chicky agrees with Profe, calling the stipulations for the match cheap on the part of the WWC. He closes by repeating again that they’re going for the $10,000, he and El Profe (at the mention of his name Profe pops into camera view for a second and taps his chest), but naturally Chicky is rooting for himself.

The action takes place tonight at Hiram Bithorn Stadium as the card rundown starts.  Let’s take the opportunity as they roll call the participants to introduce them. There is a Universal title match featuring a beast vs a monster, as Sadistic Steve Strong defends the title against Abdullah the Butcher. We’ll talk more about these two next time. For the Bronca Boricua match we have the following participants:

Invader #1 – I’ll address this once. Yes, that Invader. This journey will focus on Puerto Rican wrestling and he’s going to be appearing a lot throughout our reviews. Has been back since mid-to-late February and is one of the top tecnicos in the promotion. Currently is in a feud with Ivan Koloff over the Puerto Rican title. Is also the reigning North American champion, although this title is rarely defended and will be retired before the year is out. In addition to competing in the Bronca Boricua tonight, he has a match vs Ivan Koloff for the Puerto Rico title.

Kamala – He has made sporadic appearances in CSP since the mid-80s as a monster heavy that is brought in by one of the managers when needed. One such example is taking on Kerry von Erich on tonight’s card. He will make a few more appearances on a couple of the big shows for the remainder of 1989.

Ivan Koloff – Although he made a couple of appearances back in 1985 when JCP and CSP were members of the NWA, this is Ivan’s first run as a regular in the territory. He is managed by El Profe and is the reigning Puerto Rican champion (won the title just a few weeks before), feuding with former champ Invader (including a match on tonight’s card).

TNT – The rising star on the tecnico side, you likely know him as Savio Vega. He is a face paint wearing karate ninja and the reigning TV champion. Has a title defense against Kendo Nagasaki also on tonight’s show, with El Profe banned from ringside due to bell ringing shenanigans in their match the previous week.

Kerry Von Erich – A name that way back in the late 70s/early 80s made a couple of appearances for CSP, has recently appeared on a few shows throughout the summer and is being brought in as a special attraction for the big monthly cards. Besides the Bronca Boricua tonight, Kerry is also scheduled to face Kamala in a singles match.  He doesn’t really make any more appearances for the promotion after this weekend.

The Junkyard Dog – Has also recently started a regular run in the territory during the summer, wrestling in the upper card and main events as needed. Unlike Kerry, JYD’s run will last a bit longer throughout the rest of the year.

Boogie Man Jimmy Valiant – Had previously made sporadic appearances for CSP in the mid to late 80’s, currently making a semi-regular run in the promotion from late summer into the fall.

Chicky Starr – Has been the lead heel since 1986 when he turned on Invader #1 (in a mentor / student angle similar to Sammartino and Zbyszko), serving as wrestler, manager and interview segment host. Currently focusing more on wrestling (including a recent World Junior Heavyweight title reign) but has one key client in the reigning Universal champion. The self-proclaimed inarguable king of wrestling according to him (as evidenced by the rope and crown he wears, a recent development in 1989 thanks to a feud with Rufus R. Jones).

Kendo Nagasaki – First appearing for CSP in mid-83, he has had several runs in the territory, most recently as part of the Ninja Express from late-87 to mid-88. Would continue to make sporadic appearances being brought in by a heel manager, in this case by El Profe. Is currently in for a few weeks and having a series challenging for TNT’s TV title (including the previously mentioned match on tonight’s card where el Profe is barred from ringside).

Rip Rogers – One of the key heels of 1989, having previously won the World tag titles (with Abudda Dein) and also is the reigning Caribbean champion. Has a no DQ match on tonight’s show teaming with Abudda Dein against the reigning World tag champs Miguelito Perez and Huracan Castillo Jr.

The White Angel – You may know him as Curtis Thompson or Firebreaker Chip. A masked wrestler brought in by Chicky Starr who, after a few weeks of unsatisfactory performance for Chicky’s liking, was booted from his stable. He unmasked and feuded with Chicky. Currently a tecnico.

Kareem Muhammad – First appearing in CSP in mid-82 and presented as Abdullah the Butcher’s cousin. Since then he has continued to make regular appearances throughout the years. Currently being managed by El Profe.

Abudda Dein – Managed by El Profe, has served as an upper midcard heel for most of 1989, challenging for the different singles titles (including a reign as Puerto Rico champion during the first part of the year) and also managing to have one reign as World tag champs with Rip Rogers. Has a World tag title match on tonight’s card.

Eric Embry – Responsible for one of the greatest heel runs in Puerto Rico from mid-85 to mid-86, a run that saw Embry have a feud of some sort with nearly every notable tecnico of the time (including announcer Hugo Savinovich). Has continued to make sporadic appearances since then, with this weekend being such an occasion.

Super Medico – A stalwart of CSP throughout the 80’s as both a tag and singles wrestler, initially serving as a rudo before turning tecnico. Returned in May to CSP after an almost two year absence (outside of a couple of one shot appearances). Is the reigning World Junior Heavyweight champion, having regained the title from Chicky Starr just one week before. You may know him as Jose Estrada or as one half of Los Conquistadores.

Miguelito Perez – Son of the legendary Miguel Perez. Made his debut in 1985 and has had different stretches of success as a singles and tag competitor. Currently teaming with Huracan Castillo Jr. and is co-holder of both the World and Caribbean tag titles.

Huracán Castillo Jr. – Son of the legendary Huracan Castillo (who served as commissioner and a manager after retirement up until he was paralyzed in a shooting), has been linked at times with Miguelito as a tag team across the past few years as well as competing in the junior heavyweight division. Currently holds both the World tag and Caribbean tag titles with Miguelito.

The Batten Twins – Bart and Brad are just about wrapping up a one year run on the island, with their most recent feud being against Perez and Castillo. Have held both sets of tag titles and even took Perez and Castillo’s hair a couple of months prior.

Carlos Colon – Making his return after suffering a shoulder injury in mid-to-late May, Carlos is the leader of El Ejercito de la Justicia and the top star of the territory for basically the past decade and half (yes, he’s a co-owner of CSP but the people still have to buy into what you’re selling). This is his comeback after being put on the shelf and he has his sights set on regaining the Universal title.

They also mention that an hour and a half before the show starts, wrestlers will be signing autographs and taking pictures with fans if they bring a camera (it is Fan Appreciation Day after all).  After the card rundown there is a brief tease about Aniversario 89, taking place on September 16 in Bayamon.

So, what exactly is a Bronca Boricua? It’s a battle royale where you can come dressed how you want and can bring one weapon of your choice to use in the ring. Eliminations occur when a wrestler is tossed over the top rope and to the floor. Last competitor remaining wins. Unfortunately, we do not have footage (outside of a small snippet in a recap video) of this Bronca Boricua match. According to the results available, Carlos Colon won the Medalla Cup in his return from injury. However, thanks to CSP typically running a similar card as the main San Juan Metro area card for the west region of the island on the other weekend day (usually Sunday), we do have

WWC: Bronca Boricua (1989) - YouTube

A Bronca Boricua from what appears to be the same weekend, most likely taking place on August 6. Our location is Mayaguez, the big town on the west coast of Puerto Rico. Unlike the Bronca Boricua advertised above, this one has 16 competitors instead of 20. From the advertised Bronca Boricua from the previous day we are missing Kamala, Kerry, Castillo, the Battens and Chicky. We have two new competitors serving as subs, El Profe and Victor Jovica (who as a wrestler in Puerto Rico is typically slotted as a lower card / JTTS).

Your commentary team is Hugo Savinovich, Carlos Colon and El Profe. As the Boogie Man makes his entrance (holding what appears to be a stake), Hugo says that you can bring whatever you want with you (belts, chains, wood, chairs, brass knuckles, etc.). Already out we have Super Medico (with 2x4), Rufus R. Jones, the White Angel, TNT (with kendo stick), JYD, Victor Jovica, the previously mentioned Jimmy Valiant, Rip Rogers, Abudda Dein (with what looks like a leather strap), Kareem Muhammad (with some weird looking piece of metal), Kendo Nagasaki (with a bigger kendo stick), Eric Embry and El Profe. Ivan Koloff comes out in his wrestling gear and with his chain. Invader #1 arrives with a large weight belt. Carlos Colon shows up in a blue tracksuit. On commentary, Carlos mentions that he likes to show up with a small weapon that he can use and not worry that it will be taken away easily. Miguelito Perez (with a stick) jogs out after Carlos and the match starts.

The first few minutes the commentators put over the danger of this match and that tempers get so high that you sometimes see tecnicos hit each other and likewise with the rudos. El Profe starts getting on Carlos over being on the apron attacking, saying he was hiding. Carlos says that he's not hiding, he's being careful since he has a big title match coming up and he wants to be smart in order to avoid injury. This leads to Carlos questioning how the heck El Profe ended up in this match:

Hugo (as El Profe starts hopping around in the ring): Look who's jumping around in there. El Profe going around in circles.

Profe: It's that damn Invader whipping me with that huge weight belt. That's all leather and all you feel is leather. It feels like it tears at your skin.

Hugo: There's Rip Rogers as well...

Carlos: Hugo, I don't know how El Profe had the guts to get in there.

Hugo: I don't know, but after those first few hits he took, he was probably thinking the same thing.

Carlos: I think one of his charges missed the match and the WWC forced him to fulfill the contract.

Profe: Are you insinuating that I'm not sufficiently brave to step into this match...

Hugo: I'm pretty sure that Carlos is right about what happened, because if I'm not mistaken, one of your Real Academia wrestlers was injured and couldn't compete. That meant you had to fulfill the contract, you were forced to enter the match.

Profe: No, no, no. I voluntarily entered because I'm afraid of no one. I know I can beat them all and finish them all off...

Hugo (in an incredulous tone): Wow.

The match continues for a few minutes with no eliminations. Carlos mentions that Nagasaki and Koloff have an advantage since they are so familiar with how to handle the weapons they have. El Profe brags that they are part of his Real Academia. At 5:50 we have our first elimination, Kareem Muhammad.
Hugo: There goes the first person. It's the giant from Sudan, Kareem Muhammad. And what is that thing he has in his hands Profe?

Profe: Well, that's a bicycle handlebar.

Hugo: Well, the bicycle just crashed Profe, because he is eliminated.

Rufus is next out, prompting the following comment from El Profe: "There goes Shaka Zulu's grandpa". Hugo proceeds to apologize and say that Profe's comments do not represent him or Carlos. Jimmy Valiant is the next one to go, as the commentators start talking about how anyone could win this match. We go to commercials as Jovica and JYD are eliminated.

We come back and Rip Rogers is circling the ring, apparently not eliminated but looking to pick his spot to get back in. Invader #1 has been busted open. Embry looks like he has a boot in his hand. Meanwhile, TNT eliminates El Profe and Hugo and Carlos get on Profe's case about that.

Carlos (somewhat condescending): What happened to you there Profe?

Hugo: Profe?

Profe: Hey, it took 5 guys to get me out, because one by himself couldn't!

Embry is eliminated by Carlos. White Angel is also tossed, as Profe says he's still in there in spirit since his guys are still in it. TNT and Nagasaki start exchanging blows with their sticks. Rogers eliminates Medico during this. We're down to 8 guys, four of El Profe's men and 4 Ejercito members. Dein and Rogers team up to attack Carlos, as Koloff starts going after Miguelito with the chain. Dein loads his boot, but Carlos blocks the kick. Carlos atomic drops Dein out, but Rogers comes up from behind and tries to toss Carlos. TNT tries to help Carlos, but Dein helps Rogers from outside and it results in all three men going out.

We're down to our final four: Miguelito, Invader (who's a bit out of it on the turnbuckle), Nagasaki and Koloff. On the outside, Carlos and TNT decide to stick around at ringside (Carlos: As the captain of El Ejercito de la Justicia, we stayed out there to ensure Profe would not do any of his tricks.; Profe: Hey, I left my guys alone out there). Miguelito and Invader stare down Koloff and Nagasaki as all four men ready their weapons. Invader goes after Koloff while Miguelito goes after Nagasaki with his stick. Koloff gets the better of Invader with the chain. Meanwhile, Miguelito is just teeing off rapid fire style on Nagasaki. Then Miguelito just goes nuts hitting the heels. Eventually, Koloff puts Invader in the tree of woe and the heels team up to get rid of Miguelito. Invader tries to go at it two on one, but eventually falls to the numbers game. Heel miscommunication leads to Nagasaki being eliminated and the final stretch of the match is Koloff vs. Invader.

MD: Just as a bit of disclaimer to start: I have a pretty good working knowledge of the 80s set. I didn't get all the way to the end but I'm filling in gaps as we go. That said, I have no idea what to expect in 90 and onward so I'm in Esteban's hands as much as you here. For instance, just in this one, Valiant, Koloff, and JYD are definitely guys I don't associate with Puerto Rico. When the ring was full, it had the sense of a match that was honestly dangerous but maybe didn't actually look so, when you ideally expect wrestling to be the opposite. It was just a lot of people and a lot of weapons and a lot of shots from behind.

Profe stood out as a Jimmy Hart-in-armor sort of out of place figure. He had some fun running around at one point. It's quite neat to see two of the best scummy heels of all time sharing a ring in Embry and Rip; they even team up on JYD at one point. People seemed fairly reluctant. Two guys that weren't were TNT and Nagasaki and there was a moment in the middle where they really started unloading on each other. This teased a match that I don't think we have, something to get used to with Puerto Rico. Colon wrestling in his tracksuit was a little offputting. They had a nice little cascading elimination sequence with Carlos eliminating Abudda Dein only for Rip to go after him and TNT to follow suit with all of them sailing over in the span of a few seconds.

That cleared the ring for Koloff and Nagasaki vs Invader 1 and Perez; again, I liked seeing Nagasaki and Koloff together as Cagematch (obviously no solid guide for PR stuff) only ever has them together in one other battle royal in 85. I know from Koloff's start-of-1990 AJPW tour that he still had some stuff in the tank at this point and it shows here. With the ring cleared, the four were really able to go at each other as the crowd went wild, with the heels able to work more as a unit and overpower Perez. You want every battle royal, even a bunkhouse style one like this, to have a compelling story at the end. A bloody and exhausted Invader having to fight his way back against two monsters brandishing trademark weapons pretty much fits the bill. He's able to duck Koloff's chain as Nagasaki is holding him to even the odds which leads to a three or four minute iconic battle between Invader and Koloff. The two of them slug it out, Koloff presses his power, and Invader both sells the agony and fires back with all he has, before he's able to find that extra bit of strength and savvy and duck at exactly the right moment to send Koloff out. It becomes a sea of elated rioting as El Ejercito de la Justicia celebrates with Invader. A great entry point to see who the usual suspects were at this time and to remind me just what the right mix of, let's say, Invader 1, a strong heel, and a hot crowd could provide in Puerto Rican footage.

EB: Next time on El Deporte de las Mil Emociones, find out how Carlos Colon got injured in the first place and why Puerto Rican wrestling fans, when asked about 1989, will always mention these three words: Sadistic Steve Strong.

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