Friday, January 19, 2018

Rey Pantera Jr. & Hijo de Rey Pantera vs. As del Espacio & As del Espacio Jr., mascaras vs. mascaras 01/14/2018





I don't know who these guys are, but I will watch most apuesta matches I come across. These are often the biggest matches of a wrestler's career, so you're unlikely to come across anything but the best performance and effort out of the wrestlers involved. Since these matches usually come out of some fairly heated feud you often have a hot and lively crowd helping the match along. The matches themselves usually vary between brawls and completely out of control brawls, so the wrestlers are generally allowed to use blood and any other tricks to put the match over the top and if none of this seems to work you can always just turn the match off.

So yeah, I don't know anything about these guys (although I have seen the dad Rey Pantera a few times) but like I said I will watch most apuesta matches I come across but one with these familial elements involved sounds even more fun. In much of the world, sports play a huge role in familial relationships. While the relationship is changing, playing sports and watching sports is still a huge aspect of masculinity and also a prominent avenue for men to form relationships. The scripted nature of wrestling allows it to portray family relationships far more than happens in "legitimate" sports, as wrestling has the freedom to not have to rely as heavily on actual skill. And so wrestling not only fills this cultural role of something for a family to enjoy together, wrestling can explore family dynamics in the medium. Families are often paired together based on nothing but blood, and when these relationships turn sour they can be even more vicious and hateful than other relationships falling apart.

Why am I rambling on about wrestling playing up family connections? Because it plays a huge role in this match. The whole match is based around two rough brothers taking on a father and son team where the father is older and maybe a step slower than the Panteras and the son is clearly younger and less experienced than the Panteras. 

The video starts with Rey Pantera Jr. coming to the ring while a live band plays. Eventually we see that Hijo de Rey Pantera is in this band! It's a very minor thing, but I absolutely love when wrestlers are involved in their own theme music and even more when they play it live, as it is so self-indulgent but if they are playing a cocky, flashy character (like Chris Jericho, Juventud Guerrera and the Panteras here) it adds so much to that obnoxious aura. Who is more insufferable than a member of an okay-at-best rock band than a member of an okay-at-best rock band that is also a pro wrestler?

The match starts out with straightforward back and forth wrestling, but almost immediately guys start diving out of the ring (and into seats) onto guys that are not immediately involved in the match. It's not the wild brawl that some indie apuesta matches turn in to, but it is a bit wilder than a standard match. As the match continues, the roles mentioned above start to become clearer as the Panteras not only work together as a team better (as they have likely been working as a team for some time now), but there is a really cool segment early in the 2nd fall where the Panteras get Espacio Jr. outside of the ring between them and Espacio comes running over to help his son, only to get double-teamed himself. 

The first two falls of the match are over pretty quickly. I'm not a huge fan of this match format but it is so prevalent now that I've gotten used to it. And although I think it is annoying it does work to some extent. One thing people seem really confused or annoyed by in lucha (and really all wrestling) is when a ref ignores blatant rule breaking, as happens in this match. I guess these are the people that NFL and MLB are courting with their recent attempts to turn their sports into byzantine rule interpretation while athletes look on. The idea that a ref (or any ruling authority) can let things slide in the name of a greater justice seems alien to them, but that is exactly what happens in lucha. Refs, like anybody else we invest with authority, can choose to let nominally illegal activity slide if they think strict enforcement will lead to a result nobody wants (i.e. a disqualification finish to end a blood feud) or if they simply don't care. Wrestling is just a mirror of our real world power struggles. There is no escape from them.

So the first two falls of this match are burned through pretty quickly to get us to a third fall where the Panteras quickly take advantage of the ref's discretion. But, since this is wrestling, the Espacios aren't simply crushed under this corruption but make their comebacks. And these comebacks are great. Like any good babyface, they show they can get just as wild a rough as the Panteras, delivering sick chairshots and Espacio Jr. hits some giant dives out of the ring. The pacing may drag a bit, but I think they're just milking the crowd reactions which are not being recorded very well. At some point the entire crowd is out of their seats and cheering the match on.

The work in the match is good, but there are little moments that really bring out the character stuff, like As del Espacio racing back in to the ring to help his son pin whichever Pantera it was that he just hit with a big move. This all leads up to what is one of the most dramatic and emotional finishes I have ever seen. I don't like to describe specific spots when talking about a wrestling match because so much of the enjoyment of a match can be tied in to seeing these things evolve organically within the match. That said, the end of this match involves each team trying to submit the other, and eventually this gives way to a crazy chairshot sequence where they are trying to prove who is tougher. Again the different male relationships of brothers vs. father and son come in to play, and how our roles as protectors or respectors (of the toughness/manhood of another) of each other. We saw early in the match Espacio getting seriously hurt when he rushed in to protect his son. Would you do the same thing for your father, if the roles were reversed? Would you expect a different outcome? 

The emotion and drama at the end of this match is unparalleled, and this is two teams of guys I have never seen before! Imagine if this was a feud you had been following! I can't imagine a better blowoff to this type of feud or match, and unless wrestling in 2018 is absolutely phenomenal (I hope it is!) this could easily end up being my match of the year.

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