A blog that used to be about things

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.

Monday, January 15, 2018

2017 MOTY Countdown #13: Hechicero vs. Satanico

Maestro matches are one of my favorite match style in wrestling. Since lucha title matches do not focus as much on mat wrestling and holds as they used to, the maestro matches are the most consistent place to see that style of wrestling. And since that style of wrestling does not rely on athleticism as much as it does precision, you still have wrestlers in their 60s putting on some of the best matches of the style.

Hechicero's role in maestro matches is great. He has been wrestling since 2001, which is a long time to normal people but when he is in the ring with other maestros he may as well as be a child. He can wrestle that similar llaves style, and will, but he is also substantially younger and stronger than the other wrestlers in your standard maestro match, and he is not afraid to bully his way around the ring. 

So, here is Hechicero one-on-one against Satanico, who is almost 70 and has been wrestling since 1973. It starts off with both guys working each other on the mat, and Hechicero is not afraid to use his size and strength to overpower Satanico consistently. However, he is never able to put Satanico away and has to keep getting rougher and rougher. This is exactly the same match format Satanico has been using for 40 years, and it still works in 2018 with him as the tough and stubborn veteran rather than the tough and stubborn asshole rudo. Hechicero instead plays the bully that is willing to escalate the violence to break his opponent. Despite this, Satanico keeps hanging in there, showing that he can get just as wild. This match is just a great example of this simple story with excellent pacing and selling from both guys.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

2017 MOTY Countdown: #1 Dragon Lee vs. Hiromu Takahashi

Dragon Lee and Takahashi have taken the whole concept of a spotfest past it's logical conclusion into some black hole of wrestling where selling is what brings a match down and a spotfest is the only way to tell a gripping, coherent story. This is the latest in their series of matches and continues to build upon the previous matches with moves that worked before no longer working and the violence continuing to escalate. These two have pushed each other beyond any semblance of having a limit, both in terms of the damage they must endure and the violence they must commit to if they want to win. There is nothing like these matches in the world of wrestling.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

2017 MOTY Countdown: #15 Lucha Brothers vs. Besties in the World

There is an idea, which I agree with, that people will rate matches higher when they are in attendance (or sometimes this is even extended to watching an event on live TV). I don't think this is a valid criticism of a match, though. While I have rolled my eyes during more "this is awesome" chants than I have participated in, I don't think that saying you liked a match more because you were in attendance is anything but a legitimate point. Wrestling is done for the live audience (well, mostly). If a match gets a reaction out of the live audience that it did not get out of the video audience, it still worked (again, mostly). Knowing what the audience wants/playing to the audience is a skill, not a criticism., similar to working different match styles/paces based on your position on the card. A well booked show will have just as much of a good rythm as a good match.

The point of all of this rambling about live performances is that I was in attendance for this match and am very aware that being in attendance live is probably why this is the only Top 20 MOTY list you will see this match on, but I don't care cuz this is match is fun as hell. Fenix and Penta 0M have shown that they are as good as anybody at the fast-paced, spot-oriented US indie style with their matches in PWG specifically, but The Besties often work a bit slower, more traditional tag team style that builds to a hot tag. This match combined both, with all 4 men running in and out of the ring. The story is pretty a straightforward answer to a legitimate question: The Lucha Brothers are awesome so can The Besties hang with them? Reader, they tried. Lots of intricate spots and reversals and just an excellent example of the fast-paced style which was able to snoothly work in trademark spots. One thing (wrestling) logically led to another until finally one team was able to keep the other down, satiating the live crowd, Author included. Would this get over in a crowd not as invested in The Besties? Not likely, but working the best possible match for this crowd is worth something.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

2017 MOTY Countdown: #16 Tigre Rojo vs. Barbaro I

I watch a lot of obscure lucha on youtube, but I do not watch ALL of the obscure lucha on youtube. However, I will watch pretty much any apuesta match that I come across and that is how I found this match. I vaguely remembered the name Tigre Rojo, and I am guessing this is the same guy that used to wrestle on Arena Puebla undercards 10 years ago. While I am not sure I even watched a Tigre Rojo match, his name stuck with me cuz what the hell is a red tiger?

Anyway, without really knowing who these two were this match sucked me in right away. The crowd is immediately behind Tigre Rojo, so I may as well join them. The match itself, if viewed in a vacuum, is an above average apuestas match, but the crowd is going absolutely insane for every move and every hold. I know that including crowd response is not a popular idea in reviewing and rating matches, but at a fundamental level the whole point of pro wrestling is getting the crowd invested in what is happening in front of them and I cannot ignore when it is done this well.

The hot crowd is not the only appeal of this match, though. I am a sucker for the "old guy leaving it all in the ring one last time" sort of match. The problem is that this sort of match is often done when the old guy involved does not have anything to actually leave in the ring, so when there are actually good dives and well done moves, as is the case here, I find this sort of match to be an absolute blast. Both guys know this may be the last time they get to have a match, especially a match at the top of the card, and neither one wants to go out on a loss. Great, dramatic action and, again, the crowd eats up every minute of it, making this match one of the best I have seen this year.

2017 MOTY Countdown: #20 Iron Kid vs. Demus

Youth. That perfect combination of hope, belief and cockiness. Any young person that does not look at the ways of their elders and think "I can do that better" should not be trusted, even when their belief in their own infallibility ends up getting them tossed 4 rows deep into a crowd of spectators and then stabbed in the head by a fork wielded by a sadistic, overly-bearded, violence-loving little man. Experience is the ultimate teacher. Clocking in at about 10 minutes, this match has Iron Kid playing a great underdog tecnico as he is mercilessly beaten and bullied by Demus, who is just reveling in the violence. After opening with one of the wildest spots I have ever seen in a wrestling match, a few perfectly timed comeback spots for Iron Kid keeps this moving at a good pace. Aside from the wildness of this match, another great aspect is how effortlessly Demus and Iron Kid convey their roles. Are you a kid, or do you support the young of the world who work hard to master their craft and innovate? Iron Kid may be just the plucky tecnico you were looking for. Alternatively, are you a embittered and violence loving nightmare creature whose only enjoyment in life is when your cynical underhandedness allows you to spread your own pain and misery to others? Then you probably are Demus, and you should really look in to getting help. But, before you do that, take 10 minutes and watch this match.

2017 MOTY Countdown: Honorable Mentions

20. Not 25 nor 13 nor 5. There is no aesthetic reason nor religious imperative to limit our list of best matches of the year to 20. It is simply so. These are the remaining matches that I rated as ****1/4 or higher that are not included on the list of 20. Some notes:

Keith Lee vs. Sammy Guevera: Sammy Guevera playing a flashy and too cocky asshole heel in this match is some of the best character work I have seen this year. There are funny spots, but not nearly as many as this type of match up tends to get played for.

Arez vs. Belial vs. Impulso: This apuestas match is everything you could want from an apuestas match between indie luchadors. You get the blood, the brawling and the crazy dives.

Demonio Infernal vs. Black Dragon: Demonio Infernal was one of my favorite wrestlers to watch in 2017. When he was given the opportunity he had some of the most fun brawls of the year. This match was my favorite of his as it shows off his great bumping and selling as well as the viciousness he can bring to a match. He gets caught off guard to start the match but quickly comes back and slows Black Dragon down with brutal looking strikes and moves. Every spot of this match smoothly progresses to the next until we get to the brutal looking finish. Less than 10 minutes of fun spots and Demonio bleeding everywhere.

Authors of Pain vs. Team D.I.Y.: Johnny Gargano may be the best underdog babyface wrestler on the planet. The character work in this match is fantastic, with D.I.Y. coming in hurting and relying on their experience and trust in each other. The post-match angle was great, but even without that the emotion and story these two teams put in to this match was some of the best of the year.

Caristico & Soberano vs. Ultimo Guerrero & Sanson: Caristico and Ultimo Guerrero are obviously going to work well together, but this match stood out to me because of the intensity Soberano and Sanson brought. One of my favorite things in wrestling is a cocky heel that will show the flashy tecnico that they can flip just as well, and whenever Sanson and Soberano are paired Sanson is able to do this. Soberano, for his part, hits all of this big dives perfectly and his offense has a sort of earnest intensity that the best underdog, flashy/flippy tecnicos have. This match made me hope CMLL lets Soberano and Sanson continue to feud for some time.

EVOLVEEVOLVE 792/25/17Ethan Page vs. Darby Allin
WMCArena San Juan Pantitlan2/26/17Arez vs. Belial vs. Impulsohttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lpV1ZBkkmxk&t=1930s
IWRG3/19/17Demonio Infernal vs. Black Dragonhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R4OOt_Y9wrs&feature=youtu.be
WRESTLECONWrestleCon Super Show 20173/31/17Low Ki vs. Shane Strickland
CZWBest of the Best 164/1/17Matt Tremont vs. Penta 0 M
NXTNXT TV4/12/17Drew Mcyntire vs. Oney Larcan
NXTTakeOver: Chicago5/20/17Akam, Rezar vs. Johnny Gargano, Tommaso Ciampa
Inspire Pro5/28/17Keith Lee vs. Sammy Gueverahttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w1rp2aMBqUs
CMLLArena Mexico6/16/17Caristico, Soberano vs. Ultimo Guerrero, Sansonhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oy5gmK4Ym6g&list=WL&index=22
CMLLArena Mexico8/4/17Rey Cometa, Soberano Jr., The Panther vs. Cuatrero, Forastero, Sansonhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t5vPRp_nuEM&feature=youtu.be&t=00h44m47s
WWEMonday Night Raw8/7/17Braun Strowman vs. Roman Reigns
IWRGArena Naucalpan8/9/17Fly Star, Fly Warrior, Fulgor I, Fulgor II, Glen Calavera, Jerry Calavera, Mr. Leo, Septimo Rayo vs. Alas de Acera, Aramis, Black Dragon, Demonio Infernal, Diablo Jr., Dinamic Black, Eterno, Golden Magichttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UqnkuwDaz2w&index=34&list=WL
AAAArena Ciudad de Mexico8/26/17Dr. Wagner Jr. vs. Psycho Clown
IWRGArena Naucalpan9/3/17Villano III Jr. vs. Imposiblehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AkmYDcciT7c&index=36&list=WL
The CrashAuditorio de Tijuana10/5/17Demus 3:16, Ultimo Maldito, Steve Pain vs. Mascarita Dorada, Laredo Kid, Arkangel Divinohttps://youtu.be/qi6teINeRB0

2017 Match of the Year Countdown: Intro & List of matches

Pro wrestling is good. I have been keeping a list of good wrestling matches I watched but the list is an all too accurate reflection of our human fallibility and likely has many omissions. Here are the top 20 matches I watched in 2017, are at least a close approximation to that. I will be adding longer reviews/reflections about (most of) these matches as the week goes on.

EDIT: I forgot to include the numbers so please know that Dragon Lee vs. Takahashi was my favorite match of 2017, with the rest descending from there. As I write about the matches below I will add a link to those posts on the name of the match. 

NJPW2/11/17Dragon Lee vs. Hiromu Takahashi
NXT6/28/17Asuka vs. Nikki Cross
WWEHell in a Cell10/8/17New Day vs. Usos
BacaralGimnasio Olimpico Juan de la Barrera3/11/17Rush vs. LA Parkhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_kvhrNTEeOw&t=11s
Lucha MemesColiseo Coacalco7/15/17Virus vs. Xtreme Tigerhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yPUrE6eMbkI
The CrashAuditorio de Tijuana10/5/17Flamita vs. Rey Fenixhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mCGnztz9O6k
CWF3/25/17Trevor Lee vs. Chip Day
RCHArena Naucalpan6/2/17Demus 3:16 vs. Impulsohttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=riv_hWqXSqQ
WWERoyal Rumble1/29/17John Cena vs. AJ Styles
NXTBarclays 8/19/17Johnny Gargano vs. Andrade Almas
ChairoChairo 93/26/17Black Terry, Negro Navarro vs. Hechicero, Virushttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nO23oGSI5Uk
Lucha Memes MDA4/28/17Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Negro Navarrohttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yDXmDP4aHpM&index=38&list=WL&t=10s
Lucha Memes MDAArena Puebla6/4/17Hechicero vs. Satanicohttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6t538_VNDUc&feature=youtu.be&t=01h24m03s
WWESummerslam8/20/17Samoa Joe vs. Braun Strowman vs. Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar
Glory ProSpaulding Hall10/15/17Penta el 0 M, Rey Fenix vs. Davey Vega, Mat Fitchett
Arena Coliseo San Ramon10/15/17Tigre Rojo vs. Barbaro Ihttps://youtu.be/frz4KUMtZ0k
The Crash5/5/17Daga vs. Zack Sabre Jr.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mR1a6LSVsvA
NXTTakeOver: Chicago5/20/17Pete Dunne vs. Tyler Bate
NJPW2/11/17Tetsuya Naito vs. Michael Elgin
Lucha MemesColiseo Coacalco6/18/17Iron Kid vs. Demushttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WdgmpP0D5WI&t=0s