Blue Panther vs. Angel Azteca
September 4, 1992
NWA Middleweight Championship
At the time of AAA split with CMLL, Blue Panther was the reigning CMLL Middleweight champion and Octagon was the NWA Middleweight champion. The NWA championships were regulated by the Commission, so Octagon simply took the title with him to AAA. Panther was stripped of his title by CMLL to nobody’s surprise. The fallout from both champions’ departures resulted in a pair of really great matches. On July 3rd at Arena Mexico, El Dandy defeated Negro Casas to win the vacant CMLL Middleweight title in an absolute classic of a title match. Three weeks later, Octagon dropped the NWA Middleweight title to Panther on a non-televised event in Leon and in early September made his first title defense against Angel Azteca in Cancun in what was also a fabulous match.
Overall, I like this match better than the more famous Blue Panther vs. El Mariachi (Solar I) Middleweight title bout from 1994. That one had the better single fall (the first) but took a step back and got repetitive over the final two falls. It is a great match of course, but this one maintained a higher level throughout, peaking with a very strong near fall heavy final frame.
Angel Azteca channels Riki Choshu for the structure of the first fall. He forgoes any feeling out work or opening mat wrestling in favor of ambushing the champion. After a frantically fantastic start, he settles down into the more familiar mat work and submissions. Choshu would often start out at hot before settling into the slower paced, foundation-setting work a couple of minutes here. The best example would the April ’83 match with Fujinami, with the small caveat that the initial flurry in Azteca/Panther last a half a minute or so longer. The opening flurry is really something. Azteca nails Panther with a trio of drop kick and follows up with a great tope. Panther goes hard into the turnbuckle chest first open returning opening up an opportunity for Panther to try the match’s first pin fall attempt. Shortly after, Azteca starts working a variety of submissions which returns the match to a more familiar lucha title match structure and pace.
Azteca’s submission wrestling and pinning combination game is strong here. Working early 90’s Blue Panther means you are working a high energy rudo is able and willing to do all sorts of flashy holds and pin attempts off the mat. Azteca takes full advantage of that. In addition to the interesting submissions on the ground, Azteca does things like flying head scissors takedowns and an excellent inside cradle off of a body slam attempt. It was that sort of stuff that made the Panther/Mariachi match (first fall in particular) so memorable and Azteca is just as good here as Mariachi was in that one. If you are a fan of Panther’s goofy rudo selling (I am) there is plenty of that here like when he convulses on the mat after taking a bulldog. Panther eventually fights to get things even and they do a little back-and-forth where it is Panther’s time to show off a bit with things like his headstand reversal. Azteca rallies back and lands a missile drop kick to the take the near fall packed first fall in about six minutes.
Second fall is more of the same in terms of being all action regardless of whether they are running ropes, trying for pins, or going for submissions. Azteca is in control to start the fall but Panther is able to fight all the way back this time and he evens things up at one apiece with a backbreaker submission win. It should be noted that the Cancun crowd is really hot for this match. They are cheering both guys but it really seems like the fast pace of the match has them worked into a frenzy.
The third fall gets a about eight minutes to play out which is quite a bit of time. The two major drawbacks of the match occur in the third fall. It does get a tad repetitive which isn’t a huge deal, except that it sort of plays into the second part where they do too many near falls off of pinning combinations to the point that the fans buy some but don’t buy others. Both are relatively small nitpicks. They don’t lose the crowd (or me) it is just maybe a little too many similar types of near falls. The pace never relents however and overall it is still a very strong fall. The crowd popped huge for the rudo Panther retaining his title.