Blue Panther vs. Atlantis (CMLL – 07/11/2008)

Blue Panther vs. Atlantis
July 11, 2008
** 3/4

Atlantis and Blue Panther wrestled a pair of very good matches in the 1990’s – a title match in 1991 and the finals of the Copa Victoria in December 1997. This go around Atlantis and Panther were paired up in celebration of Atlantis’ twenty five years in lucha libre. Matches that are booked with the sole purpose to celebrate or commemorate tend to come off as exhibitions. I feel like the issue holding back the ’91 and ’97 matches from hitting that next level was that they lacked a sense of importance or legitimate intensity. Given the setup for this one, it appeared as if it would suffer from the same issue at least as much as the prior two matches if not far more so.

The first two falls have a lot to like. Fall one is essentially Atlantis and Panther working their maestro match and working it at a high level. The pacing, quickness, and quality of offense is no worse than on the same level of what Solar and Negro Navarro were doing in their matches at or around the same time. Quick pace matches with equal parts mat work and fast takedowns have always been Panther’s forte so he shines in the first fall. Atlantis was every bit his equal. In his prime, there were few wrestlers as smooth as Atlantis and even in his 26th year as a luchador, he was still able to show flashes of that brilliance. It was the kind of fall that gets my mind racing and thinking about how I might be in the midst of watching an excellent match that I didn’t know was excellence, which is really the ultimate wrestling viewing experience.

The second fall did not do much to diminish those high hopes. It was a short fall with more rope running than the first, but all of which played to Panther and Atlantis’ strengths of quick, fluid wrestling on or off the mat. That continued into the second fall and at least at times in the third fall. All the roll ups and takedowns were spot on, as were the submissions. Panther ended the second fall with his twisting arm scissors hold that looked as awesome as always, although the referee did a poor job signaling that Panther had won the fall.

Had Atlantis and Panther done a variation of the first falls just with ramped up high spots for the decisive fall, I think this would have been a very good match. It might have even ended up as comparable to their more well-regarded matches from the prior decade, particularly if you discount just a little for age.

They hit the ropes right away to start the third with Atlantis getting the better of the exchange thanks a tope. No complaint there; Atlantis has a great tope. I am fairly sure the match is clipped at this point as they come back from a replay of the dive and suddenly both wrestlers are in the ring and selling in a way that does add up to what they have done so far. In any event, the match immediately goes into near fall mode and it just felt too soon. The transition from the work and pace of the first falls to the pace of the third fall as virtually non-existent. It threw me off somewhat and although there was good stuff in the third fall on a standalone basis, it felt like they were lacking a rhythm.

The good stuff in the final fall was largely submission related. I loved Atlantis working through an abdominal stretch, octopus hold, and full nelson (while on Panther’s back) in the same fluid sequence. The quick pinning attempts that were a highlight of earlier falls were still highlights here, although you could see both guys running out of gas by the end. We also got a Blue Panther tope in the third fall. So while all was not lost, the fall felt very disjointed to me and that was mainly because the nice tempo they established earlier in the match was disposed of in the third fall. I was more or less ready for the match to be done a couple of minutes before it wrapped up which obviously does not bode well. It wasn’t that it was a terrible fall or a bad match they just reached the point where it was clear the action was regressing rather building.

CMLL during this time period was a strange beast and this was a strange match. Atlantis was a rudo at this point and I can never get used to him wearing black and/or silver rather than his trademark blue and white. Two months after this match, Panther dropped his mask to Villano V which officially moved him from regular roster member to past-his-prime legend, at least in my eyes. I am glad we got this before both wrestlers were too old to have this type of match (i.e. something resembling their heyday work only a bit slower) but as an overall match, it was missing a quality third fall. I would have preferred they worked it all maestro style because that seemed like a good hook. Instead we got a standard 2000’s era CMLL mano a mano fall which left me underwhelmed especially compared to what they did in the prior falls.

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