Category Archives: March 2014

Catch Up Post #1: The Lucha Edition

(03/02) Charles Lucero vs. Silver Star (Monterey)
(06/22) Charles Lucero vs. Silver Star (Monterey)
(07/05) Charles Lucero vs. Black Terry (Monterey) 

Just realized I never wrote about the first match in March, so let’s get this catch-up going with a triple dose Charles Lucero!

All three of these matches are of course from Monterey.   The Silver Star matches are more or less one-man performances by Lucero.  Utilizing his signature blend of traditional and visually pleasing lucha match work, Lucero leads Silver Star through a pair of enjoyable title matches.  To be fair, Star does keep up fine and I enjoyed his fat-masked-wrestler dives in both matches, but Lucero is the one doing the heavy lifting.  The first match was the slightly more enjoyable one for me although one is not significantly better than the other.  Lucero’s appeal lies more in the style he works (a throwback mat-based lucha style) than anything else.  I wouldn’t put him the same class as Negro Navarro or Solar in terms of great lucha maestros but if you like that particular style you will like these matches.

The Black Terry match from the LuchaMania show was solid, but fell a bit shy of my admittedly lofty expectations.  The mat work was probably what disappointed me the most.  You anticipate a match like Terry/Lucero for the mat wrestling.  The mat work we got largely felt rushed and perfunctory.  By comparison, the mat work in Solar vs. Negro Navarro from Masked Mania in April came off as more high-level than the work here.  The match is just a tick over ten minutes though and there is still plenty of good stuff though (including a wicked top rope brainbuster by Lucero) so it’s worth a look.

(05/02) Jack Evans & Angelico vs. Daga & Steve Pain (AAA) 

Jack Evans and Angelico can be somewhat hit-or-miss.  They rely on strong high-flying offense, charisma , and selling while trying to get by on what is generally very weak non-flying offense.  As long as they (and their opponents) can downplay that big, glaring weakness they can get by.  On the occasions when they wrestle a match where that lack of “other” offense isn’t as egregious as it can be, than good things can result.

In this match – opposite two solid, well-rounded wrestlers in Daga and Steve Pain – Angelico & Evans click which produces very solid results.  Their flying is there as always, but everything in between is much better.  They pull off some cool double teams, including a very neat double team block/transition move that is worth checking out.  Daga and Pain are able to keep up when it is there time to control as well.  Pain is on in this match, landing a great dive to go along with other solid offense.  The resulting match is fast paced but well-structured and a very fun tag match.

(05/11) Ultimo Guerrero vs. Tiger Ali (Toryumon) 

When matches from DragonMania – Toyumon’s big annual event(s) at Arena Mexico – showed up online, I watched it out of that sick, irrational need to watch anything that is rare or different.  There were no matches that really intrigued me but that didn’t matter.  I have an insatiable thirst for variety in wrestling.  Tiger Alit – a Brit moonlighting as an Iranian heel – wrestling Ultimo Guerrero in Arena Mexico for the Toryumon Copa Mundial quenched that thirst.

Too bad the match was terrible.

Ali – who I have seen look competent in both M-Pro and in the UK – was no good here.  He went too overboard with the evil foreigner shtick and even if he hadn’t, he was any good at the basic evil foreigner stuff.  UG did not seem to have any desire to even attempt to right the quickly sinking ship that was this match.  I can’t say that I blame him.

(07/11) La Sombra vs. Shocker (CMLL) 

Shocker’s shockingly (!) great year continues when he and Sombra go mano-a-mano as part of the build towards the Negro Casas/Rush hair match.

Shocker takes a beating in this one, absorbing Sombra’s offense in a way that makes all of it look really impactful.  He spends the first fall and a half both getting his ass kicked and his ego bruised by Sombra who doles out the offense and takes plenty of time to gloat about it as well. During one such gloat, Shocker shakes out the cobwebs and with his fist clenched, he nods at the crowd as if saying “enough is enough.” He fires back and takes the second fall with some fine offense of his own.

The third fall is very good.  Both guys work stiff and show off some of the better stiff, high-impact work you will see in CMLL this side of Rush & Casas.  Shocker has – and has always had – a beautiful tope.  Sombra’s double knee stomp in the corner that he is doing a lot these days looked awesome here.  He needs to go back to Japan (tag league in December with Rush?) and bring that move with him.  Shocker has victory in sight after one top rope elbow drops and decides to try for a second one for good measure.  This draws out Rush to save his partner, but he is attacked from behind by Casas before he can get involved.  The distraction is enough, however, to allow La Sombra to foul Shocker and get a roll-up victory.

Good match and more good build towards the Rush/Casas hair match.

(07/19)  Negro Casas & Shocker vs. Rush & La Sombra (CMLL) 

The prior week’s singles match sets up this CMLL Tag Team Championship match and it’s a doozy.  In a year that has been relatively weak on tag team matches, this match stands out above the rest.

Sombra and Rush come over dressed for the match in suit coats and dress shirts.  For good measure, Sombra once again sports a black fedora on top of his black and white mask.  It’s an incredible look.  The first two falls are not as useless as they sometimes are and set the tone (read: intense hatred between the two teams) quite well.  The third fall, as it often is, is where the action is at.

The third fall is a whirlwind of hard-hitting moves, furious saves, and intensity.  It is controlled chaos at its finest.  Sombra is fantastic in his current role.  He is fully committed to playing the part of the brash, borderline aloof but nonetheless nasty rudo.  His taunt of lying between the second and third rope as if it were a hammock makes you want to slap the fedora right off his stupid masked head.  Rush and Casas are fantastic against each other as always and Shocker appears to be working extra hard these days.  He’s seeing the results of his work as well with a lot of quality matches to his name in 2014.  This match clicked on most all cylinders producing one of the finest tag matches of 2014 I’ve seen so far.  If that wasn’t enough it served the additional role of building up the August 1st Rush vs. Casas match in an effective manner.

This is one that is worth seeking out.

(07/20) Dr. Wagner Jr. vs. LA Park vs. Mascara Sagrada vs. Pirata Morgan vs. Hijo de Dos Caras vs. Demon Clown (IWRG) 

How many luchadores does it take to pull down a title belt hanging from the ceiling?

Trick question.  Going off of this match, it takes six luchadores and one referee.  Even then, that does not quite get the job done.

IWRG brought in an impressive array of talent to compete in a six-man ladder match for the IWRG Heavyweight Championship that was vacated (mercifully) by Vamprio earlier this year.  Name value alone, however, could not save this one from itself.

The match begins – as most matches involving Parka and Wagner do – with longwinded promos.  When things get underway, the match inoffensively meanders about for a bit.  As it reaches the middle stages, Parka takes some big time bumps on some okay looking moves.  It might be enough for you to let your guard down and think, “Hey, this isn’t so bad after all.”  Don’t be fooled.

Ladders aren’t made for the big bodies of LA Park, Demon Clown, and Wagner Jr. to climb and land on.  After some ladders-as-weapons spots and some climbing, the two ladders in the match are so destroyed they are rendered useless.  Someone retrieves a normal one-sided ladder from . . . somewhere . . . and the referee holds it up so the wrestlers can climb.  The match falls apart at this point as it becomes more about getting through it than putting on any resembling a good wrestling match.

At last – with both the referee and Pirata Morgan steadying the ladder – Hijo De Dos Caras climbs the backup ladder and retrieves the title belt to win the match – only, not quite.  Dos Caras gets his hands on the belt but as hard as he pulls, the darn thing won’t budge from the rope.  Time virtually stands still as Dos Caras desperately trues to unhook the belt by tugging on it.  He losses grip of the ladder at one point, leaving his feet to comically dangle above the mat as he holds onto the title belt for dear life.  Demon Clown props Dos Caras on his shoulders (nice save) but the stubborn title belt still won’t fall down.  The other wrestlers attempt to help, all the while giving a half-ass attempt at pretending to continue the match.  Eventually, Dos Caras and the belt fall to the mat, with Dos Caras being declared the winner immediately upon impact.  The entire ordeal – which lasted far longer than one might assume – made for quite the scene.

If you are into train wrecks, well, than this is your match.

(07/21)  Ultimo Guerrero, Euforia & Niebla Roja vs. Atlantis, Valiente & Volador Jr. (CMLL) 

Los Guerreros defend their CMLL World Trios championship versus the makeshift tecnico squad of Atlantis, Valiente and Volador Jr.  The title match is more than a booking device to further the yet-to-be-resolved issue between Atlantis and Ultimo Guerrero, although it does serve that purpose.  It is one of those fun, easy-to-watch CMLL trios matches that makes you think “why can’t they all be this good?”.  Atlantis hits a pair of topes, the second of which is part of a well-timed (and well filmed) string of topes by all three tecnico team members.  Los Guerreros pull out some fun double and triple teams including a great alley-oop on the ramp onto both Valiente and Volador.

Not a match that is necessarily going to stand out amongst the pack, but I thought it was in the upper tier of CMLL trios match from 2014 to date.

(07/29) Titan vs. Cavernario (CMLL) 

It has been twenty years since a pair of 19 year-olds named Rey Mysterio Jr. and Juventud Guerrera wowed lucha and worldwide wrestling audiences with their matches in the AAA promotion.  At 20 and 22 years old, respectively, Cavernario and Titan are a bit older than Mysterio and Guerrera were in 1994 but their ability to have such a strong singles match versus one another at such a young age compares favorably to what Rey and Juvi managed to do twenty years prior.

Titan looked like one of – if not the – most impressive high flyer in the world in this one.  He pulls off some extremely high level of difficulty moves with relative ease, including a tornado DDT spot that needs to be seen to be appreciated.  Cavnerario is less flashy than Titan as expected – they are not the same style of wrestler.  However, his tope rope splash looked equal parts impressive and terrifying as usual and he bumped/caught all of Titan’s offense with impressive precision.  While these two are certainly not as ground-breaking as 1994 Juvi and Rey were, it would not be a stretch to state that they are more polished than either of those two were at a similar stage in their careers.  This match is by no means a spot fest or collection of moves.  The two young luchadores bridge effectively from move to move and sequence to sequence, choosing their highspots efficiently and effectively.  They smartly toy with the standard lucha title match formula in order to work to their respective strengths, opting for a tad less mat work in the first fall and a much longer second fall than normal.

As far as lucha singles matches go, this one is up there with the best from 2014.  Well worth a look.

Round Up

Must Watch:  Titan vs. Cavernario; Rush & La Sombra vs. Negro Casas & Shocker
Watch:  Jack Evans & Angelico vs. Daga & Steve Pain
Worthwhile:  Ultimo Guerrero, Euforia & Niebla Roja vs. Atlantis, Valiente & Volador Jr.; Charles Lucero vs. Silver Star (x2)
Common:  Charles Lucero vs. Black Terry
Skip:  IWRG Ladder Match; Tiger Ali vs. Ultimo Guerrero

(03/08) Taiji Ishimori (c) vs. Daisuke Harada

Ariake Coliseum (Tokyo, Japan)
GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship 

I often disagree with Dave Meltzer’s match opinions and ratings.  However, I almost always can see where his opinion is coming from and more times than not, our opinions on match quality are within the same realm.  When it comes to Taiji Ishimori’s GHC Junior Heavyweight title defense against Daisuke Harada from March of this year, like usual I can see why Meltzer likes the match.  I just don’t share the same opinion in the slightest.

Piecing together Dave’s comments on the match, it seems that the creativity of some of the moves and spots, as well as the fast pace, appealed to him.  There certainly were some big time moves, some of which I thought were well-executed particularly in the sections that proceeded the stretch run.  Ishimori is backed off by the official early in the match when Harada spills to the outside.  Ishimori appears to comply, backing into the far corner of the ring.  Once the referee moved an inch out of his way, however, Ishimori sprinted across the ring, dove over the opposite ring post, and laid out Harada with an impressive flip dive.  The crowd reacted in awe of the sudden burst.  It was an effective spot because it came off like a real risk and came out of nowhere, which provided the match with an extra little spark and sense of importance early on.

Meltzer also made mention on Twitter that Ishimori and Harada re-enacted the Sakuraba & Nakamura knee spot from 2013’s Tokyo Dome show.  In the original match, that spot saw Sakuraba react to Nakamura shooting in on him the way he might in a shoot fight – with a quick and brutal knee strike to the temple.  The move looked so good that it looked like it could have legitimately knocked Nakamura out cold.  In this match, the diminutive champion charges at the challenger only for Harada to stick his knee up and catch Ishimori with it in the face.  The move generated oohs and has from the crowd and looked good to boot.  On a standalone basis, I thought it was a good move and it did serve as a transition into the near fall section.  Unfortunately, the stuff that came afterwards paled in comparison.

Where the match fell short – significantly short – for me was that its appeal was all in the quickness and creative moves.  That is rarely enough to sustain a match, let alone a 20-minute one.  There wasn’t a lot of substance beyond those two elements.  The crowd was into the match but not overly so.  There was not much in the way of dramatic near falls.  The story being told wasn’t overly compelling and at times (particularly down the stretch) it felt like move after move after move.  I saw thought it was a bit too much in terms of moves, including a DVD on the apron mid-match that really led nowhere.  All of that left me a bit underwhelmed.

I will also say that I was not as impressed with the creativity in the match.  I don’t watch a lot of Ishimori but I still didn’t see much that I have not seen from him before, none of which I ever found terribly impressive.  I am all for new moves, creativity and innovation, but it goes without saying that it has to be good new moves, good creativity, and good innovation for it to have any value.  I am not sure that was the case in this particular match.

Juniors | Common | Hype & Title Switch

(3/21) Rush vs. Shocker

Arena Mexico (Mexico City, Mexico)
Hair vs. Hair

This was an awesome hair match with both Rush and Shocker bringing tons of intensity and violence to the table.

I love Rush’s angry lockups to start things off. How he jumps into the lockup gets over the stakes of the match and rivalry right away without coming off like it is forced. Rush is always intense and stiff but he really ramps it up an extra notch here. He jumps and stomps on Shocker with complete abandon to the point of cutting up Shocker around his left eye. The corner dropkick was delivered with his usual intensity and just everything he did was appropriately and justifiably violent. Shocker doesn’t always wrestle with the same level of stiffness and anger that Rush does, but he stepped up here as well with some stiff clotheslines and other offerings. Most of all, he took a heck of a beating.

The mirror endings to the first two falls were great, as was Shocker opening up the second fall by trying to steal straight falls with the same move that won him the first. The dueling topes near the start of the match looked great with Shocker maybe even one-upping Rush in that regard.

Wrestling is all about context and while a German suplex on the ramp might have my eye-rolling in a different match, the one Shocker delivers here worked perfectly given the style they were working and what was at stake. I think my favorite part of the match was the immediate aftermath of the ramp suplex. Shocker sits up with this half-glazed over, half “yea, I just did that” look in his eyes. When he stands up you can see the cut below the eye and how one side of his singlet is ripped. If Rush driving his boots into Shocker’s head with no regard for his well-being didn’t give you the message, than that scene surely drove home the point that this match was a war.

The near fall section was good. The back-and-forth big move finales that populate big singles CMLL matches these days work much better with the hard-hitting style Shocker and Rush wrestled as opposed to – for example – the big high flying move style that a La Sombra and Volador Jr. work. Rush’s senton is great and if it weren’t for his corner dropkick, it would be my favorite move of his.

This was wrestled like you feel a hair match should be wrestled and the execution was pretty darn good to boot. An excellent match all the way around.

Hair vs. Hair | Must Watch | Quality & Hype

(03/23) Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Bad Luck Fale

New Japan Pro Wrestling
Hyogo Beikomu Gymnasium (Hyogo, Japan)
Finals of the 2014 New Japan Cup tournament

Perhaps lost in all of the bitching from New Japan fans about how the promotion would ever dare book a “stiff” like Bad Luck Fale in the finals of the New Japan Cup, is the reality that this was a very strong match.

This was different then a lot of New Japan main events the past several years because it had to be. You could try to fit Fale into the Okada/Tanahashi or Ishii/Naito or whatever style of match but it’s probably going to fail. Or you can do what Nakamura did which is bump around the ring for Fale’s more American heavyweight friendly offense, effectively utilize the Bullet Club to run interference, and make some well-timed fiery comebacks and get a good match out of it.

I don’t dislike the Bullet Club’s interference in matches involving their members on principal. There is nothing wrong with some well-placed interference. It is more an issue of the Bullet Club’s interference generally not being very effective and subtracting from the flow of the match rather than adding to it. I thought in this match, however, the outside stuff was very effective and garnered some really strong heat.

Fale is fine working his big man, US-style heel offense so long as he doesn’t have to do much in between, which he didn’t in this one. Nakamura was very good in holding everything together. The arm bar attempts looked really good on a big guy like Fale. I wouldn’t have excepted Nakamura’s offense to work as well opposite Fale, but it did.

The big story coming out of the match was Nakamura getting busted open on an errant knee from Fale. He bled all over the place making for a rare (particularly in New Japan) visual. The match would have been fine without the unintentional blood, but is also certainly helped add to the drama and heat. The ending with Nakamura landed several Boma Ye’s was effective in leaving both guys strong coming out of the tournament.

Post-match Nakamura uses his prize for winning the tournament to challenge Tanahashi for the Intercontinental Championship in what will be the pair’s third match in about three months. So of course the same people who moments earlier were complaining about someone different (Fale) being put in the spotlight were now complaining about NJPW always running the same matches. Some people just don’t want to be pleased.

Fale looked good enough here and they put enough energy into pushing him during the Cup that they might as well give him a title match versus Okada in May. I think it could end up being pretty decent and on the same level as this strong match.

Japan Singles | Worthwhile | Quality

(03/15) Tommy End (c) vs. Jonathan Gresham

Turbinenhalle Oberhausen (Oberhausen, Germany)
wXw Unified World Heavyweight Championship

This match had a lot of hype from fans that witnessed it live and I could definitely see why. It wasn’t quite the MOTYC that some have made it out to be, but I enjoyed it quite a bit in spite of some of its flaws.

They actually billed Gresham at 5’2 or 5’3 (I don’t remember exactly which one) which in the world of professional wrestling worked heights and weights stands out for its accuracy. Poor guy really is so small – even by US indie standards – and far more solid than spectacular that you can see he would struggle finding regular gigs. He is extremely solid and well-rounded but if you are just eclipsing the five-foot mark you likely need more than “well-rounded” on your resume in order to stick out.

The bulk of the match is worked cat-and-mouse style with Gresham using his quickness advantage to get spurts of offense while End cuts him off in short order each time Gresham starts to get something going. End is hit or miss for me. I thought he was off versus Zack Sabre Jr. in January but this was a much better showing from him. His kicks generally looked good, his cut-offs were on the mark, and both guys worked a smart match. The mat work at the beginning was basic but effective. I thought all of Gresham’s dives looked good and were well placed within the body of the match.

They probably would have been better off stretching the mat work for a few extra minutes because the final few minutes of the 19-minute match got a little kick out and pop up happy. The cat-and-mouse sections worked well because you look at the two – End much bigger with a kickboxing arsenal and Gresham as the small but technically proficient wrestler – and that dynamic makes a lot of sense. Gresham taking copious amounts of punishment, shrugging it off, and hitting his own offense fits the visual expectations of this match up far less.

On the positive side, they could have gone much further with it. Like the Hero/Styles match from the following week, the match ends quickly via submission just when the match seems in danger of veering way out of control. I don’t know if sudden submission endings are turning into a new thing, but I would certainly welcome that trend on the indies over long kick-out fests.

US Indie | Worthwhile | Quality & Hype