Category Archives: May 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

(05/31) T-Hawk vs. Jimmy Susumu

Dragon Gate
Kobe Sambo Hall (Kobe, Hyoko, Japan)
King of Gate 2014 Tournament Final 

In terms of historical importance throughout the years, nobody is going to confuse Dragon Gate’s King of Gate tournament with the G-1 Climax or Champions Carnival.  The 16-person, single-elimination came off the heels of the promotion’s big Dead or Alive show and as such, felt more like a gimmick for a normal tour than a big anticipated event.  It is still 15 singles matches over a week and a half a period which is a lot for a promotion like Dragon Gate that leans heavily on tags and trios matches in its normal course of business booking.

T-Hawk’s offense – in general as well as in this match – is built around a hard knife edge chop.  In this match they demonstrated just one of the many ways you can get a lot out of such a simple signature move.  A few minutes into the match – after a fine feeling-out start – they spill to the outside.  Susumu ends up with his back against the ring spot and T-Hawk instinctively moves in for the chop.  Jimmy moves and Hawk smacks nothing but steel, which is always a great looking spot.  That one move sets in place the rest of the work for the match.

T-Hawk sells the wrist and fore arm the remainder of the match with Jimmy focusing on it at points.  Despite having the bum hand, T-Hawk continues to utilize the chops.  He is not going to drop his main weapon just because his hand and wrist are stinging.  It is hurting him – he makes that abundantly clear – but it is a pain he is going to choose to fight through rather than letting it define his strategy.  Later on when T-Hawk gains control of the match he goes right for Susumu’s hand/arm.  I loved the notion that the youngster T-Hawk remained calm and stoically sought his revenge by going all an eye an eye on Susumu.

T-Hawk’s arm revenge led us to the closing minutes of the 20-minute match where both guys were left exhausted and fighting with injured arms.  The ending wasn’t a barn burner like Dragon Gate often pulls out (for better or for worse) so I could see it leaving some people cold.  It wasn’t an ending that I thought was great, but it was perfectly effective.  Susumu has a taped up elbow which has been aggravated by the arm attack.  However, after surviving a few near falls he goes for broke by pulling off the elbow pad and landing a pair of lariats – the second of which wins him the tournament.

The knife edge chop match as always been a favorite of mine – the first 15-minutes of the “Summer of Punk” Roderick Strong vs. CM Punk ROH match is near all-time classic stuff in my book – so I liked this a bunch.  It is hard to go wrong when you a focus a match around a simple but logical premise like this one had.  It was maybe lacking a memorable ending to keep it from that next level, but I will take a match with a good body and decent ending nine times out ten.  Aside from a couple Ricochet matches and CIMA vs. Super Shisa, this is my favorite DG singles match of the year over other hyped matches like Yoshino vs. Mochizuki and Susumu vs. Flamita.

Junior Singles | Worthwhile | Quality & Tournament Final

(05/31) Super Shisa & Ryotsu Shimizu vs. K-Ness & Chihiro Tominaga

Dragon Gate
Kobe Sambo Hall (Kobe, Japan) 

Super Shisa tends to get lost in the Dragon Gate shuffle, but he shouldn’t.  Despite being on the tail-end of his career, he continues to be one of the more underrated mat wrestlers anywhere in the world.

The 2 count, 3 escape matches with and against CIMA have been impressive but it is hard to place your finger on how much of that should be credited to CIMA and/or the rules.  In a match where CIMA is not involved and the rules are standard pro wrestling fare, Shisa still impresses.  In a different environment or with more promotion, there is a good chance that many would view Shisa on the same level as other top-flight technical/mat wrestlers.

Shisa’s cohorts for this match include a relative rookie (Shimizu), a relatively inexperienced lower card guy (Tominaga), and fellow veteran K-Ness.  Shimizu and his comically oversized unibrow are very good for their experience level and the other two are capable, but Shisa is the standout.  Shisa blends the signature quickness of the Dragon Gate style with awesome submission attempts and counters.  He is beyond smooth in this match, pulling out all sorts of fun holds at just the right times.  He and CIMA are both great this style even working with guys who are less adept.  It makes me want to see him work some of the better mat guys in Mexico.  Super Shisa versus Virus has quickly shot up my own personal dream match wish list.

Junior Tag | Worthwhile | Quality & Performance (Shisa)

(05/29) Adrian Neville © vs. Tyson Kidd

Full Sail University (Winter Park, Florida)
NXT Championship 

The main event of the May NXT special was lost in the all of the – very well deserved – talk about the women’s title match and number one contender match.  At the end of the day, however, it might have been the best of the bunch from a pure quality-wrestling standpoint.

There is a slow build and then there is what might be referred to as a fast-paced slow build.  It is a borderline oxymoron but an appropriate description in this case.  Kidd and Neville run through quick back-and-forth exchanges, standoffs, and hold exchanges but in the big picture of modern wrestling it qualifies as a slow build.  They didn’t get right into the body of the match.  They used those quick exchanges to lay the foundation for the body that came minutes later.  The opening minutes of the match might have been the best part of the bout since they expertly established the roles (Kidd as the de facto heel and veteran; Neville as the flashy, younger champion) while setting up the latter stages of the match.

The two wrestlers were able to produce a few upper echelon near falls that might have outdone those in the number one contender’s match.  Neville hits all of his high flying and high impact moves in a really visually-pleasing manner but I am not sure if they are altogether spectacular enough that he will be able to survive on them alone.  Kidd is criminally under utilized in the WWE.  His high profile run on NXT and Total Divas could serve as a prelude to a role on the main roster and it really should.  He is at the point in his career where he understands the finer workings of constructing a match but still young enough that he comes off as athletically impressive and relevant.  Hopefully this will indeed lead to an expanded roe for him in WWE.

Out of the two NXT specials, this might standout as the best of the bunch but there are about a half-a-dozen choices that you cannot go wrong with.

Juniors | Worthwhile | Quality

(05/29) Natalya vs. Charlotte

Full Sail University (Winter Park, Florida)
NXT Women’s Championship

This match took place at the end of May and chronologically, it is the first 2014 women’s match I have written about.  That is largely on purpose.  For one, I had to draw the line in the sand somewhere and forgoing Shimmer, Shine, and whatever Joshi pops up online seemed like a small concession to make in order to keep myself from overdosing on current wrestling.  The secondary reason was that woman’s wrestling as never appealed to me all that much.  I haven’t given it a lot of thought why and I know some people might view that as me being unenlightened, but stylistically it is not my cup of tea.

Charlotte and Natalya’s meeting for the vacant NXT Women’s Championship was as talked about of a match as any through May.  The pre-match video package had something to do with that.  The title bout was not only treated as a big deal but it was presented in a way distinctly different from how WWE usually presents matches.  For lack of a better term, it had a “pure sports build” focused on each of the competitor’s desire to win the match and title.  Charlotte sought to uphold the Flair family name – not only for her father but for her deceased brother Reid who in a perfect world would have been the one to carry on the Flair name in wrestling.  Natalya wished to add additional support her claim as the unofficial best woman’s wrestler in the world’s top pro wrestling promotion.  It was simple but so very effective.

The match itself could be described much the same way.  While both women accomplished what they sought out to, the credit for the highly acclaimed match should go largely to Natalya.  She was the maestro here, leading the athletically gifted but inexperience Charlotte through what was a good match by any standard.  The match focused on holds in a manner totally unique in the modern WWE.  They didn’t do anything all too complicated but they didn’t need to because what they did do was so solid and effective.  Natalya brought the action up on occasion and when Charlotte’s inexperience sometimes showed itself in the form of somewhat sloppy or unpolished transitions, Natalya covered for it brilliantly.

The two wrestlers had their famous relatives in their corner, which added an extra sense of importance to the bout.  Charlotte, of course, was cornered by her father, while Natalya had her uncle Bret Hart watching her back.  Flair was really good working as a second for his daughter to the point that I think he could be a truly valuable asset as the manager for her the right person.  Bret as usual was far more reserved but his presence alone added to the big time feeling of the proceedings.

The ending was really good in that it came off like a sudden – but totally legitimate – finish.  Natalya escaped a pinning predicament.  She didn’t reserve anything but rather immediately noticed an opening and took advantage of it with a pinning combination to get the three count and win the title.  It was a different but effective (in part because of its uniqueness) finish.

In general, that is why this match worked so well and has received so much praise.  It was a different and better WWE women’s match.  It might not be in the Match of the Year discussion if we are to apply the same objective criteria to all styles of matches, but that’s okay.  It was a unique and well-executed WWE women’s match that undoubtedly stands out as one of the best efforts in that particular style.

Women’s Singles | Watch It | Hype & Quality