Category Archives: Lucha

Trauma I vs. Canis Lupus (IWRG – 09/04/2016)

Trauma I vs. Canis Lupus
September 4, 2016
Mask vs. Mask
**** 3/4

Out of haste and my excitement to watch Trauma I and Canis Lupus’ IWRG mask match on Labor Day morning, I put on the only version available on YouTube at that time – an 18 minute video uploaded by Estrellas del Ring. That particular YouTube channel records all of marquee lucha indies but rarely if ever uploads full matches. An 18-minute runtime felt right for this match and a scroll through the video to look for obvious signs of clipping revealed nothing of the sort. So I ignored the obvious warning signs – from the video the match appeared to be only one fall which was odd and they seemed to skip to the overt violence section rather quickly – and convinced myself that this was the full (or near full) match.

I only mention that because after watching Canis Lupus and Trauma I destroy one another for the full duration of the video (and still believing I had seen the full thing), I was relatively sure that it was the best pro wrestling match I had watched in 2016. It was only later in the day that after I saw in the luchablog results post that the match was 2 out of 3 falls and checked out another upload of the match that I realized the version I watched was a couple of minutes of the first fall spliced together (very seamlessly I might add) with most of the third fall. The takeaway was that I had convinced that a match I had only seen the third fall of was the match of the year. The beginning of a match – how the wrestlers set a ton for what is to come – is as important in my overall enjoyment of a match as any other element. So I think it says something that a match with almost literally no beginning still registered with me at such a high level. A match has to be special when the third fall on its own makes that big of an impression on me.

After watching the full version of the match (both the AYM broadcast version and the +LuchaTV version are full and on YouTube), it is even more clear just how special and awesome of a match this one is. Trauma I and Canis Lupus wrestled an epic and violent match that at least initially would seem to place it on the same level as other classic apuesta matches.

As I unintentionally proved to myself, the third fall on its own was full enough and strong enough as to standout. The match is going to receive its fair share of attention for the level of blood shed by Lupus during that fall. Admittedly, a couple of pictures posted by Black Terry Jr. that showed the aftermath of the blood shed was a big reason I hurried to watch the match in the first place. And yea, Lupus’ bleeds like his life depends on it and the end of the match – with the mat covered in at least one of pool of newly dropped blood – creates quite the visual. The third fall and therefore the match has to be considered a blood bath because of all the blood that was lost, but blood is not the match’s only defining characteristic. The decisive fall contains at least a couple of believable near falls and a three to four minute ending stretch that formed an indelible impression on me. That fall is not simply Lupus bleeding out while sitting on the mat. The action is well paced, violent, and appropriately dramatic.

In terms of the first falls, it was clear to me after actually watching them that as good as I thought the match was based on just the third, that fall is even better with the first two falls serving as a lead-in.

Lupus and the younger of the Trauma brothers have feuded for months now in Arena Naucalpan. This was a traditionally built mask feud and as such, the blow off match required a hot start. They accomplished that in the form of a tope suicidia from Lupus almost right away in the first fall. It was a great way to start a mask match by demonstrating explicitly that they (or at least Lupus) planned on forgoing all the usual formalities and getting right down to business. You don’t get a lot of matches that feature a tope suicida as the very first move – not now nor ever – which made the impression that this match was different and more important than the norm. Interestingly enough, the tope was the one real piece of action from the first fall that Estrellas del Ring left in their version. That indicates to me that they also saw that tope as a pivotal piece of the match.

The ending of the first fall is also pivotal, in that it makes what was already a great finish to the third fall an even better one. The Lo Negro del Negro (the Trauma brothers’ twisting leg lock submission hold) is one of the best submission holds in all of wrestling. It is the rare submission move that has a high impact and visual element to it thanks to the standing start and twist. It never fails to pop a crowd. The Arena Mexico crowd even went nuts for it when the Traumas appeared on Elite shows late last year and early this year. In the first fall, it is Canis Lupus who uses it to win. Trauma I sold his own move like the killer finish it deserves to be sold as. He flailed about in great pain before tapping quickly. Occasionally throughout the rest of the bout, Trauma I showed ill-effects from the move. Stealing your opponent’s finish might be played in some environments but it really isn’t in lucha and I think it came across like a big deal here. Lupus looked appropriately proud of himself post-fall; having taken the lead while also managing to work in a small insult as well.

In all three falls, the wrestlers balanced action outside of the ring with action in the ring. Far too many IWRG matches over the last few years have been content on being gore fests with uninspired ringside brawling filling the rest of the time. Trauma I and Canis Lupus effectively used in the ringside area to get across the violence and hatred but did not even come close to relying on out of the ring brawling as a crutch. They were in and out, never overstaying their welcome either in or out of the ring. Everything done out of the ring in the first two falls is used to escalate the violence and tension. At points in the first couple of falls the match teases a descent into an all-out ringside brawl but stops just short of getting there. So when the match finally descends into madness in the third fall – chairs and blood – it feels earned. That was perhaps the biggest difference between viewing just the final fall and the entire match. Falls #1 and #2 set up the violence of the third fall perfectly. By the time these two start whacking each other over the head with chairs, you feel like that sort of extreme action was inevitable.

IWRG has been a soulless and directionless promotion for at least a few years now. Arena Naucalpan is almost always far closer to empty than full. For the fans that do show up, IWRG gives them little reasons to invest in the matches due to booking that relies on an endless series of copas, gimmick changes, and pointless title changes in lieu of anything meaningful. So it is striking to watch this match in that context and see Arena Naucalpan virtually full and the crowd completely into the match they are watching. Trauma I is the clear fan favorite – as expected and as planned – as evidenced by the way they continually serenade him with songs and chants of “Vamos Trauma!”. The heat speaks for itself and it is clear to anyone that the crowd is invested in the outcome. It stands out even more so in the context of the generally heatless environment IWRG matches take place in most of the time in 2016.

The match reaches a crescendo in the final four minutes. By this time, Lupus is a bloody mess. Both wrestlers are sporting badly ripped masks and looking the worse for wear. The official is bumped and it was difficult not to worry on first viewing that an overwrought ending was waiting on the other side. Those worries are quickly erased. For one, the referee was actually hit hard and fell hard so they avoided the phantom ref bumps that are all to prevalent in the poorly officiated world of lucha libre. More important, however, is what the bump sets up. Lupus recognizes that he has an opening and decides to go for broke by performing the dreaded martinete (tombstone piledriver) on his opponent. The martinete is an illegal move in lucha and would be grounds for immediate disqualification if the referee saw it. Lupus performs the move swiftly and expertly, like he knows this is his one shot and he cannot blow it by wasting any time.

Perhaps the best part of this entire sequence is that after Lupus has driven Trauma neck first into the mat he does not waste any time in following up. There’s no struggle to wake the ref or anything like that. He covers with a sense of urgency and the referee – who was knocked down rather than knocked out – gets in position to count in a timely fashion. The timing makes for an excellent near fall as I totally bought the idea that Trauma could lose in this manner, with the illegal move serving to protect him to an extent. Instead, it creates a great false finish as Trauma’s foot is under the ropes.

Lupus tries again for a cover. This time Trauma (who seemingly cannot move his neck at least not without great pain) lifts his arms straight up to stop the referee’s count at two. The referee scolds him and counts further away from Trauma’s arms to avoid a similar occurrence. Trauma has no choice now but to lift his neck and shoulders off the mat, which he does while still completely conveying the idea that the martinete has doe serious and potentially permanent damage. This is hammered home further when the match briefly stops so the ringside doctor can strap a neck brace to Trauma I. All of this sets up the actual finish which sees Lupus – in an act of desperation after not being able to pin Trauma following the martinete – go to the top rope for a plancha. Trauma I might not be able to move his neck very well but he can move his legs. He lifts his knees to counter the move. Lupus quickly moves back in, but Trauma I grabs his leg and trips him. This leads to as dramatic and effective of a submission hold struggle as I can remember seeing recently. Lupus knows Trauma is looking for the Lo Negro del Negro and he also knows that if he locks in the hold, the match is as good as lost. He kicks at Trauma and swipes at him with his arms, but Trauma fights it off. When Trauma eventually locks in the move, the crowd goes nuts and Lupus reacts like his legs are snapping in half. He taps in short order, setting off an awesome celebration that begins with Trauma II and Mr. Electro elatedly leaping into the ring to congratulate the winner.

If you are skeptical of this match because the location and the participants suggest that it is just a lucha indie match and will not have the emotion and presentation of a major CMLL or AAA mask match, rest assured those fears are unwarranted. The final minutes of the match are as dramatic as either of the big Atlantis mask matches from the past two years. The scale is different – a few thousand people in Arena Naucalpan is obviously different than 15,000 in Arena Mexico – but on a relative basis the emotion and reactions to the finish are close enough to be considered the equal. So is the post-match activity. The seconds – Mascara Ano 2000 Jr. & Mr. Electro – give speeches putting over the wrestlers, as does Trauma II (in a nice touch, Trauma II was forced to watch his brother defend his mask from the crowd since he was not an officially registered second). Canis Lupus also speaks eventually, surrounded by a throng of photographers and camera men. All the while, Trauma I continues to lay on the mat as doctor’s attend to him. The attention to selling and putting over the martinete rivals any sort of selling I have seen anywhere in the world in 2016. It is only after everyone else has spoken that Trauma I is able to get up (with the help of a neck brace) and give his speech.

To top it all off, a still bloody Canis Lupus lets his girlfriend remove his mask before reportedly proposing to her while still in the ring. If that’s not pro wrestling emotion at its finest, I don’t know what is.

I am always leery of making grand claims about a match that just happened days ago. The fact that I enjoyed the match so much even when I only watched the third fall and enjoyed it even more in full a day later makes me think that Canis Lupus and Trauma I wrestled a truly special match that will stand up as such over time. I am not positive of that, but I think there’s a good chance.

For now, I feel confident stating that Canis Lupus vs. Trauma I is my favorite mask match in recent years surpassing Atlantis vs. La Sombra from last year’s CMLL Anniversary show. The match contains all the attributes of a classic apuesta match from blood and false finishes to a dramatic ending and post-match drama. This is my MOTY for 2016 as of this moment (lucha or otherwise) and will be pleasantly surprised if another match surpasses it.

Mascara Dorada, Titan & Rey Cometa vs. Canvernario, Rey Escorpion & Dragon Rojo Jr. (CMLL – 07/08/2016)

Mascara Dorada, Titan & Rey Cometa vs. Canvernario, Rey Escorpion & Dragon Rojo Jr.
July 8, 2016
*** ¾

This was a stacked trios match on paper – Dragon Rojo is the only luchador on either team that I am indifferent about – and it totally delivered in a major way. Due to the foreigners from the International Grand Prix still being around for this card and due to there being a singles match main event, these guys got pushed down all the way to the second match on the show. Everyone had their working boots on, however, possibly because the card was simulcast on New Japan World and I have to imagine that all six of these guys were gladly welcome more Japanese tours. The falls were spaced out well with the first two running about four minutes apiece and the finale getting almost nine minutes. There was no long rudo beat down (always a welcomed sight). Instead, all six got their spots in and the match flowed incredibly well from section to section. Dorada was probably the star from his team. He was his usual jaw-dropping self and seemingly unconcerned with what an injury might to do his likely very good chances at earning a WWE contract post-CWC. Dorada and Titan took huge hip tosses to the floor to set up a teased dive by the rudos. While Titan broke the fall somewhat by landing feet first and tumbling to the floor, Dorada splatted down on the arena floor back-first.

Escorpion was the standout performer on the rudo side. There isn’t a better base in Mexico right now. He was always in the right spot, took everything from his high flying counterparts as smoothly as you could hope for, and brought a high level of intensity as well (ie. slapping back and forth with Dorada). The match also benefited from the fact that Cometa and Cavernario continued their feud so it didn’t come off like a complete throw away trios match in terms of stakes. I hope their interaction and the fact that Cometa pinned Cavernario means the feud is continuing (more title matches please!) and wasn’t just a way to get Cometa a win after the hair loss. A well hit straight tope suicida is among my favorite moves in wrestling, so I absolutely loved the triple dive from the tecnico side.

All in all, this is exactly what I want from a trios match of this type. It was non-stop action, everything was timed and hit well, and it was just all-around energetic. Pretty easily my favorite trios match of 2016 to date.

KUSHIDA vs. Volador Jr. (CMLL – 07/08/2016)

KUSHIDA vs. Volador Jr.
July 8, 2016
*** ½

CMLL bringing in the foreigners for an extended period around the International Grand Prix has been a welcomed change of pace from the normal monotonous CMLL cards but I am not sure it resulted in significantly better matches & shows until this one. As mentioned in the second match trios review, normal upper card workers were pushed down the opening matches which made for a better all-around show. Then this match was easily the best of the foreigners versus CMLL guy matches, unless Elgin/Ultimo Guerrero miraculously causes me to rethink that opinion. I liked this better than the Grand Prix and thought it was an impressive resume building performance for KUSHIDA.

The way the match was worked felt like a bit of a compromise. Volador got in a lot of his big offense, but the pacing was more deliberate and the moves were more spread out than in your typical Volador Jr. singles match. Kushida mixed in some cool stuff of his own as to not be overshadowed by Volador in the neat offense department. Kushida catching Volador in a cross arm bar when Volador was attempting a spring board move was hit as smoothly as I have ever it done. I know stuff like that is a Kyle O’Reilly staple, but I think that’s the best I have ever seen that counter look. It was an appropriate capper for the first fall. This had more limb work than the usual Volador match as well, with Kushida locking in on Volador’s arm. Volador sold the arm rather well and sold it consistently, so it added a nice little thread throughout the match that Volador Jr. matches are sometimes lacking.

What impressed me the most is that the third fall went really long – almost 15 minutes – but I never thought it reached the point of near fall tedium. They did a nice job in allowing the action to continue to build and progress, rather than flat line into a row of consecutive near falls. The pre-match promise from Kushida was that if Volador Jr. won the match and retained his title, that he would give Volador a shot at the IWGP Jr. title. I am hoping against hope that wasn’t a typical grandstand challenge because based on this match and Volador’s work in the BOSJ, that’s a match I wouldn’t mind seeing on a New Japan card. Almost zero chance of this happening, but that would be a cool special attraction match for the G-1 finals at Sumo Hall. The Super J Cup will still be going on which means Kushida won’t have a new challenger yet (assuming he doesn’t lose in the first round). Volador has reason to be given a title match and just wrestled a New Japan tour in May/June, so it would seem like a good match choice assuming they want to highlight Kushida in some way at Sumo Hall.

Latigo vs. Toro Negro Jr., mask vs. mask (Cara Lucha – 05/21/2016)

Latigo vs. Toro Negro Jr.
Cara Lucha
May 21, 2016

Mask vs. Mask
** 3/4 

Cara Lucha held their first ever apuesta match as the main event of their second anniversary show at Arena San Juan Pantitlan. This was not an epic feud by any means – a trios, singles match, and tag over a five month period leading into the mask match. For an indie, Cara Lucha does really great show to show booking and they did put together a feud for Latigo and Toro Negro, but it would be a stretch to call their feud a major one.

To be fair maybe that was just my personal perception because the fans in the arena were certainly pumped. Cara Lucha crowds are generally vocal and that often manifests itself with a lot of booing. Particularly early on in the promotion’s run the CMLL and AAA wrestlers seemed to draw most of the jeers but most of the time there doesn’t seem to be much rhyme or reason. It seems like every match there are some fans that do not like one of the participants. What is interesting is that in this high stakes match there is a lot of chanting and cheering in support of each wrestler, but very few boos to be found. It was different enough from the normal atmosphere in the building that it stuck out to me.

Latigo and Toro Negro went for the slow build approach. They wrestle straight up early on which I feel usually works in apuesta matches even though it’s natural to think that heated rivals who have arrived at their “last resort” should come out guns blazing. The counter argument is that with so much on the line, you don’t want to foolishly rush into things and risk making a big mistake. That is what this start felt like to me. It maybe could have been a little more heated – tentativeness and intensity are not mutually exclusive – but it was a fine opening.

It doesn’t last long of course and the action spills to the outside in short order. Latigo wrestled the match with a white shirt, which helped when he bled all over it. The brawling on the outside was quality as were the dives that got them there.

After several minutes of brawling in and around the crowd, the crowd itself gets involved. Toro Negro got into it with the ringside fans throughout the match. At some point, the fans themselves get into it. It is a wild scene for a couple of minutes as fans have to be pulled apart and the police were called in. It does not appear any serious physical altercations took place, which is a good thing of course. For the match itself, the extracurricular activity was a mixed bag. It made a wild, high intensity match even more so. At the same time, the wrestlers understandably froze when things threatened to get out of control. When the situation calmed down enough for the match to continue in the ring, they sort of rushed to the finish. It doesn’t help the ending that the fans were distracted by what was still going on outside the ring. Taken together, Latigo’s victory came off as anticlimactic.

I wouldn’t label Cara Lucha’s first mask match as a great one but it was entertaining. I have seen far worse mask matches on far bigger cards for major promotion. The effort was there. The structure was solid and had the fight outside the ring not happened, I would imagine that the ending would have been as well laid out as the other portions of the match were.

Black Terry vs. Aeroboy, hair vs. mask (06/10/2016)

Black Terry vs. Aeroboy
June 10, 2016
Hair vs. Mask
*** 1/2

This match was promoted in Aeroboy’s hometown of Tulancingo. The idea seems to be that the local boy putting his mask on the line against a notable wrestler and frequent opponent like Black Terry would make for a bigger-than-usual main event. From thousands of miles away, I never got the impression pre-match that Aeroboy was in any danger of losing his mask. However, you never know what is going on behind the scenes. If for someone reason Aeroboy was retiring as a luchador or heading in another direction, dropping his mask in front of his hometown fans against a strong opponent like Terry would not be completely out of the question. So while I wouldn’t say there was a lot of drama and intrigue going into this one, there at least existed the possibility that there might be.

To their credit, Black Terry and Aeroboy worked a rather intense match that resulted in an overall solid apuesta match. I am ambivalent on Aeroboy for the most part. When Black Terry Jr. records an Aeroboy match, it is not necessarily a must-buy match like it is for others but I don’t just gloss over his matches like I do for some others. That said, this might be the most I have ever enjoyed an Aeroboy singles match. He gave one heck of a babyface performance. He was good on offense, but he was even better on the other side of the ball. Aeroboy bled heavily, took a beating from Terry, and screamed his head off when trapped in holds. The painful screaming added a lot of drama. That might sound like the typical exercise of finding something minute to praise about a match but trust me, it is not. At on the BT Jr. handheld, Aeroboy’s painful screams do more to get over the danger he is in than any normal level of facial selling ever could.

The structure is about what you would expect. They go at it right away and keep up a torrid pace throughout. The match is a definite brawl, as it should be. We know Terry – even at 63 – can brawl with the best of them but Aeroboy kept up. He took Terry’s punishment, threw some hard kicks that he should use more often (they will help him stand out), and wrestled with the intensity needed for this type of brawl. There were some wicked head butts and post shots as well, both of which are Terry staples.

After both guys were bloody and beaten, they went to an extended period of submission finish teases where we got Aeroboy’s screams. I thought that section of the match was strong. It didn’t get great heat or anything but it worked in the sense that the holds – Terry wrenching on Aeroboy’s arm in particular – were violent enough that they didn’t feel like a letdown after the brawl. The tough thing to get right in a match like this is following up on the great brawling section. Flashy moves or mundane submissions don’t necessarily work in that instance. I thought they got it right both in theory and in execution by following up the blood and brawling with a section where they mixed in-ring brawling and limb pulling. Likewise, Terry’s way of performing a back cracker makes the move look rough and painful in a way few others are able to convey. I didn’t mind the Canadian Destroyer too much. While that move is way overused, I thought it felt relatively natural the way they used it and in line with the rest of the match. If I had any complaint about the near fall portion it is that Terry kicked out way early (barely two) on a flash pin from Aeroboy. The move suckered me in to thinking that might be it, but Terry kicking out early killed my reaction (it didn’t get much from the crowd either). Aeroboy did eventually win with a small package. While I didn’t mind the actual move, it was kind of telegraphed and the ending fell a little bit flat as a result.

In terms of recent indie lucha apuesta matches, I have this comfortably above Latigo and Toro Negro’s mask match from Cara Lucha. That was a higher stake match on paper and felt like a bigger deal when watching it, but this match had the better work. It sounds like the upcoming Freelance/Impulso hair match will not see the light of the day which is too bad because it would be nice to compare that one to this match.