Category Archives: 2016

LA Park vs. Rush (Lucha Libre Elite – 07/14/2016)

LA Park vs. Rush
July 14, 2016
Lucha Libre Elite
Super Libre
*** 1/2

If there was an award for “best build up match to an apuesta match that will never happen”, Rush and LA Park would have that baby all wrapped up.

It is undeniable that part of this match’s appeal lies in the fact that this kind of match is simply not supposed to happen in Arena Mexico. Years ago, CMLL cracked down on violence in the arena and greatly restricted what can be done. You just don’t see blood, lengthy crowd brawling, or use of weapons in a really violent manner in Arena Mexico anymore, but we got all of that here (and then some). Both guys bled and its rather obvious that they both bladed. They brawl all the way from the barricade to the back of the arena at one point and enter the crowd at several points. Rush comes back from the long brawl with a heavy metal object of some sort that they toss at each other at several points. Park and Rush broke all of the rules and the fans loved them for that.

The “finish” of the match is the referee awarding the victory to Rush after Park throws the big metal box at him. Sure, throwing an illegal object at your bleeding opponent could certainly be grounds for a disqualification. There are a couple of problems with that, however. The match was billed as a Super Libre, which by its very nature infers that there are no disqualifications. Beyond that, they already threw the box at each other, threw a chair at each other, brawled all over the place, ripped up Park’s mask, and bled all over the place. The infraction that ended the match wasn’t anything worse then what they had already done. It’s obvious that the call was made to stop the match early because Rush and Park broke so many rules. The referee’s decision makes no sense as a worked finish.

The match was pretty good prior to the “finish”, but felt like it was just getting going. It wasn’t perfect. They did the spot where they walk through the crowd without really brawling and exasperated it by doing nothing once they got to the back. Rush let go of LA Park and Park literally wandered back to ringside while Rush retrieved a weapon. The match “ended” just as both were bleeding and the just as the crowd got amped up at the realization that they were seeing something special. Fortunately for everyone involved, Rush and Park made the decision to ignore the referee’s verdict just as they had ignored all the other rules that govern an Arena Mexico match in 2016. The referee left after handing down the decision, but Park and Rush kept going.

Some of the best stuff in the match comes after it is officially over. Park might have doubled in size since his heyday but he still does a mean tope suicida. He gets great air and pushed Rush right back up against the barricades. Rush adds a dive of his own later. The fans pelt the ring with garbage following the original disqualification announcement, but the wrestlers quickly get them back by not only continuing the match but bringing some great offense to the table during the postscript. I cannot remember the last time I heard an Arena Mexico crowd chant for Rush like they did here. The answer might be that they never have. The match just winds down to a stop at some point but the crowd has had their fill. Park and Rush soak in the chants (and pander for money) in front of an Arena full of elated fans. Rush grabs his hair while on the turnbuckle, a gesture that he wants an apuesta match. The atmosphere and heat were something else. It is impossible to watch this match and not want to see the apuesta match as soon as humanely possible.

And herein lies the problem with all of this. This was a tremendous build up match for an apuesta match that will likely never occur. The politics and logistics are probably too much to overcome. There exists a strong possibility that Park’s blatant violation of Arena Mexico rules in this match will knock him out of Elite/CMLL immediately. After this match, CMLL could easily fill Arena Mexico for an apuesta match between these two and it stinks that the odds are heavily against that ever occurring. As great as this match was, it is deflating to realize that we probably will not see the logical follow up.

This is a tough match to rate for a variety of reasons, not the least of which are that a lot of cool things occur after the match has technically ended. As mentioned, a lot of its appeal also lies in the fact that Park and Rush just crossed the line almost from the get-go and never looked back. This might be one of those matches that losses some its appeal out of context. All of that aside, its still an awesome brawl that drew ridiculous heat and perfectly set up a major re-match.

LA Park vs. Rush (Tijuana – 06/03/2016)

LA Park vs. Rush
June 3, 2016

Tijuana
*** 1/2

Rush and LA Park have tried to get a feud going between them for a year or so now. Cutting promos on each other, piquing fan interest in the rivalry and agreeing to work with each other haven’t been obstacles. Those things are all more or less taken care of. The obstacle has been getting someone – CMLL in this case – to go along with it, especially since that means trusting the notoriously untrustworthy LA Park to play nice. Park and Rush started working together last summer on the indies and the stuff that showed up looked as intense as you’d expect. We got a taste of the feud last fall in the build up to the CMLL anniversary show, but really that was just a single (albeit very entertaining) trios match. Like clockwork, Park burned his bridge with CMLL almost immediately and that seemed to end any hope of getting a prolonged Rush/LA Park feud in Arena Mexico.

The saving grace for this burgeoning feud has been Lucha Libre Elite and its weird position as a a promotion that is basically CMLL (same luchadores, runs Arena Mexico) but has an open-mindedness and flexibility that CMLL has rarely ever shown. Park has been back in Elite since the spring and his feud with Rush started back up almost immediately, although it hasn’t made its way to CMLL rings. Park has stuck around a surprisingly long time so far (more than three months!) so maybe there is some hope of getting something out of this feud after all.

Of course, in typical CMLL (or Elite in this case) fashion, they got beaten to the punch in running the first ever Park/Rush singles match by promoters in Tijuana. This is the very first LA Park/Rush singles matches and it is everything you would expect it to be.

The video of the match is clipped up in the way many modern YouTube lucha videos are clipped up where most of the downtime is removed. Ideally I’d like to see the full match without anything edited out so you can compare matches more easily but I am not going to complain. It is great to have these matches at all and missing out on the time in between spots is not a huge deal. I understand if it throws some people off – at times this video does play out like a highlight reel of the match rather than the actual match – but I am used to it by now. As mentioned, the only real issue is comparing a match video like this where you get nothing but action to a match where you see how the guys fill the downtime. You can’t do a direct comparison and while the heat here was good enough and Park is so great at working the crowd that I can believe the stuff in between moves was just fine, you don’t know for sure.

That aside, this is a rather spectacular brawl. Park’s mask is ripped to shreds immediately and he is bleeding heavily soon after. The match takes a couple of minutes to get going but once the blood starts flowing, it hits a groove. They hurl objects at each other but it’s in a really gritty, violent way rather than coming off like a stunt show. Rush and Park work “corner to corner” in this match. There is a lot of whipping the opponent from post to post, lots of corner charges, and lots of moves that are set up in a corner. I don’t have that was intentional but it definitely stuck out to me.

What also stuck out to me – and is sticking out more and more to me these days – is that Park is a maestro. Maybe he is not in the normal sense that word is used these days as a substitute for “great at working holds”, but he is an absolute master of the style he works. I am hard pressed to name a luchador that has done the brawling, blooding, high impact style of lucha libre longer and better than Park. He has it down to a science without it ever coming across as routine. In this match, Park works the audience at just the right times, takes great big bumps at just the right time, and moves in different directions expertly. He also works extremely, extremely hard. This is a guy that is 50 years old and is carrying around a lot of weight after a career of working a high impact style. Yet he takes a spear-like shoulder bump into the ring post and lands an awesome tope suicida like someone half his age with half of the wear and tear he has on his body. Park’s career is marred by the fact that he has turned into a bit of a flake. He is also hurt by the fact that while he was a brilliant technical wrestler earlier in his career, he didn’t get the chance to show that off as much and for as long as he could have. Despite those flaws, he is still one of the best at what he does and this match is further proof of that.

That is not to completely discount Rush who is the world’s best rudo at the moment and seems to be having a boat load of fun working against Park. He brings his usual unmatched level of intensity to the match and took to the LA Park brawling style as if it was second nature.

The finish here is a little screwy – the referee counts a pin for Rush then immediately disqualifies him – but did you expect anything else?

Overall, this is a tremendously fun match and a great first singles match from two of the most charismatic wrestlers in all of Mexico.

Explanation of G1 Picks

I submitted my picks in the Voices of Wrestling G1 Climax pick ‘em contest this afternoon. As usual with these things, I made my picks more based on what I would do rather than what New Japan might do. I know what I would do. I don’t have a clue what Gedo might do. I stick with what I know. Maybe a lot of people are thinking the same as me and I am not going out on a limb at all. I don’t know. But in any case, I put some thought into how I see this playing out so I figured I would at least explain some of the major decisions that impacted how I filled out the bracket.

In general, I did follow the usual booking pattern where most of the field is bunch up and everyone gets at least a couple of wins. I only had one wrestler with less than three wins and both blocks had at least 4 wrestlers in the mix on the final day.

************

(1) Tenzan Goes on a Run

After an angle where Tenzan was left out of what might his final shot at the G1 and Kojima gave his spot to his longtime partner, New Japan would only be telling half of the story if Tenzan gets four wins and finishes in the middle of the pack with everyone else. Maybe they still do that, but I’d like to see them go a step further and have him make an unexpected run.

I have Tenzan racking up the victories right out of the gate. I have him winning his first six matches, including a victory over Okada. Six matches in, he is 6-0 (12 poiints) which puts him two wins (4 points) above the closest competition in his bock. In my bracket, poor Tenzan tires out down the stretch and drops two matches in a row to stiff competition (Goto, Tanahashi) but still enters the final night with a chance to win his block by beating SANADA. A win against SANADA would give Tenzan the A Block title outright without the need of any additional help. Of course, his bid to win it all in his final G1 ends in heartbreak when SANADA pulls the upset

This accomplishes a few things. One, Tenzan is usually over in front of the G1 crowds and I imagine that will only increase as he sprints out of the gate. The “is he running out of steam?” story creates drama for the final day. SANADA’s win over him becomes a much bigger deal than it would be otherwise. Even though Tenzan loses in the end, New Japan can still capitalize on the momentum he will theoretically gain by running him versus Okada for the title in the fall (by virtue of beating Okada during the tournament). Most importantly, it is a tournament long storyline (which are always nice to have) that makes sense given the pre-tournament angle.

(2) A Draw for Okada and Tanahashi

I am confident that Okada and Tanahashi will both still be alive in the tournament when they face on the final night. That seems to be a given. It is the biggest match of the tournament and it should have finals implications. The problem is the path forward isn’t as clear.

If Tanahashi wins that should set up a title match and I really don’t believe it would be in their best interest to go that route again so soon. Not because I think the matchup is stale necessarily, but more because I think it becomes a bigger draw the longer they wait to do another title match. I guess Tanahashi could beat Okada without any follow up but that logic gap bothers me. I can’t see Okada entering the final day without a chance to win the block, which means if he beats Tanahashi, he is probably winning the block. I don’t like the idea of the champion losing to his future Dome opponent in the finals nor do I really think they will have the champion win the tournament.

In other words, I needed a scenario where Tanahashi and Okada are both alive the final day but neither advance to the finals. There are ways to do that other than a draw (for example, Tanahashi could win but someone else could win later to bump him out of the finals) but I like the draw idea. It has been several years since the G1 has had a draw and this match feels like a good time to do one. It would also give the promotion a memorable match on the Block A semi-final show which is something they focused on last year.

The way my blocks work out, I would have the draw in the semi-main leaving Marufuji versus Goto in the main event to decide the Block A champion.

(3) Setting Up Title Matches 

Some singles title matches always fall out of the G1 so I took that into account when beating the singles champions (Okada, Elgin, Shibata).

Okada’s losses are to Marufuji on the first night, Tenzan midway through the tournament, and Ishii. As mentioned above, I see the Tenzan title match as obvious when paired with the angle of him making a run before losing steam. I’d also do that Marufuji title match in the fall sometime. I sort of like the idea of running that match in NOAH as a way to try and draw a bigger house. An Ishii/Okada match would obviously be intriguing but even if they don’t do the title match it still make sense for Ishii to be one Okada’s losses. It’s a guy he can realistically lose to and there is a ready-made reason for no follow up (the fact that they are stablemates).

I have Elgin losing to Yano, Naito and Omega. There is not much of a point in running a Yano/Elgin title match but obviously the Omega win would set up a re-match of the recent ladder match.

Shibata loses to Elgin, Naito, and on the final night Evil. I could see either Elgin or Naito being a Dome opponent for Shibata assuming he is still the Open Weight champion come January. Elgin could drop the IC title back to Omega and then challenge Shibata. There are no impediments to running Naito/Shibata. Shibata is getting a sustained push for the first time now and I think his ascent is coming, so I wanted to protect him some by having his two losses be to two pushed guys who would make sense as big opponents for him down the road. Evil feels like a throwaway fall opponent. In any event, I see Shibata being in the running to the final day which necessitates that Evil beats him to keep out of the finals.

(4) What to do with Marufuji (and Nakajima)? 

Although not so much recently, New Japan has in the past pushed outsiders hard in the G1 (Takayama, Akiyama, Kawada, Kojima) and I think Marufuji will get that treatment. I toyed with the idea of putting him in the finals but decided against it because ultimately I think New Japan looks to spotlight their guys first and foremost these days. I have Marufuji beating Okada to set up a title match. I also have him in the main event of the A-Block final round robin show where a win versus Goto would get him to the finals. He finishes with 12 points (tied for most in the Block with Tenzan and Goto) but finishes third on tiebreakers.

I gave Nakajima 5 wins (10 points) which might be one too many, but in any case I think he ends up in the large middle pack these tournaments usually have. I don’t see the point in bringing him in rather than using one of their own guys if he is only going to win 3 matches, so 4-5 feels right.

(5) Hirooki Goto – G1 Climax Champion?

There is not an obvious G1 winner this year. So I decided to take a risk and pick the guy I would pick. The guy I would pick is the one who makes for the most interesting story AND has some level of upside (sorry, Tenzan). And that guy is Goto. I already know this decision is going to kill my bracket but with no obvious winner, I decided to go with how I would book it based on how things have been booked so far this year.

Goto lost to Okada in a title match in February. In Match, he finished runner up in the New Japan Cup tournament for the second straight year, this time losing to Naito in the finals. Goto has a history of coming up short in big matches, particularly in IWGP Heavyweight title matches. The the story that Goto needed to do something different to get to where he wanted to be was pushed pretty hard. That something ended up being accepting Okada’s offer to join Chaos. Since then, Goto has done suspiciously little. He joined Chaos – the group that is led by the IWGP Heavyweight champion – because he kept coming up short in his attempt to win that title. That set up is rife for tension and I decided to go with the idea that New Japan will bring that to a head starting with the G1.

I have Goto have an inauspicious tournament. He loses to Ishii early, to set up a fun match for the briefcase prior to the Dome. He loses to Okada yet again and also comes up short against Tanahashi. He takes care of business elsewhere but enters the final night as a long shot to win his block. He needs SANADA to be Tenzan. Goto needs to take care of his own business by defeating Marufuji. Most unlikely of all, he needs Okada and Tanahashi to draw. I like the idea that nobody suspects Goto to win going into the final day but when the dust clears, he’s the last one standing.

This sets up a Goto vs. Naito final which is a re-match of the New Japan Cup finals. I liked that symmetry and I also think it’s a sensible finals pairing. Naito has had a breakthrough year as the promotion’s top heel he should be in the finals. Naito and the Ingobernables have feuded rather extensively with Chaos so there is some history to it. It creates a scenario where Okada backs Goto to keep his current arch enemy out of the G1 match, knowing full well that an uncomfortable situation will be created if Goto does indeed get the Dome show title shot.

Goto wins and suddenly finds himself one step away from achieving his ultimate goal yet again. Only problem is that he has gotten there on Okada’s side and now has to face him. That unspoken tension – Goto siding with the IWGP Champion in order to improve so he can become champion – finally comes to the surface. I think its an interesting story and with no obvious opponent for Okada in January, seems as good as anything else.

Obviously that is all fantasy booking and what I would like to see happen, not exactly how Gedo has historically booked. Goto/Okada is not a huge money match nor would it create a new star. Most recent Tokyo Dome main events have been one or the other, if not both. Short of Shibata vs. Okada – which would be a major marquee match but Shibata seems a year away from a G1 win – this is as good as anything else. If nothing else, that match would payoff a year-long storyline and could draw if the latest turn in the story resonates with fans.

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
CMLL
*** 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
CMLL
*** 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.