Texano vs. Ricky Santana
September 30, 1994
Hair vs. Hair
CMLL stretched its anniversary celebration out over two weeks in 1994. The first week saw Mocho Cota drop his hair to Negro Casas in a match that some people love and others don’t. I haven’t written a review for that match yet, but my opinion on the match probably falls somewhere in the middle of those two extremes. I thought it was fine but not a great Casas match, well below the Fiera hair match from the year before, and not appreciably better than this run-of-the-mill Casas hair match. The match also didn’t draw (reportedly 4,000 fans were in attendance at Arena Mexico). CMLL did a better job (in all facets) the following week as they drew 9,000 on September 30th for a card headlined by a pair of hair matches – Scorpio Jr. vs. Silver King and Texano vs. Ricky Santana.
The latter was the main event of the show and in my opinion, the best of the three 61st Anniversary hair bouts.
The Cota/Casas bout gets praised – it would seem – in part because it checked the boxes on what a lot of folks look for in a good pro wrestling bout (lucha or otherwise). Casas sold really well, Cota’s attack was focused, and the match told a straight forward and easily digestible story. I don’t necessarily disagree with any of that. My problem was that the match was it was particularly exciting. Total match time was 21:34. That’s a long match in general and really long for a single fall. Cota’s offense – while focused – wasn’t all that engaging and if not for Casas being so over, I am not sure they would have been able to keep the crowd. Straight-forward storytelling and limb work is great, but only if creates an interesting match.
What the shortcomings of Cota/Casas have to do with Texano/Santana is that the latter bout also opted for a straight forward approach. Although CMLL put up a “Primera Caida” graphic after the opening whistle, there is only one fall here. That was probably a smart decision as I can see how running a trio of 3-fall hair matches over an eight day period could be tricky. Unlike the Casas bout there is blood here (Texano’s) but not a ton of it. Texano and Santana don’t really brawl and there is far less biting in the entire 20-minutes than there is in the first five minutes of a Satanico hair match. One guy gets in the majority of the offense while the other refuses to go down without a fight. The heat is good, but nothing great. The presentation is rather straight forward.
The reason I prefer this straight forward match over Casas & Cota’s straight forward match is that Texano & Santana do a much better job in creating a match that stays interesting while working within a relatively mundane structure. There are two reasons for that: (1) the choice to have the rudo (Santana) fight from behind for the win and (2) Texano’s excellent offensive performance.
When I write that the match was “straight forward” in its presentation, that comes with the relatively significant caveat that the good guy took much of the match which obviously is not the norm. Texano is ahead most of the match and it is his rudo opponent that gets the occasional comeback before stifled. It is also Santana who staves off defeat time and time again even when it looks to be a formality. Such a brazen flipping of the norms could be an issue, but it wasn’t here. There is no denying that Santana is the bad guy. He begs off when he gets in his trouble (he does not valiantly stand up to Texano). The Puerto Rican takes shortcuts when afforded the opportunity, like when he posts Texano on the outside. Equally as important is that Texano is the clear-cut fan favorite. The crowd is behind him. Its Texano that bleeds, not Santana. Santana’s quick comebacks led to fired up comebacks from Texano (who hits a pair of topes in the match). The match is an excellent example of a tecnico controlled match that doesn’t make the rudo look sympathetic. The match was far more interesting to me simply because the tecnico remained in control than it would have been had Santana worked him over for twenty minutes.
Which leads into the second point – Texano was an offensive machine in this match. It is impossible to imagine that Santana could have brought the same level of high-level, varied offense to the match had he controlled the pace rather than Texano. I have been disappointed by very few Texano performances and this is another notch in his belt. They start the bout with almost a Riki Choshu-inspired start. They go right for the high impact stuff and Texano lands a few nice looking forearms to the face. Throughout the match he goes back to submission holds to try to put Santana away. While I am sure he repeats a couple of them, he has such a wide variety that it never feels repetitive. In addition to the two topes, Texano rolls out a top rope suplex, belly to belly suplexes, sentons, planchas, many pinning combinations and a bunch of other stuff. He’s an offensive machine here and really never slows down. The Casas/Cota match suffered in my eyes because the guy better suited to have a long stretch of offense (Casas) played defense the entire match while a guy ill-equipped to fill 20 minutes of offense (Cota) was tasked with doing just that. Texano and Santana got it right. They had to flip the script a bit to get there, but having Texano control the match was absolutely the right decision.
The body of the match set up the finish rather well. Texano can’t find that put away move and Santana reverses a move into a cradle of his own for the pin. One of my favorite aspects of traditional lucha is the idea that a well-executed hold can finish a match at any time. Texano might have been in control 90% of the match, but his inability to executed a finishing hold gave Santana a chance. Even though Santana’s win was quick, it was still earned because he had to fight off Texano for so long to get to that point. Both guys walk away looking relatively strong. Texano had the stronger performance, but Santana still gets the reward of taking his hair.
Not a classic hair match by any means, but well worth watching. Texano’s offensive output is noteworthy and the I think the unique structure will appeal to those who are perhaps a bit apathetic towards the basic hair match structure.