Category Archives: Masked Mania

(04/27) LA Park (c) vs. Dr. Wagner Jr.

Masked Mania
2300 Arena (Philadelphia, PA)
IWL World Heavyweight Championship 

There were apparently too few title matches for championships that mean [close to] nothing on this show in order to be a true Lucha event, so this match was contested for the previously unannounced IWL World Championship held by LA Park.

It might just be a case of video footage versus seeing him live but Parka looked so much bigger than he did last May in his Todo x El Todo match versus Wagner Jr. that we seriously questioned at times if it was the same guy.  The original Parka mannerisms are rather unmistakable, however.  Parka and Wagner Jr. took turns cutting promos before the match.  I’ll admit to not having high hopes for this match.  The presences of these two luchadores helped to sell me on attending the show, but more in a “I want to grab the chance to see them live” sort of way than a “this match is going to be worth it” way.  They are getting up there in age, seemingly only wrestle one another (certainly only lose to one another), and have been known to get-by with garbagy brawls which we had just seen in the preceding trios match.  The mic work did nothing to alter that fear.  We started to get the feeling that they figured 5+ minutes of promos would excuse them from working a quick, nothing 8-minute bout.

I was pleasantly surprised therefore by the actual match.  Rather than immediately go to the brawling, Parka and Wanger delivered a match that was largely contested in the ring with solid, traditional lucha singles action.  Parka’s back breakers looked brutal in person.  Wanger’s cannonball dive off the apron was great both for its execution and unexpectedness.  Parka’s added weight made his tope look even better than usual since it is standard knowledge that fat guy topes always trump skinny guy dives.  Both guys worked really, really hard and had a very good main event as a result.

Lucha Singles | Worthwhile | Quality

(04/27) Cassandro vs. Matt Cross

Masked Mania
2300 Arena (Philadelphia, PA) 

When looking at the Masked Mania event on the whole, I think it was this match between exotico Cassandro and the [inexplicably] Spartan warrior-dressed Matt Cross that tilted the scales on the show from good to something slightly more memorable.  The first two matches featuring US indie workers were fine openers and went as expected.  Solar/Navarro was a treat, albeit with a post-match that went on a big too long and took some of the wind out of the crowd.  Perrothito was fantastic as usual but Mini Mariachi (the original Octagoncito) was not and the re-start false finish fell flat.  The post-intermission woman’s match was fine, although a bit on the long side and the second match in a row that fell flat in execution.  The show was stumbling some at this point and risking taking a full-on tumble.

The show, however, was well-booked with a virtually every lucha staple (traditional trios, comedy, mat-based, weapons trio, mini’s match, women’s match, big star main event, exoticos) present so it was always one new match with a different style away from righting itself.  I felt like the show did just that as soon as Cassandro entered the arena.

Walking the isle to Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive”, Cassandro had the entire audience in the palm of his hand before applying a single hold.  In many respects, Cassandro captures the essence of pro wrestling.  He grabs you with his look and charisma immediately and keeps you hooked throughout the entire match with equal parts wrestling ability and showmanship.

In the pre-show promotion, he worked an angle with a local Spanish language radio station disc jockey.  I am not sure I have ever seen a good DJ-pro wrestling cross cover (and God knows there have been hundreds of them) but this might have been the closest, thanks in large part to Cassandro (although the DJ held his own to his credit).  The DJ picked Cross to win, which shifted Cross’ reaction from neutral/indifferent to hated so in that regard, it was already fairly successful.

Cross was ancillary to this particular match which is a good thing because in my experience Matt Cross has never had a ton to offer in the ring.  It was the Cassandro show and he was great in the ring.  The highlights included Cassandro’s tremendously forceful tope, a painful looking shoulder bump into the guardrail, and an equally as punishing fall right onto his neck from a blocked tope rope move.  Cassandro can go and if this article is accurate in its portrayal of an unofficial ban on gay exoticos in Arena Mexico, than that is a real shame on several levels.  Cassandro certainly deserves a higher profile.

Cassandro picked up the win with a variation tope rope victory roll that came off really well.  The crowd loved the match, the ending, and the post-match when the disc jockey fulfilled the pre-match bet by giving Cassandro a kiss on the hand, which Cassandro immediately one-upped by planting one on his cheek.

In all, this was the sort of fun, heated, solidly worked match that the show was looking for at this point and a great showcase for Cassandro as well.

Lucha Singles | Worthwhile | Quality & Individual Performance (Cassandro)

(04/27) Negro Navarro (c) vs. Solar

Masked Mania
2300 Arena (Philadelphia, PA)
Maestro Championship (FMLL Masters Championship) 

The chance to see Solar and Navarro live – particularly when it became clear they were going to wrestle one another in a singles match – was the main impetus for going to Philly for the Masked Mania event. There are certain wrestlers and match ups that when given the opportunity to see live, I like to not pass it up.  Navarro vs. Solar one on one is one of those instances.

Solar and Navarro are not necessarily part of a dying breed – there are luchadores younger than them who can work a similar mat based, exchange of holds style – but they are certainly part of a rare breed.  They are also the masters of that particular style and if you are like me, you are sort of compelled to see that in person.  Thousands of matches throughout history have been promoted as “two legends in their primes going one on one”.  It is almost never true.  It is almost certainly not true in this case – both wrestlers are inarguably passed their physical primes – but this match was still pretty darn close.  They might be relatively old, but nobody of any age wrestles this match-style as well as these two do.

You know you are sold on a match when the entrances on an indie show are borderline awe-inspiring.  Solar’s traditional mask infused with a little Tiger Mask flavor was great, as was Navarro entering with a Los Traumas (his sons) style mask to Marylin Manson’s version of Personal Jesus.  Both guys are in almost unbelievable shape considering they are pushing sixty.  I think I wrote earlier this year in reference to a Negro Casas vs. Titan match that if Casas’ face didn’t give it away, you would never know who the 50 year old was and who the 24 year old was.  Well, if Navarro put a mask on it might be difficult to pick out this match as the one on the card with the two 50 year old wrestlers.  They work at such a brisk pace.  There is constant movement and constant struggle in everything they do.

The first several minutes are spent in virtual stalemate with each maestro escaping a hold or pin attempt leading to a square off.  There might have some been some trepidation that combing ECW-loving Philly wrestling fans with non-wrestling obsessed Hispanic families might lead to a disastrous reaction for this mat-based match, but any concern proved unwarranted.  I think it is a testament to both the two wrestlers certainly.  Navarro and Solar work with such a realism and their submission holds and pinning combinations are so visually pleasing that there was never really a moment where they possibly could have lost the crowd.  At the same time, I also think something can be said for the style itself which when done correctly should play well in front of most audiences.

I am not sure this was materially better than any other Solar/Navarro matches but it was definitely another great showing for the two maestros in front of a different audience than usual.  After Navarro picks up the win to retain his title, he and Solar encourage the crowd to throw money in the ring as is the Mexican tradition after a well-wrestled technical bout.  The fans are slow to pick up the strange custom, but eventually get the hang of it.  Others choose to hand paper money directly to the wrestlers.  The whole post-match money collecting took a bit long (maybe 15 minutes) but you can’t blame the guys for milking every last penny.

My dream idea for the next Masked Republic show is a one night tournament with all matches worked in this style featuring guys like Solar, Navarro, Black Terry, Skayde, Charles Lucero, and possibly others like CMLL guys (Hechicero, Virus), maybe Los Traumas given who their father is, and even guys like CIMA & Super Shisa who are working a similar style effectively in Japan every now and then.  I am so there if that happens.

Lucha Maestro | Watch It | Quality