El Hijo del Santo vs. Dr. Cerebro
February 22, 2001
Part two of the very enjoyable Dr. Cerebro and El Hijo del Santo IWRG series.
Cerebro stole a victory – and retained his IWRG Middleweight title in the process – against Santo the previous December. Santo did not return to IWRG at all in between that match and this one. In the meantime, Cerebro busied himself by engaging in a brief feud with Felino that included a Welterweight title match. IWRG billed this re-match as a Super Libre. In my experiences that term can mean many different things depending on the promotion and context. The rules of this particular Super Libre are that the referee stays out of the ring and only gets in the ring to count pin falls or award submissions. This seems to be the most common variation of a Super Libre and essentially amounts to a no-disqualification match with the added bonus of ensuring that there will not be any lucha libre referee funny business. The referee was distracted at the end of the title bout which might have cost Santo a win, so removing him from the equation in the re-match makes sense. The idea appears to be that Santo felt he was ripped off in the title match and now wants to proof who the better man is in a match that is truly one-on-one.
Although Santo would be the one of the two most likely to be hungry for revenge, it is the good doctor who gets the jump by attacking Santo before Santo has a chance to remove his cape. That decision by Cerebro to attack right away sets the tone of the remainder of the first fall. He remains in firm control of the entire fall and is really great here as an ass kicking rudo. Cerebro is vicious, mixing in his unique submission holds with old fashioned brawling. He rips at Santo’s mask and completely removes it at one point, revealing as much of Santo’s unmasked head as I can ever remember seeing. We know that Santo was very protective of the gimmick and the way he was booked – particularly later in his career – but he can rarely be accused of not trying his best to make an opponent look good. He bumps all over the place for Cerebro, including taking his signature head first bump into the turnbuckles. Cerebro’s opening fall offense looked so good at least in part because Santo took it all like a champ.
Dr. Cerebro capped off his dominating first fall performance by getting Santo to give up to the La Cerebrina. That is a great hold period, but whenever Cerebro applies it to Santo – in this match or in the other matches in their series – there seems to be some extra struggle to it. I don’t know if that is Cerebro’s own struggles or if Santo is not cooperating as much as he could, but the struggle adds a lot to the presentation. The reward at the end is an incredibly painful and precise submission hold, so seeing Cerebro stumble while applying it feels apropos. A submission like that shouldn’t be easy to apply.
The second fall starts with the rudo still in control like always. The first two minutes of the fall are much of the same from Cerebro – submissions, brawling, and mask ripping. By the time Santo lands a signature knee lift to being his comeback, Dr. Cerebro has been in firm control for more than seven minutes (the entire length of the match). Santo’s comeback feels well-earned and deserved as a result. It is a classic El Hijo del Santo comeback – tope, post ramming, revenge mask ripping, and some spirited wrestling in the ring as a set up for the camel clutch. It takes Santo roughly two minutes to complete the comeback which was an adequate amount of time. It didn’t feel rushed.
Dr. Cerebro starts bleeding from underneath his mask in the second fall. By early in the third fall his white mask is drenched in blood. This is probably as good of a time as any to mention that I think Dr. Cerebro had an all-time classic mask – white with thick black circles around the eyes and a cartoonish brain on top – and it is a shame that he didn’t get to wear it longer. When the mask is ripped and covered in blood, Dr. Cerebro looks every bit of the crazily scary doctor he is supposed to be.
Santo gets quite a bit of offense in the third fall, mixing in submissions and other high impact stuff, including a wild top rope to the floor plancha. Santo spends a lot of the third fall on offense and when the blood covered Cerebro does make his comeback via a tope suicida, it does have the feeling of a babyface comeback in some respects. I can see that turning people off but it didn’t bother me given that Santo needed to make a strong comeback in order for Cerebro’s eventual victory to have greater meaning. Most importantly, Santo’s offense during this period is both energetic and varied.
After Cerebro’s tope, they go into back-and-forth near fall mode. The referee does a good job the entire match, but particularly in this time in being quick to count pin falls while adhering to the stipulation that he should only get in the ring when needed. He readies himself to climb into the ring when a submission or pin attempts appears imminent, but doesn’t get in to early. You really feel confident that the guy is going to perform his duties well and that is rarely the case with lucha referees. The fact that he does such a good job at doing his job (ie. staying out of the way) makes his role in the ending not only tolerable, but impactful as well. The near fall section is strong and provides the third Santo dive of the match, the Topé de Cristo. It looks awesome as always. Cerebro continues to bump around like mad during the final frame. The best example of that is the way he eats an outside the ring post shot face first after Santo moves out of the way.
Despite getting in some offense and some near falls late, the momentum remains in Santo’s favor the entire fall. When he nails a picture perfect top rope tope late in the match, it feels like things could be over. It’s a big enough move to finish the match and Cerebro has already withstood more than enough punishment. The referee enters the ring with impeccable timing, counts to two, and Cerebro’s frantic kick out sends Santo flying onto the referee. It’s a tired referee bump spot but I liked it hear for the reasons previously mentioned. The referee did do a good job staying out of the ring as he was supposed to so it is a good kind of frustrating that one of the ref’s few in-ring appearances ends up costing Santo. The referee doesn’t sell the bump like he is out, only that it hurt his back a little. Cerebro takes quick advantage of the situation, kicks Santo low, and covers Santo to pick up his second straight victory against his legendary opponent.
The match accomplished everything he needed to accomplish. The brawling and blood turned the heat up on the feud and served as a successful transition from the technical title match to the upcoming mask match. Both wrestlers received time to shine. Cerebro’s win off of a foul did make him appear weak as much as he appeared opportunistic. He also overcame much blood loss to even get to that point. Santo had a legitimate – though relatively minor excuse – for losing, just like he had in the title match. Plus, he’s El Hijo del Santo . . . he can afford a couple of losses. The stipulation was adhered to and made a difference in the match. While not a transcendent setup brawl, it was a very good one. By the end of this Super Libre, there was more than sufficient fuel and anticipation for a mask match which was the entire reason for its existence in the first place.
Through two matches, the Dr. Cerebro versus El Hijo del Santo feud is batting 1.000.