El Hijo del Santo vs. Dr. Cerebro
March 1, 2001
Mask vs. Mask
If you read my reviews of the first two Dr. Cerebro and El Hijo del Santo matches, you know that I thought very highly of them and the way the feud was built in general. The build was as standard and effective as you can get, going from a technical title match to a contentious super libre to an apuesta match for the blow off. The rudo Dr. Cerebro was the underdog and as such, won the first two matches to force this high stakes finale with the legendary Santo. The title match was a technically wrestled, highly entertaining MOTYC. The super libre was a bloodbath and extremely effective in moving the feud forward to a place where a mask match blow off felt like the only appropriate end.
While the feud is blown off exactly how it should have been in this match, from a quality standpoint the mask match is fairly clearly the weakest of the three bouts that comprise the trilogy.
They work the match at a halfway point of the styles that defined the first two fights. The match is neither a classic lucha title style match like the first nor is it a bloody, violent brawl like the second. It is somewhere in between and I don’t think that’s a good place for any match to be nonetheless a mask match. Ideally the match should have been both prior matches compressed into one match – a slow, simmering build that erupts into a violent brawl and ends with a dramatic run of near falls. Instead they met in the middle. The match had mat wrestling and a focus on submissions, but it was not the technical masterpiece of the title match. There was some brawling and intense moments, but no blood and the intensity never reached the same level as the super libre. A mask match should be an epic blow off one way or the other. Instead they worked a match that felt downright mediocre compared to the two matches it followed.
There is also something off about Santo’s performance. He seems lethargic and downright uncooperative at points. I do think that some – if not all – of that might have been intentional. I think they might have been going for a gritty, submission intensive apuesta match like Ciclon Ramirez/Felino rather than trying to follow up their super libre with an even bloodier brawl. That’s all well and good but it didn’t click. And even if that was the intention, the manner in which Santo wrestled did not make for an entertaining match. He didn’t feed Cerebro on several submissions – one that Cerebro eventually had to bail on – and didn’t put Cerebro over in the same manner he put him over in the first two matches. Santo wasn’t bad here. His offense was great as usual and there were moments that his performance matched the stakes. There weren’t nearly enough of those moments, however, and far too many moments where it came off like he was working a random match with no stakes at all.
When I watched it the first time a while back as a standalone match I enjoyed it a lot. I think it works better as a standalone match because the lack of context allows you to make up why the match is worked in a straight up manner rather than worked as a brawl. I mentioned the Ramirez/Felino match as one example, but there are plenty of other examples of quality mask matches that never became an all-out brawl. Watching it without the context of the lead-in matches you see a perfectly acceptable straight-laced match where Santo did not bring his A-game. With the context of the feud, you see a match that isn’t as exciting as the title match and not nearly as heated as the super libre. I am not saying that the match needed to be a brawl or needed to have blood in order to succeed, but you can’t work the match they worked with the build they did and expect it to resonate.