El Hijo del Santo vs. Dr. Cerebro (IWRG – 12/21/2000)

El Hijo del Santo vs. Dr. Cerebro
December 21, 2000
IWRG Intercontinental Welterweight
**** 1/2

When people talk about El Hijo del Santo’s great feuds, the discussion often focuses on his rivalries with Negro Casas and Espanto Jr. The former is notable for its length and the opponent while the latter was responsible for three of the best singles bouts of Santo’s illustrious career. Those two feuds stand out above the rest when discussing Santo’s career. He and Blue Demon Jr. never had a great match, largely because Blue Demon Jr. is not very good. The 1993 series between Santo and Heavy Metal in AAA was a very good series but not necessarily a great one because like with Demon, Santo was stuck with a clearly inferior opponent. The ’97 Felino matches are not a standalone feud as much as they are part of the Casas feud. The feud with Eddie Guerrero was more about Gringos Locos than Santo. Almost every other Santo feud I can think of has something keeping it from being a great feud or series of matches.

The one exception to that is El Hijo del Santo’s series of matches with Dr. Cerebro from IWRG in 2000 and 2001. The feud was laid out in a textbook trilogy format and delivered in the ring. Most importantly, Dr. Cerebro proved to be the kind of high quality opponent that was missing from some other Santo rivalries.

For the opening salvo in the series, we get this title match wrestled for Cerebro’s IWRG Intercontinental Welterweight title. Cerebro was on his third reign as IWRG’s middleweight champion at the time of this match, having won the title for the first time upon its formation in 1998. IWRG regularly booked CMLL wrestlers during this period. Santo averaged about a half-a-dozen matches in Arena Naucalpan between 2000 and 2002.

From a presentation standpoint, the entire deal is top notch. This is the period where IWRG aired on ESPN2 in Mexico so you get all the bells & whistles that came with that in terms of graphics, the ringside reporter, and replays. In this particular match, the wrestlers themselves contribute significantly to the presentation. There is Santo in his iconic outfit and the confident/dignified manner in which he carries himself. Dr. Cerebro has a classic look (and underrated mask) and also carried himself at this time like a true star. The seconds are major names as Blue Panther accompanies Cerebro and a newly unmasked Villano III accompanies Santo. Take all together, this is the presentation added an air of legitimacy and importance. That’s not the most important thing in the world – grimy lucha libre is a perfectly fine form of lucha libre – but it jumped out to me.

Santo and Cerebro work the match like a classic title match. The first two falls are entirely comprised of mat work. According to Fredo, one of the stories being told is that Cerebro is trying to impress his second, Blue Panther, by showing off of his mat skills. He doesn’t have to try very hard because even here in his 20’s, Cerebro was an excellent and athletic mat wrestler. The tricked out submissions that are still his calling card are on display here but what really stands out is how smooth Cerebro is in this match floating from hold to hold. I am not sure that any wrestler can completely out-smooth Santo on the mat, but Cerebro is not out classed at all in that regard. The mat wrestling during the first two falls are on the level of the best stuff from the Santo/Espanto matches which is very high praise. Great lucha mat work is equally competitive, fluid, and athletically impressive. The work in the first two falls contains of those characteristics.

The match runs about 25 minutes, of which a little more than a third is the opening fall. IWRG was always good about going with longer first falls where the finish was built to rather than rushed to. In fact relatively speaking, they probably still are the promotion in Mexico with the most routinely lengthy first falls. Cerebro and Santo take full advantage of that time they are allotted. Each wrestler gets to show off his impressive spots and the ending of the fall feels earned. Santo gets in most of his routine spots during this fall but there is enough time for him to do other stuff as well,which is always a pleasure to see. The second fall is about half the time as the first and that is also a nice length for that particular fall. They hammer home the idea that this is an even match up, even when things remain clean. Both guys pick up clean submission victories. As protective as Santo could be of his reputation when it came to wins and losses, he was always more than willing to give his opponents a ton within a match. If there was any inclination that Santo would treated Cerebro like a lesser class of luchador, that notion was completely put to rest by the end of the second fall.

The work done by the seconds is good stuff. Villano III remains very animated throughout the match, arguing for his man Santo on every perceived slight. For his part, Panther remains more laid back until he playing a significant role in the finish. Even then, Panther comes across as being invested in the match and the outcome which always adds to the aura of a lucha title match for me. Neither second hogs the spotlight, but they act in a manner that lets the viewer know they care about the outcome.

The third fall was the perfect capper. Both wrestlers pulled off their awesome tope suicidas and the near falls got good reactions. I thought they found a very good balance between elevating the action for the final fall while still keeping enough in reserve for their follow up matches. The ending involved a tiny bit of trickery but nothing that was overly distracting. Blue Panther distracted the official when Santo might have had Cerebro beaten. By the time he turns his attention back to the action Cerebro has Santo pinned to the mat and is able to steal a victory. While Santo lost more often than you might expect around this time period, the win still feels like an important one for Cerebro. The ending needed to be inconclusive in order to get to where they were heading. I thought they accomplished that without Cerebro’s win feeling like a fluke.

As a title match, this was very good. As a title match that also served as the starting point for a very good 3-match series, it was even better. This was a definite MOTYC for Cerebro and Santo and a great start to their feud.

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