El Hijo del Santo vs. LA Park
December 23, 2001
If the sight of blood makes you queasy, then I suggest you don’t watch this match. It is not for the faint of heart.
Once El Hijo del Santo begins bleeding in the second fall, this match takes a sharp turn and never looks back. It would be a disservice to the other work done by Santo and Park in the match to assign the entire appeal to the blood that Santo sheds, but you cannot write about this match without writing about the blood. The sickening amount of blood that Santo loses is the takeaway, even if it is not the only strong aspect of the match.
The infamous 1992 Muta & Hase New Japan match is often pointed to as the benchmark match for one wrestler losing a ridiculous amount of blood, but if this match was seen by as many people as that one I am pretty sure it would take the crown.
It is not just the total amount of blood Santo sheds, but the various visuals that it creates. For whatever reason – maybe because he was aware Santo intended to slice open an artery – Park comes dressed for the bout in his alternate grey-ish or dirty silver outfit as opposed to the traditional black outfit. Santo spills so much blood that by the end of the match, Park’s outfit is completely covered in red. The lighter colored outfit makes the blood really stand out on LA Park . . . and it’s not even his blood! Santo is wearing his traditional silver outfit of course and is equally drenched with the red stuff. Not to get too gross, but the blood drips – or even pours – out of the cut on Santo’s forehead which gives the near-sickening visual of blood spilling down and plopping on the mat. The mat is covered with literal puddles of blood. The ringside camera man makes sure to get close ups of the mat, even sometimes at the detriment of actually shooting the in-ring action. “There is blood everywhere!” is a clichéd way to sell a wrestling bloodbath but it’s a rather apt description for this one.
Admittedly, it feels a little gross to spend several paragraphs praising a match just because one of the participants shed a disgusting amount of blood. I am relatively confident that I could explain the value of most of wrestling’s (good) idiosyncrasies to a non-wrestling fan, but blood – especially this level – is a hard sell. People are going to give you a look if you explain this match was great in part because Santo bled so much that he, his opponent, and the ring were drenched in blood. I cannot blame them. That is a strange notion and one that I am not entirely comfortable with myself.
The best I can do is offer the explanation that the appeal is parts sensationalism and drama. The dramatic impact is not a given. We have all watched matches where a wrestler or wrestlers bleed buckets but the match still fails to entertain. That’s where I think Santo and Park truly succeeded. They do not use the blood as an excuse not to have a match. They have a match and while it is hard to push aside the blood completely, I do believe it would have still be an entertaining match even without it. The dives are as excellent as you would expect from those two. Parka bumps big, including a ridiculous shoulder first bump into the ring post. Both guys take hard bumps into the ringside chairs. The submissions are strong. There is a lot of quality wrestling moments lying below the spectacle of the blood.
More to the point, Santo and Park use the visuals that are created to enhance the drama. Santo comes out of this match looking like he is the toughest wrestler alive. Park gets Santo in the La Tapatia after Santo has already bled heavily. It is a spot in the match where it would make sense for a fall to occur and it seems like one will. Santo is completely helpless up the air but he refuses to give up to the point that Park is forced to release the hold. There are other moments like that where Santo does not give up in the face of serious adversary and those moments are all very effective. The easy comparison would be to Steve Austin at WrestleMania 13 in terms of having a wrestler refuse to quit in the face of blood loss as a means of getting him over as tough.
That comparison is not perfect, largely because WWF went to that well sparingly while blood in Monterrey is like forearm exchanges in Tokyo – it is going to happen more often than not. The differentiator for Santo/Park is this is far more blood than usual and as mentioned, they use it to enhance the match in an obvious and effective manner. Monterrey bloodbaths are not uncommon, but one of this magnitude and with such good working surrounding it is rare.
The ending to the third fall involves some usual Monterrey silliness. There are two officials for whatever reason and one of them inserts himself into things late with a few fast counts. The officials sort of get into it, the rudo ref gets tossed down at one point, and it is all stuff that they didn’t need to do. It doesn’t detract from the match as much as it is completely and totally unnecessary. Late match referee shenanigans are not going to enhance a match where one of the participants resembles a gunshot victim. The actual finish sees Santo kick Park low in a blatant foul. The one referee was assisting Santo, so perhaps he thought he could get away with it or maybe he just wanted a way out of the match. The rudo referee that had assisted Santo goes to count the pin, but the other ref tosses him. He counts the pin himself for some reason (the best I can come up is that he knew Santo would only get off of Park if he thought he had won). When Santo stands up, the referee that counted the fall raises Park’s hand instead giving him the DQ victory. It is all a bit confusing but that is Monterrey officiating for you.
The match is obviously not for everyone. I wouldn’t even attempt to argue with someone who believes the blood is just too much. Blood does not automatically make a match better in my opinion, but it certainly can. This match is a strong example of utilizing blood to create great visuals, to heighten the sense of drama, and to take what would have otherwise been a very good match to the next level. If you are a fan of bloodbaths, than you absolutely need to check this one out.