La Fiera vs. Emilio Charles, Jr.
April 1, 1994
My major takeaway from this non-stipulation singles match is further confirmation that La Fiera is a really great tecnico even if he is often thought of as a rudo first and foremost.
Fiera jumped to the tecnico side during the summer of ’93. The impetus for the turn was a falling out with Sangre Chicana which caused Fiera to re-think his alliances. That feud gave us a hair match that I think very highly of, but really the feud was a means to an end with the ending being Fiera’s October hair loss to Negro Casas. I thought Fiera did a wonderful job as a good guy in both of his 1993 hair matches, particularly in the Chicana one. He is great at selling a beating both while it is happening and the aftermath of it. He shows great fire in both and his big bumps suit a tecnico well. Fiera was also an awesome rudo so I can understand people preferring that version of him, but I am starting to think he should be considered great at both roles which is something that not too many luchadores (or wrestlers in general) can claim.
The aspect of La Fiera as a tecnico that impresses me the most is how willing and how naturally he can flip the switch from callous aggressor to sympathetic underdog. Emilio Charles Jr. is a rudo’s rudo. Everything from his look to his wrestling style screams that. You aren’t going to out rudo Emilio so Fiera probably could have gotten away with playing it a little edgier without fear of blurring the good/bad guy lines. He doesn’t, however, and the match is even better for it. Fiera plays it totally straight. He takes a beating for the entire first fall. His comeback – punctuated by his signature kicks – is graceful. When he is down and out, he gives himself a pep talk and makes a Rocky-like comeback rather than going toe to toe with his more aggressive opponent. Fiera doesn’t do anything to indicate that he is concerned with getting his heat back or looking tough but rather only about putting heat on Charles and making himself into a sympathetic figure. That’s an impressive thing from a guy who when he wants to, can come across as being as tough and ferocious as any luchador.
There are no-stipulations to the match and it is being used to set up a hair match, so the brawling/blood heavy layout should not come as any surprise. The entire goal of the match is to get their feud into a position where a hair match is an unavoidable outcome. They do that by bleeding, of course. Fiera bleeds almost right away and Charles joins him later on. They also do that (as previously mentioned) by having Fiera take a licking for most of the first two falls and again at times in the third fall. Fiera’s ability to get across both the pain he is in and the struggle to keep fighting his top notch. I never felt like Fiera was selling me something that wasn’t really happening. His body language and reactions were pretty much in lockstep with the offense from Charles.
The problem with non-stipulation singles matches in lucha is that they are almost never as satisfying as title matches and apuesta matches. In my experience, they often come off as a watered down version of either an apuesta match or a title match because they are usually used as a device to build to one or the other. In this instance, the match was used to build to a future hair bout which meant it was worked as a brawl and ended up playing out like a scaled back, less emotional hair match. That is still worth something but the ceiling is limited. The idea was to put heat on Charles, make Fiera seem sympathetic, and give Fiera a clean (but not exactly definitive) win to set up Charles’ winning his hair. They accomplished all of that but that doesn’t exactly make for an incredibly memorable match. The match involved a lot of bleeding and heat seeking spots without the emotion and payoff of someone getting shaved. The match was what it should have been but what it “should have been” has a limited ceiling.
That is made all the more disappointing by the fact that the hair match blow off is not available anywhere. This is basically act one of a two act play. We only got the build and not the payoff.
Both wrestlers are excellent in their designated roles – Charles as a rudo and Fiera as the tecnico – and the match largely accomplishes what it set out to do which is set up the hair match. However on its own it is only a good brawl that lacks the high stakes and emotion of a hair match.