Maximo vs. Kamaitachi (CMLL – 01/01/16)

Maximo vs. Kamaitachi, hair vs. hair
January 1, 2016
Arena Mexico

Last January, Maximo wrestled in the first great CMLL match of the year with the highlight being his opponent’s (Negro Casas) leg work.  This January, Maximo wrestled the first great CMLL match of the year in a match marked by his opponent’s (Kamaitachi) focused attack on his injured knee.

Kamaitachi and Maximo put their hair on the line after feuding for approximately one month, which only feels like a rushed feud until you consider that it was roughly the same amount of time that CMLL took to build up the far more prominent Atlantis/La Sombra mask match. Kamaitachi is on his way out of CMLL after two years in Mexico and six months in Europe while on excursion from New Japan. New Japan wrestlers on loan to CMLL tend to leave Mexico after dropping both their masks and hair so the outcome here was not exactly a mystery.

Whatever the match lacked in final suspense, it made up for in several other key areas. The match was not totally void of drama thanks in no small part to a likely legitimate knee injury that Maximo wrestled through. On CMLL’s Informa program the Wednesday prior to this Friday evening match, Maximo reiterated what he had previously communicated on Twitter, which is that he was dealing with ligament damage in one of his knees. While that knee injury was unlikely to alter the outcome – even if Maximo’s injury sidelines him for a period of time, he will still be in CMLL going forward and Kamaitachi will not – the legitimate injury did provide a dramatic storyline that the wrestlers could play off of if they chose to.

Maximo’s knee injury could have created a Catch-22 situation where Kamaitachi’s high impact offense and bumps were downplayed in favor of conventional knee oriented offense. The not-so-secret sauce here was how Kamaitachi used his high impact offense and found opportunities to take insane bumps while working the match around Maximo’s injured knee. That is not an easy trick to pull off but Kamaitachi did, which is why this might have been his most impressive individual performance to date.

The first fall was the main portion of the match where that the offense resembled boilerplate knee-focused work. For the most part, Kamaitachi stayed true to his strengths and incorporated the knee storyline into it. For example, they bypassed a lock up at the start as Kamaitachi is wont to do. Alternatively, Kamaitachi evaded Maximo and landed a low, direct drop kick to get going on the knee right away. The immediate follow up was the more basic stuff with a lot of the holds and lower impact moves one would expect from a match with this particular focus point.

There was similar grounded offense sprinkled throughout the match but also plenty of the nutty offense and bumping expected from Kamaitachi. He did his ridiculous top rope senton – which is really more of a Manami Toyota style drop kick that ends in a senton position – that was well placed as a major 3rd fall move. He did his double knees aimed at Maximo’s knees, which was the most obvious example of Kamaitachi tailoring his usual offense around the knee subplot.

Maximo’s selling was superb, possibly because he was experiencing honest pain in the knee. A point of contention with last year’s Casas match was that Maximo might have disregarded the knee damage while making his comebacks. Whether or not that is a major blemish is a matter of preference. For me, limb work is a means to an end and if that end is for the good guy to get past the pain to win, than that is completely fine.

I am not sure that argument even applies to this match. As improbable as it might sound, even when Maximo was doing a top rope rana or multiple pretty topes in a row, those moves never marginalized the knee damage. The way Maximo moved and his pained facial expressions always told the story. I would be surprised if someone watched this match intently and felt that anything Maximo did diminished the earlier limb work or rendered it filler. For example, the top rope rana was set up through a prolonged struggle on the turnbuckles that made the move into an act of desperation in a rather organic way.

The match maintained strong heat throughout. As mentioned, the outcome might have never been in serious doubt but you wouldn’t know that watching and listening to the crowd react. Maximo is ultra popular in Arena Mexico to begin with. With the hair stakes and the sympathy generated through the legit knee injury, the Arena Mexico fans were even more behind Maximo than usual. CMLL’s choice of camera shots is sometimes random or frivolous (although random shots of pretty girls might not be seen as totally frivolous but all), but their choice to continually spotlight the Kamaitachi super fan (as well as another pair of Kamaitachi fans) added a lot to the drama.

The near fall portion of the third fall was generally excellent. The aforementioned hurricanana spot was a great near fall. Kamaitachi got a believable false finish out of an unseen foul as well. Not all hair matches – even those involving pushed wrestlers on major shows – feel like a major deal. This one did, in part because of the way the knee work fed into a dramatic stretch of near falls. In that regard, Kamaitachi and Maximo did far better than other recent (similar) hair matches including Ultimo Guerrero/Rey Escorpion from last summer and Super Parka/Negro Casas from this same show.

It is a safe bet that this is the first great match – the first potential Match of the Year Candidate – anywhere in the world. That is a nice trivial piece of trivia. It might also undersell this match, which should hold up on its own merits. On live viewing, Kamaitachi/Maximo felt strong enough in all facets to stand the test of time. Beyond being the best of the just-started year, it was also the best hair match I have seen from anywhere in Mexico at least since Negro Casas/Rush from August 2014 and personally, I thought Maximo and Kamaitachi outdid that match.

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