Mr. Niebla vs. Dr. Wagner Jr. (CMLL – 09/03/1997)

Mr. Niebla vs. Dr. Wagner Jr.
September 3, 1997

CMLL World Light Heavyweight
*** 1/2

The 17th place finisher in the DVDVR 90’s Lucha poll was this CMLL Light Heavyweight title match from Arena Coliseo.

I cannot imagine anyone defending that ranking now. Too many other excellent matches have surfaced in the decade and a half since. Others have experienced a boost in popularity upon re-watch and with the benefit of hindsight. Dr. Wagner Jr. versus Mr. Niebla is not one of the twenty best matches from Mexico during the 1990’s; it might not be one of the top thirty or fifty in that category. It is, however, fairly obvious why this title match was highly thought of by at least some of the DVDVR poll voters.

The match’s appeal is in its variety. The starts of the first and third falls are wrestled on the mat. The mat work isn’t superlative but it’s the kind of fun and breezy stuff that one would expect to find in an average 90’s New Japan juniors match (Wagner Jr. toured with New Japan for the first time in his career fives months earlier for the Best of the Super Juniors tournament). Wagner’s entire offense – even off the mat – has a decidedly New Japan junior feel to it. There is some limb work (Niebla briefly has his leg worked on), strong near falls, and even a Jerry Lawler-esque mid-match mic spot from Wagner.

The best stuff in the match involves Niebla’s agility spots and dives. If anyone only knows of Niebla in his current state as the oft-suspended overweight comedic rudo, they are only getting half the story. Early career Niebla was a promising light heavyweight with an impressive amount of athleticism. He pulls off a sequence of flips and tumbles early in the second fall that look just as impressive in 2017 as they did in 1997. Wagner doesn’t seem interested in doing any dives but Niebla more than makes up for it with four of his own. The first three are all tope suicidas but each one brings its own twist. The first is a straight up, the second is done in the corner after Wagner momentarily evades, and the third sees Niebla fly over the top rope catching Ciclon Ramirez-like air in the the process. Niebla looked every bit the part of the high-flying tecnico successor to Atlantis and Lizmark (his trios partners at the time) in this match. Watching Niebla outperform Wanger here makes where Mr. Niebla’s current states– both personally and professionally – all that more upsetting. He truly is one of the many tragic figures in pro wrestling.

The match has a couple of rough moments but they move by them relatively quickly. The first fall is nothing while the second is a little better thanks to some cool spots from Niebla. The final fall stood out for its lack of formula. All of those different style elements mentioned above are found in the third fall and that variety partially made up for the lack of truly standout work (Niebla’s dives notwithstanding). If you don’t go into this expecting to really see the 17th best lucha libre match of the 90’s, you’ll probably like what you see. The variety is enough to keep your attention and Niebals major spots in the match are truly impressive.

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