Shocker vs. Black Warrior
March 16, 1999
NWA World Light Heavyweight
Shocker and Black Warrior matched up semi-regularly in the late 90’s with the NWA World Light Heavyweight title at stake. It is an interesting pairing for that time period in that Shocker was still in the process of finding himself as a worker which in theory left Black Warrior in charge of constructing a full match. Warrior was a tremendous athlete with some good spots, but a complete wrestler he was not. On paper, this one has the look of one of those matches where neither wrestler is equipped to lead. Sometimes those matches surprise and end up working when wrestler takes charge or they both just find their way through. Other times they end up being the incomplete, scattered affairs we expect them to be.
This Arena Coliseo title match leans towards the latter, although at the end of the day I thought it still reached the point of being an average title match. There is a clear and distinct lack of direction in each individual fall and in the match as a whole. At a high level, the match follows the expected title match pattern of first fall mat work, quick second fall comeback, and a final fall filled with false finishes and big moves. The issue is that within that framework and within the framework of each fall the work doesn’t seem to tie together or lead anywhere. The wrestlers – and therefore the match – sort of meanders from section to section and spot to spot.
Take the first fall, for example. It was probably my favorite fall of the three. Neither wrestler is a great mat worker relatively speaking but they know the basics and can exchange holds just fine. The actual offense and exchanges are fine and some are even well done. The trouble with the fall is that it is just a bunch of holds, counters, and chain wrestling. The work was not all that substantive. I am not a believer that everything done in a match needs to lead to lead specifically to something else or have some greater significant to the overall match. That’s not the issue I had in this match. The issue is that even while they were exchanging holds and executing offense just fine, there was no hook. There was no real sense of danger, no story being told, or even a sense that one wrestler was the aggressor and the other was fighting back from underneath. Even in the moment, it was just some offense being rolled out at random.
The final two falls have similar issues. The second brings the action up off the mat, but is similarly a collection of back-and-forth offense without much direction. The third fall is the near fall-heavy equivalent of the second. There was not a great comeback or a monumental near fall that was built to or delivered on. If you define a spot fest has any match that is a collection of spots/moves/sequences without any thread tying them together, than this match was a spot fest.
In the end, Shocker and Warrior still wrestled what I thought was an average match because the offense was generally entertaining and the execution of the offense was solid. Shocker did an arm drag out of a fireman’s carry position which is a move I will never, ever get tired of seeing. The dives are good. As mentioned, the holds used in the first fall were relatively basic but executed well. Offensively, there is enough quality action that the match kept my interest even if it was largely directionless.
Black Warrior entered the match as the champion and was put over pretty strongly, which is a tad surprising to me if only because Shocker was about to be pushed hard with a pair of mask matches over the next several months.
Shocker is still in generic tecnico mode for this match. I need to watch his pair of late 1999 mask matches (Rey Bucanero and Mr. Niebla) but it continues to fascinate me how quickly he seemed to transform style wise once he dropped the mask. I have seen his late 1999 IWGP Junior title match with Liger from Arena Mexico and even though that’s clipped up you can still see that Shocker is far more in Japanese junior mode there then he was a few months earlier. Of course, facing Liger might have something to do with that. Certainly by 2001-2002 and his matches with El Hijo del Lizmark, Dr. Wagner Jr., and Ultimo Guerrero he has gone through a full metamorphous from generic tecnico-type worker to the hybrid style that got him such much praise (and subsequently some retroactive ridicule). Maybe I am just being fooled by the visual change that came with losing the mask, but he seems to make that big style change almost immediately after dropping the mask to Niebla.