Ultimo Guerrero vs. Mistico (CMLL – 02/25/2005)

Ultimo Guerrero vs. Mistico
February 25, 2005
*** 3/4

Ultimo Guerrero and Mistico’s first ever singles match is an angle-driven match that leaves both wrestlers – as well as the burgeoning feud – in a better position.

It is apparent that Mistico and Guerrero did not set out to just “work a match” and instead entered the bout with specific goals and ideas in mind. Ultimo Guerrero (like many wrestlers) is at his worst when he is wrestling a match that doesn’t have a concrete purpose or reason to exist. When that happens, he becomes over reliant on signature spots and routines which results in matches that are forgettable at best. There is a chance that these two could have worked a three fall singles match with the usual near fall heavy third round and it could have worked, but I think having such a clear focus on what they wanted to accomplish was paramount to the match’s success.

The goal of this match is to give Mistico – still less than a year into the gimmick – an edge. They accomplish that through Guerrero be merciless in his attack until Mistico has no choice but to play dirty himself in order to survive.

Guerrero does one of his elaborate, big show-type entrances with the warrior head dress and dancers. He looks as clam and cool as can be, in stark contrast to Mistico who sprints down the ramp way to get at his opponent. It’s an ill-fated decision as Guerrero immediately establishes control and slams Mistico hard to the mat several times face first. Guerrero gets a little greedy and goes for a third slam, only for Mistico to counter by moonsaulting backwards off of Guerrero’s shoulders. A head scissors take down sends Guerrero to the outside. Mistico does the only thing early Mistico knows how to do in this situation which is to hurl himself at his opponent. He runs up the ropes and leaps over the top with a corkscrew plancha but Guerrero – being the savvy veteran that he is – side steps the move and poor Mistico splats to the arena floor.

The fall to nowhere is absolutely brutal looking but beyond that, the entire sequence establishes each wrestler’s role in as clear and as entertaining of a fashion as you could reasonably hope for. When I watched Mistico making a futile attempt to stand up, there is no doubt that if he expects to win this match he is going to have to be a little less exuberant and a lot more calculating to beat his callous and clever veteran opponent.

Guerrero rolls Mistico back into the ring where the referee checks on Mistico. It is at this point that Mistico does something very rare. He actually concedes the fall without being placed in a submission hold. I loved this. What better way to get over a high risk move and Mistico’s general dangerous style by conceding a fall because of a high risk move gone wrong? The referee immediately calls the fall off and is very clear in doing so. Unfortunately for Ultimo Guerrero, he has his back turn when this is going on. He gets right back to beating up his smaller opponent, despite the referee pleading with him to stop because technically the fall is over. Guerrero ignores the referee’s instructions and continues to go after Mistico, to the point that the referee has no choice but to reverse his decision and award the first fall to Mistico via disqualification. I loved this aspect of the finish as well. The ending essentially showed the downside to each wrestler’s style and game plan. High risk wrestlers are sometimes going to do themselves in. Aggressive and heartless rudos are sometimes going to let their tempers get the best of them which is what happened to Guerrero. If the match ended there, my takeaway would have been that youthful exuberance (or even naivety) is less of a character flaw than cheating and cruelty but the story takes a turn in the second fall.

The second fall is full of all kinds of great offense from both guys. The highlight is Mistico diving off the top rope with a plancha but instead of landing on Guerrero he goes behind him and arm drags him down. I am a big fan of dives that end in arm drags and this one was as graceful as they come. Someone can correct me if I am wrong, but dives ending with arm drags became a bit of a trend in the 2004-2005 CMLL period often with Guerrero on the receiving end. LA Park landed some spectacular arm drags off of tope suicidas in this time frame. At the time, Dave Meltzer questioned the logic of the move in the Observer but I think that’s a rather selective criticism. The the move looks really good (which Meltzer did point out) which should count for something. But even if you need logic, the logic is that doing an arm drag instead of ramming your head or chest into your opponent lessens the impact you take on the move. In this particular instance, Mistico was burned in the first fall on a dive when Guerrero moved. This time he is one step ahead. He changes things up with the arm drag so that Guerrero cannot simply side step this dive like he did the first one.

Even with all that quality offense in the second fall, it’s the finish that once again stands out. Guerrero continues to beat up Mistico without any concern for Mistico’s wellbeing, although he struggles to put his gutsy opponent away. Guerrero gets a bad break when Mistico’s feet accidentally knock against the referee. The ref bumps looks silly (particularly on the replay) given how little contact was made. The ref falls down and Mistico wiggles out of Guerrero’s grasp. Mistico is lucky to still be in this thing and he seems acutely aware of that. In a moment of revenge Mistico rips Guerrero’s mask off of his face. In a moment of clarity, Mistico takes advantage of the fact that Guerrero is desperately trying to cover his face to cradle him. The official miraculously recovers from his spill – as officials tend to do – and counts to three without the foul Mistico had committed. The pin fall gives Mistico a straight two fall victory over his budding rival.

If the first fall taught us that “rudos never prosper”, the second fall taught us that “tecnicos who act like rudos as a means of getting revenge do prosper.” And well, that’s not exactly the sort of life lesson you are going to want to teach impress upon your children. It was very effective in this context, however. Guerrero was so relentless and so easy to dislike in this match – he twice pulls Mistico up in the second fall when he could have easily pinned him – that the fans feel that Mistico’s mask-pull is justified. When Guerrero chose to pull Mistico up, he signaled that his intention was not to win the match but rather to hurt Mistico. Mistico did what he needed to do in order to survive. Maybe it wasn’t his finest moment as a tecnico but when the chips are down taking the moral high ground is not usually the most important consideration.

Most importantly, both wrestlers came out of this one in a better position than they entered the match in. Guerrero exited the bout looking like one of the meanest rudo’s around, something that he wasn’t always able to accomplish during his storied career. He would have had Mistico beaten in both falls but decided he would rather inflict additional damage instead. Mistico gave a courageous performance but that was par for the course for Mistico during these early stages of his “career”. The big factor was that he showed smarts and the ability to survive against a dangerous opponent by winning the second fall the way he did. That struck me as very forward-thinking booking by CMLL. They tried to give Mistico an edge before the crowd turned on him like other bland, do-good tecnicos. It might not have worked out as well as hoped long term but at least in this match they had the right idea.

Opinions on this match varied at the time but I think it is very good. It is not a MOTY type of match but it also did not set out to be. The booking was top notch and both wrestlers played their roles extremely well. The match also broke from the normal 2 out of 3 fall CMLL format and did so in a way in a positive way.

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