201 Non WWE Matches to See Before You Die #14: Atlantis vs. La Sombra (Running Diary version!)
[A long time ago in a War Rig far, far away, a young War Boy named 'Plan wrote an excellent column series called 101 WWE Matches to See Before You Die. It was perfect, so perfect that it's now a book you can buy on Amazon! There was just one problem; it only focused on WWE matches. Thus, as a fellow War Boy, I've taken it upon myself to take a look at the other stuff, compiling a list of 201 Non WWE Matches to See Before You Die. This right here is entry #14. Enjoy! And buy 'Plan's book like that one guy who read this column did!]
These days, Manny Andrade is known by many North American fans as Andrade “Cien” Almas, the former suspender wearing, salsa stripper looking developmental star in WWE’s NXT program. Not to sound so incredibly hipster (okay, twist my arm) but I knew him under a different name; I knew his as La Sombra. For almost a decade La Sombra was the crown jewel of lucha libre’s light that never goes, CMLL. He began as an eighteen year old prodigy, quickly rose to the main event ranks by the time he was twenty, was touring in New Japan by twenty one and was working and defeating current NXT co-worker Shinsuke Nakamura for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship by the age of twenty four. Oh yeah, he also headlined the CMLL Anniversary Show that year with Volador Jr., taking Volador’s mask. Whatever there was to accomplish Sombra did, with one exception; he never truly won over the fans. For all his accomplishments Arena Mexico never truly warmed to Sombra, the last straw being his victory over Volador. So Sombra turned on the fans that had turned on him and found a bond with two other luchadors the fans had rejected; the ladies man La Máscara and the volatile, unpredictable, king of chaos Rush. Together these three created Los Ingobernables (“The Ungovernables”), a stable which has since gone on to become one of the most legendary stables in CMLL history and the most popular stable in Japan as Los Ingobernables de Japon.
But even with that new found success La Sombra never forgot the straw that broke the camel’s back; that match with Volador. You may yourself being wondering why fans did turn on Sombra that night and the answer is simple; he (and Volador) weren’t Atlantis and Último Guerrero. Two of CMLL’s top stars for many years, Atlantis and the UG had gone through the ringer, having once been bitter enemies followed by them being teammates followed by them being enemies again. It was a rivalry and a story that had been building for years, a feud that craved a mask vs. mask match. So when the 80th Anniversary Show rolled around CMLL decided to tease the possibility of Atlantis/UG by teaming them up against Sombra and Volador, with the winning team getting to face each other in a mask vs. mask match. Ingenious concept right; dangle the possibility of two big mask matches in front of the Arena Mexico audience and give them what they want. The problem, as you’ve probably put together by now, is that CMLL didn’t. They chose Volador and Sombra for the mask vs. mask match instead, effectively turning the crowd on that match and on Sombra for good. It didn’t even matter that the match was great; all the Arena Mexico crowd cared for was being deprived of Atlantis-Último Guerrero and it sealed Sombra’s fate. He became the villain, Volador became the hero and just a year later Atlantis and Guerrero sealed their legendary status when Atlantis took UG’s mask at the 81st Anniversary Show, a match that drew over $1 million at the gate and is considered to be one of the greatest spectacles in wrestling history. In the end not only did Sombra get turned by the fans but he got to watch them rub his nose in it a year later by coming out in droves for the luchadors they actually wanted to see. Can you see a story developing here?
As such, when the 82nd Anniversary Show began to roll around, La Sombra began to target one man; Atlantis. I know, what a shock! The two feuded week after week after week until CMLL make the only call they could make; another mask vs. mask headliner at the 82nd Anniversary Show between Atlantis and Sombra. It was only natural considering everything they had done the last few years had led up to this match, never mind the fact that it made perfect storyline sense. Atlantis, who I may or may not rave about every so often, had risen to the sort of status where the name “El Santo” gets thrown around thanks to his longevity, his skill and his ability to win the greatest of Apuesta matches. It made him a legend and it made him a target to strive towards every year, making it the easy choice to headline. But my Grodd the added bonus of Sombra being his opponent. This wasn’t just any ordinary luchador gunning for Atlantis’ mask; this was a luchador who you could argue had been ruined by him gunning for his mask, gunning for revenge. Throw in the whole “good vs. evil” and “old vs. young” stories and this match, while not expected the spectacle Atlantis-UG was a year earlier, had all the makings of a classic.
And now here’s where we part from the usual formula. Normally this is where I’d start describing the match in excruciatingly long detail, but not only do I do that every time but so did my predecessor with his list. There’s a time and place for that sure but there’s also a time and place to be different and try new things. Today we’re going to try new things. So I kindly invite you to press play on the video below, sit back and relax as we look back on Atlantis vs. La Sombra running diary style!
12:50: We are live from Casa de Cult and Atlantis is walking down that long ass Arena Mexico ramp towards the ring. This may be a good time to inform people seeing this match for the first time that Atlantis was 52 years old when this match took place. Remember that.
12:53: If you like cool entrances, get ready.
12:54: Yes sports fans; that is the future Andrade "Cien" Almas walking out to the ring looking like the coolest dude in the history of the western hemisphere. All while exuding mass charisma and presence. Maybe it was the hat? Or the suit?
12:55: This is also a good time to mention that the long haired guy with Sombra is Rush and the long haired guy with Atlantis is Volador. Remember those guys.
12:57: Atlantis falls for the oldest trick in the book with the fake handshake deal. Sombra decides to stall by going to the ramp and taking off his pants. Don't worry; he's got pants on underneath. This isn't a Valiente situation; I repeat, not a Valiente situation.
12:58: Sombra tries to enter but Atlantis knocks him out of the ring. Atlantis goes for a dive but Sombra is in quick with a hurricanrana to the floor and then a dive of his own! We're off and running. Sombra quickly follows it up by sending Atlantis into the stands and then suplexing him over the barricade and to the floor!
12:59: Here comes Rush. He slams Atlantis against the barricade a few times while Volador protests. Sombra brings Atlantis back in as the boos reign down. A series of strikes leads to a Sombra near fall.
1:00: I'm going to need a water after this. More nonstop action as Rush takes it to Atlantis again on the outside while Sombra distracts referee Edgar in the ring.
1:01: Crowd is getting white hot as Sombra continues to beat down Atlantis, choking him with a chord outside. He then sends Atlantis to the stage because that's basically the only place he hasn't kicked Atlantis' has yet.
1:04: Atlantis backdrops Sombra into the ring for his first bit of offense of the match. The sequence leads to a roll up, but Rush saves Sombra by pulling Edgar out of the ring. All hell breaks lose and Edgar ends up DQing Sombra for Rush's interference and then throws out BOTH Rush and Volador for brawling after the bell. Huge moment here; Sombra has lost a fall without getting pinned (putting him in a hole) and now both seconds are out. The tension builds.
1:05: Sombra really selling Rush's departure on the stage. The fear is real. Also real; it's time for this match to continue. Fall Two!
1:07: Sombra controls at the start, but Atlantis quickly turns the tide and the next thing you know is hitting Sombra with a flush suicide dive.
1:08: In rapid succession 52 year old Atlantis hit a suicide dive AND a flying crossbody. Age truly is just a number. Sadly Sombra is unphased by all this and quickly plants Atlantis with a schoolboy powerbomb. Just like that we're tied and Sombra is posing like this.
Ain't he a stinker?
1:10: Like Chad Muska, Sombra is straight "chillin chillin" as this fall begins. Pretty nonchalant for a dude whose life may change forever in the next fifteen to twenty.
1:11: There's the look of fear from both guys as the fans get going. They run the ropes for a few, with Sombra hitting a dropkick and Atlantis then following it up with a few roll ups. Sombra then tries a roll up of his own and like Atlantis comes up empty.
1:12: It's methodical, it's diabolical and it's slow right now. Well it is till Sombra hits a split legged moonsault for a two count.
1:13: Mistake! MISTAKE! Sombra poses on the turnbuckle, allowing Atlantis a moment to recover and powerbomb his ass. Luckily for Sombra he's out at two. Unluckily for him, Atlantis immediately monkey flips him to the floor and hits another flush suicide dive.
1:14: Sombra goes for a springboard dropkick back into the ring and is instead caught and powerbombed again! Great spot. Sombra again finds the will and kicks out at two. He then turns the tide with a powerslam and hits that wonderful standing moonsault of his after missing the first.
1:15: I can barely keep track of the action now. Sombra sends Atlantis to the floor then hits a triangle tornillo plancha. At least I think that's what it is. My brain was too busy doing this to accurately compute it.
1:17: Sombra tries to send Atlantis over the barricade again but Atlantis reverses, sends Sombra over instead and then dives over the barricade to take Sombra out! Allow me to remind you again Atlantis was 52 when this match happened.
1:18: We're back in the ring...except we're not because Sombra needs a breather still. Smart man.
1:19: Sombra takes all the time he can, and it turns out to be wise because he gets Atlantis trapped in an armbar on the ropes. He continues to work the arm over in the ring by putting on a Fujiwar Armbar! Atlantis struggles for a few moments and even gets rolled back towards the center of the ring, but he manages to find the ropes. The first real close call!
1:20: Atlantis went for Atlantida but failed! Sombra ends up getting monkey flipped to the floor again anyway and Atlantis hits another gorgeous plancha. It's getting real quickly!
1:21: Sombra with a springboard plancha but Atlantis rolls him into a pin! Only two. Atlantis then nearly gets Atlantida on Sombra but it's instead reversed into the Schoolboy Powerbomb! Is that it?! No it's not! Two count only.
1:22: The crowd is boiling. Sombra puts Atlantis down in position for the split legged moonsault, but this time Atlantis gets the feet up. Atlantis then gets a clothesline and HOLY GRODD THAT WAS CLOSE! That was even closer than I remembered it being.
1:23: Atlantis makes the mistake of going for Sombra's mask. Sombra ends up shoving Atlantis into Edgar, taking him out momentarily. Sombra goes for Atlantis' mask and a low blow but instead walks into a few backbreakers. Edgar gets up in time to make a count but it's only two.
1:25: It's getting too hot to handle now! Atlantis goes for a hurricanrana, but Sombra rolls him into a roll up and nearly steals it. Both guys are exhausted. I'm exhausted. The crowd is exhausted. Sombra sends Atlantis to the floor with a clotheslines and then OH MY GRODD!!!
1:27: In case you're not watching, La Sombra just did a moonsault off the turnbuckle to the floor. In the words of Martin Tyler, STUPENDOUS!
1:28: Both men are slow to get back in. Eventually the find themselves on the top rope and there is a Sombra Superplex! Is it enough? Nope!
1:29: Sombra with a scoop slam. He goes to the top and THAT IS ATLANTIS GETTING UP AND HITTING A TOP ROPE GERMAN! Not to be outdone, Sombra shows his resolve and kicks out too. My Grodd.
1:31: Sombra gets Atlantis down in the corner and goes for the knees, but Atlantis reverses it into Atlantida! It's then Rush reappears and distracts Edgar, allowing Sombra to escape and avoid defeat! Big moment, especially when Sombra knees off Atlantis' face a minute later. That will do it...except it won't! Atlantis is out at two! Distraction failed!
1:32: Sombra is going...for a tombstone?! This is important folks; the tombstone is banned in lucha libre. Chair shots are looked upon better than this move and any time they're used it's a DQ. In short; Sombra is so frustrated with Atlantis that he's legit willing to tombstone him here, lose the match and lose his mask. A wonderfully placed momentarily lapse of reason if I ever saw one and one that costs Sombra dearly. Edgar manages to stop Sombra, who argues with Edgar for a moment and walks right into La Atlantida. All Atlantis needs to do is kneel down. He is. It's over.
1:36: PYRO! PYRO EVERYWHERE! Arena Mexico has come unglued as Atlantis celebrates like it's the biggest win of his life. Rush has made his way back down to ringside to comfort his friend.
1:37: Sombra is on the turnbuckle. Atlantis taunts him, telling him to give him the mask. We're now cutting to the crowd to see Sombra's quite young mother in tears, followed by a a shot of Sombra's father (former luchador Brilliante) on the verge of them. Sombra and Rush try to walk out but Atlantis gets on the mic and calls for Sombra to come back.
1:38: The next minute is an emotional roller coaster; a conflicted Sombra wrestles between unmasking and walking out, Rush looks as though he'll fight everyone in Arena Mexico to protect him and Sombra's parents look like they've been given the worst news in the history of time. Eventually Sombra decides to return and unmask.
1:40: Sombra is announced as Manuel Alfonso Andrade Oropeza (it's custom for a luchador to announce his real name when he loses his mask) as his mother openly breaks down some more. It's legit painful to watch. Sombra takes the mic as the fans boo and says a few words on the fans, his family, Rush and Ingobernables before putting over Atlantis.
1:43: He is still talking. Looks like I picked the wrong day to not learn Spanish. Even though this isn't the first time watching this I'm legit worried about Sombra's mother right now. Sombra brings his father, brothers and other family into the ring to make things even more emotional, continues talking for a few minutes and asks Brilliante to take off his mask.
1:45: La Sombra hugs his father one last time and with one pull, La Sombra is unmasked. Sombra's family carries Atlantis around on their shoulders, Atlantis and Sombra shake hands, Rush has a look on his face that makes you think he's going to wipe Atlantis off the face of the earth and I'm not crying, YOU'RE CRYING! (note: I'm pretty sure Sombra was carried around on his family's shoulders afterwards as well but this video doesn't have that. If you really need to see that, there's more videos of the match out there for you to find).
And so that was the tale of how La Sombra lost his mask, although I would suggest it also told the other story; the death of La Sombra. Whereas Atlantis has continued on as one of CMLL's top stars and further cemented himself as one of the greatest lucha libre legends ever (I personally would put him at #2 all time behind El Santo), La Sombra went a different direction. He signed with WWE a few months later and became Andrade "Cien" Almas, a move that many of us expected would lead to him becoming what Alberto El Patron never did for WWE. It's now been over a year since Sombra left for WWE and, to be blunt, that hasn't happened. Instead he was rejected as a face right off the bat, was turned heel only after being left lying by Bobby Roode and even in his more natural role seems to have very little direction or story. Occasionally you will hear/see glimpses of the luchador I used to know but that's it. Andrade "Cien" Almas may be many things but he's not La Sombra. And therein lies the issue.
That's not a knock on WWE either. Some guys just don't click in certain promotions and maybe that'll end up being the case here. Perhaps he'll find a way back to the level he was in Mexico; hell perhaps he'll find a way back to Mexico. I don't know; I just miss the guy I saw in this match. And what a match it is; entrances, ring work and post match activities combined it takes up over an hour and never stops being compelling or emotional. The action is rapid and fast paced throughout; even as we got deeper in I had trouble keeping up. The drama, from the past issues between these two men to the fact that someone's life/identity is being changed forever by the result, looms large throughout every move. The performances, be it Atlantis' gutsy never say die struggle or Sombra's cocky athleticism, are sublime. Show this match to any fan of any style and it will stand the test of time. It may not have the spectacle of Atlantis-Guerrero or the mythical epicness of Atlantis-Villano III, but it has everything else you need. Maybe Manny Andrade never gets anywhere as Andrade "Cien" Almas when all is said and done. But if he never makes it in the halls of Stamford, Connecticut, he can at least say he brought Arena Mexico to tears as La Sombra.