201 Non WWE Matches to See Before You Die #5: The Crew vs. Ivelisse, Angelico and Son of Havoc
[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 #5. Enjoy! And buy 'Plan's book!]
A lot of the time, we like to think that a great match is all about how many cools moves there are in it. Let's be real; no one goes to a wrestling show to see two guys just punch each other. Fans want to see back and forth action, body slams, flips, dives, submissions, maybe even a good old fashioned kick in the nuts if a Jack Evans match is going on (with Jack of course being the one getting kicked. Sorry FIFA Champ!). On a basic level, we've all been conditioned that a great match needs to have all of that, or at least elements of it. In the words of Lee Corso, not so fast my friend. Sure, those elements help, but they don't always make a match great. You know what makes matches great? A story, a narrative, plot points that take the viewer/audience a roller coaster ride within a glass case of emotion. It's wrestling's dirty little secret; well, that and a whole host of other things you don't want to know about, but my point still stands. And that point is that sometimes, a match doesn't have to be great just because two men or women pull out more tricks than a punk rocker playing Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2. Instead, it can be great when it's just a one sided beat down, followed by a comeback and an extraordinary feat of athletic ability.
On April 22nd of this very year, Lucha Underground held the finals of their Trios Championship tournament. In the finals were three teams (because you can't have a Trios Tournament final with three Trios teams. It's symmetry dammit!); in one corner was Cage, Texano and King Cuerno, a group flush with power, technical skill and the ability to wear the coolest Deer Antler hat this side of the western hemisphere. In another corner was Big Ryck (The Artist Formerly Known as Ezekiel Jackson), Kill Shot and The Mack, a potent, dangerous trio with just the hint of a Quentin Tarantino aura about them. And then in the final corner was a team so dysfunctional, they made the New York Knicks look like a well oiled unit. That team consisted of Angelico, a South African pretty boy with a cocky streak and the hops of Michael Jordan; Ivelisse, the self proclaimed "Baddest Bitch in the Building" and quite possibly the most intimidating member of her team; and Son of Havoc, a reject from the open road who had struggled with losses and relationship issues (with Ivelisse of all people. I told you they were dysfunctional!) while in the Temple, only to rise above while winning the respect of the people. You know where there is going; the wacky, dysfunctional but likable trios group would overcome great odds to pick up the win, despite always looking like they'd fall apart. Boy, do I have news for you...that's totally what happened.
Now I'm sure you're sitting there right now going; that's it? That's all you have for entry #5 of this series? Are you trying to get 'Plan to pull his hair out? First off, I'm always trying to do that. Secondly, here's the plot twist; that match wasn't the finals. Nope, it was in fact the semi-finals, something made perfectly clear when "El Jefe" himself, Dario Cueto, arrived on the scene. You may not know this, but El Jefe isn't a nice guy, whether it's when he plays poker or when he's running a wrestling show. And in typical megalomaniac fashion, he wants to make the infighting trio team suffer. With that, he announces one last match; a no disqualification match for the Trios Championships between the seemingly victorious...victors (walked right into that one) and one last team. That team isn't just any team either; oh no, it's The Crew; Cortez Castro, Mr. "I don't listen to the Thong Song" Cisco and Bael, a group of street fighters who know how to fight and know how to strike when blood is in the water. And thus the stage is set; a rag tag threesome that hates each other AND just finished wrestling a three way trios match vs. a cohesive, fresh unit with no rules. In the words of that terrible Spaghetti O's jingle, UH OH!
And this is where the brilliance of the match comes in; any other wrestling company would've had the rested team struggle at points against the weary, battle worn group. Not this time. For the first seven minutes of this bout, The Crew are in complete and utter control. They are patient, they are quick, they are brutal, they are unrelenting; every little rally by Havoc, Angelico and Ivelisse is snuffed out in a matter of seconds, followed by a kick, a punch or a slam. It seems clear where this is all going. Angelico, Ivelisse and Havoc had their moment with the crowd winning the first match, but now they will implode as planned, giving way to the Crew and El Jefe to rule the Trios Championships with an iron fist while the losers fight amongst themselves. This looks even more apparent as the Crew isolates each of their opponents across the Temple; Cisco takes Havoc into the crowd, Castro corners a wounded Ivelisse in the ring and Bael leaves a seemingly broken Angelico on the roof of Dario Cueto's office. It looks over. It feels over.
But then...nothing changes. I know, surprise ending! It looks like things are going to change when a potentially dangerous suplex from the crowd to the floor backfires on Cisco, allowing Son of Havoc to regroup. He stuns Cisco, hops up onto the railing, and (while balancing himself by placing his hand on the top of some lucky fan's head) hits a pretty dope moonsault. Perhaps things are looking up? Wrong. Once again, the Crew is quick to kill the momentum when Bael takes out Havoc with a solid forearm. Which leads us to a two on one advantage. Havoc is outside on the floor and Angelico is out on the roof, neither able to help Ivelisse. Bael and Castro enter the ring, ready to finish her off and claim the titles for El Jefe and themselves. It looks bad. And then a murmur starts to go through the crowd. And suddenly, in the matter of three, maybe four seconds, things change. Like Man City vs. QPR on the final day of the season in stoppage time levels of change.
The spot in wrestling is a dangerous vixen. For some people, it's brilliant; an awe inspiring moment that can propel a match and send an audience into a frenzy. For other, less fortunate souls, it's a moment that takes them out of the match and at times even the psychology. The reality is that a spot, big or small, works best in wrestling when it's used only on certain occasions. Do it once, and it's significance is huge; do it too many times, and you've got a problem. Thank goodness for Angelico that this was the first time he was leaping off El Jefe's roof, looking like a cross between Superman, Neo, an old school MLS soccer ball and one of the planes from The Right Stuff, it was the first time he'd done it. It was beautiful, it was epic, it was so awesome that practically everyone in the Temple jumped out of their seat screaming (Vampiro, left in a disbelief that I can only describe as being "THE CUBS JUST WON THE WORLD SERIES" levels, actually got up from commentary and jogged around the ring with his hands over his head). But it wasn't just because Angelico flew some ten to fifteen feat while being almost thirty feet up in the air, and it wasn't because the dive called back to a time where guys like Foley, Edge, Christian, The Hardys and Dudleys were willing to risk life and limb for the sake of the audience. What made it work was how it brought that rag tag group of dysfunction together. Here was Angelico, teaming with two people he couldn't stand, suddenly willing to leap through the air at great risk in order to help his team. The look on Ivelisse's face afterwards tells the whole story; that dive changed everything. Angelico, Havoc and Ivelisse went from individuals to a unit, a team in search of survival, of victory.
And so indeed, the match finally changed. Inspired by Angelico's leap, Ivelisse, hobbled and all, willed her way to her feet and picked up Castro's Singapore cane. Bam! A shot to the back of Cisco. BAM! A shot to the back of Bael. BAM! A shot to the back of Castro (a lot of backs were hurt during this sequence as you can tell). Cisco rolled out of the ring while Angelico and Havoc slowly made their way to up the turnbuckles, with Castro and Bael waiting for them below. They take flight with a shooting star press and double stomp respectively and both connect. Three seconds later and the Temple has exploded again. Against all odds, Angelico, Ivelisse and Son of Havoc worked together long enough to become Lucha Underground's first Trios Champions. In fitting fashion, they all celebrate individually and seemingly try to ignore the other two are there. Go figure.
This is usually the part where I bemoan the fact that years have gone by and all that noise, except I can't do that here because the match didn't even take place a year ago. Even still, a lot has changed. Son of Havoc, Ivelisse and Angelico would eventually drop the Trios Titles to a group of Skeletor's known as the Disciples of Death, but not before Angelico did a few more death defying leaps, not before Havoc and Ivelisse kind/sorta got back together and not before all three actually started to get along (as best they could). As for the Crew...well it was pretty much all downhill from there. They would lose a rematch to Angelico, Ivelisse and Havoc a few weeks later and eventually Cisco and Castro would find themselves as two well dressed soldiers for Blue Demon Jr. and Chavo Guerrero Jr. As for Bael...you don't want to know. Let's just say it involved potential mashing, potential cannibalism, potential mangling, or possibly all three (or more). Welcome to the wacky, wonderful world of Lucha Underground folks!
Regardless of their ultimate fates however, this match for the Trios Championship was something they could all be proud of. Was it great in the traditional "knock down, drag out, back and forth" affair you normally see in wrestling? No. But from a narrative perspective, it's a masterpiece with so much going on. You had the evil boss trying to hold down the underdogs while enforcing his control. You had the three precise rudos working as a whole to please their master and, as we'd ultimately learn, save their own necks. We had a reject Road Warrior fighting not just for titles, but his honor and respect. We had a young woman on a blown out knee; oh that's right, did I mention Ivelisse wrestled this match on a legit injured leg she suffered in the previous match? How's that for adding some drama to the proceedings? We had a cocky, charismatic young man taking to the stars to make his name. And, most importantly, we had three people, with all sorts of differences towards the other, coming together when they needed it most to rescue victory from the jaws of defeat in spectacular, heart pounding fashion. Sometimes, the story book ending is precisely the right way to go.
Well, unless Sheamus and Roman Reigns are involved. Dammit, I promised I'd be good!
[writer's note; sadly, this match isn't available online. Want to see it? Support LU and help get them on Netflix, Hulu or a DVD box set. Just a suggestion!]
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