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La Sombra: A Cult Tribute
First you were afraid, hell, you were petrified. Thinking you could never live without a column from me by your side...wow that sounds even lamer now that I've typed it. Yes folks, I'm back, and not from outer space. Nope, I'm just back from a week long hiatus brought on by the fact that the place I was working this past week featured absolutely no internet. I know, I know, it sounds horrible, but surprisingly it wasn't, which is likely due to the fact that I had Community, Buffy the Vampire Slayer season two (greatest season of television EVER!!!), The Last of Us, Mad Max: Fury Road and FIFA 16 with me. Say what you will about the most corrupt organization to not involve Richard Nixon, but they make a pretty jam video game. Although I could just be saying that because I somehow managed to fandangle a QPR squad with Charlie Austin, Gareth Bale, Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez, Guillermo Ochoa and Junior Hoilett that was on its way to the EPL title and a second straight FA Cup. Just further proof that the Tune Group should hire me to save the R's!
But enough about my sad sack football club, let's talk La Sombra. While there were many comings, goings, and evidently Paige promos that led to the world burning to an absolute crisp, the biggest story for me that I missed was CMLL's top star signing a deal to join WWE this week. It's true, there's one of those pictures with Sombra and Triple H that proves it all! With all of that going on, I figured that it be best to use my "grand" writing return to do a tribute for the WWE's next attempt at a top Hispanic star. I know, I know, La Sombra is still wrestling and doing a Cult Tribute for a man still early in his career seems iffy. To that I say, eh. Let's look at this column this way; if you're a lucha fan such as myself, consider this a fond look back at all the cool things La Sombra did over the past eight years. If you're a WWE fan who doesn't know La Sombra from La Bamba, consider this a chance to learn about one of the best luchadors in the world today (and also, shame on you. You should totally be more familiar with La Sombra than the only Lou Diamond Phillips film worth more than 5 cents). So with that, let's not waste any time. This my friends is a Cult Tribute to lucha star, NXT hopeful and the guy WWE should've signed years ago (and FYI, they could've and chose not to. Better late than never I suppose), La Sombra.
What You Already Know
For WWE fans, the only thing I reckon you know about La Sombra is that he's a luchador who worked for CMLL who just signed with WWE and (according to folks like my old pal on LOP "The Coach" Kevin Farrell) is "a handsome bastard". For lucha fans, everything you know will be appearing in the next section. Hey, we're here to educate our pals who have almost only experienced Vince McMahon/Ted Turner produced wrestling. Excuse me while I duck for cover as they all throw rocks at me for such a low blow.
What You Didn't Know
Much like seemingly every other luchador alive, La Sombra comes from a massive family of luchadors. His grandfather, father, and almost all of his uncles were/are all luchadors, with the most notable being his uncle Espanato Jr. Besides having a son that is also inexplicably named Espanato Jr. (why not Espanato II or Espanato III?), the original Espanato is best known for being the first man to play the character Pentagon. That's right, La Sombra's uncle is the first man to don the Pentagon mantle, which I guess means Sombra and hero of everyone Pentagon Jr. are connected in a way. There's a "Six Degrees of Pentagon Jr." joke I can make from this isn't there? Don't worry, I'll have it by the end of the column.
In any event, Sombra's family connections made it pretty easy for him to get trained as a wrestler, and he would in fact debut at the old age of 13 years old back in 2003. Or so Wikipedia claims; according to them, he would in fact wrestle from late 2003 to early 2007 for his family's promotion before jumping to CMLL in February of 2007. However, the site Cage Match (think the Internet Move Database of wrestling) has his debut being in 2007, with no record of anything prior. Regardless, Sombra was still only a teenager when he began wrestling (he was only 17 upon debuting for CMLL), taking the name of Brilliante Jr. as a tribute to his father's ring name. That didn't last long upon arrival to CMLL, where he was rechristened La Sombra (Spanish for "The Shadow"), a name that has stuck with him since. Interestingly enough, CMLL had previously used the La Sombra name for several wrestlers during the 80s and 90s to limited success, making the current Sombra one of several men to have the name. Despite that, CMLL distanced him from the old Sombra's, instead choosing to play up the family connections by having Sombra wear a silver and black version of the mask worn by his father.
From the word go, Sombra was pretty much a star for CMLL, winning the Torneo Gran Alternativa ("Great Alternative Tournament") with top star Mistico within his first year with the company. He never slowed down; over the course of his eight year career with CMLL, Sombra would go onto win eight titles and ten major CMLL awards, while having several epic feuds with the likes of El Felino (brother of the famous Negro Casas) and his former tag team partner Volador Jr., feuds that both culminated in mask vs. mask matches (more on that in a moment). Sombra's success didn't end in Mexico however, as he would have several successful runs with CMLL's partner New Japan Pro Wrestling, including a run with their IWGP Intercontinental Championship. The man Sombra beat for that belt; Shinsuke Nakamura, only one of the greatest wrestlers alive today. Do I have your attention now, or do I have to break out a CM Punk "Do I have everybody's attention now?" meme to stress to you how I should have your attention? You know what, I'm gonna do it anyway!
Perhaps the best thing to happen to Sombra however (and what ultimately led to him getting signed by WWE) was an event that seemed like a low point. At CMLL's 80th Anniversary Show in 2013, Sombra and Volador Jr. defeated Atlantis and Ultimo Guerrero in a match where the winners would face off in the main event with their masks on the line. Sombra and Volador would win, followed by Sombra taking his long time rivals mask. Sounds good right? Wrong; the fans of Arena Mexico, heavily invested in a long running Atlantis-Guerrero feud, booed CMLL's decision to put off the match and jeered Sombra throughout the main event. The reaction led to CMLL turning Sombra (a lifelong technico) rudo for the first time, leading to an alliance between himself, La Mascara and another lifelong technico turned rudo known as Rush (Marco Corleone and Tesuya Naito would eventually join the group as well). The threesome would call themselves Los Ingobernales ("The Ungovernables"), and over the next two years would rival Los Perros del Mal as the most hated rudo stable in Mexico, with Sombra continuing his feud with Volador Jr. (who had recently turned technico) and battling with Atlantis, including an amazing mask vs. mask match at this year's 82nd Anniversary Show.. Sombra remained a staple of Los Ingobernales till the end, though he and Rush would tease tension during Sombra's final weeks with CMLL. His last match with the promotion was a week ago yesterday, where he and Rush wrestled in an excellent main event before making peace. You know what happened next.
It's a tie! Yes, there can be ties in the best moment section, especially in this case where I'm sure WWE fans will want multiple tastes of what La Sombra can do. First, we have the match between Sombra and Nakamura from May 30th, 2013 for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship. While I wouldn't call it the best match I've seen Sombra have (that would be the next one), it's pretty great, with La Sombra doing a great job as the plucky babyface and Nakamura excelling at being Nakamura. It's also a lot easier to digest for American fans as the pace isn't faster than Jamie Vardy on the counterattack. If you like great action, a great atmosphere (the Arena Mexico crowd is more lively than usual for this match), you can't miss here.
The second match, and superior one in my opinion, is Sombra vs. Atlantis, mask vs. mask from the 82nd Anniversary Show just two months ago. Whereas the Nakamura match showed how great Sombra was as a babyface/technico, the match with Atlantis showed his rudo ability. It's an excellent performance, with Sombra and Atlantis (a 52 year old by the way) meshing incredibly well together to create what I think might be the most underrated match of 2015. The drama is big, the atmosphere is once again great, the entrances are actually pretty boss (look out for Sombra's Godfather inspired entrance. It's pretty rad); it's one of those matches where everything just works. It may have also been the match that got Sombra signed with WWE. Well, that and the Ingobernales stable. Let's just call it a tie, okay?
Without a doubt, La Sombra's departure for WWE is a big loss, not just for CMLL but for lucha libre as a whole. Still just 26 years old, Sombra could've been a mega star in Mexico for years to come alongside the Dragon Lee's, Pentagon Jr.'s, Fantasma's, Aerostar's, Rush's and Fenix' of the world. To say he'll be missed is like saying Orlando Bloom is a terrible actor; duh, duh and double duh. That said, I can't blame him for taking the opportunity to compete on the biggest stage in WWE, and I think you'll see him do some really good things for them. How good is up for debate; Sombra will have to learn English (which unlike Mistico/Sin Cara, I think he's willing to do), and even still, he's not as charismatic as his former partner/best buddy Rush is. That said, Alberto Del Rio has been able to have a solid (if slightly disappointing) WWE career by just being a great in ring talent, and I see no reason La Sombra can't do the same. At worst, he will get a chance to be the next top Hispanic star WWE so desperately craves, and if he's booked even 5% better than Del Rio has been, he may just get there. Just please Vince; don't let MexAmerica last long enough for La Sombra to potentially be in it. You'd be better off buying the rights to Mad Max: Fury Road, and remaking it with Eva Marie as Furiosa. Somewhere, 'Plan's soul just lived, died, lived again and then killed itself. Again. The struggle was real.
That'll do sports fans. Hope you enjoyed this, whether it was a trip down memory lane or a glimpse at a guy you'll be seeing on your screens for hopefully a long time. I'll be back sometime soon with...something else. Till then, why don't you watch the original Planet of the Apes? It stars Charlton "IT'S A MAD HOUSE! A MAD HOUSE!!!" Heston, who played a Mexican for some bizarre reason in Touch of Evil. Mexico is of course is where lucha libre promotion AAA resides, which is responsible for Lucha Underground being in existence, a promotion that features the wrestler...Pentagon Jr.! See, I told you I'd make "Six Degrees of Pentagon Jr." work! CERO MIEDO FOOLS!
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