The LuchaPalooza Closing Ceremony!
Lucha Kliq; IT’S OVAH! With that Matt Hardy impression I can now say we have reached the end of LuchaPalooza. Or as I’m going to call it, the LuchaPalooza Closing Ceremony! Moses, hit me with Bob Costas’ favorite jam.
Man that was a hell of a two weeks, wasn’t it? We saw the best of lucha libre, the worst of lucha libre; much like I promised you when this whole thing started we saw everything that makes lucha libre so wonderful and so infuriating at the same time. So now the only thing left to ask is how do we close it out? I’ll tell you; by giving out awards that many of you will probably disagree with and most of the winners could probably give a fuck less about. Who cares; it’s my column and I’ll do what I want. Basically what you’ll see is me giving my opinion on the best show, best luchador, worst luchador and stuff along those lines before we get into the main event where I give you the ten best matches of the past few weeks. I know, exciting right?! Think of this as a reflection on the last two weeks, one that started out looking like the biggest week in lucha libre history and turned out to be…well maybe it was. Let’s let someone smarter than me figure that out alright? For now let’s start with handing out the fictional silverware. If you want to know eligibility, these following shows (and any talent that appeared on said shows) are the ones I deemed candidates for any of the categories; CMLL Super Viernes on August 26th, Triplemania XXIV on August 28th, CMLL Puebla on August 29th, CMLL Tuesday on August 30th, the CMLL 83rd Anniversary Show on September 2nd, IWRG’s Sunday show on September 4th, CMLL Puebla on September 5th, CMLL Tuesday on September 6th and Lucha Underground’s season three premiere just last night on September 7th. If nothing else we’ve learned this much; CMLL has way too many shows. Let’s begin!
Best Show: CMLL 83rd Anniversary Show. A very good category when you consider only one of the shows during LuchaPalooza was actually bad (more on that in a moment). Yes even Triplemania; maybe it didn’t deliver everything expected of a big show but there were also no truly bad matches and no catastrophes outside of Joaquin Roldan getting figuratively jerked off during the middle of the show. In the end though the Anniversary Show was the king and it’s really not that big of a surprise. Like Triplemania it had no bad matches; unlike Triplemania it had at least three good to great matches and arguably even more than that, with only the women’s match not getting close (and even that was a fine match). Combine that with the mystique and spectacle and only the LU season premiere and the IWRG show come close. Although the latter getting close is mighty impressive considering we’ve only seen one match from that show thus far. There may be a recount later!
Worst Show: CMLL Tuesday (9/6). Since we’re including even the minor shows from CMLL in this the category gets narrowed down to pretty much just one choice. That’s a great thing; there truly wasn’t a show that you could skip these past two weeks aside from this week’s CMLL Tuesday show. Talk about a whole lot of nothing, as in no exciting matches and no exciting developments aside from a potential Titán-Mephisto feud being set up. And even that is still a week away from happening at least, making this show pointless aside from that. No matter which way you slice it, this was the lone skid mark on LuchaPalooza’s otherwise clean underpants. Well at least from a show perspective.
Best Luchador(a): Stuka Jr. This will probably be a controversial call considering none of Stuka’s matches made the top ten, while a guy like Último Guerrero not only made it but had two matches during the two weeks that most would consider great. So why Stuka? Frankly, it’s because he was the luchador that stood out to me the most, even after three weeks to reflect. In the three matches he worked during LuchaPalooza he was by far the best performer and often had some of the most dazzling sequences of the two weeks (including one during the third fall of his Anniversary Show trios match that really kicked everything into high gear). Even with all the great lucha libre going on he stuck out in a way no one else did. That’s why he gets this and someone like the UG, Dragón Lee or La Máscara doesn’t.
Worst Luchador(a): Marcela. The EASIEST call of the whole damn thing. I actually took it easy on Marcela in my initial review of her lone performance of the two weeks, saying she looked slow and out of place during the Anniversary Show opener. That’s far too kind. Marcela, a very good performer most of the time, was indeed slow and out of place, but she also looked like she wanted to be a million miles away from Arena Mexico and gave the effort of high school kid trying to do homework on a Friday night. Off nights are fine; hell Dalys had one in the very same match. But she was at least trying. Marcela looked like she couldn’t be bothered and as such her performance was so bad that she gets this award. For shame Marcela, for shame.
Best Moment: Canis Lupus proposing. Apparently nothing says “I love you, will you marry me?” quite like a bloody mask vs. mask match in Arena Naucalpan. We’ll go into more details on that match very soon, but even that beaut couldn’t hold a candle to Lupus taking the plunge post match in the greatest proposal since Ian Johnson at the Fiesta Bowl. And this one didn’t even have Chris Meyers there to ruin it! It was a truly heartwarming, real moment and one that put the cherry on top of a truly classic evening for Lupus and IWRG.
Biggest Fail: Joaquin Roldan gets inducted into the AAA Hall of Fame. And now we get to where moments that intend to be touching go horribly, and hilariously, wrong. I’ll give Joaquin Roldan a small pass in this instance; he genuinely looked shocked and overwhelmed at this, which leads me to believe the brain child of this idea was from both Dorian Roldan and Marisela Peña. Beyond that small nugget this was a tragic comedy minus the tragedy. Not only did AAA induct the owner of the company into his own Hall of Fame, an ego move so big that Vince McMahon hasn’t even done it yet, but they actively made sure it overshadowed the induction of “Love Machine” Art Barr, one of the pioneers of the first lucha libre boom and a guy who helped put lucha libre on the map. They didn’t even have anyone come out to speak for him, a huge slap in the face when you consider guys that knew him (like Vampiro and Rey Mysterio Jr.) were in the building and surely could’ve given a speech. It was so bad it was hilarious; the equivalent of some kid filming himself masturbating and then thinking it be shown to the world. No one wants to see that, and no one wanted to see this not named Roldan. And maybe this guy.
There are the awards folks. This means there’s only one thing left to do; rank the ten best matches of LuchaPalooza. Let’s do it!
Best Matches of LuchaPalooza
10. Lucha Underground Championship Match
Matanza (c) vs. Son of Havoc (LU Season 3 Premiere)
To think this match only came to be thanks to El Jefe getting out of prison and enthusiastically deciding to pick Matanza’s opponent via a giant ass wheel. Thank you giant ass wheel! The funny thing is that both of these guys probably have a better match in them against the other and hopefully we’ll see that down the road. For now though this match works just fine. Son of Havoc wrestled like a man who had been screwed at Ultima Lucha Dos (spoiler alert; he was) and gave his best one on one performance since joining the Temple, and at one point looked like he could be a suddenly vulnerable (but still deadly) Matanza. It was a great way to kick off Lucha Underground’s third season and a great way to kick off this list.
9. CMLL World Mini-Estrella Championship Match
Astral (c) vs. Demus 3:16 (CMLL Puebla 8/29)
The Mini Estrellas make this list with an epic title match from the final CMLL Puebla before the Anniversary Show. In fact you could argue this match was the Anniversary Show for the division considering none of them ended up on the card, something that’s sort of head scratching when you view this bout. They key here, aside from the fact that Astral is really good and no rudo in the division is quite like Demus, was a long second fall that not only didn’t feel long but made you question a) whether you had missed a fall and b) if there would even be a third fall. Add in a great story of Demus going the extra mile just to knot the match up, only to let his showboating creep in and get the best of him in fall three and this was killer. It definitely makes you wonder what might happen if Demus and Stukita ever met with great stakes on the line.
8. Rey Mysterio vs. Pentagon Dark (LU Season 3 Premiere)
The sort of dream match that lived up to the hype and still made you want to see more from these two down the road. Not to mention that a season premiere doesn’t get much better than the most popular luchador today taking on one of the most popular luchadors of all time. For two guys who have only gone at it in tag action down in Mexico it really amazed me how well they clicked. Pentagon may be popular but his reputation was built on him being the badass rudo to end all badass rudos, and he did that here in slowing the pace down and dominating most of the match. Meanwhile Mysterio continued his career renaissance and while the Puma match was better, this match saw Mysterio looking like the same guy I used to see flying around in WCW all those years ago. The best part; the match ended with Rey getting the win but Pentagon still looking the superior performer, only losing because he once again got in his own way. Don’t tell that to some of the folks at Cageside Sheep though; to them Pentagon must win every match or else life is a failure and I PROMISED MYSELF I WOULDN’T GO ON THIS RANT!
7. Mask vs. Hair match
Psycho Clown vs. Pagano (Triplemania XXIV)
Tougher critics will groan at the sight of this match being on there but so what? No one will ever accuse what Psycho Clown and Pagano did during the Triplemania main event a work of art along the lines of Flair-Steamboat. But during a night where almost nothing had heat, this match had napalm levels of it. It also featured Pagano and Psycho giving everything to deliver some unbelievable spots, legitimate raw emotion, cameos from numerous lucha libre legends (Dr. Wagner Jr., Psicosis as Nicho); it was overbooked for sure but it was so overbooked that it worked. Perhaps Dave Meltzer put it best; it was a match so anti-WWE and New Japan that you couldn’t help but be impressed. I still am. Damn the haters!
6. Four Way Match for the AAA World Tag Team Championships
Jack Evans and Angelico (c) vs. Paul London and Matt Cross vs. Aerostar and Drago vs. Garza Jr. and El Hijo del Fantasma (Triplemania XXIV)
Psycho-Pagano may have had the emotion and heat but this Triplemania match had the goods. Even with the crowd silent for most of it these four teams managed to step up and deliver one of the two most exciting multi-man matches of the whole two weeks, and it probably would’ve been better if Fenix had been there instead of Garza Jr. I mean this had everything you wanted; dives, an amazing performance from London on his return to the big stage, Fantasma and Aerostar competing to see who has the best suicide dive in the business, Angelico craziness and an unexpected yet deserved victory for two of the best luchadors in both AAA and Lucha Underground today. Really the only thing missing here was an extended sequence between Jack Evans and London! They must’ve had to cut it to give Joaquin’s Hall of Fame induction.
5. CMLL World Trios Championship match
Mistico, Valiente and Volador Jr. (c) vs. Euforia, Gran Guerrero and Último Guerrero (CMLL 83rd Anniversary Show)
We’re into the top five with the best multi-man match of LuchaPalooza, slightly edging out the four way Triplemania tag thanks to a decent story going into the match and some great crowd heat. Granted that heat was misplaced whenever Mistico came in but we’ll just ignore that! The easy thing to love from this is that it featured all the crazy highflying you’d expect from the Sky Team, with the Guerreros adding in their classic rudo work here and there. But the match’s secret weapon was CMLL involving story beats that had developed prior to this match, such as all the Guerreros catch dives from the technicos and slamming them into the barricade and Volador ultimately overcoming the UG to win the match after UG had outsmarted his rival for weeks to claim individual victories. There’s many trios matches in Arena Mexico over the course of the year that are really good, but few at this high a level.
4. Lightning Match
Soberano Jr. vs. Hechicero (CMLL Super Viernes 8/26)
That’s right; a match that wasn’t featured on any of the four big shows managed to crack the top five and it deserves to be here. There’s very rarely a bad Lightning Match but most of them are pretty straight forward; there’s a cool stuff for a few minutes before it ends and you never feel like the guys were in danger of reaching the ten minute mark. Not only did Hechicero and Soberano pack in the cool stuff but they went so deep into the match (it doesn’t end till around the 9:20 mark) that it actually seemed this could end in a draw. It also didn’t hurt that every part of the match was layered and just as good as the last part; the mat work to start was tremendous, Soberano’s high spots were outstanding (helped by Hechicero bumping for him in a way most CMLL rudos don’t) and the final few minutes were packed with drama. Without question this was the best Lightning Match of 2016 and one that will be looked back upon as doing a lot for both guys. Both guys came out of this looking like Yvonne Strahovski during beach season.
3. Hair vs. Hair match
Rey Bucanero vs. Súper Crazy (CMLL 83rd Anniversary Show)
This choice is going to prove to be even more controversial than the Psycho-Pagano choice! I and Dave Meltzer are very much alone in our admiration for this match, one that several of my ilk thought was poorly paced (especially the first two falls), slow, sloppy and at times sad to watch. I’ll glad admit, as I did with Psycho-Pagano, that this match wasn’t perfect and that neither Crazy nor Bucanero delivered like they could’ve if this match had been done a decade or so ago. But sometimes there are more important things to matches than hitting a Canadian Destroyer flush and this match was that. The effort here was greater than any other match during these two weeks. It wasn’t enough that these two wanted the match to be great; they needed it to be great, and that story ultimately lifted this match to a level I never expected it to go. And that’s not all; you have to appreciate Súper Crazy going all out for this match and hitting several impressive moonsaults, not to mention Bucanero bumping like crazy for them and even pulling some old tricks out of the bag. I know I’m not going to convince everyone that this match is better than they thought but I truly found it to be marvelous. Maybe it’s because I was rooting for it so badly to be good or maybe I’m just easy to please; whatever the case this was such an underrated match and proof, to those willing to broaden their horizons, that you don’t need to work at a great pace to have a great match.
2. Mask vs. Mask match
Dragón Lee vs. La Máscara (CMLL 83rd Anniversary Show)
I honestly feel bad for both Lee and Máscara, at least as bad as one can feel for two dudes who had a great match in the main event of the biggest wrestling show of the year for their company. Deep down we all knew this was never going to work the way CMLL wanted it to; whether it was Dragón Lee not having the support of the crowd, La Máscara being an unexceptional talent for most of 2016 (until this feud kicked into high gear) or the fact that this match had to follow two of the most legendary lucha libre bouts in history, there was just no way it would ever live up to the hype. Despite that (and some interference from Rush that overshadowed the first few falls) this match was far better than I ever thought it could be when CMLL first announced it, and just on pure work rate was probably better than the Atlantis-UG match up from a few years ago (please note that I’m not saying this match is better, just that the in ring work was. Atlantis-UG smokes this one in every other category). I still think there was some stuff left on the table, particularly from Dragón Lee who was more or less the same guy he is in every big match you’ve ever seen him in. Of course Lee is brilliant even when essaying stuff you’ve seen a million times and he was here again; the key was that La Máscara kept up with him and gave the greatest performance of his career. Yes, even better than that mask match with Averno. He was vicious, he was confident, he was crisp and in some ways he was even better than the soon to be legendary Lee (can you be a legend at 22 years old?). Maybe it wasn’t legendary but it was a fantastic match whose legacy could improve, especially if it ultimately serves as the beginning of a build to Rush-Lee, which was teased in the post match ceremony.
1. Mask vs. Mask Match
Trauma I vs. Canis Lupus (IWRG 9/4)
How about that folks? In a two week span that saw big shows from AAA, CMLL and Lucha Underground, the number one match of LuchaPalooza fell under none of those banners, but instead took place under IWRG’s in the famed Arena Naucalpan. And this isn’t a pick for the sake of being controversial folks; this match, a match that featured blood, old school brawling, more heat than Heat and a post match proposal, is the stuff of legends. It’s the best match I’ve seen all year, one of the best mask vs. mask matches I’ve seen in history and one of the best matches I’ve ever seen. I’m not going to say much more than that because a) I have a write up planned for this match in the near distant future and b) the less you know the better before you watch this. AAA, CMLL and LU may have had some spectacular bouts over the two weeks but nothing like this. If there was ever a match for non lucha fans to check out this is it. This was the best match of LuchaPalooza, and a match that carried the fire and emotion that only Lucha Underground has captured in recent memory.
That’s it folks. And with that LuchaPalooza is laid to rest, until AAA, CMLL, IWRG and LU decide to do four big shows in the span of a week or two again sometime down the road. Good freakin Cthulhu, maybe Elite and The Crash will join in on the action then too just to make my life even more chaotic! I’ll be back later tonight with a review of tonight’s CMLL. Till then, have you checked out my preview for the WMD match between Marty the Moth and Killshot on tomorrow’s LU? Do it folks! It’s going to be fun; it’s going to be fun, FUN, FUN!