The Top 50 Luchador(a)s of 2016: 30-21
We’re getting closer and closer sports fans. Twenty luchador(a)s are down and only twenty nine are left before I declare the number one luchador of 2016. It’s been fun right? Not too stuffy and by the book for you? Let’s look to continue that today as we drop luchador(a)s 30-21, including the Luchadora of the Year! It’s a sub category within the column; it’s LUCHACEPTION (*Hans Zimmer foghorn sound*). Moses, take the wheel before I embarrass myself even further.
30. Psycho Clown
Grodd bless Psycho Clown. This poor bastard was not only asked to keep AAA afloat after it had rammed five different iceberg in rapid succession, but was asked to do so while getting betrayed by his sister (Goya Kong), his stable (Los Psychos Circus), all while feuding with Dr. Wagner Jr. and a group of clowns that ranged from mediocre (Pagano) to downright awful in skill (Dave the Clown). Somehow he made most of it work, remaining the most over non Pentagon performer AAA and even coaxing out a four star match out of Pagano at Triplemania in what might be the biggest miracle of 2016. Seriously; those two had been having mediocre hardcore matches all year until that point and then suddenly it worked, partially because it’s Triplemania but mainly because Psycho Clown has developed quite the emotional bond with the audience. The magic of Psycho Clown is real folks. Hopefully AAA realizes that feuding him with fellow clowns just because they’re all clowns is a waste of his time and talents, and focuses on what should be their ultimate goal; making sure Psycho Clown vs. Dr. Wagner Jr., mask vs. mask, closes Triplemania XXV. Say what you will about the Good Doctor (who didn’t quite make this list on account of being given even less to do than Psycho), but that match is money in more ways than one and should be Psycho’s reward for the hell AAA put him through in 2016.
29. Rey Cometa
How Rey Cometa doesn’t main event CMLL shows absolutely blows my mind. Only Soberano and Star Jr. have the creativity and efficiency in their techno offense that Cometa brings to the table, unless there are other guys doing 900 spins and Lucha Underground level dives in CMLL that I don’t know about. Even with all of that Cometa remained in the midcard and at times lower this year, save for the beginning of the summer where CMLL decided to remake Cometa’s electrifying feud with Cavernario from two years ago. That feud and the spectacular hair vs. hair match those two had is enough to secure Cometa’s spot in the top thirty and should’ve been the start of CMLL actually doing something with him. Instead they cooled him off and now we must all hope he either a) gets another big feud during the middle of 2017 or b) has such a great match with Jack Evans in a few weeks that the two decide to tear the house down on the indies every time and just keep doing that!
28. La Máscara
It was a strange year for Máscara. I’d say about 60% of the time I had no desire to see this man unless he was a) doing skits with Rush during CMLL’s “let’s try backstage vignettes” phase or b) getting stomped down by Rush after he was kicked out of Los Ingobernables. In fact if you were to go back and look at Máscara’s 2016 from January to July and October to now, you’d say it was a pretty unremarkable year fitting an unremarkable star. The good news is that it doesn’t account for Máscara’s August and early September; that’s when Máscara suddenly found himself in the main event of the Anniversary Show (the biggest surprise) and even more surprisingly morphed into a vicious bad ass. I may not be able to recall if those trios matches building up to Máscara vs. Dragón Lee were any good, but I do recall Máscara did a hell of a job convincing people that the match was worth watching. He then did an even better job making the match significantly better than any of us expected; I honestly still think he was the better worker between him and Lee during the Anniversary Show match and their rematch in Puebla that followed (mainly because Máscara’s aggression was so well displayed and Lee, who can have great matches in his sleep, pretty much just played the greatest hits collection each match instead of trying something new). That, and the fact that he headlined the biggest lucha show of 2016, is enough to get him on the list. Why he didn’t keep that level of performance up afterwards (or why he didn’t have it before) beats the hell out of me, and it’s that (and his disappointing matches with Ángel de Oro and even Negro Casas) that keeps him lower than his Anniversary Show opponent.
27. Matanza Cueto
Doesn’t it seem like a lifetime ago that Matanza was this mythical sort of mystery Dario Cueto had locked in the Temple basement? Hell the myth was so strong that my column investigating Matanza’s identity remains my most read column of all time and STILL gets several reads a day despite Matanza’ identity being revealed almost a year ago. It was big folks. And while I’m not sure his eventual debut and subsequent run has lived up to the idea of him many of us had in our heads (Caleb Baldwin is nodding in agreement while reading that last sentence, while also fuming that I left out his middle initial), can anyone imagine it going better than it has? The monster rolled into Aztec Warfare II on his first night, got over in ten minutes by impressively squashing the entire LU roster like a grape and then proceeded to have a highly entertaining LU Championship run that saw him have good to great matches with Mil Muertes, Cage, Pentagon Dark, Son of Havoc, Big Willie Mack, Killshot and Prince Puma. Maybe he was a little too dominant for people’s liking but I can’t sit here and say that Matanza was anything other than a complete success for Lucha Underground. And the scary thing is he should be better now that he’s a) lost the title and b) probably losing his godlike power once that best of five series between Cage and Texano is decided.
The Man with No Pants makes the list! Not that Valiente had anything to worry about considering he’s one third of the best trios team in CMLL and came on super strong at the end of the year when he defeated Último Guerrero and Volador Jr. on the way to winning the CMLL Universal Championship. If that had occurred earlier in the year it may have led to Valiente being higher on the list actually; sadly it didn’t and everything else this year involved Valiente being the third wheel of the Sky Team, losing to UG every other time they fought or being embroiled in controversy over his decision to drop pants in favor of Speedos. Riveting stuff folks. I do think Valiente’s push will continue going into 2017 and that, along with the Sky Team’s continued run as Trios Champions, should give him more opportunities to improve his stock. He does need to show more in the ring though (he is still the weakest of the Sky Team members) and for Grodd’s sake he needs to go back to wearing pants full time again. It will hurt him in next year’s list folks and I don’t care how petty I sound saying that!
If this were a theme music list Titán would be number one, hands down. You just can’t top a Viking metal song after all. He’ll have to settle for a top 25 spot instead and if CMLL had actually done more than stick him in random trios matches for most of the year he’d probably he even higher. Even with that holding him back he was able to have a good year, including two decent runs with New Japan, first during FantasticaMania and again during the Super J Cup, where he had an underrated gem of a match against Will Ospreay. Most impressive however was his CMLL World Welterweight Championship match against Mephisto in September, which remains one of the best matches you haven’t seen of 2016 and something you need to get on immediately.
24. El Hijo del Fantasma/King Cuerno
Remember when King Cuerno started off season two of Lucha Underground by winning the Gift of the Gods Championship and having three totally great and totally different matches with Fenix? Pepperidge Farm remembers. If that had kept going both in LU and AAA then Cuerno/Fantasma would’ve been an easy top five guy. Instead he got hurt and was out up until the Summer, at which point AAA stuck him in a weird storyline where he was a rudo teaming with technicos and why am I trying to make sense of AAA booking?! At least he remained strong in LU, where as Cuerno he went straight from the Fenix feud to an equally compelling war with Mil Muertes that ended with Cuerno…well it didn’t end well, let’s just say that. He’s yet to be seen since, which means the Fantasma side of the coin will have to carry the load during at least the first half of 2017. Knowing the talent this man brings to portraying either character, I expect he’ll do just that.
23. Brian Cage
He was getting heat by using Donald Trump’s name in Mexico before Sam Adonis made it cool. Oh and he remains as compelling an in ring performer I’ve ever seen, especially in Lucha Underground where his move set seems to expand every match. Hell just last week I saw him powerslam a dude while caught in the Electric Chair position; I’m pretty sure that’s just another Wednesday for Cage and further proof that (Obi-Wan Kenobi voice) he’s more machine now than man. The only thing I felt he needed this year was a really nice story arc to sink his teeth into; his feud with Johnny Mundo was good but it was basically two guys beefing. Give Cage something more to go with and he’ll shoot up this list like shit through a goose. As such he remains one of the best talents in lucha libre right now and a guy who could have a great match with my Batman Bobblehead if he was asked to. I mean that; the dude got a great match out of Chavo Guerrero this year for crying out loud (in fairness, Chavo helped himself a lot in that match)!
2016 ended up being the comeback year Carístico wanted 2015 to be…and even then it was still kind of disappointing. You know, if you consider a year where you had good to great matches with Último Guerrero, Volador Jr., Rush and L.A. Park and had the only redeemable feud in the last few months of CMLL to be disappointing. I think more than anything Carístico’s problem was that he put too much on his plate, hence the numerous times he wound up going from Arena Mexico to Arena Naucalpan to do shows for CMLL and Lucha Libre Elite on the same night. It was a little too much, and I think Carístico’s devotion to Elite caused him to suffer from a booking standpoint in CMLL, explaining why he was left off so many cards and why he was often treated as just another dude and not the most profitable luchador of the 21st Century. If 2017 isn’t significantly better for him I’ll eat my hat. He’s away from Elite now, he’s still wrestling at a high level when given something to sink his teeth into and my goodness can he still connect with Arena Mexico. Maybe 2017 is when Carístico can finally come across some redemption. Just don’t call it a comeback.
Considering there are no more luchadoras on this list, I guess it’s safe to say that Zeuxis is officially my Luchadora of the Year. In the words of Xander Harris, duh! Who else can it be? The fact of the matter is that Zeuxis has next to nothing to work with in the CMLL Luchadoras division; the only other good luchadoras are either rudos (Amapola, Dalys), unavailable (Silueta) or kept away from Zeuxis because Grodd forbid we do anything but run more trios matches just so Tiffany and La Seductora can get a payday (Princesa Sugehit). Even with that obstacle Zeuxis managed to have a great 2016, making every worthless trios match CMLL booked her in better, getting everyone invested in matches we wouldn’t have invested time in otherwise (like that cage match from this past Sunday) and even managing to deliver two legit great matches this year, including a legit classic with Silueta before CMLL sent Silueta to Japan because…because! It doesn’t hurt that she also just took La Vaquerita’s mask this past Sunday to add to her list of accomplishments. The point is, Zeuxis rules, she’s the Queen of Lucha Libre and that’s all while she continues to deserve substantially better than what CMLL gives her. Grodd willing they will find some capable luchadoras to bring in during 2017 or they’ll wisely turn Zeuxis technico and put her against Amapola or Dalys. Just do something CMLL.
That’s the show kids. Luchadors 20-11 will be revealed tomorrow, but I’ll be back before then to review tonight’s Lucha Underground, a show I’m sure will in no way shape or form make me regret some of the rankings I’ve made thus far. Till then, your favorite redheaded FBI agent SCULLY!