Lucha Libre WWW Editorials

A Swerve from Luchador Sorpresa: Maintaining Kayfabe by Partially Breaking It

The fourth identity of Flamita that I would see in 24 hours.

“I have come to think that someone, or something wanted us to see all this.” – Robo, Chrono Trigger

Those who have followed me for some time know that I’ve been raving about Lucha Underground’s season 2 finale, Última Lucha 2, ever since I left the LU temple that Sunday night. There are few things that I enjoy in life more than than going to live lucha shows. I went to Mexico five times last calendar year solely for lucha; and yet Última Lucha 2 night 2 managed to blow away any single show I had attended live. I enjoyed the same matches that everyone else did – Rey Mysterio vs. Prince Puma, the trios titles match, King Cuerno vs. Mil Muertes – but the most remarkable part of that night – the part that I’ve been most wanting to tell, and yet simultaneously struggling with trying to properly express in words – was related to the Gift of the Gods Match. It’s probably the wackiest thing that has happened to me in lucha.

Part of the struggle for me in telling the story is that I have trouble deciding where to start. I’ll mirror what was done to me and I’ll give you part of the punchline up front, but only part of it.

The luchador in question is Flamita, whom I had arranged to meet during intermission the night before in order to buy a Fireball mask from him. It was well known by this point that he had been traveling to Lucha Underground, and so I thought that this was a reasonable arrangement. By intermission time, night had fallen in Boyle Heights, and it wasn’t particularly easy to spot anyone from a distance in the Temple parking lot. I wasn’t sure that he’d see me, and thought about messaging him to indicate that I was wearing a Pentagón shirt, but quickly realized that would be practically useless information because that description would apply to about 60% of the crowd there. I was expecting him to spot him first in his characteristic Fireball mask, but he actually came out unmasked and recognized me first. At the time, I assumed that he decided to forego the mask because he surmised that even fewer people would actually recognize him that way, and so I didn’t think too much of it. We conducted our transaction, and I got my mark pic, with me in my Fireball mask and him in a Flamita mask.

By now, you probably understand somewhat where this is all headed. But in my mind, the wackiness of this story doesn’t start at the Gift of the Gods match at Última Lucha 2, nor the night before. We have to go back to late 2015.

As I mentioned at the start of this article, I travel somewhat frequently to see lucha live. One of the shows that I went to see was a CaraLucha show in early November that was supposed to be headlined by a four-way match with Carístico, Flamita, Hechicero, and Cavernario. However, just days before, plans changed when Flamita signed with AAA and was consequently barred from working with the CMLL guys. Knowing that I was flying in for the show, Flamita went through the trouble of messaging me to let me know that plans were changing. I told him that he had to do what he had to do for his career and that I was going to be fine one way or another, since I liked other matches on the show, and that he should worry more about the local crowd there. In reality, I was always wary of the possibility that the main event would change, although I guessed that, if anything, CMLL would pull their guys. So I had no regrets about the trip, and I did in fact enjoy myself.

Fast-forward a bit to the holiday season. Flamita’s make-up date for CaraLucha and the local crowd was a tag match on the Christmas 2015 show. I wasn’t there, but I’ve seen the match on DVD, and it was at least a high-end MOTYC. The following week, Lucha Underground announced taping dates for the Martin Luther King Jr. long weekend, and I saw this as an ideal opportunity to see a Lucha Underground taping without burning a vacation day the following Monday. I was only able to get a standing room reservation for Sunday, but I was glad to be attending at all. I had no plans at the time to attempt to go to Última Lucha 2; I was content with going once.

When I arrived in line for the show, I quickly struck up a conversation with a group there and casually mentioned that I had flown from Connecticut. When the group found out that my reservation was for had standing room only, they very kindly offered to let me in their group to get better seating. On top of that, they mentioned that one of the group members couldn’t make it to Última Lucha weekend and offered to allow me to fill in. I was open to that idea but had to check work commitments before I could accept. I had a lot of fun at that taping, but again managed to narrowly miss seeing Flamita, since he (and some others) were there only for the Saturday show that time.

I did end up being able to clear my schedule to attend Última Lucha 2, which brings us back to the first night of that weekend. Later that night, Flamita messaged me to say, “[E]spero te guste mañana mi lucha[;] va dedicada a ti.” (Roughly: “I hope you like my match tomorrow; it will be dedicated to you.”) I was elated to know that I’d finally get to see him wrestle; for me, this would be my make-up date from November. Keep in mind that the live Lucha Underground audience doesn’t get to see the vignettes, so we had no idea that Night Claw existed. I knew that Fireball hadn’t been set up for a match for that night, so I assumed that he was referring to a dark match, and that this was more or less a token courtesy.

Again, keep in mind that, on that evening of January 30, I knew nothing of Night Claw’s existence, nor what really lied ahead for me the following day. As we waited for luchadors to exit after the Night 1 taping, I saw Aerostar make a beeline from the exit to a waiting van, followed closely by an unmasked Flamita. (I am fairly certain that I’m the only one in the crowd who was able to figure out who he was.) It was a bit curious that he’d leave unmasked, even if for whatever reason he didn’t want to or couldn’t hang around to interact with fans. Again, as during the intermission, I didn’t think too much of it, though.

Come the following day, I actually brought my Fireball mask with me into the Temple, expecting to be able to put it on for his match, whichever one it might be. When the Gift of the Gods match started, six of the participants just came out and entered the ring before the cameras started rolling. At this point, because we’d had a dark match with a bunch of guys, none of whom were Flamita, I half-expected Fireball to be the seventh participant. But Night Claw got the final entrance in the Gift of the Gods match, to the extreme confusion of the live crowd (and me). He was billed as hailing from Mexico City, which, in retrospect, is kind of like saying I’m from New York City: it’s close, and I fly out of there, but it’s not even the state in which I live. (Flamita is from Ciudad Neza, in the state of Mexico, which borders Mexico City)

Of course, I had my suspicions immediately, but I couldn’t make a positive identification right away. And Night Claw went to some trouble to switch around his moveset somewhat. Early in the match, Night Claw did a corner 619, which nowadays might have been enough to identify him, but back when Última Lucha 2 was taped, it wasn’t a mainstay of his moveset. I must have blinked at some point, because I missed the Flame Fly on Siniestro de la Muerte (there was a lot of action that the cameras weren’t catching, and I might have been paying attention to that momentarily). Later, he busted out a Phoenix Splash as another finisher, which really threw me for a loop, as I began trying to wrack my brain for who in Mexico even does that move, and I was coming up empty. Later, he did a moonsault off the top of the office. My friends were convinced at this point that Night Claw was Flamita, based on the clip of Fireball doing a crazy tornillo off a balcony in his Guerra de Titanes match that had made its rounds on the Internet. But there are any number of guys who like to do dives off of high places. I wasn’t convinced enough to make a positive identification. It wasn’t until he did a headscissors into an armdrag on Killshot that I recognized who he was. That move is not at all common, and only a handful of guys with any prominence do it. Flamita doesn’t do it terribly often because it requires an excellent base, but it is a move that he’s done throughout the years, and he had an excellent base here.

And in some sense, the question of Night Claw’s identity had been, for me, turned on its head. Whereas most people were trying to figure out who Night Claw was, I was actually going in the opposite direction, trying to confirm whether a specific person was Night Claw. And more importantly, I had been trying to figure out whether Night Claw was, in fact, that specific person who had dedicated his match to me  the night before.

Of course, Night Claw was eliminated later on by Killshot, which took me completely out of the match mentally. But even so, that one of the best luchadors in the world dedicated his US television debut to me is something that can never be forgotten, and was a big part in keeping me on an emotional high for weeks afterward. To be honest, I’m not even sure that my brain has finished processing what happened, even some five and a half months later.

And then, at some point after Última Lucha 2, it hit me why Flamita was unmasked both during intermission and when he left the Temple the previous night: No one was supposed to know that he was even there that weekend. Going outside masked would have attracted more attention than not and would have alerted even more people to his presence that weekend. He had worked dark matches on previous weekends in the Temple, so regulars may have had the same suspicion of Night Claw’s identity, but it’s obvious in retrospect that it was meant to be a well guarded secret until match time. His match dedication was an exercise in a subtle ambiguity of first-person pronouns; coming from “Flamita”, “my match” was accurate only in an interpretation that breaks kayfabe, not in one that keeps it. Think for a moment about how thick the irony is for a masked luchador to do this intentionally.

Secondary to the mid-match epiphany of Night Claw’s identity itself, but also a wacky turn of events, and the reason why I went through the trouble of winding the story all the way back to the previous November, was that, at that time, neither he nor I was going to be at Última Lucha 2, and were it not for his signing with AAA, I would have seen him at that November CaraLucha show, in his home venue of Arena San Juan Pantitlán in Ciudad Neza. Even when I made plans to go to Lucha Underground, it was originally for a single taping, not for Última Lucha 2, and an extraordinary amount of luck (and kindness on the part of people I met) made me able to return for the season 2 finale, where we would finally cross paths for the first time in exactly eight months, for the first time since the 1st CaraLucha Anniversary show.

I didn’t know it at the time, and neither did Flamita, but both the Night Claw character and Flamita’s AAA run as a whole will end up a mere footnote in his already-long career, and while he may go on to assume other identities for whatever reason, he has, for the time being, returned to being Flamita. And yet, somehow, it happened that I got to see four distinct identities of his – unmasked, Flamita, Fireball, and Night Claw – in a span of 24 hours, and as ephemeral as Night Claw may have been, it’s a character that I can never forget. Night Claw managed to dedicate his debut match to me before I knew that he existed, at a show that I originally wasn’t going to attend. And this probably doesn’t happen if original November 7 CaraLucha main event had been allowed to occur.

Somehow, in a strange twist of events – no, multiple twists – something as wacky as all of this actually happened. Something as innocuous as a singular first-person pronoun became a swerve. As with so many unusual things that I’ve experienced in lucha, the best conclusion that I can draw is that this happened because it was meant to.

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