CaraLucha 1st Anniversary
Watch: @carxyus (DVD), @BLACKTERRY (some matches)
Arena San Juan Pantitlán, Ciudad Nezahualcóyotl, Estado de México, México
May 30, 2015
The subtitle of this article is an exact quote from @RobViper’s reaction to this card when it was released, and more or less accurately sums up what everyone thought when CaraLucha decided to put Volador Jr., Titán, and Flamita in the same match. After my March trip to Mexico earlier in the year, I had decided that I was done with Mexico City trips until September. This card forced me to rethink and ultimately overturn that decision, and taught me that, yes, it can be worth it to travel more than 2,000 miles on fewer than two weeks’ notice to see a single show.
Príncipe Diamante, Tribal vs. Látigo, Atomic Starvery good
[13:15] This is a fun opener that starts with good matwork exchanges. There are a couple of fun dive trains, and a creative springboard armdrag by Tribal. Látigo and Atomic Star win with stereo piledrivers. All four put in good effort, and while this ends up overshadowed by matches later on the card, it’s a fun match that tends to fly under the radar.
Before the next match, CaraLucha referee Rafa el Maya is briefly honored for 32 years in lucha libre.
Bestiario I Final: Aramis vs. Wassonvery good+
[12:13] The Bestiario tournament is, in a sense, CaraLucha’s version of CMLL’s En Busca de un Ídolo: its purpose is to find new stars. It has a simpler system than En Busca does, though: The judges’ scores are the final word, and the match results don’t count for anything in and of themselves. Before the match, the judges are announced to be Viral (the CaraLucha promoter), Rafa el Maya, Flamita, Black Terry Jr., and an unnamed member of the crowd. The winner of the Bestiario tournament earns the right to face Flamita in a singles match at a later date.
Aramis brings Látigo as his second; Wasson, who seems to be the crowd favorite, brings Centella Atómica. This match feels like a showcase more for Aramis than for Wasson, although the latter gets in enough cool spots too. Among the Aramis highlights are stiff double knees to Wasson on the turnbuckle, a standing Spanish Fly, a rope-step diving senton, and a spinning powerbomb. Wasson gets in a tornillo and 450 splash. For the finish, the two tease piledrivers until Aramis manages to actually land one for the pin, which does not please the crowd.
But fortunately for them, it’s not over until the judges have their say. Their scores are:
- Wasson: Flamita, 10; fan, 9; Black Terry Jr., 9; Rafa el Maya, 9; Viral, 10. Total: 47.
- Aramis: Flamita, 9; fan, 10 (eliciting a lot of boos); Black Terry Jr., 9; Rafa el Maya, 9; Viral, 9. Total: 46.
So Wasson wins the Bestiario tournament. This is a really fun match and is a good introduction to these two if you’re not familiar with them.
Next, the Guerra de Facciones participants come out to cut promos and, more importantly, to draw teams for their match, which will be a torneo cibernético with teams formed ostensibly at random.
The teams end up being:
- Guerrero Míxtico, Rayo Star, Yoruba, Fly Star, Sky Man;
- Kilvan, Andy Boy, Toxin, Rey Lobo Jr., Danger
As such, of the four factions – Neza Kings, Resistencia, Kriminal Boys, and Sky Stars – only the Sky Stars remain on the same team. This is a fun, creative concept, but difficult to follow live unless you’re prepared to take notes.
Wotan vs. Hombre Bala Jr. vs. Dinamic Black vs. Imposiblevery good
[9:22] This is a short, generally fast-paced match. Wotan has a hatchet, foreboding some lucha extrema, perhaps, but none of that happens. Imposible and Hombre Bala Jr. get the most action (and look the best of the four). At one point, there’s a creative “submission train” involving all four: Imposible tries to put Wotan in a tapatía, but before he can do so, Dinamic Black locks in a cavernaria on Imposible, and Hombre Bala Jr. joins the fun with a la de a canallo on Wotan.
Wotan wins by submitting Dinamic Black after a powerbomb. The finish feels a little abrupt, but overall, the match is more than solid for the time that it’s given. Wotan is a significantly bigger guy than the other three, and it feels like there would be more a style clash in a singles match or a longer match, but that problem seems to be minimized here.
Aero Boy vs. Eternogood
[9:30] Aero Boy has a reputation as a hardcore luchador but is more than able to work a good match in a less extreme style. Unfortunately, his reputation means that the crowd craps on this match because it’s not what they’re expecting out of him. Crowd opinion aside, this is a decent match, albeit with weird pacing at times. But it’s reasonably enjoyable for what it is. The highlight for me, especially watching live, is Aero Boy’s rolling casita late in the match. Eterno wins immediately after with a Styles Clash.
Guerra de Facciones: Guerrero Míxtico, Rayo Star, Yoruba, Fly Star, Sky Man vs. Kilvan, Andy Boy, Toxin, Rey Lobo Jr., Dangervery good+
[35:47] The dynamic of this match was confusing live; it turns out that scoring a pin or submission allows a participant to leave, and the last two remaining have a singles match with their hair or mask on the line, as the case may be. Adding to the confusion is that, despite the earlier drawing for teams that split up most of the factions, CaraLucha introduces the participants faction by faction, only to divide them into the previously decided teams once everyone has entered. (As a side note, I must confess that I’m kind of glad that Toxin and Fly Star ended up on separate teams because I have trouble telling them apart otherwise.)
This match can be divided into four phases:
- up until the divefest;
- from the divefest until the first elimination;
- scoring falls to exit the match; and
- the singles match.
The first phase has quite a few cool spots by several people, but Rayo Star looks the best (and elicits the first “¡Esto es lucha!” chant from the crowd with an impressive multi-springboard dragonrana variant). There are a couple of less than smooth moments, of which the most noticeable is that Danger botches a handspring against the ropes. Overall, though, this is a fun section.
The divefest starts with a great Guerrero Míxtico moonsault, and arguably reaches its apogee with stereo Tope Magnos by Rey Lobo Jr. and Toxin. Danger follows that with a ropewalk moonsault, but hits his head on the arena chairs. Ouch. Rayo Star’s contribution to this craziness is a top-rope moonsault in which he almost hits the apron on the way down, but ends up okay. Fly Star tops things off with a moonsault off the balcony. The only problem is that, by this point, this match has been going on for quite a while, longer than any match up to this point on the card, and how do you follow up these last few minutes of insanity?
The match calms down significantly at this point and enters a mostly straightforward sequence of pins (and a few nearfalls, but not many) to whittle down the field. It’s essentially an exhibition of finishers, but there are plenty of fun ones in the mix. I particularly like Sky Man’s rope-step Spanish Fly, which incidentally concludes this part of the match by leaving Yoruba and Andy Boy as the last two participants who have not scored a fall.
Roughly 27 minutes into the match, we enter the singles-match phase. Andy Boy starts with three tope suicidas in a row. Then we go hardcore with copious chairshots to the head, leaving both Yoruba and Andy Boy busted open. This is a pretty standard singles match, and Yoruba lands two package piledrivers on Andy Boy to win his hair. In an interview afterward, Andy Boy accepts his loss but wants to continue the rivalry with Yoruba.
There are definitely some indieriffic moments during this match, especially early and late, and the match feels like four matches in one, but this actually got better for me on rewatch. (Perhaps it helps to figure out precisely who the teams are.) It’s really long, is uneven in quality, and may try your patience. On top of that, actually following what goes on in this match definitely takes a lot of effort, even if you’re familiar with the guys in it. But all that said, the dive train is one of the craziest that I’ve ever seen, and there’s a lot of fun parts in the match that tend to make up for the match’s structural issues. It’s hard to justify giving this a “great” rating because of how unevenly the match progresses, but it’s not that far off.
Hechicero vs. Rushgood
[13:04] The Arena San Juan crowd is decidedly, practically completely, pro-Hechicero, and as such, this is a rare opportunity for him to work as a de facto técnico, perhaps for the first time since he left Monterrey in 2013. This change helps to make this match feel different. Hechicero has most of the interesting offense in this match, including a nice salida de mantequilla plancha to the floor. He also gets to do a tornillo from the apron, which fulfills his quota on that move for about a year. There’s much less of Hechicero’s more customary offense, which is actually not that disappointing, given this is supposed to be a change of pace. There is one moment where it looks like Hechicero wants to do the spot in which he lifts his opponent onto his shoulders, and Rush doesn’t go for that, so Hechicero quickly decides on a different continuation. This is a bit awkward-looking, but only for a moment. Rush wins with a piledriver after Hechicero flies toward the ropes and misses Rush, rebounding off the ropes instead.
Rush mocks the crowd afterward in a post-match promo, and to spite them, refuses a rematch. A stretcher is initially brought out for Hechicero, but he ultimately leaves the ring on his own power.
This is a pretty solid match, even if most of the enjoyment comes from the novelty of a técnico Hechicero. I think I enjoyed it more live than rewatching on DVD, however.
Volador Jr., Titán vs. Bestia 666, Flamitagreat+
[19:29] Titán and Bestia 666 start, and Bestia throws Titán into his handwalk, which is a cool variation of that signature move. But the crowd rightfully goes nuts for the first Volador Jr. vs. Flamita exchange, which is extremely fast. A second fast sequence shortly thereafter culminates in a Flamita tope con giro, which Titán and Bestia follow with their own dives. The speed at which Volador and Flamita work at the beginning of the match is crazy, and essentially broke my brain when I was there live. I wasn’t a big Flamita fan at that point, and seeing those sequences live corrected that faulty mental wiring.
There is one less-than-smooth Flamita torito on Volador at one point, but overall, the sequences in the first half of the match are great.
Later on, Bestia 666 starts to heel it up against Titán, and Flamita joins in, which is a bit odd because he’s the hometown guy and one of the few guys in lucha whom I have difficulty ever seeing as a credible rudo. Fortunately, this doesn’t last very long. The match tends not to be quite as crazily paced as it wears on, although it never really palpably becomes slow outside of the short heel sequence. The latter part tends to focus on more straightforward finishers and nearfalls, but even so, there’s a neat moment when Flamita and Bestia 666 simultaneously hit the Retador and valagueza, respectively. Volador Jr. ultimately beats Flamita with a Canadian Destroyer followed by a Volador Spiral.
At the match conclusion, the crowd immediately calls for a rematch. Volador Jr. and Flamita cut lengthy promos arguing about whether the rematch should take place in Arena San Juan Pantitlán or Arena México. Flamita refuses to join CMLL and says that Arena México doesn’t interest him. (In the end, CaraLucha did more or less immediately book a Volador Jr. vs. Flamita singles match for their next show.)
OVERALL: This is one of the best shows of the year, aided by a very hot crowd. None of the seven matches is a clunker, and the show starts and ends strong. The main event is easily the best match of the show, and while for me it does fall a bit short of MOTYC consideration, the proportion of matches significantly above average is high. The Guerra de Facciones match, while significantly less polished than the main, is the wildest match of the show and deserves special mention for the amount of insanity exhibited in its divefest.
P.S. CaraLucha, if you’re reading this, please book a Titán vs. Flamita singles match at some point. That way I can die a happy man.