Wednesday, September 21, 2016

National Day of Lucha Libre: El Oriental, Cuije and Alebrije in Chikara

The Perros Del Mal faction in Mexico is mostly known today as a t-shirt Pentagon Jr. sometimes wears, but they were once a collection of the most wanted talent in Mexico. They also sent a team to the 2010 King of Trios. Oriental and company instantly lit the fires of the Chikara audience, though they ran into trouble against the BDK and their leader, one Claudio Castagnoli (a.k.a. Cesaro). While sadly none have returned to the promotion, El Oriental did wrestle regularly for Lucha Libre USA.

National Day of Lucha Libre: The battle of the Lucha Underground alter egos

King Cuerno and Mil Muertes are two of only a handful of Mexican talents in Lucha Underground with a different identity in Mexico. While Americans might not have as much knowledge of El Hijo Del Fantasma and might only remember Ricky Banderas from cups of coffee in Wrestling Society X and TNA, they certainly got to see both men at their most battle hardened during Ultima Lucha Dos.

National Day of Lucha Libre: Gran Metalik vs. Kota Ibushi

Before Gran Metalik there was Mascara Dorada, the rare full sized wrestler inspired by a mini. (Mascaritia Dorada is better known to American fans as El Torito.) He wrestled regularly for New Japan as well as CMLL, so check out this battle between him and Kota Ibushi as something of a "what could have been" in the CWC.

National Day of Lucha Libre: Aerostar, Drago and Fenix in action!

Aerostar, Drago and Fenix are the only team to ever be Lucha Underground Trios Champions and Chikara King of Trios, yet they never found quite as much success in their native Mexico. But they could still put on great matches. Here's one against Zorro, Cuervo and Scoria.

Today is the National Day of Lucha Libre!

Throughout all of Mexico, today may be the greatest holiday in the history of that country, for today is the National Day of Lucha Libre!

The Mexican Senate universally declared today as such, because it is also the eighty-third anniversary of CMLL's first show. The world's oldest promotion may have just lost a top talent to WWE, but its place of cultural significance in its home country is still obvious.

As a celebration today, I will post a few different unique lucha matches either from CMLL, AAA, Puerto Rico or American promotions like Lucha Underground and Chikara. But let's start with the first major appearance of lucha libre to American fans, from the single AAA American pay-per-view in 1994.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

A true classic... followed by the hard truths of reality

The Cruiserweight Classic ended in epic fashion last week with two amazing semi-finals that needed to be seen to be believed, followed up by a final between arguably the underdogs of the final four with TJ Perkins walking out as the first CWC winner and the first Cruiserweight champion of a new era.

I may not have written about it yet on this site, but I honestly feel the Cruiserweight Classic has been the best thing WWE has produced since the heyday of the Smackdown Six at the beginning of the last brand extension. Booked to feel like a real athletic contest with real stakes, hyped by the perfect salesmen in Mauro Ranallo and Daniel Bryan, and filmed in front of a smart and rabid fanbase at Full Sail University, WWE proved feature programming could be a major selling point of WWE Network in the near future. Smart booking allowed relative unknowns like Sean Maluta, Ariya Daivari and Fabian (Adrian Severe) Aichner to suddenly draw a lot of attention from fans. It brought people like Gran Metalik and Kota Ibushi into a far stronger international spotlight than ever before. Cedric Alexander became a star of the future in just one match, something ROH failed to ever let the young talent ever bring a hint of in his five years of pointless toil with the company.

TJ Perkins' win surprised a few, but he's the right choice to lead the new
Cruiserweight division to glory. Image credit:
And then came Monday night.

Look, the Cruiserweight division is less than a week old, but already it feels like its been ghettoized. With the commentary team seemingly focused on "heart" of the smaller stars, they have immediately framed them into the vanilla midget stereotype Kevin Nash infamously gave them. Worse, instead of focusing on the superb athletic focused contest of the tournament, they gave us a fatal four way spotfest. And that's not to say that it wasn't a solid match, because it was, but it failed to feel particularly different than any other four way match featuring highly athletic competitors, which WWE has in droves these days.

For the Cruiserweights to succeed as a weekly part of Raw they need two things: 1. time and 2. the ability to feel different than the rest of the program. And without the focus on MMA style competition and the laser focused calls of Ranallo and Bryan, I fear that will never happen. WWE can right this ship quickly though.

Starting next week, focus the Cruiserweight division to two matches a night and always make them either traditional singles or tag matches outside very special occasions. Let the talents show their personality and build their feuds between in ring rivalries instead of out of ring snark or antics. Change up the announce team for the matches, perhaps having Saxton sit out in favor of someone who can announce, knows the move and also keep that sense of competition alive and laser focused. They've got a load of them sitting around: Jimmy Jacobs, William Regal, Sara Del Rey, Adam Pearce, Tyson Kidd, etc. etc.

I fear without that, the division will just be a failed experiment. Let's hope that's not the case.

Now, let's wait and watch to see which CWC talent makes a Smackdown debut first.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Ryan Reeves no more: the once and future Ryback

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I can think of few stars that have left WWE in the last couple years with the ability to make as big an impact as former WWE superstar Ryback. But even though he created that gimmick before WWE, his contract with the company apparently gave them the rights to his wrestling alter ego (presumably along with his former NXT era identity Skip Sheffield.)

But as revealed on his podcast Conversations With the Big Guy, Ryan Reeves is no more. Reeves formally changed his name to Ryback, a move that will allow him to carry on his kayfabe name as he starts taking independent dates. Already having made a couple appearances as "The Big Guy", this will allow him a lot more freedom to sell himself as the huge name in wrestling he is and should be. Even if his run as a WWE main eventer was shorter than it should have been in my opinion, he still has tons of upside at only 34.

He will make an appearance in October at an upcoming WrestlePro event, but rumors of a move to Japan are already in place for Ryback. I suspect a New Japan Pro Wrestling run will begin no later than next year's Wrestle Kingdom.

For more information on Ryback and his upcoming appearances, check out his official blog or follow him on Twitter.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Tommy's Take on Backlash 2016

Hey everyone, let me introduce myself real quick: My name is Tommy Brownell, and I am a writer, editor, blogger, forklift driver and retired pro wrestler (I never did anything of note and you never heard of me). I was musing recently about blogging about wrestling and my buddy Nicholas Ahlhelm offered to let me contribute here instead of starting a whole new blog, so here I am.

With that out of the way, I just wanted to share a few thoughts on Backlash 2016, the first single-brand PPV since the brand split. This is not an exhaustive play by play recap. You can find those all over the internet. So, to that end, I assume that you have either seen the show or you read the recap of your choice already.

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