Dr. Wagner Jr vs Blue Demon Jr
Lucha de Apuestas y Loser Retires, Supposedly
Arena Ciudad de Mexico, Mexico City, Mexico
// cw: blood and hammer usage, I guess? //
Sublime. Truly cannot describe this match in any other way with any other term. So often in wrestling I find attempts at grand drama to be corny and/or poorly executed but there’s something inherent in the big, dramatic lucha libre match style that gets me there in spite of those same issues. Along with another retirement match from AAA’s key competitor, this is one of the best examples of that phenomenon in a long time.
I could explain how we got here, how it is that arguably the two biggest names still active in lucha libre today found themselves in a high stakes retirement match, but I’m not sure how much good it’d do you. It probably wouldn’t change your perspective in any major way. All you need to know is that these old dudes hate each other. Like, really, really hate each other.
The action itself does a great job of illustrating that, obviously. These aren’t guys who are going to twirl their way through twelve-part reversal sequences as a vague indication of their animosity toward one another. No, these guys are going to make each other bleed, break each other’s bones.
To that end, the action is relatively slight but effective. These guys can’t match the sort of athleticism we saw elsewhere on this show but they’re more than willing to bleed buckets of blood and try something a little dangerous with this hammer-aided handwork. I can’t say that it doesn’t pay off. The spot where Demon applies the Fujiwara armbar for the first time after smashing Wagner’s hand to bits with the hammer is the most heart-pounding spot I’ve seen in at least two years, if not more. What’s more, they do a great job of carrying that impact forward. For the rest of the match and the lengthy post-match ceremonies, Wagner’s hand is absolutely fucked, a defective thing curled painfully at his side as he weakly attempts to keep his career alive. It would be so easy to discard the effects of a singularly violent moment that elevates this match to the sublime but somehow they manage to stay at that level.
A lot of that is thanks to everyone else involved in this match. Lucha libre commentary is something I’ve treasured for a long time, first as an indulgent way to practice my Spanish skills as a student and later as someone writing about wrestling. The commentary in big matches like this is just as elaborate and extravagant as anything we see in the ring, if not more so. It can come across as a little goofy at times but it’s so earnest in its relation of drama that I can’t help but be pulled in. No one’s making tired pop culture references, no one’s reciting nonsense they’re being fed from an aphasic septuagenarian, none of that. It’s just unbridled exuberance. When someone yells “NO HAY MAÑANA, ES HOY, ES AHORA”, I think “shit, maybe he’s right, maybe there is no tomorrow”. At its best, the sentiment of this commentary is undeniable.
The crowd also plays a role here. I find myself annoyed by other wrestling fans as much as I am by poor commentary but, for the most part, lucha fans don’t get under my skin. This crowd isn’t quite as magnetic as some of the others we’ve seen in lucha this year but I appreciate how much they’re into this match and how they never try to detract from it. Instead of chanting clever (“clever”) insults at whoever they don’t like at the moment, these people stand up and threaten the instigator. They weep for their hero when he loses or rejoice when he wins. They wouldn’t dream of trying to divert attention away from these men to themselves because they’re too busy basking in what these men have to offer.
That offering is not without its flaws but it’s hard to dwell on them, I think. It’s hard for me to complain about moments of awkardness or a relative lack of impressive spots when these guys craft something that takes my breath away. When I see one man ripping at the arm of another as blood streams down his own body or when I see the defeated man hand the severed remains of his hair to the other, I’m again swept up in the pageantry of it all. The spectacle is what lingers in my mind, what will stick with me for a long time. I don’t know what else you could ask for in a match.