the big story: There really wasn’t one; AAA and CMLL were taking it easy till the second half of the month. Outside the ring, there were three notable deaths in a short period of time.
El Texano: Died 01/16, and the following issue of Box Y Lucha featured a lot of wrestlers talking about him. Texano last major match was AAA’s TripleMania ’05, but the back injuries that put him in bad shape came from a cage match in Tijuana. During his illness, his family (including Texano Jr. and Super Nova/Spider Boy) claimed surgery on Texano’s back was not performed correctly and caused him to become further sick.
Texano appeared beloved by the wrestling community. CMLL and others did tribute shows for him before his death to help with his medical costs, and AAA went on with a planned one that took place after his death.
Black Cat: Died on 01/28. A man with a unique career path, establishing himself as a wrestler in Mexico (highlight being a 95 match with the original Mascara Sagrada) and turning appearances for a Japanese promotion into his eventual home. As his in-ring career ended, he became a trainer and front office worker for NJPW, and, as part of the extended family of the current CMLL booking crew, a liaison between NJPW and CMLL. Super Luchas had a good obit, as you’d expect for an international star. His death was mourned in both countries, and it doesn’t seem like the relations between the two companies are nearly as strong as they were a year ago.
Dr. O’Borman: Died on 01/16. His ties with the wrestling business weren’t as strong as the others when he passed, but he was an independent star in the 60’s and 70’s.
Somewhat relatedly, this month also saw referee Roberto “Guero” Rangel leave the ring, due to the illness which eventually claim his life. Scorpio talked about his long time friend, and his condition didn’t sound promising.
* WWE comes to Mexico: WWE toured Mexico with a few hours shows. The cards themselves were typical house show stuff. I tried to predict what it’d mean, and it ended up only being a slight wakeup call to the Mexican promotions, who still got their fans – though they did counter slightly. (It was also justification for some changes much later.) They were there for the first time since Eddie Guerrero’s death. Santo, Rey Misterio Jr., and Chris Benoit paid tribute to Eddie on each of the three shows (Gudalajara results – other ones were similar.) WWE tag team MNM provided the most interesting being the tag members oddly listed on lineups under their real names (MNM stood for their gimmick initials – Mercury Nitro Melina – so it didn’t work the other way) and being set up on a talk show, where the host brought in AAA wrestlers to challenge them for a match to determine which style of wrestling was better. MNM declined.
* Juventued Guerrera cut by WWE: this was briefly mentioned in the WWE/Mexico press conferences as a discipline issue. Juvi claimed that it was simply a visa issue, and WWE couldn’t get him into the country. While Juvi (and others) have had visa problems – in Juvi’s case, dating back at least to his arrest Australia – it wasn’t the case here, yet became the defacto excusing for any Mexicans ever dropping out of a US promotion. It repeated quite soon.
The Mexicools were actually a decently pushed midcard trio on WWE’s SmackDown, supposedly parodying stereotypes of Mexicans by acting like stereotypical Mexicans, including driving lawnmowers to the ring. (Everything WWE does is that plays off a stereotype is now a parody, in hopes no one gets too offended. It has mixed results.) I think the writers liked them, because they came up with quite a few goofy skits for them, and WWE writers love goofy skits. Or maybe they just had a lot stereotypes about Mexicans to playoff off of, who can say. The Mexicools started out as a heels and became faces without much of an actual turn – they just were fighting bad guys one day and that was that. Juvi won the Cruiserweight Title twice, and his 2nd title loss – to Kid Kash – was about when he seemed head out the door.
My favorite Juvi in WWE story – besides the one about him riding to shows with the mostly-retired Bob Orton, because Super Crazy, Nicho and everyone else wanted nothing to do with him – was actually everyone else’s reaction to him. At one point, Vince McMahon gave a pep speech to a group of wrestlers, and was making the point that any of them could one day become the top guy in the promotion if they worked hard enough. (This is a lie.) Of all the people possible, Vince used Juvi as an example, and everyone internally groaned. Juvi’s got a strong self worth, which is sometimes very helpful for athletes, but in Juvi’s case, it something that gets him ostriched and fired. As soon as Vince made the comment, everyone knew Juvi would take it way too seriously, pumping up his ego and making him insufferable, and that’s exactly what happened. Juvi has always seemed to be a cartoon character that way.
Juvi’s departure had some ripple affects, but it’d take a while to realize them. WWE ended up wanting Super Crazy as a single, so Nicho was stuck in limbo and would have had a hard time making it thru the year even if he hadn’t caused trouble for himself. Once AAA finally consented to bringing Juvi in, he recreated the Mexicools there with duplicates, and the Mexican Powers have actually gotten over pretty well as a midcard group (though they may not be long for this world either.)
WWE Juniors Division: As with Juvi, everyone knew it was doomed from day 1, but decided to enjoy it while it lasted. The juniors actually started in ’05, but they announced more signings this month, including Super Porky, who never actually made it to a match, but not including Mistico, who was much talked about here. Octagoncito and Tzuki worked a match on SmackDown near the end of the month, but WWE never seemed to have an idea of how to integrate them into the general landscape and tends not to do isolated subgroups that well.
Pierrothito and the other minis wanted to keep working Mexico on their off days, and that never seemed straightened out before they got let go. In that mean time, it seemed like Mini Familia de Tijuana got more of the mini rudo slots, and that’s worked out nicely. So the WWE’s not all bad.
AAA notes: Their first taping of the year was on 01/19, and it actually bore little resemblance to the ideas they’d go with most of the year. At this point, Abismo Negro was still a tecnico, and one taking a martiente from Cibernetico and a beatdown. This would’ve seemed to set up a big comeback tecnico run by Abismo, but he mostly fizzled in that role.
Abismo’s former (and future) Viper teammates, Psicosis and Histeria, met in the second Mexican Middleweight Tournament semifinal, a rematch of the controversial match which started this tournament to begin with. Histeria won, moving onto face Zumbido. That match, on the last TV taping of the month, saw Zumbido win the belt, which made sense because it would’ve been pointless to go thru this to do the title change they never got around to doing in the first place. At any rate, Zumbido as middleweight champion seemed like a promising idea, but never went anywhere – not sure if it was due to Zumbido’s personal problems or if it just got lost in the mix.
Latin Lover retires: Maybe this was the biggest news, if it had stuck. Latin wasn’t wrestling at the start of the year – he actually hurt his tricep doing a dive on a non-wrestling show. It kinda seems odd that his retirement from wrestling would come out of this, but it seemed like a situation where the decision had long been made, and this was just the occasion where the decision was publicly talked about.
Latin would return in 2006, memorable joining CMLL’s Perros del Mal in ring and putting on a t-shirt (in something that went absolutely nowhere) and wrestling in Monterrey a couple of times. It seems like his plan is similar to the Rock’s in the US – if there’s something he stand to gain a lot of money or publicity from, he’ll still show up, but his price has gone way up and he’s going to pick his spots.
Latin did not appeared on AAA TV in 2006, and there was a public falling out after he appeared in Arena Mexico, with both sides arguing over the rights to the name, and rights to Latin’s wrestling. Nothing much ever seemed to come of it, which may have been due to Pena’s illness.
CMLL: The top program, once they came back to Arena Mexico, was Atlantis versus Perro Aguayo Jr. The Guerreros and the Perros had started to feud in the offseason, and the two leaders (or co-leaders) squared off. It’d also been a subtle rivalry dating back to late ’03, when Atlantis beat Perro Aguayo Jr. in 4 fall match, and the odd finish there was reversed this time around.
It sounds like it should be a bigger deal, but it’s something I honestly forget about until I started putting these things together. The first match had Perro win, but when the NWA Light Heavyweight Title was on the line, Atlantis retained. A stalemate is about as good as the Perros seemed to do this year.
Chicago: Around where I live, the biggest lucha show of the year (in terms of attendance and buzz) turned out a couple of shows featuring LA Park & Dr. Wagner for both, and Mistico & Rey Bucanero for one. I was very hyped for these shows. Night 1 was not as good as Night 2 and I found faults (as freaking always), but it was pretty enjoyable weekend.
As I might have mentioned a time or two, I have the DVDs of these shows and you don’t. I think we’re (by “we’re” I think I mean “me”) might look back at these shows as the pinnacle of lucha in Chicago – not that some of the other events haven’t been good (some have been disappointing), but this felt like an event more than some of the future ones and surely was the biggest revenue show.
Also, this show marked a fantastic transition from “person who wrote about lucha on the internet” to “insane person who wrote about lucha on the internet who was somehow even more insane during Rey Bucanero matches” for me personally. A fine month.