NWA World Historic Welterweight Title Match – Volador Jr. vs. Mascara Dorada January 19th, 2014 (CMLL/NJPW Fantasticamania): Volador Jr. is the face of CMLL and to many who know and watch Lucha, one of their favorites. Mascara Dorada on the other hand is one of the many luchadors who can work in both New Japan and CMLL environments and fans will love him the same. It’s unfortunate that he doesn’t get many main events but he shines when given the opportunity.

The opening moments both men are evenly matched as they trade arm drags, quick pin attempts and a game of anything you can do I can do better. The way they throw their bodies at each other with pure disregard is exhilarating and maddening at the same time. The Japanese fans love both these luchadors and are solidly behind Lucha Libre being seemingly in place on a New Japan card. They just up the ante with each dive as the match progresses, it truly is insanity mixed with heavy doses of intensity. They tease multiple double count outs as both men are selling like they were hit with shotgun blasts. The diving huricanrana while Dorada is amongst the fans was awe inspiring and added some swell realism while Volador Jr. added the nice touches of stiffness to his offense. I also loved that this match was not 2 out of 3 falls as I never knew when it could end as they were throwing their big bombs down the stretch. If you want to see 2 guys go out of their way to upstage one another, then this is right up your alley. How does Dorada still have some semblance of teeth when he lands right on Volador Jr.’s feet on an enormous moonsault? Everything about this match had an extra sense of urgency, they were off to show if you put CMLL in the spotlight in the main event that they are repaying the faith that New Japan showed in them. Such a quality Lucha match and it happened right at the beginning of the year. Big moves, big moments and nothing but fantastic moments between two of the best luchadors in recent memory. If that doesn’t make a statement to you, I don’t what will. ****1/4

Angelico, Australian Suicide & Jack Evans vs. Chessman, Daga & Pentagon Jr. February 9th, 2014 (AAA): Six of the most popular guys in AAA (not named The Psycho Circus, Alberto El Patron or El Hijo del Perro Aguayo) have an absolutely ridiculous match here.

Angelico and Daga exchange some arm drags and flash pins before Angelico dropkicks Daga to the outside. Pentagon Jr. and Australian Suicide trade for a while and everything is seamless, the pace is great. Now it’s time for the respective captains to go at it as Chessman and Jack Evans enter the match and Chessman is not putting up with any breakdancing and he goes on offense until the tecnicos pick up the pace and divide and conquer. Loving how the heels control the ring and brutalize all three tecnicos, it’s glorious and a breath of fresh air. Just the slaps to the chest and back are pure disrespect and makes me smile as the rudos relish in all this punishment. The hope spots from the tecnicos are just that, spots but if they don’t make you believe you are blind. Jack Evans continues to be great in these environment and Australian Suicide improves every time I see him. Everything is just a mad sprint as evidenced in Daga’s relentless punches and everyone flying around and outside the ring. The fans are brilliant in their own right as they cheer and boo anyone who manages to break up a pinfall for either rudo or tecnico team.

I won’t even bother to list all the moves in this match as my eyes can barely process all of it so just watch the match and enjoy the insanity. The last few minutes are an absolute blur but in the end everyone’s favorite axe murderer in all of Lucha, Pentagon Jr. hits the nastiest Package Piledriver I’ve seen in ages, so much empathy behind it. Everyone played their roles to perfection. Daga is underrated if you don’t pay attention, Chessman was a brute, Pentagon Jr. is the most legit luchador in modern Lucha, Evans as well as Angelico and Australian Suicide fly around and outside the ring without any kind of effort. Such a fun and easy match to watch and the best match that AAA produced this year. The pace was great throughout as the rudos slowed down the match with their simple offense but really bring out the heavy artillery when they find out they can’t keep up with the speed and agility of the tecnicos. The viewer as well as the wrestlers had no time to catch their breath as everything picked up and picked up until a satisfying finish. Let’s just say this was a rollercoaster ride on methamphetamines. ****1/4

Cavernario, Dragon Lee & Negro Casas vs. Cachorro, Hechicero & Virus May 23rd, 2014 (CMLL): These six are probably the best six wrestlers in CMLL. Sorry if that offends fans of Rush, Volador Jr. or La Sombra. Virus is one of my favorite maestros, Hechicero and Lee are great rookies, Casas is just plain nasty and Cavernario as well as Cachorro consistently bring the goods.

Love the grappling between Lee and Virus, one is too quick while the other wants to keep this grounded. Fiery energy from Casas and Cachorro as they just give and take from each other. I love the dynamic in this match, each pairing makes sense as they all go at each other with fury and it’s just plain brilliant. You know what else I love about this match? The falls are not rapid fire and we don’t get a long 3rd fall. Just the fact that Virus does a senton atomico on the outside and Cachorro doesn’t immediately fall for Casas’ deadly La Magistral makes me smile ear to ear. As much of a technical wrestler Hechicero is, he pulls off a stiff powerbomb. It gets appropriately chippy in the 2nd fall as all six luchadors take a multitude of liberties with each other. Just the idea of Casas and his teammates working from underneath is a simple premise. Cavernario is a mad man and his act is precisely what modern day CMLL needs. The pace as usual picks up and Lee and Cavernario hit dives and Casas pulls off La Magistral on one of the greatest maestros ever, Virus. This match is so great, it builds and builds to satisfying falls. The fans are hot for this one and are doing dual chants for both teams, these 6 men are doing something right. The look that both Hechicero and Casas give after being stiffed by one another is priceless. The interference that both teams run is great and just adds hostility in between, and in what happens to be one of my favorite spots of the year Dragon Lee is hip tossed to the outside, go see this-incredibly nasty. Then Cachorro follows that damage up with a tope suicida. The last few minutes of this are great as Cavernario hits his reverse plancha, Lee hits Hechicero with a double stomp as Hechicero is trapped in the ropes and Virus shows why he is the greatest underrated wrestler in the world. Near falls, speed, technique, clearly defined roles and 6 men out to prove a point. Even the finish as the mentors, Casas and Virus took each other out and Cavernario tapped out Cachorro only to be tapped out later to Virus and Hechicero being the ultimate prick sneaking in a foul on Lee and hitting the Northern Lights Bomb with his foot on the rope to get the 3rd fall and win. Everything about this match is glorious, it peaks and peaks and peaks, even with the ending which some may feel is cheap but in the overall narrative it makes tons of sense. If we did not have the historic mask vs. mask match with Atlantis and Ultimo Guerrero that completely overshadows anything in Lucha this year, we would be talking about this phenomenal trios match. You can have your Shield vs. Wyatt’s, I’ll take this match any day of the week over that. ****3/4

Mascara vs. Mascara Match: Atlantis vs. Ultimo Guerrero September 19th, 2014 (CMLL): This was a match I was dreading as soon as they announced it. I knew the outcome and still couldn’t admit it after the match was over. This is the most emotional match of the year and a moment that very few who don’t understand the back story will say that this is not important. This is historic, this is Lucha Libre at it’s finest and when was the last time that anything in pro wrestling broke 1 million in ticket sales? This was the end of an era, say what you will about THE STREAK being conquered, Ultimate Warrior passing and the multitude of ridiculous moments that happened this year but this will be huge in my mind years from now.

When you have fans who are crying over the outcome of a match regardless of who lost you know you have something special on your hands. One of your favorite luchadors loses their mask and their identity is revealed, we strip back the facade and see a man at the end of his career and we are more than observers at that moment. I’ll admit it here: The last time I cried at a pro wrestling match was Misawa vs. Tsuruta when Jumbo passed the torch. I cried for two reasons: 1. That match was beautiful, like a brilliant artist painting a masterpiece. 2. I would never see Tsuruta or Misawa live in person ever in my life. Back to the point, I watched this the day after it had occurred and for anyone who tells you that Lucha Libre is better enjoyed live I cannot disagree with them. I felt that I had been transported to Arena Mexico in Mexico City, Mexico and I was lucky to even have experienced this master class between 2 legends in this world of Lucha Libre.

The story they told, the way the fans reacted to every little moment and the respect shown afterwards between these 2 warriors was giving me goosebumps. I haven’t even talked about any of the moves in this match, it is something that people need to watch because my words will never do a match of this magnitude justice. Majestic, marvelous and magical, people need to watch this match even if you are not a Lucha viewer, this is essential viewing for pro wrestling fans as this whole thing runs the gamut of emotions. From the entrances to the packed arena to the interactions between both men, if this doesn’t hit you in the gut you have no pulse. Of course you have mask ripping but I do not mind it in an environment like this. The first two falls are both men attempting to outsmart one another and the little old ladies in the front row are amazing putting over their love for Atlantis. Just the fact that Atlantis locked in Pulpo Guerrero on Ultimo Guerrero to tap him in the 2nd fall is insulting and ingenious at the same time. The fans are thunderous and electric throughout showering their praises on both men. The 3rd fall is dramatic the whole way through as near falls just build excitement and tension until a satisfying finish. This is not a sprint but is a patient reward at the end as two masters of their craft tell one of the best stories of the year. We still get tope suicidas and top rope powerbombs as well as the Atlantida but the delivery is over the top and this is excellence. The finish is what puts this thing into MOTYC stratosphere, the fans explode and the sight of families, grown men, women and children crying is heartbreaking. Two peers peerlessly putting together one of the best mask vs. mask matches in Lucha history, modern day or otherwise. Watch the aftermath of the match as that puts everything into perspective. If you have seen this before, great and if you haven’t great, just watch it now. I don’t know what else I can say to convince people otherwise. ****1/2

Black Terry & Negro Navarro vs. Trauma I & Trauma II December 21st, 2014 (IWRG): Anything you can do, I can do better and beat you cleanly as well. If you want technical wizardry, mat work and pure ability then this match is for you. Plenty of nasty stretches and Los Traumas are going at their father Negro Navarrro with furious vengeance. There appears to be no set up when transitioning to submissions and everything is seamless. This is a game of one-upmanship, seamless energy and human chess rolled into one brilliant match. Everyone matches up perfectly and there are no lesser competitors here, just the way they crank away at limbs makes me cringe. My words cannot do this match justice and if this was to happen in the 1990’s these four would be innovative individuals.

However in 2014 these four are just having another day at the office and offering a breath of fresh air to what modern Lucha is. The way they work kimuras or just the way they twist each other into absurd-ist pretzels is captivating. Terry and Navarro challenged Los Traumas to a technical match straight up between 4 legit luchadors and both teams wanted to prove to each other and possibly themselves that they could not be mastered. Just the way that both Traumas are desperate throughout and their sell jobs of their damaged limbs is simple yet effective. The way that they limp around the ring but still welcome all the offense from Terry and Navarro is completely stupid or absolutely courageous. These four do not need to move a million miles a minute because the brutality of the submissions and the story of Navarro’s sons standing up to their father and showing they do possess some of his prowess as well as their own craftsmanship. That spinning inverted Figure Four Leglock on Navarro was savage and the finish with Terry having to step up to finish off both Traumas had the fans going bananas. If you want maestros, fathers and sons, respect, simple storytelling and some of the best submissions you will ever see then go watch this match immediately.

This match could be called The Final Stand of Los Traumas & The Return Of Our Triumphing Maestros. Some people may complain that they rolled around too much, that Los Traumas should have won at least 1 fall and that there was not enough action, unfortunately some will never appreciate all the aspects that Lucha Libre offers. I know I enjoyed this more than others but don’t skip this gem, a technically gritty master class. We can get ridiculous spotfests and then matches like this that make you think and watch intently and enjoy it because the moment was not fleeting. Be patient and be rewarded and in time you will come to find a match like this from IWRG, thank you IWRG you finally delivered a MOTYC at the tail end of the year. ****1/2

Final Thoughts:

I could have talked about Cavernario vs. Titan, Titan vs. Virus (pretty much any Virus title match is required viewing), Cometa vs. Cavernario, any of the En Busca de un Idolo matches or final and matches from Chilanga Mask that didn’t make tape-still upset I have not seen Rey Hechicero vs. Black Terry or Rey Hechicero & Black Terry vs. Negro Navarro & Trauma II, Ultimo Guerrero/Blue Panther vs. Black Terry/Solar and Rey Hechicero/Guerrero Maya Jr. vs. Los Traumas. Please Chilanga Mask, make tape and put your shows where lovers of Lucha can watch them. There are other multitude of matches I could talk, singles, trios, tag teams but these are the five I enjoyed most and you should at least watch them before the year is out or even after 2014 is over.

Let’s just say work rate is alive and well all across the board in Lucha. Legendary mask matches, ridicioulously fun sprints, the future of CMLL, maestros working in a modern era and Lucha Libre in Japan. All 5 matches offer something different, something unique and most importantly they offer an alternative and that’s what we as wrestling fans should want. If CMLL doesn’t do it for you, then AAA, if AAA doesn’t do it for you then Lucha Indies because we have to search high and low for these goods and when we find them we should share them with our friends. It’s just the right thing to do, until next year friends. @RobsBrutalWorld