- WHO: Corazon de Leon, Negro Casas and Dos Caras vs. Atlantis, Texano and Silver King
- WHEN: CMLL Super Viernes, 12/2/1994
- WHERE: Arena Mexico, Mexico City
- Should I watch it too?: Yeah! All historical context aside, this is a really fun match.
A recent episode of Talk is Jericho features an hour-long deep dive into the years Chris spent in Mexico, as a tribute to the recently deceased owner of CMLL, Paco Alonso. I took to YouTube immediately upon completing it. Over the past year or so I’ve stumbled clumsily into a fandom for CMLL and have never been able to shake my longtime admiration for Jericho. Monday-Nitro-Cruiserweight-Heel Jericho is my favorite wrestler of all time, bar none, and that appreciation sustained a decade-plus lapse in watching any of this wacky shit.
A remarkable amount of history collides in this match. Tracing what would follow for these men up to today—almost twenty-five years later—yields results that run the spectrum from dead to retired to “headliner on the three biggest non-WWE shows this year”. Two of them might be more notable to the current viewer for their offspring. I am that current viewer. Texano’s son, Texano Jr., is a member of Los Mercenarios, the tag team that was kicked aside to make the surprise Lucha Bros. vs. Young Bucks match happen at AAA’s Rey de Reyes. Dos Caras’ is the father of Alberto Del Rio, whose most relevant work to me was (while under a mask as Dos Caras Jr.) having his entire fucking head kicked aside by Mirko Cro Cop in a 2003 Pride bout.
I used to work in a mid-size theater venue in Westchester County, NY where one night in 2013 I happened to be on hand to see Trevor Noah, a few years shy of hosting the Daily Show, filming a new hour of stand-up. He had this bit about how Americans ruin the enjoyment of sports by obsessing over statistics and analyzing everything to death (“The last time a black man scored using his left hand jumping over a mixed-race Indian was in 1967”).
It reminds me a lot of the way we dock a quarter star for someone making a dumb face or not selling a death valley driver on the apron long enough, then jump into a Reddit thread to defend our stance against eighty other sweating lunatics.
By contrast, he describes soccer as a game nearly devoid of statistics and metrics, where often the pre-game scrutiny runs no deeper than how lovely a day it is outside. I think about this a lot when I watch Mexican pro wrestling. I don’t get the impression Dos Caras’ mat-work was getting dissected on the forums after this one (though if it were, it would likely receive high marks – he still looks great here flying into Mexican Stretches and tricky pins). The same year I saw Noah perform that routine, Voices of Wrestling MOTY voters picked a small indie match involving luchador Hechicero the 11th best of 2013. In a 2018 podcast, Joe Lanza shares a story about the aftermath:
“A Mexican reporter from one of the magazines approached Hechicero with this information and Hechicero got insulted because he thought the guy was ribbing him or busting his balls about it, because the culture there is different from the United States where a small time indie match would never do well in a poll for a match-of-the-year type thing in Mexico…The workrate doesn’t shine through the way it does in the United States and your more popular matches with your bigger stars are always going to dominate something like that. The reporter had to explain to Hechicero, ‘No, I’m being serious, the voters really respected this match that you had.’”
When you watch a televised CMLL event it can really sink in that the show is intended for its live audience. Hechicero is one of strongest workers in the company, and he’s even done a few PWG stints in the states, but he’s not breaking out of the mid-card in Arena Mexico. It’s more like a steeped-in-tradition, loud and colorful backdrop to drinking beer and yelling, where the most valued combatants are those that inspire the most drinking and yelling. It doesn’t always benefit me, watching on my phone in the basement at work, but isn’t it kind of great?
With that sort of context, it doesn’t matter so much that Negro Casas, a guy doing relatively strong work today, is eight months removed from an (admittedly brief) appearance in the original Super J-Cup, an assembly of some of the world’s best in-ring junior heavyweights. While Negro is a treat to watch throughout, his biggest crowd reaction comes from a brief mid-match face-off with Atlantis, who today will still occasionally appear in a main event, stalking around the ring in slow motion while young, spry opponents leap eagerly into his sleepy hip tosses.
Then there’s Jericho himself, and honestly, he doesn’t particularly impress. Not yet at least. You can see bits and pieces of the guy who’ll read the list of 1,004 holds, especially when he’s yelling at opponents from the apron in a language they don’t understand. He’s late to a Lionsault for the second fall, which was supposed to sync up a little tighter with Dos Caras tapping out Texano. It makes me think of his post-WWE matches, where he’ll stop, smile and soak in the audience response after he performs the Lionsault in a way that I find genuinely touching. Maybe it’s because the Lionsault’s been there with him the entire way.
More recent main events against Kenny Omega (AEW’s Double or Nothing) and Kazuchika Okada (NJPW’s Dominion) catch a little bit of shit online from people who think Jericho’s cooked and out of new ideas. I love both of those matches (barring their finishes) and when I see his current in-ring style referred to as “lucha brawler” it makes a lot of sense. Jericho in the twilight of his career today is, in a sense, drawing from the guy he was a quarter-century ago in Mexico: a star with limited resources. And Corazon de Leon was a genuine headlining star —“It was a different world, it’s hard to explain, it’s not all documented by computers like it is now,” Jericho says in the aforementioned podcast before claiming, and I need you to get ready for this, “but at that point in time I was, you know, Nick Jonas of Mexico.” When I imagine the Jericho of today—a little bloated, clad in spiky leather and fedora, red all over—uttering that sentence, well, I’m a Jerichoholic all over again.
The match ends with an extended head-to-head sequence between Jericho and Silver King. In May of this year Silver King died in the ring following a match with Juventud Guerrera in London. I didn’t expect this, but Silver King ends up being the real highlight of the match. He and Texano are a tag team named Los Cowboys at this point and they dig into some tight tandem offense that feels a little ahead of its time. He can really move for a guy his size; he gets totally vertical on a slingshot over the ropes off of a tag early in the match, and closes out Jericho for the finish with a moonsault from the top turnbuckle. But again, star power takes precedence over work rate here. Twelve years later he’ll have perhaps the largest match of his career against a young luchador named Nacho, and it’ll do a gate of nearly $100 million.
Not too bad.