It’s the most wonderful time of the year…

Yes, it’s Voices of Wrestling Secret Santa time again, everyone. The brainchild of JR Goldberg (@wrestlingbubble), VOW Secret Santa sees all participating website contributors give their fellow contributors, the greatest gift of all: wrestling matches!

VOW Secret Santa Archives:

Bàrbaro Cavernario vs. King Phoenix
November 23, 2018

Reviewed by Andrew Rich (@AndrewTRich)

Gifted by Jon Hernandez (@OldJonHernandez)

This is the first time I’ve ever gotten a CMLL match for Secret Santa. I have not been keeping up with CMLL lately, which is probably a good thing. From what I’ve gathered through osmosis from noted lucha devotees like cubsfan and Rob Viper, the company’s output throughout the pandemic has been, to quote Pete Campbell, “not great, Bob.” Luckily, my Secret Santa not only gifted me a CMLL match from before pandemic times, it also features two wrestlers who I really like a lot. Gracias, mi amigo.

The match in question is the 2018 Leyenda de Plata final between Bàrbaro Cavernario and Rey Fenix (billed as King Phoenix to avoid any naming issues). This is during the six months or so that Fenix and his brother Penta El Zero M spent in CMLL. Cavernario and Fenix had previously wrestled each other in June of that year, which Fenix won. Now they’re facing off again in this tournament final held in honor of El Santo, where the winner appropriately receives a plaque with a Santo mask on it.

I’ve been a big Fenix fan since he and Penta first broke out on Lucha Underground and I watch them all the time in AEW. I discovered Cavernario through the NJPW/CMLL FantasticaMania tours and he’s always left me impressed because, well, he’s a wrestling caveman who does cool shit and is quite charismatic. These are two guys on similar wavelengths with a propensity for going balls-to-the-wall in big-time spots, so going in I was expecting some fun hijinks. And oh boy is this match just chock-full of fun hijinks. There’s no time for extended rest holds or lessons in the finer arts of technical grappling when you’re too busy hitting corkscrew planchas and wacky springboard Codebreakers. I don’t mind, and I doubt the red-hot Arena Mexico crowd did either.

Because it’s CMLL, this match is two-out-of-three falls. Fenix picks up the first fall with a Fire Thunder Driver. Things take a turn during the second fall when he goes for another plancha to the outside, Cavernario moves out of the way, and Fenix splats on the floor. It looks like it hurts A LOT, and surprise surprise we find out afterwards that Fenix suffered a groin injury that took him out of action for about a month. Normally when a wrestler eats shit on a dive, their opponent will simply get them back in the ring and go from there. Not Cavernario. He capitalizes by going to the top rope and hitting his trademark splash to the downed Fenix on the floor. The crowd explodes when he does it and it’s hard not to do the same while watching at home.

Not only is Fenix able to continue the match, soon after this he manages to run the length of the entrance ramp, leap over the ropes, and hit Cavernario with a cutter. Then Fenix walks the top rope and hits a big corkscrew moonsault to the outside onto his opponent. How he is able to do all of this is beyond me, but it’s further proof that the essential building blocks of a pro wrestler are toughness and stupidity.

Speaking of that delightful combination, we get another insane spot when Cavernario takes Fenix up the ramp and dumps him right below the raised stage. This nutball then climbs up and hits the big splash OFF THE STAGE onto the prone Fenix. I knew exactly where it was going and I still yelped when he did it. Cavernario drags Fenix’s corpse back to the ring, but that somehow only gets two. Fenix fights back and hits an avalanche one-man Spanish Fly, but THAT only gets two. Cavernario locks in his Cavernaria submission finisher and Fenix finally gives up what was a drastically more intense second fall.

The third fall is the shortest of the match. At this point, Fenix is doing his best Hans Moleman impression as he clutches his pelvic area in pain. He hits Cavernario with the Black Fire Driver, but he’s too hurt to even sit down with the move, let alone cover him right away. Cavernario kicks out at two, then pounces on Fenix with another Cavernaria to win the match. It’s an abrupt and rather underwhelming finish given all the craziness that came before it, but given Fenix’s injury it was likely a necessary one because he did not look to be in good shape at the end there.

Despite the ending, this is still a really fun match that is right up my alley. I’m not the kind of guy who gets a big boner over Negro Navarro rolling around on the mat for twenty minutes; I want my lucha libre to be action-packed and exciting, and that’s exactly what I got from this pairing. It’s also pretty cool to watch Fenix wrestle a CMLL luchador because he and Penta are so tied to AAA. Unless something drastic happens, I doubt we’ll see him and Cavernario mix it up again anytime soon, but you never know with the world of lucha; it’s a rather tempestuous landscape to say the least.

As for who gifted me this match, my gut instinct is to say it’s from one of own lucha experts. I think I’ll go with Ricardo Gallegos on this one. In fact I know for certain he’s been to Arena Mexico plenty of times, so I’m gonna go one step further and say that he actually saw this match live! It’s Christmas, so go big or go home.

Match starts at 1:28:00