Thanks to for their badass righteous free counters

Buster Time Digest

At least We're Trying

Another site design means only one thing - the world needs more Buster Time Digest. This one'll be "quick" - just a few single match reviews just to make sure we covered all the bases.

A couple of El Hijo del Santo matches I had on tape and Liked
By Chris Lening

So I was browsing around Wrestleholics back when I had money again, and I decided to get the October 21, 2001 Monterrey show headlined by El Hijo Del Santo vs. Shocker, and also the famed mask vs. hair match between Santo and Negro Casas on July 18, 1987. I felt like talking about them, since they're both really good and whatnot. It's kinda neat to see Santo spanning almost 15 years, too.

El Hijo Del Santo vs. Negro Casas-Mascara contra Cabellera: July 18, 1987

This took place in the Olympic Coliseum in Los Angeles, and apparently was featured on some tape that almost nobody had up until Alfredo started selling the Kurt Brown collection. Despite its semi-obscurity, this tape is in Fabulous Condition, about equal with a good tape from your average US Indy promotion.

The prematch stuff gives a clear shot of the juxtaposition between the two going into the match: the young Casas, void of that creepy grin he always has now, gives his interview in a fairly confident tone, but once his opponent steps in for a few words with the broadcaster, Casas just locks on a death stare and does not relent until Santo leaves. Santo seems to pay no real heed to Casas in this segment, talking as though he didn't have someone who looked to be trying to telekinetically melt his head off to one side. Santo's entrance is shown, as the Son of the Saint is led from his swank motorcade escort to the shoulders of a few men, leading him down to ringside, as if he is too holy to touch the floor. Casas cheapshots him once he enters the ring, before Santo can take his cape off. The referee, who I'm pretty sure is Lucha legend Rey Mendoza, checks for foreign objects and such, but while Santo is being inspected, Casas nervously paces, in stark contrast to the casual walk of Santo. Without having really seen the feud which led up to this (damn the lack of TV from this era, damn it all to hell), one can take from this that Casas brought all the hate, that back then Santo merely thought him to be another in the long line of fameseeking luchadors gunning for the top prize in the game.

The first fall begins with a reinforcement of Santo's thinking. Several times Casas finds himself ejected to the floor, lingering outside as Santo proudly stands in the center of the ring, calm and focused. Santo almost literally owns this ring, and Casas must take it from him. Casas manages to make his own opening, shoulderblocking down a charging Santo, and then hitting a cross-body block to take over the advantage. Santo now has to come to him to regain control, and Casas fights smartly, leading a tilt-a-whirl slam into a Casita for a sudden pin, a little more than two and a half-minutes in. And now, Negro Casas has that creepy grin he's always got, although it's less creepy here since he's wearing actual pants. He taunts his opponent a few times, but mostly he just looks relieved to have taken the fall. He thinks he's got a shot at this.

Segunda Caida is almost a Casas squash, and to some it might even seem that Santo just sort of Hulks up to take the fall. He even reverses the imagery of standing in the center of the ring, as Santo lingers on the outside; he addresses this role with a little less of the grace of El Santo, but hey, he's about to do the unthinkable, so who can blame him? But in the middle of all the domination, Negro Casas unknowingly costs himself the fall, and costs himself the match. About midway through, Casas follows up on a knockdown by punching Santo right in the nads. By cheating in the middle of a match that was so clearly in control, Negro Casas reinforces the accepted dynamics of Lucha Libre: The tecnico is the superior wrestler, and the rudo must use his dirty underhanded tactics to gain an advantage. Casas reminds Santo, in the most unhappy way possible, that Santo is the superior wrestler. (Although at this point, Casas does seem the better worker from the detached perspective, though possibly that's because Santo is maybe better today than he is here, and Casas has regressed some.)

The assault continues even after Santo is able to speak in a normal register, but Santo's selling changes: Before being punched in the groin, Santo was responding to each move with a sense of frustration, and perhaps even of fear, clutching his mask as though he didn't want to lose it even when it seemed hopelessly lost. After this, he continues to sell the effects of a major asskicking for the duration of the fall, but with renewed self-confidence, assured he can, failing all else, outwrestle his opponent. His first offensive move in several minutes, a knee to the face countering an irish whip, causes the announcer to exclaim, "Uh-oh!" That rules. Casas bears the storm of the newly invigorated Santo by shaking his head, as if he's trying to get himself to quit letting this thing get away from him. But it's too late for this fall, as Santo locks on a Tapatia, earning him the win and a huge cheer from the crowd, who is pretty hot throughout the match. And we're all square. Casas buries his head in his arms, and Santo now bears the look of relief.

The Third Fall begins with a dropkick, just as the Second Fall did, but the roles reverse, and now Santo is the one starting on offense. They go back and forth, but whenever Casas takes an advantage, he lacks the same enthusiasm seen in the previous fall, at one point trying to tear at Santo's mask. It's as if he knows he can't take it with a win, but now he'd be happy enough swiping it from him in a loss. Santo eventually comes out of this back-and-forth struggle on top, blasting Casas with a tope on the outside. Casas sells this so well, clutching his shoulder, slowly sinking to the ground, less out of pain than out of dejection. He's almost crying out with some kind of indescribable feeling as he slumps down to the ground. He does not give it up just yet, managing to escape or kick out of a number of big moves, including a Swanton Bomb (in 1987, mind you, back when Jeff Hardy was being flushed down middle school toilets or something) and his first attempt at El Caballo, which Casas frantically thrashes away from. Eventually though, the spirit of Negro Casas wanes until there is almost nothing left, and he lies motionless, having realized he has lost the match before he actually even loses the match. He manages to keep kicking out, though, as though he wants to go out in the noblest way possible, submitting to the Caballo. Santo finally gives him his wish, strapping on the most painful Camel Clutch I've ever seen, and so it ends. (15:40 total match time: 2:32 Primera Caida, 4:23 Segunda, 8:45 Tercera). The crowd is jubilant. Santo is breathing hard, but Casas just lies on his stomach for a few seconds, before finally nodding his head in disbelief. He had it. But he lost it. Santo gives his opponent a hug and raises his arm, but Casas can't even look at him.

The work is somewhat dated, for although it holds up better than most things from the 1980s, it's not nearly as mind-shatteringly amazing as some of what CMLL offers every week. James told me he didn't see a whole lot of transitioning going on, and upon re-viewing this, I'm inclined to agree as far as the third fall goes, although I stand by my assertion that Negro Casas's punch to the testicles is the most effective use of a blow to the gonads I've ever seen, as it literally turned the match around. It's incredibly short. And yet, though this probably isn't what I would consider the arbitrary standard of "Best match ever", this is maybe my favorite match ever (though, to be fair, I need to see like a million other things). I was so thoroughly sucked in by the story of this match, by the simple power of its construction. On the level of opening up the minds of both the competitors to the audience, this is as fine a match as I have seen. Santo loses his aura, but manages to regain it, right when Casas begins his fall from the promise of Lucha's ultimate prize. I need to see hours upon hours of tape from their other feuds (which I will do, because I care about you, because I love you), but I have to believe that whenever Negro Casas decided to take on El Hijo del Santo one more time, this match was prominent in everyone's mind, that Casas was merely chasing the dream he almost realized, until he accidentally threw it away with a commonplace foule. He had been so close before. Even if he knew that no one could ever really demask El Hijo del Santo, Negro Casas would be a fool not to try again.

El Hijo Del Santo vs. Shocker: October 21, 2001

This match aired on TV they only get in Mexico, which I assume is because someone hates America, and thus deprives us of this. It's also got pretty weird Mexican commercials, although for those keeping score at home, Japan still is your overall weirdness champion. I wonder if German Wrestling tapes include Commercials…

Shocker's entrance is not shown, but it doesn't look like he came out wearing a Nazi uniform or the Fur Coat or anything. He's sporting a pair of what look to be Pull-Off Bellbottom Chaps, which naturally he pulls off before the match starts. Shocker can make anything in the damn world cool. He poses like Buff Bagwell, for the Love of God. Santo's wearing a pretty standard cape, and I'm thinking I discuss Lucha fashion way too much.

This match is under Super Libre rules: the referee is only there to count pinfalls and call for the bell on submissions. In theory. Oddly enough, Primera Caida is roughly ten minutes of mostly matwork, with nothing that would suggest there are no DQs.

Every time the two meet from standup, Shocker initiates the action, and every time Santo ends up controlling the exchange. Santo's passive approach seems to be what he was trying to pull off against Casas before he lost the First Fall: letting the opponent make the first move, and capitalizing whenever their aggressiveness caused an error. All of Santo's offense comes off of counters, reversals, and responses to Shocker, or on a follow-up to a move of his own. He doesn't pounce when Shocker leaves himself open, either, as in one segment where Shocker takes ten or fifteen seconds to get through the ropes back into the ring. Later in the match the roles are reversed, and Shocker does end up attacking Santo as he tries to climb through. But Shocker never manages to get any extended hold out of his initial rushes, but Santo gets a few from his counters, including a tremendous head scissors sequence that ends with Santo pushing himself up the turnbuckle with his hands and then pushing off from a horizontal position into a Flying Head Scissor Takedown. It rules. Shocker just gets outwrestled all up and down this fall, and then Santo takes it with a Caballo. The Tecnico wins the fall of Straight Wrestling, because dangit, that's what Tecnicos do.

There seems to be a clip of the opening of the Second Fall, as they go right from commercial to Shocker stomping on a fallen Santo. He tries to stay in control by wearing his opponent down, even hitting a bootscrape in the corner. Ohtani thus becomes like my third favorite guy who does that, after Shocker and the Fabulous Samoa Joe. Santo manages to escape out of the beatdown for a moment, but he falls victim to the rules of Super Libre, as Shocker mule kicks him in the nads. This is just about the end of Santo's offense in the second fall. Shocker finally seems to realize he's probably better off exploiting the rules of Super Libre, and so we commence mask biting and ripping and what have you. It ends with a Rocking Horse submission, after about four and a half minutes, put on after Santo appears to make his first obvious mistake of the match. Shocker continues to beat up Santo, taking him to the outside and whipping him into the seats. There really isn't a coherent break between the second and third fall, and I couldn't hear a bell in there either. The in-ring audio is a little hard to hear.

Just as he did the other Shocker offensive sequences, Santo eventually fights back from the beating on the outside, and Shocker retreats into the ring. Santo finally starts being aggressive on offense at the start of this fall, maintaining his momentum for several minutes. He only seems to be aggressive when it looks like he can put a fall away. Shocker, literally up against the ropes, manages to pull on Santo's mask, still a little loose from all the biting and tearing in the Second Fall. Rather than risk having his mask torn off (which I assume would be a DQ, even with Super Libre rules), Santo retreats to adjust his mask, giving his opponent an opening. Hmm, maybe all this mask-ripping does make sense. Nah, probably not most of it, since Los Hermanos Dinamitas use it so much. Of note in the resulting exchange of nearfalls and teased finishes is where Santo continues his match-long trend of working Shocker's neck and head by sitting on Shocker's back and bouncing his head on the mat a couple times, then locking on the Caballo. Shocker manages to make the ropes, though.

There seems to be this weird trend in 2001 of really good matches having really weird endings, and what do you know, this match continues down that line. Shocker sets Santo up in the tree of woe, but Santo sits up out of it to escape a Shocker dropkick. The referee happened to be right behind Santo, so he gets a chestful of boot instead. Shocker low blows Santo, hits a lariat, and covers Santo. The referee counts the pinfall, but as soon as he counts three, raises the hand of the fallen Santo as the victor, apparently by DQ. Weird. Official times I'm not sure of, but the whole ordeal runs about a half-hour, with over twenty of that inside the ring.

The only reason you wouldn't want to get this match is if one or both were just really off, and they aren't, so this is obviously really good. It's two of the very best going at it for a good length of time, and I'd say this is the best of the few Lucha singles matches I saw from last year. Looking at it alongside the 1987 match, it's interesting how Santo seems to come out with the same mindset, especially in the first falls. Casas ends up forcing Santo to get aggressive, but Shocker isn't able to gain a significant advantage until he starts cheating. Kind of an odd juxtaposition against Casas and his luck with low blows. The moves don't really change a whole lot, and neither does the sense that regardless of the stakes of the match, Santo's opponent is the challenger. It just doesn't seem possible to let Santo beat himself: his offensive strategy just doesn't allow for it. And of course, the perils of a small sample size thus allow there to be like a dozen matches where he's tripping over his feet or something. Anyhow, get both of these, if you like any of these three guys.

Chris Benoit vs. Nick Dinsmore, OVW 1/01
By Digable James Cobo

Longtime readers of mine - all five of you - may have noticed that on occasion, I git all uppity about the ridiculously high quality of indy wrestling available essentially at my beck and call. You may also have noticed that I take a great deal of pride in deriding North American wrestling as puerile, occasionally with more reason than not. I dedicate, then, this review to you: it's an old-school - but distinctly American - match in an indy fed, and Super Dragon's nowhere to be seen. It was also one of my favorite matches from last year, and arguably one of the five best indy matches I've ever seen.

For starters, it's Chris Benoit being allowed to wrestle for twenty minutes, and I somehow doubt that there's a fan of wrestling alive who wouldn't call that a Good Thing. Here, however, it's a Great Thing, as he takes Nick Dinsmore by the hand and makes me believe that he's a world-class worker. How? It's all rooted in tradition.

Much like Benoit's MotYC from 2000 - which would be his match against Steven Regal, for those of you just joining us now :) - he's got a very specific role to play: that of the Big Time Mother Fucker from the Dubya Dubya Eff, which is interesting right off the bat due to Benoit essentially being the total opposite of the WWF. And though he cuts a promo, and Cornette's commentary gets him over like crazy on that very basis, he gets it over through the wrestling. All of his moves, even though for the most part they're pretty midrange on the scope of today, are executed so flawlessly, so convincingly, that just watching him wrestle here you kinda sit back and go "god DAMN, that guy looks like a pro".

Then in contrast you've got Nick Dinsmore, walking out in purple trunks, being billed as Mr. Wrestling or some similar generic name, looking for all the world like some really ripped guy who dropped out in his junior year of high school to work at the Piggly-Wiggly and just stayed put for twenty years. For christ's sake, his finisher's a GERMAN SUPLEX - Benoit hits ten of those in a row on Steve Austin and he STILL didn't take the pinfall! You see him walk to the ring and you just kinda lean forward in anticipation of the iminent ass-beating he's going to recieve.

And boy howdy does he get it, but not in the way you'd expect. The meat of the match is basically Benoit wrestling circles around Dinsmore for the express purpose of humiliating him in front of his hometown crowd, and that's precisely what he does - Benoit stays on offense for probably eighty percent of this match, and probably for like the first fifteen minutes whenever Dinsmore lands anything Benoit immediately cuts it off at the knees. But Dinsmore, being the Plucky, Talented Babyface that he is, just keeps finding openings, and eventually the scales graaaaadually tip in his favor.

This is, of course, straight formula. Moreover, it's been a formula that's been a very significant part of the Big Book of Wrestling Archetypes seemingly forever. But what makes it work here, as opposed to the millions of other times when I've seen it done and just went "Eh, formula, **", is a combination of two things - execution (already touched upon) and simplicity.

I mean, when I said this match is rooted in the American wrestling tradition, I mean rooted; the highest-end spots are all Benoits (a repeating German, a swandive headbutt, and I'm pretty sure I remember a Crippler Crossface - basically he hits his signature moves over the course of the match). Dinsmore doesn't really get more high-tech than a top-rope suplex, a German suplex, and a couple of freaky rolls into sunset flips and such. But you know what? I just watched a match with Aja Kong and Manami Toyoda that went about as long, happened at about the same pace, but had spots and bumps that were a billion times more advanced... and it felt a lot more formulaic than this ever did. I'm not entirely sure why - I guess it just felt like they took an old structure and added modern touches, whereas Benoit and Dinsmore took an old structure and pared it down to the bare essentials. I mean, call it a hunch but having been fed a steady diet of TLC matches, inferno matches, three- and four-way matches, people diving off entranceways, moves through a table, all that just gets cluttered. This took all that shit out; this was Two Men Wrestling - and wrestling well.

Now yeah, that's kinda what you expect from Benoit. Dinsmore, on the other hand, I haven't heard from before or since, but here he looked like a KING. Again, it's all about the simplicity and the execution, or more precisely it's all about Chris Benoit grabbing the match by the short and curlies and making it go in a direction that's best for Benoit and Dinsmore. Dinsmore's offense isn't too high-end? Fine; we'll make the biggest spots in the match stuff that Kenta Kobashi no-sells before the bell in a NOAH match. That's still not working to get the crowd into Dinsmore's offense? Fine; Benoit'll chop the everliving bejesus out of him. Ah shit, we need something else - hey, now's as good a time as any for a weird rollup. It's all very very smart - Dinsmore doesn't do ANYTHING that he doesn't look totally, totally comfortable doing. The irony is that I betcha he's got some crazier spots in his arsenal somewhere; he was in the same fed as the Minnesota Stretching Crew where Brock Lesnar was doing Shooting Star Presses and Shelton Benjamin was doing 540s, not to mention the fact that you gotta believe that a worker like Leviathan - who squares off with Kane in the show's main event in a strong contender for the Please God Make It Stop Match of the Year award - couldn't get the crowd as into the match as Benoit. But here he sticks to what he can do really well, and just nails everything to within three decimal places.

*sound of gears crunching violently*

Got all that? Good. Because believe it or not, none of that was what I really wanted to talk about in this match.

I remember that I heard about this match after hearing one of Jim Cornette's infamous appearances on the ill-fated WOL radio show, where Meltzer partly put the match over by saying that Cornette's commentary was so good that it was like a third, equally-talented wrestler being in the ring. Now being that I pretty much rarely watch wrestling where there's English commentary, I was all ready to ignore it, until I realized that hey, this commentary is really, really fucking good.

Cornette on the mic is plain and simple a joy to hear; he's got a passion for the business that outstrips just about everyone else's in the universe. What tends to get lost most of the time is how smart he can be about the business, how sharply attuned he is to what makes the fans pay attention. Here, for instance, he's full well in possession of the knowledge that there aren't going to be a lot of people who would be watching this show for Nick Dinsmore, but quite a few people might buy it to see what Benoit could do with him. So his commentary takes a very specific angle: he begins talking about Dinsmore almost completely in terms of Benoit, outside of what the fans unfamiliar with OVW would need to know about Dinsmore (his finisher, his background, etc). He frames an unfamiliar commodity in terms of a very familiar one, and most importantly frames them BOTH in terms of what they're doing - i.e. wrestling.

And yet that's not all. For the viewers who still don't give a shit about Nick Dinsmore, he fabricates this story about this being a huge deal, and how WWF talent scouts are in the audience ready to put him on Raw if he can beat Benoit, and whenever Dinsmore makes any headway in the WRESTLING department Cornette fills his pants with man-juice. What's he doing? He's overlaying this very subtle narrative device on top of the wrestling rather than at the expense of the wrestling (after all, Dinsmore wouldn't get on Raw because of his dorking of someone's wife; he'd get on because he beat Chris Benoit at wrestling).

His commentary's fantastic, very probably one of the best-called matches I can ever remember seeing (certainly the best-called match from the last five years, maybe even ten). His commentary is SO good, in fact, that it manages not only to cover up for the one glaring flaw in this whole match, but actually legitimize it - the ending.

I honestly wish I hadn't heard about this ending, because it's worked so, so well that frankly I was blown away by it. So if you've been tempted at all to pick up a copy of this match, I reccomend that you skip over the next paragraph. If you do want to read it, drag the mouse over the following section (it's in tiny text to make it harder for people to accidentally read it. Yes, it really is that good).

*******SPOILER WARNING********

The ending, you see, is a run-in by Rico Constantino, an OVW antagonist of Dinsmore's, who hits the ring when Dinsmore JUST hit the German suplex - and Cornette plain and simple goes NUTS. He sells the angle perfectly; there's a very honest note of despair in his voice at Constantino ruining the match and Dinsmore's chances. But it's thematic, too; Constantino took Two Men Wrestling and fucked it all up. And I hate to beat a dead horse (no, really, I do), but it's Cornette that makes it work. When Dave gave away the ending to the match, I thought "Eh, that's an interesting idea, but fuck, it's not like I watch Raw or anything; why would I care?" Well, Benoit and Dinsmore went out there for twenty-odd minutes and created a world where all there was was Two Men Wrestling, and one of them had a Big Prize in his sight if he could just out-WRESTLE the other guy, and when Rico hit the ring...fuck, I knew the ending, I knew it was coming, but I still felt a twinge of anger. THAT, my friends, is how to use that finish effectively.

*******END SPOILER WARNING********

So yeah; I really liked this match an awful lot. I've seen it like four times now, and every time I usually end up liking it even more - better yet, it makes me like the next wrestlig I see even more too. I look at it like yoga: there's so much wrestling that's all about the high-end stuff, all about all that ooey gooey meta-baggage that I *heart* so dearly, that on occasion the best thing for me is to go to the most diametrically opposed place I can. And short of digging out the old NWA tapes, this is about as close as you can get. It's twenty minutes of excellent, simple wrestling, amazing commentary, and a breathtaking angle wrapping it all up. You really can't ask for too much more, because it couldn't give you much less - but everything they give you is as good as you're likely to see on the indy scene, or anywhere else in the USA for that matter. ****

Chris Lening
Digable James Cobo

Buster Time Magazine

Discuss this on the Message Board!

Lisa Simpson and Ralph Wiggum are the property of 20th Century Fox, all rights reserved.


All content contained herein is © & ® by the author.

Website designed by James Cobo, © 2002. And c'mon, if I can do something this simple, there's really no reason for you to copy it. But just in case, don't. At least without permission.