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Another day in Blue Panther Week is upon us. Praise be! Yesterday we took a look at Panther’s talented and underrated (by CMLL) son Black Panther. Today it’s time to talk about Panther’s oldest son, the powerhouse of Los Divinos Laguneros and someone who hasn’t had it quite as easy as his father and younger brother have. Of course I can only be talking about Blue Panther Jr. Let’s learn all about him!
You know what the problem is when you do two separate profiles on two brothers who have identical careers; the second column is going to be a lot shorter. Such is the case with Blue Panther Jr. Aside from debuting a few days earlier than his brother (December 29th, 2013) and being the oldest son of Blue Panther as opposed to the middle or youngest, Blue Panther Jr. and Black Panther have a very identical career, especially early on. A new name; check, with Junior ironically going by Black Panther to start his career. That 2014 La Copa Junior cibernetico Black Panther took part in; Junior was there too, getting eliminated fifth. The early rivalry pitting the Panthers against Felino, Puma and Tiger Casas; Junior was in the middle of all that. The 2014 Gran Alternativa Black Panther took part in with Blue Panther himself; Junior was there too, teaming with Diamante Azul of all people to lose in the first round to eventual winners Cavernario and Mr. Niebla (2014 was a great year for Cavernario was it not?). That’s pretty much everything his brother did only slightly less impressive for whatever reason. Things really only differentiate between Junior and his brother thanks to En Busca en un Ídolo. As it turns out Junior had a chance to be a part of that tournament as well, only he failed to qualify after being eliminated in the qualifying cibernetico. And so begins a separation of sorts between the brothers; the younger Black Panther goes onto have a great showing in a fondly remembered tournament while Junior got to wrestle a bunch of random trios matches, with maybe a Lightning Match thrown in every once in awhile. Who knows what would’ve happened if things were reversed or if both brothers had been in? A mystery that shall never be solved.
The good news for Junior is that his brother wasn’t exactly given a big push coming out of En Busca de un Ídolo, leading to him joining Junior and their father in trios action for the rest of 2014. Along the way came the name changes, with Junior switching over to the Blue Panther Jr. name at the same press conference Black Panther changed his name from Cachorro to The Panther. In a way things were looking up Panther; he had the name of his father (which would always provide him opportunities) and he was part of some really fun matches with his family against the likes of the Casas family and Virus. And then things looked like they were going to get even better in May of 2015. That’s when Junior did what he failed to do the year previously and qualify for the 2015 edition of En Busca en un Ídolo. This was a huge deal; the 2014 edition had been a triumphant success that at worst put a spotlight on everyone involved (and in the case of Dragón Lee and Cavernario elevated them big time). Now Junior would be a part of the 2015 tournament? Surely this would lead to big OH COME ON YOU KNOW WHERE THIS IS GOING!
Unfortunately for Junior, the 2015 En Busca en un Ídolo was no 2014 En Busca en un Ídolo. For one there was the talent, made up of Junior, Guerrero Maya Jr., Delta, Boby Zavela (later Bobby Z), Disturbio, Esfinge, Flyer and (get ready to gulp with horror) Canelo Casas. CANELO CASAS! Needless to say this was not the talent pool CMLL worked with in 2014; of the eight only Maya and Delta were great workers at the time and since this tournament only Flyer has kind of, sort of broken into the upper midcard/main event scene (and that took him years to accomplish). Immediately Junior was in a worse situation than his brother and he only hurt his cause even more with, quite frankly, a poor performance throughout. How bad did it get? First, Junior wound up scoring a zero from one of the judges in his match with Canelo Casas. That judge; his own father! That is some “Cats in the Cradle” shit if Junior hadn’t unfortunately earned it. Then to top it all of Junior scored a zero from all the judges by not appearing in his final first round match against Delta because…because? I’m not too sure. All I know is Hechicero replaced him and the no show ended Junior’s En Busca en un Ídolo with the lowest first round score and an elimination. It couldn’t have gone worse for Junior if he was Canelo Casas and that’s saying something.
After that debacle Junior returned to teaming with his father and brother and settled into the role as the third wheel on the team for the next year. It wasn’t until the summer of 2016 when, at least in my opinion, Junior finally started to get it together. His confidence improved, he began to settle into a style that suited him (instead of trying to be a bit everything like his brother and father) and for a few weeks even outperformed his brother before Panther regained his mojo in Ring of Honor. He’s also become the new King of the Backbreaker in CMLL, taking over the title since Atlantis has lost his touch. What did this all lead to? Absolutely nothing. With the exception of the occasional Lightning Match and a briefly teased feud with Misterioso Jr., Junior’s career has largely gone the way of his brother’s. They have a lot of trios matches, most of which are fun to watch, and they seemingly have no hope of rising above that level unless something changes. Perhaps that change will be this Friday’s Copa Halcón Suriano, which Junior is a part of at his father’s Aniversario. Knowing CMLL, it probably won’t be.
Outside of Mexico
Blue Panther Jr. has really only had one extended trip outside of the CMLL bubble; the 2017 FantasticaMania tour over in New Japan. To say it was a surprising pick would be an understatement. Most expected his brother to return after an overall successful tour the year before (although the roster was chosen around the time Junior was outwrestling Panther to an extent). Alas Junior got the call and, in typical Junior fashion, things didn’t go as planned. Unlike En Busca en un Ídolo however this wasn’t Junior’s fault. If you saw any of FantasticaMania 2017 then you’ll notice Junior is often taped up in the left shoulder area. That’s cause he injured himself (I want to say right before the tour but don’t quote me on it) and the injury ultimately limited him enough that by the time his final match rolled around all New Japan had him doing was coming in to take the pin. Just a case of bad timing for Junior, who probably would do a better job if he were to go back again thanks to his growth. And I mean that in the literal and figurative sense.
Not counting En Busca en un Ídolo 2015, Junior doesn’t exactly have a ton of singles matches crawling around out there. What he does have are a ton of great trios matches to choose from. If there’s any one you should check out I’d personally go with a match Junior, his brother and Blue Panther had against Dragón Rojo Jr., Hechicero and Pólvora on June 22nd of this year. As I’ve said over 9,000 times in these Panther columns almost all Panther trios matches are worth watching; this match however is the high end stuff against opponents the Panthers generally have great chemistry with. This is also the match (which by the way was followed later by LA Park vs. Rush in the main event. Yeah, it was THAT show) also features Junior watching his 58 year old dad do A GORRAM CROWD DIVE! That spot is almost why we’re doing this whole Blue Panther Week thing! The point is it’s well worth your time to go check out. One other recommendation I’ll make is a tag match Junior and Black Panther had against (get ready for this) Black Terry and Negro Navarro on the April 11th, 2017 edition of CMLL’s Tuesday show. The match was for Terry and Navarro’s CMLL Arena Coliseo Tag Team Championships (that they won off Panther and Guererro Maya Jr. in case you forgot) and it’s really a treat, the kind of match old school lucha libre fans would just eat up. Quite frankly that may be the biggest moment of Junior’s career to this point and with good reason.
If you’ve made it to this point you must be thinking to yourself “wow, Eric really hates Blue Panther Jr.!” That’s not even close to the truth. Admittedly it has not always been smooth sailing for Junior and his resume doesn’t have the same wow factor that his brother has. Part of the reason is that Black Panther was good out of the gate, not to mention that he’s well rounded in almost every style where as Junior is very much a power guy with some hops and some mat ability. Frankly I think that may have been Junior’s problem early on; he was trying too hard to be his father or brother and he couldn’t be because that’s not who he is. I think he’s figured that out now and since then he’s way more confident in the ring with his power game. And my Grodd those Backbreakers; say what you will about Junior but he does those better than anyone else in lucha right now. It’s too the point now where, at least for me, he can be enjoyed in matches that don’t feature his brother or dad. Does that mean he’s got it all figured out? Of course not; I’d still like to see him be a bit more consistent and CMLL would do well to give him a few more opportunities as well. Part of the reason Black Panther was so good out of the gate is that he worked with guys that pushed him; I’m not sure Junior has ever gotten that opportunity outside of trios action. I’m dubious as to whether CMLL will do that but they’ll have the chance to because, like his father and brother, I don’t see Junior leaving CMLL any time soon. In the end, for all his struggles, I’ve grown to really enjoy Blue Panther Jr. and his improvement and effort to make said improvement (even his critics will tell you he always works and tries very hard) make it hard not to root for him. And considering he’s still only in his fifth year of lucha libre (and is at most in his early 30’s) there’s still plenty of time for him to grow even more as a performer.
That’s the story of Blue Panther Jr. sports fans. Tomorrow Blue Panther Week rolls on with a look at his mask vs. mask match with Villano V! Till then!
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