In Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s terrific season five episode “Fool for Love”, our titular heroine seeks the council of the vampire Spike, after a near death experience has Buffy searching for answers to stave off death. It’s a wild ride; we get several great flashback sequences where Spike kills a couple other slayers, an Angel cameo, a plate of spicy Buffalo wings (he was feeling peckish) and a whole lot of sexual tension (Spike was in the beginning of his obsession stage with the Buff). But the part that’s stuck with me the most is this part in the middle where Spike explains the mindset of his kind and the reality of a Slayer’s mortality. “We just keep coming. You can kill a hundred, a thousand, a thousand thousand and the armies of hell besides, and all we need…is for one of us, just one, sooner or later, to have the thing we’re all hoping for.”
“And what would that be?” asked the Buff.
“One good day.”
You see what fascinates me about that whole sequence is that, when you think about it, that’s what we’re all looking for isn’t it? It isn’t to say we’re only looking for just one good day during the course of our lives; hopefully we have many of them. But there’s no doubt that in many ways life is a Vampire Slayer; just when you think things are going well it’ll come along, kick your ass and leave you feeling like you’ve been dusted. It may do that more times than not during the course of your existence. But like the vampires, you keep going; you keep fighting. And you do it because maybe, just maybe, there will come a time where you can have that one good day and show the world just what you are capable of.
Ever since I began watching CMLL I’ve known Metálico for three things. The first was his disastrous feud with Oro Jr. back in 2014 that cost Metálico his mask and pigeonholed both guys into the lower cards for good. The second was his penchant for no selling and humiliating lower card luchadores in the second match of CMLL’s Tuesday show, making Metálico one of the many “grumpy old luchadores” that seemed disinterested in helping the younger generation. And then there was his entrance. Whether he was booked Monday, Tuesday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday (CMLL runs a lot of shows) Metálico would always come to the ring dressed in an over the top outfit, lip synching a song in over the top fashion before then dancing with the edecanes (the girls you see dancing for every CMLL entrance). It was his saving grace; the entrances were so consistently entertaining that it overshadowed some of his less than desirable behavior in his matches.
Of course it still wasn’t enough to change Metálico’s reputation. At some point in lucha libre (or anything else really) you are what you are, fairly or unfairly. I personally think Metálico’s former rival Oro Jr. is a really talented performer, but no matter what he does he’s seen as a disappointment to most fans these days. I think Flyer has loads of potential, but he’s generally viewed as a basket case. I thought the world of Kawato San when he left New Japan to start his excursion; now some people are wondering if he’s a bust. Perception is reality, and Metálico’s reality wasn’t so much different than the rest. We all looked at him as the guy who had a fun entrance, lousy matches and lousier feuds, something that seemed destined to continue till he retired. And the only thing that could save him was that one good day, that one life changing moment that could suddenly “flip the script” as Premier League announcers like to say. It was the sort of thing that seemed to be impossible.
Until Friday night, when impossible became reality in Arena Mexico.
When it became apparent Virus vs. Metálico, career vs. career, was going to be a thing at CMLL’s 2019 Juicio Final, I figured the match would be good. Of course I figured it would be good because of Virus. The 51 year old legend is/was in many ways the direct opposite of Metálico; no matter his age or how far down the card he fell Virus always came across as a capable luchador willing to go the extra mile to make something work. He is a legend for a reason after all. So it wasn’t a stretch to believe that Virus, in a match with stakes this big, would put an all world effort in that could get this over the finish line. I was expecting a good match. What I wasn’t expecting was a classic that, having now watched back twice, seems poised to be remembered as the most emotional match in Mexico since Trauma I and Canis Lupus’ legendary hair match back in 2016. And while plenty of credit goes to Virus (who did indeed deliver one of his best performances ever) and a red hot Arena Mexico crowd for buying into the stipulation, I’ve come to believe the key to the match’s success was Metálico, the man no one, including myself, really expected anything from going in.
Okay; that’s not entirely true. Anyone who has watched lucha libre, be it AAA, CMLL, IWRG, The Crash, wherever, will tell you that there is a different energy for big time shows and big time matches. A guy who may look like a mediocre luchador on CMLL’s Puebla show may suddenly look like one of the best luchadores alive Friday at the Juicio Final. The effort, the drive and the desire to steal the show just naturally goes up for the situation, especially if you’re a luchador wrestling in what will likely be the biggest match you have all year. In Metálico’s case this was that situation times ten, considering this was likely to be the biggest match of his career and, if you buy CMLL’s stipulation, the last. So we knew he’d be energized; we knew the effort level would be up; we knew he’d be doing things he normally didn’t do, like his breathtaking Asai Moonsault he’s kept in the bag for the last few years. All of that was a certainty for Metálico. At the same time it just didn’t seem like it would end up translating to career best work. After all, effort can only take you so far; after that you’re pretty much left on your own. I just couldn’t see how Metálico’s effort alone could translate to a career best performance.
What I, and no one else it seems, took into account was just how much effort Metálico was going to put in for the overall picture. From a workrate standpoint he gave everything, to the point where there were times I almost thought he was giving too much. Metálico stretched the limits of what he could do in this match; he hit three dives, he pulled out twice as many submissions than I’ve seen from his arsenal, he had at least three major slugfests with Virus. From that perspective he left it all in the ring. That’s not stunning, Virus did too. The difference is that Metálico didn’t just leave it all in the ring from a work rate perspective; he left even more in the ring from an emotional perspective, far more than Virus even did. Let me be clear that that’s not a knock on Virus; in many matches like this I think you need one luchador to be the “lower your head, get this done” at all cost guy and the other to emote, to connect with the audience. Virus was the grounded one; Metálico was the emotional anchor. You could see it in the way he played to the crowd throughout the entire match for support, the stretches outside of his comfort zone he took, the way he worked himself to the point of exhaustion (both from a kayfabe and non kayfabe perspective) and the way he reacted when he came up short. It’s been awhile since lucha libre has had an ultra emotional post match moment; the most recent ones that come to mind for me are Dr. Wagner Jr.’s unmasking, Máscara Dorada’s farewell to CMLL and the Trauma I-Canis Lupus post match. I can tell you now that Metálico’s post match hug with a fan (following an impassioned speech from said fan) and a heartbreaking post match interview will linger in my mind for a long time. Whether you look at it from the world of kayfabe or reality doesn’t matter; in both instances stood a man who gave everything in this one match and lost it all. How could you not feel for him?
To be clear, this match doesn’t wipe away the last few years of Metálico having below average Tuesday show matches nor him being uncooperative with younger luchadores that could’ve used his guidance. If anything this performance this past Friday makes that stuff all the more infuriating. What it did do is give us a memory of Metálico that was far better than the previous one, at least until he does resurface yet again (it’s wrestling and retirement; they never last!). It also serves as proof that it’s never too late to deliver your masterpiece. In this day and age of great matches around almost every corner it’s almost expected that you deliver your best work right away or else your career is/was a waste. Metálico’s match with Virus proves otherwise. The man who loved to dance for years in Arena Mexico made the most of his last dance this past Friday night. And in doing so he found that thing Spike and the rest of us are all hoping to have.
One good day.