Matt D., one of the wonderful writers behind Segunda Caida, sent this match to me in my Twitter replies today. It’s a neat indie lucha apuesta between Comando Negro and El Pollo from 2010. It has all the grit and grime that implies. A lot of the superficial charms are here–this darkened but rowdy arena, a handheld camera with no commentary, and of course the blood that I associate with all the most heated mask matches. I’d be remiss to mention the novelty of El Pollo’s character as a whole either. The man comes out dressed in a full chicken costume. Not gear, costume. It’s an important distinction. It is loose and fluffy and feels more at home on the parking lot of a strip mall than in the middle of a wrestling ring.

But as happens in pro wrestling, and especially in lucha libre, these sort of superficial silly trappings can often give way to something a little more visceral. There’s precedent for this, of course, just look at something like the particularly nasty Los Thundercats vs. Trio Fantasia apuesta from December 1991 as an example. Beneath the cartoon layers, there’s goddamn luchadores beneath, with all the pride that entails. So when El Pollo in his soft, feathery costume makes that big early tope or dives off the apron to take a full flat bump right onto the concrete, it’s because even the silliest mask has value.

Intentional or not too, there’s something really striking about El Pollo quite literally losing his identity through the match. He starts yellow and goofy, but those layers get stripped away through the violence of the match. That outer layer shed to reveal a yellow bodysuit beneath, then the mask ripped to get him bleeding. By the end, he’s the one stripping the body suit’s top off to have him just in his yellow tights and mask. It’s a final gasp though, he loses here, drenched in his own blood.

It’s a fun time, recommend it to anyone with twenty minutes to kill. I especially recommend Matt’s review of it as well, which I’d argue is even more enjoyable than the match itself.

Matt sent me the match in response to me talking about one of those days on Twitter when something escaped my typical circles. It’s not the first time it’s happened, and considering I don’t plan to stop talking wrestling online any time soon, it won’t be the last either.

The particulars of the take I put out aren’t that important here (frankly, not all that interesting to talk about), but a part of the response caught my eye and has stuck with me. There was a lot of the deeply boring and useless arguments I get in spades like the implication that consensus is the same as critical truth or that what I can only refer to as the mildest possible criticism is just some form of engagement farming. Then there were the ones that specifically implied that the only reason I might be criticizing an aspect of AEW is because I must be a massive WWE fan. The most extreme example of this is several people referring to me as some kind of WWE shill or fed drone. That one’s hilarious in its own way, of course. Take more than a cursory glance at anything I’ve done in the last five years or so and that one takes care of itself.

But the most fascinating response actually does cite my work in some way. Specifically, when referencing my recent review of the WrestleMania XL main event, more than one person stated something along the lines of, “If he doesn’t like the spectacle of WrestleMania XL and the workrate of AEW, does he even really like wrestling at all?”

I’m paraphrasing there, and possibly conflating different responses together, but that one really stuck. Combined with the overwhelming number of replies that invoke the WWE in some form or another, it certainly feels like there’s a section of pro wrestling fans that see the industry as a binary. Under this incredibly narrow pro wrestling Overton window, the WWE and AEW form the extreme ends of the spectrum of pro wrestling. On the WWE end, nebulous terms like “storytelling,” “spectacle,” and “entertainment” while on the AEW side, you have “dream matches,” “5 star matches,” and “workrate.”

There are only two pro wrestling companies.

There’s many reasons for this kind of mindset. For one, both promotions do tend to encourage this kind of thinking to varying degrees. While neither will ever blatantly articulate it as being a clear binary, both promotions function by fostering a certain “us vs. them” mentality. With the WWE, this typically presents itself in the product as being the arbiters of professional wrestling history. The company is the be all, end all, the biggest and thus the most important, with everything beyond being inferior by default. In 2024 too when fan sentiment for the company is at a relative high too, there’s a fervor to being on the “winning side.”

Meanwhile, while AEW is more publicly encouraging of the diversity of the pro wrestling industry–openly co-promoting shows with places in Japan and Mexico, allowing workers to take regular indie bookings–they still do very much thrive on a very branded kind of fandom. The company’s name itself was chosen to ride the good will for a core group of talents that made their names in the 2010s. Its existence as a whole feels like a direct response to the monolithic control the WWE has had over the industry for this century. They are carving out their own history and their own identity, but there’s no escaping that that always will stand in comparison to the WWE.

There’s nothing new about this, there’s something quintessentially pro wrestling about it. Even looking past things like the Monday Night Wars, there’s just something so primal about this particular divide. After all, what’s the core emotional experience of pro wrestling if not “I want my side to win,” right?

There’s larger factors at play here too, of course. Both the cultural and financial capital of the United States means that the biggest products of their industries dominate global discourse. There’s also the continued push from corporations to make themselves a part of the consumer’s identity, for example, something that’s far from unique to pro wrestling. Then there’s the fact that social media has been designed for years now to actively trigger negative feelings in its users, often pushing anything that may be seen as inflammatory and hateful onto each individual user. No shock then that anything resembling criticism gets shuffled in with genuine hate and bad faith arguments. There are massive forces at work that not only want people to identify with corporations but also to have their guard up in defense of those ideals.

It’s just kind of sad to think about really, but there’s good news. For anyone caught in this narrow view, whose field of vision has seen only wrestling shows that air on American TV, the ones squeezed into this claustrophobic Overton window either by choice or not, I have a promise to make you.

Wrestling is so much more beautiful than what you can see.

I’ve gone on record many times in the past about how the Psychology is Dead year ender podcasts influenced me to start writing about pro wrestling. The overwhelming feeling I always got from those podcasts was one of discovery. From 2016 to 2018, those podcasts would roll along and without fail I’d be told about wrestlers, promotions, and matches I’d never heard of before and why they stood among the best of any given year.

When starting with my YouTube channel and my blog, I wanted to impart that same sense of discovery to anyone who cared to listen. Most days, I choose to just walk that talk and just do what I can to share and uplift the things I care about, but I can acknowledge the difficulty in tracking those down and pinning it in one place. I’m spread across multiple platforms now–this website, BIG EGG, YouTube, my Twitch stream–and things get lost in the shuffle, people only have so much time, and far more likely, people don’t really care that much at all (nor do they owe me that attention to begin with).

That’s what can make it very frustrating to see some of the things I do online. When people come across a tweet–typically just the critical ones–there’s always someone asking if there’s anything at all that could please me. Maybe wrestling’s just not for me if I’m not enjoying the only two pro wrestling companies that exist.

I assure you, I take so much joy in pro wrestling. That’s not hard to do when you realize that it’s larger than you ever dreamed.

Here’s just a brief little intro to some things that I’ve really loved in pro wrestling just these last few months. Some of these I’ve already talked about in other places online, some I’ve gone into more detail about on the website already, but if there’s even a slight chance someone unfamiliar with my work comes across these ramblings, it’s perhaps worthwhile providing a little sampler. Here, I’ll be linking to official sources, but there is alternative knowledge to be found online for those that seek it.

  • CMLL. Coming from my lips, it’s a bit of a cliche at this point, but in the Year of Our Lord 2024, pro wrestling lives within Arena Mexico’s hallowed halls. Their shows being primarily made up of trios matches and singles bouts with 10 minute time limits is exactly what I need from a pro wrestling show right now. The matches are always geared towards classic babyface/heel dynamics, the two out of three falls rules in trios matches means most matches have a clear structure, and it’s all happening in a building designed to house pro wrestling. History and brilliance can be felt in every corner of Arena Mexico, it’s hard to ever look away. I highly recommend checking out their recent Homenajae a dos Leyendas show if you want an easy starting point with some familiar names from the States. They offer a variety of paid membership tiers on their official YouTube channel for those seeking to keep up to date with their shows. If that’s a little out of your price range, consider diving into their rich history instead. I’d recommend something like Los Infernales vs. Los Brazos as a nice little primer for what the style can offer.
  • Daniel Makabe’s Retirement Tour. Makabe’s one of the wrestlers I only learned about thanks to the PID podcasts I talked about above. He’s one of the best independent pro wrestlers of the past decade, and he’s announced that his final pro wrestling match is happening at this year’s Scenic City Invitational. On the path to that, he’s already turned in some of my favorite matches of the year: most notably against Timothy Thatcher at ACTION, and against Zack Sabre Jr at Prestige. There’s some good stuff for free on YouTube though, such as his bout against Trish Adora from Dusk Pro. I’d suggest making the time for it before this year’s SCI for maximum effect, and to understand what a major loss it will be for wrestling as a whole for him to hang up his boots.
  • ACTION DEAN~!!! Speaking of Makabe vs. Thatcher, I’ll be talking about this more in detail elsewhere, but I can’t recommend this show from Mania weekend enough. Dedicated to recently passed DVDVR luminary Dean Rasumussen, the event is a wonderful showcase of pro wrestling from all over the world. There’s an homage to the days of IWRG’s bloody 2010s with Dr. Cerebro vs. Gringo Loco, a lovely highlight of the southeast indies’ best in Adam Priest vs. Slim J, then an absolute slam dunk of a main event with the gruesome dog collar match of Mad Dog Connelly vs. Demus followed by a tribute BattlArts and sweet mat science in Daniel Makabe vs. Timothy Thatcher. Many online have called it one for the sickos, and I’d love to welcome you to our ranks through it. DEAN~!!! is streaming on demand now on IWTV.
  • 2000s joshi. If I’m being honest, I primarily mean Meiko Satomura and Aja Kong’s work here, but even through just the lens of following those two wrestlers, I’ve come to discover a lot about this particular time in pro wrestling. I’ve taken to just digging through the official GAEAISM YouTube channel and picking any bout featuring workers that seem interesting to me. A lot of this footage, even presented in as clean a state as it is here, is clipped unfortunately, but there’s more than enough stuff preserved in its entirety to take up a lot of your time. There’s also a lot of ARSION still floating about on YouTube with some great Aja matches to dig into as well. I’ve found this dig especially rewarding as it’s really deepened my appreciation for Aja Kong’s work. Always brutal, she somehow brilliantly slots in as both a heavy hitting bully as well as a righteous avenger depending on what the match asks of her. Quite simply, she’s one of the best wrestlers in all of history and this continued watch has her skyrocketing in my rankings of the best to ever do it regardless of gender. If you want a place to start, you really can’t go wrong just watching any time Aja Kong and Meiko Satomura touch, and that’ll lead you nicely into their matches in the 2010s as well.

I could go on, but that’s what the rest of my work is for. You don’t have to follow along, but those resources are there for anybody with the interest. Here’s a full list of matches I recommend for people to check out from 2024, along with links to written reviews. I also do monthly Best Of lists, and whenever the April one drops, it’s going to be quite a long one.

Skip Raw or Dynamite or any of the TV shows one of these days and just poke about online. Who knows what you’ll find? Today, for me, it was a man in a chicken suit bleeding all over himself. Just imagine what you might find.

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