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PG WEEK: SmackDown En Mexico Retro Rant

So last night I got invited to a holiday party and did that instead of continue PG Week. I think you'll all agree I made the right choice. As a result, TWO POSTS today! First, the one I should've made yesterday as we look back on a particularly favorite SmackDown of mine.

It's the final show before Vengeance 2011, and we are making history tonight as SmackDown originates in Mexico for the first time in history. We've been promised two important matches tonight. In one, WWE Champion Alberto Del Rio crosses over to SmackDown to face the Big Show, participating in his first match since being injured at Mark Henry's hands. In the other, the two Sin Caras will face off in a Lucha De Apuesta, and the loser will have to surrender the Sin Cara identity by unmasking. As normal SmackDown reviewer Tommy Hall would say, let's get to it.

The PG Era Rant for SmackDown En Mexico. Original Airdate: October 21, 2011.

From Mexico City.

Your hosts are Josh Mathews on play-by-play, with Booker T and EVIL MICHAEL COLE on color.

First out of the gate is Alberto Del Rio to a BIG ovation. Michael Cole explains that he's from a wrestling dynasty, then goes to kayfabe by noting he owns a ranch in San Luis Potosi that employs many Mexicans. Del Rio hands the belt to Ricardo Rodriguez, then basks in the ovation. He says that this Sunday he will face John Cena in a Last Man Standing match. Tonight, he was SUPPOSED to face Big Show, but he's not able to. We cut to Raw to find out why: Cena announced his decision of a Last Man Standing match by slamming Del Rio with the steps and counting to ten before Del Rio could move. It's too bad, because he was REALLY looking forward to competing in his homeland, too. It's all Cena's fault. So on Sunday, he will make Cena pay for that transgression, and on Sunday he will confirm he is el mas grande Mexicano en todo historia! (The greatest Mexican in all of history) Del Rio's ready to leave, but Teddy Long intercepts. He points out that, wait a second, Del Rio went to the WWE medical office and got a clearance to compete. So, yeah, it looks like Del Rio's kinda scared of facing Big Show. All this “perform in front of Mexico” is a front. The words infuriate Del Rio, and he promises to make Big Show tap to the armbar tonight. Long, who probably just suckered Del Rio in, decides to play to the crowd by asking the people if they want the match. And of course they do, so Long tells Del Rio to get ready. Del Rio is none too happy, likely realizing he'd been suckered. Not a blowaway opening segment, mind you, but they hit the talking points and got out. HHH and Stephanie could learn from them. And before Del Rio can leave, Mark Henry enters. Henry and Del Rio exchange wary glances, as Henry is about to face John Morrison non-title.

Later tonight, Pededor Sera Desenmascarado! (The loser will be unmasked) It's mascara contra mascara (Mask versus Mask) between the two Sin Caras.

As a reminder, Mark Henry faces Big Show at Vengeance.

Mark Henry v. John Morrison. We see Mark Henry perform a catapult finisher on Morrison from Raw on Monday. Henry outweighs Morrison by a legit 200 pounds. Morrison had been told his contract would not be renewed, so I don't like his chances in this match. To show you how 2011 this is, Booker makes a Tim Tebow reference. Morrison slugs away on Henry to start, but gets shoved over the top rope... from about six feet away! Henry yells at Morrison to get up, then picks him up and squishes his head against the post. Morrison then gets choked while being thrown back in, and Henry slams his head onto the apron. Back in, Henry kicks Morrison around and slugs him down. A neck crank follows, as Booker notes that Henry is taking the agility of Morrison out of the equation by staying close to him. Morrison fights out, but runs into a back elbow. Henry runs into boot on a blind charge, and Morrison goes up and gets a Mushroom Stomp and Flying Chuck (which is now known as the Disaster Kick). Shining Wizard follows, and Morrison goes up, landing Starship Pain for two. Superman Punch by Morrisonin the corner, but Henry catches him sliding underneath with a stomp, and a catapult World's Strongest Slam ends it at 3:20. * It served its purpose of showing how awesome Mark Henry is, and Morrison got in his offense only to put Henry over by bumping like a pinball. This is how you use someone at the end of their contract. Mark Henry has welcomed John Morrison into the Hall of Pain. That's not yet what he does, though.

Later tonight, Cody Rhodes se dirige el universo del WWE (Cody Rhodes addresses the WWE Universe).

Christian is talking to Vickie Guerrero, who teaches her to say “Uno Mas” to ask for a rematch. He was well in his “One More Match” phase. They agree Teddy Long is awful, and Vickie announces Swagger/Ziggler against the tag champs on Sunday. (Kofi and Bourne, in case you're wondering.) Long comes in and asks what the talk is all about, and Christian says it's because Long won't give Christian what he wants. But Long WILL give Christian a rematch... against Sheamus from Hell in a Cell, NOT the World Champ. Long says Vickie got what she wants, so now Long will get what he wants. He adds Ziggler/Ryder to Vengeance for the US Title. Vickie realizes Dolph has to compete twice, but Long leaves before Vickie can plead her case. Ryder appears to rub it in, and Vickie screams in dismay.

We recap the Sin Cara identity crisis, WWE version. When the match comes around, I'll provide more insight into why this story happened; you really need to understand lucha libre to full appreciate this one.

Wade Barrett v. Daniel Bryan. Barrett is in the post-Corre, pre-injury phase, and in fact the Barrett Barrage started in an inset promo before this match, as Barrett regrets ever being a group leader and is in it for himself. Daniel Bryan has the briefcase at this point, not to mention he's between the “classical” and “rock guitar” version of Valkyrie themes with in-house music. The story here is that Daniel Bryan has announced he's cashing in at WrestleMania. These two have a history with each other being the Nexus leader and the one who got away. Bryan with a waistlock, but Barrett sucker punches Bryan and lands a kneedrop for one. Barrett puts his head down and is caught, and Bryan with a crucifix for two. He goes the LeBell Lock (Yes Lock), but Barrett gets out and lands the Scrapbuster for two. Barrett chokes Bryan in the ropes, tying him up Bryan and booting him out of the ring. Barrett rams Bryan into the apron, and back in, he gets two. Barrett to the chinlock on Bryan as the announcers talk about Barrett's potential and Bryan's slump. Bryan fights out, but Barrett throws him around until a blind charge hits the boot. Bryan with a missile dropkick for two. Barrett holds the ropes to avoid a roundhouse, and a charging boot gets two. Cole: “The beard worked as a shield.” Barrett pounds away and intimidates the ref before hitting the surfboard. Bryan tries to reverse it, but Barrett kicks to break. Bryan gets the comeback started and shakes the ropes to wake up. Cross-corner dropkick follows, getting two. Barrett with the back gut kick on Bryan and a pumphandle slam, getting two. Barrett kicks away on Bryan in the corner and has to be pulled back, which allos Bryan to go to the second rope... and dive straight into Wasteland for the pin at 5:13. These two had great chemistry, and it baffles me Barrett didn't get pushed alongside Bryan. **1/4

Up next, Sheamus and Zack Ryder team up against Dolph Ziggler and Christian.

Sheamus and Zack Ryder v. Dolph Ziggler and Christian. See? Up next. Anyway, this was during that period in 2011 when we all thought that Zack Ryder would be an awesome wrestler because he had a funny internet show. Needless to say, I wasn't on board. We get clips of Sheamus against Del Rio the previous week, with Christian's interference giving Del Rio the win. Christian kept up the attack after the match, but he could not keep Sheamus down despite many spears. Vickie Guerrero says COMPRENDI SE (EXCUSE ME) to get heel heat. She's also dressed like a flamenco dancer. Cole points out that Long had a vendetta against Ziggler dating back to January and thinks that's why the US Title match was made, since it requires Ziggler to go twice. Interestingly, everyone's assuming the tag match would occur first (it did, but that's beside the point). Carlos Cabrera in the house! Dolph starts with Ryder, and Dolph clubs away to start. Christian in, and he gets an uppercut to floor Ryder, but Ryder with a cradle for one. He punches away, getting a running elbow smash, but Christian leverages him to the floor and Dolph adds a shot that causes Sheamus to race all the way around to get him away. Dolph tags in and goes with the right hands and a neckbreaker for two. Ryder tries a comeback, but walks into a dropkick from Zigzag Man (tm Booker T) for two. Dolph does the “front chancery and tag tease” spot, but Ryder with a cradle for two. Dolph stops a tag chance and brings Christian in, and Christian kicks Ryder in the head. Christian boxes Ryder in the corner, but a blind charge eats boot from Ryder. Hot tag Sheamus, and Dolph is floored with Polish Hammers and a slam. Dolph cuts off a charge, but Sheamus recovers with the Irish Curse for two. Sheamus gets the Cross Bomb set, but Christian stops it and races off. Ziggler tries the Zig Zag, but he gets shoved off and the Brogue Kick ends it at 3:58. I do not understand the booking of this match. *1/4 I mean, why job out the US Champ? Christian or Sheamus should've taken the fall. Not that the secondary titles matter in the modern WWE.

During the Break, Christian speared Sheamus for no reason.

Cody Rhodes, Intercontinental Champion and wannabe Doctor Doom, is in the ring. He takes us back to two weeks prior on Raw when he exorcised a demon by taking out Randy Orton and putting the PAPER BAG OF DOOM over his head. Oh yeah, the bag over the head gimmick, which wound up backfiring because wrestling fans love free stuff from wrestlers, even if it's humiliation. Cody's evil laugh needs work. The demon had nothing to do with the attack with a ring bell from earlier, either; it's all about the psychological damage from well prior. He's been sick with the Viper's venom since Legacy. Cody says that Dusty tried to teach him of the basic goodness of man, but Cody doesn't buy it; man is basically twisted and selfish. Randy Orton USED Cody Rhodes, then Punted him when he was of no further use. Cody had to carry that knowledge like the albatross of myth. So when he finally reversed the humiliation, it was like a load off of his back. He could finally appreciate that he had taken the pride of Orton instead of the other way around. In that one moment, the worm turned; now Cody's the one on top, with the title, the smile on his face, and everything else. Orton is nothing more than an embarrassed megalomaniac with no new tricks. The two have a non-title match at Vengeance, but before then, Cody calls Orton out. He wants Orton to admit he was wrong about Cody and made a mistake. Here comes Orton to rebut. “Mistake!? Mistake??” No, the mistake was that he left Cody still alive, since those attacks cost Orton the World Title in matches against Mark Henry. Cody's mistake was thinking that some paper bag would cause Orton to run in shame. “You think that you changed me, Cody? The only thing that you changed is the amount of torture I will put you through at Vengeance.” Orton says that the ring bell shot is nothing compared to Sunday... and they race to the ring for a preview. Cody's bag men cut Orton off, allowing Cody to throw Orton into the post on the outside. In the ring, Orton is able to reverse and start a slugfest, which he wins. Orton tosses Cody out over the top and gets the Draping DDT on one bag man. He chases Cody into the aisle, but Cody gets the advantage... temporarily. Orton tries to stomp on Cody on the steps, but he settles for crushing a bag man's head that way. Cody races out, so Orton gives the other bag man an RKO (he was in perfect Punt position, but the RKO's a bigger statement or something). This is how you do a teaser brawl – heel runs away, uses numbers, and hopes to get an edge, and the face takes out some flunkies to prove his point. This was a very good segment.

Backstage, Sin Cara removes his mask to reveal the dark mask. He tosses the blue mask aside. That match is next!

Okay, let's pause here so I can do some teaching for those of you who haven't watched much lucha libre or aren't well-versed in its tenets: Lucha libre is essentially a giant morality play, even more so than in America, and the wrestlers represent supernatural forces of good and evil. It goes back to the Aztecs. They wear masks that infuse them with the spirit of the being – at least, that's the explanation for the tradition. As such, getting stripped of your mask causes you to lose that supernatural connection. If you're wondering why heels constantly grab at Rey Mysterio's mask, and why he ceases fighting and focuses on covering his face when they succeed at yanking it away, it's the same idea: he's lost his powers, and he's humiliated the “spirit” he represents. Now, when two forces are so at odds that there can clearly only be one, the Lucha de Apuesta comes into play. The loser is forced to remove his mask and never wear it again, and in fact lucha tradition says he's not allowed to re-mask for a good seven years. (And yes, this is why Rey Mysterio's WWE mask is different from his WCW mask, and why he didn't accompany the WWE to Mexico with the mask on until 2006 – seven years after Kevin Nash unmasked him in WCW.) Once the mask is gone, the luchadore is no longer a representation of the supernatural, but a mere mortal – and in fact, his personal info (name, hometown, etc.) all becomes public at that time.

So that explains the mask portion of this match. But why a mirror match?

That's actually another lucha tradition. If you go to the AAA or CMLL history, you would see a lot of people with the names “Dark [x]”, where [x] is another wrestler's name. Every spirit can be for good or evil – very few are pure forces one way or another. As such, it's not uncommon for a rudo (heel) to copy a tecnico (face) in look, but give it a black tone and refer to himself as the Dark version of the tecnico. It's, in a sense, externalizing the internal: to become a true hero, one must defeat the evil within himself. In this case, the WWE even made a point of what the evil was: Mistico (at the time, the real Sin Cara) was the second person to be Mistico, after Hunico (the Dark Sin Cara) left the promotion in Mexico. So Dark Sin Cara represents the identity theft that the original Sin Cara committed.

The best part about this match is, all of this is known to the Mexican fans and they totally get the symbolism; it leads to a very hot crowd. Add in that Mistico is a major Mexican star, and you have a match that should have main evented the show. In fact, it was taped last as a go-home match; the matches here are out of order.

So, with all that out of the way...

Loser Must Unmask: Sin Cara v. Sin Cara. For everyone's sanity, I'll call them “Mistico” and “Hunico” just so you know which is which. The trampoline entrance is used by both men. There's no countout or DQ in this match. Cole tries to explain much of what I just said. Mistico pumps up the crowd. Hunico gets the first shot and kicks Mistico down. He smacks Mistico with a boot to the back and throws him into the turnbuckle. Another soccer kick to the back, but Mistico gets the Tajiri handspring and springboard headscissors. Hunico bails, so Mistico gets his turnbuckle 20-foot-high crossbody. The announcers namedrop Mil Mascaras, the most familiar old-time luchador to WWE audiences. Mistico gets separation with a rope kick, and a crossbody off the top gets two. Mistico kicks away, but Hunico reverses a whip only for Mistico to get the around-the-world headscissors toss. A few kicks and Mistico tries a springboard but Hunico dropkicks him in mid-air for two. Mistico tries a sunset flip, but Hunico picks Mistico up by the mask. Hunico wins a kicking battle, but Mistico catches him and dumps him over the top rope as we go to break. (Assume a 3:30 break here.) Back with Hunico hitting a backbreaker on Mistico for two. Hunico goes to a camel clutch... okay, that's not fair. This is a lucha match. Hunico applies De A Caballo. That's better. Mistico turns it into a front chancery and punches out, getting a running headscissors only for Hunico to pop up with a clothesline for two. Hunico applies an armbar with a half-nelson, trying to get a pinning predicament, but Mistico blocks so Hunico switches to a leghold, then to a proper De A Caballo, which gets MAJOR heel heat. Mistico flips Hunico out of it, but Hunico stays on the advantage and gets a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker for two. Hunico with a hammerlock backbreaker now for two, clearly working the back. A chinlock with a knee to the back follows as Hunico is going for the submission. Crowd chants for Mistico, who fights out but airballs a front dropkick. Back to De A Caballo, and Hunico tries to rip the mask off during the move, freaking out the crowd. (For the record, given how important masks are, in lucha libre if you rip the mask off during a match, it doesn't count as unmasking someone AND you're instantly disqualified.) Mistico fights out of the hold and adjusts the chin of his mask back on. Hunico adds an elbow to the back of the neck and smacks Mistico hard. He gets a boot choke in the corner, adding a slingshot dropkick. He tries a tumbling senton but misses as Mistico escapes the corner. Mistico kicks away a the calves to begin the comeback and gets the ropewalk armdrag, followed by a Tajiri handspring into an armdrag. Straight rana gets two. Prawn hold pinning predicament gets two. Both men slow to get up, but Hunico pounds Mistico's back and gets the Angle Slam for two. Hunico with kicks to the head with malice, and he goes up, but Mistico catches him and scores a Frankensteiner off the top rope. He goes back up, but realizes Hunico is too far away, so he dropkicks the prone Hunico and climbs the OPPOSITE turnbuckle instead. Either way, Senton Bomb follows for two. Hunico slugs Mistico to stop him, but Mistico flips out of a back suplex and gets La Mistica (the tilt-a-whirl headscissors into a Fujiwara armbar) for the submission at (if my calculations are correct) 13:46. Hunico balks at pulling his mask off, but he'd never get out of Mexico alive if they didn't do it, so after a scuffle, Mistico grabs Hunico and yanks the mask off himself. Booker T declares him ugly. Mistico adds a running plancha for fun. THIS IS LUCHA! **** I know this may seem high, but it's a perfect introduction in to what makes Mexican wrestling so special. If you need an intro to lucha before watching, say, TripleMania with your friends, this is what you get. And yes, the irony here is that Mistico proved to be so injury-prone that Hunico re-donned the mask to play Sin Cara in the US. I have no idea how they'll handle this on their next Mexican tour.

Coming up later, Alberto Del Rio faces Big Show in Show's return match.

We get a video of Brodus Clay as a monster heel, about to debut on the main roster. As you know, this was a bait and switch.

Beth Phoenix (at this point Divas' Champion) joins Natalya in the ring. People claim they're jealous of the “Barbie Doll divas” who get magazine covers and walk the red carpet. But they're not jealous or angry at THEM; they're angry at the fans who idolize them. But Beth and Natalya are not just prettier, they're dominant. We get a look at Natalya's new submission hold, Pin Up Strong, which is known for causing the other Divas to cry in pain, which is their goal. Natalya says that every time the other Divas cry, it's a message: pain is beautiful. She thinks seeing Barbie Dolls beg for mercy is so beautiful. Beth sends a message directly to her Sunday opponent Eve: it's HER turn to cry, and she will scream like the others. This brings Eve herself out. The announcers think he's gutsy for coming out alone. Eve addresses them (by facing the crowd) and says this is all about looks to them. The irony is Eve thought they were beautiful; but now, they're ugly on the inside. Eve is NOT a Barbie doll, and there's nothing that will break her. Beth and Natalya try to play Mean Girls to Eve and get in her face, demanding she break down in tears. Eve refuses, and in fact she shoves Beth over (and nearly out of her dress, not that I'm complaining). Eve walks off, point made. Hey, remember when the heel champion made the challengers look good before the match and showed a bit of weakness?

Big Show is doing pushups. Here we go.

Main even, non-title: Alberto Del Rio v. Big Show. And Ricardo Rodriguez does the intro. In case you're wondering, I don't know what he says either. His usual spiel is “Ladies and Gentlemen, I want you to get on your feet as I present a great man! <Some form of cheap heat here>! He is the essence of excellence and the man of Mexico! He is... ALBERTOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO DEL RIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” But he varies it up enough that I can't quite translate it. I know he talks about the Vengeance match here. Big Show is billed at 397, which makes him lighter than Mark Henry. Show charges Del Rio and throws him around, working the back. He smacks Del Rio's chest in the corner and slams him down. A headbutt follows, and Del Rio tries to kick Show away. Show uses Andre's single-arm suplex and chokes Del Rio into the ropes, almost playing heel here. He boxes Del Rio down in the corner, and the crowd boos him. Makes sense, really. A big right to the gut staggers Del Rio, who hasn't gotten out of the box. Another one follows, then a boot choke on the bottom rope. Ricardo towels off Del Rio on the outside, but Big Show pulls him up from the floor to the apron only to receive a Hotshot. Del Rio dives straight into a chest chop, and Del Rio bails again as we go to break. We return with Del Rio kicking away at Show's legs, but Show catches him and throws him down. Show then powers Del Rio over the top rope and goes after him, but Del Rio kicks the steps into Show's legs. Show chops away at Del Rio, recovering quickly, and throws him in. Back in, he slams Del Rio down, but a cross-corner charge is so slow Show can put on the breaks, turn around, and clothesline Del Rio. Show with a cobra clutch on Del Rio to wear him down. Show holds Del Rio down and drops the leg for two. He picks Del Rio off the ropes and chokes him against the corner. Del Rio dropkics the legs out of desperation and kicks everywhere to keep him down. He grabs the arm and delivers his double-knee armbreaker for two. He goes for a running kick, but Show throws him aside and gets a big chest chop and bowls Del Rio over repeatedly. Avalanche in the corner and a shoulderblock follow, and Show wants the chokeslam. He holds the goozle, but Del Rio flies behind and chop blocks Show from behind before applying the cross armbar... sort of. Show's on his stomach when he should be on his back because he couldn't do the rotation with Del Rio. It's essentially a Fujiwara armscissors, though, so it's still effective. Del Rio holds the armbar for a LONG time as everyone says he should tap, but Show gets leverage and picks Del Rio up for a powerbomb. After a double KO segment, both men are up at 7. Show gets the goozle, but Ricardo jumps on his back for the DQ at 12:09 (presumably). You can actually see in this match that, had dispositions been reversed, they would've put on a great series of matches – and in early 2013, that's exactly what happened. **1/4 Ricardo and Del Rio both get KO'd in turn, and Mark Henry races in only to get BLASTED with a right hand as well. Show stands tall as the episode ends.


Now the big thing about this is what a great go-home show this was. Here's the Vengeance 2011 advertised card:

John Cena v. Alberto Del Rio
Big Show v. Mark Henry
HHH and CM Punk v. Miz and R-Truth
Kofi Kingston and Evan Bourne v. Jack Swagger and Dolph Ziggler
Dolph Ziggler v. Zack Ryder
Beth Phoenix v. Eve
Sheamus v. Christian
Cody Rhodes v. Randy Orton

Seven of those eight matches were given time to build up, either in passing or in a match. Even though Kofi and Bourne weren't there, that match was built up too through the announcers – how is Dolph Ziggler going to be affected by wrestling twice? The only match that was absent from this show was the HHH/Punk v Awesome Truth match, and we all know it's because one of those men doesn't work Tuesdays.

On top of that, a PPV-quality match occurred on free TV, which is always nice to have just before the big event. Seriously: if you give two people who won't be on the show a long time to put on a great match, you're sending the implicit statement that, when the PPV or major show itself happens, the big names will get tons of time and will put on matches as good or better. Add onto it that it had a full story and one that the fans understood MUCH better than the PPV audience would, and you had a match that almost saved Mistico's career... until he blew his knee out at Survivor Series and wasn't the same afterwards, but hey, points for effort.

Almost every segment here built to the Sunday show. The only one that didn't, either directly or indirectly, was Barrett/Bryan, which was meant to start up Barrett's momentum going forward since he was scheduled to be Randy Orton's next dance partner. It's amazing how in two short years, the company seems to have forgotten how to build a midcard. Such a shame.


MATCH TIME: 38:26 over five matches (presumably)
BEST MATCH: Lucha De Apuesta
WORST MATCH: Henry/Morrison
NIGHT MVP: It's a tie between Sin Cara Mistico and Big Show

FINAL SCORE: 8. This is a perfect example of a go-home show and how you put one together.

I'll be back later today to review Tribute to the Troops!