Match of the Week Club: LA Park vs. Caristico (Liga Elite 10-22-16)

Every week on Place to Be Nation, a combination of correspondents review one match from the world of wrestling that YOU as the viewer should seek out!

Liga Elite posts a nice collection of matches weekly on their YouTube page. Find this week’s match of the week here.

The storyline:

These two have been circling each other for a while in the Liga Elite hierarchy and had a tag match two weeks earlier. According to Cagematch, this is their first singles match this year.

Steven Graham:

This was the best Brock Lesnar match of the year. LA Park just took apart Mistico with utter destruction. With chairs and the cage Park beat Mistico to a bloody pulp, but what put this over the edge was Mistico’s hope spots. His timing and flashiness within the hope spots was tremendous. What is better than LA Park destroying someone with a chair and dancing around the ring as the world’s biggest asshole?

The interference of Rey Escorpion was not the world’s greatest ending. However, LA Park going after him to destroy him and not caring about winning was a fun touch.

LA Park is getting older and I am still shocked with how great he still is. From the awesome Rush matches earlier this year to this. I’ll go **** 1/4 on this one. Now I can’t wait for the Escorpion vs Park match!

Timothy Buechner:

I don’t like lucha, it’s not that I don’t get it or that I don’t like bad lucha I just don’t like lucha. I’m not a closed minded man and I will admit there have been lucha workers and matches that I have enjoyed. That said I have too many issues with the presentation of lucha. From the bright colors, loud noises, and flashing lights it’s all just too much for me. I’m a bit old school or purist some might say when it comes to that. Even WWE presentation can sometimes come across too over the top for me. I’d rather see two sweaty guys at about the same age as my dad when I was born trying to hurt each other to win and make a living. This match looks like something that should be happening in the center ring of a circus not in the center of a wrestling ring.

That said I do appreciate the violence here. There are in fact a couple of nice spots when LA Park isn’t just kind of walking around looking for stuff to hit Caristico with. A big out of nowhere spear through some chairs by LA Park stands out as expertly timed and placed in the match. The big issue though is that the concept of lucha goes against my own sensibility of wrestling or life for that matter. My problem is not the what of the match but the why. LA Park seems to be trying to kill Caristico when he’s not too busy gesturing to the fans. What it comes down to is I don’t feel like these guys really care about hurting each other or winning. They care about showing off and I just can’t relate to his philosophy. This is especially true when Caristico, the technico or de facto baby face of the match, finds himself in position to win only to choose to come off the top of the cage with a dive to LA Park that seemingly causes no harm as we come back from instant replay, another presentation issue to me, to LA Park now on the verge of victory.

A run in for Rey Escorpión that seems to have no focus as he attacks both men showing again they don’t care about who wins or loses. This all leads to LA Park literally carrying (returning the favor) Caristico over the cage to give him the victory that no one in the match or the building cares about. Then LA Park turns to the real prize the glory and adulation of the crowd as he deals out more punishment to Rey Escorpión. Why the pointless ineffective run in? Why have a match if the outcome doesn’t matter? Why the cage? Why all the blood and weapons if in the end they seemingly have no heat with each other?

Me being left with all these questions does make understandable why a fan of this would say I must just not “get lucha”. If you’re left questioning something  then there clearly is some lack of understanding. The answer simply comes down to one simple conclusion, I don’t like lucha.

Peter Saladino:

This was sold as a battle of modern lucha legends, but this was almost entirely an LA Park show in execution.  The crowd was decidedly behind him and the stipulations of the match were designed for him. This match was a crazy hardcore brawl built around Park’s strengths and style. This was an onslaught I was not expecting to come from him. He started on offense and stayed on offense. Instead of the expected alternating styles match allowing Caristico to show off his aerial offense, this match turned very one-sided with Caristico just trying to survive.

Caristico impressed me a lot in this match. I’m used to the idea of a Mistico/Sin Cara/Caristico flying around to various degrees of skill depending on the year and his location. It’s supposed to be something pretty and aesthetically pleasing. This match showed a different Caristico who didn’t seem to know what he’d gotten into to. Bloody, overwhelmed, shell-shocked and with a mask torn to pieces around his face, he’d clearly bitten off more than he expected to in this match. His body language and facial expressions (what we could see of them) were of a man expecting a friendly sparring exhibition and getting into a fight for his life. The last dive off the top of the cage onto Park felt like Caristico finally forcing his own will into the hell he was dragged through.

Even with the match ending with interference (as though there was any other way this could politically end) this match didn’t feel like a waste of time. Park showed his dominance and clearly came off feeling on top of this environment, but Caristico definitely had his moral victory in this too with a survival. Too many schmozz finishes don’t bother trying to show a victory for both guys. They’ll be too concerned with nobody losing that nobody actually wins. I enjoyed how this match made it clear that both guys came out of this looking good.

Glenn Butler:

This match is built around La Park’s punishment of Sin Cara, and the extent to which Sin Cara can fight back with his own punishing blows to build to his big spots. On that level it’s perfectly successful, and even a rocking good time — all of Parka’s chair spots land with the seriousness I presume they’re supposed to, starting right at the beginning of the match with his chair-assisted suplex, a spot a lot of people could do well to use elsewhere. Doing the strut while carrying Sin Cara is also a particular highlight in douchebaggery. Sin Cara then gets his big babyface spot (to jam a lucha match into a paradigm it doesn’t quite fit just because it’s the one I’ve been taught [/ugly-american]) with his high cross body off the top of the cage, before the storyline development interferes.

I come away from this match with a lot of respect for the role La Park is able to play even at his age. Much like Mil Muertes and to a lesser extent Dr. Wagner Jr., you can’t really tell someone’s age under a mask so all you have to go on is their physique and how well they move. La Park shows some pudge in his swanky skeleton suit, of course, but he can still more than get around a ring and he’s still presented like a brutal dancing man. Rock on.

Lawrence O’Brien: 

This was a complete clash in philosophies here. Caristico had some semblance of traditional lucha on the mind, even entrapped in the cage but LA Park was having none of that. I absolutely loved Park just decimating Caristico throughout, quite frankly, most of this match! Park wasn’t going to have his fancy flips today. Nope, he was going to make Caristico eat chairs repeatedly in a vast array of angles and it was glorious. A belly to back suplex while holding a chair against Caristico’s back, repeated shoot like chair shots to the head, powerbomb through chairs; you name it, it most likely happened to the bloodied Caristico at some point during the match.

I loved the hope spot where Caristico seemed to be getting back momentum with his agility, thinking he had outsmarted Park by flipping away from the corner, only to turn around and have Park spear him through a horrific looking contraption of chairs in the other corner. Don’t get me wrong, Caristico had his moments of come uppance here and there such as a crossbody from the top of the cage. I don’t think this match is nearly as good if Caristico as the tecnico isn’t getting completely bullied by masterful veteran rudo LA Park (to the delight of the audience I may add).

It got a little funky at the end when Rey Escorpion decided to bust into the cage to interfere against LA Park. I didn’t mind interference in this as it was already a wonderfully chaotic lucha brawl mess so it almost felt like “why not?” at that point. Nice touch from Caristico to feign leaving the cage, only to not accept that cheap way of victory like the tecnico he is and dove onto Escorpion from the corner, but ended up taking a package piledriver for his efforts to clear Rey out of there. The really neat ending to the match is something completely different than I’m used to seeing and I actually dig it a ton. Park ended up saying screw it, I’m gonna actually assist Caristico out of the cage so he can win. The story here was that Park cared much more at this point about giving the business to Escorpion and probably got a much huger pop tombstoning the hell out of him on a chair than he ever would have with a ho hum finish and a win he really doesn’t need at this point in his career. Just a super fun, bloody lucha brawl that I know isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but I love chaos like this.

Ioan Morris:

I’m not a lucha guy. The stuff I look for in a match usually isn’t there and that’s no fault of the style, but it does mean we’re not particularly compatible. This year I’ve enjoyed watching the CMLL representatives at various New Japan tournaments, Kamaitachi vs. Dragon Lee at Fantastica Mania (in Japan) was great and Rush vs. LA Park (in CMLL) was such a wild free-for-all that I’m still not sure who the winner was. This suggests to me that I prefer my lucha tempered with something else, be it a Japanese influence or – in the case of the LA Park match – some proper brawling. This particular match contained a strong dose of late-90s style blood and plunder.

Caristico (aka Sin Cara #1, aka Mistico #1) unsurprisingly looked a lot smoother here against a lucha veteran than was the case in his WWE stint, and boy did he take some tough bumps. LA Park battered the poor guy with abandon. The last third of the match was devoted to the involvement of Rey Escorpion, who clearly has some longstanding issues with Park, and it was at this point that I mentally checked out. Since Escorpion faces Caristico next I suppose the ending was Park symbolically giving him the finger, although wouldn’t winning the match himself been just as effective?

Liga Elite is a strong concept and if you’re looking for a straightforward route into lucha then going back to the first of these shows, all of which are legally available on Youtube, would be a good place to start. It’s not my intention to get into the habit of writing reviews that are more about my familiarity with that style/promotion/wrestler than the match itself, but I realise that was the case again here. If I do it again next week I’ll buy you all a bar of chocolate. In summary, I liked some of the brawling, I did not like the chairshots to the head, and LA Park is a solid Halloween costume option.

Chad Campbell:

The action starts frantic here with LA Park giving Caristico a belly to belly suplex with a chair. He then slams him face first into the chair propped up into the corner. We get some mask risking and more aggression from Park as he is dominating this match so far. Caristico is finally able to mount a bit of offense five minutes in and goes after Park with a chair. Park swats the chair and Caristico like a fly and returns to his beating. Park gets cocky and does some dancing allowing Caristico to use some tecnico flash with a rana and arm drag. Caristico wallops Park with a chair right on the top of his head.

The tide of the match turns again in a great spot with Park spearing Caristico through the bundle of chairs that were set up in the corner. One more huge head chair shot and now Caristico is a bloody mess. Park whips Caristico with a part of his costume. Park goes to escape the cage and gets trapped by Caristico. The top of Caristico’s mask is now sucked red from the blood. Caristico makes his big comeback and rips Parka’s mask in a nice receipt. Feeling vindicated, he starts to ascend the cage to escape only to be caught by Park. Caristico kicks Park off and then does a really nice crossbody off the top of the cage. That hurts Caristico more as after the replay we see Park on his way to victory. This is thwarted by Rey Escorpion coming out and battling Park including hitting a chair on his leg and beating him down. Caristico ascends the cage and then attacks Escorpion himself going after him with a chair. Escorpion gives him a package piledriver. Park is back up and gives the most vicious chair shot we have seen to Escorpion that he wasn’t able to protect his head on almost at all. Now, Park and Caristico are climbing the cage with Caristico on Park’s shoulders. Park shoves Caristico out allowing him to win and returns to attack Escorpion. We end with Park giving the banned Martinete onto a chair. This match had a weird psychology where it feels like all three of these men should end up in a triple threat wager match. As a result, it wasn’t the easiest watch or entry point but it did deliver on some great spots and LA Park continues to have an excellent aura overall to him. ***1/4