You know you’re in for a treat when a match starts with two 50 year old men in masks breaking through the floor on cherry picker lifts to the dulcet tones of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Bon Jovi. Earlier this year, the siren song of Jeff Jerrett’s guitar proved more than Blue Demon Jr (53) could resist, and he betrayed his ally Dr. Wagner Jr. (54). The two middle aged hunks had a really enjoyable rivalry that culminated with this, Dr Wagner Jr. putting his lush salt and pepper undercut on the line against Blue Demon Jr.’s very identity at Triplemania XXVII. A big screen played out the backstory and they stood in front of it on their opposing cranes, pointing and posing. I watched it live at a friend’s apartment, and was immediately enthralled.
Blue Demon Jr. and Dr. Wagner Jr. proceeded to put on an absolutely batshit match, with a pace just fast enough to feel overwhelming but slow enough to feel like a real brawl between two furious men. The action starts with Demon taking a baking sheet to Wagner’s head and throwing him into the audience, ripping his mask open. He then goes after him with a wine bottle. They wail on each other’s heads, rip each others’ masks open (Wagner’s is an accessory more than anything, since he lost his masked identity in 2017). They’re both gushing forehead blood less than ten minutes in. Demon goes after Wagner with a hammer, smashing his fingers. It’s far from the most gruesome match I’d seen this year, but it’s executed so passionately and so well that it ended up being the most jarring. I don’t speak Spanish, but I don’t need to to understand Hugo Savinovich’s screams of “¡Brutal! ¡Brutal!”
It isn’t the most technically impressive match of the year, either. They don’t do the most moves. But by starting the match out by just trying to beat the shit out of each other, when they actually get to the piledrivers and submission holds in the latter half, it feels so much more effective. The use of blood is phenomenal— mixed with sweat, it shines on their skin a 1970s Argento red under the bright lights of Arena Mexico. Wagner’s white tights growing progressively more and more stained with it as the match goes on makes it all feel so much more horrific and dramatic. Logically, I know that an armbar probably doesn’t hurt more when you’re covered in head blood, but in this match, it definitely does. I mean, what should I trust: my own rational mind or Dr. Wagner Jr.’s performance?
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Dr. Wagner Jr. is exquisite in this match. The recent in-ring death of his younger brother, Silver King, casts a painful, difficult shadow over Triplemania, this main event in particular. Demon, who is equally brilliant as the relentless brute, has so much momentum from the jump that every time Wagner gets a comeback, it feels so earned and so important. Wagner has some truly beautiful moments— when he rips off his torn mask to reveal his bleeding face and let out a battle cry, or when he finally digs into Demon’s mask, or when he’s crawling across the mat amidst green wine bottle glass for a rope break, when he manages to muster the energy to try a quick roll-up after almost tapping out to another submission.
Wagner’s defeat is a gorgeous one, perfect in its simplicity. Blue Demon Jr. smashes a concrete block over Dr. Wagner Jr.’s head and pins him. No flashy finishers necessary, just ugly violence. As is the case for any lucha de apuestas stipulation, the match aftermath is just as important as the wrestling itself. Blue Demon Jr. celebrates his victory as the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Around the World” plays and Dr. Wagner Jr. receives medical attention. The song plays a few times, but I can’t quite tell how many because it’s one of the Chili Peppers’ most repetitive. Dr Wagner Jr.’s entourage cuts his braid off for him while Blue Demon Jr. still bleeds. The shaving of a wrestler is such a crucial part of a hair match. Demon taunts him with bits of shaved hair, the disgrace of the loss emphasized by Anthony Kiedis still rapping over the speakers. It’s so gross and so weird and just so wrestling that my breath gets taken away every time I see it.
Wagner plays the indignity with, well, dignity. There’s a subtlety and grace to the way he grabs the microphone, even as he addresses Wagnermaniacs and announces his retirement in a deep, raspy voice. News outlets at the time reported some confusion, because Dr. Wagner Jr. had plenty of scheduled appearances following Triplemania, and sure enough, he isn’t retired at all. But the fact that it was really just for the drama of it all rather than any kind of permanence makes it even more wrestling, ultimately.