After 7 years mainly running Southern California, Northern California, and Chicago, Lucha Va Voom made its New York debut at Webster Hall this past Sunday night. After interviewing T.J. Perkins and Cassandro for my Loser Leaves Town Podcast, I took in the show and had a great time. The details and plenty of photos after the jump.
This was, to the best of my knowledge, the third wrestling show ever held at Webster Hall. The first was in 1997, an episode of WWF Shotgun Saturday Night as part of the short-lived (six shows and a "Best Of" before switching to matches aired the same weekend ), ill-fated gimmick of doing a more "adult" syndicated show, broadcast live from various locations in New York City. Other shows were shot at the Mirage Nightclub (twice, including the debut show; the production values at the Mirage, especially the terrible lighting, made a WWF show look worse than NWA Wildside), the All-Star Cafe, and the Amtrak/New Jersey Transit level of Penn Station, as well as show (available on WWE Classics on Demand at the time of this writing) from Denim & Diamonds in San Antonio, Texas the night before the Royal Rumble. The Webster Hall show was one of the better episodes of the short run, featuring a Bret Hart vs Mankind match with Owen Hart on commentary. TNA's New York City debut also took place last year with a house show in the same building.
For a huge melting pot city with a fast-growing Mexican population that also happens to be the biggest media market in the country, New York has had very few Lucha Libre-oriented shows. AAA ran a show at the Paramount Theater in the Madison Square Garden complex (now the WaMu Theater At MSG) in 1994, but the with high expenses, the show was a money loser in spite of being relatively well attended. In '95-'96, Falcon Coperis's UCW promotion in Queens started booking CMLL talent for his shows, but the shows weren't well promoted and the videotapes were never released, so few people are even aware that they took place. Court Bauer's MLW, priding itself on featuring a number of styles, ran the Grand Ballroom at the Manhattan Center in 2002 that included Super Crazy vs Fuego Guerrero (The Amazing Red billed as a Mexican doing a Rey Mysterio knock-off gimmick), Christopher Daniels, Dick Togo, and Ikuto Hidaka (who were all familiar with the Mexican style via Michinoku Pro and Daniels' experience working for World Power Wrestling in Calfironia) vs Quiet Storm (who later did some great Lucha style stuff in Michinoku Pro) and The Maximos, and La Parka vs Shocker, but running on a weeknight with little non-internet promotion meant the show didn't draw well enough to warrant a return to the market. In 2003, former XPW wrestler Slash ran two shows in Queens under the Lucha Xtreme Wrestling banner that featured an odd mix of top Mexican stars, former XPW wrestlers, and northeast indy guys, but they were in a bad neighborhood and drew under 100 people each. While Lucha Va Voom isn't exactly traditional Lucha Libre and the shows are structured to be as friendly to those who aren't even wrestling fans, the wrestling on the debut show was more than enough to satisfy a Lucha-starved New Yorker.
I was somewhat wary going into the show, not exactly sure what to expect, both on the wrestling and burlesque fronts, even though I had been told their shows were a blast. Since they tend to use local wrestlers to fill out much of the first half of the show, I wasn't sure who I'd be seeing outside of the top matches. I knew that comedians would be doing live commentary and not being familiar with the comedians, wasn't sure if they'd be funny enough to be avoid being a detriment, though I was hopeful given the talent of others else had done commentary in the past.
Before the show and during the (overly long, given that nobody seemed to want to move since the building was packed full of 1200 to 1400 people, the vast majority of which were on the floor) intermission, clips of old Lucha Libre action films were playing on a big screen at the back of the stage behind the ring as music played. The show started with a video explaining how to behave at Lucha Va Voom (first video on the page), and then the hosts Blaine Capatch and "Father Brown" (Brandon Johnson) came out to get the crowd going. To my relief, they were funny. They set up the running bit where every time someone said "lucha," the crowd would yell "VA VOOM!" It became clear at this point that the crowd was going to be hot for everything, wrestling fans or not.
The segments alternated between burlesque acts and wrestling matches. Up first was Ursulina's (Lucha Va Voom co-creator/burlesque booker Rita D'Albert) striptease act. On this night, she was "The Weeping Widow."
She was enough fun to get the crowd going, but the best striptease was yet to come. Before we get to that, we have the first match.
Bryce Remsberg, best known for his Chikara work, refereed all of the matches and was dubbed "The Bryce is Right" by the commentators. I wasn't familiar with any of the wrestlers other than Azriel before the match. Azriel's probably best known for his ROH run, where he was first known as Angeldust, a member of Special K. The other three seem to be based out of WUW in New Jersey. This was a good opener, and Cataldo was the star, charisma-wise. His gay shtick was close enough to that of main eventer Cassandro that it something like this probably never happened on a "traditional" wrestling show, but it didn't overwhelm and everyone got to show their stuff. As a bunch of New Jersey based guys that don't have any specific Lucha Libre training as far as I know, I didn't expect much, but they did a great job. The technicos won, as they would in every match, which makes sense for a show like this.
The second (and best) striptease was performed by Lux LaCroix who made an interesting choice of wardrobe. She was in drag. As Prince.
This was absolutely fantastic entertainment, as the song choice was perfect ("Let's Go Crazy"), she's incredibly charismatic, did a creepy job evoking Prince that probably messed with the loins of way too many guys in the audience, and was just awesome overall. Do "inside" burlesque fans and reporters use a star system? If so, this was probably a full five stars.
Oh, and watching this segment with Cuije standing next to me in his full outfit was the most Twilight Zone moment of my lift.
Segunda: Icarus/Lil' Cholo (Rudos) vs Mike Quackenbush/El Bombero (Technicos)
This was the best match on the undercard. Cholo is a fantastic base as a rudo, Icarus was great at the miscommunication comedy spots, El Bombero/T.J. Perkins is incredibly polished as a wrestler with plenty of Lucha experience plus he does a great job with the fireman stripper gimmick (he would fit in well in AAA), and Quack's talents both mechanically and for goofy charisma are perfect for this type of match. Bryce also did a great job with his comedy spots. Everyone worked together really well, the dives were pretty, and this match was a lot of fun. Capatch's best line of the night came after the match. For techinicos' comebacks, their entrance music would often play. Quack used Orgy's cover of New Order's classic "Blue Monday," and Capatch remarked that "It's one thing to get your ass kicked, it's another to get your ass kicked to New Order."
Next burlesque act was the last striptease, performed by Lucy Fur (no, not Daffney). Didn't get any decent photos of this one, but she did a fine job with the odd gimmick of a cocaine snorting Chiquita Banana mascot (complete with giant straw and "razor blade" which she threw into the crowd) and gets bonus points for doing the old-school burlesque "swing her boobs in oppsite direction" bit.
Intermission was next, and as mentioned earlier, this was overly long given that nobody could or would move around on the main floor.
The festivities re-started with Blaine Capatch introducing the sponsors and the next burlesque act, the first not to be a striptease: The Wau Wau Sisters, who did a trapeze act over the middle of the club...without a net.
Dressed up in Riot Grrl-esque fashions (including panties that said "FUCK" and "YEAH") while spitting beer everywhere, they did a breathtaking and incredibly dangerous routine that including some flipping around that the wrestlers watching from the balcony were going completely nuts over.
Tercera: El Jimador/Dirty Sanchez (Rudos, and don't ask me why the sponsor character is a heel) vs Los Crazy Chickens (Technicos)-
If I have my facts straight, Sanchez is Angel the Hardcore Homo from XPW and the Chickens are Phoenix Star and Zokre. Not sure who Jimador is usually. This was the shtickiest match of the night, and while it was fun, it was a bit much at times, especially Sanchez's (who has a merkin sewn into his tights) use of his poop as a foreign object. It was still entertaining, but I didn't enjoy it as much as the other matches. I am a fan of poop jokes (you can thank my older sister for that), so it wasn't me being a poop prude or anything. The Chickens had some great moves and their shtick got over really well.
Next burlesque act was Karis, a hula hoop artist in drag. Unfortunately, no good pics of this act, either, but you can check out another Karis Lucha Va Voom performance on YouTube. Some great stuff here, most impressively when the hoop was going around his shoulder without touching his arm.
Cuarta (Black Light Match): Alebrije/Cuije (Rudos) vs Cassandro/Lil' Chicken (Technicos)
Yup, Alebrije and Cuije as rudos. Not sure which mini was under the mask as Lil' Chicken, but he did a great job working with the very maxi Alebrije. Cassandro was ridiculously over and as charismatic as anyone in wrestling. He was on fire doing the exotico shtick and some great wrestling. Bryce's gear wasn't black light-ready so he enveloped himself in the same black light tape used on the ring. The rudos did their spot where Alebrije launches Cuije a good 10 feet up, landing on Cassandro with a splash, which looks INCREDIBLE and breathtaking live. Alebrije took a bump off the stage and into the crowd, where he was swarmed by security. Then, all of a sudden Cassandro disappeared. He reappeared in the balcony...wait...why is Cassandro up here...wait...is he climbing up onto the railing right next to me...he is...
(My apologies for the quality of that photo but there was barely any light)
The security guard in the lower left corner put it best...
"Oh God...why would you do that..."
Yes, Cassandro did a plancha off the 15-20 foot balcony.
Wait... is that the Lil' Chicken...uh oh...
He did the same dive.
The "holy shit" chant was loud enough to make we think about the percentage of wrestling fans in the crowd again. As scary and insane that may have been for the fans watching from the floor, they can only imagine what it was like to see two men getting smaller to my eyes as they hurled themselves off that railing. Shortly thereafter, they got back into the ring and the good guys won.
After the match, Cassandro comes back into the balcony, walks up to me, and asks "So, how about that?"
What can you say?
As scary and risky as that was, I've never seen someone so happy and full of a sense of accomplishment in my life. As the saying goes, there's no drug like adrenaline.
He stayed in the balcony to watch the closing act, Julie Atlas Muz. She did the type of act with a giant flexy balloon that you may have seen before.
When the balloon popped seconds later, that was the end of the show.
Overall, a great night of entertainment that I highly recommend you check out if you have the opportunity. It's not really a wrestling card in any way that you're used to, but it's awesome.
Special thanks to Michelle Bonfils of The Michelle Bonfils Show for letting me use her photos in cases where mine were woefully inadequate.