With regards to the slow ref count, in Lucha even the referees have a face/heel dynamic to them (some are paid-out by wrestlers while others are just dicks). Even the good guys have their downfalls, though, as some are just senile in their counts much to the frustration of a hot crowd. Counts can either come quickly or exasperatedly slow but it always has a purpose as to why. It's quite a nice novelty factor to lucha over other forms of wrestling, imo. It realises how truly one-dimensional the referee character is when, in reality, that shouldn't be the case. I realise the argument against this in terms of keeping the medium as close to a genuine sport feel as possible, but in the wacky world of wrasslin' it just makes more sense.
However, if it personally hurt the match for you then it should reflect in your rating. That's how this works, right?
Leono/Tiger Blanco vs Bobby Zavala/Disturbio-CMLL 1/1/13. Match had some great dives by Leono and Tiger Blanco.****
Good match here, but I wouldn't rank it higher than Polvora/Titan nor against the term MotY. It was just too standard an apuestas match to be either memorable or great.
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship - Three Way Match
Prince Devitt(c) vs Low Ki vs Kota Ibushi
As a fan of the Hitman franchise, seeing Low Ki wrestle in full cosplay was a true treat to watch. I'm a mark for entrances, especially their opening moment, and this wholly stole the fandom which I usually reserve for Devitt.
This was a better-than-good juniours match (as one comes to expect from WK) that did not stray too far into Ibushi's OTT mannerisms while, at the same time, did not undervalue itself in terms of great spots. I'm somewhat more interested in Apollo 55 Vs Time Splitters matches than I am in Taguchi/Devitt, however. But I won't say no to either.
IWGP Intercontinental Championship
Shinsuke Nakamura(c) vs Kazushi Sakuraba
Admittedly, at the time, I was less sold on the "weak" beginning than those who loved this match but thinking back on it, their tentative mannerisms underpinned the respect/threat dynamic that made this great. A lot shorter than the Lesnar/Cena match from last year yet this was nearly just as good. If this drops out of my top five, then we would have been sweetly treated in 2013. Here's hoping.
Yuji Nagata vs Minoru Suzuki
This is what I love about puroresu. You had two guys with a simple-as-hell match strategy yet it delivered. It's always a treat to watch these two as they modify their exchanges enough to prevent their bouts from being stale yet, at the same time, without losing the magic of their previous encounters. It wasn't without Nagata's speculative selling-issues, but MiSu sold that arm almost enough to have it mitigated. I wouldn't specifically go out of my way for this, but it is definitely worth a watch if you have time for it.
IWGP World Championship
Hiroshi Tanahashi(c) vs Kazuchika Okada
I read everyone's reviews before watching this show and, notably, I can see argument for either side. From a purist perspective, this had questionable issues with regard to selling and pacing, its iffy transitions/moments and seemingly pointless work-overs but, from an entertainment perspective, this had DRAMA~!
From the usual (counters) to the special (Okada/Hashi clawing themselves to their feet together) right down to the finishing moments, this match painted one of the best portrayals of two equals that I've seen in a long time. For me, the finish wasn't about whether the right man won, it was about cementing both men as equals in the crowd's and, more importantly, in each other's eyes
Someone mentioned how Hashi's piledriver spot amounted to nothing and felt done for the sake of it. I disagree - that spot was perhaps the exclamation mark in their story. To put Okada away, Tanahashi had to use his own opponent's move against him purely because his weren't as effective. Tanahashi knew this, that's why he stalled on the pin following the driver. Going for the pinfall would cement this fact so it was in Tanahashi's interest to follow it with his usual High Fly Flow shtick. The thought stalled him, giving Okada time to make a last-ditched (yet futile) attempt at a comeback before Tanahashi's final HFF could seal the victory.
So, then, where does one draw a rating? Is a rating an objective opinion based purely on the quality of work the wrestlers put in (at the expense of one's subjective pull) or does it also take heed of the story it tells (where subjectivity is inherently ascribed)? A little bit of both would be my answer, I suppose. For those who can see/wish for its story elements, this match will probably hold up highly come the end of the year. For those not sold on their physical work, it'll be a sourly distant memory as a dome main event that just did not hold justice for either man.
In hindsight, this match reminds me so strongly of the Polvora/Titan match that I disliked (comparatively to others). Both do
try too hard in their attempt to attain "epic" status. The difference, however, is that while the CMLL match was almost void of drama (personally), this delivered it in spades.