Seeing as we’re about to take a few days off for a short break in Spain, now is as good a time as any to take a look back at one of WWE’s attempts to break into the Spanish-speaking market, with a short-lived show called Super Astros.

Debuting in November 1998, Super Astros was aimed squarely at the Latin American audience, and despite its name being a Spanish translation of “Superstars”, this was an entirely different program to its translated counterpart. Instead, Super Astros was a half-hour show featuring largely Mexican wrestlers. Thanks to Allan Blackstock, we’ll be reviewing the first episode which can be found on YouTube by searching for WWF Super Astros #1.

The show starts with the WWF Attitude (sorry, Actitud) intro, all in Spanish, before breaking into a not-stereotypical-at-all intro featuring Mexican wrestlers (most of whom flash on the screen so quickly you can’t tell who they are), a guy who looks like a really bad stunt double for “El Matador” Tito Santana, and a bunch of Attitude-era stars who you’ll never ever see on this show, like Kane, the Rock, the New Age Outlaws and the Undertaker.

Marcelo Rodriguez (who’s still with WWE as a Spanish announce team member) hosts the show from WWF Video Control, looking like the Fonz, without the slicked back hair. My Spanish is non-existant, so we’ll go straight to the first match:

Armando Fernandez vs. Scott Taylor

Fernandez gets a very vanilla Titantron, in that it’s only his name scrolling up and down the screen. He also gets a clearly-dubbed in ring announcer and the sound sweetening is off the charts here. Either that, or the crowd in Austin, Texas are really good at staying still whilst making a lot of noise.

Our regular commentators are Hugo Savinovich and Carlos Cabrera, and they’re joined by Max Mini on the announce table, who dances away. I guess that’s a replacement for the CMLL dancing ladies, eh?

Scott Taylor is the opponent here, long before he became Scotty 2 Hotty, and he jumps Fernandez at the bell. It’s a standard WWF “small guys match”, except at a slightly faster pace, with Taylor sending Fernandez onto the apron, only to get cut-off as Fernandez returns in via a top rope dropkick for a near fall. Taylor baseball slides to the outside and Fernandez follows only to eat a clothesline. Back in the ring, Taylor hits a back suplex, then a standard suplex for another two count.

Taylor whips Fernandez into the ropes, but a back body drop is countered by a sunset flip that nearly ends the match. Taylor then gets clotheslined to the outside, and barely six minutes into the debut show, we have our first Stereotypical Lucha Dive, with Fernandez wiping out Taylor with a tope con hilo! Well, I say “wiped out”, he caught Taylor’s arm then all of the mats… that had to hurt. Fernandez throws Taylor back in the ring, only to miss a moonsault, as Taylor then gets nothing but mat from a swandive headbutt off the top, and Fernandez hits the move later known as Christopher Daniels’ Angels’ Wings for the win.

A decent match, but at just under four minutes, it was way too short to be of any substance – something that’ll be a running theme…

Maria Felipe interviews Fernandez after the match, then throws back to Marcelo Rodriguez in studio, who gives us a rundown (en Español) on the Rock and his heel turn at the 1998 Survivor Series. A quick shot of el Hijo del Santo warming up is shown as we go to break.

El Merenguero vs. Christopher Martinez

Hey, it’s the bad Tito Santana stunt double from the opening package! For those of you who remember the plethora of factions in mid-late 90s WWF, El Merenguero is a repackaged Jesus Castillo from Los Boricuas. El Merenguero dances with Maria Felipe at ringside, just to hammer home that ever so subtle gimmick. And I’m sure it’ll shock you to find that the character of a Merengue dancer wasn’t used outside of WWE… Martinez gets the “already in the ring” treatment, so you can guess where this is headed.

Martinez did some of the more acrobatic stuff earlier on, such as a leapfrog and a roll through – you know, standard lucha moves! Merenguero clothesline Martinez, before taunting him by saying “Merengue”. I’m not sure this gimmick is subtle enough, you know? Martinez reverses an Irish whip, but then forgets to follow-up, as Merenguero bumps into him before Martinez remembers to deliver a spinning wheel kick that knocks his foe out of the ring.

Martinez connects with a baseball slide to send Merenguero to the barricade, then follows up with a double axehandle smash off the apron that gets nothing but the barricade. Merenguero throws Martinez back in the ring, then goes to the top for a flying cross body… Martinez rolls through and gets a two-count, before enjoying a very brief period of offence, ending with a Merenguero spinning wheel kick out of the corner. Martinez takes down Merenguero (badly) with a hurracanrana, but misses when he tries a splash in the corner. El Merenguero takes advantage, and hits a reverse superplex for the win.

That was horrible – the gimmick, the clash of styles, and the fact that it was just so short. Cosmetically, the El Merenguero gear didn’t work (I can hardly talk, but I’m pretty sure Vince McMahon didn’t see this before it aired, lets just leave it at that!). Post-match, el Merenguero finds someone in the crowd dancing, so he goes over to her and joins in.

Backstage, we have an “interview” with Max Mini and Giant Silva. Not really an interview, more of a chance for WWE to hit two birds with one stone as we’re invited to exclaim “look how small/tall they are!” Max hops onto a crate to be able to reach Silva, and we have another clip of el Hijo del Santo as we go into break.

Super Loco vs. El Hijo del Santo

Super Loco is probably better known for his run in ECW as Super Crazy – he gets the “already in the ring, no Titantron” treatment, and is seemingly wearing a rejected design for Jushin “Thunder” Liger’s body suit. El Hijo del Santo gets a full entrance, complete with the old Savio Vega theme, and more piped in cheers.

Loco rolls out of an early attempt at an armbar from el Hijo del Santo, but that just leads to him being armdragged into the corner. Santo locks in some headscissors and spins to take down Loco, but keeps the hold on for a submission attempt. Loco finally makes the ropes, but instead of breaking the hold the referee actually starts to count a pinfall instead. As Jack Doan admonishes Santo, Loco rushes in with a cheapshot, before setting him up for a springboard moonsault off the top rope (but not in the corner), then a springboard senton, before cutting to a break.

Back from commercial, Loco is still on top, but he misses a corkscrew moonsault out of the corner, and that allows Santo to launch a comeback with a pair of running bulldogs. Santo connected with a cross body off the top rope that looked like a headbutt to Loco’s chest, before locking in the Camel Clutch for the submission win.

Another in-studio segment with Marcelo Rodriguez follows, as the show wrapped up with Maria and Max Mini dancing at ringside.

Well, that was something – even from the first episode, you could see why Super Astros didn’t last long. WWE-style squash matches with Mexican talent, whilst different to what AAA and CMLL were producing, weren’t what the Latin American market wanted at that time, and before long Super Astros became the dumping ground for WWE’s minority talent such as Los Boricuas, Kaientai, and distinctly non-luchadores such as Buddy Wayne, Giant Silva and Val Venis.

Critically flawed, is perhaps the best way to sum up the Super Astros experiment.

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