With the success of CMLL’s 81st Anniversary card on September 19 2014, I thought it would be fun to go back in time and look at how September has been an instrumental month in Lucha Libre’s history.
September is a month that is recognized as the birth month of Lucha Libre, CMLL celebrates this by producing annual mega cards often across the country. The biggest event is usually their Anniversary card.
This is the event that often holds the climax to the year’s hottest angles and at times has very little build up. Most years it is treated as a big event, and other years it is nothing more than another Friday night in Mexico City.
It all for Salvador Lutteroth Gonzalez and the company he founded, EMLL on September 21, 1933 with his first Lucha Libre card at the old Arena Madero (Arena Mexico). EMLL which stands for Empresa Mundial de la Lucha Libre (often referred to as Empresa) was changed some 55 years later to its current name of CMLL with translates to Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre. The company is the oldest wrestling company in the world and is to this day owned by the vastly wealthy Lutteroth family.
Salvador Lutteroth’s event was by far not the first professional wrestling event held in Mexico. Towns bordering the United States hosted regular events dating back at least a hundred years and promoters had been bringing events into the country for a very long time. While living in Ciudad Juarez which borders the US town of El Paso is where Salvador was exposed to professional wrestling. He quickly became and fan and a regular to matches held in El Paso Texas and it was during this time the seed was planted for his future.
Lutteroth decided to bring wrestling to his native Mexico City, and along with his financial partner Francisco Ahumada formed EMLL and set up their first event at the run down Arena Mexico.
Below is Salvador Lutteroth’s very first card held at Arena Mexico, was often called Arena Modelo.
September 21, 1933 Arena Mexico:
- Yaqui Joe beat Bobby Sampson
- Leong Tin Kit beat Ciclon Mackey
- Antonio Rubio beat Jesus Castillo
- Flam Arion beat Antonio Jose Pavia
During his first year of business Salvador and his partner Francisco struggled, the crowds were inconsistent and he continually had issues with booking buildings and owners increasing rent on him throughout the year. At the time the best arena in Mexico City was called the National Arena, however Lutteroth found it very expensive and hard to get dates for this Arena. This forced him to continue running events at the worn down Arena Mexico. His fortunes changed exactly one year to the date of the first card he promoted. When on September 21, 1934 he won 40,000 pesos in Mexican National lottery! This turn in fortunes dramatically changed his business and within a few short months he purchase Arena Mexico, and quickly started making some upgrades and renovations to his newly purchased Arena.
The same day he won the National Lottery was also the same day he hosted his first anniversary card.
September 21, 1934 Arena Mexico (1st Anniversary)
- Stephan Berne beat Ray Ryan DQ
- Raul Romero beat Gorilla Puggi
- La Maravilla Enmascarada (Ciclon MacKey) beat Frank Gou
By now he was averaging close to 5,000 fans per card at Arena Mexico, but something else happened in 1934 that changed the course of history of Mexico when it comes to Lucha Libre. Maravilla Enmascarada (Masked Marvel) made his debut appearance for EMLL’s on their first Anniversary show. The Masked Marvel was an instant hit! Legend has it that he was the first Masked wrestler to appear in Mexico. Little did the public know but the Masked Marvel was actually Ciclon Mackey who had been wrestling in rings throughout the county. The influence this character had on Mexico’s culture would be very difficult to explain but is visible in everyday life.
For the sake of time I do not plan to cover every Anniversary card, nor every bit of detail that occurred in the fall of each year. I will attempt to mention at least most of the really influential moments in Lucha Libre history for the month of September.
We are going to jump ahead to the companies 10th Anniversary held on September 24, 1943. This event was held at Salvador Lutteroth’s newly built Arena Coliseo (opened April 2, 1943). The Arena was approximately the same size as Arena Mexico but built specifically for watching wrestling and boxing. In the buildings original configuration it housed 8,863 seats and during strong programs would often stuff people into every nook and cranny of the coliseum to the point it was uncomfortable and extremely dangerous. It was not uncommon during events that were sure to sellout for the promoters to set up seats just a foot or two away from the ring apron and also leave just a few feet for a ring entrance.
EMLL’s tenth Anniversary a match was booked that was so highly anticipated more than a thousand overflow fans packed Arena Coliseo and it appeared that there was not even a square foot empty in the entire arena. Thousands of hopeful spectators were left outside to witness their beloved Bobby Bonales place his hair as a bet, that he could beat and take the mask from the very popular rudo El Santo. This match would end in a similar fashion as dozens of El Santo’s future “bet” matches over the coming years as Bobby Bonales was unsuccessful in his bid to win and was forced to shave his head bald! The match was such a huge success that it lived in the memories of every spectator that attended the event and in the minds of fans that read about the action the over the course of time.
1945 was an interesting year in Mexico as longtime promoter Jesus “Chucho” Garza was making a big impact, and a few years later would make an even bigger impact as he was able to get a television contract to broadcast Lucha Libre across the nation! Before he made those waves on September 23, 1945 he promoted a major card in Guadalajara at the massive Plaza de Toro’s el Progresso. Highly adored Rito Romero took the mask of La Bestia in front of a sold out bull ring. La Bestia was an early gimmick of Cesareo Mantiquez Gonzalez who would later become Chucho Garza’s biggest technico when he donned a mask and became Medico Asesino. The two would team up in just a few years to set a national attendance record for Lucha Libre that would stand until 1993.
Five years later, EMLL celebrated its 15th Anniversary in two parts. The first was on September 22, 1948 at Arena Coliseo. Once again they packed the building, this time a crowd of well over 9,000 fans drew a record gate of $56,402 and we also saw the Arena Coliseo debut of one of Mexico’s biggest attractions, Blue Demon!
September 22, 1948 Arena Coliseo DF (15th Anniversary)
- Tarzan Lopez beat Mike Kelly
- Gori Guerrero beat Bobby Bonales
- Black Shadow beat Rito Romero
- Ciclon Veloz beat Blue Demon (2-0 DQ)
Two days later as part two of their Anniversary celebration they run the old Arena Mexico!
September 24, 1948 Arena Mexico (15th Anniversary II)
- Tarzan Lopez* beat Harry Fields- National Middleweight Title
- Bobby Bonales beat Gori Guerrero
- Rito Romero beat Black Shadow DQ
A year later one of the era’s biggest tag team matches headlined EMLL’s 16th Anniversary. The match involved two of the biggest technicos in Mexico against a pair of atomic rudo
September 30, 1949 Arena Coliseo (16th Anniversary)
- Tarzan Lopez & Bobby Bonales beat Los Parejas Atomicos (El Santo & Gori Guerrero) (2-1)
- Enrique Llanes beat Wolf Rubinsky
- Jack O’Brien beat Roy Landu
Earlier in the year Enrique Llanes (Brother in law to Gori Guerrero and uncle to Chavo, Mando, Hector and Eddy Guerrero) fought El Santo in a very famous Mask vs Hair match. Fans packed the Arena with ringside seats placed close enough to the ring patrons could touch the apron without getting out of their chairs. The match was said to have been a great encounter and Enrique Llanes was so beloved that when he lost the match, the fans surrounded him, picked him up on their shoulders and carried him out of the building! Every attempt he made to make his way back into the ring were thwarted by the audience.
When Llanes returned home, his own mother saw him walk in with a full head of hair she started weeping thinking her son had taken the mask of El Santo. See while Santo was a rudo, he was slowly turning into the biggest babyface the country has ever seen. Enrique’s mother ordered him into the bathroom to shave his hair off immediately and that is what he did.
On September 25, 1953 EMLL celebrated their 20th Anniversary with one of Mexico’s most famous matches taking place. El Santo was scheduled to defend his prize Mexican National Welterweight title against Blue Demon. The match was said to have been an excellent battle! One magazine reported the crowd as being well over ten thousand people with another couple thousand fans outside, each one of them erupted when Blue Demon held El Santo’s shoulders down for a three count! On the undercard truly gruesome match took place as “Tough” Tony Borne beat Tarzan Lopez to a bloody pulp.
And speaking of blood the following year on September 26, 1954 for their 21st Anniversary a match took place that to this day is still regarded as the bloodiest match in Mexico’s history. Famous rudo and a man who’s career spanned seven decades, Cavernario Galindo went to a no contest with Gori Guerrero in an extremely bloody Super Luchas (Super Fight) match.
Before going forward I would like to take a step back a few years to a date that is very well known in Lucha Libre. November 7, 1952.
November 7, 1952 Arena Coliseo famous El Santo vs Black Shadow Mascara vs Mascara Match
On November 7, 1952 the biggest mascara versus mascara (mask versus mask) match was scheduled as El Santo bet his mask against the hood of Black Shadow. Two of the country’s biggest stars and two of the more valuable masks in Mexico for the time. Tickets to the event were picked up so quickly leaving a huge demand to watch the match. On the night of the card Arena Coliseo was completely sold out. In fact nearly every magazine article or newspaper article will tell you that 12,000 fans were crammed into the 8,800 seat Coliseo. No matter what the true attendance were there was another 5,000 or more fans waiting outside to hear the verdict and a new record gate for Coliseo of $87,522.
The match in which El Santo took the mask from Alejandro Cruz Ortiz (Black Shadow) has lived on in history and to this day is one of the most famous matches in all of Mexico. The biggest decision coming out of this match was Salvador Lutteroth’s deciding that his Arena Coliseo was no longer big enough and he was frustrated in turning so many potential ticket buyers away. He set into motion plans to build a brand new, even bigger state of the art arena.
A little over two years later on October 7, 1954 the old Arena Mexico held its final Lucha Libre card and was promptly torn down and construction begin on a new coliseum.
In the spring of 1952 something else happened that may have motivated Salvador Lutteroth to build a larger building. Jesus “Chucho” Garza who was a successful promoter in the State of Jalisco had a desire to expand. Televicentro (Now known as Televisa) owner Emilio Azcarraga thought having a Lucha Libre promotion air on his network would be an instant hit. And it was, with his top star Medico Asesino in place Chucho booked the huge Plaza de Toro’s in Mexico City. The main event was Asesino facing well know rudo Gardenia Davis, and early exotico. While little is known about this event, as it’s almost been covered up but every report that I have read in regards to this show and newspapers have listed it as an “impressive sold out crowd”. From one of the few pictures I have seen it appeared that the grandstands were full, but there was either no ring side seats or very few. Even if the only seating available was the grandstands, you are still talking about 45,000 seats or more!
On April 27, 1956 Salvador Lutteroth held a grand opening for his new building. Built on the parking lot of the old Arena Mexico, it was designed to mirror his prized Arena Coliseo 1just much bigger. When the doors opened there was a line a mile long and every 17,678 seats were filled with a customer. Newspapers made claims, as absurd as they may sound that 25,000 spectators were in attendance on that opening night.
The main event that night was another tag team match between four of the country’s biggest stars. El Santo was now the most beloved baby face in the entire country, and he teamed with one of the hottest young baby faces in Medico Asesino who was just a few years shy of working for the opposition at the big Plaza de Toro’s card. The duo of El Santo and Medico Asesino beat veteran Rolando Vera and Blue Demon.
April 27, 1956 the crowd gathered outside of the new Arena Mexico waiting to get into that nights event.
September 21, 1956 was the first anniversary to be held at the new Arena Mexico. EMLL had been doing excellent business of late and their 23rd Anniversary drew a reported 20,000 fans to see El Santo take another Mask. This time it was the Hood of El Gladiador (Luis Ramirez Romero) who for the sake of trivia is the first man to lose his mask at the current Arena Mexico!
We’re going to skip forward a few years to Empresa’s 30th anniversary celebration. For this event EMLL planned three major cards to honor 30 years of the Company.
The first event was…
September 6, 1963 Arena Mexico (30th Anniversary I)
- Ruben Juarez beat Espanto II (Fernando Vazquez)- Hair vs Mask Match
- Rene Guajardo & Ray Mendoza & Benny Galant beat El Santo & Blue Demon & Rayo de Jalisco
- Rolando Vera beat Karloff Lagarde
- Ray Stern beat El Susto I
- El Gladiador & Antonio Montoro & Chino Chow beat Memo Rubio & Olimpico & El Leopardo
Part two was held on September 20, 1963, also at Arena Mexico and part one of a tournament to crown New Mexican National Tag Team Champions.
September 27th was the third leg of the Anniversary. In the main event Espanto I beat Ruben Juarez in a Mask versus Hair match. And Los Rebeldes (Karloff Lagarde & Rene Guajardo) walked away as New Mexican National Tag Team Champions!
For the next few years Los Rebeldes were on a true Hall of Fame run. The team was doing fantastic business all across the country and Rene Guajardo & Karloff Lagarde were headlining some of the company’s biggest events as singles including EMLL’s 32nd Anniversary on September 24, 1965. Once again Arena Mexico was sold out to witness Karloff Lagarde take Huracan Ramirez’s NWA World Welterweight Title, which was one of the country’s most prestigious championship. On the undercard Espanto I successfully defended his Mexican National Light Heavyweight Championship from newcomer Mil Mascaras.
1966 celebrated Empresas 33rd Anniversary at Arena Mexico on September 2nd. This year’s event sold out once again and drew a huge gate for the era as Canadian Jerry London took the hair from Karloff Lagarde’s scalp. Karloff’s “Los Rebeldes” partner Rene Guajardo had his hands full too as he faced and beat Felipe Ham Lee who was disqualified. That match lead to a show down the following Friday night at Arena Mexico, when the huge cathedral was at capacity to watch Rene take Felipe Ham Lee’s hair.
Rene was not done claiming scalps just yet as on September 30th which was part two of EMLL’s Anniversary he faced off with Jerry London in another hair versus hair match. This time Rene Guajardo got revenge for his partner losing his hair as he took the hair of Jerry London. The Semi-Main Event was pushed in the magazines as heavily as the main event as El Santo teamed with Rayo de Jalisco to beat Black Shadow and Mil Mascaras in a match that had four of the biggest names in the country. Also on the undercard Ray Mendoza, Raul Reyes and Dr. Wagner all won singles matches.
September of 1966 was a huge success for the company. Three of the five Friday night Arena Mexico cards sold out and the other two did excellent numbers!
Mexico during the late 60’s had a lot of big name luchadores competing and no one was a bigger star than El Solitario. Like El Santo he started as a rudo, just like Santo the people began to adore him and turned him into a beloved baby face. Towards the end of 1968 he had formed a trios with friends Angel Blanco and Dr. Wagner it was also during this time on December 13, 1968 when he took the hair of Ray Mendoza followed by the hair of Rene Guajardo a few weeks later. He the continued to build his great notoriety as a singles competitor when on September 5, 1969 when he defended his newly won NWA Middleweight Championship (along with the NWA Welterweight Championship these were the two biggies) from the person he beat for the belt, Rayo de Jalisco.
Twenty days later he defended his Championship against the legendary El Santo in the main event on EMLL’s 36th Anniversary card. And while the event was a huge success El Solitario was not. Santo took the prized NWA Middleweight Championship off of Solitario.
With 1960’s coming to an end it was one of the strongest eras in Lucha Libre history. With so many new stars emerging during the decade a foundation was set for tremendous business to come in the future. However I do not believe anyone could have predicted just how tremendous business was about to become across Mexico!
EMLL’s 40th anniversary took place on September 21, 1973 and featured Rene Guajardo defending his NWA World Middleweight championship against El Halcon, as the two men battled to a time limit draw. The double main event combined fictional brothers of Ray and Ringo Mendoza as they beat Angel Blanco and Kim Chul Wong in a loser of the fall drops their mask or hair. Chul Wong lost his hair that night.
September 20, 1974 Arena Mexico (41st Anniversary) att: 18,000*
- La Ola Blanca (Dr. Wagner & Angel Blanco) beat Super Star (Armando Lopez) & Enrique Vera- Mask & Hair vs Mask & Hair Match
- Anibal beat El Cobarde*- Win NWA Middleweight Title
- Goro Tanaka & Alfonso Dantes beat Tony Stone & Tigre Colombiano
- Adorable Rubi NC Ringo Mendoza
- Paco Pardinez beat Black Shadow
- El Marquez beat Cesar Valentino
- Rizado Ruiz beat Cesar Silva
(NWA President Sam Muchnick was in attendance to present NWA Middleweight title to winner.)
September 22, 1974 Arena Coliseo (41st Anniversary)
- Dr. Wagner beat El Halcon- Win Vacant NWA Light Heavyweight Title Tournament
- Karloff Lagarde & Septiembre Negro beat Anibal & El Marquez
- Los Escorpions I & II beat Los Hinos Escobedo
- Mario Llanes beat Huroki Sito
- El Troyano beat Irazu
(Dr. Wagner wins NWA Light Heavyweight Title and vacates Mexican National Light Heavyweight Title)
A month prior to EMLL’s 41st Anniversary a major change took place in Mexico’s wrestling scene. On August 16, 1974 Francisco Flores and Benjamin Mora Sr got together along with longtime EMLL veteran Ray Mendoza and announced the formation of Promociones Mora y Asociados. Ray Mendoza who was highly respected convinced his friends Karloff Lagarde and Rene Guajardo, who was now a very successful promoter in the Northern State of Nuevo Leon, known as “La Division del Norte” to jump to the new company. Many younger wrestlers saw this as their chance to move up the card and into higher paying positions if they moved to the new company, and many were about to do just that!
Next part we’ll look at the rise of some new competition and the farewell of one of wrestling’s biggest stars!