I don’t have too many holiday traditions. I’m not really big on traditions (or, uh, holidays) and the month of December is pretty much my arch-nemesis. There is one thing, as an utter dork, that I annually looking forward to seeing to mark the annual passage of time: Dave Meltzer’s news update talking about the big Christmas days of yore and bemoaning the abandonment of that tradition today. He’s written about the same piece for at least a decade, each year astounded anew that national wrestling promotions would rather be at home with their family rather than run a noon shot at the Omni in Atlanta. Seeing that piece is how I know it’s really Christmas.
Fear not, Dave and others, because that Christmas day tradition continues in Mexico. Lucha libre still is strangely similar to equivalent of 70 & 80s US promotions: most wrestlers live full time in the homebase of their promotion, making it easy for them to spend Christmas morning with their family and Christmas evening in the ring. This year’s Christmas taking place on a Friday created the perfect storm for a number of fun shows to be run on the same night. You probably don’t live in Mexico City if you’re reading this, but some of these shows will be available live or (maybe) after the fact.
CMLL‘s Infierno en el Ring takes place at an early hour of 5pm on Friday, three and half hours than usual. It’s a $10 iPPV (with no VOD – you’ve got watch it live or wait until it airs on Lucha Azteca on January 16th.) Someone’s getting unmasked on Christmas: twelve luchadors will be in a cage match, where the loser will have to unmask. No one here is a big name – it’s really 11 midcarders and one more who is definitely not a midcarder.
CMLL uses cage matches differently than any other promotion. The rules of the match are the first ten people out of the cage keep their masks, and the final two have a one fall match to determine the winner. CMLL usually knows what singles match they plan to do at the end, and the cage mask is a workaround to make seem like a bigger match than it would’ve been if those two just had a singles match all along. In this case, CMLL started a Super Comando (middle row, far right) versus The Panther (middle row, second from the left) feud, then brought ten more people into it to have enough bodies for the cage match. Super Comando is a perennial opening match wrestler who has had zero serious feuds in the previous decade and sticks out like a sore thumb in this field. The Panther is second generation tecnico who appears to be one of the future stars of the company, and the outcome of a match between them is so blindingly obvious that it wouldn’t mean much on its own. That outcome is so obvious that it also just might be a clever fakeout, though clever fakeouts aren’t CMLL’s forte. Of late, Puma (bottom row, far right) has put himself in the feud, antagonizing both Comando and Panther. He might figure into the result, but it’d be a surprise if anyone else was unmasked.
The rest of the card follows the pattern of the rest of CMLL’s big shows: no climaxes to other feuds, but vague build up matches. Part of the problem with this lineup is CMLL also announced another big show for January 1, and the tercera match seemingly exists solely as an advertisement for whatever match they’re running a week later (maybe again on iPPV.) CMLL’s running a hair match with Maximo & Kamaitachi (which will be fine) or Negro Casas & Super Parka (which will be awful). Back to back PPVs is not inherently poor, but one match on a five match show being an angle is a bit cheesy. The first two matches on this show appear to be irrelevant and unlikely to be significantly good. The only other match of significance on this show is the semi main, a strange partners match with Caristico, Mistico and Rush versus Cibernetico, Volador Jr., and Ultimo Guerrero. It’s Cibernetico’s first match on a CMLL show and a match that might be pretty good if he stays out-of-the-way. The rest of this show isn’t impressive – it’s really lacking a strong match (something similar to the Dragon Rojo/Titan match taking place in the same building a few days prior, but apparently not airing anywhere.) The $10 cost is only really merited if you want to see who gets unmasked.
Only in Mexico will a promotion allow their own wrestlers to work for a show less than an hour away on the same night as their own PPV. Maybe only with CMLL. Chairo II (aka Chilanga Mask with a new name because reasons) takes over IWRG’s Arena Naucalpan show for the night with dream matches build around CMLL luchadors. It’s a better CMLL card then CMLL’s own show. Atlantis takes on Monterrey’s Caifan, probably the best independent luchador of the moment. Marcela defends her CMLL’s Women’s Championship against Keira, probably the best independent luchadora of the moment. Cranky old technical wizard Negro Navarro fights the slightly less old and slightly less cranky technical wizard Virus. There’s an El Dandy appearance in 2015, in a match hyped as battle of wrestling holds but will likely devolve into people hitting each other very hard. Negro Casas and Dr. Cerbero might have a four star match and they’re the fifth most interesting match on the card. There’s really no story to any of those matches, but these matches are so good that they don’t need a story. This is a ridiculously overloaded super indie card, to the point where we were openly questioning if it was maybe too much when it was first announced. It made a bit more sense when the volume of Christmas day shows became apparent. (I’m mentioning four of them, but there’s closer to a dozen in the Mexico City on Friday alone.)
Chilanga Mask/Chairo shows generally only surface as highlights or phone camera video, which isn’t the most promising way to watch this show. It may be easier this time The previous Chilanga Mask show in Arena Naucalpan was professional produced and placed on YouTube for free. That August show is considered by many as the best lucha libre show of the year; it had a lot of quality matches, but I think a big reason for the praise was it was a high-end indie show that was easy to watch in full and pass around. This show will get the same treatment – professional looking video, up on YouTube for free – if and only if the event sells out. The competition is going to be tough, but this kind of lineup should fill up the 2,400 seat building. Cross your fingers.
Arena San Juan’s Cara Lucha promotion has used CMLL talent of late; maybe they’re all busy, maybe that was the random place where CMLL drew the line on this night or maybe they just wanted to give their fans a Christmas treat of Flamita. The former (and future?) Dragon Gate luchador has been politically tricky to use since joining up with AAA full-time this fall, but still means a great deal to this promotion. The group is basically built around young luchadors looking to break out, and no one’s broken out bigger than Flamita the last couple years.
The lineup is short on names with other big name indie talent busy elsewhere, but the top matches look like they’ll have good action. The main event has AAA tecnicos midcarders (Flamita & Super Nova) on opposite sides of a tag match, with one of CaraLucha’s hopefules (Rayo Star) facing IWRG’s top young star Golden Magic. Magic, thru circumstances not of his making, has become one of the more heckled luchadors on the indie scene and the Flamita/Rayo Star team will be easy crowd favorites. The semi main has the slimy Neza Kings facing off against the oddball trio of an anarchist, a cosplay Joker, and a rookie elephant. The third match has my personal favorite new trio of the year, la Mala Hiebra, in action against a trio including AAA’s Ludxor going back to his pre-AAA identity for some reason.
Cara Lucha will likely be only seen after the fact on handheld video (and with all the other options, even that’s not a certainty.) They actually have nice looking DVDs but no distribution; you have to be at a show to pick them up. You should definitely look around YouTube in the days after the show to see if something turns up.
There are many other shows: DTU got far out-of-town by running their Anniversary show a week early and heading to Xalapa for Christmas, there’s an AAA spot show in the Mexico state suburbs, Caristico & Cibernetico are also wrestling a second show that night, and other luchadors will be pulling double duty on at late show in Arena Lopez Mateos, but there’s really no better way to wrap this up than the Simpsons putting their masks against Ninja Turtles. These aren’t the good (IWRG) Ninja Turtles or the OK (AULL) Ninja Turtles, but the barely seen evil doppelgänger mutant turtles. The Simpsons have a background in professional wrestling and “Homero” has been occasionally turning up in this arena the last few months as part of shows full of parody characters intended to appeal to kids and/or internet people looking for easy things to blog about.
This definitely not a traditional kid’s show with that main event. LA Park should probably be wearing a “Parental Advisory: Explicit Content” logo on his gear by now and his main opponent is hardcore wrestler Pagano. Pagano’s been around for a few years, but appeared to become in demand by indie promoters this past year. The hardcore style is still in vogue with a segment of the audience and Pagano’s willing to do just about anything, but he tends to struggle when trying to ‘prove’ he can do more than bleed. Pagano’s best skill is actually probably his ability as a marketer; he’s got a strong following on Facebook and has become the first guy in Mexico to leverage social media popularity into bringing fans to the building despite not having the backing of a big group. The independent promoters like Pagano foremost because putting him on one of their shows brings in an audience who might not come out otherwise, even if the aesthesis aren’t great. This is a venue where video rarely turns up but, if we do get to see the titanic Simpsons/Tortugas battle, it’s probably going to be from someone who came there mostly to see Pagano and Park hit each other with chairs.