CMLL returns to iPPV on Friday night with their Gran Prix event. It’s a show built around a global competition, Mexico taking on the Rest of the World, which might seem awfully familiar if you’ve been paying attention to lucha libre this month. This show airs at 8:30pm Central Time and can be purchased thru CMLL’s store on Cleeng for $15 USD + $3 of fees. (Using the coupon code JKGbxe will reduce the price by 30%). It’s also, like all Friday night shows, available on the Playstation Network’s Live Event Viewer for $10. Either way you purchase it, the show is only available live – CMLL still isn’t doing VOD. If you can’t or don’t buy it, an edited version of the show is scheduled to air on July 30 on Azteca in the United States, and in Canada a couple days earlier on The Fight Network (though all air dates are subject to change.)
CMLL’s Gran Prix dates back to 1994, something they’ve repeatedly brought up in the month long build to this event. The part they don’t mention as much is this will be the first time CMLL’s gotten around to running the competition since 2008. CMLL’s loud insistence of being first and best at this concept gives away the real reason it is happening: CMLL is jealous AAA got lots of attention for their Lucha World Cup and wants some of that for themselves. Spite and envy aren’t the soundest motivations to run a big wrestling event, but it’s so much better than the unmotivated state CMLL usually is in at this point in the year.
The Gran Prix concept is pretty simple: it’s an eight vs. eight cibernetico (elimination) match pitting Mexico versus the Rest of the World. The winning side may get a plaque of some sort, and the last remaining person gets a giant trophy. Alex Shelley won the last one in 2008, in what was supposed to set up a match with Shelley’s hair against Ultimo Guerrero’s mask, and he’s still got his trophy. The tournaments in the years prior often just took advantage of foreigners already being happening to be in Mexico. The 2006 and 2007 versions took place on the day before Ultimo Dragon’s annual DragonMania show, using whatever odd assortment of Japanese and ex-WWE guys he had booked that year. The 2005 tournament only passes for an international tournament because Tanahashi and Nakamura happened to be in Mexico on a faux-excursion. That generally goes with the Gran Prix’s prior – what passes for the international field are just whichever foreigners happened to already be working Mexico. The 2016 version, like that TNA /CMLL 2008 one, stands out because CMLL is bringing people in specifically to work this one match (though they’ll be around before and after.)
Michael Elgin and KUSHIDA are the biggest names on the Rest of the World side this time around. Both are presented as the same as in NJPW; they’re friendly rivals to the Mexicans, but still faces and have done well in the matches they’ve had so far. They’re joined as NJPW representatives Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa (being spelled as “Tangaroa” because translation is really tough). Tonga had strints in CMLL in 2012 and 2013, both of which went well. There are two additional outsiders joining CMLL for this show: Sam Adonis, a Pittsburgh native who had a stint in FCW as Buddy Stretcher and is the younger brother of NXT’s Corey Graves and Johnny Idol, a New Zealand flyer. Both have been wrestling on indie shows in Mexico – Idol’s been a DTU regular this year – were training in CMLL’s school leading into this. It’s possible either or both could be sticking around full time. Current CMLL regulars Marco Corleone & Okumura round out the team.
Volador Jr. & Rush lead the Mexico side, which exposes the lack of depth in CMLL right now. Ultimo Guerrero, Maximo, Rey Escorpión, La Mascara, Diamante Azul, and Shocker are the rest of the squad. Guerrero & Azul have been pushed as the most important on this team. It’s not the strongest possible side: names like Atlantis or Mistico would’ve made more sense than the broken down Shocker. Mascara Dorada not being included was a surprise, until we found out he was in the CWC. Caristico would’ve been a big deal to be included, but still seems to be used inconsistently by CMLL. The Mexico side is also beset by ongoing feuds: half the team is either feuding with or teaming with La Mascara, who was a late addition as an injury substitution. The team members are pushing that they’ll get along for the sake of their country, but that doesn’t always turn out well.
It’s pretty simple to have a very good cibernetico match. There’s plenty of people to keep the action moving, it’s easy to just eliminate the question marks early on, and the drama builds onto itself by the end. The lesson of the Lucha World Cup, and previous Gran Prix events, is people are pretty willing to get behind patriotism if done well and CMLL’s done that in the buildup. They’ve done a better job than AAA in introducing and building up the quality of the foreigners to the casual fans by having them in for a couple weeks before the tournament. It seems possible CMLL’s going to turn out about 10K+ fans for this show, for names that wouldn’t be a big deal without some careful promotion (as Elite found out) and it’s likely going to be a good match too. There’s a good chance of another big match coming out of it, as KUSHIDA vs Volador for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship has been hinted at, but still lacks a definite date. That match is likely to happen one of the next two Fridays nights, on a show that may be aired for free.
The Gran Prix won’t be the best match on the show. That’s definitely going to Rey Cometa vs Barbaro Cavernario hair match rematch. The two started feuding two years ago, with Cavernario pairing winning that year’s En Busca de un Idolo tournament with defeating Cometa for his hair to make him the hottest new rudo in the company in the moment. Their feud carried onto Japan, where a half crippled Cometa probably should’ve sat the tour off, but instead had a classic with Cavernario on the final day of the FantasticaMania tour and then couldn’t get in the ring again for eight months. Rey Cometa really never seemed fully recovered until earlier this year, and then he immediately launched himself back into this feud.
Barbaro Cavernario is the obvious favorite of those who check out CMLL for big shows like this, because he’s an engaging personality and delivers on the big shows too. Cometa’s more a favorite of the long time hardcores, for having gone to being underappreciated by promotions to regularly being in big midcard matches. Since losing his mask to Puma in 2012, he’s taken Namajague’s mask & Okumura’s hair, then come back and taken Namajague’s hair as well in 2013, then, of course, the Cavenrario match in 2014. He might have had a big match in 2015 too if he had two working knees. It’s hard to believe Cometa has a much better chance of winning this time than last, but he did manage to take the national welterweight championship off Cavernario last month in a great match to give his fans some hope. The title win validated Cometa’s rise up the cards, even if Cavernario sends him back to the barber’s chair on this one. It still seems like Cavernario’s big hair loss should come in to a bigger name or in a bigger moment. The repeat result is going to turn off some, but just getting to see the match is going to be great for me.
That’s it for meaningful matches. The main matches will be getting quite a bit of time, because there’s only two of them. The opener is another meeting between the Panther and Casas families, with Blue Panther Jr., Blue Panther Sr., and the Panther vs Felino, Tiger and Puma. The last two make everyone’s list of the best guys CMLL doesn’t really use, and these two sides have had great chemistry in the past. The second match is scheduled to Atlantis, Mistico and Stuka Jr. versus Terrible, Euforia and Mr. Niebla. It may change – Niebla might be heading back to timeout by the time you read this – but looks like a solid exhibition for the trios.
As with the Lucha World Cup, there’s nothing must see here, but the Cometa/Cavernario hair match has a higher ceiling than anything on AAA’s card. The Gran Prix itself doesn’t seem like it’ll be as fun of the Lucha World Cup itself – it doesn’t have the wacky/weird charm of all the unexpected match ups – but it’s a solid enough card for a Friday night. The show would have stronger value if CMLL figured out people liked to watch shows on Demand later, and it’s a little but over priced at $15, but it’s still work checking out.