CMLL had no match which could follow the last few years of Anniversario shows. Atlantis’ mask has been on the line three straight years and CMLL has exhausted their supply of top luchadors who could credibly challenge him. CMLL still has enough important names to come up with something but a lack of creativity and discipline left them with possibly the weakest main event for their biggest show of the year in fifteen years.
2016’s Anniversary main event is again a mask match, but one between a long time top guy who’s never gotten over to his push and a luchador most of the fanbase still sees as barely more than a rookie. The match will probably be good, but it’s a startling drop from the last few years.
Editor’s Note: If you’re already a fan of lucha libre or looking for a great way to get started, check out LuchaBlog.com, ran by the author of this piece, thecubsfan.
You also can follow him on Twitter @luchablog & @thecubsfan
CMLL’s 83rd Anniversary show takes place on this Friday (September 2nd). Unlike the previous few years, there will be no official live airing of the show. The show will instead be offered as a YouTube rental on on CMLL’s channel, starting at 8AM the following Saturday morning.
CMLL’s weirdly refused to say how much the show will cost. The only other previous complete VOD offering cost $1US, past iPPVs have cost closer to $12. It’s likely we will not know how much the show costs until they post in on Saturday. Both the VOD offering (instead of live) and the mystery price point are a response to CMLL’s own fear of this show not doing well at the box office.
Ticket prices are approximately half the cost of last year’s show to try to fill Arena Mexico, but it’s not clear it’ll be enough. Internet revenue is a tiny and mostly neglected portion of CMLL’s revenue, so they’ve got no problem annoying people far away who couldn’t possibly make it to Arena Mexico in hopes of turning a few more iPPV buyers into buying seats instead.
If you don’t want to pay and can wait, this show will also on Azteca TV in the US on October 1. Though be warned, the broadcast will probably be heavily edited. The show also may air on Canada’s Fight Network, presumably around the same time.
If it seems early to be reading this preview, you’re not wrong. September 2 is the earliest CMLL Anniversario show in half a century. They haven’t spelled it out, but CMLL’s strategy appears to go with a month of bigger than usual shows to replace the one gigantic event of the last few years. They’ve already announced Matt Taven coming in the following Friday, an additional big show on September 16, and a post-Anniversario press conference for even more news. CMLL’s done their own versions of “Tuesday in Texas” in the past, and there’s suspicions the main event or some of the other matches might actually just be a setup to a bigger event two weeks later.
On this show, CMLL will have it’s normal six matches, with about half of them random trios matches to get people on the card.
Amapola, Dalys, Zeuxis versus Lluvia, Marcela, Princesa Sugehit
CMLL’s women were represented last year by Dark Angel winning her CMLL farewell over Sugehit. The division trudges on without her, with only one new debut, not much depth, and little attention. The women generally work hard, but their inclusion on this show seem like a gift given how they’re treated the other days of the year. Lluvia’s taken Dark Angel’s spot and improved, but isn’t consistently good. Dalys won the world title from Marcela back in March, and they’re still nominally setting up a rematch someday. The real issue is between Princesa Sugehit and Zeuxis, who’ve had a couple of well received matches for Zeuxis’ Mexican national championship and are pushing for a mask versus mask in interviews. It’s the only ongoing midcard feud on this Anniversario card, so it has a chance of progressing if CMLL decided they need a secondary apuesta match later this month.
Ephesto, Mephisto, Shocker versus Marco Corleone, Máximo, Stuka Jr.
The rudo side – trios champions Ephesto & Mephisto teaming with Shocker instead of their usual partner Luiciferno – is a combined 143 years old. That’s underrating it, since 45 year old Shocker wrestles like a much older and less mobile man. Marco and Maximo will get lots of crowd support, Shocker has plenty of fans too, and Stuka will awe the fans with a blind dive, but this is not an inspiring job of matchmaking. This is more rewarding loyal soldiers.
Mephisto seems out of place here for other reasons. Every year, CMLL starts to tease doing something to set up a Mephisto mask match, and then just drops it half way thru. This year, it’s Mephisto beating Mistico and Caristico fairly cleanly, and nothing ever coming from it. I’m not sure he would’ve meant any more as the main event rudo than La Mascara, but it seems like he got cut in line.
Súper Crazy versus Rey Bucanero in a hair versus hair match
CMLL Anniversario shows often have secondary apuesta matches to add value to the card. Usually they’re young guys getting a big stage to go wild and make an impression. Occasionally they’re older wrestlers who can be counted on to have a pretty good match. This is really neither, and more like the match prior: more aimed at rewarding the participants than putting on something people are dying to see. Super Crazy took Felino’s hair on an Elite show in February, and CMLL gets a Super Crazy hair match of their own to return the favor. There wasn’t a strong reason to start this feud. Rey Bucanero eventually mentioned he was upset with Elite for not booking him or his partners, and both men noted they’ve crossed paths since the mid 90s, They just started being matched up in July, and Bucanero was switched to the face halfway thru.
Elite was being smart not to book Rey. Bucanero is a tough case. He was easily one of CMLL’s best wrestlers of the 2000s, suffered plenty of knee injuries in the process, now seems past the point of again being part of good matches, yet is young enough to still get booked on CMLL cards for the next decade.
Anyone who starts watching him now are going to end up with not great impression of him, and anyone who saw him in the past is a little sad to keep seeing him. CMLL patterns say Bucanero’s likely to win – he’s been humiliated leading into this match – but CMLL gains nothing from Bucanero winning. Bucanero’s lost his hair often through the years and wouldn’t be considered a bigger deal for winning this one. Either way this match ends, the winner isn’t going to really gain much out of it, and CMLL hasn’t done a great job of building it up. (A draw, where both men would be shaved, is probably the ‘right’ ending, but also a waste of time.)
The hope for this match is they can turn back the clock. They actually did, for a short lightning match a couple weeks ago, where they just threw their bodies around with not a care about how they’d feel in the morning.
(It’s at 1:16:48, if it doesn’t start for you.) The problem with these guys is rarely effort, but the ability for their bodies to do what their minds want them to do. I’m sure they’ll give it their best shot, I’m not sure if that’s enough.
The more compelling part of the feud is the way it’s changed in the last couple weeks. This was billed as a “CMLL versus Elite” issue, though it was only taking place on CMLL shows and strictly included “Elite” wrestlers (Golden Magic & Sharlie Rockstar) who had independently shown up on CMLL shows (and might be really under CMLL agreements.) Elite recently dropped their weekly Thursday Arena Mexico shows, ran one show on Sunday before giving up on that, and now isn’t talking. At the same time, CMLL’s dropped all mentions of Elite – Caristico is now listed affiliation is now listed as CMLL, Super Crazy’s no longer wearing his gear with the Elite logo, and the announcers seem to have been told not to bring it up. Everything points to a split between the two promotions, which would leave Elite’s future dicey at best. This match itself does not seem in danger of being canceled, but the reason it’s happening is gone. The situation may change by the time you read this, and will definitely mean more long term than the outcome of this match.
Cavernario, Felino, Negro Casas versus Atlantis, Carístico, Máscara Dorada
Back to random trios matches. The tecnico team seems like they should be doing something more. Caristico is the biggest draw of the last boom period, Atlantis drew the gigantic gates the last three years, and CMLL couldn’t find anything better for them to do than wrestle Felino. (No offense, Felino.)
Mascara Dorada is actually doing something more on other days of the week, and is the most surprising inclusion on the card. CMLL treats Mascara Dorada & Gran Metalik as if they’re different people: there’s been no acknowledgment of his CWC participation, but there’s also been no subtle burial for taking the gig or big losses on the way out to WWE like La Sombra. Being stuck in mostly in trios matches with no particular booking direction might sound like punishment, but that’s business as usual for Mascara Dorada. Dorada’s been announced for matches well into October, so maybe he’s not going anywhere quite yet and those bigger matches are still to come.
On the other side, CMLL’s opted to keep Peste Negra together and use the best wrestler combination of the group. It’s a vote of confidence for Cavernario & Felino to not be bumped down the card for someone like Shocker or Mr. Niebla, and also someone realizing this combination would work best with the flyers Dorada & Caristico. Peste Negra has been cheered over tecnico sides on previous Anniversario shows, and might even still be again despite Atlantis being on the other side.
Mistico, Valiente, Volador Jr. (champions) versus Euforia, Gran Guerrero, Último Guerrero for the CMLL World Trios Championship
Finally, the good stuff.
The Sky Team beat a different combination of the Guerreros to win these trios titles back in February 2015, and haven’t lost them since. This is their seventh defense, and the third time the Guerreros have attempted to get the belts back. Ultimo’s got the better of Volador in recent meetings, which might be storyline justification to earn a shot, but the actual reason seems to be the two teams having outstanding matches against each other. Their most recent match, back on July 22, was well easily into the four star range, and previous recent matches haven’t been far off.
It’s not hard to figure out why it works. The tecnicos are world class flyers and Ultimo Guerrero and Euforia are even better at fighting and catching flyers. Gran Guerrero has even quietly progressed to not being out of place in this type of match (and has clearly moved past frequently missing/injured fourth team member Niebla Roja on the depth chart.) These matches were good in 2015, but they’ve gone to another level due to the turnaround the second Mistico has made. It took him about a year in the ring to find his form again, and he’s been on fire for the last few months. Mistico has some tricky and dangerous looking spots in his big matches – a huge toss to the floor for a headscissors, a running leap from the ramp to the corner into a dive to the floor – and he’s pulling them off without a problem every time. Mistico has been so good, he’s even finally turned the Arena Mexico crowd back on his side after years of booing him just for the name. It’ll probably be a rough audience on the Anniversary show, but Mistico’s easily the most improved wrestler in Mexico this year and may even convince them.
There’s been one of these high flyer trios showcases on this show every year for the last three years. The tecnicos usually win, but also are frequently booed by a crowd annoyed by something else that’s gone on. The second part seems less likely to happen – there’s nothing in the undercard to get that worked up about this year – but the Sky Team keeping the titles is not a guarantee. Volador takes pleasure in picking on Mistico in interviews, claiming he’s doing it tough him up like an older brother to a younger one, and a newly confident Mistico’s started to come back at him a bit recently. Valiente’s said this trio is probably going their separate ways once they lose the belts, as both Mistico & Volador would rather team with family members, and the CMLL top tecnico team usually gets broken up and reassembled by this point. The Sky Team is two defenses from tying the all time trios record, but I just don’t think they’re getting there.
Dragón Lee versus La Máscara, mask versus mask
This is not Plan A. This may be somewhere around Plan G or Plan H. Rush—he and his trio are very noticeably missing from this entire card—has publicly claimed it was supposed to be him facing La Mascara on this show, but CMLL pulled him as punishment for bleeding in his brawl with LA Park. The story seems to check out: Rush was used the following Friday, but in a way to transfer the feud with Mascara to Dragon Lee, and then removed from shows entirely for over a month. The change was abrupt and it was hard to believe Lee/Mascara was actually happening until CMLL stopped building pretty much anything else. We were expecting someone, anyone, to get involved until the moment they finished signing the contract.
Dragon Lee’s shaky 2016 made it hard to believe CMLL was trusting him in this spot. His wrestling has been great, it’s his status that’s been inconsistent. He injured a knee in April, hurried back in May, re-aggravated the injury within a week, and was out until literally the moment they started this feud. That injury shouldn’t hurt his performance in this match, but it’s prevented him from picking up big wins leading up to this match.
Dragon Lee’s wins over Kamaitachi were outstanding but, from a kayfabe perspective, he beat a NJPW young boy and hasn’t proven against anyone top level. Dragon Lee is the heavy favorite among the internet crowd, but the more casual CMLL fan has trouble understanding why he’s even in there. That’s one reason the match might not be connecting. The other is, well, La Mascara.
La Mascara is Google Plus. He’s always included in the upper echelon of social media apps, he comes from a prestigious family, he’s included in a lot of stuff, and yet you probably can’t think of a single person who willingly uses it. If you did run into a fan of Google Plus, you’d have a lot of questions and just generally be confused. Google Plus is not Facebook (Rush), the clear top guy even if everyone instinctively hates it. Google Plus is not Twitter (Sombra), really agile and talented if you understand how to use it, and where you’re probably going to get over stronger if you work heel. Google Plus combines elements of both Twitter and Facebook, but isn’t really as good as either, and mostly makes you wish you were using/watching the other two. (Marco Corleone is Whatsapp, tremendously popular in Mexico even if people in the US aren’t aware it still exists. Naito is Line? Naito is some cool Japanese app I don’t even know?)
It’s hard to believe you’d even know what Google Plus is if it wasn’t part of the Google family, and the Google family has so many better apps. Cousin YouTube (Maximo) may not fail from time-t0-time, but is always entertaining. Cousin Google Docs (Psycho Clown) started out severely underpowered and felt like it may go nowhere, but has grown into a reliable tool that can now carry a family-sized business. Google Plus has changed and pivoted over time, but it’s never caught on the same way despite being forced upon people for such a long time.
You can’t really put an app into a mask versus mask match, so CMLL’s got one better than Google at the moment by cashing out at this moment. La Mascara isn’t the top star CMLL’s tried to push him as, but the years of trying has created some value in his mask. He’s not Atlantis or Ultimo Guerrero (or even Volador or Sombra), but it will mean something if Dragon Lee can defeat him. The two did not mesh well at all in their first encounters, but Mascara has found some much needed intensity since the match was made official, and the occasion should carry them to a memorable match.
Dragon Lee seems like the obvious winner to me.
Last year in this space, I wrote La Sombra was the obvious winner over Atlantis, so it’s hard to be too confident. We didn’t know La Sombra had a WWE offer last year, one that caused him to lose his mask on the way out of Mexico. We actually do know Dragon Lee had a WWE offer – he claims he was invited to the Cruiserweight Classic, but had to turn it down due to injury.
Dragon Lee’s the second youngest wrestler to put his mask on the line at a CMLL Anniversario. The youngest was Mr. Aguila, who also lost his mask because he had a WWE deal. La Mascara’s stock doesn’t go up much with a win, but that upcoming September 16 big show and the easy angle of big brother Rush avenging little brother Dragon Lee at least opens the door to CMLL trying to squeeze two big gates out of one month.
On the other hand, Sombra & Lee’s build ups separate a little bit when you go deeper. Sombra got the best of Atlantis repeatedly up their mask match, while Dragon Lee’s been left lying on the mat without his mask a lot. Sombra put over as many people as possible in singles matches before leaving, Dragon Lee is winning and hasn’t been asked to lose his title. Sombra pointed out he hadn’t talked to NJPW and wasn’t going there any time soon before he left, while Dragon Lee is starting in ROH at the end of the month. And, if CMLL was really just looking to get the most money of a Dragon Lee mask loss, they wouldn’t be using La Mascara, they’d just do Atlantis once again. I wouldn’t bet my house on it, not after last year, but Dragon Lee winning is the most likely outcome.
This is the part where I’d try to tell you if the show is worth seeing. It’s harder to do when there’s no info about how much it costs. The Anniversario shows have delivered in recent years, with the atmosphere capable of carrying the show on it’s own. The last two matches should be great, and have the potential of MOTYC-level on this night. Dragon Lee’s delivered time after time in 2015, and I’d bet on him again. It is diminished by not seeing the matches live (though you’ll probably do a better job of avoiding spoilers than I can), but it’s a show worth checking out even after it happens.