CMLL celebrates its 84th year of existence with their 84th Anniversario show this Saturday and it’s one of the oddest anniversary shows in the history of the promotion.

It reads promising: one young wrestler is going to get a big win, other future top stars are scattered around the card and there are representatives from NJPW and ROH involved as those partnerships continue to grow. CMLL has accurately hyped the show as the first ever Anniversario where two people will lose their masks on the same night, so it must be one of their biggest shows of all time, right?

Instead, CMLL fans are receiving this as one of the least important Anniversario shows in memory. The main event has been rejected by the fans, and may have almost fallen apart due to injury. There’s been a social media push to change the card or at least the match order, which CMLL has ignored. Most of the show are barely meaningful matches, with no thought in what would make for good matches. While it is still the promotion’s biggest show of the year and it’ll still be memorable for those two mask matches, no one is really all that happy going into it.

Like the Gran Prix earlier this month, CMLL’s Anniversario show is on for $15 USD or 150 MXP. The Gran Prix aired with no big issue and this should be the same. The live feed is rewindable so you’ll be able to watch VOD as it happens. The key matches from the show should air in the US on Lucha Azteca (on the Azteca US network) on September 23rd. The show will also air on SamuraiTV in Japan later this month and probably will turn up on NJPW World as well.

The first thing to remember is SATURDAY. CMLL has held is biggest show of the year on a Friday for at least the last half century, but are holding it a day later this year. There’s strong reasons not to hold the show on a Friday the 15th—the custom in Mexico on is for families to stay home or attend neighborhood parties on the day, not to go to shows. CMLL has usually accommodated this by bumping the show to the 22nd or 29th. This year, CMLL is just bumping it by a day, holding it on Independence Day, making it the first ever Saturday anniversary show.

CMLL has explained this as a way to let more out-of-towners come in for the big show and it fits a bigger pattern. They’ve been successful holding shows on and around Dia de la Muerte, on Christmas Day, and on New Year’s Day. CMLL held a non-Anniversary show on Independence Day last year with a big turnout too. Running holidays fits its pivot to being tourist focused, and there’s at least a chance affixing the Anniversario show to Independence Day might become a regular feature if it works this year.

CMLL runs all of their holiday shows at an early 5pm start. It’s doubly important this time around: Canelo Alvarez—Mexico’s current most famous boxer—fights the same night in Las Vegas. That boxing match likely will be a bigger deal in Mexico than Mayweather/McGregor, and evening competition would be a big problem. A 5pm start means CMLL should have plenty of time to run a longer than usual show, and not risk people walking out to go to watch something else.

One more time so everyone remembers: this show is SATURDAY at FIVE PM CT.

Blue Panther Jr., Stuka Jr., The Panther vs Dragón Rojo Jr., Hechicero, Pólvora

In a Venn Diagram of CMLL, all the people CMLL thinks are good at wrestling and the circle which contains all the people CMLL thinks are worth doing something with aren’t close to concentric.

These six are in the first group of but not frequent members of the second of doing anything all lately. Hechicero picked up the NWA Light Heavyweight championship in November and has yet to defend it in Arena Mexico. The other five have even less going on, but are always inserted when CMLL wants a good match in an important spot. The opener of the Anniversario show is an important enough, and so these six are picked from a bunch of people who could be in this spot. Or maybe someone just likes Dragon Rojo & Polvora’s exploding guns, who’s to say. Stuka landing the big splash is the fan favorite way to end this.

Diamante Azul, Marco Corleone, Valiente vs Cuatrero, Forastero, Sansón

The Nueva Generacion Dinamitas on a big show, like clockwork.

The hope was they’d get to face a higher ranked group of fast if small wrestlers to showcase their skills. The NGD are facing higher ranked people, but instead heavyweights who don’t exactly fit with what these guys have done well in the past. (Valiente is definitely not a heavyweight in height, but probably in muscle mass.) The sons of Cien Caras are going to eventually end up as heavyweights and likely will hold the championship Marco currently holds, so this is a preview of what is to come if not something all that interesting in the present.

The presently interesting about this match is the status of Diamante Azul. CMLL removed him from all lineups this week, claiming he had returned to France (where his family lives) due to an emergency, but have implied he’ll be back for this show. Mexican sports news La Aficion instead reported Diamante Azul took himself off the cards and won’t be back for this show. CMLL has gotten behind Diamante Azul as if he’s one of their most important people (a mask win, a Gran Prix win two weeks ago), but the fans haven’t ever been interested in him, and it’s unclear how much Azul is actually interested in wrestling. He’s generally not been missed when he’s been living in France for months, and it’d make this match much more appealing if Dragon Lee or Soberano showed up in his place. I wouldn’t count on that happening.

Kráneo, Rush, Sam Adonis vs Cavernario, Felino, Negro Casas

It takes to third match to get an actual story, and it’s only the gem of one. Evil American Sam Adonis took legend Blue Panther’s hair a couple months ago, and then vowed to beat all the legends of Mexican wrestler. Barbaro Cavernario objected to Adonis’ Trump flag a couple weeks ago, Negro Casas backed up his caveman friend, and suddenly Adonis has a new legend to go after. It’s the Peste Negra, so this is still going to be some comedy, but it looks like they’re eventually headed to a serious place, and Adonis/Panther did well enough that it seems a place worth going.

The most positive news on this show is cult favorite Kraneo being in this match instead of terrible wrestler Pierroth. There’s a tentative partnership with CMLL & The Crash to allow Rush and his father to wrestle for the Konnan-led promotion. No one expects that to end well but, for the moment anyway, it at least seems to have reduced the pressure on CMLL to keep putting Pierroth in big spots. Kraneo looks like a blob in a strange outfit to occasional CMLL viewers, but he’s really a talented comic prescense who can go in big matches and be entertaining in the droll weekly stuff. Kraneo’s taken over Super Porky’s roll, only from the rudo side, being much better at it with a lot less acclaim.

Bloodlines: El Hijo del Santo and Negro Casas Twenty Years Later

Mask vs. Mask
Princesa Sugehit vs Zeuxis

This is CMLL’s 84th Anniversary show. They ran mutliple Anniversario level shows some years, so there’s more than 84 of them depending on how you count them. These are all the women’s singles match on those shows until now:

  • 2015: Dark Angel vs Princesa Sugehit (Dark Angel farewell match)
  • 2005: Marcela vs Dark Angel (CMLL Women’s Championship match)
  • 1996: Lioness Asuka vs Lola Gonzalez (TWF Championship match)

That’s the whole list.

Sugehit and Zeuxis is not just the first women’s mask match on this show, it’s only the fourth women’s singles match in the history of the event. CMLL has had trios matches and ciberneticos on these shows too, but those were more about getting a bunch of people involved. Those other three were kind of also just about getting two particular people on the show. Angel & Sugehit weren’t feuding when they had their match, and the two title matches were set up on about one week’s notice. Before then, nothing at all — the sort of things that happen when you stop promoting women’s matches for a few decades.

Princesa Sugehit & Zeuxis have been feuding for what seems like decades by now. They’ve had seven matches for the Mexican National Women’s title going back all the way to last June. (Zeuxis won the first three, Sugehit’s won the last four.) They’ve been doing the lucha dance of death since March, ripping or stealing each other’s masks on a regular basis. It’s been certain Sugehit & Zeuxis would have this mask match, it just became a long waiting game to see if CMLL would place it on an earlier show or hold it all the way until September. The long run up seemed to hurt the feud for a while, but they’ve managed to add life into the rivalry with brawls in recent weeks.

The CMLL fanbase is not always into women’s feuds, but Zeuxis stands out as the most exciting luchadora they have, and Sugehit been a solid known quantity for over a decade. The length and quality of work of the feud has caused the fans to embrace it more than usual for a women’s feud. There was a noticeable social media push that this match should be the main event when it was finally announced as happening. It’s only grew louder after it was confirmed not to be the main event. It’s still hard to tell if this is truly widespread rank and fan interest in the women’s match, or something that’s being over represented by passionate people on the internet. It is clear not all of that passion to see this in the main event is about Zeuxis/Sugehit: if the actual main event was Atlantis/Sombra or even Mascara/Dragon Lee, there wouldn’t be this movement. A fair chunk of waiting Zeuxis/Sugehit to main event is a rejection of what CMLL is doing instead.

CMLL is never responsive to fan criticism, and has pigeonholed women at a certain level. CMLL runs dozens of utterly pointless shows a month, where anyone could main event without making much a difference, and even the biggest women’s matches aren’t higher than third from the top (same as this one.) Luchadoras did main event a show back on Christmas, but that was more the cage match stipulation main eventing. CMLL hasn’t promoted a women’s singles match in the main event since Tiffany and Marcela had a hair match in 2012 — and that was sent out to die against TripleMania happening at the same time in the same town. (And it did die, drawing less than would’ve expected on a normal date.) Just getting this women’s mask match on the Anniversary show is a small triumph in itself in a company seemingly obligated to include but not all that interested in women’s wrestling. It would great if CMLL found religion on this issue and worked to improve women’s wrestling going forward, but I’d settle for CMLL being mildly embarrassed by the crowd reacting much more warmly to this match than their chosen main event.

This is the tougher of the two mask matches to predict, and one where the probable loser has shifted a few times. It started as if a setup for Zeuxis to lose he mask on her way out of CMLL when she showed up at a WWE tryout last year, but there’s been not a word more about a possible move. (It’s unlikely to be a Sombra-like secret move, since she’s booked in Japan next month.) When Princesa Sugehit instead was included in the Mae Young Classic, there was at least a thought she instead was finishing up. Sugehit didn’t really stand out in the tournament, wasn’t brought back for the final and WWE doesn’t seem to be added a lot of new people, so that can be thrown out too. Lucha feuds default to the person losing the lead up winning the mask match. The results have slightly favored Sugehit in the lead up, though the last match ended specifically 50/50 to cloud the issue. Zeuxis is the younger woman, and probably will be the lead ruda for the promotion as long as she’s sticking around, so she should end up with the win.

Carístico, Flip Gordon, Volador Jr. vs Kojima, Mephisto, Último Guerrero

One more grab bag trios match as a semi main. Volador and Kojima – who’s made an effort but doesn’t really fit in – have been feuding on CMLL b-shows and might be having a singles match someplace. It hasn’t been a big Friday issue until now. Flip Gordon is debuting as the ROH rep on this show. The generic comments they’ve used to hype him have slightly exposed him as not really being all that versed in CMLL (picking Kojima as the guy he’s most excited to fight in Arena Mexico is surely honest but slightly misses the point), but then CMLL fans haven’t been given a great idea of who he is either. Gordon should do fine with Mephisto & Ultimo Guerrero to base for him, though I hope someone briefs him on how to take Mephisto’s finish better than they did Matt Taven.

Forget the two foreigners: Caristico is the wildest inclusion in this match. That’s a high flying Volador partner spot that could’ve gone to Mistico, could’ve gone to Dragon Lee, and could’ve gone to Soberano, and they’ll all be hanging out watching the show instead of having a match. Caristico is back from working for a rival to CMLL’s partner in Japan, but is also apparently totally untouchable. It’s always good to have the right people like you.

Mask vs. Mask
Niebla Roja vs Gran Guerrero

CMLL’s main event is the battle of guys who were the third and fourth most important people in their group a few months ago. Niebla Roja is a top tecnico because he cost his team matches for months until they finally got tired of it and destroyed him. Ultimo Guerrero demanded Niebla Roja’s mask back too, and made a point of stealing it off Roja’s face after every match. Niebla Roja responded by losing to Ultimo Guerrero repeatedly and then being passed down as a rival to younger brother Gran Guerrero like hand me down clothes. Neither man has previously won a singles title, or a mask match, or had many singles main events of any kind. This is a bad idea for a feud, but the build has been worse.

In the long long ago time of 2011, Angel de Plata was the lesser brother of Angel de Oro. They were part of a trio, then a tag team, then CMLL decided Angel de Oro was an actual star and Angel de Plata was to be left to die in the CMLL early match wasteland. CMLL wasn’t wrong, Angel de Plata was a boring and generic luchador who would’ve been quickly forgotten if he left CMLL. Luckily for him, real life Ultimo Guerrero took him on as a project, and storyline Ultimo Guerrero reintroduced him as protege Niebla Roja in 2012. He was eventually added to UG’s group when it was changed to include only people who were born in Guerrero’s home region. Roja looked more comfortable as a rudo, and excelled as the speedy pest balancing out the power focus of the group.

Niebla Roja just still doesn’t work as a tecnico. The bit of speed and bit of flying that stands out compared to other rudos leaves him far back in the pack on the other side. CMLL tecnicos get more of the flashy offense but, outside of a repeatedly spammed spinning forearm, Niebla Roja doesn’t do much that’s looks good or is exciting. Roja didn’t have a lot of credibility as a singles wrestler – only a couple wins over Dragon Lee which went unmentioned ones plans changed – and the process of getting to this match has only made him look more insignificant.

Gran Guerrero started off from a much lower place than Niebla Roja, and looked totally over his head for the first year of this character. He’s improved by leaps and bounds, from being the guy who’d screw up every match to a glue guy who can keep matches together. He’s still, by design, forever in his brother’s shadow. Gran wrestles in a similar style of his older brother, uses some of the same big moves, and has similar problems connected with the crowd that UG did for a long time. Gran Guerrero has been positioned as a surrogate for UG, someone defending his brother’s honor because his brother no longer has a mask to wager. The goal here seem to make Gran Guerrero a top star on his own, but he’s very much not been on his own this entire build.

This feud has been met with apathy and derision. Neither man has the star power fans expect for the Anniversary show and there was no real momentum in this feud. CMLL needed to do something major to get people excited. Instead, CMLL could do nothing at all. Niebla Roja started missing shows, and CMLL didn’t offer any explanation. Roja eventually resurfaced on CMLL’s interview show to say nothing but prove he was still alive, then did other media interviews claiming he had was away due to personal reasons. Niebla Roja’s real personal reasons are Niebla Roja suffering an ankle injury on a non-televised show, and desperately trying to recover in time for this match. (Roja has denied any new injury, but multiple reports have confirm he’s hurt.) Whatever the reason, it’s meant the already cold feud has been in deep freeze for the last three weeks before the show. Gran Guerrero & Niebla Roja have done a lot of press leading up to the match, but the media is more interested in asking them why the fans are rejecting this feud and if the women should be main eventing than anything about this rivalry. This main event is going to be ice age cold on Saturday.

CMLL could’ve changed to something else. (They seemed to be considering Rush/Diamante Azul even before Niebla Roja’s injury, but Azul’s own disappearing act might have messed that up too.) CMLL might have better reports on Niebla Roja’s health status than anyone else, but they also seem to be gambling that the show will draw sufficiently just by putting the “Anniversario” name on it. It’s not without reason: few CMLL fans wanted to see Pierroth and Diamante Azul have a largely boring mask match this spring, but it still drew well for CMLL because it’s was CMLL’s annual “Homenaje a Dos Leyendas”. That seemed a bad sign for people who like CMLL to put on an effort on big shows. If this Niebla Roja/Gran Guerrero match does similarly well, it’ll encourage CMLL even more to try even less.

There’s no real effort needed to pick this winner. CMLL hasn’t just found someone else to replace Niebla Roja, because it’s not easy to replace the person who’s going to be losing their mask. Niebla Roja’s missed stretches of time in CMLL when he’s decided to move to Texas and Arizona for a while, and there’s slight hints he may be moving out of Mexico in the near future again. Roja gave the biggest hint on the finish, noting that he thought the Anniversario main event seemed to be himself versus Dragon Lee at one point before switching to Gran Guerrero. Dragon Lee isn’t losing his mask any time soon, which points to Niebla Roja losing his all along. Gran Guerrero as an upper level rudo who might lose his mask in turn to one of many tecnicos makes a lot of sense. The entire feud has been built around Ultimo Guerrero wanting his mask back from Niebla Roja, and UG isn’t going to lose.

Should You Buy CMLL 84th Anniversario?

CMLL iPPVs tend to over deliver, and these matches should outdo their builds. Niebla Roja & Gran Guerrero are going to try to have an epic main event to prove a point to those who’ve doubted this match. The only limitation is going to be Niebla Roja’s ankle. CMLL’s listed Roja as working a heavy schedule following this show, which is far from a guarantee but at least a sign they think he’ll be ready to go. Zeuxis & Sugehit have shown great chemistry, know they’ll never get another chance quite like this, and will have at least part of the crowd rooting them on to outdo the men. Mask matches always add that extra bit of drama, and a fanbase angry about the main event selection could provide an entertaining atmosphere. The rest of the show isn’t all that much on paper, but will also be a lot more motivated because of the night. There’s part of me believing this show be skipped because of CMLL’s bad effort putting it together, but CMLL is  unlikely to listen to those kind of statements. It’ll definitely be worth the $15.