CMLL holds their first live show in fourth months this Friday night, trying to get back on track after a depressing year. The oldest wrestling promotion has fallen into bad times, so they’re rolling out a Volador versus Bandido dream match to light a spark. That should be plenty, there just may not enough kindling around it to get a decent fire going.

CMLL’s Copa Junior show is another one of their PPVs through Ticketmaster Live. The show is available worldwide for 193 pesos, a little over 9 USD. The show starts at 8:30 pm local. Mexico City does not begin Daylight Savings Time for a few more weeks, so that time may be an hour later for you than usual for Arena Mexico. (This page will list your local start time.) As with all CMLL TicketMasterLive shows, “Live” is the operative word: there is no VOD option. (Everyone hates this, it never changes.)

CMLL hasn’t run a live show in four months. Copa Junior was a planned Christmas Day event, but Mexico City officials belatedly returned to a hard lockdown in mid-December. The promotion intended the 12/25 show to re-energize the fanbase; the recent run of paid shows had run off almost everyone willing to buy them in the first place. Instead, CMLL existed for months solely as bland evergreen TV matches featuring dispirited and disinterested luchadors due to the lockdown. It’s fair to give CMLL an allowance for how much harsher COVID (and COVID restrictions) has treated Mexico compared to the US and Japan. Still, the resulting CMLL year was the worst I’ve ever seen from a major group in Mexico, an unwatchable bore for anyone outside the most dedicated masochists. 

There are the slightest embers of hope for CMLL in 2021.

There are mild improvements in luchador effort since CMLL empty arena tapings resumed in February (though it doesn’t always end well).

Those fresh new matches also give CMLL a chance to move past their simple TV struggles; perhaps now they’ll be able to air chapters of a feud in order consistently. Mostly though, hope for CMLL rests in this PPV lineup: if CMLL can’t land a good show with their most souped-up lineup since the Aniversario show, then it’s a safe bet to write them off until fans can come back in numbers months from now.

La Jarochita & Sanely vs Dalys & Stephanie Vaquer 

Even a loaded CMLL card has an iffy match, but there’s some logic behind this in perceived impactful names. Jarochita & Sanely won the revived national tag team belts before the shutdown. Vaquer recently got some publicity around being the first and only Chilean wrestler in a top-level Mexican group. CMLL sees Dalys as their most prominent female star, but that word is the problem. They all truly stars to the diehard CMLL fanatic who’s watching this promotion, and they don’t mean much to anyone outside that small bubble. CMLL’s not the only wrestling group suffering from this self-delusion. It’s glaring when there are only four matches, and this is one of them. CMLL books Dalys like the top heel/promoter of a small-time local indie; she either wins or something absurd happens so she can “keep her heat.” I’m guessing the former this time.

Euforia, Gran Guerrero, Último Guerrero © versus Cuatrero, Forastero, Sansón for the CMLL World Trios Championship

The most unambiguous indication CMLL was throwing everything at the wall (except a hair/mask match) for this PPV was when they announced this match. Los Guerreros Laguneros have been the world trios champions since 2018. Nueva Generacion Dinamita has been the secondary national trios champions since 2018. They’ve occasionally matched up in singles and non-title matches, but CMLL’s saved the first title match between the two dominant rudo trios teams for a rainy day. It’s a monsoon, so here we go.

The problem is young Sanson, Cuatrero and Forastero plateaued as wrestlers sometime after 2018 and have stagnated. It’s a CMLL system issue: they’re already at the top of the cards, there’s a lack of talent depth forcing them to work hard to keep their spot, and there’s no next mountain to climb. NGD now has matches that got heat from an ever-changing tourist crowd while falling flat to the regular fans who’ve seen him stomp an opponent after they slide out to get the heat in every single match they do.

Again, it’s the CMLL systematic problem: everyone feels forever stuck in the spot they’re at to start. It just hits harder for an act that had the potential to be world-class and stopped growing far short. 

Perhaps Los Guerreros can pull something out of them. No one in CMLL is more set in their ways than Ultimo Guerrero, yet he still excels in making trios matches feel big and intense. Euforia will make NGD physically look impressive, too; it’s the mental side that needs the most help. 

These titles seem more likely to change hands than the singles ones, though CMLL staying with the status quo always is the safe bet. Sanson & Ultimo Guerrero agreed on a match for Guerrero’s heavyweight championship before the shutdown, one already taped, so maybe that’ll factor into the result.

Carístico, Místico, Ángel de Oro, Atlantis Jr., Felino, Soberano Jr., Negro Casas, Mephisto, Dragón Rojo Jr., El Felino Jr., Stuka Jr., and Star Jr. in the Copa Junior cibernetico

CMLL named this show after a match that may not be the main event; they’ve gone back and forth on the card order of the final two matches. This Copa Junior is an occasional annual tournament featuring sons of luchadors. That stipulation is CMLL’s wheelhouse; half the promotion is related to someone in the wrestling business. There’ve been years where they’ve run a version of this tournament for the stars who are second-generation, a second for the prelim guys, and still left out people. This cibernetico even includes a few worked relationships. Stuka Jr. is publically known to be the brother of the original Stuka. CMLL and Dragon Rojo Jr. invented a “grandson of obscure luchador Dragon Rojo” backstory as a movie tie-in years ago that’s lingered for a decade. 

Dragon Rojo’s one of the stories of this match for reasons beyond his ancestors. Rojo hasn’t wrestled in two years due to knee injuries. That may be underselling it; he’s been off and on since 2013 due to various calamities. CMLL had enormous expectations for Dragon Rojo at one point, setting him up to be a top-tier young rudo with big wins early last decade. Dragon Rojo slipped down the cards as his body failed and eventually quietly disappeared when both knees gave out. Rojo’s only lucha libre appearances in the previous twenty-five months were along the lines of “whatever happened to” pieces, with him insisting he’d come back even as he got increasingly pessimistic news. I didn’t expect he’d ever actually retire as much as people would stop interviewing him for those articles. Instead, Dragon Rojo surprisingly popped up on CMLL’s interview show earlier this year to announce his return. He explained that the latest operations fixed his knees, and he’s back in fighting form. This show will be his return, we’ve only seen clips of him in the ring on social media, and I have no idea what to expect. 

The other identity story surrounds Felino Junior. The former Tiger is 34, has been in CMLL for a decade and a half, so it’s a little bit late in the game to start carrying his father’s legacy. It seems reactionary. Felino’s other son Puma King appeared on an indie show in Felino-orange gear while talking about carrying on his father’s history in a promo offhandedly, and days later, Felino spontaneously declared it was time for Tiger to change his name. It remained unclear if this was indeed Felino’s idea or CMLL guarding the name. It was more clear both Tiger and Puma did not expect this name change, though neither had a problem with the idea. 

Tiger, under that name, has been in CMLL midcard hell forever. He exists in that third match on the card space, just high enough to be the first person eliminated in the tournaments and never do anything meaningful. Tiger and Puma were a fun team, Puma got frustrated with CMLL and left, and Tiger got frustrated with CMLL but stayed and cared a lot less. Tiger can still go when given something to do, but he’s in a position where that doesn’t happen often. The hope is the “Felino Jr.” switchover will elevate him into a more meaningful spot. The early results are mixed. CMLL originally planned him to debut the name on this show, then surprised everyone by having him use it on TV this past week in a 1v1 match to Mistico instead. (Tiger again was among those surprised; CMLL gave him one hour notice he needed to have his new gear ready for the match.) Felino Jr.’s introduction ended with a loss, but Tiger wasn’t even getting the chance to have singles matches to Mistico prior. This match is a temperature gauge for where “Felino Jr.” is going to end up. Tiger would generally be among the first few eliminated. If Felino Jr. is gone early, we’ll know nothing has changed. CMLL has taught fans to expect little to change, a reason beyond the pandemic for their struggles. “Felino Jr.” making it far here is not just important for his own career, but for the general fan feeling towards the group – if something like changing your name doesn’t matter, why bother caring about any of this?

Felino Jr. or Dragon Rojo Jr. would be exciting victors because of their stories in a tournament with no true favorite. Angel de Oro’s the other candidate from the rudo side. CMLL’s trying to recreate him as an Ingboernable-like rudo, including now literally giving his group that name.

It doesn’t feel like it’s working at all, but that hasn’t stopped CMLL in the past. Caristico & Mistico seem like the most like candidates on the tecnico side. The priority has to be setting up some energy for a feud beyond this. 

Volador Jr. versus Bandido for the NWA Welterweight Championship

The attempts at this match so far

  1. CMLL announces Volador versus an opponent as the Aniversario main event as selected by a fan poll, Bandido is one of the three selections, Bandido runs away with it, Bandido gets COVID-19 the week before the show and the match is off
  2. CMLL says Volador/Bandido will take place on a weekly October PPV. Bandido gets the all-clear, wrestles once, and decides he’s not good enough to do the match in the way people expect. CMLL delays the match.
  3. CMLL plans Volador/Bandido will take place on a weekly November PPV. The October weekly PPVs tank badly enough for CMLL to give up weekly shows and switch to running monthly. November is already full, so Bandido/Volador gets bumped to Christmas Day. No hurry!
  4. Mexico City reverts to a strict lockdown in mid-December, canceling the Christmas Day show. And every live show until now.

I was once very excited about this match. Now, I check Twitter and Instagram to ensure Bandido hasn’t been hurt at an ROH taping or been abducted by aliens. (I’d be checking Volador, too, but he’s a social media ghost; CMLL made a recent ill-advised push to get their luchadors into the technology of 2015, and he’s still smartly holding out.) It’s been a six-month wait, and I’ll still not be confident it’s happening until they get both of them to the ring. CMLL’s attempt at getting people excited again has been one effective commercial and not much else.

(The one issue that won’t get in the way is ROH’s PPV. Bandido will appear at both that event and this one on the same night. ROH taped their show last week. The CMLL show is live.) 

This matchup still appeals as a dream match bit. Volador is the top guy in CMLL. Bandido’s the guy who left to become a big star elsewhere, which is a special deal to some people and a non-factor to the CMLL diehards who watch nothing else. It’s the first time they’ve met like this, and it’s Bandido getting a chance to main event the building he grew up wanting to work. It’s two guys who are a lot alike in style while being different enough in personality to mesh. No one’s a better babyface than Bandido, and Volador’s always been happier being the arrogant rudo. Bandido versus Volador will be one of Mexico’s best matches all year if they live up to their potential. 

The pessimist in me can’t help noticing how many times this match hasn’t happened and how much else isn’t working. This last year has been the worst 12 months in CMLL’s history. Much of it is their own making. Some of it was entirely out of their control. I don’t know which reason it might be that this match won’t work out either. I plainly know they don’t have many other moves to make if even this one fails. Even if it does work, there’s nothing new under the sun unless Bandido’s willing to wrestle in Arena Mexico a lot more often.

There are two bits of positivity to balance this out. One, this past year has proven that CMLL is essentially unkillable from the outside. If it can survive this disastrous year, it’ll live forever—or at least as long as the independently wealthy family that owns it wants it to live. 

The other is the unexpected availability of Andrade. It’s far from a sure bet that the prodigal son will return. The man who ran the company when he has passed away, and his old Ingobernable partners are now all exiled. Still, the former and perhaps future La Sombra kept close enough ties to CMLL to visit backstage at Arena Mexico from time to time. I never expect him to be working the weekly CMLL loop again (and I’d be disappointed for him if he did), but a valedictory match where he showed what WWE refused to see might be a fresh start. It also may need to be squeezed in before he commits to his next step. I’m unconvinced it’ll happen, but the importance of it is so high that Sombra’s eternal rival Volador ought to beat Bandido just in case it can happen. 

As far as this show, I have no problem gambling $10 on Bandido. That bet has paid off plenty in the past. If you’ve got time late on a Friday night, it’s worth a shot too. This show should be fine. It might even be good; the Copa Jr. PPV is probably unfairly overlooked because the rest of CMLL feels like such an empty void. The show also doesn’t feel like something that will pull CMLL out of that void any time soon. Perhaps the best reason to check out this CMLL show is that it might be months before there’s another worth watching.