The pandemic shut down Mexico six days before CMLL tentpole event Homenaje a Dos Leyendas. CMLL hasn’t run a major show in front of fans since and hasn’t had an Aniversario with fans in two years. CMLL has always been a promotion stuck in time, and the pandemic just added to the issues. They’ll finally tick the clock a little bit forward over the next two Fridays. Arena Mexico will finally host that postponed Homenaje a Dos Leyednas show on September 17, then the regularly scheduled Aniversario show on September 24.

Both shows start at 8:30 pm CT on Friday nights. You’ll be able to stream them live only through TicketmasterLive, and there is no option for VOD. The shows are available worldwide. The 09/17 and the 09/24 show cost 230 Mexican Pesos (around 12 USD.) CMLL has recently given away those paid streaming shows for free on YouTube on about a two-week delay. I’m not confident they’ll do that with these shows; CMLL has been unclear as always about these things and seems to be keeping more significant matches off of YouTube in the last month. 

The buzz for CMLL is next to nil.

The primary time the promotion makes news to casual fans is when someone leaves the group, and they’ve been busy on that front. CMLL hasn’t tried particularly hard to counteract the departures of NGD and Mistico II with good news. There is rarely much interest in CMLL outside of Mexico, but I don’t think there’s much awareness this is even within Mexico outside those who’ve made it their work to cover everything Mexican wrestling. The format of back-to-back major shows could work in a typical year but exposes the shallowness of the roster in this one. There aren’t ten different exciting matches to have in CMLL in 2021. It doesn’t even entirely feel like CMLL is trying for memorable shows as much as they are just checking off the annual traditions on their to-do list. At least the September 24 show has the weird energy of fan-voted matches leading to challengers who wouldn’t usually get a shot. The September 17 show is all CMLL booking, half cynical and half disinterested. 

CMLL did have an Aniversario last year as any empty arena show. These shows will have fans at a capacity limit of 1,500. (Note, for reasons not really explained, that’s a lot less than AAA was allowed for TripleMania; AAA got 25% capacity while CMLL’s cap is under 10%.) 1,500 is a number CMLL would seldom drop under before the pandemic, and it’s a high they barely reach of late. The Homenaje a Dos Leyenda and Aniversario names alone should be enough to sell out those 1,500 tickets. It’s tough to be confident about any CMLL success in 2021, but seats seem to be moving well so far.

Last year’s Aniversario show was also marred by a COVID outbreak, causing many matches to be adjusted or postponed. History nearly repeated; the timing was off by a month. CMLL did not book some luchadors, while others CMLL advertised and quickly removed. CMLL hasn’t acknowledged any issue, but a few quietly confirmed their absences were due to COVID. Few are talking publicly, and so the exact count is unknown. It was enough to make a thin roster even thinner. Almost every missing wrestler is now accounted for, though the possibility of late changes still looms over the card.

September 17
Homenaje a Dos Leyendas

Diamond, Magia Blanca, Magnus vs Disturbio, El Coyote, Sangre Imperial in a Relevos Increíbles match

Dalys, La Jarochita, Lluvia vs Dark Silueta, Princesa Sugehit, Reyna Isis in a Relevos Increíbles match

Euforia, Hechicero, Místico vs Atlantis Jr., Negro Casas, Último Guerrero in a Relevos Increíbles match

CMLL has taken the occasionally interesting Relevos Increíbles concept – tecnicos and rudos teaming together – and turned into meaningless junk by running into the ground. All the tag matches on the show are Relevos Increíbles, and other shows have featured as many of the tiresome gimmicks. They seem to exist primarily as a retort to the perennial complaint of CMLL repeating the exact matches repeatedly by offering slightly different lineups without making the effort of actually turning someone.

Lluvia and Sangre Imperial are likely active because their father, Sangre Chicana, will be honored on this show. Chicana stated he wants another of his children, AAA’s La Hiedra, to attend the ceremony. CMLL generally does not allow AAA wrestlers to appear on their shows, even just standing and waving at the crowd like all would be asked here. They’ve bent that rule when higher powers (like TV networks) have forced them into it, but they currently have as much disdain for AAA as ever. CMLL officials have been if Hiedra will be allowed to appear and unspecifically answered all of Chicana’s family is welcome without addressing the situation. It’ll be one of the more dissected news items of this month in Mexico if there is indeed an AAA person in a CMLL ring. The slightest crack in the fortified wall between these two groups is enough to get fans dreaming of a more meaningful relationship.

The third match focuses on other news items from past months. Caristico returned to the Mistico gimmick, something that was a big moment when it happened, and then immediately regressed into being the same as usual. Both Mistico and the promotion itself seem to believe the act of donning the same mask he wore from 2004 to 2011 will cause the same boom. That Mistico got presented as the most vital figure in Arena Mexico, consistently winning and rarely losing cleanly. CMLL books this era of Mistico no different from recent Caristico, someone in the top group of wrestlers who wins some and loses some (usually to Ultimo Guerrero), a nostalgia figure who isn’t any more special than a dozen other guys. CMLL decided to return the gimmick to Caristico in a single afternoon and hasn’t thought more about making it work beyond that.

The less talked about situation is Euforia and Ultimo Guerrero’s first encounter since Euforia’s son Soberano Jr. took to social media to blame Ultimo Guerrero for CMLL’s downfall. Euforia himself seemed to have some hard feelings that played into his on-screen breakup with Ultimo Guerrero; CMLL quickly dropped the feud. No one involved has addressed the situation directly, as is customary for CMLL. The most we’ve gotten is Ultimo Guerrero declaring CMLL was perfectly fine and remained the center of the wrestling world. I didn’t get the feeling even he believed it. I trust Euforia and Ultimo Guerrero to be professional with each other in this match, or CMLL wouldn’t have booked them together. I don’t wholly trust the programming department, though.

Volador Jr. versus Gran Guerrero in the Copa Independencia final

CMLL gave up booking feuds in exchange for running endless tournaments. The latest one celebrates Mexico’s Independence Day (September 16th.) It also pulls this card in line with a normal Homenaje a Dos Leyendas show by giving it a second spotlight match. CMLL is charging their normal (pricey) Homenaje a Dos Leyendas ticket prices, so that second spotlight match has to exist to justify it.

The match doesn’t do much more than existing. Volador can be spectacular, Gran Guerrero is a solid opponent for Volador’s style, and Guerrero is a young rudo in a promotion bereft of them. It’s also a dry, predictable match-up. Gran Guerrero wrestles like his brother, and any CMLL fan has seen dozens of similar Volador and Ultimo Guerrero matches. Present-day Volador is better when someone is challenging him, and this has the makings of a more typical big move, pinfall, rest, repeat until dead routine match up. 

Volador has introduced a new group of existing wrestlers – or rather, his current group of trainees now are his on-screen Los Depredadores faction. Those revealed so far are all prelim wrestlers and have remained booked as prelim wrestlers. I don’t know if there’s any plan for them beyond that, but it’s something in a group with a whole lot of nothing. 

Bárbaro Cavernario vs Felino, hair versus hair

Mr. Niebla passed away in 2019, Barbaro Cavernario decided the La Pesta Negra group no longer existed without its spiritual leader, and Felino insisted Cavernario must stay loyal at least until the CMLL Programming Department said differently. That situation was enough to cause a hair versus hair feud. There’s probably a deeper story that can be told about CMLL wrestlers continually signally they don’t possess free will, thus inhibiting them from becoming stars, and Cavernario fighting against that authority in this feud, but it’s just not that interesting. The Cavernario/Felino feud never had much heat and is now as cold and empty as the vacuum of space.

This match was six days away from happening when the world stopped. The world has resumed moved. This feud has stayed in place. Cavernario did get hurt, Felino did win Cavernario’s title belt, and neither man has done a whole lot else. Felino’s disappeared for weeks, and the two haven’t been in the ring together in a month. No one ever believed Felino had a chance of winning, and he’s not beloved enough that people will care anyway. Older brother Negro Casas has become the 2020s version of Super Porky: a beloved legend turned meme for his constant hair match losses. Putting Casas’ less famous and less talented brother in a big match where he was going to lose his hair is about as unappealing and cynical booking as CMLL can produce. This match exists to get Felino a good payday, and it won’t even do that due to reduced capacity. CMLL seemed to hold off running Felino/Cavernario in hopes they’d be able to get open Arena Mexico up for a bigger turnout. The most recent COVID wave extinguished those hopes, and CMLL is ready to move on.

The eighteen-month wait seems to have hurt Cavernario. The caveman is coming back from injury, he’s a new father, the world is in a pandemic, and he’s wrestling in a depressing promotion. You can come up with plenty of excuses for why Cavernario doesn’t look like the exceptional wrestler he was a few years ago. He just isn’t that guy that had people excited, not right now. Cavernario’s not in shape, doesn’t seem motivated in the ring, and generally just seems to be going through the motions. His peers have gone other places, wrestled other people, and Cavernario not getting those chances have stagnated him. He could use something new – even a haircut wouldn’t be the worst thing – because he seems to have lost interest in what he’s currently doing. 

It’s hard not to think back to that day in 2019 where Dragon Lee and Barbaro Cavernario were both told by CMLL management to pull out of the PWG Battle of Los Angeles. Both men wanted to keep working with CMLL, but Dragon Lee also wanted to work BOLA still. CMLL cut Dragon Lee loose. Cavernario didn’t work BOLA, but he also didn’t have the ROH or NJPW deals Dragon Lee did. Cavernario’s getting to headline and win on one of the most important shows of the year in Mexico, he’s a top star in his home company, and he appears miserable. Dragon Lee is wrestling in front of a few hundred fans in ROH and hasn’t gotten those NJPW dates, and he seems thrilled with the way life has worked out. It’s impossible to know how things would’ve worked out for Cavernario. It doesn’t seem like the path is satisfying him, and I’m not sure if he’ll have that sort of chance again. 

CMLL wrestlers usually go far and above in a big match like this, and I believe Felino & Cavernario will try to do the same; this will likely exceed the middling interest I have in it. The most significant part of it will be the ability of everyone to move on to anything else.

September 24

CMLL is repeating their bit from last year’s Aniversario: all title matches, all challengers decided (at least in part) by a fan poll over the last few weeks. Most of the results were blowouts and generally turned out in ways CMLL expected. The votes sorted the card order, which meant the one close race propelled itself to the main event.

Templario versus Dragón Rojo Jr. for the Mexican National Middleweight Championship

CMLL will be bringing back this title as their 21st world or national championship. This belt hasn’t been in Arena Mexico since Octagon bolted with it upon to start AAA. (Mexican national titles can leave promotions, a fact that may be important in a bit.) Octagon, four reigns later, was also the most recent champ in 2007. AAA had enough of dealing with the commission over their titles soon after. The title belt went into some storage closet until CMLL dug it out a few weeks. CMLL likely owes Octagon a favor for giving up the belt even though it’s been over a decade since he did anything with it; we’ll all have to pay later.

CMLL handled this poll a little differently, with the top four finishes meeting in an elimination match to set the final two. Prelim acts Coyote, and Enfermero Jr. (who was Yago until recently) did well enough just to make it to that four. Dragon Rojo Jr. is a popular social media figure from believed career-ending knee injuries just a few months back. It’s inspiring Dragon Rojo made it back into the ring, though his only infrequent appearances suggest he doesn’t believe his body has much left. Templario is one of the five best guys in CMLL right now, an impressive athlete who’s getting consistently better at harnassing that ability for better matches. Templario was the runaway winner in the fan poll and is a top priority for the promotion. He should win this match; CMLL will be boking him more coming out of it anyway. The big test here is if there’s enough left of Dragon Rojo to make something memorable out of this setup.

Titán & Volador Jr. versus Los Gemelo Diablos for the CMLL World Tag Team Championship

The first of two matches changed mid-voting. Voting was only open for a month. It’s just been a crazy month. Caristico and Mistico II were the champions and probably were losing this match when CMLL designed it. Everyone knew Mistico II was leaving eventually, and CMLL would take the titles off here. They counted on Mistico/Dralistico being excited enough about wrestling on an Aniversario show to go with it. He quit in advance, which says a lot about what that Aniversario name means in COVID capacity restricted time. Mistico left, Caristico got to be Mistico again, and CMLL adjusted the rules so the top two finishers would meet to decide the next champions.

Titán & Volador Jr. were always going to finish first as popular tecnicos. Ultimo Guerrero and Gran Guerrero were always going to finish last; this poll opening just after NGD left and Ultimo Guerrero got blamed vilified him in front of the part of the fanbase interested enough in voting in these things. Los Gemelo Diablos just happened to be the other team. Yet another gimmick CMLL is resurrecting from the 70s and 80s, the Twin Devils are a legit pair of twins who had been wrestling sporadically in CMLL as Los Gemelos Panteras. They seem to have gotten the full-time spot because their father’s indie promotion in Matamoros is booking many CMLL wrestlers on their shows, a rare regular outside stop for CMLL luchadors. Los Gemelos Diablos haven’t shown they deserve the chance – they’re green, they’re boring, and there’s no reason to care about them beyond nostalgia. CMLL’s booking the Diablos in top spots anyway and could use them coming through to show it’s not a terrible idea.

There’s an outside chance this could change once more. Titan hasn’t been on a show since the middle of August. He’s been repeatedly listed on shows and then removed, as you might expect if he’s struggling to get a required negative test to return. One of Volador’s Depredadors may end up in his spot if Titan can’t go. The match would be much worse for it; Titan’s the safest pick for a great fight in CMLL at the moment.

CMLL would’ve been content with Volador & Titan picking up these titles from the Misticos when that was the probable match. CMLL surely planned to have Los Gemelos Diablos win these belts eventually. They might speed up the timeline and just take care of it here, though they risk the fans heavily rejecting the idea – Volador & Titan are just much better. 

Hechicero versus Último Guerrero © for the CMLL World Heavyweight Championship

There was a lot of only Mexican wrestling noise around this title, which also caused a change. CMLL first announced they’d decide a new Mexico National Heavyweight Championship on this show. The first issue is the old champion still considered himself a champ. Diamante Azul won the national heavyweight belt while a part of CMLL and planned to take it with him after leaving the promotion as the trademark-safe DMT Azul. You can’t take a promotion’s property and defend it elsewhere in any other wrestling situation, but a weird Mexico quirk has the national lucha libre champions technically owned and sanctioned by the Mexico City lucha libre commission. Luchadors have taken the belts from promotion to promotion going back to the 50s, with the commission defending the rights of the wrestlers.

The commission decided to act differently this time. After CMLL announced the title vacant, the commission came up with reasons to explain it. Azul hadn’t defended his belt in 90 days, he didn’t get approval from the commission for his last defense, and that changing his name disqualified him from keeping the belt. The press immediately noted all those reasons either aren’t valid or were ignored for other champions. CMLL themselves were responsible for The lack of defenses and name change. CMLL would be the ones benefiting from that decision. It’s obvious CMLL and the commission was working together on this decision. Still, the commission decided to prove they were unbiased by saying any interested licensed heavyweight wrestler would now enter a tournament for the vacant heavyweight belt at Arena Mexico. CMLL is absolutely not interested in a competition where AAA and indie wrestlers would be allowed to step foot in their ring, so they’ve switched this to an Ultimo Guerrero’s World Heavyweight Championship defense. The national heavyweight title has gone into limbo.

That title makes for a better match! No one cared one iota about the national heavyweight championship during Diamante Azul’s reign, while World Heavyweight champion Ultimo Guerrero has been portrayed as the actual best wrestler in the promotion for years. It also has built-in stakes: challenger Hechicero is the most liked rudo in the group, a supremely talented technical wrestler who never gets much to do in CMLL. (He’s spent far more time commentating on matches for Televisa than wrestling in them this past year.) 

Ultimo Guerrero, meanwhile, has been publically cast as the true villain of the current CMLL behind-the-scenes drama, the person CMLL diehards fans believe is secretly responsible for the recent run of departures and the lackluster direction of the product. I consider Ultimo Guerrero just one part of a team effort to make CMLL unappealing; other people also deserve credit. Still, these cards alone have Guerrero’s brother in a tournament final, Guerrero’s protege Templario in a title match, and Guerrero’s significant other Lluvia defending her newly revived championship in the main event. Nepotism has run wild in CMLL for generations; they’re just less secretive about it of late.

Hechicero versus Ultimo Guerrero is a good-sounding match for casual CMLLviewers, and one where certain CMLL diehard will be desperately rooting for Guerrero to take a significant loss. He’s probably not going to lose, that’s how he’s become Ultimo Guerrero, but there’s a little spark of excitement here not seen elsewhere. This encounter should be the match of the night and could be the match of both weeks.

Espíritu Negro & Rey Cometa © versus Akuma & Espanto Jr. for the Mexican National Tag Team Championship

Last year, the Atrapasuenos brother team of Espiritu Negro & Rey Cometa were the unlikely world tag team challengers at Aniversario. They rode a wave of support, mainly for the talented but under-pushed Cometa, all the way to the main event of the biggest CMLL show. They didn’t win the match, yet they did win over CMLL’s programming department. Cometa & Espiritu have become steady presences on the top half of the show started pushing the duo and had them surprisingly pick up these tag titles back in July. 

Akuma & Espanto Jr., La Ola Negra (the Black Wave), are somewhat this year’s version of the same story. They’re even more of an opening card act, never pushed guys. Akuma’s more over than his push because he and his brother Demus have a popular YouTube channel, and those who had active social media presences did a lot better than those who don’t. The difference from last year is Ola Negra just isn’t much good. They’re barely passable most of the time. Akuma shows flashes of potential at times and has the size of a great base but hasn’t ever put it together. Espanto Jr. has been in CMLL nine years, and we’re still waiting for his first good match; he’s been the most generic uninspired rudo possible. A perennial opening match wrestler in CMLL rarely gets a chance to have a memorable night, but they’ve never shown capable of those heights in their indie work. Luchadors like Espanto Jr. are the result of CMLL’s current broken system. Espanto knows he’ll never get past his second match spot until people retire no matter how hard he’s worked, so he’s stopped caring about his work. CMLL values their early matches so little they’ll stick with a disappointing guy than give one of the dozens of guys waiting in their training school a chance. CMLL should’ve cut bait with Espanto a half-decade ago. I like Akuma more, but he’s also a guy who probably either should’ve been cut or left with his brother in hopes of turning himself into something more than he is now. Instead, they’ve YouTube’d their way into a great spot. 

I hope Akuma & Espanto Jr. make something of this match. They have to know what a rare chance this is for them, one they absolutely will not get again if they fail and one that dramatically improved Cometa & Espiritu’s careers last year. There’s no reason to have much confidence this will work well, and it’ll probably be not much more than OK.

La Ola Negra started as a trio. Espiritu Negro was Akuma & Espanto’s third man before getting swept up into the tag team with his brother. The old partners facing each for a title none of them could’ve dreamed about holding when they were together should be a straightforward story to tell. CMLL can’t bother making an effort and barely mention it. It’s hard to care about the stories when they don’t matter to the people involved.

La Jarochita & Lluvia © vs Dark Silueta & Reyna Isis for the Mexican Women’s Tag Team Championship

This race was the only tight one. Both the newly evil Dark Silueta and Chile’s Stephanie Vaquer pushed the contest hard on social media for weeks, with weirdly similar responses. The lead went back and forth several times before the Silueta/Isis team led by a percentage point on the final day. There were far more votes for this title than any other, and they only increased as time ran out.

Vaquer had lousy luck to be in a team with an unpopular partner (Dalys.) She had bad luck last month to get hurt just before CMLL spotlighted their women’s division. Vaquer’s shown significant improvement in her short time in CMLL, and there’s value in CMLL doing something more with her. Vaquer’s more aggressive about getting outside work than most in CMLL, including in the US, and I think Arena Mexico might end up being a stop on the way to something bigger.

Recent big CMLL’s women’s matches have felt heavily rehearsed, likely because the luchadors rehearsed them a lot. The results have been positive –  recent tag title defenses and a Silueta/Jarochita tournament final were better for the extra preparation, and they’ll again have time to turn this into something appealing. (That tournament final was the best women’s 1v1 match in Mexico this year I’ve seen; CMLL aired it live and then kept it from airing on TV so no one would know,) Everyone involved in this title match is solid, and they should be able to put something interesting. The ceiling isn’t high. This tag match is unlikely to go down as one of the more memorable Aniversario main events. It’s still a massive moment for the luchadoras, perhaps the biggest of their careers, and they’ll probably come through fine. La Jarochita & Lluvia should hold on. They haven’t defended them enough times for a change to mean much.

The best parts of both these shows would make for a solid combined card. It doesn’t fix the lack of excitement. Everyone understands both the storyline and real reasons Cavernario versus Felino is happening; no one cares for it. The fan poll matches have no story, and CMLL championships are too meaningless for people to care about a show built around them. I’m cautious at being too negative on this card because I’ve seen CMLL luchadors talk themselves into doing crazy things for a big show, and maybe they’ll do it again. It just doesn’t feel like big shows, not to the fans or the wrestlers. It’s completist material, the sort of thing those who haven’t chained themselves to the idea of watching every significant CMLL show should skip live and maybe track down the best stuff later.