Consejo Mundial De Lucha Libre
CMLL 90th Aniversario
September 16, 2023
Arena Mexico
Mexico City, Mexico

Watch: Boleita

CMLL’s biggest show of the year is this Saturday, with a slightly disappointing lineup. The oldest promotion is delivering a mask match and a hair match, though both outcomes seem inevitable in advance. Neither is the epic meeting hoped for on a big round number anniversary. Still, in front of a hot crowd amid a hot year, Aniversio remains a must-see show.

The 90th CMLL Aniversario will stream live on Saturday at 5 p.m. local. (PLEASE note this is not the usual day or time due to the Mexican Independence Day holiday.) You can buy the stream on Boletia for 13 USD before fees and watch it on VOD up to two days later. CMLL will additionally add Aniversario to its YouTube channel on September 23 for those who subscribe to their 9 USD/month premium tier. There will be no legal way to see it for free on the internet, keeping with CMLL’s changes since June. There is also no English commentary, a longer-standing issue.

CMLL has come through on its biggest shows all 2023. The recent Gran Prix was excellent. The Akuma/Dark Magic versus Espiritu Negro/Rey Cometa match wildly overachieved. There’s no doubt they’ll have great matches again on Saturday. The expectations were not just a good match but a dream match for this 90th show. (At least the Soberano/Templario/Dragon Rojo three-way teased until mid-summer.) Instead, it’s a main event between two guys a notch below the top level and probably a hair match where the loser is someone who’s lost their hair a few times already. If this were the 91st, maybe everyone would be happier with Dragon Rojo versus Templario as the main event, and maybe the problem is just putting too much attention on round numbers.

CMLL seems to miss creating energy for this lineup, at least in the final month recently. The build to this show seemed to stop just about the time CMLL announced the lineup. These top feuds got pushed to the side to focus on the Gran Prix and never got the focus back. The leading characters stopped interacting on Friday shows, with CMLL’s attention on feuds resolving later. It hasn’t been the two protagonists ripping up each other’s masks every Friday for the last few weeks. Arena Mexico sold out days before the Aniverasrio for the second straight year all the same. Turning the temperature did not hurt business, just the excitement for the show.

Aniversario is a six-match show. CMLL Aniversario shows tend to go longer than the average CMLL event, especially with this early holiday start time.

Esfinge versus Rugido for the Copa Independencia

CMLL held a last-chance tournament over the last two weeks for these final spots on the Aniversario. Esfinge and Rugido each won a cibernetico to make it to this final. It’s a tournament final because it had to be something, but the prize is just getting this far. Esfinge and Rugido are over with the office and have strong social media support. They don’t feel like big stars to the broader audience and rarely deliver great matches. It’s not a big surprise these two names made it, and it’s also not much of a thrill to see them.

Comparisons between CMLL and AAA feel overdone, but this is a small area where the difference stands out. AAA opens its big shows with a royal rumble because they feel required to get as many people on the shows as possible for their trophy match, while CMLL will accomplish the same with two wrestlers. CMLL uses more people than AAA and still told most of the roster they won’t participate in the year’s biggest (and best-paying) show. The AAA match is never good because of the format. We’d have something if we could combine CMLL’s trimmed-down match and AAA’s deep midcard.

La Jarochita & Lluvia versus Stephanie Vaquer & Zeuxis for the new CMLL World Women’s Tag Team Championship

Las Chicas Indomables (La Jarochita & Lluvia) won the revived national women’s tag team titles in October 2020. They are 13-1 in title matches since their reign began. That sole loss was to Vaquer & Zeuxis in the finals of a title tournament to create Occidente (secondary) Women’s Tag Championships. It didn’t make much sense to create a second set of women’s tag belts in May, and it seemed even crazier to create a third set of champions in this match. This match may clear it up a little: the winners will trade their current belts for these new ones, and CMLL usually ignores the Occidente belts. The ideal ending is just the singular world tag team titles, with foreign women able to participate without CMLL having to massage their own rules.

The championships don’t matter. It’s simpler than that. It’s the best two women’s teams in Mexico. They’ve spent the whole year fighting each other, they’ve got good chemistry, and they’re finally going to decide who’s #1. This match is the safest quality bet on the whole show; they’re going to kill it, there is no doubt. There’s a sneaky chance it might end up being the night’s best match, or at least have people arguing for it as the Jarochita/Reina Isis match last year. That match at least snuck up on people. This match should not.

I’ll spare you a long digression of CMLL and fan voting and cut it down to the quick: CMLL’s plans heavily suggest Jarochita & Lluvia are winning these titles. Vaquer’s day will come, just not for a few weeks more.

Atlantis, Blue Panther, Octagón versus Fuerza Guerrera, Satánico, Virus

It’s a round number, so CMLL has to include a legends match. There are some oddities here. Satanico’s first Aniversario show was in 1980; he’s been at this longer than most of you have been alive. He also has yet to be on CMLL’s biggest show of the year since 2002, a twenty-one-year gap. Satanico’s opponents in that 2002 trios match included a much younger Virus, now elevated to ‘legend’ status. (Possibly because they needed one mobile person to carry the match.) This night is Octagon’s first Aniversario show; he didn’t squeeze on before taking off for AAA. 2023 is the first year CMLL invited him to participate in this show since he returned to the fold.

Fuerza Guerrera, Octagon, and Atlantis are stuck in forever teasing mask matches that probably can’t happen physically anymore. Guerrera spent the first half of the year out due to health issues and isn’t wrestling much. (Guerrera was left out of the talent list for a more recently announced CMLL legend’s celebration match next week, which makes me believe he’s questionable even to make this match.) This match may not be pretty, but it’ll give a chance for them to perform in front of an audience that traditionally likes their old heroes.

Soberano Jr. & Titán versus Lince Dorado & Samuray del Sol

This match was probably supposed to be the full Lucha House Party trio against three CMLL tecnicos. Metalik returned to CMLL to set it up. CMLL spent two weeks with him, and then CMLL told him Metalik to find work elsewhere. This match is what’s left over. There’s no story, just some guys who will have a spectacular professional wrestling match. Titan and Soberano have been in some of CMLL’s best matches this year. Samuray del Sol looked unexpectedly motivated on his Gran Prix, and Lince Dorado was good in Mexico last year.

In my head, for lack of an actual story, this is an ideological battle between the US simplified version of lucha libre and the purest form of lucha libre there is. It is the cornball the “Lucha! Lucha! Lucha!” chant against people who are more lucha libre without trying so hard. (You will have to generously ignore all the very Japanese-influenced spots Titan does nowadays to make this story work.) On some level, it’s the guys who show up on TV to lose in an entertaining eight minutes to stars against the guys booked like actual stars, and I so want the actual stars to win this one. I’m sure Samruay del Sol and Lince Dorado are exemplary individuals, and I could not be rooting more for their downfall. You’ve got to take the entertainment where you can find it.

Atlantis Jr., Máscara Dorada, Místico vs Kevin Knight, Rocky Romero, TJP

The last big CMLL event was the Men’s Gran Prix, where Mistico won the match, and Rocky Romero won the trophy destruction. Romero petulantly kicked the trophy, simultaneously kicking off a feud with the CMLL top tecnico. It should continue in the next few months and peak later this year. Romero likely will steal a win here to get that going. Everyone else is here just to round out the trios match, but they should round it out nicely.

Kevin Knight makes his CMLL debut as part of making this a complete CMLL versus NJPW battle. This night will be the first time he faces these Mexican wrestlers, but there probably will be some shared tournaments for him and Mascara Dorada shortly.

Ángel de Oro & Volador Jr. versus Averno & Último Guerrero [winners advance]

This is a straight tag match, where the winning team advances to a hair match on the show. CMLL has yet to say if they’ll do the tag match and the hair match back to back or break them up as they’ve done with tournaments on past Aniversarios.

Angel de Oro, Volador, Oraculo, and Rocky Romero were the foursome at Homenaje a Dos Leyendas. Volador took Romero’s hair, and Oraculo vanished from CMLL, leaving Angel and Volador as the last two parts of the rectangle feud to fight. Their issues date back to last year’s Aniversario, where Angel de Oro upset Volador and Mistico to win that version of Copa Independencia. Like many on this show, Angel de Oro is still short that one big win to get to the top. Beating Volador would be it.

Averno & Ultimo Guerrero have a grudge going back to the early 00s. Satanico plucked Ultimo Guerrero and Rey Bucanero from the anonymity of CMLL’s midcard to form a new version of the legendary Los Infernales group, which worked great until Bucanero and Guerrero betrayed him to hang out with Tarzan Boy. Satanico did the usual thing, using his supernatural powers of hell to transform Rencor Latino and Astro de Oro Jr. into new proteges, Averno and Mephisto, to get revenge. All sides have gotten along enough to team recently, but there’s always a bit of latent debate over Ultimo Guerrero or Averno being the better rudo. (The dumbest way I can dumb it down is Ultimo Guerrero can do more cool moves, but Averno is more evil.) Averno got annoyed at Ultimo Guerrero during one of their recent trios, clocking him with a surprise headbutt, and they were back at it again.

Everyone involved is a very competent luchador, and the tag match itself works well. Volador Jr. is the only one usually a tecnico, but Angel de Oro still works a crowd-pleasing style, and that match alone might be pretty good. Either singles match coming out of it would be pretty engaging, but Ultimo Guerrero versus Averno seems far more likely of the two. Averno’s grown his hair to an unusual length, either a tell or some masterful subterfuge. CMLL’s circling the Angel de Oro/Volador feud frequently enough that it feels like it really may resolve someday—just not this day.

Templario versus Dragón Rojo Jr. for the mask

Back at Homenaje a Dos Leyendas, CMLL did a four-person match when a two-person match was what most hoped for. This time around, CMLL is doing a two-person match when the same people would’ve been happier with three. Dragon Rojo, Templario, and Soberano’s entanglement goes back to 2022 when the younger two (Templario & Soberano) had an entertaining and competitive series. CMLL planned for that to culminate in the duo participating in the four-team mask match tournament on the 2022 Aniversario show, only for an Ultimo Guerrero suplex to leave Templario out of action at the wrong time. Dragon Rojo stepped in for Templario and decided taking Soberano’s was his new goal in life. Templario didn’t give up on that quest either, and suddenly, there was a three-way mask-ripping battle. This idea went well for the first half of the year, with each of Soberano, Templario, and Dragon Rojo getting a big win and everything pointing to an epic conclusion in September.

Plans changed.

All three were part of a main event trios match on July 11, where Dragon Rojo powerbombed Templario for a win and formally demanded Templario’s mask. Templario quickly accepted. Soberano quickly disappeared, actually waving goodbye to the crowd before doing so. He’s dropped out of the rivalry ever since, and CMLL has never explained why. Soberano is the most exciting, charismatic, and popular of the three. He’s also the only tecnico, which left this a rudo/rudo feud without a clear favorite. CMLL has been a logical promotion this year, and removing Soberano from the mix is oddly illogical. Perhaps Soberano will pop up at the end of the evening, challenging the winner and setting up a match for 2024, but CMLL could’ve accomplished the same with Soberano in the match.

Soberano challenging the winner means Soberano challenging Templario. Dragon Rojo Jr. will surely lose this, primarily because CMLL can’t risk saving the Dragon Rojo loss for another day. Rojo’s been unexpectedly healthy since his return from a two-year knee injury-induced retirement, but he also looks held together just by leg wraps and KT tape at times. Dragon Rojo’s a bigger star than last year’s victim, Stuka Jr., but he seemed less likely to be in a big mask match because no one trusted him to stay in one piece long enough to make it happen.

This night is Dragon Rojo’s first Aniversario main event. It likely will be his only one. There were hopes for much more with him early on. The character is a movie tie-in, taking the name and the look of the main character in the 2008 animated movie “Los Campeones de la Lucha Libre.” That was the big film debut for the creators of the Mucha Lucha, who appeared in Arena Mexico to introduce Dragon Rojo. The movie didn’t do particularly well. CMLL modified the look to be less anime and a little more functional and never mentioned the movie again. CMLL kept pushing Dragon Rojo regardless, with a quick mask win over rising tecnico Micltan, entry into Ultimo Guerrero’s group and wins over big names. It just never took; Rojo wasn’t a top-level wrestler when he was healthy and lacked something special to make up for it. He was slowly slipping down the card until the injuries completely took him out, and those years off at least refreshed him a bit. After all of this, CMLL getting Dragon Rojo in an Aniversario main event is a mild recoup of all they invested in Dragon Rojo, if not quite the victory lap they must’ve hoped for long ago.

Dragon Rojo’s opponent, Templario, is stationed near the same upper mid position on the card with a completely different set of skills. Templario is a guy who can be a contributing part of the best matches CMLL has to offer. His basing and power ability carried him up from the lowest levels of the promotion to the biggest match of the year. Templario’s just also had a piece missing. The lucha gods didn’t bless Templario with the charisma of his old training partner, Bandido. He doesn’t yet have the skill to order the notes of a match in the most exciting like a Titan, and CMLL’s booked him as one of the guys instead of a top guy. That’s not truly a bad place to be; Templario can easily have a lengthy career in CMLL’s system out of being every flyer’s best opponent. Templario’s recent performances have been underwhelming; he had a great match with the future Mascara Dorada 2.0 back in April, and he’s been coasting ever since. Maybe he’s been worried about missing another Aniversrio with injury, but he’ll need to show more to carry this match.

For all his long singles title reigns, Dragon Rojo is a much better trios luchador. Tempalrio can be good but hasn’t been good enough lately. It’s a match with two rudos and no obvious rooting instead. And maybe all of that doesn’t matter – it’s the Aniversario, and we see people and matches figure it out in front of a very hot crowd every year. I’d have more confidence in that happening if Soberano Jr. was part of the mix, but it’s hard to be too concerned, given CMLL’s track record.

That track record is the most significant point: these Aniversarios always find a way to deliver. There may not be a surefire match of the year candidate on paper, but it shouldn’t be a shock if something wildly over-delivers as in years past. Everything beyond the legend’s match should be good, and most of the card is a safe bet to be great. Even if it doesn’t have the best match of the year, CMLL Aniversario has a solid shot to be the best Mexico show this year.

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