CMLL Homenaje a Dos Leyendas
March 29, 2024
Arena Mexico
Mexico City, Mexico

Watch: YouTube

This Friday, an impossible dream becomes a reality when Blue Panther and Bryan Danielson finally get their match in Arena Mexico. Mistico, Jon Moxley, Volador Jr., Claudio Castignoli, Matt Sydal, and Último Guerrero are also along for the ride in the main event of CMLL’s Homenaje a Dos Leyendas. A historic eight-man tag headlines a seven-match card in front of a sold-out arena. It’s a great show to check out if you’re willing to pay the high price. 

CMLL Homenaje a Dos Leyendas takes place this Friday in Mexico City. The show starts at 8:30 p.m. local (that’s the Mountain Time Zone during DST if you’re in the US). CMLL streams its Tuesday and Friday night shows on its YouTube channel for paying members, but you must be on the Fan Leyendas (highest/35 USD) tier to watch Homenaje a Dos Leyendas live. The two cheaper tiers get the show only as a VOD on a nine-day delay. 

This process for watching a major CMLL show is new and confusing for most people who regularly follow the promotion, and it won’t go well for the AEW fans dipping in. I expect CMLL’s YouTube membership will hit an all-time high, but the pirate feed viewership will be much higher. $35 appears to be the highest price ever charged for a Mexican wrestling event and is far out of step with what any other wrestling group charges for a monthly fee. CMLL’s rationalization is that super fans were paying more than much through their old iPPV & subscription systems, and this $35 is a discount. That’s true, but only for me and the few other dozen people who were insane enough to buy every weekly PPV. The old system would’ve had this show as a $12-15 USD standalone PPV, and I’m sure CMLL would’ve made more money that way. Maybe they’ll figure it out for the next show.

CMLL is coming off a great 2023, and this show would be a fun Friday night without the guests. Still, it’s that AEW involvement that’s been the story. This Homenaje a Dos Leyendas card sold out three weeks in advance; that may have never happened before in Mexican wrestling. There have been lucha libre shows with greater demand in the ’90s, so this is a story about how ticket buying has changed in Mexico and the interest in these AEW names. It feels like CMLL knew this would be an attractive show, but even the interest caught them off guard. They kept the ticket prices the same as last year and seem to have left money on the table. WWE live event tickets in this market are much higher, and those fans seemed to have flocked to this card. Fans expect a high-quality main event, but the novelty of having famous US wrestlers against CMLL luchadors in Arena Mexico is most appealing.

Where AEW and CMLL go from here is a more prominent source of intrigue than any match outcome. Selling out three weeks in advance of a show makes a lot of impractical ideas seem worth exploring anyway. CMLL never runs shows outside their owned buildings, but it’s also clear CMLL could’ve sold thousands of more tickets had they run an enormous building. (A wrestling event at the gigantic Estadio Azteca is an aspirational goal of Mexican wrestling fans.) There are substantial cultural differences between what CMLL fans expect from a night at Arena Mexico and what AEW fans expect from a PPV, making running one of those shows in CMLL’s home a rough fit. “Ticket price expectations” is one big difference – but the demand here suggests CMLL could come closer to AEW. Everyone hopes that this 4v4 turns out to be the prelude to a singles match between Danielson and Panther, but there are effective options. Chris Jericho, the most significant AEW name to this Mexico audience, has been wrestling CMLL tecnicos for some reason or another. I think both AEW and CMLL believed this combo would do well. A sell-out three weeks in advance is better than well, and now it’s about how much more they want to put into this idea. 

That’s all for the future. The now is a show that will honor founder EMLL Salvador Lutteroth and luchador Tony Salazar. The Homenaje a Dos Leyendas spot is the closest CMLL has to a company hall of fame. Salazar’s in-ring career wasn’t big enough to be considered for a global hall of fame, but he fits a company one. Salazar was an indie name in the late ’60s and early ’70s but could only get brief stints in EMLL when it was the only major league promotion at the time. His break came from wrestlers leaving Arena Mexico to form what would be later called UWA. EMLL suddenly needs fresh faces, and Salazar fits perfectly. He worked as a tecnico and rudo through the ’70s and ’80s, winning and losing many hair matches when that was common for an upper-level wrestler. Salazar main evented the Aniversario show in 1982 (a loss to Perro Aguayo) and 1986 (a win over Los Misionarios del Muerte.) He successfully defended the NWA World Middleweight Championship over Satoru Sayama at the 1978 Anniversary show, one of two reigns with that title. He also won the NWA World Light Heavyweight Championship in 1981 for a nearly year-long reign. Salazar started wrestling as Ulises (or Ulises Plus) in the late 80s, as EMLL masked almost everyone on the roster. That stretch of his career didn’t do much for him, and he retired from the ring by 1994. Salazar never stopped working for CMLL, working in many behind-the-scenes roles. He’s been head of Arena Mexico security for years and has worked as a trainer for a long time. (His best-known student is his nephew, Mistico.) Salazar was around CMLL for about 20 years as a wrestler and then 30 years as a staff member, never departed for AAA or left the promotion. This night is an honor for longevity and loyalty.

All CMLL title matches are one fall. CMLL also stated the main event will be a single fall. That leaves the minis apuesta match (inverted elimination rules; you save yourself by winning a pinfall/submission) and maybe the women’s trios match as the only traditional three-fall match on the show. Those one-fall matches help save some time, and they will need help. A seven-match show is one more than usual, plus a ceremony to honor Tony Salazar, and it all needs to be squeezed in as close to two hours and thirty minutes as possible. Some of these matches will be abbreviated to keep things on track.

CMLL running a three-hour show is about as likely as CMLL working with AAA; it’s just not happening. 

Magnus & Rugido © vs Brillante Jr. & Neón for the Mexican National Tag Team Championship

(CMLL typically streams the opener for free on their Facebook page.)

Los Depredadores are on their fourth defense, though the match last summer against Neón and Futuro made this reign. The non-title rematch this past January was nearly as good. It’s turned into a low-key rivalry between Magnus, Rugido, Magic Blanca, and whoever gets to team with Neón that week. Brillante gets the call on this night. Brillante seemed always hesitant during his FantasticaMania run. It’s a sign of how badly CMLL wants to make him a star that they’re giving him a spotlight again. 

CMLL lead announcer Julio Cesar Rivera has lately drawn comparisons between these Depredadores and 80s UWA trio Los Temerarios. That team was a hard-working, undersized trio (cycling through a couple of lineups) with great teamwork. Their most famous rivalry was against Los Arqueros del Espacio, a similar lightweight unit with exceptionally agile wrestlers for the day. CMLL found the same dynamic here. Los Depredadors are more significant as a unit than individuals, and the tecnicos will push the limits of aerial maneuvers. There are plenty more combinations to face, and there’s no strong reason to change this dynamic.

Esfinge © versus Zandokan Jr. for the Mexican Light Heavyweight Championship

There sure are a lot of championships in CMLL. This title is one of them. It’s also a meeting of two people who seem more beloved on social media than in the arenas. Esfinge winning any fan poll CMLL runs is a joke at this point, assisted by not many other fandoms being passionate about voting in those things. Zandokan’s NJPW trip and LIJ association have made him slightly more of an international star than in his home; his Villano partners are more popular due to their family history. 

I remain high on Zandokan’s future. He’s impressed every time he’s been on CMLL’s Informa news show, coming off as a confident talker. He did a great job building up a mini-feud with Star Jr., which didn’t seem over even after Star won the singles match. Zandokan winning this title would be a convenient way to keep that Star Jr. program going. Esfinge will be on the same level no matter the outcome, and their two trios will probably keep running into each other.

Bárbaro Cavernario © versus Averno for the CMLL Light Heavyweight Championship

Everyone’s favorite Mexican caveman seems like he’s back on the upswing. He’s looking more motivated, he’s leading a trio, and he’s very over. I expect Cavernario’s strong fan reactions to be eye-opening for people dropping in on this show. He’s the most popular rudo of the moment, and the Arena Mexico crowd is with him every time he pounds his chest to set up his big springboard splash. AEW’s stuck with masked wrestlers (and Volador) as CMLL reps so far, and I think it’s a miss not to have Cavernario as part of this mix. His style would connect quickly with that audience, and his character would help him stand out quicker than others brought in previously. 

This singles match spilled out of a trios feud between Cavenario’s Los Barbaros and Averno’s Los Infernales. It’s technically a rudo/rudo feud, but the Barbaros are the most cheered rudos, and Averno’s forever hateable. Averno has not won a championship since returning to CMLL, which is somewhat challenging, given how many championships there are in CMLL. An Averno title win would signal an escalation in this feud. I believe this is just putting an overact in front of a large crowd. 

Angelito vs Pierrothito vs Acero vs Pequeño Olímpico in a mask match

There have been roughly five generations of mini wrestlers in CMLL. Pierrothito is from the first generation when Antonio Pena evolved the concept of midget wrestling into a more athletic style. Pequeño Olímpico is part of the second generation of CMLL wrestlers, the replacements when the first batch left with Pena to AAA. (Almost all the first batch at least. Pierrothito tells a story about how he stopped getting booked because CMLL assumed he also had left and eventually phoned the office to convince them he still wanted to work there.) Angelito is from the latest generation, a bit taller than some from the past, but with a lot of athletic ability and enthusiasm. 

Acero belongs to the fourth generation, a mostly silent one. That group started wrestling in the late 00s and early 10s and showed some initial promise and nothing more. Names like Aereo and Fantasy wrestled in opening matches and were involved in division-spanning tournaments but never developed in any way and never got pushed much. Acero’s career resume is two decades of wrestling, one shaved head of a Toryumon trainee (who took on a masked gimmick later that day), and that he was once known as “Nino de Acero” but now isn’t. Acero’s been one of the most forgettable careers possible, and suddenly getting involved in a prominent match on a big show is a sure sign that his career is about to change. It’s exceptionally fortunate for Acero to happen on a show this size; it would’ve easily been possible for him to fade out without getting any moment. Maybe he’ll come up big here; others with equally forgettable careers have shined brightly in their final chance.

There are directions forward out of all these matches. It’s less than ideal for Pierrothito or Pequeno Olimpico to lose their masks here; CMLL announced this match and then treated it as an afterthought in the weeks leading up to it. The old vets have been crucial to this division and deserve a bigger feud and a singles match when they get a farewell. A mask win for either of them here would signal that Farwell is coming this year.

Lluvia, Stephanie Vaquer, Zeuxis vs La Catalina, Tessa Blanchard, Willow Nightingale

CMLL’s women’s division is in between moments. Stephanie Vaquer’s next title challenge is for her NJPW title in Chicago. La Jarochita is taking a break from wrestling, ending her long-running team with Lluvia. Catalina’s recently flipped to the tecnica side as a replacement, though she’s weirdly teaming with ruda foreigner Blanchard. This match is an exercise in getting a women’s match on the show and another AEW person involved with Nightingale. 

Tessa Blanchard showing up in CMLL was of great concern. It’s turned out fine. She won the Women’s Gran Prix, then has lost every big match since. She’s lost without issue, too. There’s some obvious testiness when spots don’t go well (and that happens here a fair bit), but Blanchard otherwise seems to be liked by the rest of the roster. She seems to be loved by CMLL management, and it’s clear she has a full-time spot open if she moves to Mexico City. 

What Tessa Blanchard wants out of her CMLL time is only known to her. My assumption about all disgraced wrestlers who end up in Mexico is that they’re here only because they have no choice, and those people will be elsewhere as soon as they get that option again. Blanchard’s still waiting to get those options, and it seems unlikely they will be open to her. She appears to have privately apologized to La Rosa Negra about the racist words that led to her downfall. That story also seemed the easiest to explain the dozens of reasons Blanchard’s peers turned against her. There are likely other apologies due. This might be the first time non-CMLL eyes have seen Blanchard in years. Tessa can take it as an opportunity to prove she can still go as a wrestler, and show she’s still not gotten how she ended up here. Or she can be a good teammate who works to get the star of the division (Vaquer) and the guest (Willow) over and – well, she probably still wouldn’t change anyone’s mind, but it would at least demonstrate some real growth. 

Máscara Dorada & Rocky Romero vs Atlantis Jr. & Soberano Jr. in the Torneo Incredible de Parejas final 

The entire concept of this long-running tournament is that partners who shouldn’t get along have to work together. CMLL’s nailed the concept this year: each team celebrated their semi-final victories by getting into a brawl. Dorada ended Romero’s Historic Welterweight Championship reign last year. Soberano Jr. and Atlantis Jr. fell apart in NJPW’s World Tag League. Soberano, Romero, and Templario have since formed a trio called Los Principes, so we’ve got enemies who aren’t going to be much of enemies. (It’s three princes, not two.) 

There is a lot of talent here, but the goal is unlikely to have the best match possible. CMLL previously used the Torneo Incredible to set up big matches for later in the year, especially when the final happens in front of the Homenaje a Dos Leyendas crowd. That plan doesn’t match up perfectly with these two teams. Romero lost his hair one year again, and it’d be too soon for another apuesta match, even with Dorada. Atlantis Jr. and Soberano Jr. would be a gigantic match, so much so that it would be hard to believe CMLL would book it. Maybe the setup is simply to establish Los Principes as a team for a later act, but this is another one where the outcome will be more intriguing than the action.

Bryan Danielson, Claudio Castagnoli, Jon Moxley, Matt Sydal vs Blue Panther, Místico, Último Guerrero, Volador Jr.

Bryan Danielson’s fandom of Blue Panther became part of Mexico wrestling’s consciousness in 2017. MedioTiempo’s Apolo Valdes and Eric Salinas traveled to Orlando for WrestleMania and interviewed Daniel Bryan at a WWE press junket. The Mexican journalists talked to Bryan about his appreciation of Blue Panther, then showed Bryan a video of Blue Panther inviting him to Mexico and gifting him a signed mask. Danielson’s love for Blue Panther appeared in interviews as early as 2012. I could find earlier remarks if I spent time digging through shoot interviews; maybe it goes back to when Daniel Bryan saw a match with Panther versus Hijo del Santo or Love Machine. Prime Blue Panther was an exquisitely skilled technical wrestler who was a rudo only because he was unafraid to take a shortcut in the third fall of a match. He was one the last of those still building title matches around clean llave exchanges, a link to the 70s before trios wrestling and more flying action started to come into vogue. It was a challenging and intricate style that rewarded patience and attention, which would not have worked in the WWE TV environment. A Blue Panther style would’ve been rejected even by the relatively smart fans of early Ring of Honor. It’s not even especially popular with the current tourist-plentiful mix of Arena Mexico fans, who will break out the whistles if two people they’re not all that into spend much time exchanging holds on the mat. Bryan Danielson adapted his style to work with his audiences over time. Blue Panther deserves credit for his ability to adjust as well. Masked Blue Panther had a rep for being a great worker without charisma. Unmasked Blue Panther is one of the best on the CMLL at connecting with fans and has turned his weakness (he looks ancient) into a strength (“he looks ancient, but look how he can fly!”). One of the great questions of this main event is if it’ll be the old Blue Panther battling for arm control with Bryan Danielson, or the Old Blue Panther stomping his feet and clapping his hands before diving off the ramp. It’ll be a little bit both with any luck.

There are so many questions about this main event, some important, some not so much. Will the BCC come through the crowd, or will they navigate the tricky stairs of Arena Mexico? Does an AEW logo join the CMLL and NJPW ones on the ever-visible ad boards? How far could Claudio throw KeMalito if KeMalito works the main event? The biggest question is, what exactly is this match? Does this play out like the Gran Prix, with pageantry before a severe fight? Is this an all-star exhibition where the fans see enough eight men to go home happy, but it lacks a little bit of big show intensity? Do the AEW wrestlers understand the CMLL they’re entering might not be the CMLL they first saw on VHS? The best comparison is FTR’s adventure in AAA, where the AEW wrestlers wanted to relive the adventures of Eddie Guerrero and Art Barr against Mexican wrestlers working a very 2024 style. It’s never really fit together. The touchpoint for US fans on Blue Panther’s career is his mask match with Love Machine, where Machine is unmasked because he doesn’t know piledrivers are illegal in Mexico. That 1991 CMLL story is 180 degrees different from the 2024 CMLL: almost every type of piledriver is legal, but you’ll see plenty of them on the card. (I think the martinete/tombstone is still legal, but it’s only a guess because it’s just the only variation no one uses.) This eight-man tag is a dream match, but many different and occasionally conflicting dreams are involved.

The CMLL wrestlers will give it their best. Arena Mexico is their cathedral, and it also means everything to measure up to the best from outside of Mexico. There’s an immense sense of this being a special moment. It seems unique to the AEW wrestlers, too. Mixing everything and doing it in what time is left at the show’s end will be a big challenge. The big hope is that there’s a next time; whatever is missed this time can be picked up later.

This CMLL Homenaje a Dos Leyendas is about the easiest recommendation ever. This will be an electric crowd and an equally charged roster. It’s not a cheap night, but it’s a show, and this one-of-a-kind meeting seems worth the price.