The Two Sides to the CMLL's 84th Anniversary Show
One of my favorite movies (and a move I really need to see again before No Balls Un and Trump send us to the great Arena Mexico in the sky) is Mel Brooks' Spaceballs. Everything I need from a comedy film, Spaceballs has it. It’s got the belly aching laughs. It’s got Bill Pullman doing the funniest work of his career, at least before he uttered the line “I see them…IN MY DREAMS!” for Independence Day 2. It’s got shout outs and parodies of every famous science fiction film from 1950 on (minus Blade Runner because, let’s be real, you can’t knock Blade Runner. It’s that good). And of course, it has some of the funniest scenes in the history of cinema, including the “NO SIR! I DIDN’T SEE YOU PLAYING WITH YOUR DOLLS AGAIN! (GOOD!)” scene, the “THE RING! I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU FELL FOR THE OLDEST TRICK IN THE BOOK!” scene, the Alien parody (featuring John Hurt reprising his role from Ridley Scott’s second best sci-fi film), the “IT’S MEGAMAID! SHE’S GONE FROM SUCK TO BLOW!” scene and, of course, the “No I got the upside, he got the downside. You see there are two sides to every Schwartz” scene. Let’s focus on that last one and not the fact that, yes, all those scenes were done in all caps. Why you mask ask? Because much like how Yogurt got the upside and Dark Helmet got the downside of the Schwartz, CMLL has set up their 84th Anniversary Show with a clear upside and a clear downside. Can I segue OR CAN I SEGUE?!
But seriously, let’s talk about the two headlining matches for the 84th edition of CMLL’s Anniversary Show, two matches that will one moment have you screaming “I’M SO EXCITED”, followed by you wailing “I’M SO SCARED!” as a minute later as Mark Paul-Gossier tries to keep his career afloat by taking your diet pills. As I’m a positive dude we’ll begin with the exciting match. And yes, I do think everyone who follows lucha libre would agree that Princesa Sugehit and Zeuxis, mask vs. mask, is a pretty exciting encounter. For one the match makes sense, as Sugehit and Zeuxis have been feuding over the past year, first over the Mexican National Women’s Championship and more recently over pride. Secondly, Sugehit’s upcoming appearance in WWE’s Mae Young Classic (which will air before the Anniversary Show) will undoubtedly raise her profile and possibly grab a few extra viewers CMLL would otherwise not have. But the biggest reason this match works is because it’s likely going to Brand New’s “Limousine (MS)” good. Sugehit is as reliable a technica as you can find in CMLL, a big reason why WWE chose her to appear in the Mae Young Classic. And Zeuxis…well if you’ve read any of my work before, you’ll know that I consider her to be not just one of the best female workers in the world, but one of the best workers in the world, with CMLL’s poor luchadoras division (and WWE inexplicably not choosing her for the MYC) the only thing keeping her from getting the recognition she deserves. Combine that with the track record of great matches between these two and this match fits anywhere on the Anniversary Show card. If Paco and the gang choose to make it the undercard Apuesta match, it’ll instantly become a step above Rey Bucanero-Super Crazy and Dark Angel-Sugehit from the past few years. And yes, the match would even work as the headline attraction for the Anniversary Show if CMLL decided to go ahead with the first luchadoras match to headline their biggest show of the year.
In fact, they may need to, which brings us to the second Apuesta match on the card; Gran Guerrero vs. Niebla Roja. Or, as Ron Burgundy would put it after drinking milk on a run, a bad choice. For weeks people have bemoaned the fact that this match could headline CMLL’s granddaddy of them all, suggesting instead that Sam Adonis should headline (note; I was a proponent of this) and even going as far to say that Rush vs. Diamante Azul was a better choice. RUSH VS. DIAMANTE AZUL! You know people don’t want to see you’re match when they’d prefer the unmotivated corpse of Rush going up against the skilled but inconsistent Azul. It’s very telling about what people think about this bout; it’s also a little unfair. The truth is that Niebla Roja and Gran Guerrero aren’t bad workers at all. In fact, I’d argue that it’s a significantly better match than whatever Rush and Azul can give us. Guerrero has slowly morphed out of his reputation as a guy who needed to be punted out of Arena Mexico into an above average base with a pretty impressive move set. Roja meanwhile is having a career year, featuring a slew of excellent performances against top star Dragón Lee prior to his feud with Guerrero. Most will probably explain Roja’s performances away as being a product of Lee’s brilliance, conveniently forgetting that Lee wasn’t around when Roja was doing a stage dive, ramp to ring hurricanrana and tope con hilo combo just two weeks ago in Arena Mexico. If anyone else had done that (like say, Soberano Jr.) we’d be singing their praises from now till Weezer releases Songs from the Black Hole. It’s an example of just how unfairly Roja and Guerrero have been treated during this whole buildup. Fair or unfair though, it also highlights why this match is a bad idea for the biggest show of the year; people just don’t buy it.
And why should they? As talented as he is, Niebla Roja is still the same career midcarder he’s always been who has now failed to get over as a technico despite being handed every opportunity. As much as he’s improved, Gran Guerrero is still easily the third banana in Los Guerreros Laguneros, a group that consists of one of the highly respected Euforia and arguably the greatest luchador alive today, Último Guerrero. As good of a match as these two may have and as silly as some people hoping for other matches have been, it’s not wrong for someone to look at this match and say it’s not worthy of the oldest, most prestigious show in lucha libre. The Gran Prix? Sure. A random Friday show? Absolutely. Hell, considering Diamante Azul and Pierroth headlined Homenaje a Dos Leyendas this year you could easily talk me into Roja-Guerrero headlining that. But as much as I appreciate CMLL trying to push younger luchadors (which they’ve sorely needed to do) and as much as I think the match will ultimately surprise, it’s impossible for me to deny that this is a mistake. A mistake of trying to drain Planet Druidia of its air proportions.
So what can CMLL do about this? I see only two options. First, they can double down on Roja-Guerrero being the main event and do everything in their power to give the match some juice going in. Remember, Dragón Lee vs. La Máscara wasn’t a hotly anticipated match when it was announced last year, only for Máscara to step up his game in the buildup, leading to a better than expected match. Who’s to say that Roja, Guerrero or possibly both couldn’t get on the same sort of roll? I wouldn’t say it’s likely, but the fact that both Roja and Guerrero are just as good (if not better) than Máscara gives me hope that they and CMLL can figure something out and we’re looking back on this a year from now wondering why we ever had a problem with this match. Naturally we’ll also be complaining about Rush vs. Diamante Azul during this time period, before they go onto have the greatest match in the history of the western hemisphere. It’s a vicious cycle I tell you.
Secondly, they can make the boldest call, put this match in the undercard and boldly go where no other lucha promotion has gone before by putting Sugehit and Zeuxis on last. That’s what I’d do, and not just because Zeuxis is my favorite. As I said earlier, Sugehit-Zeuxis will be great whether you put it in the main event or if you stick it on the pre-show. Rob Reiner’s The Sure Thing is not as much of a sure thing as this match. Combine that with how historic it would be for the luchadors to close the Anniversary Show, the fact that they’d be doing it because they’re the best option (as opposed to CMLL forcing it to look progressive like, say, a certain Diva’s Revolution) and Sugehit’s US connections and it’s hard to argue for Roja and Guerrero closing the show over it. Well, unless you take the stupid “DUDES MUST ALWAYS HEADLINE SHOWS!” argument some Men’s Right Activist would make. Furthermore, putting Guerrero and Roja lower on the card also takes some pressure off of them. Instead of worrying about having to live up to Atlantis-Sombra, Atlantis-UG, Sombra-Volador, Santo-Negro Casas or any other number of Anniversary Show main events (with a crowd sure to boo them) they can just focus on delivering the best match possible in a relatively safe position (and again, I’m pretty sure these two can deliver under the right circumstances). Sounds like a winning formula to me!
Unfortunately I don’t see it as the formula CMLL is going to take. The investment into Roja’s push and Guerrero’s family connections with UG (I still haven’t figured out if they’re brothers or father and son) probably means the next month will feature CMLL trying as hard as humanly possible to get this match over while Zeuxis and Sugehit gets the secondary treatment. And look, maybe it works; maybe Roja and/or Guerrero get hot and we suddenly have two really good looking matches for the Anniversary Show. But hot damn it would be so much easier for CMLL to stick these guys in the undercard, let them go nuts away from the vast amounts of pressure and close the show with Zeuxis holding up Sugehit’s mask after the best luchadoras match…ever. I’ll say this though; regardless of whether you care for Roja-Guerrero or not, you can’t sit there and tell me you’re not intrigued about the next month of CMLL programming. It’s the same sort of maddening brilliance that keeps fans of CMLL and WWE coming back even as they’re slamming their heads into a desk. Yes Niebla Roja vs. Gran Guerrero may not be the sexiest choice, the best choice…hell the only thing it’s better than is Diamante Azul-Pierroth, unless you’ve only seen these two once and know nothing of lucha libre history. But even with that knowledge, we’re all still going to be tuning in for the next month, waiting to see if CMLL can actually pull the rabbit out of the hat and get Gran Guerrero and Niebla Roja to the Promised Land. That’s power there folks, the kind that only exists when CMLL is booking Anniversary Show’s, WWE is booking Wrestlemania’s and Mel Brooks is breaking out Spaceballs 2. And just like that, we’ve gone full circle. Can I segue, OR CAN I SEGUE?!