CMLL 84th Aniversario Review
Well I sure as hell wasn’t expecting that. The 84th Aniversario is now only a few hours old and…I’m not sure anyone can say it went the way anyone thought. Going in everyone expected the undercard and the mask vs. mask match between Zeuxis and Princesa Sugehit to steal the show, while the main event between Niebla Roja and Gran Guerrero was all but thought to be a dud. Instead the undercard, aside from the opening match, disappointed, with stars expected to excel merely going through the motions while other matches were thrashed by CMLL booking. It’s a good thing then that both Apuesta matches turned out to be Match of the Year contenders. Indeed, Zeuxis and Sugehit thrilled as expected and the main event, one of the most poorly promoted bouts in recent memory, delivered in ways nobody thought to make this a pretty good show. There’s still plenty that CMLL can learn from (they won’t) and hopefully the modest crowd they drew for tonight’s show serves as a sign they can’t just put any match out there and think it’ll draw. But even with all the flaws, it’s hard to be disappointed when the two biggest matches of CMLL’s 2017 delivered the way you’d expect them to. Well done to all four, and I’m just getting started with the praise. You’ll see what I mean. Moses, a friend with meme’s a friend indeed.
Dragón Rojo Jr., Hechicero, Pólvora defeated Blue Panther Jr., Stuka Jr., The Panther two falls to one
This match was all about Hechicero, the whole Hechicero AND NOTHING BUT THE HECHICERO! Good ole Hechi looked like he was taking it personally that CMLL stuck him in the Aniversario opener and he sure as hell worked like it too. This was easily the best performance he’s had all year, showcasing his wide offensive variety and making all the technicos look good. His sequences with Panther were particularly above average, recalling some of their work from the days they spent fighting each other in En Busca de un Ídolo. The only negative here is that Hechicero was so good that he almost overshadowed everything else! Dragón Rojo and Pólvora were often stuck watching Hechicero work his magic, while Junior and Stuka were forgotten based on only giving solid performances. Aside from that though this was a strong opener. They got the time to work, Panther and Hechicero obviously made the most of their minutes and everyone else at least looked good, especially as the match continued on. Big ups to CMLL giving Rojo, Hechicero and Pólvora a big win too. There’s no question Hechicero should be doing more than he is (a fact true before his otherworldly performance tonight) and like I said in the preview, Rojo and Pólvora were on the way to doing some great things as Los Revolucionarios before Bobby Villa screwed it all up. They deserved this victory and I’m glad CMLL gave them the shine. Not as glad as I am over this opener being good though, and I dare say it was easily the third best on the show.
Diamante Azul, Marco Corleone, Valiente defeated El Cuatrero, Forastero, Sansón two falls to one
A wildly disappointing encounter, and not just because Diamante Azul made it back from France in time for the show. Actually, the most disappointing part of this match was the last three people we expected; the Dinamitas. For all the good work Cuatrero, Forastero and Sansón have done as a trio this year, they were light years behind the stuff they’ve given us this year. The excuse will be they were given poor luchadors to work with in Marco and Diamante, but that’s not what I saw; what I saw was three talented dudes who, aside from Forastero, looked shockingly disengaged. How do I know this; because they weren’t trying the normal stuff they usually do, like the Double Military Press, the Monkey Flip spot and countless other moves. I’d be willing to hear the “well, they can’t do that to Diamante or Marco” excuse if the third guy in this match was Kráneo, but not when it’s Valiente, someone who the Dinamitas can easily work with. It doesn’t help either that Valiente completely smoked them, going full out and doing he normally only saves for the big time match. He was the one who came off like a star in this match, not the three guys I expected. Maybe they didn’t try hard because they weren’t high on working with Marco or Diamante or because they were booked to lose, a foolish decision on CMLL’s part regardless of their performance. But aside from Forastero getting his confidence back by nailing the running springboard dropkick, these three were not nearly on the level I’ve come to expect from them. Hopefully this was a blip and they’ll be back to delivering the goods in their next big trios match.
Cavernario, Felino, Negro Casas defeated Kráneo, Rush, Sam Adonis two falls to none
Speaking of disappointment, THIS MATCH! The difference here is that the performers were actually not to blame for this bout’s failures. In fact, I honestly thought we were on our way to a really good match during the two falls; Sam and Casas (which is definitely the feud CMLL is going with) worked well together, Kráneo and Felino worked harder than usual, Cavernario was Cavernario and everything Rush did, be it going after Negro Casas or Cavernario, was simply electric. It was the first time, aside from the Gran Prix and his match with Atlantis in Japan, where Rush seemed like a megastar since his encounter with LA Park. I could see the argument that his involvement with Casas distracted too much from what CMLL was trying to do with Sam and Casas (and the fans weren’t as loud as usual for Sam) but I don’t expect that to be a full time thing. The problem was that CMLL cut these guys off just when they were getting going. You have Cavernario and Felino doing dives that should be setting up to a more action packed third fall, only to then end the match with Sam hitting Casas with a Manhattan Drop? A GORRAM MANHATAN DROP?! Since when has that become a foul? It was an abrupt finish, it was a lame finish and it was the wrong call for CMLL to make; if you want to do the DQ, do it in fall three after letting Cavernario get some more moves in while Rush does his usual brawling shtick. Such a shame they went this way instead, and the only good thing about it is that it definitely sets up Casas vs. Sam, which should be a very heated and very good match in the next few months. I just wish CMLL had realized they could’ve set the match up with a much better finish than this one.
Mask vs. Mask Match
Zeuxis defeated Princesa Sugehit two falls to one
If you were looking to be a Rob Viper about this match (I mock because I care Rob), the criticisms to go with are this; there wasn’t enough high flying in this match and holy hell is Tirantes the worst referee in the history of humankind. One, I think it worked out better that there wasn’t a large amount of dives considering the amount of heat this match had built up going in. Secondly…yes Tirantes is terrible and he wasn’t particularly good in this match. But as I said when reviewing Blue Panther vs. Sam Adonis, we’ve known he’s terrible for a long time; to really get bent out of shape over him at this point is like getting angry that the Cleveland Browns didn’t make the playoffs this year. On top of that, his slow counts and attempts to steal heat from the luchadoras actually helped this match by ratcheting up the drama in the third fall, so I’m actually kind of happy he was his usual idiotic self. It’s like Tommy Wiseau; yeah the guy may be terrible and you want him to go away, but would The Room have really been as unintentionally hilarious if he weren’t there?
In any event, even with those criticisms, this match was an edge of your seat thriller that nearly killed me on five different occasions. I’m serious; there were white dots, hyperventilating, the whole nine yards. Even the second fall had moments like that, when Sugehit appeared to have the match won with La Mistica only for Zeuxis to suddenly reverse it and get a pin in a great sequence. And that was the tip of the iceberg; the third fall was near fall after near fall, big move after big move and both luchadoras scratching and clawing as best they could to reach the Promised Land. It was exactly what you want from a mask match and exactly what I expected these two to do. I dare say it was the best performance of both women’s careers, with Sugehit rising to a level she hasn’t since her days against Dark Angel and Zeuxis embracing the moment like all the greats do. Like I said in the preview, she’s the best luchadora in the world; all she needed was the stage to show it. She got that stage, she made the most of it and now she has another mask to hang on the wall alongside Silueta’s and Vaquerita’s, after she pinned Zeuxis with a Spanish Fly (called it!). I may be giving it more points because I was heavily invested in this due to my Zeuxis fandom, but I thought this was an amazing, highly dramatic match that I was certain at the time would be the best match on the show and one of the best matches in Mexico this year. What Zeuxis and Sugehit did definitely remains the latter, but man oh man is the former not nearly as clear as I thought.
Carístico, Flip Gordon, Volador Jr. defeated Mephisto, Satoshi Kojima, Último Guerrero two falls to one
A lot of people were harsh towards this match on Twitter, a little too harsh in my opinion. Granted, this wasn’t nearly as good as it could’ve been and the effort wasn’t there from any of these guys, aside from the sequences between Flip Gordon and the UG. Even still, the biggest problem this match had wasn’t the performers but the crowd. Between being gassed from the Zeuxis-Sugehit match and their (at the time) lack of caring for the main event, Arena Mexico pretty much seemed to go comatose during the ten to twelve minutes this match went on for. It was that aspect that was more along the lines of a Tuesday show main event than anything else, and I’d venture to guess people would be a lot higher on this bout if the crowd had been more alive. Alas they weren’t, and even if they had been the match would’ve only peaked at pretty good. Such is life. At least we got to see Carístico and Volador do some cool things (even if they were going through the motions) and I truly did think Flip Gordon came off well in his debut. His exchanges with Mephisto on the ramp were a little sloppy, but everything he did with the UG was excellent and he showed enough confidence (and athleticism) that I think he can have a potentially great showing during his stay if CMLL gives him the right opponent. If nothing else, this was a good showcase for him and a sign that he could have a decent run during his CMLL tour.
Mask vs. Mask Match
Gran Guerrero defeated Niebla Roja two falls to one
When I broke down Guerrero vs. Roja last night in my preview, I made a point to compare it to the Mogur-As Charo match from the 54th Aniversario thirty years ago. Like this match, Mogur-Charo was severely underwhelming (neither guy was more than a midlevel star in CMLL at the time) and didn’t draw as well as previous Aniversario shows; in fact, the 55th Aniversario the next year drew 2,000 more fans than what Mogur and Charo brought in (and keep in mind, they had the benefit of Gory Guerrero being honored on their show, whereas the 55th Aniversario had nothing like that). The one thing Mogur and Charo did however was an excellent match; in fact, their mask vs. mask match is one of the more underrated Apuesta matches in Aniversario history, proof that sometimes the best things come from the most unexpected places. I hoped that Niebla Roja and Gran Guerrero would be able to follow that example and deliver something spectacular in the face of the boos I expected them to get. Against all odds, they did that and then some.
This was not just a great Aniversario main event sports fans; this was an EPIC, all caps, Aniversario main event, a clear example that Roja and Guerrero came into this match determined to shove the criticisms towards them up everyone’s ass. They started off quick with Roja hitting a suicide dive in the first ten seconds, finished the first fall strongly with Roja rolling out of Guerrero’s roll out of a Roja crossbody (great sequence), had an even stronger second fall finish after Guerrero caught a Roja tope con hilo at the last second (amazing) and then had a third fall that equaled Sugehit-Zeuxis in drama, tension and outstanding wrestling (the best part being two spots where each man tried to goad the other into going up top, a move both men are all too familiar with). The best part is they didn’t even need to go crazy with stage dives and “into the bowels of Arena Mexico” brawling; they just worked their asses and delivered great sequence after great sequence. They were so good that the crowd, which actually didn’t really boo them at all, suddenly seemed to get into the match the deeper we got (though I’ve been told it wasn’t quite as loud in the arena as it came across on TV). Even the performances by Ángel de Oro and the UG as seconds were outstanding. The only criticism I have to offer is that the ending felt a tiny bit flat, Guerrero hitting Roja with a Dorada Driver for the win after Roja and Guerrero had kicked out of spectacular moves from the top. If it had been me, I would’ve switched up that move with Guerrero’s reverse powerbomb off the top and made that the finisher.
But that’s a nitpick. Overall I thought both of these men were excellent in a way I did not expect and without question gave the best performances of their careers. Niebla Roja showed that he can be counted upon in high pressure situations and Gran Guerrero was every bit as good as his more famous brother has been in similar spots. There’s no doubt in my mind that this will serve as a star making performance for him and perhaps for Roja as well. Thus it makes me happy to say I was wrong about this match. CMLL still deserves all the criticism in the world for brining this match in cold and perhaps deserves even more now that we’ve seen what these two were capable of. But at the end of the day their call to try and elevate two young guys instead of going with something like Rush vs. Diamante Azul (CAN YOU BELIEVE PEOPLE ACTUALLY THOUGHT THAT SHOULD HEADLINE OVER THIS MATCH?!) paid off. This was, in my opinion, the best match in CMLL this year, the best match on this show (by a slim margin over Zeuxis-Sugehit), a better overall match than Dr. Wagner Jr.-Psycho Clown (though the atmosphere wasn’t nearly the same) and an improvement over last year’s Aniversario main event between Dragón Lee and La Máscara (take a moment to imagine what Lee-Roja would’ve been like). Well done to both of these men. They proved themselves worthy and Gran Guerrero showed he's going to be a major player for the years to come. As Último Guerrero has earned the right to be called the UG, Gran Guerrero has earned the right to now also be known the GG. You’re damn right it’s going to be a thing.
That’s game sports fans. Rest easy and join me sometime tomorrow for the finale of the History of CMLL, pushed back because of family obligations before the big show. Till then, THIS!