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LuchaPalooza! AAA vs. CMLL
In the words of Bruce Buffer, iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiittttttttttss….TIME! Last night I kicked off the week and a half extravaganza I’m calling LuchaPalooza (trademarked yesterday in a totally fictional court), giving all of you the good word on why it’s time to check out lucha libre. And while I suppose I should’ve waited till Sunday to break out the big guns I’m just so excited that we’re instead going to make LuchaPalooza a two week thing. It’s gonna be like the Olympics and shit. Moses, get that beautiful Olympics theme song up in here.
That’s more like it. So now that we’ve had the opening ceremony you may be wondering what’s next on the docket for LuchaPalooza. Luckily I’ve got a Versus topic that should just kick the doors off. You see believes and non believers alike, there has been a great debate for almost twenty five years now about who delivers the best lucha libre has to offer. Why do I say this? Because unlike here in the States lucha’s Whatever Night War has never ended. Both big companies from the golden age of lucha in the 1990s, AAA and CMLL, still exist to this day and are still competing with each other to this day. It may not be as cutthroat and may not feature brawls that look like outtakes from The Warriors anymore, but hey…actually you know what why can’t we have more of those brawls that look like outtakes from The Warriors?! Watch this clip and tell me this doesn’t get your freak juice flowin!
The point is that CMLL and AAA was and is one of the most important rivalries still alive in wrestling. At worst it’s definitely still the most heated rivalry between promotions since WCW died, All Japan ran out of gas and every other promotion in America was left in the shadow of our Stamford overlords. So today’s topic asks the simple question; which one is better? And considering I’m the man who brought you the epic battles between La Parka’s, Game Gear and Game Boy and even Alex Wright and Disco Inferno (a criminally under read piece for the simple fact that everyone hates Disco) it feels like this is a job for yours truly. Plus it’s LuchaPalooza; what’s LuchaPalooza without a debate over which lucha promotion is superior? It’s like making a Chuck movie and not bringing back Yvonne Strahovski (a crime in all fifty states, Canada, Australia and Northern Ireland). Good Cthulhu lets just start this before I get sidetracked again! Today is the day we found out who is the best around and nothing’s gonna ever keep them down; AAA or CMLL.
Get ready to cue the “THIS IS UNFAIR!” cries from the AAA contingent because they aren’t winning this one. Please not that them not winning doesn’t mean they have no history or that their history is bad because it isn’t. You can’t have a bad history when your past includes the most famous lucha libre PPV in history (When Worlds Collide), the most infamous lucha libre PPV in history (Triplemania XXIII) and for a time one of the hottest promotions to ever grace planet earth during AAA’s early stages. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. AAA has great history; it just doesn’t have 83 years worth of sustainability while providing lucha libre with the most famous luchador of all time, most of the biggest matches in the history of the profession and did I mention they’re still around and prospering after 83 years?! It’s like saying Neil Blomkamp has a better history at making films than James Cameron. Sure maybe you’re a much bigger fan of Elysium and Chappie than everyone else but those two flicks and District 9 aren’t holding a candle to Terminator’s uno and dos, Aliens, Titanic, Avatar or that gorram masterpiece known as The Abyss. Same applies here. Major Advantage: CMLL.
This might be the most interesting category in the history of the Versus series. So what if there have only been four previous entries?! AAA and CMLL couldn’t be any different. AAA incorporates the same style you’ll find in the US and Japan with matches going one fall to a finish, with outlandish and colorful stories generally incorporated. Oh and unlike the US or Japan AAA is in love with the hardcore match, taking a page from Konnan’s Promo Azteca. CMLL meanwhile is a throwback to a lucha era long gone; all matches (save ten minute time limit sprints that we call Lightning Matches) are two out of three falls, all matches focus more on athleticism and wrestling more than gimmicks and while there are storylines they are generally kept simple and in the tradition of sports rivalries. I haven’t seen two things so different since the Kingdom of Heaven theatrical cut and the Kingdom of Heaven Director’s Cut.
Thus the question becomes; which one of these is the Kingdom of Heaven Director’s Cut? And this is where AAA is a cut above their rivals. I love CMLL and other than Lucha Underground it’s the only promotion I watch consistently, but good Cthulhu the style and format of their matches can get grating. There’s only so many times you can watch a Trios match featuring the same quick fall, rudo beat down, technico comeback, back and forth finish exchange before you start to run screaming for someone maternal. Certainly the sometimes never ending parade of hardcore matches with AAA can wear on you too, but at least with the one fall finishes and more ambitious stories being told you retain a level of unpredictability that CMLL doesn’t contain. Well beyond the mask vs. mask matches. If CMLL did those all the time they’d have the edge here, at least until AAA started doing them. Dammit, I think I just came up with a way to kill the mask vs. mask match. DELETE! DELETE! DELETE! Advantage: AAA.
This category is easier than my boy Skitz at the Playboy Mansion. And that’s largely CMLL’s fault. Aside from a brief partnership with TNA back in the day (and by back in the day I mean 2008) Paco Alonso and his gang have seemingly done nothing to expand the brand from outside the confines of Arena Mexico. I suppose in some ways that’s a good thing; Jim Crockett tried to expand out of the Carolinas once upon a time and now he’s serving me Big Gulps at the 711. Staying in the lane can work folks. It just doesn’t work here against AAA, who wins just on the strength of When Worlds Collide alone. When you put out one of the greatest PPV’s in history and the 90s version of Wrestle Kingdom 9 it’s going to be tough to beat. Add in further expansion attempts, Lucha Underground and even last year’s Triplemania and this is a no contest. That may be the first time anyone has brought up last year’s Triplemania in a good light. YOU REDEEMED VILLANOS! Major Advantage: AAA.
Triplemania vs. The Anniversary Show
The battle within the battle! I’d like to say you could never go wrong with either of these shows but after last year’s Triplemania not even the most pure character to ever walk this mortal coil (Goku) could get away with that. And it’s not just last year’s Triplemania either folks. You can never fault the ambition of AAA for trying to make this event always seem like a Wrestlemania but far too often past Triplemania’s have come across as disappointing and cluttered, especially in the early days when Antonio Pena would book three or four different Triplemania shows for whatever reason. It also doesn’t help when the most famous AAA event ever has nothing to do with Triplemania nor the fact that I can only think of two Triplemania events that I’d consider legendary (L.A. Park vs. La Parka and Konnan vs. Jake Roberts). In contrast the Anniversary Show is, to steal the words from an old friend, the fucking Anniversary Show. The history certainly helps but so does the fact that almost every year they deliver something worthwhile. It’s not always perfect but there’s something to hold onto and the big match usually always delivers. And the big matches stick out, from El Hijo del Santo vs. Negro Casas (twice), Atlantis vs. Último Guerrero, Atlantis vs. La Sombra, La Sombra vs. Volador Jr., Blue Panther vs. Villano V (despite the result), Mistico vs. Black Warrior and the list just goes on and on and on. Put that all together and I’m pretty sure even Dorian Roldan would admit the Anniversary Show is the (Randy Savage voice) cream of da crop yeah! It may not always be that way, but you’re not topping main eventing in front of 20,000 peeps in Arena Mexico just yet. Advantage: CMLL.
Now comes the ultimate irony; I’ve made such a big deal about both Triplemania and the Anniversary Show and yet the best matches in AAA and CMLL history took place on neither of those shows. It’s almost as funny as Pink Floyd having their best song on Dark Side of the Moon instead of their magna opus The Wall. I think you all know what these two matches are by the way. For AAA it can be none other than the legendary mask vs. hair, two out of three falls tag match at When Worlds Collide between El Hijo del Santo/ autograph interrupter Octagon and Los Gringos Locos. I can’t remember who those two guys were again…someone help me! Meanwhile CMLL’s greatest match in history took place at the 2000 Juicio Final and yes it’s that damn mask vs. mask match between Atlantis and Villano III that I always seem to find an excuse to talk about. Look at this as just another reason!
Now comes the difficult part; I actually have to choose between these two classics, two matches that everyone from Dave Meltzer to lucha fans to even WWE fans love (must have something to do with one of the Los Gringos Locos guys. IF ONLY I COULD REMEMBER WHO THEY WERE!). Well guess what; I ain’t gonna do it. I can’t pick between these two matches. It’s like picking between a date with Paige and Ivelisse; you go on a date with both and hope it doesn’t end with them finding out and then taking a croquet mallet to your nether regions. Same deal here. Both matches are the perfect blend of awe inspiring skill, storytelling and high stakes drama you only see in the season finale of The Flash, not to mention that only three of the most famous masks in wrestling history were on the line (sorry Octagon; your mask lost fame when you decided to humiliate young people in public places). I cannot pick between these two and seeing as it’s my column I won’t. It’ a wash; a high end royal wash you can only get at one of those good car wash places. Draw.
We’re both in the midst of “too close to call” territory and me potentially upsetting some luchadors that may or may not follow me. It’s really tough. On the one hand AAA definitely is the more exciting promotion, both from how they present the wrestling and their electric roster. And indeed if we were going by rosters the two companies have today AAA is winning; I love what CMLL brings to the table there too; they have the second best wrestler I’ve ever seen on there today and some of the best young talent around. But you’re not getting past Pentagon Jr., Aerostar, Fantasma, Angelico, Fenix, Jack Evans, Drago, Taya, Daga and the countless other cool dudes AAA throws out. So does that settle it? NOT SO FAST MY FRIEND!
At the end of the day you cannot ignore history and as of right now CMLL has and will forever have AAA beat. Every great luchador ever (save for some of the dudes and the dudettes I just mentioned) has cut their teeth in Arena Mexico; the Santos, the Demons of a Blue variety, Atlantis, Negro Casas, the Villanos, Blue Panther, Mistico, Konnan, Vampiro, Chris Jericho, Black Shadow, Eddie Guerrero, La Sombra, Rush, L.A. Park. You get the damn picture by now. Furthermore CMLL just has that quality where when something special happens in Arena Mexico it just feels bigger, like all those Atlantis mask matches. It has mystique, it has presence, it has the sort of things people believe Leonardo DiCaprio has. And from where I’m standing only Lucha Underground carries that same sort of feel for me at this time. So while I love a ton of the AAA guys and gals and while I really enjoy what AAA brings to the table most of the time, you can’t beat CMLL. They’re the standard. It won’t always be that way but it sure is for now. Please don’t hate me peeps! Winner: CMLL
And with that I am off the Pepsi hot seat. Or I would be if I had a hot seat and Pepsi sponsored this blog. There’s no need to fear though folks as LuchaPalooza will roll on this afternoon as I predict Triplemania XXIV. Hopefully I’ll still have friends by then! Until that happens, would someone please tell me who those Los Gringos Locos guys are?! Does anyone out there actually believe this?
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