Saturday, March 17, 2018

CMLL Homenaje a Dos Leyendas review/Intro to CMLL events

Read my top matches of January and February lists! Read my review of the Ring of Honor 16th Anniversary.

CMLL had its Homenaje a Dos Leyendas pay per view event on Friday, and seeing how I laid down $5 to watch it, I figure I should give my thoughts on the event.

It dawns on me, though, that if I had no idea about CMLL's wrestlers or format before getting into it, then most probably don't. The Wrestling Observer Newsletter and 411Mania don't really cover Mexican wrestling. Except for some people at Voices of Wrestling, the Cubsfan's Lucha Blog, and MLW's Lucha Talk podcast, I really don't see a lot of help on lucha libre from the English-speaking front.

As such, I figure I should work in some details about CMLL and background as I go over the matches from this card.

I'll start with what it is. Homenaje a Dos Leyendas is CMLL's second-biggest card of the year, like WWE Summerslam or NJPW's Dominion. It's one of the only cards they are sure to put on annually.

Each HDL honors two influences on the lucha libre world. CMLL founder Salvador Lutteroth is always one of the two, and this year's second legend is Mil Mascaras, a first-time honoree.

Sofia Alonso, left, along with Mil Mascaras (with mic)
Between the third and fourth matches, Mil was officially presented with a plaque and honored alongside Lutteroth's great-granddaughter, Sofia Alonso.

It's worth noting that CMLL is a family-owned business. Current owner Paco Alonso is the third generation to run the company (Salvador and Chavo Lutteroth). Sofia is in charge of marketing and seems likely to be the next owner when Paco retires.

She must be fairly competent because while my Spanish is still developing, he definitely spoke kindly about Sofia. From what I read online, he said she specifically brought him back into the fold. If so, good for her.

Anyway, on to the six-match card! I'll probably never say that again because with CMLL, it's ALWAYS a six-match card. The Friday night cards that CMLL runs at its own Arena Mexico are the company's 'A'-show, and the only weeks where six matches aren't the norm are tournament weeks.

Audaz, Flyer, Star Jr. d. Virus, Disturbio, Templario (2-1) - CMLL usually starts with either a four-man or six-man tag match featuring mini-Estrellas (wrestlers under 150 lbs) or low-card guys. It's worth noting that CMLL was NWA's Mexican territory for years, and it shows by the way the company believes in not out-shining the featured bouts. Usually, the opener is not allowed to do dives or other major spots so the crowd doesn't burn out early.

Not so for the major cards, though, I guess. This was excellent. Audaz has been pushed heavily, being honored with a new mask and name in January. He served as the captain for his team, which consisted of Star Jr, who I've only seen perform at Fantastica Mania, and Flyer, who I enjoy from his matches at the Monday Arena Puebla shows. Opposing them were Virus, a veteran rudo (heel) who is great at generating heat, fellow veteran Disturbio, and young, knight-gimmicked Templario, who I really enjoy.

Worth noting right now is how matches set up in CMLL. Técnicos (faces) and Rudos are in separate locker rooms and come out of different entrance sides (faces left, heels right). CMLL operates on old Texas territory rules: tag matches dominate the scene, and matches are 2 out of 3 falls unless otherwise noted. In trio matches, CMLL designates team captains. To score a fall, either the captain must take the fall, or both of the other members must be pinned/submitted.

The first and second falls seemed to get more time than normal, and Star Jr. pinned Virus with a frog splash to get his team the first fall. For the second, Star Jr was pinned following Disturbio hitting him in the corner with a double knee. Flyer got pinned when Templario did a dive from the elevated ramp into the ring.

The final fall saw dives that don't normally get to take place in the opening match, and the fall came when Star Jr. caught Disturbio with a top-rope kick, and Audaz wrapped around Templario for an armlock submission. It kind of reminded me of the Black Widow that AJ Lee used to do.

Anyway, this was the best opener I've seen from CMLL. Everyone was motivated and pushed the pace. 3.5 stars

Dallys, Zeuxis, La Seductora d. Princesa Sugheit, Kaho Kobayashi, Marcela (2-1) - The rudas picked up the win in this match. CMLL's women's division is like WWE's in the early 2000s: plenty of talent, but it's shoved to the back of the card and the booking can be nonsensical.

Everyone in this match is a solid hand except La Seductora, who was thankfully limited in her action after the first fall. But geez, this first fall got ruined by her segment. It was so slow and telegraphed the moves could have been called from space. I really wish Reyna Isis had waited to start her three months in Japan until after this card so she could have been in Seductora's role. Anyway, Marcela picked up a pin on Seductora with a Coup d'Grace, and Sugheit submitted Zeuxis to win the first fall.

Kaho Kobayashi is on a three-month stay in Mexico and is a great talent. She is the CMLL-REINA champion, but with REINA being infrequent, this has been a better use of her talents. Still, she has been getting the brunt of the beatings because of her smaller size. Zeuxis pinned her following a series of double knees, and Seductora walked the ropes (with Zeuxis as a balance) to hit a frog splash on Marcela.

The third pin saw Seductora pushed to the background, so energy picked up. Sugheit and Kobayashi eventually got submitted by Dallys and Zeuxis to earn the win. It was a good women's showcase, but a real storyline needs to develop for these girls. There are more than enough to make a good division, but something needs to happen. 2.75 stars

Rush, Mistico, Dragon Lee d. Mascara Año 2000, Forastero, Sanson (2-0) - This is a clash of two families, as the Munoz family (captained by Rush) took on Dinamitas' clan (led by MA2000). Worth noting on the Munoz boys: Rush is the founder and leader of Los Ingobernables, who have a Japanese branch that is huge in NJPW; Mistico was originally called Dragon Lee, but when the original Mistico moved to WWE and became Sin Cara, he took on the mantle and his brother became Dragon Lee. Now, the original Mistico is back under the name Caristico. Let all that sink in...

For the first fall, Dragon Lee stomped Forastero for a pin while Mistico submitted Sanson. MA2000 is by far the weakest of the six in this match, but he actually took a big bump that then allowed him to be featured minimally. Good booking work here.

The match went into full brawl mode between falls. It's about at this point that I realized the crowd was one of those bizarro world hardcore crowds that roots for the rudos. They were intensely behind Los Dinamatas here and even turned on Rush, who was técnico by default tonight. MA2000 got in minimal offense before Rush got in a dropkick and used the ropes as leverage to score a straight-fall victory. I love straight-fall victories and wish more would happen. This was essentially a 3-on-2 handicap match much of the way, and the booking was very smart. Good work. 3.75 stars.

Atlantis, Niebla Roja, Matt Taven d. Ultimo Guerrero, Gran Guerrero, Euforia (2-1) - Atlantis has been struggling with knee problems and being well over 50 years old. Matt Taven is still shaking off the stink of his ROH 16th Anniversary performance in my view, and the first fall was almost completely lost due to a bad PPV stream. This match was in a rough spot.

For the positive, Niebla Roja got a showcase before accompanying his brother to the ring for the main event. The two Guerreros are consistent top-of-the-card talents even in their 40s, and Euforia is being set up for a lucha de apuestas at the Arena Puebla shows, so there were good aspects to this match.

The first fall, of which only the end was caught, featured the rudos winning via triple submission pose... Yeah... Second fall saw Atlantis hit an actual dive spot outside the ring. It's impressive due to his age, his injuries, and the fact that he has long since moved into "maestro lucha" style, which is more ground-based. Anyway, Taven splashed Euforia and Roja eliminated Gran to even the match.

The third fall was quick and painless. Atlantis pinned Ultimo to win the match. Overall, hard to tell if this was a good match or not. It had its positives but it was weak in a lot of spots. 2.25 stars seems fair.

CMLL World Tag Team Championship: Volador Jr./Valiente d. Terrible/Rey Bucanero - CMLL's tournaments are an interesting thing. They take place over the course of three shows and consist of 16 competitors in two blocks of eight. The first two weeks feature a block-wide battle royal to set seeding, followed by a series of one-fall, single-elimination matches to decide block winners. This match is the 2-of-3-fall final of a tournament for the vacated titles.

Volador is already CMLL World Trios Champion and NWA Historic Welterweight Champion, so it didn't make sense for this team to win, especially with Valiente filling in for Caristico. But then, Terrible just joined Los Ingobernables and broke up his team with the Pirate King. So unless they planned to swerve everyone and have Bucanero join LI, I'm not sure who thought this was a good set of tag teams for this match.

Terrible, being a more grounded luchador, and Bucanero, being very limited, did not match with the style the other two wanted at all. The first fall came very early, when Bucanero tapped out Valiente with an arm lock, and Volador got hit with a Styles clash by Terrible. (Oh yeah, both members must fall to score in a four-man tag.)

Valiente got revenge by submitting Bucanero in the next fall while and looked like he knocked Terrible's wind out. The third fall is where the pace finally quickened, and we got some real wrestling. Volador got a roll up pin after a second submission fall from Valiente on Bucanero. Overall, this match was a disappointment. I enjoyed the Parejas Increibles tournament earlier this year, and that had a MOTYC as a final match. This one was merely good. 3 stars.

Lucha de Apuestas - Mask vs. Mask: Cuatrero d. Angel de Oro - Niebla Roja, who lost his mask last year, accompanied his brother to ringside, while the rest of the Dinamitas clan watched Cuatrero. This match was made to be a big deal for weeks and it paid off here in spades.

They told a great story from the beginning, as Angel de Oro tried to dive outside the ring to blindside Cuatrero to start the match and failed, allowing the rudo to beat him down for nearly three minutes before scoring the first fall, submitting him with an upside-down bear hug. Sanson tried to help Cuatrero win in straight falls, but when it got into the ring, Angel racked up enough offense to get some breathing room. He eventually submitted Cuatrero to level the match.

Angel took Cuatrero outside the ring between falls and dove off the staging area to hit Cuatrero. There were a lot of near falls, with Angel nearly locking in the same full-body submission he used in the second fall again for the third, but he was weakened and couldn't hold the body weight. Cuatrero eventually got the pinfall to protect his mask.

Honestly, with how the Dinamatas clan all have similar matches, it is probably best the family stable keeps their matching white and black masks. Plus, Angel de Oro without a mask looks like a more square-jawed Niebla Roja, so the two could be a great matching tag team.

I love the CMLL's lucha de apuestas setup. It's played as a big deal, and they never back down on the gimmick. It's enacted immediately. There was real emotion when Angel de Oro asked for his parents to come down and untie the mask on his behalf. Another great thing about lucha de apuestas in Mexico is that the athletic commissions do not release luchador names, so Angel de Oro had no identity under the mask until the loss. For the record, he is 29-year-old Miguel Angel Chavez Velasco.

This is why the mask is so key in lucha, I think. The quick moves, the high-flying, the masks that conceal a secret identity... They all serve to make luchadors into true superheroes, and their matches like real-life superhero-supervillain battles. Think back to when Spider-Man revealed himself in Civil War. It was controversial not only in the story world, but in real life. Fans were divided on the choice and it even made national news. Angel de Oro's mask may be smaller in scale, but the idea of a hero and villain putting their identities on the line is rife with comic book ties.

As for the match, it's a must-see. It fell slightly short of MOTY contention for me, but it's a sure-fire top 10 entry for March unless the next two weeks go completely crazy with quality. 4.25 stars.

Overall, this show was well worth the $10 price of admission. Three matches well worth watching and a new pair of champions, in addition to hearing from Mil Mascaras. Not a bad night. This is also why full-priced pay-per-views are dying. Between the WWE Network, NJPW World, and the fact that CMLL airs 50 free Friday shows and 2-3 $10 PPV events, there is more than enough quality wrestling to not seek full-priced cards anymore.

But yeah, CMLL did good work with this card, and I recommend it. I don't rate shows on any kind of scale. Instead I just give the average match rating. If you need a 1-10 scale, just double my average. Yeah, no card will ever approach a perfect 10, but on a good note, anything above a 6 is worth your time.

Average Match Score: 3.25
Doubled for an out-of-10 score: 6.5/10

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