We’ve barely touched upon lucha libre on this website, for no good reason apart from “I’m just one man” and “there’s barely enough hours in the day”! However, in the name of variety, I’ve managed to get hold of CMLL’s 83rd Anniversary show from last month. Here, I’ll be taking a look at the Aniversario show, through the eyes of a total rookie to the lucha libre scene…

CMLL is the oldest wrestling promotion that’s still around, having been formed in 1933 – and 83 years later, they’re still going strong. Their Aniversario show this year was exclusively two-out-of-three falls matches – a staple of lucha libre – and also featured a pair of Luchas de Apuestas, where a man’s mask or hair was on the line. We’ve got two of those: Rey Bucanero vs. Super Crazy in a hair vs. hair match, and Dragon Lee vs. La Mascara in a mask vs. mask match.

In terms of familiar names, well CMLL’s 83rd Anniversary card included the likes of Gran Metalik (Mascara Dorada), Caristico (the original Sin Cara), Super Crazy (of ECW/WWE fame), Shocker (formerly of TNA) and former WWE and WCW rookie Marco Corleone (aka Mark Jindrak from ten or so years ago). Add in the likes of Volador Jr, El Barbaro Cavernario and Dragon Lee, whom have featured in New Japan this year, and this is quite the card.

For this review, I’m going to avoid doing the insanely-long play-by-play style, and just give my thoughts on the action – which could be a good thing given how much flying goes on in stereotypical lucha!

Lluvia, Princesa Sugehit & Marcela vs. Amapola, Zeuxis & Dallys
The production crew sure do like showing us those lights that spell out CMLL… Marcela and Dallys seem to be the captains, but I don’t know if that means the fall only counts when the captain takes it. Let’s see…

Dallys and Marcela start of with some grappling, but neither woman is able to maintain any advantage. Marcela hits a flying rana for the first highspot of the day, then a double underhook into a backbreaker. We get some tags as Lluvia and her, erm, interesting outfit works with Amapola – and by working, I mean “she doesn’t sell anything but slams”.

Sugehit and Zeuxis come in for a spell, with Zeuxis’ mask reminding me a lot of the old Mankind mask crossed with Vader’s hood. Dallys interfered first with a hair-pull to Sugehit, which solidifies that team as the rudos. Lluvia hits a dropkick on Zeuxis in the corner, and that gets a three-count, as Amapola taps out to an armbar from Sugehit – and that’s the first-fall to the technicos!

We see a replay of Marcela’s cannonball dive to Dallys on the outside, before they show Lluvia’s pin and Sugehit’s submission.

The second fall starts with Dallys getting spanked by Sugehit, whose natural response is to pull the hair. There’s a miscommunication as Marcela gets a knee to the midsection from Sugehit, as she was holding Dalys. A replay of that also goes bad when Lluvia gets a knee tot he head as she tried to hold onto Dalys through the ropes.

Zeuxis tries to rip off Sugehit’s mask, and this falls apart a little. The rudos strikes look off throughout the second fall, which is mercifully ended when Amapola drops Sugehit with the Angels’ Wings. Wait, they continue, as Marcela takes a double dropkick and rolls to the floor, before Dallys’ seated senton off the apron knocks her to the floor. Lluvia takes a double knee strike to the face as she was stuck in the corner, and now that’s the second fall. We’re all tied now!

The third fall started with the rudos triple teaming Lluvia, as she’s kicked out onto the entrance ramp. Zeuxis’ double knees in the corner flattens Sugehit, before a dropkick knocks Marcela into the ring. The technicos make a comeback with a trio of diving dropkicks, then a trio of dives to the outside.

A double stomp from Marcela onto Dallys doesn’t even result in a pinning attempt, and after some rope running the match stops for a split second. Zeuxis accidentally dropkicks Amapola to the outside, but makes up for it with a tope to Sugehit. Back inside, Marcela gets a dropkick, but then has a flying rana countered into a sit-out powerbomb by Dallys, and since the captain got pinned, that’s all. The rudos win this by two falls to one, and we’re quickly shown some staffers carrying someone away on a backboard. I can only assume it’s Lluvia for an injury that we didn’t see earlier.

If I’d understood the ways the falls were given (i.e. two team members or a captain pinned = a fall) I probably would have enjoyed this more, but at times this match just felt sloppy. Certainly the majority of strikes looked bad here, but it was fun for what it was. **¼

We see a commercial for something, but as it was a video camera pointed at one of the screens, it came across like we were watching a pirated movie.

Stuka Jr., Marco Corleone & Maximo Sexy vs. Ephesto, Mephisto & Shocker
Shocker and Sexy are your team captains, so if the last match is to go by, then they need to be pinned or everyone BUT them pinned for a fall to count.

First fall started with some ground based stuff, as Ephesto sold a grounded abdominal stretch like death. Stuka took Ephesto to the outside with some headscissors, before the crowd booed an aborted dive… and I’m getting bored with the constant long shots that the director here feels the need to cut to and zoom in from at random.

Mephisto tags in – a man whose gear I can only describe as making him look like the lovechild of Jushin “Thunder” Liger and Mantaur – and he runs a sequence with Maximo Sexy that highlights that you really shouldn’t try and work a style you aren’t cut-out for. Maximo Sexy really makes me want to dig up some old Super Porky matches… or have I finally lost my mind?

Finally we got Shocker and Marco Corleone… and Shocker looks a lot bigger than when he was in TNA. They each run a hip swivel spot out of a sunset flip, before Corleone hits a crossbody over the top and to the entrance ramp. The rudos get the first fall with a simultaneous pin: Memphisto on Maximo from a slam, and Ephesto on Stuka from an Angels Wings off the middle rope.

During the “time-out” between the first and second fall, the camera pans the crowd. Unfortunately hardly any of them seem to be invested in the match… Nor was Corleone, as the replay showed him just walking around on the ramp as his teammates took a fall!

Second fall started with just Shocker and Maximo on the inside, as Stuka and Corleone became close friends with the ringside barriers. Ephesto came perilously close to a foul (low blow) by kicking Sexy in the thigh, and then it was Shocker’s turn to do the same to Stuka. Corleone got triple teamed, as did Sexy, who also got his arse spanked by Shocker. Finally the tecnicos mounted a comeback, with Sexy hitting a tope to Ephisto on the outside, whilst Corleone’s flying crossbody from the entrance ramp and over the top rope got him a pin on Shocker, and that’s an unpopular fall to tie things up.

Why am I getting flashbacks to World of Sport here? Some of this action comes across like a sort-of souped-up version of the old British wrestling…

Final-fall started with Memphisto scurrying out of the ring, but he returned to take a hiptoss from Stuka, then a monkey flip and another hiptoss onto the entrance ramp. Shocker didn’t fare much better, particularly once he tried to trade shots with Marco Corleone. Clearly not learning from the earlier falls… Corleone clocks all three of the rudos with lefts, then hits a cross body off the top to Shocker and Memphesto. But the referee doesn’t count as he does some push-ups on them, and that cockiness gets some more boos for Corleone.

Shocker and Maximo take turns in pulling down the other’s singlet straps for comedy. Memphisto takes a rana then a rope-walk senton to the outside, and we’re getting our recommended daily allowance of dives, with Stuka’s moonsault to the floor on Ephesto. Another punch from Corleone sends Shocker to the outside, and another flying plancha takes out the rudos.

Maximo gets a near-fall on Memphisto with an armdrag off the top rope, before Marco Corleone punches Shocker again. Jesus, ten years away from the US and that’s all he’s doing?! Stuka gets a pin over Ephesto with a top rope splash, and enough of the bloody punches Marco! Shocker hits a spear through the ropes and onto the ramp to put paid to him, before Maximo misses Memphisto and lands a rope walk splash off the top rope to win the match. Much like Corleone in the first fall, Shocker was walking on the ramp disinterested in saving things for his team, which just looked off.

As a match, you had your action, and it wasn’t too bad. It’s a million miles away from the stuff I usually watch, but Jesus Christ, Marco Corleone and his never-ending-punches annoyed me. ***

Another pseudo-pirated commercial for a mechanics airs, and we’re up to our next match!

Hair vs. Hair: Super Crazy vs. Rey Bucanero
Someone found a recording of Super Crazy’s old ECW theme, which makes me happy! This is a typical best-of-three-falls affair, and both men have plenty of flowing locks on the line tonight!

A slap from Super Crazy draws some boos early on, and Rey Bucanero gets a rapid first-fall courtesy of a calf slicer that forced Crazy to tap. More boos, and I’m wondering if this crowd just don’t want to see a head shaving.

Second fall starts at a faster tempo with some hiptosses from Crazy, and yet more boos from this tough crowd. Crazy ties it up at 1-1 with a flying hiptoss that went into a contrived roll-up for a pin. This third fall had better be good, because so far I’ve seen two squashes in this match.

More shots of the crowd show us that gilets seem to be in fashion in Mexico City at this time of the year…

The final fall begins with Bucanero taking a superkick as he’s taken into the corner courtesy of a hiptoss from Crazy, who follows up with his trio of moonsaults, only for Bucanero to roll away from the third one. He kicks out as Crazy tries to shock him with a roll-up, and then gets a single-leg Boston crab, before a cloverleaf leads to a roll-up for another near-fall.

Crazy then tries for a leg grapevine, before an elbow drop gets a near-fall. Bucanero hiptosses Crazy onto the entrance ramp, then follows with a plancha/big splash off the top onto the ramp. The pair end up in the crowd, with Super Crazy moonsaulting off the commentary desk and onto Bucanero. That gets a near-fall back in the ring, before a rolled-through cross body almost got Bucanero the win.

Crazy ties up Bucanero with the tarantula in the ropes, but they end up outside the ring again, with Bucanero pulling off a cannonball dive off the entrance ramp and onto the arena floor. A superplex forced Crazy to kick out at two, and they go up to the entrance way again, with Crazy moonsaulting off the video screens onto Bucanero below.

Bucanero’s attempt at a Destroyer on the floor goes a little weird as Crazy doesn’t flip over enough, but finally Bucanero gets the third fall with a cross-arm breaker. That was unpopular, but a thrilling final-fall. Shame about the first two! ***¼

CMLL’s rival, AAA, has moved away from three-fall matches for precisely this reason. Why have three-falls if the first two are just going to be junk?

After the match, an old guy in a pink and black jacket comes in with a pair of scissors, and trims off Super Crazy’s dreadlocks. Well, at least he was kind enough to do that to his hair before to save time! After the dreadlocks are gone, the electric razor comes out, and Crazy’s left with a cue-ball!

Mascara Dorada, Caristico & Atlantis vs. La Peste Negra (Felino, Negro Casas & El Barbaro Cavernario)
In terms of “do I know them?” – Ke Monito is the midget blue monkey mascot that we’ve all seen take a flip off the apron from a baseball slide dropkick. Caristico is the former original Sin Cara whilst Mascara Dorada’s repackaged in WWE as Gran Metalik, and was in the middle of finishing up his CMLL dates here.

Negro Casas and Atlantis were the captains here, but the first highlight (I guess) from the first fall was Caristico taking down Negro Casas with a tiltawhirl backbreaker on the floor. Felino and Barbaro teamed up on Atlantis, before the ring filled up. Caristico took a triple-team kick to the midsection, before Atlantis came in for more double-teaming as Felino and Barbaro split his legs.

A diving dropkick from Negro Casas in the corner earned a pin over Caristico, before a an awkward top rope elbow from Felino was enough for a three-count on Atlantis as the rudos took the first fall. Not particularly great stuff so far…

The second fall began with the rudos trying to attack Ke Monito, before they were stopped by Atlantis. Barbaro drops Atlantis with a Vader bomb-style splash in the ropes, before Caristico and Felino squared off. Caristico landed some headscissors, before Dorada rushed in from the aisle with a rana over the top rope onto Felino, as the tecnicos levelled things up – a Dorada Screwdriver/Metalik Driver on Barbaro and a Fireman’s carry facebuster from Caristico on Felina secured the simultaneous pin for the second fall.

With the match tied, as always, the final fall started with Ke Monito delivering a dropkick to Zacarias, the rudo’s mascot, before Dorado and Casas traded shots. Dorado took a drop toe-hold into the bottom rope, and somehow a 619 from Zacarias didn’t lead to a DQ. Instead, Dorado superkicked the mini, then hit a standing shooting star press as Felino dropped an elbow on his mascot by mistake.

A top rope ‘rana from Dorado takes down Felino, before Barbaro did the worm on the apron for some reason. That got him in place for a leaping rana from the ring to the floor – like what we saw in the Cruiserweight Classic finals. Casas and Caristico came in next, with Casas selling a kick to the midsection as if it were a foul. Zacarias gets involved again with a dropkick to Caristico, and then gets one from Felino by mistake (man, he’s a useless partner!)

Atlantis drops all of the rudos with tiltawhirl backbreakers, before a crossbody and a dropkick from Caristico and Dorado respectively take out both Felino and Barbaro, as Atlantis catches Negro Casas in the Atlantida (spinning backbreaker rack) for the quick submission… and since Casas was the captain, that’s the final fall! A fun six-man, but as a fan more used to the American style, the best-of-three-falls format really didn’t help this. Good action, but a lot of it felt like a parade of moves rather than something that was built up ***½

CMLL World Trios Title: El Sky Team (Valiente, Volador Jr. & Mistico) (c) vs. Los Guerreros Laguneros (Gran Guerrero, Ultimo Guerrero & Euforia)
Those trios titles remind me of the classic/current WWE Intercontinental title belt… about two weeks earlier, at New Japan’s Super J Cup finals, we had the Guerreros taking on Volador, Titan and Caristico in a match that really wasn’t very good, but this got a really good rating from Dave Meltzer, so let’s give it a go. Mistico and Ultimo Guerrero are the captains here.

First fall started with Valiente and Gran Guerrero… and that infernal long-zooming-in shot that completely detracts from what’s happening in the ring. Volador tags in and unmasks as he faces off with Euforia, which led to Mistico coming in and taking out Euforia and Ultimo Guerrero with hurricanranas, before we get a load of topes. After all three of the technicos were downed, Euforia held Valienta in a Gory stretch, whilst Volador and Mistico were made to tap out to a camel clutch and an armbar respectively, with the triple submission earning the rudos the first fall.

The second fall started where the first left off, with the rudos on top, as Valiente gets held in the ropes for Gran Guerrero to run down the aisle and leap over Euforia for a seated splash. Mistico took a baseball slide dropkick from the apron to the floor, which he sold like death, at least for a moment before returning to take down Euforia with a springboard rana as Euforia was stood on the back of Valiente.

A tope con hilo from Volador was followed up by a double-knee gutbuster from Valiente to Gran Guerrero for a pinfall, as Mistico forced a tap-out from Euforia from La Mistica as that tied things up at 1-1… to a LOT of boos and thumbs-down from the crowd.

The final-fall went back and forth, with Euforia dodging a handspring off the ropes from Volador, only to get kicked by Mistico. Volador tried for a Code Red on Ultimo Guerrero, but it was blocked as Mistico succeeded with a springboard rana. Another ‘rana took out Euforia, before a trio of topes were caught as the rudos powerbombed the champions on the floor.

Back inside, Ultimo Guerrero hit a slingshot seated splash on Volador in the corner, before Volador was hiptossed over the top rope and onto the entrance ramp. The rudos missed some dives, before Volador took Ultimo to the outside with a ‘rana, and we had our repeated technico dives, which this time were successful… even if Volador ended up in the front row!

A powerslam from Gran Guerrero gets a near-fall on Valiente, but he replies with an armdrag to Gran off the top rope. Volador takes a front superplex from Ultimo Guerrero for a near-fall, before a top rope ‘rana is countered into a powerbomb for another near-fall for the rudos. Eventually, Volador hit the top rope rana, but only got a two count as it was broken up, before Euforia blasted him with a tiltawhirl backbreaker for another two-count.

Gran Guerrero took a spill to the floor from a turnbuckle bump, before a top rope moonsault from Valiente took him out of the picture. Volador dropped Ultimo Guerrero with a superkick, before a back cracker got the pin – and ensured that the titles stayed with the Sky Team! As a match, it felt sloppy at times, but as seems to be the pattern, the best stuff was saved for the final fall. Personally, I wouldn’t rate this as high as others have, but it was probably the best trios match on the card ***¾

Mask vs. Mask: Dragon Lee vs. La Mascara
Lee was accompanied by his brother, Rush, for this match, whilst Mascara was seconded by his former tag team partner, Shocker.

Mascara took the offence to Dragon Lee in the early going, stomping away on him in the corner before whipping off his pleather trousers a la Cesaro. Rush immediately tried to interfere as Mascara went for a cover, but Dragon Lee managed to take advantage of the distraction by hitting a bridging German suplex to quickly win the first fall.

The second fall started with Mascara trying to rip off Dragon Lee’s mask, before he chopped away on the apron and followed up with a slow-motion death valley driver onto the apron. After getting crotched on the crowd barrier, Dragon Lee was worked over in the ring, but he made a comeback and took out Mascara with a tope con hilo. Rush again tried to interfere, and this time he leapt up to the apron and swept out Mascara’s legs in the corner, which set up for Dragon Lee to hit a double stomp… but it was for nought as the referee disqualified Dragon Lee for the interference.

That tied it up at 1-1, and led to Rush being ejected from ringside, and the third fall started with the pair trading slaps and chops. Dragon Lee ate a superkick in the corner, before he took a powerbomb onto the apron as he went for the inside-out ‘rana that Mascara Dorado pulled off earlier. That looked like it sucked…

A Jackhammer got Mascara a really slow two count from the referee, before Dragon Lee got some boos for a comeback that saw a deadlift Regalplex get him a near-fall. More ultra-slow near-falls followed – which I really am not a fan of, as they serve to do the opposite of creating drama (seriously, why would a pinfall be done at a slower speed because it’s a “crucial” fall? Surely all falls are crucial?)

Dragon Lee took out Mascara with a suicide dive, but couldn’t capitalise as a reversed sunset flip led to him taking a superkick to the head for a slow two count. The pair traded German suplexes, then simultaneous bicycle kicks staggered them both, before Dragon Lee caught an armbar that forced Mascara to fight for a rope break.

Mascara made a comeback that saw him set up for and get a Muscle Buster out of the corner for… yeah, a slow two-count. A Gory special followed, but Dragon Lee rolled up and tried for a Victory roll, only for Mascara to counter that with a Romero special, which oh-so-nearly ended up as a double-pin.

Dragon Lee finally hit that inside-out flying ‘rana, before taking Mascara back in for a double-stomp out of the corner. A second double stomp followed, but Mascara got his hand on the rope at the last second to stop the count. Another roll-up got Dragon Lee a near-fall, before a Rush made his way back out and caused a distraction.

Mascara took advantage of it by fouling Dragon Lee, and clotheslining him, but Dragon was able to kick out after the low blow. A powerbomb got Mascara a near-fall, before Shocker tried to interfere… and he too got ejected. In the middle of all that, Dragon Lee was caught in a pendulum hold, but the referee missed the submission – causing an angry Mascara to argue with the referee, and get rolled up for another two-count. The end came when Dragon Lee countered a superplex and reversed it into a Phoenix Plex (bridging package fallway powerbomb) to claim the win. In all, a good main event, even if it was hurt by the lack of build – typically the Aniversario mask vs. mask matches are between two major stars, and whilst Dragon Lee is on the rise, this did not feel like a main event for this level. ***¾

After the match, the unmasking ceremony showed us that La Mascara was named as Felipe de Jesús Alvarado Mendoza, a 16 year veteran.

As a show, this was certainly different. For a newcomer to lucha, there was plenty that I either didn’t like, or struggled to adapt to. The “captain’s fall” rule, for one, was initially confusing until I figured it out, whilst the production was also jarring, with multiple cuts to cameras that’d zoom into the ring from a long distance. Add in videos being shown through Pirate-o-Vision (rather than just splicing it in to the live feed), and you had a product that looked shiny, but with some very rough edges.

Could I get used to it? Given time, sure; however, the layout of these matches – some of which felt like exhibitions of moves rather than a meaningful combat – left a lot to be desired. Sure, it’s a different style, but that doesn’t mean that things like selling and psychology should always be eschewed in the name of doing flips!