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A Beginner’s Guide to CMLL

Poster for CMLL Super Viernes (Oct. 28, 2016) CMLL

Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre (CMLL henceforth) is the oldest active wrestling promotion in the world, having run its first show way back in September of 1933. And fortunately for all of us, they’re one of the most easily accessible international wrestling promotions in today’s increasingly more connected world of pro wrestling— and best of all, most of their content is available for free.

So, if you’d like to have a little more lucha libre in your life, friends, read on!

The Rules

Hewing to lucha tradition, the majority of CMLL matches are contested to the best of three falls. One significant exception is the match relámpago, or lightning match, which is a singles match contested to one fall with a ten-minute time limit, and generally used as a means of getting a grudge match onto the card or setting up a title match. The other big exception is tournament matches, but more on that later.

Furthermore, most of those 23 falls matches are trios matches, with a caveat— each team has a captain and in order to win the fall, either the captain must be pinned or submitted, or both of the other members have to take separate falls. And, like you’d expect, CMLL tags follow the rule commonly referred to by US promotions as “lucha tags”, which is to say that leaving the ring count as a valid tag and one of your partners can enter the match in your stead.

As well, removal of a masked opponent’s mask is grounds for a disqualification, as is use of the banned martinete, likely more well known to you as a tombstone piledriver.

The Titles

There are a lot of championships in CMLL. Eighteen major titles, in fact. How do they manage to handle so many titles? Well... they don’t, not really. Titles can go a long time without a defense and even longer without a change— twelve titles have currently been held for over a year, and two of those (Dragón Rojo, Jr.’s CMLL World Middleweight Championship and Eléctrico’s Mexican National Lightweight championship) have crossed the thousand day mark.

On the positive side, this means the usual pro wrestling hierarchy where there’s one big title and each other title is worth successively less doesn’t exist in CMLL. On the negative, well, none of them mean very much at all.

The Roster huge. Take a look at it for yourself, there are easily over a hundred guys on there, and that’s not even counting the women or the minis. I’ve been watching for nearly a year now and there are still people I’ve never seen wrestle on a Friday night! Trying to run it down in any meaningful way would either be a fool’s errand or a huge project, so here’s what we’re going to do instead— I’m going to go down tonight’s card and provide a quick overview of each match and shout out some of my favorites and people to look out for as well as some general thoughts about the usual structure of the card.

The Card

Apocalipsis & Metálico vs. Bengala & Flyer

The opening tag is usually the only one on the card to feature just four wrestlers, unless there’s a tag title match to be had, and it almost always features features minis or, as in tonight’s case, undercard guys. Unfortunately, they tend to go overlong, sometimes up to a full half hour, and while they rarely outright suck, they’re easily skipped. Do note that this is a different Bengala than the one you might be familiar with from Lucha Underground, of course.

Disturbio, Okumura, & Virus vs. Oro, Jr., Pegasso, & Soberano

Things start to ramp up in the second match, though. Tonight’s features Virus, one of my personal favorite dudes on the roster. He’s been wrestling literally since my first birthday, and showcases the technical mat grappling side of lucha libre better than anybody. Age in CMLL is just a number for the most part, as you’ll see if you tune in for a few weeks and catch dudes like Atlantis, Negro Casas, and Blue Panther tearing it up in their 50s.

Amapola, Dalys, & Metálica vs. Estrellita, Marcela, & Sanely

CMLL have a fairly strong women’s division, and as you see here, they usually get the second or third match of the night unless someone has a title shot or a lightning match lined up. It’s a shame Zeuxis isn’t wrestling tonight, because she’s easily the most exciting woman they have, but this crew should deliver fairly well all the same.

Carístico, Dragon Lee, & Místico vs. Los Hijos del Infierno (Ephesto, Luciferno, & Mephisto)

Caristico here is the original Sin Cara, and CMLL’s original Mistico, teaming with the current Mistico, who was the original Dragon Lee, as well as the current Dragon Lee. Lucha libre is never confusing, I assure you. Anyway, that trio of explosive high flyers, each more of a madman than the last, is up against a trio of demons from hell in what should be a really fun match. Dragon Lee in particular is a guy to look out for, he’s only 21 but he’s already excellent, and his series of matches against Kamaitachi are must-see.

Los Guerreros Laguneros (Euforia, Niebla Roja, & Último Guerrero) vs. Los Ingobernables (La Máscara, Pierroth, & Rush)

Here’s your fireworks for the evening, folks. Second from the top is usually a really hot match and this is no different. Los Guerreros Laguneros are deeply beloved by Arena Mexico, and Los Ingobernables, especially Rush, are hated to the point of drinks being thrown at them. It should be rowdy as hell. Plus Último is one of my favorite dudes in the company, being everyone’s doughy hoss uncle that tosses dudes around and is still doing the “raise the roof” hand sign in 2016.

El Valiente vs. Volador, Jr. (CMLL Universal Championship 2016 Tournament Finals)

So, a word about CMLL tournaments. They like to get in and out with great speed, and as a result, usually they take place over three weeks. Weeks one and two feature battle royals to determine the seeding for one half of the bracket, and then all the matches up to and including the semi-finals take place in short order. Generally speaking, none of the matches except those semis take more than five minutes as a result, which is kind of a bummer, but since most matches are to the best of three and the first happens quickly, there’s a certain internal logic to it.

Also note that the Universal Championship they’re fighting for here is a yearly tournament title, not that there’s a huge difference as far as CMLL goes. As far as the two men involved in this one, don’t blink, because you’ll miss some kind of crazy dive for sure. But maybe try not to look too closely at Valiente’s trunks, they’re tiny and something’s going to go wrong one of these days.

How to Watch

Super Viernes, CMLL’s flagship show, airs free on the Claro Sports website most Friday nights at 9:30 Eastern, the main exceptions being the windows when US and Mexican Daylight Savings Time doesn’t match up, and occasionally the Friday night show becomes an iPPV or, recently, a day-after VOD purchase on CMLL’s YouTube channel.

Speaking of CMLL’s YouTube channel, you can also check out their Monday and Tuesday night shows on there, live or after the fact, and those are all free as well.

Hopefully this guide gives you at least enough to be able to dip your toe in, Cagesiders, so boot that bad boy up and come join us in the Daily tonight to watch the show!

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