CMLL International Gran Prix 2017 Review
I want to tread carefully with what I’m about to say. For all its flaws and Sexy Star/Jeff Jarrett controversies, last Saturday’s Triplemania was an unforgettable experience with an unforgettable main event. Flaws and all, I’ll remember it for an awfully long time. Having said that, last night’s CMLL Gran Prix show blew it out of the water like it was an outtake from Battleship. In every way, save two things, it was better. The match quality overall was a substantial improvement. The show, at a little over two hours, flew by, unlike Triplemania which seemed to take thirty years. The crowd heat throughout was better. For the love of Grodd, even the commentary was better, with CMLL’s usual team of announcer’s and ring announcers doing so well (even if you didn’t understand them) that Kevin Gill is right now preparing an angry slew of petty tweets trying to show he was in fact better. He wasn’t, not even close. The only arguable point you can make in Triplemania’s favor was that the main event of that show meant more than this one (it did), the main event was better than this one (maybe?) and Aerostar’s dive was more spectacular than anything on this show (I mean, he did jump from the lights, so yeah). But even then it can go either way, and it doesn’t take away the fact that, all things considered, the CMLL Gran Prix was a step up from Triplemania and proof that CMLL > AAA. And with that, let’s get into the why. Moses, you know what time it is!
Cuatrero, Máscara Año 2000, Sansón defeated Blue Panther, Blue Panther Jr., The Panther two falls to one
If there’s one thing this match made perfectly clear, it’s this; Forastero > Máscara Año 2000. And it’s not even close really. You could make the argument that Forastero is indeed the lesser of the three New Dinamitas, but even on his worst day he’s better than what Máscara 2000 brings to the table 100% of the time. I think some fans may have forgotten this fact going in and, when the match started off slower with less spots than expected, they were left disappointed despite the fact that there was no way Máscara 2000 was giving the same thing Forastero did. I’d say this will hopefully serve as a lesson to CMLL, but chances are Máscara 2000 will be back three weeks from now pinning Soberano Jr. in a semi-main while fling stuff from my window into the road.
Having said that, Máscara 2000’s involvement wasn’t enough to keep this match from being fun. That’s because all five other guys were excellent. You could argue Sansón and Cuatrero were held down to some extent by their uncle, but they still did a lot of the cool double and triple teams they usually do, as well as throwing some crazy springboard crossbody’s into the mix. Blue Panther was as reliable as ever, and looked to be having a great time throughout. The big stars though, and the reason I think some people are sleeping on this match, were Panther and Junior. Most fans I think thought the Dinamitas would be the standouts, but they took a backseat to Panther and Junior, who both looked great and ready to seize a moment in the spotlight, trying things they normally wouldn't. Like that double crossbody they did to the floor in the third fall; that’s a new wrinkle in the Panther attack and I thought it came off really well, especially when there was no guarantee Junior could do something like that (he’s yet to get the hops his brother has). Throw in Panther cruising the vistas on a dropkick that saw him travel across the ring and these two stole the show from everyone else. And they still lost anyway! Even with that and even with the Dinamitas not having the night they could’ve had with Forastero, this was still a really fun way to start off the show and a good match.
Amapola, Dalys, Zeuxis defeated Marcela, Princesa Sugehit, Silueta two to one
This was probably the best luchadoras trios match you’ll see in Arena Mexico all year and I’m not just saying that because the pickings are slim. This was an honest to Grodd good match, and it was because CMLL, surprisingly, balanced things out between the big feud and the other participants. Amapola, Dalys, Marcela and Silueta all got significant time to strut their stuff in between Sugehit and Zeuxis feuding and, while I did think Dalys was a little sloppy at times, I thought all four did a better than expected job. Marcela in particular looked geared up for the big show, moving better than usual and adding a few more moves in. But while those four were good, the story remained right where it should be; Zeuxis and Sugehit gunning for each other. Instead of brawling this week the two focused on tearing each other’s mask to shreds, forcing them to the back to get a new one before they squared off again. I must say this pleased me; last week’s brawl was great, but they couldn’t do that again without it getting old fast, so going with a new strategy (or at least one not focused as much) worked to keep things fresh and save the brawling for a more important time. And even without it they still did stuff, like Zeuxis’ awesome tope suicida that sent Sugehit into the first row. It was just the right amount to keep the feud hot and also not overshadow the rest of the match, so much so that the ending didn’t even involve Zeuxis or Sugehit (Dalys and Amapola ended up getting a double pin on Silueta and Marcela). What else is there to say; from a quality standpoint this match was really good, and from an angle standpoint I thought it was a complete success. Now if CMLL would just grow a pair and give Zeuxis and Sugehit the main even they so richly deserve.
Carístico, Mistico, Soberano Jr. defeated Cavernario, Felino, Negro Casas two falls to one
The only problem I had with this match was that it didn’t get five more minutes. Besides that this was bonkers good! You knew it would be; it featured six really good luchadors, it was a big show which meant everyone would try harder and with only four matches it was guaranteed to get time. Even still I think this turned out to better than expected, as these six went full throttle from the beginning and never let up. But while it’s almost unfair to pick a star (especially when all six did very well), I can’t help but feel Soberano was once again the guy who stood out. Not just cause he did the tornillo off the stage again, although that was awesome. There’s just an it factor about him that always stands out in these types of matches, other than the Rey Cometa bout. And it’s infectious with the other luchadors too; it’s no secret that Felino seemed to be at his best in many months when he was working (or more appropriately, basing) with Soberano, while Negro Casas and Soberano had strike sequences eerily similar to the ones Casas and Dragón Lee often have. And don’t doubt that Soberano’s energy, combined with the big show, gave a bit more oomph in Carístico and Mistico’s step, as all three guys were flying higher than they usually do (I’d throw Cavernario in there, but he always is going full throttle and sadly wasn’t given as much to do). Again, everyone deserves credit here but I think if you asked 100 people who watched this show, 99 would say Soberano made this match, which makes it all the more confusing that they instead gave Mistico (who still can’t catch a break with these big show crowds) the victory to seal the match. But that’s a minor quibble; overall this was a fantastic semi-main event and easily the second best match on the card. So what if it was a distant second…
International Gran Prix
Diamante Azul defeated Dragón Lee, Euforia, Mephisto, Rush, Último Guerrero, Valiente, Volador Jr., Johnny Idol, Juice Robinson, Kenny King, Kojima, Marco Corleone, Matt Taven, Michael Elgin, Sam Adonis
HO! LY! SHIT! Where to even begin with this match? I guess I’ll just give you the basics; there is no match I’ve watched live this year that was more fun than this and only a few matches in Mexico (Wagner-Psycho, Volador-UG, Carístico/Soberano –UG/Sansón, Volador-Cavernario and Volador/Cavernario-Valiente/UG) come close to being as great as this one was. It was awesome, it was everything I expected it to be and everything I wanted it to be. The crowd was fantastic; the pre match stuff was fantastic (how about the CMLL ring announcer owning Kevin Gill by announcing the Team World participants in English and NAILING EVERY NAME! Take notes KG), the post match was fantastic; there was literally nothing about this match that I didn’t like. Well except for the part where Matt Taven almost got “THE BAT IS BROKEN!” treatment, but otherwise I loved everything. Basically this match was every NFL quarterback ever and I was Jon Gruden commentating on Monday Night Football.
That said if you want a more detailed breakdown of what happened, here’s the things from the Gran Prix you absolutely need to know.
-We need Konnan and CMLL to agree to more joint deals immediately. Did you see how motivated Rush was tonight? That’s not a coincidence after this week.
-There was some controversy on a couple of three counts, but overall this match highlights why Edgar Noriega needs to referee every big match CMLL has from now on. No mugging for the camera, no trying to get himself over and no slow counts; just great refereeing through and through. He made Tirantes and the rest of the old guys look even worse with his performance in this match.
-In the course of this match, Matt Taven ate one of the scariest botches in the history of time when he over rotated on a top rope Devil’s Wings attempt, only to keep going, take a Dragón Lee hurricanrana off the apron and to the floor and then a Guerrero Special not too long after. If there’s a tougher man in Arena Mexico, I’d like to meet him.
-Sam Adonis is everything and he deserves to make Dr. Wagner Jr. money when the right luchador comes along and takes his hair.
-It’ll get lost in the shuffle, but Dragón Lee was arguably the best guy in this match, having killer sequences with everyone from Johnny Idol to Kenny King to Big Mike. There was some worry how Lee would fare in a match with guys significantly bigger; he proved more than capable.
-Speaking of Kenny King, can he come back soon? The guy looked like a natural in this match, despite having just arrived in Mexico on Thursday evening. Sure he worked a good portion of the bout with Dragón Lee, but he was excellent when Lee was nowhere to be found too. Come back soon Kenny!
-Satoshi Kojima didn’t have nearly the flash Kenny had, but he also adjusted far better than I expected him to be, nicely fitting his usual act in with the environment. The lesson as always; just because one guy has trouble adjusting initially (hi Juice!) doesn’t mean all will.
-The announcers finally got Juice’s name right! No more JOYCE JOYCE JOYCE…it was just Juice. Unreal. No wonder he did his best work tonight!
-Despite not doing as much as usual, big ups to Volador and Último Guerrero. I was expecting them to be the guys hogging the spotlight as the clock ran down and wouldn’t have opposed it at all; instead they allowed other guys to shine and conceded the finale to others. Bravo to them.
-In some circles the story of this match’s conclusion will be that CMLL made a mistake giving Diamante Azul the Gran Prix (spoiler; they didn’t. The dude was over the whole match, was used correctly the whole match, looked great…let the guy have his moment, alright?). The real thing we should be focusing on is how Michael Elgin has become one of the ten best workers in the world during this CMLL run. Every time I watched him work I walked away more and more impressed, and tonight was the crescendo. He was the superstar of this match, working with everyone and adapting to their style, doing what felt like every type of offensive attack in the book and never falling below the level of “holy fuck this guy is amazing.” To top it off, he made Diamante Azul look like a great talent, something that’s easier said than done (and I say this as a Diamante Azul fan). All this and now he's going to do it all over again tomorrow at PWG! Whatever way you want to slice it, Big Mike was unreal in this match and throughout his CMLL stay. If you came away thinking he wasn’t one of the best in the world, I don’t know what to tell you. I do know this; can we keep Big Mike in CMLL forever?! Name the price Big Mike; I know a guy who will pay the price.
There’s a lot more than what I just talked about, but you’re better off finding out and experiencing the rest for yourself. Whether you pay the $10 (or $20 if you get the Anniversary Show package) or find it on YouTube instead, WATCH THIS MATCH! It needs to be experienced and it needs to be seen. Maybe it won’t be your match of the year (though I do have it up there), but it’ll definitely be some of the most fun you have watching wrestling in 2017. An unbelievable experience and peak CMLL. Let’s do it again in two weeks!
That’s that sports fans. I now leave you to work on RCF columns in order to keep my editor from celebrating too much over Fenix beating Sami Callihan this past Thursday. Till we meet again, THIS!