Revolution of Wrestling: The Mexican Wrestling Wars

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Revolution of Wrestling: The Mexican Wrestling Wars

Preface: This piece is not only my tribute to one of the greatest wars in the history of professional wrestling, but is also my newest "Spotlighting the Indies" article. Hey, might as well kill two birds with one stone, right? Either way, sit back, relax, and enjoy this journey, because it is one bumpy ride!

 

The wrestling world has been the stage for some of the greatest wars in sports entertainment history.

The Monday Night Wars, Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. the McMahons, The Montreal Screwjob, and, to a lesser extent, the budding competition between WWE and TNA.

However, in one wrestling world, the war for honor and prestige has led to blood being shed, convictions being laid down, and even murders being committed.

That, is the wrestling war in Mexico, namely between AAA (Asistencia Asesoria y Administracion) and CMLL (Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre.)

A true rivalry that has been flourishing for the best part of almost two decades, since the birth of AAA in 1992, from what many considered the inevitable death of Mexican wrestling.

How wrong they were.

If anything, wrestling in Mexico is more alive than in any other country on Earth, due to the soap opera drama that both of these companies exude in their feud for the top.

 

In the beginning...

Established in 1933, CMLL is the world's oldest wrestling promotion still in active operation. This was where the birth of traditional Mexican wrestling, or lucha libre as it is more commonly known, took place.

Set up by "The Father of Lucha Libre" Salvador Lutteroth Gonzales, under the banner of EMLL (Empresa Mexicana de la Lucha Libre), it quickly became the most sought-after sport in all parts of Mexico.

It was within the first few years of existence that the standard rules and traditions for Mexican wrestling were created and enforced, many still to this day.

Staples such as the exclusive "Luchas de Apuestas" bouts (wager matches, traditionally in the format of either a wrestler's mask or hair being at stake for the loser of the match) were originally fought in a Mexican ring.

Now, they are fought worldwide, a recent example of this being a "mask vs. title" match between Rey Mysterio and Chris Jericho.

Thus, is the influence of lucha libre today.

Mexican wrestling's first-ever mainstream star came in 1942, with the emergence of a performer simply known as El Santo (The Saint).

Since his inception, fans became intrigued by the mystique and secrecy surrounding Santo's mask, personality and life, ultimately propelling him to the level of being Mexico's most famous ever luchador, becoming a cultural symbol and hero to many.

With many people becoming aware of what impact lucha libre had in their lives, the demand to see the action sky-rocketed, leading to EMLL becoming the largest sports company in Mexico, regularly featuring in mainstream publications and exposure for its performers.

This trend continued for many decades, spawning many of wrestling's most prestigious families and competitors, including the likes of the Guerrero dynasty, most notably Gory Guerrero, who is credited with creating many of the moves we see today, such as the Camel Clutch and Powerbomb.

Over time, Mexico City became known as the ultimate ground for luchadors, with the feeling being that if a wrestler ever had the opportunity to compete at the Mexico City Arena, then they were considered to be top of their game.

Since it's birth, EMLL and lucha libre were at the forefront of Mexican sport, gaining the title of being the country's national sport during the 1960's, an honor it still retains today.

However though, as is said throughout history, "Competition elicits the best from it's victim." In the 1970's, EMLL finally met it's first form of competition.

 

The forerunner to the wars...

In the early 1970's, Lutteroth stepped down from the running of EMLL, giving charge of his creation to his son, Chavo. This almost proved a fatal mistake for EMLL.

Chavo had a reputation of straying away from the traditional roots of ucha libre and venturing into the more Americanised style of wrestling which had begun to gain popularity in the United States.

As such, many of the companies' top officials pulled from the promotion, setting up the now defunct UWA (Universal Wrestling Association) in nearby Naucalpan in 1975.

Over the next 15 years, EMLL was faced with not only competition from UWA, but were also threatened by the expansion of WWF into the Latin countries, which led to many of its top talents jumping ship to one of the two promotions, diminishing the roster to the point where EMLL almost had to cease production.

In an attempt to stay afloat, EMLL first joined the NWA constituency in a bid to gain popularity and financial backing.

However, arguments over the direction of the company led to EMLL pulling out of the deal in the early 1980's.

It was also around this time that the promotion changed its name from EMLL to CMLL, in an attempt to sound more international, and therefore appeal to foreign markets.

This proved to be the turning point in the fortunes of CMLL, in more ways than one.

In the late 80's/early 90's, CMLL was picked up by Televisa, the largest media company in the Latin countries.

This led to the first modern "boom period" for Mexican wrestling, as thousands of people were able to access the sport without the need to travel to the arena or read the specialist lucha libre magazines.

This new found exposure helped to draw many of CMLL's original talent back to the promotion, emptying UWA to the point of financial collapse and subsequent folding.

However, with the death of one competition comes the birth of another. This time, it spawned from an act of betrayal inside the major workings of CMLL, leading to the start of the current wars.

 

CMLL vs. AAA... 

The man responsible for the creation of AAA was Antonio Pena, the longtime booker for CMLL.

He hated the fact that CMLL had barely changed over the decades, feeling that its lack of modernisation would be its downfall. In 1992, Pena broke off from CMLL to create AAA, taking a large percentage of CMLL's younger talent with him.

AAA was almost the exact polar opposite to CMLL, focusing more on gimmick matches and expansion into the USA by building working relations with WWF, TNA and more recently, Pro Wrestling NOAH and Ring of Honor.

During the first two years of existence, AAA quickly toppled CMLL in terms of ratings and talent, allowing them to take the top spot in the Mexican wrestling world.

This was down to not only newer, more exciting match types, but also to the signings of future stars, such as Rey Mysterio, El Canek, Psicosis, and the Casas brothers.

This influx of new, young talent left CMLL's future looking bleak, as their roster of more experienced, older performers were seen as less desirable to watch.

AAA' popularity peaked in 1994, when it was given the opportunity to co-produce the "When World's Collide" PPV with WCW, allowing them to reach an international market larger than normal.

After this however, AAA took a turn for the worse.

Less than two months after the PPV, one of its top stars, Art Barr, died on a visit to his family, forcing AAA to vacate the Tag Team titles of which he was one half holder.

This in turn led to the departure of his stable "Los Gringos Locos" (Eddie Guerrero and Madonna's boyfriend), El Hijo del Santo and Blue Panther, among others, who set sail for promotions such as CMLL, WCW, and WWF.

In this downturn, CMLL took the opportunity to take back control of the Mexican wrestling scene, most notably with the now famous El Hijo del Santo vs. Negro Casas feud, which many feel is one of the greatest rivalries in Mexican wrestling history.

By utilising a former AAA talent in their plans for glory, CMLL began to be targeted by jealous performers from AAA, who believed that the feud was a direct hit at them during their weakest moments.

This led to gangland style warfare between the two companies, who'd regularly send wrestlers to the arenas where the other was competing in order to start riots and attack their former co-workers.

In one of the most brutal attacks, AAA wrestlers invaded the Mexico City Arena where CMLL was hosting and viciously assaulted a large number of the promotion's wrestlers and fans.

This continued for almost two days, leading to the arrests of nearly 40 people, as well as the deaths of two wrestlers and three fans who had been severely injured in the riots.

This was Mexican wrestling's darkest period.

For the next few months, both promotions were taken off of television and reduced to working out of car parks in order to make ends meet.

However, with the support of fans who wanted to see lucha libre featured, both promotions were given back their airtime and financial backing. 

This led to a more respectable feud between AAA and CMLL, who have since both swapped places many times at the top of the Mexican wrestling chain.

 

AAA and CMLL today...

Today, both companies have been recognised throughout Mexico and other Spanish-speaking countries as being the premier promotions for lucha libre style wrestling.

They have also been able to put aside differences on multiple occasions to tour in America and team up, most commonly as Team Mexico in the TNA World X cup.

CMLL is still seen as the more traditional of the two promotions, featuring pure wrestling feuds and the original wager matches, still used regularly to determine the outcome of title bouts.

This was last used of this purpose on March 20, 2009, when Ultimo Guerrero successfully defended his Heavyweight title against Villano V, forcing the veteran to be unmasked, as per Lucha Libre tradition.

AAA is noted as being the more successful promotion in terms of business, despite the fact that they consistently pull less fans than CMLL.

This is due to the fact that they've been able to showcase their talent abroad in Ring of Honor and Pro Wrestling NOAH, allowing them to gain interest in international markets and pick up television deals in USA, UK, Canada, and more.

Many wrestlers still jump ship between companies, but this is no longer looked upon unfavourably, as it usually allows the opposing promotion to gain more exposure from their talent being featured in more than one show a week.

This has led to many spectacular cross-promotional rivalries, including Hector Garza (CMLL) vs. Argenis (AAA) from recent months.

With such respect between the companies now, it's hard for people to believe that these promotions held such animosity for each other that they were willing to destroy the opposite promotion over ratings and glory.

However, though, it is commonly said that "Good enemies make better friends."

Is that the case here, or is this just two sets of people realising that the most important thing in wrestling is entertaining the fans, showcasing their talent and generally putting on a memorable show?

I personally believe yes, because two separate forces pushing for the same thing tend to repel, in the same way two magnets do if pushed towards each other.

By working against each other in a constructive way, they've been able to improve themselves more than a feud could.

Surely, that is a positive in a world of negativity?

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