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2000 Year in Review - Mexico


By JOHN F. MOLINARO -- SLAM! Wrestling

The year 2000 won't soon be forgotten by long time followers of Mexican wrestling.

So many historic developments took place that the landscape and future of Lucha Libre will be forever changed. EMLL and AAA actually worked together for a brief period of time. Grupo Revolucion emerged as a prominent third national promotion. And just as the year drew to a close, Mexico lost one of the founding fathers and pioneers of Lucha Libre.

Below are the top ten news stories that occurred this past year in Mexico, with details on why each story was so important and analysis on its influence on the future of Lucha Libre.

1) EMLL RUNS PPVS

MASANORI SAITO On March 17, 2000 EMLL (Empressa Mexicana de la Lucha Libre) presented its first ever pay-per-view before 20, 000 fans at Mexico City's Arena Mexico. And with that, the future of wrestling in Mexico was forever changed.

Pay-per-view in Mexico adds another valuable revenue stream that companies can draw upon. Previously, the main sources of revenue for Mexican promotions were ticket sales to live events, merchandise and revenue from TV ads. Pay-per-view equals the playing field in terms of revenue streams for Mexican offices with their American counterparts.

Although EMLL's first three pay-per-views were only available in Mexico, the company has started to look at signing a deal with a cable operator that would bring their shows to American pay-per-view. If a deal were to be signed, it would not only add increase revenues, but also introduce EMLL's product to a much larger viewing audience.

Not to be outdone, AAA has looked into the possibility of running pay-per-view events in 2001 in order to close the pay-per-view gap between the two promotions. This could only fuel the flames of the bitter promotional war between the two groups.

Pay-per-view will also make Mexican promotions change the way they do business, forcing them to think and book long term as opposed to the seat-of-the-pants method currently used. It will also be interesting to see if loyal Mexican fans, so used to watching the big matches on free TV, will want to pay to watch wrestling. Only time will tell.

2) EMLL AND AAA RUN JOINT SHOW

On June 17, 2000 the impossible happened: AAA and EMLL, the two top promotions in Mexico, presented a joint card at the Plaza del Toros bullring in Mexico City. The significance: it marked the first time the two bitter rivals have worked together in history.

This would be the equivalent of the WWF and WCW putting on a joint pay-per-view event. In 1992, then EMLL-booker Antonio Pena left the promotion to form AAA taking most of EMLL's roster with him in a move very similar to Mitsuharu Misawa's split with All Japan this past year. A bitter promotional war has been waged between AAA and EMLL ever since.

This show came about at the insistence of Televisa, the network that owns AAA and broadcasts both EMLL and AAA. For years they had tried to broker a deal to get the two groups to promote a show together. After years of hostility, the unthinkable happened.

What was amazing about this hisotirc event is that the card not only featured matches with AAA wrestlers facing EMLL wrestlers, but also wrestlers from both groups teaming up together. Perhaps what was even more amazing, and perhaps a sign of how Mexican promoters are not as astute as their American counterparts, the show was not put on pay-per-view and fans were not charged for admission.

Due to several backstage fights and politicing between Antoino Pena annd EMLL owner Paco Alsono, both promotions failed to follow up on any momentum this show created and didn't work together again.

3) DEATH OF BLUE DEMON

MASANORI SAITO On December 16th, Blue Demon died of a heart attack. With the possible exception of El Santo and Mil Mascaras, Blue Demon was the most famous wrestler in the history of Mexican wrestling.

Debuting in 1948, Blue Demon's best years were from 1953 to 1958 when he held the NWA World Welterweight title. In one of the most famous matches in Mexican history, Blue Demon defeated his real life rival El Santo on July 25, 1953.

Like Santo, Blue Demon was a cultural icon in Mexico, appearing in many low budget 'B movies'.

Demon and Santo had a real life animosity towards each other. Demon always resented the fact that although he was hardly an acomplished wrestler, it was Santo who was a nationally revered hero. The Santo vs. Demon feud was so big in Mexico that it became the subject of "Los Luchadores", a popular song that was recorded at the time and still played to this day.

His trademark blue and white mask is one of the most revered symbols in all of Lucha LIbre. Demon made his name with his accomplished mat skills, unlike the aerial maneuvers of counterparts such as Mil Mascaras and El Santo.

Adhering to wrestling tradition in Mexico, Blue Demon was buried in his casket with his mask on. His death signals the end of one of the most storied careers in Lucha Libre history.

4) VILLANO 3 LOSES HIS MASK

MASANORI SAITO At EMLL's first pay-per-view on March 17th, the legendary Villano III lost a mask vs. mask match to Atlantis in one of the most historic and memorable matches in Mexican wrestling history.

Villano III, real name Arturo Diaz Mendoza, became the first member of the legendary Mendoza family (his four brothers also wrestled under masks using the Villano gimmick), to lose his mask. Son of Rey Mendoza, one of the big stars and pioneers of Lucha Libre in the 60s and 70s, Villano III easily ranks as one of the tops stars ever to come out of Mexico.

An overflow crowd of 20 000 fans at Mexico City's Arena Mexico saw a match that exhibited textbook psycology, excellent storytelling, great scientific work and incredible heat. The match garnered so much emotion that by the time Villano III's son came into the ring after the match to help unmask him, ringside fans were reduced to tears!

The match is also proof that unlike in American wrestling, match stipulations still mean something in Mexico. This match drew the crowd, coverage and excitement it did because fans believed the legitimacy of the match stipulation and that promoters would deliver on their promise that one the two biggest stars in Mexico would be unmasked. A far cry from WCW and WWF where stipulation matches have lost all meaning due to the promoters not following through.

The 26-minute encounter earned rave reviews from hardcore fans around the world, winning 'Match of the Year' honours for 2000 from the readers of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter. The match garnered national media attention as Ovaciones, Mexico's biggest daily sports newspaper, covered the match on its front page.

5) PERRO AGUAYO RETURNS TO EMLL

MASANORI SAITO Much like Genichiro Tenryu's return to All Japan, another prodigal son made his return to his old stomping grounds in Mexico. After an eight-year absence, Mexican legend Perro Aguayo left AAA and returned to EMLL on February 25th.

Having carved out his reputation as a brawler and an incredible 'bleeder', Aguayo is considered one of the top stars ever to come out of Mexico. Having wrestled extensively in Japan in the early part of is career, he is Mexico's answer to Terry Funk for his unique ability to absorb punishment and, as some stay, to keep wrestling long past his prime.

Aguayo left EMLL on terse terms back in 1992. He was part of the mass exodus of talent that left the promotion with booker Antonio Pena and Konnan to form the AAA promotion. The two warring promotions engaged in a bitter promotional war that made the WWF-WCW wars look like a Sunday church social.

For long-time Lucha fans, Aguayo's return to EMLL meant nostalgic match ups against old opponents he faced during EMLL's glory days in the early 90s. Aguayo was booked in major programs and slotted into the main event on several of EMLL's biggest shows of the year, including in the main events of EMLL's August and December pay-per-views. In one of the biggest stipulation matches of the year in Mexico, Aguayo defeated old nemesis Cien Caras in a hair vs. hair match at EMLL's December pay-per-view.

Despite this historic return, Aguayo meant very little at the box office. His first matches back with EMLL in March failed to raise attendance figures for EMLL. Still, the pure nostalgia of seeing Aguayo back in EMLL was one of the major stories in Mexico this year. His return to EMLL sis even more amazing when you consider Aguayo's son, Perro Aguayo Jr. remains wrestling for AAA.

6) PERRO AGUAYO STILL NOT RETIRED

With Perro Aguayo's departure from AAA and subsequent return to EMLL came a great deal of controversy.

Aguayo, who's in his fifties, has openly talked about retiring since 1994. Last year, Aguayo told several Mexican media outlets that 2000 was going to be his last year and that he wanted to wrestle his last match at Mexico City's famous Arena Mexico. The only problem with that is Arena Mexico is the home base of EMLL, AAA's bitter promotional rival.

Somehow, Aguayo managed to get his release from AAA and returned to EMLL so that he could wrestle his retirement match in September as he promised. It's now 2001 and there's no signs that Aguayo is going to retire anytime soon.

Aguayo is clearly past his prime. Old age has quickly caught up to him. He's no longer the worker he once was and yet, despite several promises to retire over the years, he continues to wrestle and further damage his legend.

Aguayo's presence in EMLL has also caused a major problem for EMLL. Aguayo has occupied a top spot on the roster and in main event matches since returning in March. As a result, more deserving young talent such Rencor Latino, Ricky Marvin and Ultimo Guerrero have been denied the chance to enter the upper echelon of EMLL's roster. Young talent is being held back and isn't being developed properly because of Aguayo's presence in the main events. EMLL is hurting their future by allowing their young talent to sit on the sidelines while aging veterans who have little to contribute like Aguayo occupy the top spots on the roster.

Will Aguayo finally retire in 2001? Will EMLL quit damaging their future for short-term success? It's doubtful. Most long-time Mexican fans believe Aguayo will be around for a couple more years. More's the pity.

For more on Aguayo, please see the following stories:

Editorial: Retirement looms for Perro Aguayo

7) AAA RUNS TRIPLEMANIA IN JAPAN

MASANORI SAITO For the first time in its eight-year history, AAA's 'TripleMania' series headed to Japan, embarking on a five-city tour in July.

Considered the WrestleMania of Mexico, AAA's sojourn to the 'land of the rising sun' marked only the second time that a TripleMania was staged outside Mexico (in 1996 a TripleMania event took place in Chicago).

Sadly, AAA's attempt to bring Lucha Libre to Japan was a huge bust. Despite a well-received opening night of the tour before 1700 fans at Tokyo's Korakuen Hall, the rest of the tour failed miserably, drawing small, uninterested crowds: 459 fans showed up at Nagoya's Diamond Hall; 507 fans attended the fourth night of the tour at Kobe's Sambo Hall while shows in Yokohama and Osaka failed to do much better.

Despite AAA's attempts to bring in top Japanese stars to round out the roster for the tour, (Jushin "Thunder" Liger, the Great Sasuke, CIMA, the Dragon Kid all worked the tour), Japanese fans seemed uninterested in AAA's brand of Lucha Libre.

AAA's failed attempt at running successful shows in Japan hurt the promotion badly. The Mexican promotion was hoping to run more shows in foreign markets that they thought were starved or Lucha Libre. With more and more competition back home in Mexico from EMLL and other groups, AAA was counting on establishing themselves in Japan. Talks about running tours of Japan in 2001 by president Antonio Pena were quickly quelled after the TripleMania disaster.

8) THE RISE OF GRUPO REVOLUCION

MASANORI SAITO Promoter Adolfo Moreno's group based out of Naucalpan became a strong, third national promotion this past year. Whereas AAA presented a more brawling brand of wrestling and EMLL run a more conservative product, Grupo Revolucion set Mexico on fire with its trailblazing style of aerial wrestling.

While EMLL and AAA kept pushing aging veterans, Grupo Revolucion's strength was in their youthful roster. Stars like Dr. Cerebro, Mike Segura, Bombero Infernal, Black Dragon, the trio team of Oficial, Vigilante, & Guardian and a host of other young talent received major pushes and provided a breath of fresh air for Lucha fans who grew tired of the same old product offered by EMLL and AAA.

Major stars like El Hijo del Santo, Silver King, Dr. Wagner Jr, El Felino and others routinely appeared on IWRG shows, giving them more star power. Grupo Revolucion also maintained its working relationship with Ultimo Dragon's Toryumon promotion in Japan as stars from both offices appeared on each other's shows.

Tapes of their weekly two-hour show on ESPN 2 became hot items among the network of tape traders around the world. Even though they did not have the same economic resources as EMLL and AAA, Grupo Revolucion was clearly the best promotion in Mexico this past year in terms of quality wrestling.

9) MAJOR UNMASKINGS/HAIR MATCHES

The year 2000 will be remembered for the incredible amount of mask vs. mask, hair vs. hair and mask vs. hair matches that took place. The reason why so many took place: because Mexican promoters follow through on match stipulations, unlike their American counterparts, and deliver what they promise to the fans. As a result, matches with hair or mask stipulations remain strong gate attractions and an integral part of Lucha Libre.

So many matches took place this past year that resulted in some truly historic unmaskings. Villano III became the first member of the legendary Mendoza wrestling family to lose his mask when he lost a classic encounter to Atlantis on EMLL's first pay-per-view back in March. On August 25th, Fishman lost a mask vs. mask match to Mascara Sagrada, revealing himself as 50-year old Jose Naveja. A major star in the 70s, Fishman had been booked in countless programs over the past few years where the final blow off match called for him losing his mask. Every time, he walked out on the promotion. The fact that he finally agreed to drop his mask was one of the major shockers of 2000.

In one his first matches back with EMLL, Perro Aguayo defeated Bestia Salvaje in a hair vs. hair match in April. On EMLL's second pay-per-view in August Mascara Ano Dos Mil lost a four-way cage match and lost his hair. Older brother Cien Caras lost a hair vs. hair match to Perro Aguayo in the main event of EMLL's December pay-per-view show. Psicosis won two marquee hair vs. hair matches, first defeating mentor and trainer Rey Misterio Sr. in April and the younger brother Fobia in October.

Grupo Revolucion really got into the act, staging several stipulation matches where the likes of Super Mega, Rody Payaso, Cyborg Cop, Bombero Infernal losing their hair and masks

10) RAUL REYES PASSES AWAY

Raul Reyes was a former Mexican National Heavyweight champion and main event star in Mexico from the 1960s until his retirement in 1980. Following in the footsteps of Mil Mascaras and Rey Mednoza, Reyes was a major star in Gene LaBelle's Los Anegeles N.W.A. promotion in the 1970s where he received a major push, teaming with the likes of Mendoza and Victor Rivera and feuding with John Tolos and Ernie Ladd.

After retiring Reyes kept involed in wrestling, promoting small Indy shows in and around Mexico City where young, up and coming stars first cut their teeth in the wrestling business. Reyes was responsible for launching the careers of Octagon and La Parka, two of the biggest name stars in Mexico of the 1990s.

FULL 2000 YEAR-IN-REVIEW COVERAGE

2000: The Year-In-Review
2000 Year in Review - Japan
2000 Year in Review - Mexico
Top 10 stories in Japan of 2000
2000 Year-End Awards




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