Over the last couple of months, there’s been one very evident change in CMLL’s matches. It’s nothing that’s been formerly announced, and there doesn’t appear to be a specific moment where the change took place, but it’s something the luchadors have clearly been instructed about, and have fallen in line with over the course of this spring. It’s a stylistic change casual fans probably do not notice, but is evident if you compare a match from June to January.

CMLL is now enforcing ten counts on tags. If luchadors aren’t out of the ring at the count of ten, their team is disqualified and the fall is over. That disqualification has only been used twice [1] to my knowledge so far, in the first fall of the 05/14 DF vs Pegasso match in Arena Puebla. The announcers didn’t know why Tirantes called the DQ was called [2], but Tirantes was very obviously speed counting to 10, just as he’d do for count out of the ring finish is done for count out finishes.

The same occurred on 05/27 in Arena Coliseo, in the second fall of the Avernos vs Panther/Shocker/Porky match. That time, the referee yelled out each number to make it clear, though still no one had any idea what was going on (and the luchadors sold confusion.)

This is not really about another potential DQ finish [3], it’s about how it’s changed the flow off all the other matches. Gone are the days of three rudos lingering in the ring, yelling at the crowd and waiting for a tecnico to roll in for a kick. It’s now one rudo does a couple of moves, tag [5] to the next rudo, that guy does some moves, and maybe every one does a corner charge bit quick, but they’re not hanging around after.

CMLL is only using this rule as a DQ very sparingly, but the luchadors are reacting as though they’re risking significant trouble by breaking it. That means there’s something going on beyond what we’re seeing in the ring – verbal warnings, fines, a strong argument for doing things this way now – that’s keeping everyone in line. Luchadors are independent free-thinker types who do not all share the same opinion on how to have a good match. Any uniform change by all, young or experienced, stick out as something very atypical.

Enforcing the ten count fundamentally changes the basic story of a lucha libre match. The idea has always been that tecnicos are generally better than the rudos at wrestling technique than the rudos, and the rudos can only gain an advantage by cheating. In CMLL trios, the rudos have cheated by ignoring the tag rules and using a numerical advantage. Averno can’t stop Mistico one on one, but if Mephisto and Ephesto are also in the ring helping him out, at least one will be able to get in a shot from behind, and Mistico will need some sort of miracle comeback (or rudo laziness) to defeat them. Now, Mephisto and Ephesto are forced to stay on the apron and watch, but Averno still controls Mistico for a while because something needs to be done to set up the comeback. The rudo is now equally as talented as the tecnico, able to get the better of him one on one for a portion of the match, and does not necessarily need to cheat to do so. The story of the matches has changed.

There are ways of getting around the rule enforcement change. The TRT guys, Terrible especially, have been doing a great job of having one guy sneak in the ring from behind to get a cheap shot, allowing their partner to start with an unfair advantage. Others are adapting by doing their old bits, but just standing legally on the apron while doing them. The Tuareg grab their opponents legs near the corner to set up Skandalo’s low blow corner dropkick, and sometimes just drag tecnicos over to their corner so everyone within arms reach can get in a shot. The rule itself seems to be downplayed when it’s time to do the comeback spot itself. Many of the typical bits (like “everyone does a move to everyone else) are based on all the rudos being in the ring to start the sequence, and they’ve not gone anywhere. The chaotic multiple dive finishes aren’t going anywhere either. That still leaves the bulk of the rudo segments where they’re no long winning because they’re cheating, but because it’s just their time to win.

Limiting matches to mostly one on one brings CMLL makes visually closer to those elsewhere in the world. It also helps the credibility of the referees. They’re no longer stuck standing in the background, asking two guys to leave while being completely ignored. They now look more in control of the match rather than unwilling passengers. They are not getting rid of the comeback spot; AAA’s attempts to do hot tag psychology rarely seemed to be understood by the fans, and what’s happening here is not so foreign as to confuse anyone about what’s going on.

It’s still an odd and random change to the structure of CMLL matches, with no obvious reason. I have not seen anyone else even mention it (and I realize it’s fairly likely this is something that’s only sticking out to me and seems no big deal to anyone else), so there can’t be many explanations for something no one’s even noted. I’ve come up with two theories, though nothing bunch hunches for either.

The first is that CMLL’s business is still down. It’s not horrific, though the Tuesday shows have recently been so empty that I’ve started to wonder if the Wrestling Observer might be actually over inflating the attendance for once. CMLL still believes this is a situation mostly out of their control, but surely wants to do something so they don’t feel totally without control. When you live in a smaller apartment than you’d like, sometimes you rearrange the furniture. Maybe moving the TV from one room to another doesn’t give you what you actually want, a bigger apartment, but it feels better for a while.

The second theory is because of another bit of furniture rearranging we know of. If Panico has been moved out of the lead programming position – his presence at the Warrior/Escorpion contract signing makes it at least a bit questionable, but that’s what we’ve heard – then it’s a new person leading the group, and every person has their own minor quirks about the product. If I was in charge, I’d have everyone wearing in captain armbands within three months. It may not make a whole lot of difference to the bottom line, but it’d fit my vision of what the product should be. Maybe the new guy in charge, or whoever has the conch shell at the moment, just decided their vision of the matches was a more serious product were the rules were enforced and four judges ripped Polvora on a weekly basis for his lackluster matches. I’ve heard of stranger things.

(1) – there was an odd DQ in the 04/20 women’s match which looked like “illegal hair pulling” – another thing that’s never been called! – but could’ve also been too long in the ring.

(2) – which is very odd, because if all the luchadors know, Miguel, Julio and Jesus are aware of it.

(3) – if it was, they would brought in the “going over the barricade is a DQ” rule from the UWA (4). Instead, every rudo’s new favorite game is trying to figure out a way to over sell something and go over it.

(4) – The UWA is the all time king of screwy finishes to get out of actual decisions. They were nearly dead, drawing 100 people in Arena Neza, and doing draw finishes in meaningless trios matches. The 1995 results are astounding in the same way the 1999 WCW results must be amazingly crazy if you weren’t emotionally invested in the promotion.

(5) – there’s a slightly enforcement change with tags too. They’ve been doing a lot of disallowed tag spots of late: the tecnico is an armbar, reaches for a tag, makes the tag, but the referee won’t let the new tecnico in and both he and the announcers are baffeled. The wrestlers now must have a hand on their corner to make a tag, and it can be strictly enforced.