live coverage reminder: I’m doing usual major show chat/live results bit for both H2L tonight and Rey de Reyes Sunday night. Tonight’s chat will start around the start of the show – 8:30pm Central Standard Time, 9:30pm Central Daylight Savings Time. Mask match probably won’t end until after 11pm local, which means early Saturday morning for most of you reading this. East Coast US readers are advised to take a nap.

Match by match…

1) Delta, Guerrero Maya Jr., Tritón vs Felino, Puma, Tiger
2) La Máscara, Máscara Dorada, Valiente vs Averno, Ephesto, Mephisto

Or not match by match, because these two can be easily passed by. They both would be have strong lineups; Felino and Epehsto both greatly vary in levels of performance but are usually motivated to work harder when with other people who want to work hard. They’re liable to be good matches while they last, but probably not last as long as we’d like – the top matches are going to run longer than usual, and they’ve got to fit the presentation of Rayo de Jalisco in here as well.

Triton is the one surprising inclusion on the card. Maybe it was designed to be Titan’s spot and he’s just not ready to come back yet, but CMLL generally seems higher on guys like Angel de Oro and Diamante, who are sitting this out. Puma & Tiger remain a fun team in their rare teamups, and Delta & Guerrero Maya Jr. are a set team who need their own name if they’re not going to be hanging out with Atlantis. The segunda reunites 5/6ths of the Hijos del Averno vs Generacion Dorada feud of 2011; if Sombra has to deal with other matters, Valiente is a pretty good fill in.

My pick is the tecnicos taking the opener to start the night on a positive note. Even though picking Averno to win a match with La Mascara is a risky thing, that seems like a place where the rudos can get a win.

Neither match is expected to air on North American TV, but should eventually surface thru SamuraiTV.

3) Estrellita vs Amapola [hair]

18 months ago, these two had a title match, which I called Estrellita’s best match ever

Much better than I would’ve figured when this feud started, and leagues better than Amapola/Lluvia. … I don’t know what Estrellita’s expectations were for her CMLL stint, but she’ll at least have this match to be proud of.

Someone’s expectations increased. That title program was one CMLL generic ones – two people feud for three weeks, title defense, everyone ignores it until they want to repeat it in another building – but it started Estrellita’s ascent from middle of the pack tecnica to the beautiful star of the company. (This peaked with episode 8 of this past season of El Luchador, where a supposed reality show films Estrellita taking a shower for no apparent reason, and Estrellita is kind enough to leave the shower curtain open.) Marcela is the world champion, the announcers tend to say Amapola is actually the best, but it feels like there’s a strong belief that Estrellita was the most marketable luchadora and CMLL has worked hard to exploit that this past 12 months. It’s a plan I haven’t been high on – I think there’s a better choices and Estrellita is too over the top – but CMLL knows their audience better than I do.

The Amapola/Estrellita feud went on a very long for CMLL feuds - continuously since last Fall, but reaching back towards that first title match and Estrellita’s tecnica turn – and agonizingly ran in place for most of it. It needed some sort of twist or incident in the middle of it to avoid it getting stale. Estrellita has been champion most of this time and they’ve brought up the title during the feud, so it’s strange it didn’t happen and possibly points to a result.

Amapola’s lost her mask in CMLL, back in the long ago time where CMLL used Dark Angel well, and it turned out okay for her in the long run. Amapola lost her hair once when CMLL randomly decided they needed a women’s apuesta match with no build, which didn’t help her but didn’t kill her momentum. If she loses again here, her fans will think she’s for real exactly like Terrible last year. If Estrellita loses, she hits a brick wall. Bald Estrellita would be incredibly sympathetic, but also lose a lot of her reason to exist. Diana La Cazadora, a similar character, lost her hair only when she was wrapping up in CMLL – Estrellita can only be losing hers if the same is true. Estrellita is still national champion and there’s no sense she’s done here, so I think she’s got to be hanging on to her hair.

4) Rayo de Jalisco Jr., Rush, Shocker vs Mr. Niebla, Terrible, Universo 2000
returns for Rayo and Universo

CMLL generally does a poor job of promoting their live events on TV shows. The goals of their television should be to make sure sponsors are visible and to get people in the doors, since those are their only two sources of revenue, and there’s obviously a lot more work done one of those than the others. The most they do are short vignettes going in, and brief liners read on some of the shows which are quickly dismissed. It may be a network directive in some cases, though CMLL’s Fox show seems completely produced by CMLL themselves and has the least amount of promotion for other events. The Terra web broadcast is probably the best about promoting upcoming events, because they use interviews to make up for having no graphics or video features, but it’s also the least watched show by far. I’d be surprised if a 100 people saw it most weeks, it’s not much of a difference maker. CMLL still relies heavily on ancillary methods – lucha magazines, newspapers, Tercera Caida, media interviews elsewhere – to do the heavy lifting as far as getting out word for their shows, while mostly wasting the widest distributed outlet.

This is not at all a new criticism if you’ve been reading this site for any length. I bring it up because I think it may be a major problem for this match. The concept of bringing both Rayo de Jaliscos back is to draw from fans who have stopped coming to shows but still care for luchadors of a bygone era. CMLL’s done a strong job of promoting Rayo de Jalisco Senior’s appearance on tonight’s show, but has barely mentioned his son, and done very little to promote his match with Universo. The press conference fight was mentioned but not dwelled on, and their match is only mentioned as one thing in a list of events, never treated as the star return it could be. (In the week leading up to the event, it was really only Rayo de Jalisco Senior promoted on TV; both apuesta matches were downplayed.) We’re seeing a lot of lucha libre events this week which play to the nostalgia fans have for the 80s and 90s – Villano V & El Signo’s retirement shows, the inclusion of older names on the Rey de Reyes card, the entirety of Todo x el Todo – promoters believe there’s a market for these guys. I understand it in the right amounts. I’m not a particular fan of Rayo, but it at least seems like a lot of people might be and would be excited to see him come back to Arena Mexico one more time. I wonder how many know he’s going to be wrestling tonight. I’m sure it’s not as many as it should be.

If you’re going to bring back Rayo and Universo for a short term, you might as well give them a decent spotlight. It’d be nice if the other four guys get something out of this match, but this match exists so people can relive their memories of the Rayo de Jaliscos, and you should give those fans that. Cien Caras & Mascara Ano 2000 are both in town to work on other shows this week, and I’ve got an unsupported hunch that they may get involved here and set something up next week – something to avoid the usual post major show drop off – but Rayo’s side will at least get the win on the record book.

5) La Sombra & Volador Jr. vs Atlantis & Último Guerrero [natl pi, final]

In an ideal world, this isn’t setting up Atlantis vs Ultimo Guerrero. It’s also not setting up Sombra vs Volador. It’s setting up young guys vs old guys to see who’s actually the best, instead of both pairs mostly continuing on separate tracks. If we skip ahead a few chapters, Ultimo Guerrero vs Atlantis would do very well for one night but not really mean a lot long term. (Ultimo Guerrero is going to be still be Ultimo Guerrero if he wins. It’s not a bad thing to be, but he’s not going to mean a lot more for business; I feel this so strongly that I’m uncertain why anyone assumes Atlantis would be losing a mask match between the two.) Volador vs Sombra would do nearly as well for one night and may mean more over long term – the winner has the first legitimate claim at being the Undisputed Best Guy since peak Mistico – but it wouldn’t count for as much as beating a legend. Sombra vs Ultimo Guerrero? Volador Jr. vs Atlantis? Heck, Volador Jr. vs Ultimo Guerrero or Sombra vs Atlantis? Those are the matches with ground shaking force.

This match, the one that’s actually happening as opposed to ones which will only live in an over caffeinated mind, will go along way to determining what match we’re actually getting at Anniversario. We’ve gone over this before – Terrible & Rush broke up in this final last year, in front of one of CMLL’s biggest crowds of the year, and they used to springboard to the hair match in September. It was an easy plan, one that seemed to work fine, and one that’s easily repeatable. Both teams should problems with each other, because all teams have problems with each other in this kind of tournament, but the one that fights last will probably be fighting again in six months time.

There’s plenty of material here to make it a good match before that point. I’m persistent with my dislike of Ultimo Guerrero singles matches the last few years, but he’s much more palatable as a tag team wrestler. Atlantis and Volador had about a year’s worth of good trios matches against each other and should be good together here. Sombra is Sombra. This will be good unless the breakups totally overpower the match.

Sombra and Volador have had an awful lot of singles matches lately, an odd decision if they were just starting on the road to a mask match. Atlantis & Ultimo Guerrero have had none. Sombra & Volador win this.

6) Rey Cometa & Stuka Jr. vs Namajague & Shigeo Okumura [mask, hair]
Stuka & Namajague put up their masks, Cometa & Okumura put up their hair

The important difference between this major Rey Cometa feud and the last major Rey Cometa feud – what a weird phrase – is what the feud was about. Cometa and Puma fought simply off who was better at lucha libre. They kept pushing each other to stronger acts, and so we had people getting swung into barricades and diving off stages by the end. This feud is about Sneaky Japanese, cheating and counter cheating. It started with fouls, went thru mask pulling, and is now at mist spots (though none so well enough to get over the mist.)  The luchadors should have an exciting match, but you should expect the finish to be screwy, because the rest of the feud has been as well.

Everyone expects Namajague & Okumura to lose, and they should. It’s not the last match for Namajague – he’s booked at least Sunday & Tuesday in Guadalajara, which suggests they’ve saving his return to Arena Mexico for next Friday. (Stuka is not hidden, back at Arena Mexico Sunday.) NJPW is currently on tour and returning guys typically do not join until the start of a new tour or a big event. That which would be the early April Invasion Attack shows, or the mid April tour, either of which date would allow Namajague to stick around a few more weeks even if he’s losing his mask tonight.

If tonight goes as planned, it would be Stuka’s third major mask win. There was a discussion, either here or on Twitter, about how Stuka hadn’t moved up CMLL cards as much as hoped. I think that’s true, but I also think it’s beside the point for him. Stuka’s one of the most easily identifiable CMLL luchadors, with a signature look and moves. Stuka’s beaten Flecha and Jeque for the masks, he’s been national champion, he’s been tag team champions for five years in what started out as a trivia fact and finished up being big defenses in Mexico City every few months. Stuka’s gotten to wrestle in Europe, in Japan, in Brazil and now he’s going to be headlining one of the biggest CMLL shows of the year. I’m sure he’d like to have had a bit more money and a bit more fame, but Stuka’s been blessed with the most rare thing in CMLL – frequent feuds and rivalries which actually get resolved. I don’t know Hijo del Fantasma, but I do know he’s been world champion and he’s usually booked higher than Stuka, and I’d believe he’d swap careers with Stuka in a second. Mascara Dorada, who is awesome, has spent most of the last year doing very little. Something like the Arena Coliseo Tag Team titles may be beneath him, but I’m sure he’d gladly take it if it meant he was doing more than meaningless trios. People don’t remember if where you were booked on the average card in the long run, they only remember if you won big or lost big. CMLL gives out precious few opportunities to do either, and Stuka’s pretty blessed to get another one of those opportunities tonight.