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Mexico




Pro-wrestling in Mexico has an impressive legacy different from many other capitals of the sport. Professional wrestling from Europe and America undoubtedly influenced the Mexican version, known now as "lucha libre." Although the who and when is disputed, one man eclipses everyone else's contributions to lucha libre - Salvador Lutteroth. This man had the vision, connections and luck it took to practically create this new sport in Mexico. After seeing it in Texas in the late 1920s, Lutteroth had a go at it in his home country. A lottery win assisted him in the formative years and he built a network that became known as “La Empressa,” short for
Empresa Mexicana de Lucha Libre. The company steadily improved in the 1930s and the Spanish Civil War brought experienced talent to Mexico. 

In the 1940s, El Santo arrived a lucha libre was on its way. This brand of pro-wrestling was developing its own face. Wrestlers wore masks in an acrobatic ballet between technicos (good guys) and rudos (bad guys). There was great emphasis on weight class-specific championships and blood feuds culminated in matches with masks or hair on the line. From 1933 until Lutteroth’s retirement in 1974,
La Empressa was the undisputed leader of lucha libre. All of the top stars of the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s and even the 1970s were unquestionable “made” in Mexico City in one of the major arenas, namely Arena Coliseo and Arena Mexico, run exclusively by La Empressa

La Empressa inspired numerous promoters, who developed local groups. EMLL had control over the big cities - Mexico City, Guadalajara, Acapulco and Cuernavaca and the rest of Mexico was a network of promoters. It was a successful formula for decades, but by the early 1970s, lucha libre was stagnant and people were suffering. Lutteroth was using the same old talent, who were not working full-time, and promoters were growing frustrated because they had less access to these stars. One of the most successful local promoters was Francisco Flores. He promoted the states of Mexico and Hidalgo, which bordered Mexico City, so he was able to build up his cities with good access to the stars based in the capital. He built a great reputation as a promoter, who appreciated quality lucha libre and paid his stars well. This created an opening that had never existed before. 

In 1974, Lutteroth retired. Mexico became a fragmented country. Mexico City, which included Arena Mexico and Arena Coliseo were going to be given to his son "Chavo" Lutteroth and "Paco" Alonso. Trainer Diablo Velasco and Lila Cavazos were going to be given Northern Mexican cities Guadalajara and Monterrey respectively. Power brokers like Ray Mendoza, Huracan Ramirez and Rene Guajardo wanted authority over those markets. In the capital, Mendoza and Ramirez had their eyes on the city with fresh talent ready to revitalize the city. In Northern Mexico, Guajardo wanted control of Guadalajara and Monterrey. The three promoters aligned with Francisco Flores (who ran Mexico and Hidalgo) and Benjamin Mora Sr. (who ran Tijuana). They formed "Promocionces Mora y Asociados" and hoped to lure talent with guaranteed money. Unfortunately for them, they were battling
EMLL's long-running ties to the major arena promoters and the existing pro-wrestling union. Problems stalled their opening, but a few name changes later the promotion widely known as the Universal Wrestling Association

The UWA was a unique entity, while it did not conquer
EMLL, it challenged it and breathed new life into lucha libre in the late 1970s and early 1980s. In addition to giving attention to smaller luchadors, the UWA relied heavily on foreigners who came in as big attractions. Although it fell into the same trap as EMLL, it undoubtedly had a great influence on lucha libre. It gave smaller wrestlers, better wrestlers and foreigners a chance and all three groups were given more opportunities from that point forward. 

Lucha libre changed significantly in the 1980s. Numerous power hungry local promoters were trying to gain control and few succeeded. Benjamin Mora Jr. opened the
WWA out of Tijuana, which was always a special city for lucha libre. The UWA and WWA were good promotions, but they had no chance when television wrestling hit in Mexico City and lucha libre transformed once again. 

Lucha libre was came back to the limelight again and television was their new lifeblood.
EMLL morphed into CMLL and it was booming on TV, Paco Alonso may have been the captain of the ship, but Antonio Peña was the man at the helm. As the booker, Peña, was the genius who understood how to present lucha libre on television. The old guard vehemently opposed his ideas, so he and several of his favorites left with the support of Televisa. A new company, AAA, was born with Antonio Peña and Konnan as the masterminds of the promotion. A new generation of performers became huge media stars, branching out into soap operas, music and other aspects of pop culture. 

AAA was a revolutionary company. They had connections all over the world and were able to bring in foreigners from Japan and the United States. In the US, pro-wrestling was struggling and changing, but AAA were doing amazing things in Mexico. They were able to come into the United States and drew huge Latino crowds. Lucha libre was starting to influence fans outside of Mexico. In 1994, WCW helped produce AAA’s first pay-per-view show in Los Angeles. However, AAA began a fast downturn as most of their talent core was gone within a few years. One of the big changes for lucha libre started in 1996 when ECW and WCW began importing the top talent. These luchadors, while smaller and masked, had amazing talent that helped them get over strong in one match. WCW built a cruiserweight division and brought in numerous AAA stars to fill the ranks. Konnan, a booker and key star for Peña, left the company for WCW and it nearly bankrupt them. The Mexican economy was bad shape and much of the top talent was in the United States. CMLL rebounded first and built themselves back up slowly while AAA struggled into the new millenium.

After the turn of century,
CMLL was firmly on top again with a new generation of stars. AAA became more and more outrageous before Antonio Peña’s death in 2006. Lucha libre is in a unique state and while former luchadors are achieving new heights in the US, there is not the potential their once was. Many of the stars of the 1990s were negatively impacted by their experiences in the US, so some of the newer stars are leery of leaving Mexico. Lucha libre will continue to ride a rollercoaster as wild as many of their matches and as the Latino market in the United States becomes stronger, the more it trickles into the US and the more potential exists. In Mexico however, lucha libre will always be king.

EMLL - Empresa Mexicana de la Lucha Libre (1933-198?)
In 1933, Salvador Lutteroth organized a lucha libre company in Mexico. He used a sizable amount of money he won in a lottery and the support of backers to get the company going and it steadily grew. Lutteroth imported wrestlers, groomed native talent and plucked the best local talent out of their towns and mixed them all in Mexico City. In the 1940s, "La Empressa" jumped to a new level with the rise of El Santo and his supporting cast of colorful personas and innovative talents. In the following decade, EMLL became the National Wrestling Alliance's affiliate in Mexico and they created many of their lighter weight titles and they all had great importance. They remained aligned with the NWA through the mid-1980s when it fell into disarray. Before that however, La Empressa was the dominant promotion in Mexico and had an iron grip over lucha libre for the next twenty years. Although many of the big stars from the El Santo days were slowing down as in-ring stars by the 1960s, there was a fresh crop coming up and they were all getting great exposure through lucha libre movies. The genre kept the sport booming into the 1970s, then it all began declining. La Empressa had contracts with most of the major arenas in Mexico and although wrestling was unionized, they were able to get away with paying on a percentage. When houses were down, pay was down, but a new promotion seemed out of the question. The big change occured in 1974, when the aging Salvador Lutteroth was planning to retire and disperse his control. However, an alliance between established stars and promoters led to the formation of the first successful competition to La Empressa after forty years of ruling Mexican lucha libre. The UWA raised the bar in many ways and had great influence on the traditional EMLL. The NWA was declining and carefully picked their battles with outlaw promotions and they never did many favors for members who ran outside the United States. So, La Empressa left the NWA and a new chapter began.  


Charro Aguayo
Ángel Blanco
Aníbal
Atlantis [66%]
Black Shadow
Blue Demon
Bobby Lee
Cavernario Galindo
Cien Caras [63%]
El Dandy [70%]
Alfonso Dantés
Diablo Velazco
Dos Caras [68%]
Los Espantos (I, II & III)
Jerry Estrada
Los Fantásticos (Kung Fu, Kato Kung Lee, Black Man)
El Gladiador
René Guajardo
Gory Guerrero
El Hijo del Santo [83%]
Kato Kung Lee
Kung Fu
Enrique Llanes
Lizmark
Tarzán López
El Matemático
Ray Mendoza
Mil Mascaras [68%]
Octogon [53%]
Perro Aguayo [%]
Huracán Ramírez
El Santo
El Satanico
Sugi Sito
Rolando Vera
El Verdugo
Villano III [68%]

CLICK HERE for the full EMLL alumni list



UWA - Universal Wrestling Association (1975-1995)
The UWA was the first real challenger to the EMLL. They promised bigger payoffs, better treatment and non-exclusive contracts. Francisco Flores secured some key talent that Lutteroth did not locked into contracts. They almost died in the beginning, despite having some legendary figures, veterans who became legends and some amazing young talent. The main successes for the UWA were El Canek's battles with foriegners over the UWA Heavyweight title; the rise of trios as a drawing attraction with the rudo unit, Los Misionarios de la Muerte, leading the way; smaller wrestlers being moved out of the undercard; and women's wrestling evolving into more than a special attraction. By the end of the 1970s, the UWA was hitting their stride. Between 1978 and 1987, the UWA was one of the hottest promotions in the world. They became known as "Lucha Libre Internacional" (LLI) to many fans for their globalized appeal with the use of foreigners. They also became known as "El Toreo" amongst luchadors because their home base was El Toreo de Cuatro Caminos, where they regularly ran shows with over 10,000 fans and big shows sold out at 18,000. They also began a successful branch out of Monterrey that Rene Guajardo ran. However, its steady growth led to Guajardo trying to break away from the UWA. Flores blocked his efforts and he lost his territory. Another challenge to the company was when Cesar Valentino took some of the top stars and even secured a major deal with Televisa, but when the fledgling company struggled, the whole thing was killed off. One of Flores' greatest contributions to lucha libre was bringing together the biggest stars from the United States and Japan with his Mexican superstars. He secured deals with New Japan Pro-Wrestling and the WWF, which led to some historic matches that took place in Mexico rather than in those countries. By the mid-1980s, the UWA had leveled off and while still successful they were largely feasting off their innovations from the early days. Then in 1987, Flores suffered a sudden heart attack that robbed the company of its mastermind. His nephew, Carlos Maynes, continued and used the same formula that kept the company going into the 1990s. Then television revolutionized lucha libre. EMLL had TV deal in Mexico City and after Antonio Peña and others left to form AAA, which landed an even better TV deal on Televisa. Two companies that were feeding off the ideas that Flores pioneered left the UWA looking dated as the company with old stars and no television. They soon fizzled out, but the stars they had created and the stylistic changes they made to lucha libre have influenced the product to this day.  


Ángel Blanco
Aníbal
Black Man
Black Terry
Blue Demon
Blue Panther
Bobby Lee
El Canek [73%]
Dos Caras [68%]
Los Fantásticos (Kung Fu, Kato Kung Lee, Black Man)
Fishman
El Gran Hamada
René Guajardo
Gory Guerrero
El Hijo del Santo [83%]
Kato Kung Lee
Kung Fu
Bobby Lee
Los Misioneros de la Muerte (El Signo, El Negro Navarro, El Texano)
El Matemático
Ray Mendoza
Mil Mascaras [68%]
Negro Casas
El Negro Navarro
Perro Aguayo [73%]
Huracán Ramírez
El Rayo de Jalisco
Sangre Chicana
El Santo
El Signo
Solar
El Solitario
El Texano
Tinieblas
Enrique Vera
Villano III [68%]
Dr. Wagner Jr.


CMLL - Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre (198?-)
After splitting from the NWA and trying to compete with the UWA, “EMLL” became “CMLL.” Their new name, “Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre,” translates to “Worldwide Wrestling Council,” which shows their desire to appear more international. The biggest change came when CMLL began airing on television in Mexico City. This took lucha libre to new level and the sixty-year-old promotion reclaimed their place as the undisputed king of lucha libre. After failing to make it as a luchador, Antonio Peña, became involved in EMLL behind the scenes and developed a reputation for his creativity. He slowly worked his way up the ladder and became the booker for Paco Alonso in CMLL. He wanted this “new” company to become something fresh and exciting. Alonso and the old guard blocked him and he ultimately left and CMLL was robbed of much of their best talent (not necessarily their top talent). AAA grew almost as quickly as it fell and CMLL was able to ride out its peak years. They secured a new generation of performers and they brought El Hijo Del Santo back in, turned him heel and brought themselves back to the forefront. The new millenium saw CMLL secure their position on top as AAA's wild antics turned off many traditional fans.

Aníbal
Atlantis
Bestia Salvaje
Blue Panther
Cien Caras [63%]
El Dandy
Dos Caras [68%]
La Fiera
Fuerza Guerrara
Eddy Guerrero
El Hijo Del Santo
Kato Kung Lee
Kung Fu
Mil Mascaras
Negro Casas
Octogon
Pierroth Jr.
Pirata Morgan
El Rayo de Jalisco Jr.
Sangre Chicana
El Satanico
El Signo
El Texano
El Ultimo Dragon
Universo 2000
Enrique Vera
Villano III [68%]
Dr. Wagner Jr.


CLICK HERE for the full CMLL alumni list



WWA - (1986-199?; 2004-)
Benjamin Mora was the man in control of Tijuana in the 1970s. He and Francisco Flores were the key promoters who got the UWA off the ground. By the early 1980s, pro-wrestling in Southern California had died out. The long-running ties between the World Wrestling Association out of Los Angeles and lucha libre became something Mora wanted to utilize. The former WWA World Heavyweight Championship, which only lasted from 1958 to 1968, was a link to legitimacy, which was paramount in Mexico. The WWA belt had been held by iconic figures like Rikidozan, Freddie Blassie, Dick the Bruiser and even a Latino - Pedro Morales. It was restored in 1986 by former NWA Los Angeles rookie - Bill Anderson in a match with 1970s legend Tinieblas. While Mora had and still has strong control in Tijuana, the WWA titles he established were quickly taken all over Mexico from nearby Mexicali to Villahermosa on the other side of the country as well as in Los Angeles and they have even been taken to Japan. Mora continued to have a strong localized promotion, running shows constantly, bringing in many established stars from yesteryear and breaking in new talent. Benjamin Mora was responsible for giving Konnan, Psicosis and Rey Misterio Jr. their first opportunities in Mexico. Although Tijuana always brings in hot crowds and does steady business, it is known for having a glass ceiling and youngsters can struggle to break out and often must venture to Mexico City to seek their fortunes. The WWA as an organized entity with titles dropped out in the mid-1990s when economic hardships and tough times for lucha libre rippled out. Mora's established belts continued to travel around like the defunct UWA's titles. In 2004, there was a WWA surge, but it and Mora's Tijuana-based wrestling continues to be the third to the televised CMLL and AAA.  


Blue Panther
Cien Caras [63%]
El Dandy [70%]
Dos Caras [68%]
Fishman
Fuerza Guerrera
Lola Gonzales
Chavo Guerrero
Eddy Guerrero
El Gran Hamada
El Hijo del Santo
Kato Kung Lee
Lizmark
Mil Mascaras
Monster Ripper
Negro Casas
Octagon
La Parka
Perro Aguayo [73%]
El Scorpio
El Texano
Tinieblas
El Ultimo Dragon



AAA - Asistencia Asesoría y Administración (199?-)
In the 1970s, the UWA bucked the establishment and revolutionized lucha libre, which had grown stagnant. They eventually became stagnant themselves when Televisa took on EMLL and changed with the times, but the UWA did not. This new medium brought lucha libre back to the forefront of people's minds. The man responsible was a creative booker named Antonio Peña, who used lights, music and action to produce a new TV-friendly product. The establishment in EMLL went along with it for a while became they were at a peak, but in time they grew tired of Peña's outrageous ideas. So, he left. Peña did not exit alone; he brought several talented veterans, hot young stars and Televisa with him. Like the UWA, Peña's new promotion AAA would buck the establishment. He was the man at the helm, guiding this new promotion into uncharted waters. The music, the lights, the valets and most importantly American-influenced storylines and gimmick matches all helped build AAA into the hottest promotion in not only Mexico, but in North America. The luchadors of AAA became huge media stars, branching out into soap operas, music and other aspects of pop culture. Peña made some bold promotional moves. He ran a supercard, the first TripleMania, in Plaza Del Toros and drew 48,000, a record-setting crowd for Mexico. Then he ran successfully in the United States, drawing 18,000 in Los Angeles. Back in Mexico, AAA was on fire, running several big drawing shows under the TripleMania banner. Unfortunately, the peso was devalued and top rudo Love Machine died. Although AAA was able to do several impressive shows, things began to rapidly decline. The successes that once came so easily were no longer happening. Peña’s, plagued by personal problems, seemed to have lost his brilliance. Konnan wanted to lucha libre to go “extreme” and eventually left, took a lot of talent with him to the short-lived Promo Aztecas and WCW. Peña and AAA rapidly declined. Although he had some loyalists, Peña’s propensity for the bizarre grew out of control. Like the UWA before them, AAA was able to revolutionize lucha libre and raised the bar, but eventually lost the magic. By the late 1990s, CMLL took back over and AAA became a sad promotion before Antonio Peña’s death in 2006. The company remains open and will probably change their direction and hopefully their prospects.

 
Blue Panther
El Canek [73%]
Cien Caras [63%]
El Dandy
Jerry Estrada
Fuerza Guerrara
Eddy Guerrero
El Hijo Del Santo
Perro Aguayo [73%]
Lizmark
Love Machine (Art Barr)
Mascara Año 2000
Octogon
Sangre Chicana
El Satanico
Solar
El Texano
Universo 2000




Foreigners
In the 1930s, Salvador Lutteroth was living in El Paso, Texas when he began attending local pro-wrestling matches. Greek wrestler Gus Pappas caught his eye and he decided to establish the first regular promotion in Mexico. He legitimized his promotion by bringing in foreigners, although never major stars. La Empressa began booming in the 1940s and they joined the American-based National Wrestling Alliance in the 1950s. This connection led to the first major Americans coming to Mexico for major shows. They were special attractions though and only a handful stayed for any length of time. In the 1970s, the UWA really opened the border and the biggest stars of the day were able to come into Mexico for big shows in the 1970s and 1980s. When TV hit Mexico, it changed lucha libre and both CMLL and the newly formed AAA had some foreign regulars and visitors throughout the 1990s. After the peso was devalued and business dropped off, Mexico was a less attractive stop. Some old-timers came in, some youngsters came down and some Japanese had learning excursions there, but Mexico has not been quite the same since the mid-1990s.  


Abdullah the Butcher
Chris Adams
Andre The Giant [58%]
Bob Backlund
Bam Bam Bigelow [71%]
Black Cat
Can-Am Express
Riki Choshu [66%]
"Buffalo" Allen Coage (Bad News Allen)
Carlos Colon
Crush Gals (
Chigusa Nagayo & Lioness Asuka)
Tatsumi Fujinami [81%]
Riki Fuyuki
Lola Gonzalez
Karl Gotch
Haku
Stan Hansen
Hulk Hogan
Antonio Inoki [70%]
Invader I
Shinobu Kandori
Osamu Kido
Kuniaki Kobayashi
Kokina (Yokozuna)
La Monster (Rhonda Singh)
Madonna's Boyfriend (Louie Spicolli)
Devil Masami
Peter Maivia
The Mighty Yankee (Tony Anthony)
Mitsuharu Misawa
Pat Patterson
Samurai Shiro (Shiro Koshinaka)
Satoru Sayama
Tiger Jeet Singh
Jake "The Snake" Roberts [53%]
Billy Robinson
Seiji Sakaguchi
The Sheepherders
Pantera Surena
George Takano
Lou Thesz
Tiger Mask
Kevin Von Erich [57%]
Vicki Williams
Yokota



I'd like to thank Steve "Dr. Lucha" Sims, Jose Fernandez, Alfredo Esparza, Robert Bihari, Dave Meltzer, Mark Bondurant, Glenn Harrison and "Blackray". And, of course Royal Duncun and Gary Will's contributions to wrestling-titles.com
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