Monday, August 5, 2019

Some Thoughts on AAA TripleMania XXVII from an Outsider

It was a bloodbath, but one you need to see.
Graphics via AAA Website
I watched TripleMania XXIII in 2015. It was my first exposure to lucha libre (outside of that janky Lucha Libre USA show) in earnest, but it left a bad impression. Literally the only two good matches on the show were the last two, Alberto el Patron vs. Brian Cage and Rey Mysterio vs. Myzteziz (Mistico/Sin Cara). I knew it wasn't a true representation of all of lucha libre, probably not even of AAA, but having to sit through the Villanos/Clowns match may have set my interest in lucha back for years. Why am I sharing this tidbit for a show that happened four years later? Because TripleMania XXVII was the complete opposite of the disaster that was XXIII. No match was worse than "good," and the "worst" match on the card, the Cain Velasquez trios match, still contained cool stuff and would've been the best match on the XXIII card.

Discussion has to start with the main event, Dr. Wagner, Jr. putting his hair on the line against Blue Demon, Jr.'s mask. If Chikara has taught me anything, luchas de apuestas are huge deals. However, the difference between watching one in Chikara and watching one in real, honest-to-God Mexican lucha libre is day-and-night. Chikara, the stakes get raised enough that the wrestlers go with a little more intensity. In Wagner/Demon, the former was bleeding by the five minute mark, and the latter gigged so deep he's STILL probably gushing. Going so long watching WWE and its sterilized environment made me think I didn't need to see blood again, but after seeing this match, I'm convinced that you need to spill a little (or a lot) when the stakes are set that high.

The blood was a big help for me to understand the gravity of the match. Like I intimated above, I'm a lucha newbie for the most part. But between the video package showing the build for the feud and the utter carnage inside the ring, I was able to understand what was involved, and how much pride was involved. The match contained a heightened level of violence, leading up to the finish which involved Demon smashing a concrete block over Wagner's head. I think it was a perfect match to give people what lucha libre is all about, which is what makes longtime observers of it laughing the main event off as "AAA typical bullshit" so baffling. I can understand if that match wasn't your cup of tea, even if I thought it was as close to universally acceptable as possible, but to mock it as comedic? I feel like that statement is the height of disrespectful.

I think when people think lucha though, they don't imagine grimy, blood-soaked brawls like the main event. Thanks to World Championship Wrestling's cruiserweight division, lucha was seen mostly as an outlet for flips, dives, and top-rope moves. In reality, lucha is just like most forms of wrestling in that it welcomes all body types, even if the base style is unique enough that it can be distinguished from Japanese and American wrestling. This show had tons of those exhilarating high-flying moves, the best purveyors of such acrobatics were the team of Myzteziz, Jr., Golden Magic, and especially El Hijo del Vikingo in the triple-trios match. Their match was enjoyable not just because of them; the other two teams (the exoticos team of Pimpinela Escarlata, Maximo, and Mamba, and the Poder del Norte team of Tito Santana [not that one], Carta Brava, Jr., and Mocho Cota, Jr.) were awesome in this match too. But watching EHdV do his thing was breathtaking. He's a guy that indie promotions should be looking at booking. He's someone All Elite Wrestling should use its relationship with AAA to feature on its new Wednesday night show on TNT. He's that good.

Speaking of Velasquez, he bucked trends of other imports from MMA and decided he wasn't going to go full grapplefuck/shoot-style for his in-ring debut. He actually went out and tried to do lucha stuff, springboards and arm drags, rather than going full bore on submission chaining and shoot-inspired strikes. What that told me is that for as green as he is at worked combat, his ambition shows that he's not in it just to do a one-off for some cash. I would not be surprised if by this time next year, he was on AEW TV as a regular character. It just so happened that his greenness was covered in a match with five weathered pros. His teammates, Psycho Clown and Cody Rhodes, were able to pick up the pace where he struggled, and his opponents, Killer Kross, Texano, Jr., and especially Taurus, were able to base for him. Even though this was my least favorite match on the card, it was still required viewing.

The rest of the show, outside of Konnan going to the incredibly tone-deaf well of adopting Donald Trump as his inspiration, was easy to watch with big peaks in quality. The opener was hot, had some good tension between the best tag team in all of wrestling, Niño Hamburguesa and Big Mami, and the villainous Lady Maravilla. The Copa TripleMania match was about as fun and sprightly as a battle royale should be, and LA Park coming out with his sons and making the AAA execs uncomfortable with his profanity ownedCain. Despite the fact that Chik Tormenta got hurt on a misfired bump off a Tessa Blanchard shove, the women's seven-way TLC match was violent and exciting, and it had the surprise entry of Ayako Hamada, who's always a crowd favorite unless it happens to be Japanese drug court (Japan's drug laws are bullshit anyway, fuck 'em). And the Lucha Bros. and Laredo Kid vs. The Elite rematch from Fyter Fest was 100 times better than an already decent match there because the Elite didn't play it like some friendly highspot-trading indiefuck match and actually went pure rudo for it. That being said, allowing Kenny Omega a live mic should be ground for corporal punishment.

Overall, if your experience with TripleMania was one of the bad events, well, this one should drown out the bad taste in your mouth. Then again, lucha isn't some uniform art where everything is good or bad all the time. Just judging from observers I see on Twitter, it has high variance with the only real constant being the fuckery that happens behind the scenes. If you want to watch lucha, you should probably expect and learn to appreciate the bad stuff, because it happens a lot, and you can fire off all the jokes you can about it. It also makes you appreciate the really good shows like this year's TripleMania even more.