AAA’s biggest show of the year, TripleMania XXIII, takes place this Sunday in Arena Ciudad de Mexico. Rey Mysterio Jr. faces Myzteziz (CMLL’s original Mistico, the first Sin Cara) for the first time ever. It’s a battle of a big star from the 90s who became even bigger with his US success, and a great star of the 00s who became smaller with US non-success.

TripleMania is not totally a one match card, but many of the other matches feel like they’re included only because convention requires it not literally be a one or two match card.

The build to this show has been bizarre, even for lucha libre card. From the outside, it appears the TripleMania card was set months ago, only for it to be completely rewritten just weeks before the show. The build to show had feuds teased on TV (Alberto versus Jeff Jarrett, Rey versus Johnny Mundo, Averno and Myzteziz again) which aren’t on the TripleMania cards and may have vanished entirely. Cuervo, Escoria and (for some inexplicable reason) Máscara Año 2000 Jr. have been featured on TV for months but aren’t anywhere to be found. The peak of the chaos was a recent TV promo where the audio was promoting one match (Villano V versus Psycho Clown) and the video was promoting something different (Villano III). And, with all this disorganization, AAA will still draw a great house: Misterio/Myzteziz is a superb Get of Jail Free card.

TripleMania is on US and Canada conventional PPV this year, in supplement to the iPPV provider AAA’s been using for their last few events. It’s about $10 more expensive to get it thru the cable company, but it might be worth the convenience, and the iPPV stream fell apart near the end of the last event. The US/Canada PPV will have Matt Striker and Hugo Savinovich doing commentary in English.

The extra reach of the PPV is great for AAA’s awareness, but presents a similiar problem as January’s NJPW/GFW show: recent TripleManias are closer to four hours, but this one has to finish in three hours by PPV company mandate. AAA’s cut matches instead of time, and this will be the smallest number of matches on their biggest show since 2004.

It might be the only US/Canada PPV. AAA and Lucha Underground have been kept as seperate universes, but the casual US fan does not know that, and there’s nothing that springboards off the interest in that show. Many Lucha Underground wrestlers are on this card, but Cage & Alberto are the only two in spotlight positions. There’s a pretty solid arguement that Ultima Lucha will end up the better card this week. Myzteziz/Rey Mysterio will be a much bigger deal to Mexican fans, but that might not translate to those who only know Sin Cara. AAA’s also mysteriously stopped posting their TV show on their YouTube site, only putting up small clips of interviews instead. The US side has gotten Rey Mysterio all over the place to do interviews building the show, but it doesn’t seem like the Mexican side has supported them as well as they might if this was a major concern.

Dinastía, Drago, Goya Kong, Pimpinela Escarlata vs Daga, Mamba, Mini Psycho Clown, Sexy Star

The same style match AAA opens every major show: a man, a woman, an exotico and a mini on each side. Dinastia and Mini Psycho Clown are just coming off a good title match, but there’s no other issues here. Drago’s profile has been most raised by his Lucha Underground participation, while Daga is the guy who would’ve done the best on the show who was never used (a bad time knee injury and maybe the lack of a colorful gimmick.) Goya Kong is Brazo de Plata’s daughter, fresh in from CMLL and given this spot as a reward for the jump. Sexy Star hasn’t been on AAA TV all year, but appeared nude in the Latin America version of ESPN’s Body Issue so was of course going to be here. These matches tend to be a lot more of a spotfest expected given the format, and this’ll be similar.

Villano III, Villano IV, Villano V vs Monsther Clown, Murder Clown, Psycho Clown

A double retirement match: both luchador Villano III and referee Pepe Casas.

Retirements in Mexico only seem to stick when the luchador is physically incapable of wrestling. Villano V, returning himself here, is the saddest example: he promoted his own retirement show, then immediately came back out of retirement because he lost so much money on the show that he had to keep working. Villano III reached the point of not really being able to wrestle years ago, and admitted to it a few months ago, but it is one last great payday and one more time in the spotlight, and he can’t afford to turn down either. Villano III is a pereniall strong WON hall of fame candidate, part of the glory years at El Toreo, and absolutely deserves a send out. The problem is it should’ve come a decade ago at least.

Pepe “Tropicasas” Casas was one of the two original AAA referees when the promotion founded in 1992. He became a referee after a long career as a lighter weight wrestler. Casas is also the father of Negro Casas, Felino and Heavy Metal, and grand father of CMLL’s Tiger, Puma and Canelo Casas. Pepe Casas became a referee in early 90s EMLL, made the jump when Antonio Pena started up his own promotion, and also worked as a trainer for both promotions. Pepe Casas is credited as the inventor of La Casita, the cradle known elsewhere as La Magistral. The move doubles as the best example of something Japanese wrestlers brought from Mexico, and confused American fans give the Japanese credit for inventing or naming. (Don’t get me started on tope con giro/tope con hilo.) Pepe is 82 and was restricted to only doing the opening match for the last few years. AAA took him off TV entirely in the last year. He’ll probably still have some connection with the promotion going forward.

It’s more interesting to talk about those retiring then to talk about the match. Or probably even watch the match. Villano IV has been great at old man face punching brawls the last few years, but that may too much to ask from his brothers. Psycho Clown is pegged as one of AAA’s future stars, but his partners are limited as well. The plan is to set up Villano IV and Psycho Clown in a big match, likely a mask match, on some later where they have more time and space and this finish will only just be about setting that up.

AAA Trios Championship – Averno, Chessman, Cibernético © vs Angélico, Fénix, Jack Evans vs Hijo del Fantasma, Pentagón Jr., Texano Jr.

Did you like an AAA guy on Lucha Underground? They’re probably in this match! Hijo del Fantasma is the less trademark friendly version of King Cuerno. I really hope Fenix has the Gift of the Gods belt, or at least the sweet car. The current trios champions, the Hell Brothers of Averno, Chessman and Cibernético did not appear on LU – unless Chessman is the guy in the horse trailer or something. You may know Averno from every CMLL Mistico match. Cibernetico is a AAA made star who’s been on top and been charismatic enough that the fans are largely willing to overlook his near immobility. There’s no reason this match is happening besides there being room for six matches on the card and they wanted to get as many favorites on it as possible. In an ideal world, Fenix and Fantasma are having a cruiserweight title – building off their feud from earlier this year and the teaser from the end of Ultima Lucha – but instead they’re lumped in this match.

AAA and Lucha Underground storylines do not carry over – both have been aware the other exists, but not concerned with the details. That means Texano Jr. is still a rudo, in the vaguely defined La Sociedad faction with Pentagon Jr. & Fantasma (who also may still be Perros del Members), and Jack Evans is a polite young father who’s friends with Angelico. The talent involved could guarantee a great match – except it appears they’ve decided to make this a cage match, restricting mobility and space from what should be a high spot match. Someone will do a great move from the top of the cage, but putting preventing Hijo del Fantasma from doing his tope is borderline criminal. Hopefully someone thinks better of it.

Blue Demon Jr. & La Parka vs El Mesías & Electroshock

This is promoted as a celebration of Demon’s 30th Anniversary, but it’s really a different version of the previous match: a match existing only primarly to make sure certain people make TripleMania. Demon is teams with AAA’s La Parka, not LA Park. The opposition is Electroshock, leader of Holocausto, and El Mesias, who is Mil Muertes in Lucha Underground. The slight difference is Mil Muertes has been superb in Lucha Underground and been very bleh in AAA. Mil Muertes has an advantage of facing a lot of smaller wrestlers who are willing to be thrown around, and Parka & Demon do not fit the bill. This is the least interesting match on the card, and would be the easy best for the worst if not for the Villanos match.

Mesias rejoined the rudo side back in March by turning on Blue Demon & La Parka, but only about 10 seconds of the match was never shown on TV and Mesias wasn’t given a segment to explain his reasoning for weeks. The turn occurred just prior to Perro Aguayo’s death, and the follow up may have just gotten lost in the chaos of the moment. It hasn’t been mentioned at all leading into this match, but feels like it should be part of it. It’s Demon’s anniversary match, so he’s liable to get a simple win.

Hair vs. Hair – Alberto el Patrón vs Brian Cage

Finally, a match with a normal build! Cage, the only outsider on a show typically overpopulated with them, joined AAA in February and has feuded with Alberto ever since. They’ve mixed in the usual Mexico versus Ugly American bits, a little hint of Cage avenging the evil US promotion Alberto left, and a lot of heel run-ins and interference to keep Cage from losing too often. Even when Cage lost to Alberto in a tag match, Cage got up and destroyed Alberto after the match. The two had an AAA Heavyweight Championship match on the last show, with an agonizing amount of interference, evil referee assistance, and a DQ finish after Cage got a visual three count. (Their prior match was immensely frustrating to watch because of the over the top shenanigans, but it would’ve been somewhat justified if it set up a rematch in a cage. They even had Alberto do a promo demanding a rematch in a cage after the show – but the cage is in another match instead. There’s probably a great story there.)

Alberto hasn’t beat Cage in a singles match, Alberto is the Mexican hero and co-lead babyface, Alberto’s absolutely not losing this match. The hair stipulation is a bit silly for two guys who don’t have a lot, but it’s more about the individual battle between the two. Alberto & Cage have shown they can have a good match, but Cage is still new enough that the casual fans coming in for Myzteziz & Rey Misterio won’t know him. AAA tried to overcome that last time out with all the extra people getting involved and it backfired. It’ll be interesting to see if they try something else this time.

Rey Mysterio Jr. vs Myzteziz

This match came out of the blue, but seems a necessity given the rest of this card and the other options. AAA’s done a great job of enhancing the matchup, having both guys start off polite with subtle points of contention (Myzteziz playing off the idea that Mexican wrestling is more skilled than US as ‘proof’ he’s had more success, Rey noting how Myzteziz has copied some of his signature spots), with the tension ramping up to both guys going head to head and needed to be pulled apart at their last appearance. Myzteziz has suggested he might fight like a rudo in this match; Rey’s going to be the crowd favorite on that night, and Myztzeiz fully going rudo might would fix AAA’s imbalance near the top, so it’s possible this match could end in with a big story twist.

This build has all been done with promo work, which is very different for Mexico. It’s had to be done with promo work, because they apparently didn’t decided this direction until they were done with all the tapings leading up to TripleMania, but they’ve done an OK job of fixing the television by adding face to face interviews after the fact. This is Rey’s first TripleMania since coming back, and he’s only wrestled in the Mexico City area on the Lucha World Cup show. There’s still a lot of novelty left in seeing him back in Mexico at this point, and the extra novelty of the first time ever match with Myzteziz is enough to carry this show alone. The real key is to build off it for some new storylines which could carry the promotion the rest of the year. Cage/Alberto is likely done after this show, and something like Villano IV/Psycho Clown isn’t going to move business a lot. A newly rudo Myzteziz, with the rest of the Perros del Mal behind him, opens up a new world of matches, but it’d be a daring move when Myzteziz is the only one of the big three who’s appearing on TV regularly.
Should You Buy The Show? It completely depends on how interested you are in Myzteziz versus Rey Mysterio Jr. There will be extra pageantry and Hall of Fame inductions of Perro Aguayo Jr. and others which will help make this feel like a big event, even if the matches aren’t the strongest . The opener and the three way match will be very good, but we’re in a stretch of very good matches going on all over the world. The Cage/Alberto match will be very heated and a solid match, but the outcome is not in doubt (and Cage losing his hair is not a big event.) Mysterio/Myzteziz will be a genuine event. I”m intrigued with how it’ll work and what they’ll come out with it. Whatever happens, it should be memorable.