AAA hosts the second Lucha World Cup (officially “Victoria World Cup”) this weekend. The event has been expanded to include a women’s tournament in addition to the men’s tournament, and will be spread out over a second days to accommodate the extra matches. The competition begins Friday night at 8:30pm US Central Time in Puebla, and the finals take place on Sunday starting at 4pm. Both shows are being offered as a package on iPPV for $25USD. The show is scheduled to be announced in English (with TNA’s Josh Mathews) and Spanish, though no specifics about announcers have been mentioned. Condensed versions of the show will air on Samurai TV in Japan and on AAA’s own TV show.
Like last year, this is a single elimination trios tournament with a fifteen minute time limit. (Overtime is 1v1 sudden death matches with five minute time limits.) The men’s field has eight teams from three countries (and one ‘other’), same as in the previous edition. The debuting women’s tournament will have four teams, each from a different country. The first round matches – the quarterfinals for the men, and the semifinals for the women – will take place in Friday Puebla. The men’s semifinals and finals, the women’s finals, and third place matches in both brackets will take place on Sunday in Mexico. All the women are guaranteed to work on both shows, the men eliminated in Puebla are done (unless there’s some bonus matches added on Sunday.)
The show is sponsored by beer company Victoria and, likely by their direction, it exists outside of AAA’s storylines or any ongoing continuity at all. The Lucha World Cup is modeled after the (soccer) World Cup, where club rivalries are intended to be forgotten in supporting your country. AAA’s more like the federation who happens to be hosting it this year, with the idea that other promotions would take over in other years. There’s pluses and minuses to the concept: it’s still so new that there’s importance of winning doesn’t fully replace personal rivalries and the format limits the ceiling for these matches. At the same time, it’s pretty easy to have a good 10 minute trios match and last year’s tournament proved to be a fun and easy show that felt different than any other event. The biggest issue last year was the show running so long, and splitting the tournament over two days should fix that.
In theory, there’s no need to know what’s going on with anyone in the tournament. It’s just out of continuity wrestling. You have to find only a few people or a flag to root for, and hope they take out everyone else. Still, if you’re reading this site, you’re the type of person who’s a little curious about the people out of your normal wrestling sphere, or at least interested about how your favorites might match up. It’d really take a super knowledgeable wrestling fan to know and have seen all the different people in this tournament. I’m not really that knowledgeable, but I thought I’d take a stab at it anyway.
I didn’t do it alone. Lots of thanks go to Garrett Kidney, Sean Flynn, Kevin Wilson, and Rich Kraetsch for answering my dumb questions. If there’s anything intelligent here, it’s probably something they told me. Secret bonus thanks to the nominations folder in the Best Wrestler Ever poll, since that helped me wrap my mind around a few people.
And now, team by team breakdowns, starting with the women. Please note, as of Wednesday, no bracketing or first round match ups have been announced. Last year, they were not announced until the day of the show.
AAA is putting forward the best in-ring team available to them. The Apaches sisters have been regarded as among the best for a long time. The surprise is their partner, with a former standard bearer of the division brought back over some of their newer faces (and over the currently exiled Sexy Star.)
Faby Apache is the ace of AAA’s women division, and she hasn’t even been champion in two years. She’s the current best women’s wrestler in Mexico, and probably would be considered one of the best in the world if Mexican women’s wrestling had an audience outside it’s own country. Faby’s so long been the best in AAA that they’ve obviously running out of ideas for her, and they’re letting her coast a lot on past built up goodwill. She’s also treated as so above the rest of the women that she and her sister will be challenging for the men’s tag team titles on the following AAA PPV. This competition is at least a new prize she can attempt to win, and she should be both sufficiently motivated for the occasion and the clear crowd favorite.
Mary Apache is the older and larger of the two sisters. Mary’s nearly as talented as her little sis, though much more the unflinching heel than Faby’s strong-hearted babyface. Their hair match against each other is possible the best match ever to take place at an AAA’s Triplemania; they were doing “women in tears after an emotional fight” before it was cool. Mary just never has had the same charisma as her sister, and appears not to have the same drive. She’s been in and out of AAA the last few years, with the promotion being disappointed in her weight and Mary being frustrated with how little she was being used. Mary was brought back to AAA year, probably in anticipation of this tournament and their upcoming tag title match, and still seems pretty good.
It’s rather confusing, but Lady Apache is not directly related to the rest of her team. She was dating their father (El Apache) when she broke in, and kept the Apache name after they broke up. (Faby & Mary are children of a different relationship.) Lady Apache held the imaginary belt for best women’s wrestler in Mexico for much of the late 90s and early 00s, and held plenty of physical belts along the way, a multi-time champion in both major promotions. Lady Apache was also instrumental behind the scenes in booking those divisions. Her last major stint in a major promotion was 2012, when she left and CMLL had a falling out. Lady Apache has been seen occasionally on the indies in recent years, not as great as she once was but still good. In the run up to this competition, Lady Apache’s noted she’ll reach 30 years since starting her career in June, and has suggest that might be it for her. It’s hard to take a wrestling retirement tease seriously, but this seriously might be the last moment in front of a huge crowd for someone who was a pretty important star at their peak.
- Chances of this team winning: 45% – the makeup is different, but this is as close as AAA can get to a female equivalent of last year’s Mexico Dream team and they have a similar chance of success. A Mexican team will probably win one of the two tournaments, and it’s more likely the women win than the men repeat.
- Chances of this team having good matches: pretty good, though they’ll usually leave a mark.
- Chances of English announcers confusing the names of these three people who look nothing alike: 100%!
There’s not historically been as many Canadians in Mexico as those from the US, but those women who’ve come have often turned into big stars. Rhonda Singh is still remembered from the period she worked in the UWA as La Monster. Dark Angel was a popular crossover star during her in Mexico. Taya is the famous figure now, frequently representing AAA in public events. The rest of this team are new to Mexico. It seems like they’ve been selected by Taya herself, and they might as well go with that as the onscreen storyline.
Taya‘s now four years into her one month trip to Mexico, and doing pretty well with that. Taya won over AAA’s brain trust with her hard work and endurance of the sometimes hard conditions of wrestling in Mexico, and has become one of the faces of the company. She’s Johnny Mundo’s accompaniment in Lucha Underground but is more of her own woman in Mexico, on equal footing with the rest of the Perros del Mal. Taya’s the longest reigning Reina de Reinas champion, but at time where AAA’s all but given up doing anything with the championship. Taya’s stronger as a personality than a in-ring mechanic, but has shown improvement when given the chance. She’ll be one of the focal points of this competition.
In an oddity, indie wrestler Cherry Bomb was “Allie” in this tournament before she was Allie on screen with TNA; her participation was announced about hour before her TV debut. She’s appeared as Maria’s apprentice, which means she’s on screen ally stablemate of Team USA’s Sienna. Allie suffered a bad collarbone injury late in 2015 and just started to get back in the ring this March. She’s mostly worked as heel, sometimes comedy, and often in tag teams which should help her. Allie has a great personality and look, which should blend well with Taya.
Unlike her partners, KC Spinelli hasn’t been in a big promotion, and has spent most of her career as an undercard babyface – she’ll be doing something much different on this show, but hopefully will bring the same enthusiasm. (Her promo on AAA TV came of more silly than serious.) Spinelli’s among the most obscure people to appear on this show, but the obvious connection is being a fellow Lance Storm trainee with Taya. KC has appeared in SHIMMER or SHINE, but hasn’t really had a memorable victory. Maybe this will provide one.
- Chances of winning: 35% – Taya’s presence makes them a reasonable candidate for victory
- Chances of good matches: IFFY. This is going to be a challenge for Allie & Spinelli matchups if they’re not against the US team.
- Chances of the Mexican announcers telling these women apart: Low – they prepare even less than the English ones.
AAA has an on and off relationship with women’s promotions in Japan. They’ve held international versions of their Reina de Reinas tournaments with Japanese guests. The most recent version of that time was held in the WAVE promotion, the start of the relationship which led to their participation in the competition. This is about as anonymous trio as any in the field, even with the presence of a hall of famer.
Aja Kong is a Hall of Famer and one of the legendary figures in women’s wrestling. She’s visited Mexico sparingly before, including a 1992 match in Arena Mexico and a single AAA TV appearance back in 2000. (Her team took the loss to a trio including Mexico team member Lady Apache.) She’s still active and does well in tag team situations, and her name is going to have to carry this team.
Yuki Miyazaki is another person returning to AAA, having wrestled for the promotion in the second half of 1999. (One of her TV matches trios is up on YouTube.) That’s before my time, but she must’ve fit in pretty well: my podcast co-host RobViper (@RobViper) dislikes 95% of all women’s wrestling, yet actually had positive things to say about her. Unfortunately for Yuki, RobViper does not run a women’s promotion in Japan. She’s spent most of her career on the midcard, with not much notable wins. The biggest recent activity in her career was her returning from a four year retirement, but she’s simply been working for WAVE and small women’s promotions since that time. She should be fine, but doesn’t jump out as a sneaky good pick by any means.
Natsu Sumire is the youngest member of the trio, a near rookie who is barely seen on TV and hasn’t impressed when she is seen. She’s had no big wins, and has been passed by people who’ve debuted after her. Sumire wouldn’t be anyone’s choice by merit or even potential, and her inclusion is a bit of a mystery. She’ll probably get more out of for the experience than the fans will get out of seeing her in the ring, and she seems destined to take a pinfall.
- Chances of Winning: 10% – I fear giving Aja Kong a single digit chance of winning, but she’s saddled with a very anonymous team.
- Chances of Good Matches: Mixed? Kong is likely a dream matchup for the Apache sisters and the effort is going to be strong for in that one. The other matchups don’t look promising.
- Chances Wikipedia has red/no page exists links for members of this team: pretty safe bet
I’m frankly appalled and disheartened to be putting our American woman so low on this list. US women dominate team sports in international competitions: we’re so good at softball that we might have accidentally ended the sport, we might be even better at basketball, we’ve been strong at soccer lately, and we’ll be for sure the best team in hockey just as soon as the annexing of Canada goes thru. In this one instance, our ladies seem to be decided underdogs, but I hope they prove me wrong.
Cheerleader Melissa is participating under that name, which isn’t the name she’s used most recently in lucha libre. Her fellow Lucha Underground cast mates are using those characters for this show, and I assume Mariposa is supposed to be an American from a suburb of Los Angeles like half the other characters, but she’s instead under her default identity. Melissa appeared in AAA as Alissa Flash for a weekend in 2010, a factoid which isn’t totally useful but will definitely take up space in your mind when you can’t remember where you put your car keys. Melissa was really good, and nowadays has a rep of a veteran who picks her spots (and increasingly seems to be picking fewer of those spots.) Her best work of late has been as a cruel heel, which should work here as an evil American.
Santana Garrett is a rare promotion-less wrestler to be included in the tournament. She’s been working Hugo Savinovich’s occasional shows in Chile, wrestling Taya in title match on the most recent one, and that’s probably the connection that got her included. You may remember her as Brittany in TNA, but all involved would probably prefer it forgotten. Santana’s done much better on her own, working as a touring top woman’s star for a variety of promotions. She’s mostly recently wrestled for Stardom, where she happened to just also win an international tournament of affiliated promotions. (Melissa’s been tied in with Stardom as well; there’s surely some political reason why that promotion isn’t listed with the others, which might also play into who faces who.) Santana is a good wrestler with a great look, and seems like a person WWE will scoop up soon.
Sienna‘s just turned up in TNA as Maria Kanellis’ enforcer, but is better known as Allysin Kay. She appears to be the tallest woman in the field, and has gotten more comfortable playing into her size in recent years. Sienna seems particularly like a woman not to mess with, as she’s also 1-0 in MMA fights in her time. She doesn’t have an MMA style, but the training seems to have helped her pro wrestling. A tall heel who can throw people around feels like a natural fit for Mexico, though she’s got no particular lucha experience.
- Chance of winning: 5%? American usually do well as heel teams in Mexico, but that bit probably will go to Taya’s team instead. 5% may be generous, it’s hard to see their route to the final.
- Chance of good matches: pretty good! Melissa & Santana have international experience which should make working with these different styles a bit more comfortable. Sienna is a solid third link.
- Chances of Melissa getting yet another new character: always high!
And, in the men’s bracket:
Team Mexico Internacional is spiritual successor to last year’s Dream Team, a trio of Myzteziz, Alberto el Patron and Rey Mysterio, a trio which was to carry AAA for years to come. That didn’t work out so well, with issues coming up as quickly as the post show press conference. Alberto is now back in WWE, Myzteziz is back in CMLL, and it’s was a little uncertain if Rey Mysterio would be back at all.
This will be Rey Mysterio‘s first appearances in AAA this year, and it was unclear if he’d ever be back. A high priced Mexico tour built around Rey and other ex-WWE wrestlers bombed last fall, and there were money issues between Rey and the promotion where he first became well known by the end of the year. Those have been resolved, but the Wrestling Observer Newsletter has consistently been reporting Rey’s back in AAA only to fufill the last two appearances left on his deal. Rey’s good friend Konnan is no longer booking for AAA, and seemingly spending his new free time making media appearances ripping the promotion. It’s likely a tense situation behind the scenes, but both sides are putting out the idea they may yet work together in the future. The drama hasn’t affected Rey’s in-ring work, where he’s done well in singles while also comfortable letting his partners handle the heavy lifting in trios matches. Rey’s one of the signature stars of this event, the man who got the winning pin last year, and his matches will be built to lead his big spots.
The only two matches Dragon Azteca Jr. worked in the greater Mexico City area in 2015 were at suburban outdoor ring with a dirt floor and about 300 fans. A year later, he may main event a 20,000 seat building in the city. Things can change quick for a luchador when you’re suddenly anointed the onscreen apprentice of Rey Mysterio. Azteca is still better know to Tijuana fans as Rey Horuz, one of the roughly two million people to working a Misterio-related character. He’s been limited to trios work in Lucha Underground so far in Season 2, but has looked like a dynamic exciting wrestler in lucha libre settings. Azteca’s got as much to gain from an impressive performance as anyone, as he’d be a natural for AAA under any name.
There were few winners from the chaos which enveloped AAA in 2015, but Dr. Wagner Junior clearly was one. AAA swore they were done using the mercurial veteran as a regular, but felt they had no choice but bring him back to shore up their star power. He may even end up getting his long teased mask loss out of the chaos. Wagner’s character has been a confusing mess on this latest stint, turning multiple times (including on Misterio), and a feud designed to raise Psycho Clown to his level strangely ended with Wagner humiliating Psycho instead. Wagner can still go when he wants to, but seems less and less inclined to do so and will take every shortcut he can fine. Despite all of this, Wagner remains popular and a bit necessary to AAA’s future.
- Chance of Winning: 25% – they’re the favorite, but not close to the Dream Team last year
- Chance of Good Matches: pretty good. Wagner looked motivated in this last year, and the other two are good.
- Chances of Rey being back for a third year: not bright.
Last year’s version of Team Mexico Leyenda finished fourth in the tournament. Dr. Wagner Jr. has been transferred to the international trio. Solar, unable to continue his war with ACH, will instead be part of the judging panel this time around. This year’s group is easily the weakest in-ring team entered in this competition, with wrestlers who are out right terrible in the ring in 2016 and generally getting by only on past memories. If you’re reading this in English, you probably don’t have those warm fuzzy memories of times gone by, and may want to use their match as a moment to stretch your legs and grab some popcorn.
Blue Demon Jr. is the sole returning member of this team. As with Wagner, Demon’s been used increasingly in AAA to make up for their talent drain, though to even lesser success than Wagner. Demon infamously failed to show up for AAA’s big March Rey de Reyes show, in a situation where he was clearly going to be asked to take a loss. Weeks after the fact, Demon told the press was travel issue, while also trying to talk his way into a spot with rival promotion Elite. Elite didn’t go for it, and Demon’s back in AAA by the virtue of his iconic mask. Demon’s long been a cold wrestler and is coasting into the end of his career, but he’s still the best hope for this team.
Canek is ten years past being fifteen years part his prime, moving with the speed of a tortoise and displaying the agility of a college freshman at closing time. He was part of the judging panel last year, and was surprisingly moved into the competition in 2016. It’s a credit that he’s able to get into the ring with his destroyed and rebuilt knees, but he’d probably be better stopping. Canek’s kept going because there are more nostalgia based fans in Mexico than elsewhere, and the philosophy of his generation is to keep working if you keep promoters keep offering your money. One of would’ve hoped AAA would’ve learned their lesson from bringing in the Villanos for a key match at last year’s TripleMania, but Canek’s inclusion suggests they didn’t learn much. Just hope this doesn’t get as sad.
The biggest social media controversy in Mexico of this tournament has been La Parka‘s inclusion on a team named Leyenda. It’s mostly been presented as a “what does Leyendas really mean?” discussion, but the not-so-hidden message is “La Parka’s always been terrible and we don’t want to call him as a legend.” To this Parka’s credit, his entrance and his comedy antics are still well over with the AAA crowd. The most loyal among them are forgiving of his many shortcomings, and he might even been tolerable as an early match comedy figure. Unfortunately, AAA’s pushed him as defacto top técnico in the promotion this year, producing some of the worst television they’ve done in a a long time. The Rey de Reyes final, a match defined by Parka’s terribleness in executing basic spots and general professionalism, would be the universal worst match of the year in a fair and just world. (Parka was ‘punished’ by getting a clean pinfall win over the world champion on the next show.) Parka’s got a pretty strong case for overall worst wrestler too. Yet, AAA remains loyal to one of their last remaining stars of the Antonio Pena years, and it’ll probably take the same sort of ugly breakup the others stars have had for him to finally be moved out of his role. Parka will remain over but pretty poor in the ring.
- Chance of winning: 10% – the best thing for this tournament is for these guys to be eliminated in Puebla, but there’s a belief these guys are ticket drawing stars and they may go farther they should. There’s a self justifying factor to Parka’s push, and winning the tournament to prove he was a legend all along is a realistic possibilty.
- Chance of good matches with this team: Nada. No chance. Pray for whoever draws them first round.
- Chances of elimination thru disqualification: 85% – none of these guys like losing by pinfall all that much
As they did last year, AAA held qualifying matches to determine the membership of the third Mexican team. They probably could’ve skipped the step: two of the same three people qualifed again this year, with the third (Hijo del Fantasma) not involved due to injury.
Texano Jr. earned his spot with a pretty easy win over Taurus & Garza Junior. He’s also is once again the AAA Mega World Heavyweight Champion after winning the (Alberto caused) vacant title in March. Texano’s also a making a slow switch to the face side, a bit coming in line with his less pushed Lucha Underground defended of Mexico character at much stronger pushed level. He’s probably going to continue his solid above average performances, and figures to be a big part of AAA’s plans for the rest of the year regardless of how this tournament goes.
Pentagon Jr. defeated his usual partners Daga & Joe Lider to win his own spot on the trio. He’s also won AAA’s annual Rey de Reyes tournament (albeit in underwhelming fashion.) There was a brief moment where it looked like AAA was going to go all the way with their tremendously popular homegrown star, but they’ve instead side drained him by bringing in death match wrestler Pagano. Pentagon’s been used to legitimate the spotty and shady outsider, which has been disheartening to watch. This tournament is a temporary break from that issue, and will allow Pentagon to show the style of wrestling he’s been recently doing more outside of Mexico as of late. Pentagon’s technically a heel, but he’s the face in his current feud, and generally cheered like one regardless of the situation.
Psycho Clown wasn’t even listed in a qualifier for this match, but was inserted into a three way match with Hijo del Pirata Morgan, Ricky Marvin and Nicho el Millonario (original Psicosis) as a last minute surprise and won the spot. (Because AAA is weird, that match will not air until Saturday, so it’s possible he’ll be out of the tournament before he’s even shown entering it.) Psycho was always planned to be in tournament, but roster depth issues meant Psycho had to be listed in the main event and AAA didn’t want to give way the result but listing him twice. Psycho Clown is the AAA Latin American championship (equivalent to the IC titles); AAA’s top two title holders and the winner of their biggest tournament are all part of this trio. Psycho’s popularity has grown, despite not getting any favors from recent booking: he won the title back over Dr. Wagner but Wagner won the war, and he’s been fastened onto the Pagano/Pentagon issue as a third wheel for lack of anything else to do. Psycho’s the third most impressive wrestler of this group, but he’s still good enough to carry his share.
- Chance of winning: 8% – these are the guys who should be main eventing AAA shows for the next decade, but they were casually tossed aside last year and it’s hard to get over that. The AAA philosophy seems to be the big wins for these guys can be put off for another day, which will probably extended to this tournament.
- Chance of good matches with this team: Pretty good; their personalities and skills are flexible enough to match up with whoever they’d face. They’re a great match against the Mexico Internacional team, but that seems unlikely to happen for obvious reasons.
- Chances of finding finding Victoria beer cans featuring Pentagon Jr. on ebay this summer: pretty good, if you’ve got the money.
The Lucha World Cup mixed the three US promotions in ROH/LU and TNA/LU teams last year. ROH is not participating this year, so both promotion get their own team. Just for the sake of comparison, we’ll call this Lucha Underground team a successor to the ROH/LU one, which took third place in 2015. Cage returns from that bronze medal trio, with Johnny Mundo moving over to this unit for this edition.
Brian Cage‘s match against Alberto el Patron on last year’s TripleMania was the only problem-free fight of the night, but AAA seemed to have no idea of what to do with him next. It wasn’t surprising when he was among the big names who disappeared from AAA last fall. It was a surprise when he was announced as coming to rival promotion Elite instead. Some negotiations, combined with a bit of pressure from Lucha Underground, put a stop to that and now Cage is back in AAA and playing up the Trump supporter bit again. His antics and powerful wrestling style work well together; he hasn’t had the chance to toss around people as much as in Lucha Underground, but he matches up with the bigger guys as well. Cage is likely challenging for the AAA heavyweight title soon, so they’ll want for him to look strong in this showing.
Johnny Mundo had been doing a similar anti-Mexico bit as Cage during his 2015 appearances. He mostly directed it at Rey Mysterio, disappeared just as soon as Mysterio left AAA, and probably wouldn’t be back unless he had the chance to work against his old rival. Mundo’s been the MVP of Lucha Underground, working face or heel when needed it, taking the big loss and so others could take the spotlight, and just generally being the veteran leader of a young roster. He’ll have less of a demand on him here, but was among one of the best in last year’s competition and would be expected to do the same this year.
Chavo Guerrero has appeared occasionally in Mexico in recent years. He was on the Que Viva el Rey tour last year, which failed. He was weirdly part of Elite’s first attempt to run a league tournament, which failed. Chavo didn’t have much to do with those issues and I don’t believe in theories of three, but it hasn’t been smooth sailing. There didn’t seem to be any great interest in seeing the last wrestling member of Guerrero dynasty in those previous times, but Mexican crowd still might give him more of a chance the American ones. US fans seem exhausted with him in his Lucha Underground appearances. It’s too bad – Chavo’s still OK, but would need some amazing reimaging for people to care about him. That’s not an issue for this touranament, where he should just be the one taking the pin.
- Chance of winning: 23% – they may be reluctant to have a Mexico team win twice in a row, and this seems like more useful set of evil Americans for AAA’s future plans.
- Chances of good matches: high! Cage & Mundo probably can have good trios matches with any partner. Chavo is a fine test of that theory.
- Chance anyone in Mexico figures out Born in the USA is not a patriotic song: doubtful
The TNA/LU combined effort finished second last year, but none of those participants will be on this TNA team in 2016. Mundo moves over to the Lucha Underground exclusive team, Mr. Anderson has left TNA entirely, and Matt Hardy is busy doing very odd things to his hair. It’s a new threesome taking their place this year, one that may be a natural at doing an evil American bit.
EC3 been so good in his role in TNA, he’s managed to be recognized for his success despite his home promotion otherwise only noticed for calamities. Ethan has gotten good reviews on for his new work as a face turn and dealt with equally odd situations when TNA & Wrestle-1 combined for Bound of Glory. (Ryoto Hama is a good practice run for Akebono.) The man who once hoped to be the USA Guy is a fine representative for his nation. I think he’s going to do well in the ring, but it’s even more likely he’ll be the breakout performer in the pre-show media interviews.
“Eli Drake” is new to Mexico, but the wrestler has taken part in lucha libre previously. He wrestled in the Todo x el Todo promotion as part of the evil Border Patrol gringo unit, a gimmick he’d be wrestling with on lucha shows in California previously, and going up against the likes of Dr. Wagner Jr. (Hijo del Santo unintentionally broke the news of Ricker getting signed to an ill-fated developmental deal in a postmatch interview to one of those matches, explaining the heels would need a new member because one of them had signed with WWE. They got one – it turned out to be Brian Cage’s Mexico debut.) Drake looked good in those matches, and in his TNA appearances, at feeding the faces for their big moves. He’s not a luchador by training, but has worked with enough of them on indie shows that he’ll have the least trouble adjusting. Drake wouldn’t have been the top of the list to be included on this team, but makes a certain amount of sense.
Tyrus hasn’t wrestled in Mexico outside of WWE shows back when he was Brodus Clay, though he was listed advertising as appearing at an AAA TV show (and it was never really explained why he didn’t appear.) His size and look would appear to make him a useful heel for Mexico, but he’s not great (or interested) in catching dives and probably would struggle with the complicated high flyers. Tyrus’ best matches in TNA have been against fellow big guys or where weapons have been used, which won’t quite work in this tournament. Tyrus is going to more useful on the promotional posters for these shows then he’ll be in the ring.
- Chance of winning: 17% – TNA seems to have as strong a relationship of any outside promotion, and it’s conceivable part of the promotional deal involves the TNA going very far. (On the other hand, if TNA has an influence, it might mean the Tyrus & EC3’s current rivalry causes this team to be eliminated.) It’s tough to imagine three guys who may not be back winning this competition, but AAA and TNA have historically exchanged big wins in the opposite promotion.
- Chances of good matches: mixed. They may be more dependent on getting the right match ups, and Tyrus being kept out except for a few big spots.
- Chance TNA returns for the 2017 Lucha World Cup: Uh, maybe cross your fingers on this.
NOAH’s back for a second year, which is a mild surprise. ROH, who’s dependent on NJPW for access to valuable talent and in turn has their booking directed by NJPW, was told they no longer could send talent to this competition. NOAH seems like the same deal – NJPW has a hand in things there too – but apparently haven’t been persuaded to drop their relationship with AAA. NOAH wrestlers are largely unknown in Mexico, but a recognizable promotion in Japan being involved helps the credibility of the tournament.
The NOAH trio, as fitting with their recent run of Charlie Brown like setbacks, were actually the first team eliminated last year. Taiji Ishimori, Atsushi Kotoge, and Yoshihiro Takayama had the misfortune of drawing the Dream Team in the opener, and that was it for them. Kotoge and Takayama are replaced this year.
Taiji Ishimori might be the link between AAA & NOAH, as Ishimori has roots in Mexico going back to his Toryumon days and is a former AAA tag team champion. He’s not had the best 12 months, losing the GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship and is out of the picture for both that belt and the junior tag team belts at the moment. Ishimori’s exchanges with Rey Mysterio in that opener were sharp, and it should be a treat to see him again in this setting.
Naomichi Marufuji comes into this tournament as new tag team champions with Toru Yano, ending the 472 day of Killer Elite Squad, so he’s well prepared for weird matchups and big wins. Marufuji has made guest appearances in AAA previously, most recently a 2008 match teaming with Chessman & Charly Manson against Abismo Negro, Kenzo Suzuki, and Takeshi Morishima. Marufuji’s not got a great reputation among American wrestling fans, knocked for his poor selling and overall boring matches, but can have strong matches in the right situations and this format won’t demand much out of him.
Maybach Taniguchi is not particularly good at professional wrestling.
- Chance of Winning: 15% – it’d normally be much lower, given the utter lack of success last year, but the sponsor has brought up running this tournament in Japan in 2017. It seems a stretch, but 12 months ago they were pushing the idea of doing a women’s tournament this year, and lived up to that. The concept would probably sell better in Japan if one of their teams actually advanced a bit.
- Chance of Good Matches: Shaky. I liked this team better before I started reading more about them.
- Chance Team NOAH will immediately lose the trophy to Minoru Suzuki should they win: disturbingly high!
This team replaces the ‘AJPW’ unit from last year, and is similarly an amalgam of smaller Japanese promotions. The group last year was Tiger Mask III, Masasume and Kenzo Suzuki. Kenzo’s pretty busy in his quest to become King of DDT to rejoin this, and we wish him luck.
Akebono is here as part of a talent exchange: Pentagon & Fenix worked his debut (and so far only) Oudou (Royal Road) show, and so Akebono’s comes to the Lucha World Cup in turn. Akebono’s not new to Mexico, having appeared as a Brazo on Ultimo Dragon’s annual Dragonmania shows as a foreign guest. Akebono’s busy schedule and size has reduced him to a poor in-ring performer. Starting yet another AJPW shoot off promotion doesn’t seem like a sound business move, but the resulting reduced in-ring schedule should at least help his physical health. Akebono still shouldn’t be expected to do much and it’d be unwise to ask him to heavily participate in multiple matches.
Masato Tanaka seems like he must’ve been in Mexico at some point, because he’s been just about everywhere else. Tanaka’s talented and charismatic, but his home promotion doesn’t get much coverage nowadays and his series of matches in ECW will always overshadow everything else he’s done for most North American fans. Tanaka’s not ventured as much into the bigger Japan promotions in the last year, but all reports are he’s still very good and should be a big asset on this team.
Ikuto Hidaka also had an ECW stint, but it was before he matured into the shoot style wrestler popular among people willing to look hard for Japanese wrestling content. His high end matches are well regarded, though there’s not as many as some others (though it’s not clear to me if it’s due to his effort or his obscurity.) Hidaka has been a top junior heavyweight star for Zero1 for a number of years, and is one half of the NWA International Lightweight Tag Team Championship. As the sole junior, he’s the guy most likely take the pin, and this tournament field doesn’t match up with his strengths.
- Chance of Winning: 1%, which is probably 1% too high. This team is very obviously here to make up the numbers and to strength promotional relationships. Winning a single match in this tournament would be a surprise, winning the whole thing is unthinkable.
- Chance of Good Matches: Depends. On paper, they seem similar to the the TNA – two useful guys and one who needs to be hidden – but the most problematic member of the trio is also like to be the biggest star.
- Chance of this being a completely different trio again next year: 95%
Last year’s miscellaneous team was a clever way to add three more good wrestlers to the mix who couldn’t otherwise fit on a team. This year, Angelico’s out rehabbing an elbow injury, Drew Galloway is busy trying to save the US indies, and Mesias is – uh, it’s complicated. This year’s trio is just a plain oddball group with no obvious particular.
The randomness can be summed up by Mil Muertes‘ presence. Mesias is a featured wrestler in AAA, part of Team Trump and likely part of a big match in a couple months at TripleMania. Remember, unless you’re a diehard fan willing to search out illegal video uploads, you haven’t actually seen Mil Muertes in Mexico and you have no idea why it might be cool to see him. You just see normal old Mesias wearing a funny mask, but with the same body and the very recognizable tattoos. (His AAA character is also very Puerto Rican, and “Pascual Mendoza” is implied to be Mexican, but he’s said to be from an unknown location for the sake of his inclusion on this team.) There’s certainly a Lucha Underground theme to the show – Dario Cueto and Melissa Santos have been announced as appearing – but this still is a stretch. Maybe this is the signal of some LU/Mexico deal to be announced soon, though there’s no sign of one. Probably it’s just AAA or Victoria being a bit goofy. The silver lining is Mil Muertes has been a much more exciting wrestler than Mesias the last few years. The environment is probably more of a help than the mask, but maybe he’ll be motivated here.
Rockstar Spud seemed to be breaking out in TNA, and then they had no real idea on how to keep him going after his feud with EC3 ended. He turned heel to no great result, and has sadly returned to being a lackey for the lead heel. He’s still good, if he’s not used as well. He would make sense to carry the majority of the match, leaving his partners to come in for the big offense. Truly, all I want from this team is a two minute vignette were Spud reacts to his teammates, perhaps ending with a rousing motivational speech.
The Lucha World Cup matches appear to be Apolo‘s first matches in North America in 2016. He’s only been spotted as wrestling in Chile in 2016 for Hugo Savinovich’s occasional Chile shows. The Puerto Rican wrestler was previously in WWC. Apolo looks the part of an imposing professional wrestler, but he never caught out in many TNA stints and didn’t graduate from FCW when he was part of WWE’s developmental territory. Apolo is OK at best, and there’s more interesting people who could’ve been used for this spot – he’s the most obvious political favor of the inclusions.
- Chance of Winning: 1% – maybe there’s some surprise reason Mil Muertes is here after all.
- Chance of Good Matches: Not great. Plural “Matches” seems unlikely to start, and this is not a well assembled team.
- Chance the Mexican media goes along with the Mil Muertes bit: 50/50! They usually go along with the program, but this requires quite the suspension of disbelief.
I’ve given the Mexico Team Internacional as the best chance by percentage, but it’s mostly because it’s hard for me to figure out which of the two American teams will get the call to go far in this tournament. Going with logic never works out great, but the logical outcome is Team Lucha Underground taking first place over the Misterio led team. Team NOAH is my pick for a third place to build on for next year, and I’ll go with my heart over my head and say the Pentagon Jr. team survives to finish fourth.
The women’s half is easier to map out. The Mexico female trio is surely facing Aja Kong at some point in this competition, it’s simply a matter of when. I’d guess they take care of that one right off the bat, building to Team Mexico defeating Team Canada in the final. Team Japan will regroup some ground in third, and Team USA seems destined for last.
The research has caused me to be more excited for the women’s tournament then I started, and a little less for the men’s tournament. Then men’s side is much more reliant on smart matchups, but the women’s teams all seem solid or at least interesting. Both tournaments have a lot of one time only potential matchups, and that sort of novelty will make this event worth watching.