This is it: the biggest fight of the year is happening on Saturday. No one believed it was ever actually going to happen until they signed the contracts, but it’s on. The hype has been inescapable, and the fans vocal on both sides. Despite some allegations the fight isn’t fair or perhaps even fixed, everyone’s going to want to see how it goes down on Saturday night, and neither man will be the same afterwards.

That’s right, Psycho Clown versus Dr. Wagner, mask vs mask, will engage in what will definitely be the most credible big money match anywhere in the world on August 26, 2017.

Psycho/Wagner really is that level of importance in Mexico. AAA’s celebrating 25 years of their promotion and will probably end up with around 20,000 paying guests to their birthday party, a number that’ll probably put it only behind NJPW and WWE for biggest shows of the year. AAA’s spent a full year promoting the main event, running the tag line of “Match of The Decade” so much that everyone’s willing to go with it even with those Atlantis masks matches happening just a few years ago. AAA has sold their corporate partners on it too: sports newspaper Record has been dedicating pages to the show for the last week, and the mask match itself will be broadcast free and live over the air on Televisa Saturday night. It’s no small spot: Televisa will have it follow Mayweather & McGregor in hopes of keeping the expected big audience around an hour longer. With boxing’s popularity in Mexico, it’s not that far off from NBC airing the main event of a WWE show right after the Super Bowl.

This match and TripleMania 25 is truly a big deal in Mexico. It is not a big deal outside of Mexico. It’s a big shift from a few years ago, switching the goal was to expand into the US and the rest of the world, to almost totally ignoring it. There’s been almost no promotion of TripleMania in English this year. It would be a tougher sell for that audience, with few of the familiar names from Lucha Underground part of the show, but just running a giant big mask match seemed to capture some international interest for CMLL and probably should could do the same with AAA. The difference is the only news that seems to get traction with AAA is someone leaving or some show being awful. Any attempt to hype this show and this promotion in the US has to overcome all the bad feelings around AAA.

AAA is taking a stab at fixing that. You can’t change the image of a promotion without getting people to watch it, so AAA is going to make TripleMania very easy to watch. The entire live show, plus a two hour marathon featuring matches from past TripleManias, will be streamed on Twitch for free Saturday.

The warm-up show will start at 5:00 p.m. CT, the card will begin at 7:00 p.m. CST, and the plan is to not start Dr. Wagner versus Psycho Clown until Mayweather & McGregor have concluded their shenanigans. The show will air in both Spanish and English, with Kevin Gill and Gabriel Ramirez of Pro Wrestling Revolution handling it this year. I do not believe I have heard them announce a wrestling show, but they can only be an improvement from AAA English recent efforts.

(If you for some unthinkable reason don’t watch the show live, I’m assuming the show will be archived on Twitch. It’ll turn up on AAA’s official YouTube channel at some point, GFW has mentioned they’ll be airing some bit of it as part of Impact down the road, and AAA has talked vaguely about the event even airing on Univision in the US at some point. Visibility is the main concern this year.)

This being AAA, we don’t exactly know all the matches even days before the show. Plus AAA in 2017 has delighted in advertising one set of matches, then running something completely different. One would hope they’ve got things worked out better for TripleMania, but it’s hard to tell.





La Llave a La Gloria final

The biggest show of the year is going to start out with dark match tryout matches, more or less. AAA’s La Llave a La Gloria talent search contest has been entertaining in unearthing cool and completely unknown luchadors, and how AAA is obviously making up the rules as they go on. The original plan was for the winner(s) of the contest to get a match at TripleMania as the prize, the current plan appears to have the dozen finalists all wrestle and the actual winner to be announced during the show.

There’s 14 people scheduled—12 men (Angelikal, Ángel Mortal Jr., Bronco González Jr., Chicano, Dragón Solar, Fetiche, Hijo Del Vikingo, Pardux, Solaris, The Tigger, Tiger Boy, Villano III Jr.) and two women (Ashley & Hahastary)—and the AAA lineup sheet says this competition will take place over two matches, but who’s doing what might be not be clear until they go out there. And even then, it’s going to be a hard one to figure. Some of these people have made TV or are indie people of note or the son of a hall of famer. A lot of them are people who are unfamiliar not just to the casual AAA audience, but to an obsessive lucha fan. I don’t know the difference between a Pardux and Fetiche, and probably 99% of the people watching will have the seam feeling.

We have seen enough of some of them to guess at the winners. Ashley has been the obvious star of the women who have tried out. Hahastary is fine, but Ashley’s the safest lock of the night. Hijo del Vikingo has be the standout of the men who’ve made TV, though Angelikal, Chicano and Villano III Jr. have looked good in smaller promotions. The winner there may not matter: AAA doesn’t have great depth, and this is likely a situation where they’ll end up bringing a bunch of people on board.

Big Mami, Dinastía, Estrella Divina, Máscara de Bronce vs Hernández, La Hiedra, Mamba, Mini Psycho Clown

The real start of the card is one of the usual matches to make sure everyone’s included.

The traditional Relevos AAA match has teams of a man (Mascara de Bronce, Hernandez), a woman (Big Mami, La Hiedra), a mini (Dinastia, Mini Psycho Clown) and an exotico (Estrella Divina & Mamba.) It’s a mixed bag; AAA’s given Big Mami a big run as their new opening match comedy figure but she limits the matches. There’s a little bit of story here: Hernandez is working on Johnny Mundo’s behalf to take away Mascara de Bronce’s knockoff Money In The Bank #1 contender’s briefcase. Only, Kevin Kross took care of that, so Hernandez is just sort of collecting a nice paycheck for not so much work. Meanwhile, Mini Psycho Clown ended Dinastia’s multiyear mini title run in a match with no build up, no follow up, and nothing great in between; this is the first time either of them have been seen in months. The former Wrestling Observer Rookie of the Year is going thru a stretch of nothingness that puts Mascara Dorada to shame, but he is at least getting his annual TripleMania appearance out of it. He’ll probably get a win too.

Sexy Star © vs Lady Shani vs Ayako Hamada vs Rosemary for AAA’s Reina De Reinas championship

Forever is not that long of time in lucha libre. Sexy Star, last seen in AAA walking out over refusing to lose a title, was given a title in exchange for returning to the promotion. AAA thought this would be a positive deal, but it’s amounted to not much. Her hometown title win was met with apathy and a surprising amount of boos. This is her only match since, though she did find time in between to go on a podcast to explain almost none of the other women in AAA are worth wrestling and it would be beneath her to feud with them. She’s a peach, but she’s also seen as a star by promoters and this match will be all about showcasing her.

Sexy’s rare wrestling matches this year have tended to be multi-woman matches, where she can slip out for a few minutes, let others carry the action, and slip back in for her moment. This might go well if it’s the same. Lady Shani is one of those AAA woman Sexy has no time for, and is also publicly the protege of estranged former women’s champions Taya. She’s promising, and there’s a great story there using real life AAA could tell to build up the issue with her and Sexy, but so far it’s been limited to Shani taking slight jabs at Sexy Star’s floundering boxing career. That really goes for everything here; Ayako had the AAA match of the year in March by being a complete loon, then proceeded to disappear from TV until she was announced for this match. Rosemary’s character seems like a certain bet to get over here given some exposure, but she’s only been treated as a token GFW name on the card so far.

Dark Cuervo & Dark Scoria vs Aerostar & Drago vs Monsther Clown & Murder Clown vs a GFW Team To Be Announced

Cuervo and Scoria remain tag team champs, and remain not interesting. AAA has done their best to use them without having to do actually do anything with them the last few months. Whenever two people need to be a forced to be a tag team so they can break up at the end, Cuervo and Scoria are right there to be there to give them a tag title shot. They’ll be OK, but there’s some frustration that they’ve had quite a few chances to be show something better than OK, and haven’t done it.

Aerostar & Drago have done it: their best of five trios series against Poder del Norte (with new face Raptor as the tecnico’s third wheel) has been the highlight of recent TV shows. It’s strange for that feud and that rudo trio to both not be part of this lineup, but they’ve chosen a format to get more people involved. Murder & Monster still have unsettled issues with old partner Psycho Clown, which might be waiting for after this show to resolve. There’s an decent chance they’ll pick up the tag titles here to set them up as future top opponents. The GFW team has not been revealed as of the time of writing; I’m hearing it’ll likely be a couple X Division types, similar to the Lucha Underground Paul London/Matt Cross team from last year.

Torneo TripleMania XXV

This match will probably be a good time to grab some popcorn or check out what’s happening in that other ring. In the grand tradition of Los Villanos contra Psycho Circus, AAA is mixing current wrestlers and names from the past as a celebration of the company’s 25 year existence. It seems a great idea for a parade and less so as a wrestling match. AAA claims this 30 person match is actually some sort of trios tournament, but haven’t really explained any more about how that will work. I’m hoping it works as quickly as possible.

AAA also never actually announced the trios, just the 30 (or 29) people in the match, and left it to the reader to figure out what was supposed to be happening. The names appear to be in order of the trios, but the last couple teams could be changed by the day of the show:

  • Argenis, Bengala, La Parka (a team of tecnicos)
  • Australian Suicide, Faby Apache, Pimpinela Escarlata (a team of a rudo, a woman and an exotico)
  • Averno, Chessman, Súper Fly (OGT, rudos)
  • Bobby Lashley, Jeff Jarrett, Moose (GFW reps)
  • Decnnis, Scorpió Jr., Zumbido (the mid 2000s Guapos group)
  • Histeria, Maniaco, Psicosis (the early 2000s Vipers unit, with Histeria & Psicosis leaving CMLL for this)
  • Halloween, Joe Lider, Mr. Águila (original members of Los Perros del Mal and later addition Joe Lider)
  • Crazy Boy, Lanzeloth, Niño Hamburguesa (the late 2000s Mexican Powers group and never member Lanzeloth)
  • Pirata Morgan, Villano IV, Heavy Metal (a trio of rudos, who independently all implied they wouldn’t be on this show until they were announced as on it)
  • Blue Demon Jr., Intocable, TBA (a group of tecnicos, with no particular hint at the last man)

Just in case a 30 person match isn’t enough, AAA’s promised even more people will be involved.

Los Vatos Locos, the original Payasos and Sangre Chicana will be hanging outside the ring as lumberjacks with straps; many of those names are standing outside the ring because even AAA doesn’t trust them inside one at this point. AAA has contacted a lot more ex-AAA wrestlers beyond those mentioned here. Many have made loud public denials that they’ll appear on this show, but it’s likely a few people more not mentioned will turn up here.

There are a few issues here – ex-partners Bengala & Suicide are feuding, Ricky Marvin got kicked out of OGT and then kicked out of the tecnico side for no-showing matches, there was something with Pirata Morgan telling Parka secrets that never went anywhere – but the regular AAA people are mostly here just to fill out the numbers in this freakshow of a match.

No one loves Jeff Jarrett likes AAA loves Jeff Jarrett, so the GFW team has a good shot of winning. The Perros del Mal members are not big stars on their own, but AAA has reasons for wanting to keep the group identity strong (and associated with them), so they might go pretty far. Blue Demon usually doesn’t show up to lose, so his team is also a strong contender. None of this shapes as a good match, especially with no idea how this is supposed to work. They might stumble into an interesting spot or two but this looks like a big block of time you’ll want to avoid.



Johnny Mundo © versus Texano Jr. versus Hijo del Fantasma in a TLC match for AAA’s Trichampionship

This is really two separate issues, compressed into one match because even AAA has limits about how many matches they’ll force onto Triplemania. The same three men met to combine AAA’s three male singles championships back at Rey de Reyes.

During the match, Fantasma injured Texano with a piledriver onto a chair, putting him on the shelf for weeks. Fantasma still didn’t win the match, because Kevin Kross debuted as Mundo’s bodyguard and assisted his boss for the victory. Since then, Texano and Fantasma have been breaking up and getting back together on a regular basis, and Mundo’s been rightfully concerned that Kross is going to backstab him and take the title himself via that #1 contender’s briefcase.

Hernandez, as Mundo’s second bodyguard to protect him from his first one, and Mascara de Bronce, who originally won that title shot briefcase, are on the periphery of all of this. Texano & Fantasma got this title rematch thru a dreadful WWE “#1 contenders match goes to a draw so both get the shot” bit, but they seem more interested in each other than these belts. The real matches they’re building to are Texano/Fantasma and Mundo/Kross, and this is just killing time until they have enough space to do them later in the year. The ladders and tables are here to do big stunts, and we’re just thankful AAA is doing that instead of another awful cage match.

Kevin Kross is a special case. He’s under Lucha Underground contract, but didn’t tape any matches for Season 3. He did tape a whole lot of dark matches, just like Jeff Cobb did during Season 1 before he debuted as Matanza in Season 2, and it’s a safe bet there are similar level plans for Kross in Season 4. Still, that does him no good now, and won’t do him any good if Season 4 never happens, so his stint in Mexico seems at least in part a favor to keep LU’s next secret weapon occupied and happy while everything is in a holding pattern. He had no name in Mexico prior to the year, but showed up right after the people behind Lucha Underground’s creative became the people behind AAA’s creative.

AAA has pushed him as an intelligent monster heel, destroying people and not being touched by almost anyone. (It’s become increasingly obvious that Bronce is part of this not because they think he’s a prospect they’re building around, but because he’s a tiny kid who Kross can fling around with ease.) The only person who’s getting anything on Kross is Vampiro, the onscreen authority figure and the off-screen person in charge of writing the skits where the broken down 50+ year old guy backs down the new baddest guy in the promotion. Vampiro has said he’s returning to the ring and AAA’s teasing Vampiro/Kross as big as anything actually happening on this show, so it’s really strange Kross isn’t wrestling Vampiro or anyone on Triplemania. Something’s happening with Kross in this match: he’s helping Mundo, he’s betraying Mundo, he’s winning the title, he’s revealing he was actually working with Vampiro all the time, something to keep Kross in the spotlight.

I’m least certain of the exact outcome of this match; I’m sure it’ll be plot driven and a bit cheesy, but there’s so many different directions they could go and still fit both of those. It’s a ladder match with hanging belts, so even the idea of all three championships being split back up somehow is in play, but the “Tri” wordplay in the new title name is too cute too give up quick. The one thing I’m certain is there’s little danger of Mundo walking out on AAA, as teased last month. Taya & Mundo’s issues with Vampiro & AAA were a storyline (maybe one they were running only by themselves) since the moment Mundo started tweeting about it, if not earlier. It’s very possible Mundo might have been finishing up after TripleMania anyway – Kross has his spot as lead foreign heel, there’s not a lot left for Mundo to do here – but Mundo wouldn’t be still working here and be given the green light to work in GFW if he and AAA were really as angry at each other as they portrayed.

Pagano vs El Mesías in a street fight

Pagano and Mesias spent about half the year with Mesias constantly teasing attacking fellow rudo partner Pagano, with Pagano making a point to show no fear of that idea. They kept almost breaking up for months, until they won the tag team championship almost at random, then lost it back at the very first opportunity. That time, Mesias skipping the bit about teasing the turn and just clocked Pagano out of nowhere. That attack, in Pagano’s hometown of Ciudad Juarez, and a later one were complete destruction of Pagano, who usually is leaving people in a puddle of their own blood, not waking up in his own. Pagano’s been an anti-hero in the Pentagon Jr. mold since coming to AAA, but Mesias’ beatdowns have moved Pagano more sympathetically towards the tecnico side.

Last year’s feud with Psycho Clown made Pagano an AAA star, and the current booking crew seems strongly behind him. It’s a great career move to be a tall rockstar looking guy wearing face paint willing to do anything when Vampiro is in charge. A street fight plays to Pagano’s strengths (bleeding, hitting people with objects, more bleeding.) Pagano & Psycho over achieved last year in a weapons match and this should be the same. Mesias remains the question mark, still looking disinterested during so much AAA TV this year. Big matches on big stages tend to bring out the best out of him, and this should be both. AAA has no discernible limits on what luchadors are allowed to do in matches – chairshots to the head and thumbtacks are certain to occur, the finish probably will include fire – and the reaction of fans much more sensitive to those things is always interesting to watch.

These two guys in a semifinal of the biggest show of the year feels like there should have a stipulation added to it to justify it. There was an early lineup for this card which had this is a hair match instead of a street fight, and it seems like they’ve decided to kick that can to later this year. It’s possible they’ll shuffle the card order a little to move this earlier. Pagano figures to win that when they get to it, so Mesias is likely to pick up the first win on this show.

Psycho Clown vs Dr. Wagner Jr., mask vs mask

A frustration with following lucha libre is the lack of teased big blowoff matches. No form of wrestling is built around pushing the rivalry ending off more than lucha libre, there’s always another show in another town where they can push it a little farther.

Luchadors, especially older ones, are frequent in their post match challenges for mask versus mask matches they have no intention to do. It’s an internal short term mindset, trying to get that one last reaction that night uncaring about growing cynicism and disinterest when those promised matches don’t happen. (It’s also a bit of self-denial; half the building is usually filling out when those post-main event challenges are made, they’ve figured out the con better than the wrestlers.) There’s no one who’s ended more matches vowing to take someone’s mask more than Dr. Wagner Jr, and so no one really believed him or Psycho Clown or AAA all that much when they set up this match at the end of last year’s TripleMania. It really wasn’t until January, when AAA did another round of press to insist the mask match was really truly happening that I was finally convinced it was for real. (Others may have needed more convincing, AAA’s subsequently done media rounds for this match just about every month this year.) AAA had promised too much with this match to too many people to back out now. Even with wrestling naturally being silly and shifty, it would’ve still stain AAA’s name with fans if someone else was added and anyone but Wagner or Psycho lost this match.

Dr. Wagner Jr is icon of modern lucha libre, a luchador who should be in the Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame (and probably will be once this show is added to his resume.) He was among the best in-ring wrestlers in Mexico at this peak, and still can have epic matches into his 50s. His charisma is legendary. Despite his mask normally covering all of his face, he’s as good as communication emotion as anyone. His best attribute is his ability to communicate emotion without a word. He knows every old trick to get a crowd behind him. Despite being the heel in this feud, it’s likely Wagner will have the majority of support during the match. Mexico wrestling fans love legends and will never abandon them.

Wagner’s father lost his mask to El Solitario, who was the biggest star in lucha libre at that moment. Psycho Clown is not quite at that level, but AAA has been successful in making Psycho the biggest star in their company. (A little of that ‘success’ has to be chalked up to other possible candidates – Fenix, Pentagon among them – being run off by AAA, but Psycho was obviously AAA’s pick even beforehand.) The Clown gimmick fits AAA’s family atmosphere, the Brazo family background fulfills Mexican wrestling fan’s love of wrestling dynasties. Psycho not the best at anything, and operates in a smaller tighter box than would be aces in other places, but he’s great enough that AAA could safely promote him as a big star.

This exact main event is one year in the making, but the plan to make Psycho Clown the cornerstone of AAA goes back three or four years longer. All that sets up for Psycho Clown winning Dr. Wagner’s mask, to cement Psycho Clown as the flag carrier for AAA for the next decade or more. Wagner has left Psycho unmasked and humiliated numerous times in 2017 to lead to this match. The same happens with Pagano and Psycho in 2016, where Psycho lost nearly every encounter to Pagano to build to him finally getting the win at TripleMania. The same usual lucha pattern points to Psycho Clown finally getting his comeuppance on Dr. Wagner Jr. at this year’s TripleMania, ending the silver anniversary show with the biggest win in company history.

Except, this is Dr. Wagner, the man with old school instincts and who no one trusts. AAA has taken risky and ill-considered changes, but counting on Wagner not to back out of the match and not to hold AAA up for a whole lot more money at the last second is about a secure an idea as jumping out of an airplane without a parachute. You can try, people have lived, but it’s plainly insane. Wagner’s probably never doing his long fabled mask match with LA Park – and if they wanted to, neither of the big promotions seem to want to touch it, and a start up wouldn’t be able to offer near as much as money as AAA will be offering to the TripleMania loser. However, the TripleMania winner probably is cashing a pretty good check, and a masked Wagner can still demand good prices from smaller promoters while still holding out that carrot on a stick of a mask match. An unmasked Wagner is suddenly an exposed 52 year old man, and no amount of pumping up his muscles at the gym is going to conceal an aged face. It wouldn’t necessarily be a retirement if Wagner lost, but it would immediately shift him from relevance to nostalgia act. Even if Wagner did agree to losing his mask at any point, vanity and economic concerns would be gnawing at him the entire time.

Psycho Clown shouldn’t want to lose his mask either. The Psycho Clown character transformed his character from a guy who was struggling to find a place in major promotions to one of the biggest stars. His family history suggests he’d find a way to get over unmasked, but it seems much too soon for him to need to do so. Psycho Clown is also a company man, loyal to AAA for anointing him, and a new family man with a young child. The payoff to losing your mask on this show is likely to be life changing money and that sort of money is hard to pass up when you’ve got new commitments. An AAA a deal with Psycho Clown is liable to be a bit cheaper than one with Dr. Wagner, and one much more reliable. AAA desires Psycho Clown to be a huge star, and the exposure of being in this match may help with that, but what they must have is result for this match. The only way they can be sure they have a finish is if they get the ask the good solider to take the loss to the wildcard

There will be twists and turns in how they get there; it’ll surely not be clean, and it’d be no surprise to see both men’s hands raised at one time or another before the finish. Like everything else with AAA, Vampiro will figure prominently. This is the third straight AAA major show with an apuesta match: one saw Vampiro overturn a ref’s call to set up the tecnico’s win, the other saw Vampiro slide in to make the count himself and unzip his jacket to reveal a referee shirt. He’ll find a way into the ring for the finish for this one too, and Vampiro pulling a surprise heel turn to screw Psycho Clown out of his mask is on the list of possibilities (and one that would give Psycho a big name opponent to rehab himself against.) Big AAA matches never end without controversy and there will be some here.

There were also be truckloads of emotion, and the emotion in this match is the best reason to watch TripleMania. Psycho Clown and Dr. Wagner won’t have the technical smoothness of the big Arena Mexico mask matches. That’s not AAA’s style, that’s not their style now, it’ll be a brawl into the crowd, and back into the ring for a Canadian Destroyer or two. It will be like those CMLL matches in the level of drama. The outcome really matters to those attending, there will be people elated and devastated with either result. It’s more than a win or loss, but the defining moment in each guy’s careers—and probably their lives.

Mayweather & McGregor are going to make a lot of money, but it’s unlikely to change how we think of their entire work. Dr. Wagner Jr. versus Psycho Clown at TripleMania will be the biggest thing to happen to either of them.