If you drew up the ideal leader of a Mexican wrestling promotion, it would look like one of the luchadors in Saturday’s TripleMania main event. He’s a second generation wrestler. He’s in great cosmetic shape. He can wrestle well when asked to be a tecnico, a rudo, or even a completely different character. He has some flashy moves and can always deliver a solid main event match. He’s even fluently bilingual, perfect for your forever delayed US expansion.

That luchador is Hijo del Fantasma.

Hijo del Fantasma is probably going to lose on Saturday. He’s probably going to lose to an actual clown. And it’s the appropriate decision for AAA.

Welcome to AAA’s biggest event of the year, the 26th TripleMania (TripleMania XXVI). It’s the annual show where AAA puts their best foot forward to impress their largest audience of the year. AAA’s best foot forward usually steps on a rake that smacks AAA in the face, but that’s half the fun. If NJPW’s Tokyo Dome is the one show of the year most likely to deliver huge star ratings, TripleMania is the annual show likely to deliver a trainwreck.

This year’s TripleMania takes place Saturday night (August 25), once again live from Mexico City. The main card has an 8:30 pm CDT start time. If you can handle a five-hour show, you’ll probably want to tune in an hour early because AAA has strangely put two of the best matches there and isn’t promoting them at all.

For the second year running, TripleMania will air live and free on Twitch in both Spanish & English. The entire show will also air in cable on Mexico (on Space), and the main event at least will air over the air (on Canal5). It’ll be available for subscribers on Twitch ($5/month) on VOD. It’ll also be on AAA’s YouTube channel, though probably on a long delay.

If there’s anything you should take from this preview, it’s this: do not watch the English language stream. If you only will watch wrestling if they’re speaking English, you’d be best finding another way to spend your Saturday. Matt Striker & Vampiro have been gifted the jobs after a terrible performance two years ago (and their replacements somehow being nearly as bad last year.) Striker will show up having not watched a second of AAA programming since the last time he was on, and storyline director of talent Vampiro will lose interest about an hour in with the show. They’ll both start entertaining themselves, and at least one will say something which would get them fired in most “major league” wrestling promotions. They’ll be fine because no one in charge of AAA really cares, but you’ll be annoyed you wasted your time.

Jose Manuel Guillen & Hugo Savinovich have been enjoyable as the Spanish language commentators on Twitch, and Guillen should be getting votes in announcer of the year polls at the end of the year. You’ll enjoy this show much more if you choose to listen to them.

Another reason to pick Spanish over English is you won’t really miss a lot of storyline points. There’s not much to the undercard. It’s almost an AAA version of CMLL big show card, where the early matches mean nothing or are self-explanatory. Even if something happens, there will be a good chance none of it makes sense or goes anywhere anyway. (I call this “the Killer Kross rule”.)

Stuff that might be good but is mostly inconsequential:

The opening dark match will be a Llave a La Gloria match, a rookie match. No names have been announced, but it’ll likely be an Ultimo Maldito & Arkangel Divino showcase. They should get over with this crowd, but running them out weekly is starting to expose their limitations.

There’s also a cruiserweight title defense in the opener, where the people involved haven’t been named. It’s multiple crazy. It’s crazy because ACH, Shane Strickland, and Sammy Guevara are being flown in for a pre-show match and not even being advertised. It’s also crazy because AAA and current champion Australian Suicide seem like they might be about done with each other, only AAA hasn’t put in any regular who could win the title.

The proper show opener, a mixed tag title four-way, looks more likely to be a title change. Big Mami & Nino Hamburguesa did surprisingly well under the old regime as an early match crowd pleaser act. They’ve been dropped from TV recently. Spectacular flyer Hijo del Vikingo and recent import from Puerto Rico Vanilla are the golden boy and girl of late. There’s definitely something there was Vanilla, but her performances have been inconsistent without strong rudos to work with. This match is lacking that and may add up to less than its parts.

The mixed tag title four-way will produce lots of GIFs. The four-way ladder match following it might as well. Like many an AAA ladder match, there’s nothing tangible involved hanging – just a title shot at some point – and so no real need to ever use the ladder. It’ll probably end up by pinfall, strangely. Aerostar & Drago (who is back way too soon from a shoulder injury) are the obvious favorites. Golden Magic/Laredo Kid, Bandido/Flamita & DJZ/Andrew Everett all aren’t regular AAA teams or aren’t really pushed in AAA. The names sound like this should be an outstanding match, but a similar four-way tag last year was a bit of disappointment.

Like all minority wrestlers, the exoticos in AAA must either team or feud. They’re at the team stage now, with Maximo recently joining up with Mamba & Pimpinela Escarlata. They face both the rudo Poder del Norte (Mocha Cota Jr., Carta Brava Jr. and not that Tito Santana) and the Elite promotion trio of Puma King, Hijo de LA Park, and Taurus in a three-team trios match. It’s the most overstuffed match of the night. None of these teams have had anything to do with each other to this point, and this is blatantly getting people on the show simply for the sake of doing so. Poder del Norte are the trios champs and have been steaming rolling other teams of late, but AAA still seems them as prelim wrestlers. The exoticos are actually feuding with Maximo’s cousin La Mascara, who’s likely to cost them the match and give the Elite team the win.

The one undercard match with some history has the OGTs (Averno, Chessman, and Super Fly) defending the home promotion against MAD/Elite trio of Juventud Guerrera, Jack Evans, and Teddy Hart. It’s still hard to reconcile a long time CMLL regular Averno as an AAA defender, but his team is just coming off a great job in a different rudo feud and should do the same here. MAD, like so many a Konnan led invasion of AAA before, is currently getting a super push and that probably means a win here.

La Mascara, Rey Escorpion and Texano Jr. versus Joe Lider, Murder Clown and Pagano will be a garbage match in both name and quality. Escorpion & Texano have become a strong tag team in a short time. They’re being wasted because the priority here is Pagano & Lider’s hardcore spots as a novelty on a long show.

The Part Of The Card That Actually Matters

Dr. Wagner Jr. came to Verano de Escandalo with the idea he was losing the AAA Mega Heavyweight Championship. Fenix and others had the idea he was leaving Verano de Escandalo as AAA champion. Somehow, Jeff Jarrett left Verano de Escandalo as champion. This was an obvious problem to everyone who saw Jarrett look physically done (but at least sober) in the title win, but AAA has been content with waiting to TripleMania to do the title change. Fenix won a match over Bandido & Flamita to get a title match with Jeff Jarrett. Rich Swann and Brian Cage were added for reasons barely explained, though transparently about adding more people to the match so Jarrett would be less a part of it.

AAA working around their major champion and his title is nothing new. Dr. Wagner’s reign exposed him more than his mask reveal did. Johnny Mundo’s title defenses were rare and heavily gimmicked. Texano Jr. was an afterthought as champion and hadn’t recovered from being Alberto’s whipping boy in the previous reign. The only time this championship has felt actually important was during Mesias’ early reigns, and it’s been a secondary sideshow more of the time. The AAA mega championship is never going to be the sun AAA revolves around – the top feud will remain whatever Psycho Clown is involved with, and it’s never this title – but there’s some thought it can be known for having good matches again.

Fenix, Cage and Swann is a start, and a teased Fenix/Fantasma feud next has promise, but this TripleMania will be as much about Jeff Jarrett & Karen Jarrett’s antics, and that’s the way these things usually go. When it comes down to it, in top title matches, AAA will always pick the way to get heat for the next match than delivering in this one

Faby Apache and Lady Shani’s hair versus mask match is in the semi-main primarily so AAA can pat itself on the back for being progressive, just like WWE. There’s no long-term evolution in the plans: these two have been wrestling in the opening matches leading up to this match, and back they’ll go as soon as it ends. AAA does deserve some credit for doing something at all: it’s a higher position than CMLL gave Princesa Sugehit/Zeuxis last year, and much higher than Faby & Mary Apache’s legendary hair match a decade ago. It may just be marketing, but the marketing is going to give Shani & Faby the biggest spotlight of their career.

What people are going to see in that spot is the hardest hitting match of the night. Some other matches on this show are probably going to get a downgrade for looking a little too fake, this is the match people may cringe from for looking too real. Faby Apache relishes hard-hitting women wrestling, taking after those she trained under and admired in Japan.

In Lady Shani, she has found someone willing to both take it and give it back and hard just as hard. Shani can struggle with the more technical aspects of the wrestling, prone to spots not going quite right, but she has come through on big occasions this year. Their singles match earlier this year was great and this match should be nothing less.

Faby is the easy favorite to keep her hair and take Shani’s mask. For one, last time Faby lost a hair match, she had a little cut off and tried to wrestle while hiding the rest under a beanie. (It was not an angle. It was still hilarious when it came off.) For another, lucha libre promoters seem to believe masked women are not as marketable. Sexy Star is the obvious exception, but the rule is every top star wrestlers showing her face. This is an occasion where Shani will get more over by losing.

The four-way mask match main event contains some juicy stories which have only been partially been explored.

  • Hijo del Fantasma is the ideal champion of a promotion, only he’s stuck in this crazy one where everyone loves Psycho Clown and now Fantasma is the bad guy. Psycho Clown must die so AAA can be set on the right path.
  • LA Park was certain his destiny was a shootout at high noon with eternal rival Dr. Wagner, and one day they’d finally know who was the better man. And then Wagner went and lost his mask to Psycho last year. LA Park would be angry enough to lose his destiny but might understand it if it was a legend like Atlantis who got Wagner first. Goofball Psycho Clown getting the Wagner’s mask when LA Park could not is an insult, and the clown must die for that insult.
  • There was a point in spring 2016, where Alberto, Misterio, and Caristico had all left AAA. Fenix was on his way out too. AAA had Psycho Clown, Pagano and Pentagon Jr. all about the same level, and could’ve got behind any of them. AAA decided to make Psycho Clown the hero, Pagano the anti-hero, and Pentagon just a guy in the mix. Pentagon left AAA months later.. Pentagon made himself a star everywhere he went, no longer needing AAA. A year later, AAA is calling him back, needing him, and Pentagon gets a chance to show they made the wrong decision. He doesn’t have any personal reason to be angry with Psycho Clown, Psycho Clown is just the personification of AAA’s decision making. You can’t punch a rejection in the face, but you can punch a clown.
  • Psycho Clown has won the main event the last two years running. He looked at the other three names in this match and started doing interviews about how his luck was up for sure this year.

This seems like a great situation for an out of control brawl, for Psycho Clown to be battling the odds and maybe sneaking out of a win.

It won’t be one.

For reasons AAA hasn’t explained, this main event will be a cage match. Two people, two people who should dearly want to win, will instead opt to run away by escaping the cage. The two people remaining will battle to a finish, limited by what they can do by the giant fencing that’ll also obscure the match from the crowd. It’s a typical decision from AAA, confusing “more” with “better.”

The match will still be important enough to be interesting, especially when it does come down one on one. LA Park & Pentagon Jr. have two valuable masks to lose them one on one, and neither has the sort of commitment to the promotion where it makes sense for them to come out as the bigger winner. This appears like a Hijo del Fantasma versus Psycho Clown main event, without the faith that those two alone could put enough people in the building to make it feel like TripleMania. The extra star power will make the moment feel bigger, even though it might be a let down that the biggest names aren’t involved in the finish. Fantasma should do fine without his mask. Psycho Clown gets over as well in the small spot shows as he does on the big events, and there’s been no Reigns-like rejection of his super push. If you’re going to go with someone, you might as well go all the way, and that means another AAA year ends with a big Psycho Clown win.

This seems like a long card, and seems like one that might be best enjoyed by skipping around after the fact. That’s not a readily available option, at least not legally. If you watch it live, you’ll have to be content during the slow parts that something strange is probably about to happen soon. It always seems to be that way with TripleMania.