Major League Wrestling (MLW) kicked off their 2022 with the latest reskin of their weekly show, MLW Azteca. Shot during their time in Mexico at the end of last year, it features a number of MLW regular roster members and guys who are involved with The Crash promotion.

One of the first things you’ll notice is that the whole presentation is different to Fusion or Fusion: Alpha. From the graphics to the backing music that features in every cut scene and video package, it’s all changed and quite clearly an attempt to imitate Lucha Underground. Whatever its rights or wrongs may have been, LU certainly captured the imagination for a time and MLW are trying to harness that, complete with Dario Cueto (now known as Cesar Duran) and all the supernatural bonanza that comes with him, as they continue to search for their specific niche in the market.

Aramis, Black Destiny & Myzteziz Jr. def. Arez, Dinamico & Skalibur (8:01)

I’ll admit to not being particularly familiar with three of the guys in this match coming in but it was obvious that the two stars were Aramis and Arez. Both men were used by MLW in the second half of last year, splitting a pair of singles matches and appearing in the four-way Middleweight Title match at Fightland that saw Tajiri become champion.

As you’d expect, this was a traditional Lucha trios match with constant, dynamic action. On that note, I thought the commentary tandem of Rich Bocchini and Joe Dombrowski did a good job in explaining the different rules to your typical six-man match and they were generally good throughout the night.

The action wasn’t always superfluid but the guys worked hard, it was a fun opener and most of the spots they went for worked. The final moments came down to Aramis and Arez, who traded hold and counter-hold before Aramis put him down for three with the Desnucadora del Mosquetero. ***

Psycho Clown def. Richard Holliday (10:45)

On paper, I had a feeling that this wouldn’t be particularly good. I haven’t seen enough of Psycho Clown to comment much on him but I’ve always been of the understanding that his effort levels can vary, putting it mildly. Richard Holliday, on the other hand, is the definition of a JAG.

In reality, this wasn’t good at all. It was interminably long, with the first half of the match consisting of eyeballing and stalling masqueraded as playing to the crowd. It did pick up in the second half but even then the action was pretty much paint by numbers. The finish came through a distraction. Alicia Atout, who’d accompanied Holliday to the ring, was escorted away by a masked man. That put Holliday, who was stood on the top rope, off, allowing Psycho Clown to clamber up and hit the Spanish Fly for the win. *1/2

I get that they’re using Holliday as a pawn in the wider Alexander Hammerstone vs Cesar Duran story but there were probably more effective ways of doing this angle and better matches to use in this spot.

Tag Team Apocalypto Match
Alexander Hammerstone & Pagano def. King Muertes & Black Taurus (15:57)

In case you didn’t know, because I certainly didn’t, an Apocalypto match is basically just a Tornado Tag with no rules. Almost inevitably, that meant that this was fairly chaotic from start to finish.

The first eight or so minutes of this match were really good, with all four guys winging away at each other and having fun with the plunder. The second half wasn’t quite so good, with things slowing down and the match feeling more like a series of slightly unconnected spots but I respected the effort.

The finish appealed to my sensibilities as it was a surprise that kept Hammerstone looking strong. Before the match started, my belief was that we were heading in the direction of Hammerstone defending the MLW World title against Muertes in the next few weeks, so my assumption was that Muertes would get the win for his team in the main event. However, with Pagano putting Taurus through a board on the outside with a Death Valley Driver, that door was closed as Hammerstone was left to hit the Nightmare Pendulum on Muertes and pin him clean in the middle of the ring for three. ***

Post-match, Cesar Duran came out to the entrance ramp, making the throat slash gesture to Hammerstone. That distraction allowed Pagano to turn, hitting Hammerstone over the head with a baking sheet and joining Muertes and Taurus in beating the World Champion down. Subsequently, it was announced that Hammerstone will defend the title against Pagano at the upcoming MLW tapings in Dallas on January 21.

Next week’s Azteca will feature two title matches, with 5150 (Danny Limelight & Slice Boogie) putting the tag titles on the line and Alex Kane making the first defense of his Openweight crown against Aerostar.

Final Thoughts

The opening episode of MLW Azteca was a solid if unspectacular hour of wrestling. MLW succeeded in making it feel different from their previous programming and they got off to a good start with the trios opener. The main event was also solid, even though I imagine I’m probably slightly high on it, leading to Hammerstone’s first World title defense getting signed. However, the middle match was poor and made the show drag – you’d have hoped they’d have come out the gate with a stronger offering.

I imagine the mileage on the rebooted Lucha Underground vibes will vary greatly but this was solid enough entertainment if you’re looking for something casual to watch or dip into and I imagine the remainder of the miniseries will follow a similar pattern.