Lucha Libre AAA
Rey de Reyes 2022
February 19, 2022
Estadio Universitario Beto Ávila
Veracruz, Veracruz, Mexico

Watch: FITE

AAA belatedly kicks off 2022 with a marquee event, Rey de Reyes. The scheduled card has Vikingo in a title defense, a clash of two brother teams, and the usual manic multi-person matches. It still is AAA, so everything isn’t going just as planned.

Rey de Reyes will air on FITE Saturday at 8 pm CT for 20 USD. It will include VOD if you’re watching one of the other half dozen shows that happen to take place on Saturday. The broadcast will be available internationally in both English and Spanish.

AAA has taken the wheel of English announcers for another spin, this time landing on Joe Dombrowski and Larry Dallas. AAA commentary is a tough job – even the Spanish announcers occasionally struggle to make sense of this promotion. This year’s 30th Anniversary celebrations will likely include surprises for long-time fans, upping the difficulty level. Still, if a Rayo de Jalisco Jr. shows up and the announcer’s reaction is to refresh Twitter until someone tells him who it is, then it’s a good thing others are getting a crack at it. It can only be an improvement.

Rey de Reyes is the light at the end of a very dark tunnel.

I previewed three major AAA events last year, and those are the only events AAA was able to run with fans. AAA has five regular tapings with fans announced for March alone. This group has been in unplanned hibernation since TripleMania Regia, thanks to one last COVID postponement in January. Rey de Reyes is an inflection moment back towards normal. It’s an excellent point to jump back on if the last two years of irregularity caused people to drift away.

Of course, it’s AAA, so everything can’t be going right at the same time. They have to self-sabotage. The one thing that went very wrong was Fenix’s elbow back in his title match in January. AAA announced Fenix for this show before his injury and pinned their hopes on a speedy recovery. It doesn’t look like one’s happened: AAA hasn’t said Fenix is off the card but has also noticeably stopped promoting his match. The charitable read of the situation is AAA still hopes a doctor will clear Fenix to wrestle Saturday. It instead increasingly feels like AAA is aware (and has been for some while) Fenix can’t wrestle and is waiting until they get people in the building to say it. I still think this should be a good show, but buyer beware with AAA.

The matches we do know about:

La Hiedra & Villano III Jr. vs Octagón Jr. & Sexy Star II vs Arez & Chik Tormenta

This opener is a three-way mixed tag match, including the champs, Arez & Chik Tormenta. AAA lists this as a non-title, an over-sight that’ll possibly be fixed Saturday.

Arez & Tormenta won the tag titles to get restarted Vipers a significant victory and are the only pre-existing pair here. They defeated Villano 3 and Maravilla, though Villano now teams with La Hiedra after joining Los Mercenarios. Hiedra’s no sure thing for this match either; AAA ran a rare non-televised injury angle with her back in December, and she hasn’t been seen in the ring since. (It’s also AAA, so the injury story may have just been dropped.) Villano and Octagon spent 2021 feuding in multi-matches but never actually having a singles match, so this is more of that. AAA openers are at their best when they’re all action, and this one should fit even with the mixed tag setup. This one has a lot of crazy.

Vipers (Abismo Negro Jr., Látigo, Psicosis II) vs Mr. Iguana, Niño Hamburguesa, Willie Mack

AAA brought in (and likely paid a lot more) to Bobby Fish, Samurai del Sol, and Jay Lethal to be part of TripleMania’s main event. Willie Mack came in as a downcard surprise partner and seemed to get over more than those main eventers. His personality always meshed well with the Mexican crowd, and he’s a perfect fit alongside Nino Hamburguesa and Mr. Iguana. This group of Vipers should be solid foils and need the win more.

Maravilla vs. Lady Shani vs. Flammer vs. TBA, where the winner gets a Reina de Reinas championship match 

Taya’s coming back to AAA as the surprise person in this match. She’s also certainly winning this match, and I’m sure AAA plans for her to beat Deonna at the first possible opportunity. AAA loved having Taya around before, and they’ll be overjoyed to have her back. Purrazzo as champion is a classic half-baked AAA idea with no follow-thru – the official reason for her not being around since TripleMania is scheduling issues, but it didn’t appear they ever tried too hard to make the schedule work. Under this creative regime, AAA will always gravitate to the buzzed-about US wrestling thing of the moment, then either lose interest in it when a new person rises or lose access to it when it gets too popular. Deonna’s time as the shiny toy has come and gone now that Taya’s back.

This match might be good. Shani is Taya’s old training partner, and those two have been angling for a title program for years. A multi-person match might hide some weaknesses.

NGD (Cuatrero, Forastero, Sansón) vs Familia Real (Hijo de LA Park, LA Park, LA Park Jr.) vs La Empresa (DMT Azul, Puma King, Sam Adonis)

AAA is overstuffed with rudo units, so this is the second straight major show where a bunch of them fight each other with no setup. LA Park and his kids want to fight everyone all the time, so no problem there. The other two teams are nominally supposed to be allies, though they’re both under the impression they’re the best trio.

The three-way trios match at TripleMania Regia was out of control but fun. The La Empresa trios match was out of control and quite bad on the same show. Most of La Empresa’s matches have been a struggle. Their matches are laid out more for heat than quality, but that doesn’t make them more watchable, and there doesn’t seem to be a destination match for the heat. La Empresa still is likely to win – they’re getting a trios title shot on the next taping, they’re teasing a new member for this show – but this fight is going to be a significant challenge.

Laredo Kid vs. Bandido vs. Cibernético vs. Psycho Clown vs. TBA to determine the 2022 Rey de Reyes (and to earn a giant sword) 

Cibernetico’s first match back in AAA comes in as weird a fashion as possible. Cibernetico was alternately the lead villain and lead hero in the late 2000s and early 2010s. Cibernetico and Konnan’s issues floated between being storyline and reality during the tail end of the run, and the two resumed their mutual dislike upon Ciber’s return. Cibernetico was self-admittedly limited in the ring in his best days and still rose to the top based on his bodybuilder look and strong personality. (Konnan and Cibernetico’s real issues might come down to those two being more alike than either one is comfortable admitting.) Cibernetico left when AAA was going to move him down the card, and AAA likely promised him he’d remain a top guy to get him back. It makes sense as part of the 30th Anniversary theme. It’s a lot more action-heavy top mix now than when Cibernetico led AAA.

Cibernetico & AAA might not be an extended reunion. Cibernetico ought to be mainly an outside-the-ring guy, handling the talking and using his fame to give credibility sorely needed to the Vipers. That manager/advisor role simply doesn’t exist in Mexican wrestling, and Cibernetico’s never been a guy who’s seen his role as getting others over. He’s the favorite to win the sword to get him rolling, but figuring out how to use him without exposing him will be tricky. The entire Vipers reunion seems now to be a setup for Cibernetico’s return, so they’ve invested plenty of energy in this. It’s just hard to see it working.

There’s been no hint (and not much speculation) about the mystery person here. Rush hasn’t said anything about being here, but he hasn’t hinted anything at all. He posted a video early in the year proclaiming himself ready to return, then hasn’t wrestled at all. He’d be a logical fit with his brothers on this show and doesn’t have a better destination at the moment. It does not appear AEW is calling the Munoz brothers.

AAA is wild for bringing in Bandido as a “multi-man glue guy” with no bigger plans for him. I guess there’s no harm in keeping around a second, more charismatic Laredo Kid when even if you have the first one already. Like Rush, Bandido doesn’t seem to have any great options at the moment.

Dragón Lee & Dralistico vs ??Fénix?? & Pentagón Jr.

I don’t know.

AAA has plenty of roster members they could pull in as Fenix replacements if they wanted to go that route. It’d be a lesser star power match but a much easier one to book with Aramis or Myzteziz Jr. thrown in. They might also be considering throwing Dragon Lee into the main event and switching this to just Penta and Dralistico. It’s AAA; anything is possible.

It’s an important night for Dralistico, no matter what happens. He spent a CMLL career as a pale imitation of the more famous Mistico. He’s spent his post-CMLL time imitating Rush & Dragon Lee. This strategy hasn’t added up to success; he’s not working much in Mexico, or at least not at the prices he’s asking. Dralistico wants to be a US star, something challenging to do when wrestling in lucha libre promotions. Matches with the Lucha Brothers are one of the few ways to get that spotlight. You’ve got to look special doing it, and Dralistico has been anything but that; either Dralistico shows a new side to himself, or we might not see Dralistico in prominent spots like this in the future. AAA seems far more interested in Dragon Lee of the two, and Dralistico shouldn’t count on many more chances like this.

It is difficult to pick a finish of a match when you’re uncertain what the match is. It’s always a safe bet to choose the rudo in an AAA match.

John Hennigan vs. Hijo Del Vikingo © for AAA Mega Championship

When John Hennigan/Mundo/Morrison left WWE the first time, he wrestled some high-profile matches with an exciting young flying wrestler in a lucha libre-themed promotion. The opponent wrestled under a mask as Prince Puma, though most know him as Ricochet. The matches were quite good. Ricochet went on to do great things (and more recently, just things.) Hennigan once again is out of WWE and finds himself wrestling another exciting young flying wrestler in Hijo del Vikingo in a lucha libre promotion, hoping for the magic to repeat.

It’s been a long while since Lucha Underground was a thing, though. Hennigan’s subsequent AAA run is also a distant memory. The peak of that run, winning all three singles titles at a TripleMania, happened to be the same show Vikingo debuted on. That was four and half years ago. Hennigan’s on the other side of 40 now. His age didn’t seem to slow him down much in WWE, but AAA moves at a much faster speed. And it’s not clear if AAA fans still see him as a big deal after going away and not being a big deal elsewhere. This main event might be a very early test on how well AAA’s crowds are taking to Vikingo as champ.

A title change is improbable. Vikingo/Omega is still the next big destination, maybe as soon as the Monterrey TripleMania show on April 30th. Omega’s probably not going to turn up here until he shows his face back in AEW, but there will be plenty of time to make that match in the future. This show does feel like it’s missing a signature overblown AAA angle, though I don’t know where it’d come.

The 2022 Rey de Reyes show lacks a surefire great match, though a few are hopeful. Fenix’s injury, and AAA’s decision to deal with by not dealing with it, casts a pale over the show. It still should be the usual level of insanity and a compelling start to a busy year.