Sunday brings a couple of returns to AAA. It’s the return of the Lucha Libre World Cup, a pleasant and inoffensive distraction. It’s also the latest return of Alberto el Patron to the promotion, who is neither of those things. The World Cup will be fun enough if you seek it out, but it seems certain to get lost for promotion without international noise. 

AAA’s Lucha Libre World Cup occurs Sunday at 5 pm in Guadalajara. (Daylight savings time has made this more confusing. You can find your local start time here.) The show streams live on FITE for 23 USD and will remain available on VOD. It also will eventually go up on AAA’s YouTube channel. My best guess is about April 8, but that’s just a guess. The broader point is that you’ll have to wait a while to see this (legally) for free.

AAA previously ran in Lucha Libre World Cups in 2015 and 2016, then a scaled-down version in Japan in 2017. This year’s tournament appears to be returning to the original format: eight men’s and four women’s trios in a single elimination knockout bracket. All matches have a fifteen-minute time limit. If there’s no winner, each side chooses a wrestler for a 1v1 match with a five-minute time limit, and they keep running these overtime periods until someone finally wins. Mexico won the 2015 and 2017 World Cups. The USA took the 2016 men’s competition; Mexico settled for winning the first and only women’s tournament until this year. (That’s the reasonable expectation for this year: Mexico will win either the men’s or women’s group, just not both.) The World Cup shows have a lot of the pageantry of an international sports competition, and AAA tries to tone down their AAA-ness: no angles, no blood, no interference, they’re just straight matches. 

The previous Lucha Libre World Cups have had strong ticket sales. AAA expects the baseball stadium they’re running to be close to full in 2023. That excitement and passion seem to exist in a bubble in Guadalajara and nowhere else. Lucha libre shows never have much internet buzz in the general wrestling conversation, but a show featuring this much international talent ought to break through somehow. Wrestling fans loudly demand cross-promotional matches often, there are a half dozen promotions on this show, and there’s no talk about it.

Part of it is AAA’s existence in obscurity. Few people outside of Mexico care about AAA outside the TripleManias. It’s hard for them to build excitement for anything else. Part of the issue is the price: 23 USD for an all-star show without a big singles match is a big ask. Part of it is the non-AAA participating promotions not hyping this show to their competition; it doesn’t feel like an international competition if only one country and one promotion care. And the last part of the issue might be connected: AAA bringing back Alberto el Patron for this show (and likely all their 2023 TripleManias) is such a turnoff that the curious onlookers are taking a pass on this, and those partner promotions might be hesitant to bring up their connection with this show. I’m wholly unconvinced 2023 Alberto is any draw – his most recent attempt at a vanity promotion crashed and burned to such a degree that he’s pretending it didn’t exist. Alberto brings availability (absolutely no worries about AEW or WWE scooping him up midstream) and has a name. AAA will take anyone with a name and is willing; they’re not concerned about their reputation.

AAA has announced the first-round matchup for both the women and the men.

On the women’s side:

Team Mexico (La Hiedra, Lady Flammer, Sexy Star) vs. Team Japan (AKINO, Emi Sakura, Mayumi Ozaki)

AKIMO and Ozaki are returning to AAA after 15 years; they appeared in a 2008 Reina de Reinas tournament. Ozaki also appeared in a 2006 AAA women’s match, which I will forever remember as “the match so bad the Japanese women were visibly laughing during it.” This match surely will be much better than that. Hiedra, Flammer, and their usual partner Maravilla have been winning all their matches as Las Toxicas for over a year and have a solid formula figured out. It may end up being Maravilla in this one: Sexy Star (2) picked up an ankle injury last Friday and looks doubtful for this show. Team Japan hopefully does well but is here mainly to round out the field. Team Mexico will advance to the final.

Team USA (Deonna Purrazzo, Jordynne Grace, Kamille) vs. Team Rest of the World (Dalys, Natalia Markova, Taya)

This match is the closest to a toss-up of all the first-round matchups. Purrazzo, Grace, and Kamille is a good cross-promotion dream team of women not in WWE or AEW. Taya is still AAA Reina de Reinas champion (though she has yet to defend it on TV since the last TripleMania, almost a half year ago, and seems even less likely to be around with her new AEW gig.) Dalys is a late sub. More wrestlers are familiar with each other in this matchup than in other first-round matches, which might make for a decent match.

On the men’s side:

Team Mexico 1 (Alberto el Patrón, Hijo Del Vikingo, Psycho Clown) vs. Team Latin America (Carlito, Hip Hop Man, Zumbi)

You may argue, “Latin America is not a country.” I will count with “it’s easier to bring in the two most visible South American men working in Mexico than spring for two more flights from Puerto Rico.” Argentina’s Hip Hop Man is in from being the Mean Judge on a recent IWRG new talent search. Zumbi has been less active recently but is still the capoeira guy. Some months back, Alberto called Carlito the Joker his Batman, and I have never been able to process that idea. Carlito’s here to do stuff with Alberto, but there’s no way Team Mexico is losing this one. 

Team Mexico 2 (Laredo Kid, Pentagón Jr., Taurus) vs. Team Rest of the World (Bhupinder Gujjar, Classy Ali, Rage)

I would personally try to find a way to label top AAA guys besides “the second stringers,” but that’s how AAA already does it. The surprise is that Penta’s on this team rather than #1 since AAA usually groups together the part-timers as the ‘real stars.’ Classy Ali and Rage are from Qatar Pro Wrestling. This QPR appearance seems part of a larger deal; they’ve gotten more name-checks than the bigger groups. Bhupinder Gujjar is the current most prominent Indian wrestler in Impact; that should be like a title belt or something. Again, there’s no way Team Mexico is losing this, and these two trios don’t seem to fit together well.

Team USA (Christopher Daniels, Johnny Caballero, Sam Adonis) vs. Team Japan (Kuukai, La Estrella, Nishikawa)

The most attention this Lucha Libre World Cup has gotten outside of Mexico was for the graphic announcing Christopher Daniels. AAA listed the promotion of each wrestler on their graphic. AAA’s graphic for Daniels listed him as “INDY.” The Twitter post with the graphic did tag AEW, and AAA later updated the graphic to list AEW, but that was red meat for a segment of the AEW fanbase who would rather cut AAA out of their lives. I don’t think the fans who want a CMLL/AEW/NJPW alliance are getting it any time soon, but the days of AEW wrestlers coming to Mexico to set up matches for AEW PPVs isn’t coming back either. 

Adonis won AAA’s Rey de Reyes and will be a big part of the TripleManias Tournament. He’s the most important person here, though his partners are more prominent names to US fans. Caballero was in and out of AAA in 2022, including a reoccurring tease of a Laredo Kid feud that went nowhere. Kuukai is former Michinoku Pro wrestler Koji Kawamura, apparently having an adventure in Mexico while figuring out what to do next. He and Dragongate rookie Nishikawa are currently Crazy Boy proteges on AAA TV. Nishikawa seemed out of his depth when he was dropped off in Mexico and has improved to be OK. Fellow Dragongate wrestler (maybe?) La Estrella has been in and out of Mexico over the last year and has yet to make much of an impression. Team USA is a lock to advance.

Team Canada (Josh Alexander, PCO, Vampiro) vs. Team Europe (Heddi Karaoui, Joe Hendry, Thomas Latimer)

I know Mexico is often behind, but grouping the UK wrestlers with a French one as Team Europe post-Brexit seems a little dated. Joe Hendry has been in Impact of late. Latimer has been in the NWA long enough under that name that I probably don’t need to remind you he was Bram. Heddi Karaoui is a french grappler who spends most of his time in Europe but has traveled enough worldwide that viewers probably stumbled upon him at some point. Vampiro is representing Canada though he lives in Guadalajara now; this is the defacto third face team. PCO probably should’ve had a dumb (in the best possible way) match with Pagano sometime in the last few years. You may know Josh Alexander as one of the best wrestlers in the world. An idea I’ve been low-key obsessed with is Alexander and Vikingo having a matching way back in the pre-pandemic times when Impact was coming to Mexico for tapings, and how much fun it’d be to play off that now that they’re both champions of their promotions (and how much more realistic that goal is than the never-ending quests for a Kenny Omega return or a Kota Ibushi appearance.) This idea is an obsession only I have, but sharing it with is the payment I collect for writing this preview.

Team Canada looks like the favorite there, but the overall picture gets complicated at this point. Team USA/Team Mexico seems like the most likely outcome in both the women’s and men’s brackets. Would AAA run the same final twice? Team Canada going to the final would be different, but asking PCO and Vampiro to wrestle three times in one night is a bit much. (Asking Vampiro to wrestle one time is a bit much.) Team Europe seems like a stretch with no Mexico profile, yet there needs to be an upset somewhere, and they make more sense than Japan or the Rest of the World winning a first-round match. Maybe AAA goes completely bonkers and has the Latin America team upset the prohibitive favorites in the first round? Perhaps an unexpected Mexico/Mexico final? Mexico is a land of reasonably predictable wrestling tournaments, and this one is a bit harder to figure out than most.

It’s intriguing for someone’s who going to watch it anyway. I’m not sure there’s anything here worth jumping in for 23 USD unless you’re a person who watches everything. The Lucha Libre World Cup will be a fun show to kill a Wednesday if the price is no object. It’ll be meaningful if you’re in the bubble that cares about AAA or Lucha Libre World Cups. Everyone else can wait until it turns up elsewhere.