Friday, May 29, 2015

A look back at the Lucha World Cup

It has been twenty-one years since the last time AAA broadcasted a pay-per-view in English, back at the illustrious When Worlds Collide, which most fans will remember as the show WCW built the Cruiserweight division from. But that changed on May 24, 2015 with the broadcast of the Lucha Libre World Cup on internet pay-per-view.

It’s a bit crazy that AAA never held a major trios tournament until this event, almost as if they’re taking a page from Chikara’s book for their return to English language action. Lucha Underground’s Matt Striker and Vampiro called the action, although both were a bit less polished than their El Rey appearances. It’s been awhile since I’ve heard Vampiro be quite this lecherous.

The Chikara connection actually received a call out in the very first match as the Dream Team took on Team NOAH. The NOAH unit featured the legendary Takayama alongside captain Taiji Ishimori and former King of Trios standout Atsushi Kotoge. The Team Osaka Pro alum was allowed lots of time to shine against the superstar trio of Alberto El Patron, Mysteziz and Rey Mysterio (the only carryover from When Worlds Collide.)

The other teams all brought it. The workrate was surprisingly deep based on the roster, but Team AAA and Team ROH/Lucha Underground brought a ton of great in-ring work. American fans already know how good El Hijo Del Fantasma is (with his Lucha Underground alter ego getting a subtle nod from Striker) and that El Texano Jr is a solid guy in-ring, but most everyone probably saw Psycho Clown for the first time. Perhaps Los Psycho Circus as a whole would have been more fun, but the three men put on an amazing battle against ROH’s Moose and ACH and Lucha Underground’s Brian Cage. Cage still strikes me as a man WWE missed the boat on in a huge way, as shown by his excellent work here and in the American tie-in.

Team All Japan took on the Mexican Legends Solar I, Blue Demon Jr and Dr. Wagner Jr. Against a team with 99 combined years of experience, Kenzo Suzuki (whose in-ring time was very limited), Tiger Mask III and Masamune didn’t accomplish very much. They were perhaps the most disappointing team of the eight in the tournament.

The final first round match was my favorite of the night. Team TNA Underground brought some good star power with Mr. Anderson, Matt Hardy and Johnny Mundo (otherwise known as John Morrison.) They took on the most intriguing team of the night, the thrown together Team Rest of the World. Drew Galloway (UK) and El Mesias (Puerto Rico) teamed with arguably 2015’s breakout talent of the year Angelico (South Africa). It seemed impossible that Team TNA wouldn’t make it to round two but the worldwide team gave them a run for their money. And again, Striker and Vampiro give another sly reference to one talent’s Lucha Underground alter ego.

With the four teams left, round two felt a bit telegraphed. As set up, the Dream Team vs. Team ROH and the Mexican Legends vs. Team TNA were solid battles, but they telegraphed the finals a bit.

The format of the tournament involved sudden death overtimes after the 15 minute time limits, which equaled one on one fights for five minutes. The third place match was ran only as such and it lasted all of seven minutes. But with AAA pushing Brian Cage hard, it made sense to give him a very decisive showing here.

The finals featured the Dream Team and Team TNA Lucha Underground. Anderson, Hardy and Mundo worked as great heels for the finals. The story of Rey Mysterio’s Mexican return played a huge part in this story and they revealed their purpose for doing so as the match moved into its third Sudden Death overtime. The final period pitted Mysterio against Mundo. Everyone that knows Mundo knows he’s an excellent base for the assault of someone like Mysterio. In a fast paced blast of action, Mysterio reverses an End of the World (or Starship Pain for WWE fans) into a Victory Roll for the finish.
The pay-per-view ran a little long in typical Mexican fashion with over four hours and a lot of pageantry between battles. The show did have some issues with silenced promos, which was especially annoying for the English language talk. But the in ring action and great commentary made up for the slow points.

Unfortunately, I’ve seen no word of replays or purchasing rights for the show in perpetuity. The PPV replays are only available for a week. But if it does become available against stateside, I recommend it.

And hey, Mysteziz works thirty times better here than he ever did in WWE.

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