It’s hard to believe this time last year I was in the middle of a month long trek of three wrestling shows live and in person, three more than I had seen live in the past seven years or so. It began in my hometown of Rhode Island (at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket), where I caught a lucha libre show that featured Facade doing a moonsault off a railing in the stands, Scott Steiner vs. Rhino and Fenix nearly injuring his foot against Juventud Guerrera and the now disgraced Teddy Hart, almost keeping him out of AEW’s All Out show the next weekend. A month later I was in a skybox at the Capital One Arena in Washington D.C. (thanks to my uncle, the great Todd Hoffert), catching the first ever AEW Dynamite in history. Obviously that’s the most historic show I’ve ever been too and it would’ve been my favorite show I’ve ever attended…if not for the fact that two and half weeks earlier I had fulfilled two lifelong dreams of mine; watching a lucha libre show and returning to Madison Square Garden, where I hadn’t been in over 20 years (I saw the Flyers beat the Rangers there in 1999 for all three of you curious). I also got to snap this picture outside the Garden, proving that New Yorkers were in fact once excited about RJ Brewer.
So yes; I was at AAA’s Invading NY at the Hulu Theater (inside MSG) one year ago today; I took that aforementioned picture, I had a very expensive (but great) hot dog, I took some pictures and video that till today I thought sucked (in fact, the video turned out pretty well!) and I caught the best show I have ever attended before hitting the road back to Rhode Island. In a way it was kind of miraculous; the show had originally been scheduled to take place inside the Garden proper, only to then appear to be canceled, only to then be moved into the Hulu Theater. That was then followed by visa issues preventing AAA from booking certain stars, a mishap that led to Impact Wrestling, one of AAA’s partners, coming in to loan AAA their wrestling license, a lack of help from the newly formed AEW (who wanted to hold off on their stars working the Garden till they ran a show proper), an injury and a reality show keeping two of their top stars (Hijo del VIkingo and Laredo Kid) from wrestling and a lack of promotion that led to one of the lowest PPV buyrates of all time. And somehow it all still worked out thanks to a giant walk up and the show itself, a breezy two and a half hours that featured only one average match and a whole slew of enjoyable to great bouts with strong performances. Driving home I was elated and stunned that AAA somehow pulled it off, while also wondering just what could’ve been if everything had gone perfectly. Then again this is AAA; you only start to worry when things DO go perfectly!
Jokes aside, I loved this show. I loved it so much that until today I had never watched it back, fearful of whether it would betray the fond memories of the show. But because it is the one year anniversary of the show, I thought today would be a good time to go back, give it a second look and see how it held up. And the answer is pretty damn good. For all intents and purposes the show is not only as good as I remembered, in some ways it’s better. And I look forward to telling you all why over the next Grodd only knows how many words.
Chris Dickinson & Mascarita Dorada defeated Dave the Clown & Demus
I’m going to be real with you; I don’t think I will ever get over the fact that I saw Chris Dickinson wrestling Dave the Clown live. Like how friggin random is that?! The Dirty Daddy tangling with Dave the Clown? That’s like The Joker randomly showing up in a Spider-Man comic. What’s even more amazing is that the matchup, which should’ve been a disaster, worked! I’ve seen many Chris Dickinson performances and this is certainly not one most people would say is top tier, but in some ways it is because he gets a whole lot more out of Dave than most people would’ve. Then again all Dave (who is actually better than we all remember him being) has to do is be super stiff with the Dirty Daddy and that is definitely something in his wheelhouse. Of course none of this matters because the story is Mascarita Dorada and Demus, who are great together, who hadn’t wrestled each other on this stage in quite awhile and absolutely kill it. Dorada of course brings the flash with his numerous rana and arm drag variations, but re-watching this again just solidified how underrated Demus. He’s so charismatic, so great at playing to the crowd and there’s no way Dorada (who again, is GREAT) could’ve done half the stuff he ended up doing if he was working with just Dave the Clown. Dorada is the showcase guy but Demus is the one who kept this match together. And together the two of them combine to take the solid foundation set by Dickinson and Dave and turn this into an opener that was better than it had any right to be.
Josh Alexander, Michael Elgin, Sami Callihan defeated Drago, Faby Apache, Murder Clown
So when the show was over last year and I was reflecting on this show on the long ride back to Rhode Island, I came to the conclusion that this match, while fun, was probably one of the weaker things on the show. Watching it again…yeah it’s one of the weaker things on the show.
Now don’t get me wrong; the match is still all things considered pretty good. The issues mostly lie in the booking. For the life of me I still have no unearthly idea why this match didn’t end with either Faby or Murder Clown pinning Josh Alexander. I can understand why Impact didn’t want Sami or Elgin pinned (one was about to win their world title, the other was a top star) but Alexander, even as a tag champ, could’ve taken a fall and really put over either Faby, the most over person in the match, or Murder, the guy AAA wanted to push the most coming out of the match, instead. I guess with the rest of the card leaning heavily towards technico victories and this being a spot featuring all Impact talent (and we forget but Impact greatly helped in getting this show off and running after the numerous issues AAA encountered along the way) this was the direction they thought was best. I disagree, but then again I also think Vertigo is the most overrated Alfred Hitchcok movie so what do I know?
As I said though, overall the action is pretty good. It helps that both Sami and Elgin are lucha vets (Sami worked Lucha Underground and Elgin worked CMLL) and while I could go the rest of my life without seeing Elgin again, there’s no denying he is (was?) an exceptional talent and the stuff he does here is case in point. That said Josh Alexander, who as best as I can tell doesn’t have the same lucha experience as them, was just as impressive, if not more so during this match than his partners, and the rudos are greatly helped by tremendous work from Faby and Murder. Faby in particular seemed to just get better as the match went along and Murder proves AAA right in building this match around his incredible gifts, especially when he hits that big dive that brought the house down. Drago, surprisingly, is really the only luchador who does nothing here, another knock on this match considering he was the most visible luchador going in. Alas. Certainly there are flaws here booking wise and watching it back the communication issues early on were pretty clear, but even as one of the weak points of the show it was still pretty damn good. Frankly if all shows’ weak points were this match, we’d have more great shows.
#1 Contenders Match for the AAA World Cruiserweight Championship
Daga defeated Puma King, Aerostar and Flamita
Sports fans, this match was GREAT. In fact it was so great that, despite the fact that I saw this match in person a year ago and knew the result, I was sucked into a nearfall by Puma King watching it again. That’s a great match when that can happen. Beyond that point though this was exactly what you’d want from these four; great moves, great pace and not a single wasted moment. Frankly at the time I may have underrated this match a bit because I was probably too over the moon about seeing Aerostar live (I LOVE that dude) and overall he kind of did the least of the four. Re-watching it again though all four guys are just magnificent. You don’t get Aerostar jumping off high places (thank Grodd) but he gives you everything else, while Flamita is completely in his groove, Puma King is doing all sorts of crazy shit (though he could’ve cooled it with the super kicks) and Daga, at the risk of him getting mad at me on Twitter, is SO MUCH BETTER than he was at any other point for AAA in 2019. We forget; he had some tough matches to watch at times due to him thinking he needed to be more like a 1980’s Mid Atlantic heel. Here he’s just Daga and it’s a welcome relief as he throws out some great lucha strong style spot after great lucha strong style spot. I don’t know if the moment, the victory or both motivated him but it was a great performance and dammit this is the Daga I want to see all the time. In terms of match quality this was probably the second best thing on the show, and quite frankly it was even better now than I thought when I saw it live.
AAA Reina de Reinas Championship
Taya defeated Tessa Blanchard
This match was WAY better watching it back than it was seeing it live. Why is that; because the lack of crowd heat didn’t bother me nearly as much on re-watch as it did while in the building. For the record, I have no unearthly idea why the crowd was mild on this match. It’s no secret that Taya and Tessa have great chemistry together and while this wasn’t as good as some of their Impact stuff (which, keep in mind, is some of the best women’s wrestling of the last few years) it’s not far off. They worked really hard, they worked really smooth, both were great in their respective roles (Tessa, ironically enough, as the loudmouth ruda that Taya sort of perfected, Taya as the heroic technica); the only thing missing was the crowd. I don’t know if they just hadn’t followed their rivalry, if Tessa just wasn’t over with the lucha fan base at the time or if the fans were tired from the last match; whatever the case the fans weren’t there for this and it’s a shame because if they were I think this would’ve been remembered as much better than people thought at the time. Watching it now, after months of little to no fans in attendance during the pandemic, it holds up a lot better. This is especially true if you’re someone like me who remembers the real life story of how Taya originally lost that Reina de Reinas Championship in 2017 (i.e. she had it legitimately, and wrongfully, taken away from her by certain members of AAA management who have since been removed) only to finally get it back here. In front of her mother no less! Combine that with the other stuff and the really strong work and, for me, this really is an underrated gem that just needed the audience to be a little more active for them.
AAA World Tag Team Championship Match
The Lucha Brothers (c) defeated LAX
I still find it funny a year later everyone thinks there wasn’t an AEW presence on this show…and then you have this match featuring two of AEW’s best tag teams. AND THEY WERE BOTH WITH AEW AT THE TIME! It’s like how everyone forgets how Val Kilmer was Batman in the 90’s or something. Although how you can forget that beats me; the Val Kilmer Batman got drive thru. DRIVE THRU! Did you see George Clooney doing that shit? I didn’t think so.
Anyways, this match was easily the best thing on this show when I saw it live and it’s still the best thing on the show a year later. Honestly, who’s shocked? Ortiz and Santana are a great team, Fenix and Pentagon are a tremendous team, all four are tremendous individuals and, oh yeah, they had many great matches with each other prior to this match. It was always going to be a giant success and the only thing surprising is that it turned out to be the best match between these teams to date thanks to the great atmosphere and all four guys (Fenix and Pentagon in particular) working their asses off because of how much this show meant. And keep in mind; this is only a few weeks removed from Fenix nearly tearing something in his foot in Pawtucket, followed by him and Pentagon nearly killing themselves at All Out weekend. It’s certainly a good thing they’ve calmed down since then but for this show it was great to see them going full throttle, and as entertaining as Ortiz and Santana have been in AEW, this match shows that when the time comes there is still so much they have to show the people. I absolutely love this match. Great action, great pace, great effort, great dives; hell the first arm drag sequence was so great that it made a Fenix fan out of my mother! This, along with the Riho vs. Nyla Rose match I saw just a few weeks later on the first Dynamite, is one of the two best matches I’ve seen in person.
Brian Cage, Cain Velasquez, Psycho Clown defeated Rey Escorpion, Taurus, Texano Jr.
You know it’s wild to think one year after this match that Cain Velasquez’ wrestling career is pretty much colder than M. Night Shyamalan post The Village when he was so much fun on these AAA shows. Frankly he’s even better on this show than he was at Triplemania and that much is remembered far more than this. The sky appeared to be the limit…and then he went to WWE so Brock could get his win back, got fired in the pandemic cuts and is now nowhere to be seen. The WWE; where even the surest of things go to die. Unless your Dominik, and now that I’ve said that I’ve completely jinxed the poor boy.
So yeah; this match is also pretty damn good, maybe even borderline great upon re-watch! I am biased though; this match features one of my favorite stables in lucha (Los Mercenarios) and also THE ACE himself, Psycho Clown, whose mask I would’ve bought if Mascara Sagrada’s hadn’t been available (yes I know it was technically Mascarita Sagrada’s, but I’m a Mascara Sagrada mark so we’re going with that!). In other words, I would’ve been a fan even if they had botched fifteen moves in a row. Of course they didn’t because all of these guys were awesome. It’s actually a tame match by Psycho Clown standards these days but the Ace was still golden, especially with the criminally underrated Rey Escorpion. Cage and Texano have a sequence to die for early on, a call back to their underrated Lucha Underground feud, before Cage settled in to being a better version of Michael Elgin while Texano once again had one of those great “little things” performances he’s so great at. The stars of course are Cain and especially Taurus. AAA’s booking of Cain is certainly wise in this match (he isn’t overexposed, things are largely kept simple) but it’s clear he has a ton of natural ability and is incredibly impressive. Would he have been with someone other than Taurus? Maybe Escorpion, but even the Los Mercenarios leader can’t bring to the table the time of athleticism and basing Taurus did in making Cain look like a million bucks. Frankly the only guy who could come close in my view would be CMLL’s Euforia, which just goes to show how valuable Taurus was here and how sorely he was missed by Cain when he went to WWE. Then again I’m pretty sure Cain missed everything about AAA when he went to WWE and was then stripped of everything that made him great here. So it goes sports fans. The good news is if you pretend that WWE stuff didn’t happen and that this was Cain’s last wrestling match it was a great final performance. In hindsight this match should’ve ended the show as it was tremendous for what these six set out to accomplish.
Dr. Wagner Jr. defeated Blue Demon Jr.
So full disclosure; I actually missed part of Blue Demon’s entrance for this match because, in the admittedly most unprofessional moment of my “career” (ha!) I went to the merch stand to see what masks were available and got myself that aforementioned Sagrada mask. And you know what; I don’t feel bad about it!
In hindsight I would’ve been better off spending the whole match looking at masks because this was easily the weakest thing (live last year and re-watching it now) on the show. In fairness to Wagner, Demon and AAA it was largely due to circumstance; the plan apparently was for a similar bloody brawl to their legendary Triplemania main event, only for the New York athletic commission (famously strict) to step in and veto that, forcing these two to have a regular match. As you’d expect, that was a misfire. Blue Demon Jr. is better than he’s given credit for usually, but he’s never been a great worker and this was always going to be a tough sell for him in his 50’s. And while Wagner was a great worker, he too is in his 50’s and him carrying a limited Demon without smoke and mirrors…pretty much a recipe for a ho hum match. I suppose we should give them credit for it only being that bad; it could’ve been a far worse match. But I, the crowd and those watching at home were definitely expecting something along the lines of Triplemania, and instead we pretty much just got a basic match. The locker room emptying brawl in the post match and Wagner and Psycho Clown’s show closing promos certainly helped things end on a stronger note, and again it’s hard to blame AAA and co. entirely here, but this was definitely the low point to an otherwise great show. And dammit it makes me sad we didn’t get what was planned because if we had…oh man. OH MAN!
And that’s a look back on AAA Invading NY one year later. Perhaps we’ll take another look back next year, or I’ll just invent a time machine so I can go back and watch it again. I haven’t decided yet, but I’ll get back to you when I do. In the meantime, you’ll see me later this week for another Luchabag and either a preview of CMLL or IWRG to go along with it. Depends on my mood. TILL SAID TIME!
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