It was easy to confuse the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden for Arena Ciudad de Mexico on Sunday, September 15, as Lucha Libre AAA Worldwide, Mexico’s leading professional wrestling promotion, produced an authentic lucha libre experience for the thousands in attendance lucky enough to have witnessed the historic event.
Coined Invading NY, the exhibition was the first time AAA, as it’s more commonly referred to, visited the world-renowned venue in 25 years, a fact that added to the already fervid anticipation of the show. But in 2019, the wrestling landscape is very different than it was in the mid 1990s, as a resurgence of interest in the idolized sport has helped several diverse companies carve out a specialized space of their own, giving modern fans many more options than were available a quarter of a century ago.
With organizations such as New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW), Ring of Honor (ROH), and Major League Wrestling (MLW), in addition to longtime industry leader World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), all running their own distinct versions of grappling in the New York metropolitan area in recent years, it was just a matter of time before the Mexico City-based outfit returned to the Big Apple.
Strategically held during the weekend of Mexico’s Independence Day to maximize exposure in the heavily Hispanic New York City market, AAA also shrewdly partnered with veteran domestic league Impact Wrestling for the evening – a logical collaboration between the two trendy promotions. The dual representation effectively served both those whose preferences leaned towards the high-flying, acrobatic lucha style, as well as those who favored the more technical, ground-based American approach.
For Matt Striker, English commentator for AAA, the decision to hold Invading NY the day before Mexican Independence Day was an easy one. “AAA is arguably the most storied promotion in lucha libre,” the former high school teacher explained, in a chat with Royal Flush. “Coming to New York City on a weekend when Mexican heritage is being celebrated is history in the making,” he continued.
The show, which aired on traditional pay-per-view as well as iPPV, generated a plethora of highlights, perhaps the most notable being the second match of former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez’s career. The fighter-turned-wrestler debuted in August at this year’s edition of the company’s biggest annual event, Triplemania, held in their home base of Mexico City. All eyes were on Velasquez to see whether he’d continue to impress as he did in his inaugural bout or if his performance would suffer the fate of the sophomore curse – and the former was undoubtedly proven true as the mixed martial artist wowed the capacity crowd with his natural athletic ability in a winning effort, teaming with current Impact World Champion Brian Cage and Psycho Clown against Taurus, Rey Escorpion, and Texano Jr. (Los Mercenarios).
“Some people are naturals,” Striker opined. “They just step into something and make it look like they’ve been doing it their entire lives. The beauty of Velasquez is that he brings a validity to a sport that can sometimes be questioned,” Striker added.
The billed main event, a contest between two legitimate lucha legends in Dr. Wagner Jr. and Blue Demon Jr., saw the duo exceed all expectations as both competitors refused to allow their quinquagenarian status hinder them. In a match that easily could’ve went either way, it was Wagner whose arm was raised at its conclusion.
Possibly the greatest female wrestler in the world today, Tessa Blanchard, squared off with arch rival Taya Valkyrie, the reigning Impact Knockouts Champion, in a battle of two foes who are anything but strangers to one another. It was a truly brutal, physical bout in which both women gave everything they had, ending in an upset as Valkyrie scored the pinfall and gained the AAA Reina de Reinas belt in the process.
In arguably the best bout of the night, the AAA World Tag Team Champions, Pentagon Jr. and Fenix (The Lucha Brothers), retained their titles in an explosive war with Santana and Ortiz (LAX). It was a spectacular display of highspots, near falls, and intricate offense as the tandems brought virtually the entire theater to its feet for the match’s duration.
With stiff competition from WWE’s Clash of Champions pay-per-view and NJPW’s Destruction streaming event airing simultaneously, wrestling fans certainly had a difficult decision to make. But for those who chose the spectacle known as lucha libre, it was clear who the evening’s winners truly were.
“What separates AAA from the others is the nationalism, the pride, and of course, the history,” Striker beamed.
- Mascarita Dorada and Chris Dickinson defeated Dave the Clown and Demus
- Michael Elgin, Josh Alexander, and Sami Callihan (Team Impact) defeated Faby Apache, Murder Clown, and Drago (Team AAA)
- Daga defeated Puma King, Aerostar, and Flamita to become AAA World Cruiserweight Championship number one contender
- Taya Valkyrie defeated Tessa Blanchard to win the AAA Reina de Reinas Championship
- Pentagon Jr. and Fenix (Lucha Brothers) defeated Ortiz and Santana (LAX) to retain the AAA World Tag Team Championships
- Cain Velasquez, Psycho Clown, and Brian Cage defeated Texano Jr., Taurus, and Rey Escorpion (Los Mercenarios)
- Dr. Wagner Jr. defeated Blue Demon Jr.