Aztec Warfare II
March 23, 2016 (Taped: December 12, 2015)
First, a word from thecubsfan: “The first Aztec Warfare will be remembered as being better, because the show felt like it was making an unexpected leap. This show wasn’t really far behind, and I only wish they got a little more time or a second screen to watch it all.”
I think the first sentence is likely true. The Aztec Warfare match from Lucha Underground’s first season was extremely memorable because it came after the winter holiday break, was the show’s first consensus good match, and proved that their band of pro wrestling TV could and would include quality matches as well. It was a big moment in the promotion’s history so that match is likely to be remembered more fondly than the sequel.
However, Season 2’s version of Aztec Warfare was the better match in my opinion, even if only marginally so.
In terms of match participants – both in overall quality and in diversity – I thought this lineup outpaced Season 1’s. The first Aztec Warfare had more filler (Mr. Cisco, Bael, Cortez Castro, Ricky Mandel, and El Mariachi Logo vs. Argenis, and PJ Black). In this match, Joey Ryan and Marty Martinez were bit players but they each had their roles (Marty’s feud with The Mack, Ryan’s handcuff bit). Comparing the high-end wrestlers in each match’s reveals an even bigger gulf. The big names going into last year’s match were Prince Puma (who was still finding his footing with the character) and Johnny Mundo. This year, Mundo was a role player and Puma was at best third on the depth chart behind the debuting Rey Jr. and Matanza. With the exception of Mundo, all the holdovers from the prior year match are more over than they were at the same time in Season 1. In addition to the lineup feeling bigger it also felt more diverse in terms of different characters and personalities.
The first Aztec Warfare was lauded for its strong booking but this match was just as well laid out. Few – if any – eliminations were wasted. They managed to do the in-ring debuts of three wrestlers (Rey Mysterio Jr., Dragon Azteca Jr., and Matanza) in one match and get all three instantaneously over through the booking (not that Rey needed much help). I am not sure that is something that a Royal Rumble has ever accomplished, although to be fair off of the top of my head I cannot recall if they actually have ever tried something like that. Virtually every ongoing story line was featured and progressed in some ways. They stuck to their own stories by keeping Catrina’s main enemies – the trio of Angelico, Son of Havoc, and Ivellise – out of the match and also keeping Pentagon Jr. out because of his recent near-attack on Catrina. The non-match participants – Pentagon Jr., Famous B, Dario Cueto – were all used well. Every single wrestler got a chance to shine even if they are not figured into current storylines (ie. Mascarita Sagrada). Even the commercial breaks felt well timed as they tended to come at the natural break points. There were a couple of breaks that I felt added to the momentum of the match in terms of providing in-match cliff hangers rather than stalling the momentum.
There were maybe less dives in this match (I’d have to go back and watch both) but dive-for-dive this held up to the original. Puma got just absurd distance on his shooting star press to the outside. Dragon Azteca’s corner dive was stunning. King Cuerno’s tope continues to be on the very short list of best topes in current wrestling.
Matanza was good in his debut, although the obvious issues with a guy Jeff Cobb’s size playing a monster were . . . obvious. He looked good throwing guys around because that is what he has always done but the outfit and the size were a little off I thought. The outfit made him look to much like Abyss and nobody needs that association. Cubs’ observation that they booked him a bit like Taz (that is how Cobb generally wrestles( is right I think, but the difference was Taz being small but a killer was part of his presentation. With Matanza, he is just supposed to be a monster through and through. That was just my initial reaction and there is a good chance he will grow on me. I do think they booked him perfectly from an in-ring perspective by having him so thoroughly dominate in his first appearance.
I’ve said this before about LU but there are many times where they do traditional pro wrestling far better than more traditional pro wrestling products. The way they established Matanza as a major heel and the best wrestler in the promotion in one match was textbook but something that most other promotions struggle with these days.
Lastly, I’d be remiss not to point out that Rey Jr. looked awesome. It started with the tilt-a-whirl head scissors that he pulled off like it was 1996 again and continued throughout the match. I wish Rey wouldn’t have done what felt like a dozen splashes on his knees but he was great in this match.
I have read some suggest that Aztec Warfare is a game changing take on a battle royal. I am not sure I would go that far as it isn’t all that different in nature than a fast paced cibernetico or something like AAA’s Alas de Oro tournament. A match concept can be very good without breaking new ground and Aztec Warfare is certainly that.