I am a huge pro wrestling fan, most notably of the Mexican lucha libre variety.
If I were ever allowed the opportunity to book one match with any two guys in the world, it would be Atlantis vs. El Hijo del Santo, mask vs. mask at a CMLL Anniversary Show. Not just because it would make myself and a whole lot of people rich (although yeah, that does sound pretty sweet) and not just because it pits the most prestigious mask in lucha libre today against the most legendary mask in lucha libre history. The biggest reason is because, as the match wound down and Atlantis and Santo headed towards the conclusion, the audience watching in the stadium (or at home) would be on the edge of their seats. There are many things I love about lucha libre but nothing more so than a big mask match. It means more than anything; titles, pride, revenge, you name it. The mask is identity, prestige; it’s become symbolic with not just lucha libre but Mexican culture itself ever since Salvador Lutteroth and El Santo turned the mask into something more. To put two guys like Atlantis and Santo against each other, in a match where you know one of them has to unmask, would be enough to leave everyone watching it in a near catatonic state. The heat, the emotion, the desperation, the hope, the fear; it would mean everything.
Saturday night’s Triplemania is a show that, as a whole, most people won’t remember as time goes by. It was a show where the good stuff (the second La Llave a Gloria match, the opener, Aerostar’s dive, the four way tag and the TLC match) were very good and the bad (Sexy Star, Jeff Jarrett, the Torneo Triplemania 25, Sexy Star, Jeff Jarrett, Pagano-Mesias and Sexy Star and Jeff Jarrett again for good measure) was painfully bad. In other words the same thing many Triplemania’s have been ever since the Roldan’s took over way too much power. But while Sexy Star’s unprofessionalism has dominated the news to the point that you’d think it was the only thing that happened at Triplemania, it’s a story that will soon fade to the background (and frankly already has) as wrestling fans find the next bright and shiny scandal to latch onto. The one thing we’ll all remember years from now however is the thing we all expected to; Dr. Wagner Jr. vs. Psycho Clown, mask vs. mask. Unless you’ve allowed yourself to become consumed with the Sexy Star story, you’ve probably heard a lot of takes about Wagner and Psycho Clown’s main event extravaganza by now. Allow me to add another; unless a miracle happens, Psycho-Wagner will probably be the closest we ever get to seeing what would happen if Santo and Atlantis put their masks on the line against each other. I have seen many big matches in my day, but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen one quite like this.
In fairness, we all knew it was going to be big. AAA had billed Psycho-Wagner as the Match of the Decade and the hype around it was real. People who had never watched lucha libre were suddenly intrigued. Fans who had abandoned AAA in flocks were suddenly back to see how this played out. Even I, a dude who hasn’t watched AAA full time since the Triplemania XXIII disaster from a few years ago, got worked up over this match; the only other one to have that affect on me in recent memory was Omega-Okada II. The days since the match have only confirmed how big it was, with over 20,000 filling up Arena Ciudad de Mexico to see who walked out sans mask, almost 70K watching between the Spanish and English feeds on Twitch (significantly greater numbers than AAA did last year on iPPV) and millions more watching on Televisa despite the match being delayed by the Mayweather-McGregor fight. In fact, while Mayweather-McGregor did better numbers overall between several stations, Wagner-Psycho Clown drew a bigger rating on Televisa than the fight, scoring a 22.8 to Mayweather-McGregor’s 19.9. It turns out this match was so big that not even AAA could screw it up, and you could actively argue they were trying to do so! Nothing could’ve made this match fail, even if it was the worst match of the decade.
And boy oh boy was it not even close to that. In fact, Wagner-Psycho Clown was probably the best big match AAA has had since Rey Mysterio and Myzteziz took part in the most underrated big match of the last ten years. Part of it was the fact that AAA actually got out of the way and allowed these two to work a great match; there were no mass run ins, no interference aside from limited involvement from El Hijo del Dr. Wagner Jr. and nowhere near the amount of ultra violence you’ve come to expect from a AAA main event. Instead it was just a legendary luchador and a soon to be legendary luchador having an excellent brawl, fighting for their identities and playing off the Sam Adonis levels of heat coming from the Arena Ciudad crowd. In many ways it was a distant cousin to Mysterio-Myzteziz and Wagner’s epic Mega Championship match with El Mesias from 2009; a straightforward lucha that succeeded because of heat and ability, not smoke and mirrors. Coincidentally those two matches now go down (in my opinion) as two of the greatest in Triplemania history, which makes it no shock that Psycho and Wagner will do the same.
What separates this one from those other matches, aside from the fact that Wagner actually Samoan Dropped Psycho into the crowd at one point (one of the best spots I’ve seen in awhile), was the fact that everything was on the line. Wagner-Mesias was huge, but it was merely for the Mega Championship, while Mysterio-Myzteziz was merely a prelude to what should’ve been a bigger match down the road. This was the be all end all; every move mattered and any moment could’ve been a life changing moment for either Wagner or Psycho. Days later I remain fixated on a sequence, only a few minutes into the match, where Wagner trapped Psycho in the center of the ring with a submission. Looking back now I know the match wasn’t going to end there…but at the time I was on edge, wondering if Psycho would lose his mask trapped in this arm bar like hold Wagner wrenched him into. That sequence sums up the whole match; every time one of these guys went and hit a big move it was followed by three seconds of holding your breath. Would this be it? Will this be the moment of truth? Many will try to claim that this match wasn’t that much on edge because of the leaked poster from the night before promoting Wagner “sin mascara” (and people in the know will tell you they were told Psycho was winning long before that). But I guarantee you that when Wagner finally fell to “the world’s slowest Code Red” (as Bryan Alvarez called it) near the thirty mark, those same people were right alongside me making the same face we all made when Hogan dropped the leg on Savage. Some may have known Psycho was winning, some like myself expected it because he was the young guy against the veteran, but deep down I don’t think anyone thought for certain we’d end up with Wagner revealing himself to be, as the ladies would put it, Mexico’s sexiest dad in the post match ceremonies.
That post match by the way was the stuff of legends, rivaling the likes of Último Guerrero’s tearful hug with his family in 2014 and Villano’s epic speech in 2000. That’s the thing about these mask matches; the aftermaths are often just as epic as the matches themselves and this was no different. Psycho Clown celebrated with his family, Máximo and La Máscara, and held his son up proudly like it was a scene out of The Lion King. Kids in the audience cried. Wagner himself held back tears several times as his family lost it alongside of him. The most notable person though was in fact Wagner’s son, El Hijo del Dr. Wagner Jr. Now an eight year veteran at 25 years old, Hijo del Wagner has seen himself get involved in some of his father’s most famous matches, including a memorable dive at Triplemania XXI when the Good Doctor took on Máscara Año 2000 Jr. Nothing compares to the raw, blistering emotion he showed after Psycho Clown defeated his father. He cried so hard that he shook. He quivered next to his father as Wagner delivered an epic speech of his own. And, in a moment that may turn out to be important as time goes up, he initially refused to give Psycho Clown his father’s mask and stared the victorious Psycho down before finally conceding the prize (although he continued to stare a hole into Psycho afterwards). If you had told me that this match would lead to me wanting to see El Hijo del Dr. Wagner Jr. in a big time match a month ago, I would’ve never believed you. Now, because of this post match, I would eagerly drop as much money as I could to watch Psycho-Hijo del Wagner tomorrow. This post match moment made him just as big a winner as his father and Psycho were.
And yes, both guys were winners despite one of them losing the mask. You could even argue right now that Wagner was the biggest winner. His career has gotten renewed attention since the loss, you could make the argument he looks better without the mask (male fans have likened him to looking like a Dark Lord of the Sith, while female fans just think he’s really hot) and Wagner himself has handled the defeat so well you can’t help but like him. And that’s before you get into the fact that he did the right thing for business here, recognizing that his time has come and passing the baton on to someone else (or as Jesse Lacey would say, batter up). But let’s not forget who actually won the match here. Psycho Clown may not yet have the pedigree of Wagner and he certainly doesn’t have the charisma, although if we’re being honest only a select few do. But Psycho was a quickly ascending star before this match with a good reputation as a worker; from this point forward he is now a made man, the dude who unmasked the legendary Dr. Wagner Jr. and who can pave his own path from here on in. The list of big matches that could occur with him now is endless in any promotion. Psycho vs. Rey Mysterio, Psycho vs. Atlantis, Psycho vs. LA Park, Psycho vs. Pentagon, Psycho vs. Fenix, Psycho vs. (gulp) Último Guerrero; all these bouts and more are big money matches that could happen, whether Psycho decides to stay in AAA or leave it. It’s what makes it so admirable what Wagner did for him. Many luchadors would’ve refused to lose and either forced AAA’s hand to put them over or then walked out if AAA didn’t bend (spoiler; AAA would’ve bent). But Wagner revealed he was a smart enough man to know that lucha libre will not end when he leaves how many years from now and chose instead to give back, to pass the torch to a new luchador who can one day do the same. It’s a lesson I hope Psycho recognized throughout this whole ordeal; preserving your legacy is good, but setting up lucha libre to be healthy for the next several decades (thus ensuring your legacy lives on) is better.
It’s that and more that makes what Wagner and Psycho did this past weekend so beautiful. It’s one thing to just have a great match, which they did. But they had a great match that meant everything, a great match where we all watched with the uncertainty of who would prevail, a great match that moved many to emotion and a great match where both competitors, and the competitors son, walked out better than they did walking in. They don’t make these types of matches anymore, and unfortunately I doubt we’ll see many like this again. There’s just too much pride, ego and dysfunction in lucha libre today to prevent something like Atlantis vs. El Hijo del Santo from happening. All of which makes it all the more important that we cherish and remember a match like Psycho Clown vs. Dr. Wagner Jr. It reminds us of what lucha libre, what wrestling is capable of doing when you get it just right. It can be riveting, it can be emotional, it can be unforgettable; it can be magic.