Blue Demon Jr. vs. Dr. Wagner Jr. (AAA Triplemania XXVII 8/3/19)

Match Reviews

Featured image by Tamara Benavides

Lucha libre has always been a struggle for me. Like many wrestling fans, my primary exposure to it has been via Rey Mysterio, historical tales of WCW, and whichever Mexican star pops up on the American indies. But that doesn’t quite paint an accurate stylistic or representative picture of what lucha libre actually is. Over the years, based on recommendations on various forums, I’ve attempted to dip my toes into more authentic lucha. The prerequisite Atlantis vs. Villano III, El Hijo del Santo matches in the 90s, and even LA Park bleeding over grimy arenas. While I’ve found things that I’ve enjoyed in that time, I’ve never found a dedication or investment in lucha libre.

In many ways, it’s still incredibly foreign to me. A lot of lucha libre simply doesn’t conform to what my idea of “good wrestling” is. That’s an idea that’s been forged by years and years of analyzing and studying pro wrestling primarily with a Western influence. WWE, American independents, and the like. Sure, I’ve watched my fair share of Japanese wrestling too but even that seemed to have a far more accessible grammar to it than lucha did.

Add on to that, smaller things that disrupted my attempts to invest in lucha libre. While a lot of lucha libre is accessible for free via YouTube, the production on CMLL and AAA’s footage always bothered me a bit. The action in the ring sounds far too soft and the crowd never sounds as clear as they do on Western television. It makes the atmosphere feel a bit more muddled and indecipherable to me.

Luckily for me, I fell in with some friends in the fabled ex-Wrestling With Words Slack chat who have a much better grasp on lucha libre than me. Longtime fans whose opinions I’ve respected long before I’ve come to even call them friends. They helped fill in some of the gaps for me, helping offer mindsets and frameworks to better understand lucha by, as well as throwing some match recommendations my way. After taking in what they had to say and perusing their recommendations, I feel that I have a better grasp on lucha than I did beforehand. That’s not to say that I’m an expert but I’ve found that I’ve been able to approach lucha with a bit more openness and enjoyment than I had in the past.

Based on my (admittedly shallow and basic) understanding of things, lucha excels when one takes in the macro instead of the micro. Sure, it’s known for the detailed mat and technical work some of its workers bring but I’ve found that I personally enjoy lucha better with a slightly more detached eye than I might typically cast onto another form of wrestling. I’ve found that my enjoyment stems from being able to ride the wave of emotion that the two workers in the ring are trying to control. This may, of course, sound like it could apply to any form of pro wrestling but I find there are cultural differences that make it much more relevant to lucha libre.

Should you have any concerns about this in particular, I would recommend you turn your attention to others who have a far better grasp on lucha libre than I do. The blog thecubsfan, for example, is a fantastic English language resource for anyone wanting to dip their toes in and it’d be a great place to start.

I go into all this detail about my experiences with lucha because a lot of that is why this match from AAA Triplemania XXVII landed in my honorable mentions instead of its rightful place towards the top of my list. Ever since it came out I have seen praise heaped upon it, seen it come out #2 on Brock’s Match of the Year List, seen it placed on a pedestal for lucha in the 2010s. How come I only had it at 4.5 stars outside of the 2019 Top 20? Perhaps with some of the new attitudes I had towards lucha, I could come to understand this better than I first did in 2019.

So, being the genius that I am, I went back to rewatch this. In February. A month removed from releasing my Top 20 Matches of the Year list.

My apologies to Blue Demon Jr. and Dr. Wagner Jr.

Because this is easily a top 10 match of 2019.

What a spectacle. From the word go, you have two legends in full attire standing atop forklifts screaming at each other as the video detailing their history plays behind them. That’s amazing, really that’s just amazing. And then the bell rings and pretty much everything after lives up to the grandeur of that kind of imagery.

Both men bleed as they should. I’ve heaped praise onto Dustin Rhodes’ blade job at Double or Nothing but Blue Demon Jr.’s gusher in this match might have even that topped. His mask soaks through with blood, it drips like a faucet out of the rip that Wagner tears into it. It is grotesque imagery as Demon leaves literal pools of plasma on the ring canvas. It’s gross.

And, of course, I love it.

Then, there’s the hammer. As I’ve mentioned in the past on this blog, you always get bonus points for using a hammer. Blue Demon Jr. absolutely wails on Wagner with a hammer in this match with shocking reckless abandon. I’d like to assume that these men found a safe way to pull off those spots but they’re carried out in such convincing fashion that I’d believe anyone who told me that they were shooting each other. If the news comes out tomorrow that Blue Demon Jr. made an attempt on Dr. Wagner Jr.’s life in the ring that night in August 2019, my only reaction would be, “Yeah, of course. We all saw it.”

Going back to this match now, I actually don’t know why I didn’t like it more at the time. There’s a lot of Western markers for prestige quality wrestling in this match. There’s the violence and the blood, yes. But there’s also incredibly strong selling on Wagner’s part. The way he holds his hand makes me worry for this man’s limbs. His hand looks gnarled and deformed after Demon attacks it with the hammer.

It’s not a perfect match to be sure. One can easily point to the poorly timed interference spot from Blue Demon Jr.’s son as a flaw and that’s a perfectly valid point. I’d say it did kill some of the momentum these two built up in their match. But when that mismanaged spot gets followed up with a block of (gimmicked, thank God) concrete to the back of the head? Yeah, I’m pretty quick to forgive it.

I don’t think you need to be a lucha libre expert to enjoy this match. But I do recognize that there is some culture shock when approaching a highly recommended lucha match like this. If you’re considering giving it a watch, do so with an open mind.

Give into this match. Let it take you by the hand on a journey.

Then watch in horror as that hand gets brutalized with a hammer.

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