Aztec Warfare: How a Wrestling Match Rejected Trumpism and Shattered the Glass Ceiling
(Repurposed from our Top 10 Wrestling Matches of 2016 in "honor" of Inauguration Day)
This is, hands down, the most socially important wrestling match I’ve ever seen.
Eight days before the airing of Aztec Warfare III, a misogynistic, anti-immigrant, willfully ignorant, fascist demagogue was elected the 45th President of the United States. Twelve days later, at WWE's Survivor Series, a 49-year-old who hadn’t wrestled in over 12 years was booked to beat one of the most unbeatable, legitimate characters in wrestling history in 86 seconds. Two and a half years of booking went out the window in less than a minute and a half and the mother of all rubs was handed to the least deserving person possible instead of, oh, I don’t know, one of the guys who works their ass off 300 days a year and is going to have to carry the company for the next 10-15 years. This happened twelve days after the least qualified presidential candidate in history defeated quite possibly the most qualified presidential candidate in history--and did it, in large part, because she’s a woman (and pro-immigrant, for that matter). Goldberg v. Brock Lesnar was, in a sense, a metaphor for this election.
Aztec Warfare III was a brash, defiant repudiation of it.
The story of Sexy Star has been one of the best parts of Lucha Underground from the beginning--a survivor of domestic violence who set out to prove to every woman that they are strong, that every woman is sexy and every woman is a star (hence, Sexy Star)--but took a major turn in the season 1 finale when she was abducted by Marty “The Moth” Martinez and his sister Mariposa, held captive, and tortured for months. When she returned to the Temple, she wasn’t the same. She was visibly shaken, suffering from PTSD, and had to lean on friends--namely The Mack--to get back on her feet. She fought back and tasted redemption when she defeated Mariposa in an incredibly intense, emotional “No Mas” match. She fought through Mariposa and Marty--with an assist from The Mack--to complete her redemption by winning the Gift of the Gods match and a shot at the Lucha Underground championship. But then, tragically, that opportunity was stolen away by three more undeserving assholes: Johnny Mundo and Worldwide Underground.
So back to Aztec Warfare III. Johnny Mundo and Worldwide Underground are doing their thing, stealing pins and hiding under the ring and generally just being tremendous douchebags. Mundo pins Pentagon when he gets got by the Black Lotus Clan. He pins Mysterio after Matanza tears him a new one. Jack Evans and PJ Black, the other two members of Worldwide Underground, are eliminated, but they just come back and help Mundo because why not, it’s a no disqualification match. They’re ganging up on Sexy Star and they’re about to put her away. Suddenly, as if descending from the heavens, Angelico--the fearless motocross daredevil who was injured by Worldwide Underground when they slammed his leg in a car door at the end of season 2--returns the only way he knows how: by jumping off of Dario’s office and into the ring, taking out all three members of Worldwide Underground. Sexy Star crawls on top of Johnny Mundo for the pin, Mil Muertes disposes of The Mack with a BRUUUTAL Flatliner, and just like that, it’s down to Mil Muertes--the unstoppable, monstrous living embodiment of death itself--and Sexy Star.
At this point, I am literally screaming at my television.
“COME ON, SEXYYYYY! COME ONNNNN!!!” I don’t think I’ve ever felt this way about a wrestling match. I’ve never wanted a wrestler to win this badly in my entire life. I was literally standing inches away from my TV, screaming encouragement. It was one of the most unforgettable moments I’ve ever experienced as a wrestling fan--and I’ve been to the last two WrestleManias and TakeOver: Dallas. Mil tries to take her up to the top rope to extravagantly and gratuitously finish her off by Flatlining her through a table, but Sexy uses her intelligence and veteran experience to outsmart Mil and with a last ditch effort, pushes him through the table and nails him with a double stomp. In defeating Mil Muertes, she overcomes death itself--physical death, spiritual death, the death of everything she stands for--to become the history-making champion she has always been destined to be. When Sexy got the pin I let out the most primal roar of triumph I could muster and sobbed uncontrollably. I’m literally crying right now just thinking about it. It was a perfect wrestling moment at the perfect time. The first ever female world heavyweight champion of a major American wrestling promotion. A Mexican-American woman broke the glass ceiling eight days after Hillary Clinton bounced off of it, bloodied and broken. Eight days after women and Mexican-Americans across the country were told “no you can’t,” Sexy Star and Lucha Underground and El Rey Network screamed back in one clear, coherent voice: “SI SE PUEDE.”