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31 Days of Wrestling (12/30/16): Aztec Warfare(s) 2016

Welcome to the 31 Days of Wrestling, ladies and gentlemen. It's that time of year again when we take a look back at the past 11 months of pro wrestling (and as much as possible, the last month as well) and cherry-pick one match a day for each day of December from a list of bouts that defined the year in our beloved sport. Most matches will be good, while some may not be; what matters is that they helped build the perception and reputation of the kind of wrestling this calendar year produced for us.

We can't close out 2016 without forgetting our big Lucha Underground moments.


That's right: we say 2016 because thanks to Lucha Underground's ridiculously rushed and shortened second and third seasons, they put out not one, but two Aztec Warfare matches this year. And they're both great.

Lucha Underground is a smart wrestling show, and we don't just mean that by the way they tell their stories. They're also smart enough as a young pro wrestling production to understand that you're going to need huge events to shake up the roster's status quo every now and then, and they applied that lesson from the very beginning. The very first Aztec Warfare match, a Royal Rumble-inspired battle royal where competitors keep coming in intervals but are only eliminated by pinfall or submission, last year was used to crown the first-ever Lucha Underground Champion. Allowing everyone to play for the title was a way to make a first champ without completely alienating the entire roster from a chance at the gold by focusing on a distinct few at the top.

This year, Lucha Underground completely established Aztec Warfare as the sole shake-up match for the entire show, much like the Royal Rumble match is used every year.

First, the season two Aztec Warfare match, held in March, introduced Dario Cueto's brother, the Monster Matanza, as the biggest threat the Temple had ever seen. This is especially after Mil Muertes established his dominance as the biggest baddie this side of Boyle Heights, even though Fenix came in as the champ.



Everyone knows of Matanza's pedigree and his dominance in the championship match by now, but it wasn't just the athletic monster that was introduced in this melee. Aztec Warfare II also changed the landscape by introducing lucha legend Rey Mysterio to the Temple, as well as his heir presumptive Dragon Azteca, Jr. 

Aztec Warfare II's purpose was to restructure Lucha Underground after suffering a few losses on the roster after the first season, stabilizing the current pantheon after a few projects from last season didn't exactly work out: Alberto El Patron, Mil Muertes, Texano, and Johnny Mundo. Most importantly, it showed that old fan favorites can find new homes and thrive in them; the people you think are lost are really just wrestling elsewhere.

Where Aztec Warfare II shook up and reestablished a new status quo in the Temple, Aztec Warfare III was the match where Lucha Underground figured they could really start doing more with their roster.




First, it bears noting that the result of this match is the most important thing to come out of it. Sexy Star won the Lucha Underground Championship, and it's the first time a woman won a company's top title on TV, as far as we know. It's not the first time a woman won a top title, but the decision by Lucha Underground to do this on television brings it more exposure than a small indy show could ever get, even if the program isn't as mainstream as anything WWE puts out. Sexy's win wasn't in the most ideal circumstances, but it was a clean win that put over her skill and determination, and that's a lot better than other possible scenarios.

Despite not being the best match among all of them, Aztec Warfare III is where Lucha Underground truly shines as both a throwback and a progressive pro wrestling show. This isn't the first time a woman's mixed it up with the men in this show, but until now it's always felt like the occasional special event. With this decision, however, they've finally committed to what they've merely been offering on the side and done what very few wrestling promotions are willing to do today.

Sexy Star is the leader of the real Women's Revolution, even if her glory is short-lived. She may no longer be part of the show going into next year, but let's see how Lucha Underground follows it up in 2017.

*****

31 Days of Wrestling is Smark Henry's way of celebrating the matches that helped define wrestling in 2016.

Read our previous entries:

#1: The Final Deletion
#2: Finn Balor vs. Seth Rollins for the WWE Universal Championship, SummerSlam
#3: Kazuchika Okada vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi, Wrestle Kingdom 10
#4: Sami Zayn vs. Shinsuke Nakamura, NXT Takeover: Dallas
#5: Main Maxx vs. Crystal for the PHX Championship, PWR Renaissance
#6: Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte for the RAW Women's Championship, Hell in a Cell
#7: Prince Puma vs. Rey Mysterio, Ultima Lucha Dos
#8: AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship, Wrestle Kingdom 10
#9: American Alpha vs. The Revival for the NXT Tag Team Championships, NXT TakeOver: Dallas
#10: TJ Perkins and the WWE Cruiserweight Classic
#11: One Versus All Royal Rumble Match
#12: Kenny Omega vs Tetsuya Naito, G1 Climax Block B Finals
#13: Sami Zayn vs. Kevin Owens, Payback
#14: Ricochet vs. Will Ospreay, Best of the Super Juniors Tournament 2016
#15: #DIY vs. The Revival, 2 Out Of 3 Falls Match for the NXT Tag Team Championships, NXT TakeOver: Toronto
#16: Brock Lesnar vs. Goldberg, Survivor Series
#17: Katsuyori Shibata vs. Tomohiro Ishii for the NEVER Openweight Championship, Wrestle Kingdom 10
#18: The Return of the Brand Split
#19: Kota Ibushi vs. Cedric Alexander, Cruiserweight Classic
#20: Hirooki Goto vs. Kenny Omega, G1 Climax Finals
#21: James Freakin' Ellsworth
#22: Brock, Punk, and their Gall to Hunt in MMA (UFC 200, 203)
#23: Sexy Star vs. Mariposa in a No Mas Match, Lucha Underground
#24: Chris Hero vs. Katsuyori Shibata, RPW/NJPW Global Wars
#25: AJ Styles vs. John Cena, SummerSlam
#26: The DDT Ironman Heavymetalweight Championship US Tour
#27: Cody vs. Jay Lethal, Final Battle
#28: Dolph Ziggler vs. The Miz, No Mercy
#29: Joey Ryan Proves Wrestling Is Nuts


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