The Royal Rumble is one of the most innovative matches in wrestling history, but the concept has been copied by promotions all over world with little success. There is one exception, however. In January 2015, Lucha Underground was in the middle of its first season. A few weeks before the beginning of the Big Dog Era, Aztec Warfare took place.
The first Aztec Warfare was a 20-man Royal Rumble-style match with 90 second intervals to crown the first Lucha Underground champion. Instead of over the top rope, eliminations were by pinfall or submission. This was an EVENT. Aztec dancers started the show (and would beat on drums whenever a new competitor entered the match).
Dario Cuerto explains the rules of the match that he invented and we are off.
Fenix and Johnny Mundo start the match. Matt Striker warns us that the match is going to get off to a high-flying start. Fenix and Mundo proceed to lock up and Mundo gets Fenix in a headlock. Mr. Cisco is #3. “Culedo” chant. Cisco has a cholo gimmick and does a basic senton that Striker calls the Shawshank Redemption. I don’t get it. He is quickly eliminated by Mundo after an End of the World (Starship Pain). King Cuerno is #4. He quickly does a pescado that Vampiro calls the Arrows from the Depths of Hell. This is getting ridiculous.
Fenix walks the ropes like Undertaker and hits Cuerno who is still on the floor with a somersault senton. Drummers signal #5, which is Son of Havoc. Mundo immediately tries to throw him over the top, but Havoc bounces off the ropes and tosses Mundo out. Havoc follows up with a Flying Space Tiger Drop on everyone! Eliminating the traditional over the top eliminations was a smart decision.
Number six is Pimpinela Escarlata who does an exótico gimmick. After a series of ultra-athletic entrants, the veteran really stands out. This is validated by a pair of awful dropkicks from Pimp. Vampiro goes on a rant about not judging people for their race, gender, or sexual orientation. Fine sentiment, but why is the heel announcer telling me this? Prince Puma is #7. Beautiful lionsault by Puma to Mundo. Ivelisse is #8. Pimp goes to kiss her then changes his mind and decides Cuerno is more his type. I am trying to be less judgmental so I cannot tell if that was funny. Pimp is eliminated shortly after following a Shooting Star Press from Havoc. Drago is #9. Ivelisse is out after a Thrill of the Hunt from Cuerno.
Bael is #10 and Striker calls him a real b-boy from the streets who knows how to throw hands. Striker and Vampiro are the worst commentating duo ever. Fenix with a no hands tope con hilo followed by a Cancun Tornado to the floor by Drago. This is insane. Puma pins Havoc with the benadryller. Cortez Castro is #11. There are a lot of guys in there, but it does not feel crowded. Ricky Mandel is #12 and slowly walks to the ring which Vampiro calls as confidently running. Worst duo ever.
Puma with a ridiculously smooth sequence on Bael: northern lights suplex transitioned into a jackhammer followed by a standing SSP for the pin. Vampiro says he was not expecting such an early elimination for the third time. Castro is out after a weak Shining Wizard/Penalty Kick thing from Mundo. Big Ryck is #13. He takes our Mandel with a uranage. Ryck then gorilla presses Drago onto Cuerno’s shoulders who follows up with a Thrill of the Hunt for three. Nice. As Cuerno celebrates, Mundo comes from behind with a crucifix for the pin. Pentagon Jr. is #14 and just cleans house. Penta whips Fenix into the ropes, backdrops him straight up, then catches him on the way down with a powerbomb.
Super Fly is #15 and Ryck catches him and whips him into the ropes and Fly just dives over the top rope onto everyone on the floor. Chavo is #16 and he has a steel chair. Oh no. Chair shot to the head and Super Fly is gone. Chair shot for Penta, who at least gets his hands up. Mascarita Sagrada is #17. Sagrada ranas Fenix over the top and to the floor. Sexy Star is #18 and her and Chavo go at it. The biggest person in the match (Ryck) and the smallest (Sagrada) are alone in the ring. Ryck keeps going for various slams and Sagrada keeps getting out of them until Ryck just kills him with a clothesline for the pin.
El Marachi Loco is #19 and Mil Muertes is the last person in. Muertes pins Loco with a Flatliner. End of the World from Mundo, Standing SSP from Puma, and a 450 from Fenix are enough to eliminate Ryck. Chavo nails Fenix (thankfully not on the head) for the pin. Sexy and Chavo stare off and Vampiro tells Chavo not to be a beeyotch. Worst ever. Chavo gets Sexy down and goes for a Frog Splash but Blue Demon (with whom he had taken out with a horrible chair shot months earlier) knocks him off the top. Sexy nails him with a chair and pins him. The final four are Mundo, Puma, Sexy Star, and Muertes.
Puma and Mundo successfully double team Muertes before Sexy foolishly goes after them. Muertes spears her for the pin. Creative spot as Puma is on the apron and tries to kick Muertes who catches the kick then grabs his other leg. Mundo then leaps over Muertes and splashes the outstretched Puma. Catrina tries to interfere on Muertes’ behalf but takes a Disaster Kick from Mundo. That looked rough.
Muertes grabs a pleading Mundo by the neck allowing Puma to catch him with a Meteora. Mundo and Puma then both hit springboard 450 splashes and cover Muertes for the pin. They go back and forth before Puma gets a Spanish Fly off the top for two. Mundo fights back and gets a reverse rana followed by an End of the World for two. Mundo is shocked and puts Puma in position for a Spanish Fly of his own but Puma knocks him off the top and hits a perfect 630 for the pin and the first Lucha Underground Championship. Non-stop excitement from bell to bell.
Final Thoughts: What do you do when you have a roster full of high flyers and you want to do a Royal Rumble? Replace over the top eliminations with pinfalls and have 90 second intervals to enhance the quick pace, of course. The first season of Lucha Underground is easily its best and Aztec Warfare may be the pinnacle. If you are going to watch the best Royal Rumbles ever, make sure to fit this match in.