It seems that old habits are hard to die for AAA Lucha Libre. While many of those traditions make lucha libre a vibrant and exciting form of professional wrestling, others damn it to the dark ages of intolerance. Key among those hindrances is the homophobic “Puto” chant that makes appearances at many Mexican sporting events.
The chant’s popularity at lucha libre events hasn’t waned as the industry itself has become more inclusive globally in recent years. It’s presence even caused issues for those promoting that improved approach to pro wrestling, most notably Cody Rhodes at AAA’s TripleMania event last month.
The All Elite Wrestling executive vice president learned from that incident, but AAA clearly didn’t.
The offensive chant apparently traveled across the border with AAA to its Invading New York event earlier this month. The pay-per-view, originally announced for Madison Square Garden, packed a decent crowd into venue’s smaller Hulu Theater for its New York City debut. And it didn’t take long for that crowd to shower the ring with the offending chant.
It first appeared during the second match of the night: a trios match between the team of Impact Wrestling’s Josh Alexander, Michael Elgin and Sami Callahan and a AAA team featuring Murder Clown, Faby Apache and Drago.
The first use of the offensive term came from Elgin in what likely was an attempt to rile up the crowd. The fans, joined by Drago and Murder Clown, returned the favor later in the match despite Elgin figuratively throwing the insult back to the fans. The chant forced the English language announcers, Matt Striker and Hugo Savinovich, to uncomfortably address the offensive language. “The crowd is throwing shade at Elgin and he’s throwing it back,” Striker said between awkward chuckles. “Even though these aren’t the nicest words, we have to understand that, when it’s used in the world of lucha, it’s different. It’s not like something personal,” Savinovich added.
The chant appeared once again prior to a match featuring AAA mainstay Psycho Clown and former UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez. The two led the crowd in the chant while their partner, Impact world champion Brian Cage, half-heartedly participated.
The scene was similar to the TripleMania incident for which Rhodes apologized. The practice is old hat for Psycho Clown as it’s a regular part of his tecnico (lucha for “good guy”) routine. But Rhodes and Velasquez’s involvement surprised some fans.
It goes without question that fan participation carries a different context in pro wrestling than other sports, but that doesn’t mean that the use of offensive terminology should be treated differently. Especially when a homophobic slur is a tool consistently utilized by the in-ring competitors. There is a big difference between the crowd starting the chant and the wrestlers goading them into saying it and even using it in the ring themselves.
Striker and Savinovich’s attempts to explain away the homophobic term’s context within lucha libre came across as a tepid attempt at convincing someone their ignorant friend is actually OK deep down. And AAA’s silence on the matter tacitly endorses that sentiment. AAA will remain an ignorant outlier in a changing industry as long as it condones the “Puto” chant’s use at its events.
AAA did not respond to a request for comment as of press time.