The most devastating loss Andrade ever suffered occurred on June 7, 2019.
That was the day he wrestled for the Intercontinental title at WWE’s Super ShowDown in Saudi Arabia, a match where he was defeated by Finn Balor. But the loss he suffered after the match was far more agonizing than anything that happened in the ring. That marked the day Andrade–born Manuel Alfonso Andrade Oropeza–lost his mother.
A quick glance at Andrade is all that is needed to get a sense of his abundance of charisma and charm. In the ring, he delivers a confidence that borders on arrogance, relishing the role of villain. Andrade plays the part so naturally, which makes complete sense. He was raised specifically to be a wrestling prodigy.
A third-generation wrestler, Andrade is the son of a wrestler. He is the grandson of a wrestler. And he is the nephew of seven uncles, all of whom trained him–and all of whom were wrestlers. Wrestling is not a profession for Andrade, it is his birthright. Yet suddenly, in that moment, all he sacrificed and worked for became nothing more than an afterthought.
“I always ask my family not to message me during important matches,” said Andrade. “So when I was in [Saudi Arabia], no one told me my mother was in the hospital. She told the whole family not to tell me. I thought everything was fine. That whole time, I thought everything was fine.”
In Andrade’s mind, there was no reason for concern. His mother had texted him before his long flight to Saudi, crafting a message featuring a rare combination of love, worry, and pride that only a mother could.
“Bien hijo gracias a Dios!” she wrote. “Mucha suerte cuídate, te quiero mucho”. The message translates to, “Thank you, God. I am great, son. Good luck, be careful, I love you very much.”
Andrade received word after the match that his mother had passed away, and a sudden emptiness overwhelmed him. After 29 glorious years of being the beloved son of Juana Oropeza, he felt the soul-crushing pain of losing his closest friend.
“My mom told me many things,” said Andrade. “When she was alive, I didn’t always pay full attention to what she said about life, my body, love, family, enjoying time with my dad, and the real meaning of success, which was sharing it with my family.
“When I lost her, that changed. Now I understand. And I would do anything to have those moments back with her.”
So often in wrestling, the ones playing the villain on-screen are the kindest and most endearing behind the curtain. That certainly is the case with Andrade, the former WWE star who has brought his world-class ability to AEW. He is in the midst of a star-making weekend, as he makes his in-ring AAA debut this Saturday at Triplemanía, the company’s signature event, in a match for the Mega Championship against the incomparable Kenny Omega.
With the exception of WWE icon Roman Reigns, there is no bigger star in the wrestling universe than Omega. Originally slated to play a role in New Japan Pro-Wrestling’s junior heavyweight division, Omega instead redefined stardom in pro wrestling, doing so in a manner equally innovative and distinct. He is exceptional in the ring, dynamic to the point that it can be a struggle for opponents not to be overshadowed by his brilliance. This happened recently when he put on a clinic in Impact Wrestling against Rich Swann, who is an incredibly talented wrestler, yet paled in comparison to Omega.
Omega is the face of AEW, the champion of AAA and Impact, and an unstoppable force of flair and mastery within the confines of the squared circle. But he does not possess the same skillset as Andrade, which adds an extremely intriguing backstory to their encounter.
“People know me in Mexico,” said Andrade. “I am going to show that to the world at Triplemanía. Kenny Omega is having the best matches in the world, but Kenny doesn’t scare me. I know he’s an amazing talent, but I’m better.”
A proud veteran of CMLL, a wrestling promotion in Mexico established in 1933, Andrade making the move to AAA is more significant than simply changing employers. This is a major shift in the wrestling landscape, and represents an opportunity for him to prove he can put on the most compelling matches against a variety of performers. This was simply never the case in WWE, where he was viewed as the antagonist to the major attractions.
A master of the craft, Andrade can work big (like he did in WWE with Drew McIntyre), small (most recently in AEW with Matt Sydal), or showcase a sensational blend of lucha, strong style, and more traditional American wrestling (with his matches against Rey Mysterio standing out for their brilliance).
“When I went to work in Japan for the first time in 2010, that changed my whole career,” said Andrade. “I worked the Best of the Super Juniors tournament, and Kenny was in it, too, in the other bracket. I learned so much more than lucha libre.”
Working under a mask as La Sombra, Andrade shone during that New Japan excursion, especially when sharing the ring with Kota Ibushi.
“I needed to show I wasn’t just a luchador, I needed to show I was a wrestler,” said Andrade. “That’s the same mentality I had in WWE, which is a different style. So I fashioned myself more like Eddie Guerrero, working in some lucha.”
Though the Mega Championship is on the line in the Omega-Andrade bout, this match stands for much more than a title. Win or lose, Andrade needs to come away from this match as a genuine star, leaving a permanent impression in everyone's mind that he is superior to Omega.
“I have wanted this for a long time, a chance to show who I am,” said Andrade. “This is for my family, my blood, Ashley [fiancée Charlotte Flair], and my mother.
“I’m excited to go home, and I’m going to show I am the biggest star in the world.”
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