Andrade made a statement on Saturday in Mexico City, standing as Kenny Omega’s equal in their mega championship match at AAA’s Triplemanía.
Their highly contested affair featured a rare in-ring cameo by Ric Flair, who is the father of Andrade’s fiancé, Charlotte Flair. It also stood as a moment when Andrade staked his claim as one of the world’s elite wrestlers, showcasing his value in the ring against Omega.
“For a long time, I did not feel like myself in the ring,” Andrade says. “I never lost the passion, and I am very proud of matches over the past few years with people like Rey Mysterio, Johnny Gargano, AJ Styles, Daniel Bryan, Drew McIntyre. But it started to feel like work instead of just coming naturally to me. I felt like I got to a point where I lost sight of what made me special.
“Saturday night, from the moment my plane landed, I was inspired. I felt butterflies, and I was excited to show I have what it takes to go all the way to the top. Before the start of the match, I felt, ‘Now is the moment.’ Everyone around the world says Kenny is one of the best of this era. I needed to show my home country and every person around the world that I have what it takes to be regarded in the same light. That moment was a deciding factor for my future. It was my opportunity to get people to believe in me, and for me to believe in myself again.”
The appearance of Ric Flair, Andrade’s future father-in-law, was a massive success. Flair was in Andrade’s corner for the match, adding even more enormity to the moment.
“I’ve gotten to walk my daughter to the ring, and she is the best female wrestler in the world, and now I was able to walk to the ring with Andrade, who is one of the top 10 guys in the business, period,” says Flair, who agreed to be part of the show only four days before Triplemanía. “And that match was incredible. I’m so proud of both Andrade and Kenny. They are both hell on wheels. They can really go.
“Plus, I was able to share the moment with my family. I feel very fortunate and blessed to be able to do that.”
Andrade knew that having Flair in his corner would be special.
“Mr. Flair came to Mexico, which I still can’t believe,” Andrade says. “When he hugged me during our entrance, that was real. A bond for the love of what we do professionally that is in our blood. The bond of family.
“No one has had more experience than Mr. Flair. To have his support, his credibility, wanting to come with me to my home country, that was overwhelming. I am beyond grateful. His support and belief in me means more than I can put into words.”
Flair even got into the ring to stop Omega from knocking out Andrade with the belt. That led to a phenomenal exchange where Flair and Andrade took turns chopping Omega, followed by locking the figure-four on both Omega and Konnan.
“Being in the ring with one of the greatest of all time, putting on one of the most famous submission holds, that’s something I could have never dreamed,” Andrade says. “I grew up a poor luchador from Northern Mexico. Now I am exchanging chops with a legend. That whole time, I could feel his energy. And seeing all his passion for this business, how much he means to this business, and watching all the stars at the show want to take a picture with him, it was amazing.”
Andrade revealed that he did not have an abundance of experience with applying the hold, so he sought advice from his fiancé, Ashley Fleihr, who is best known to the world as Charlotte Flair. He shared that Ashley requested and received time off months ago to attend Triplemanía, and shared he was incredibly thankful that she was there to show her love and support.
“Ashley knew how important this was to me, so she asked for the weekend off two and a half months ago,” Andrade says. “She told me she was so nervous watching my match and tearing up, so it meant a lot that she could be there.”
Andrade explained that Ashley is a key to his success, both in wrestling and life.
“With Ashley, we have the best of both worlds,” Andrade says. “She teaches me. I teach her. She teaches me how to take time on my entrance, how to stand in the ring, the little things that people notice when they look at you. I help her with moves, submissions, adding wrinkles to her move-set.
“She was the person I went to when I asked what I should do about my future. She knew I was unhappy, and I knew she was going to be sad if I left [WWE], because our life is on the road together. But she knows this is my dream, and she supported my decision without hesitation. Watching me with my new gear, seeing me train so hard the last two months, she said she was so proud of me. She says my dreams inspire her. She said she can see a change in me and my happiness. That’s all that matters.”
Andrade did not win the title at Triplemanía, losing the match after Omega hit his One-Winged Angel—but he succeeded in establishing himself as a premier entity in the industry. And with a future that includes work in AEW and AAA, he now looks forward to accomplishing an extremely lofty set of goals.
“Right now, I am facing Pac at All Out in September, and I have a lot to prove in AEW,” Andrade says. “I want another opportunity for the mega championship and a first-time opportunity for the AEW world championship.
“I am not done with Kenny Omega, and I look forward to facing him again. I was able to witness firsthand why he is considered one of the best, and I held my own. I felt I showed him my desire and skill and a taste of what we can do in the future.”
Wrestling in front of his home country, Andrade displayed a fire that had been lacking from his heart during the end of his run in WWE. His match against Omega was rejuvenating, and marks the beginning of his climb to the top of the industry.
“I enjoyed every move, every chop, every action,” Andrade says. “I could feel the spotlight on me. I am 31 years old and have been able to do so much already, but [Saturday] night was proof to me that my journey has just begun.
“I believe Saturday night gave people the opportunity to believe in me again, and for me to believe in myself again. I was raised to be a luchador by my grandfather, my father, and seven uncles. I was born to do this, but that’s not enough for me. I want to leave behind my own legacy one day, one that began at Triplemanía.”
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Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.