For a while now, my favorite wrestling promotion has NOT been WWE or Impact Wrestling, but Lucha Underground. I’ve always been a fan of lucha libre, ever since one of my friends and I attempted to watch AAA on Galavision in the late 90’s with VERY minimal Spanish language skills. The problem is that watching this style of wrestling was always largely ignored by most magazines and tape trading companies (the outlet at the time before the internet was useful). Yeah, you could get ahold of tapes of translated Japanese wrestling easily, but Lucha was somehow ignored. MTV tried to bring it over twice with Wrestling Society X (which had a LOT of lucha talent) and Lucha Libre USA, neither lasting very long. Then there was Lucha Underground.
On paper, the entire idea behind the show was destined to be like it’s spiritual predecessor Wrestling Society X – a show with decent matches overwhelmed with so many gimmicks it fell apart and looked silly. Viewers used to the wrestling product produced by WWE are used to a lot of conventions that haven’t really changed in decades. Yeah, the addition of constantly harping about social media and elaborate entrance ramps are new, but the core has not really changed much – and I think a lot of that is due to casual fans getting mad when chances are made.
So here we have a show that fundamentally changes what a wrestling show is, in fact one can argue that it’s not a wrestling show, but a show that uses wrestling to drive the drama of a narrative. The entire thing is produced like a film, with slick backstage promos produced by Robert Rodriguez. Throwing out the “realism” that modern wrestling has embraced for the last 20 years or so, Lucha Underground revels in silliness that would be commonplace in a comic book. Just thinking about common tropes in the show illustrate this well: there have been a handful of on-screen deaths, there have also been on-screen resurrections due to magical powers. There are a few immortal characters, at least one time-traveler, a tribe of half-dragon people (not guys in suits, real dragon people), a couple of undercover cops trying to investigate a murder spree, and a shady organization seemingly trying to bring about the end of the world by way of Aztec gods or something.
This embracing of the fantastic is one of the main reasons that I treat this as how many would treat something like Game of Thrones. While other shows can be predictable, there are some SERIOUS surprises with Lucha Underground.
Another major difference is the filming schedule. Instead of airing as a continually-running weekly show in the vein of WWE or TNA programming, Lucha Underground films episodes in batches and airs episodes on a weekly basis under a seasonal structure. Matches are taped first, then out-of-ring story segments are filmed later; this method allows for tighter control of storylines and helps the production team when it comes to writing around injuries. What this means, is that there is a far less likelihood of a meandering storyline that the audience forgets about. There is also less of a chance of hostile micromanaging from a promoter i.e. not letting someone become popular because they aren’t the person you decided should be popular. Each storyline climaxes when they should, and it makes the final shows of the season, Ultima Lucha, seem far more important than many WWE Events, even WrestleMania!
Far more than anything else, the real strong point of Lucha Underground is that it has taken a handful of midcard talent, some discarded by bigger federations, and grown them into bonafide stars. Pentagon Jr., Aerostar, King Cuerno (El Hijo De Fantasma), Drago, and even Fenix were small time players in Mexico until hitting Lucha Underground, now they call the shots much to the dismay of AAA who would have liked to keep them under cheap contracts and quiet. When people are trying to find “this generations ECW” – I would say that you should ignore feds like ROH and PWG – while solid federations, they lack the edge and game-changing mindset that ECW did for wrestling during the Attitude Era. Look no further than Impact Wrestling to see how influential Lucha Underground is, as it’s basically starting to have the same roster.
You can only imagine how excited I was to see the start date for season 4 to finally roll by considering how unlikely it seemed that there would ever even be a season 4. Here we are two episodes in and I have some thoughts to share:
New and returning Heroes:
Season 4 starts out with a bang immediately with Aztec Warfare – This is Lucha Underground’s answer to battle royale style matches like The Royal Rumble. The match starts with two people in the ring and new wrestlers are introduced frequently until a winner is determined via pinfall. The premise this year is that Antonio Cueto (more on him later) is trying to clean up messes his son made and wants a different world champion. Hopefully this sets up a Pentaagon Jr. VS Antonio feud.
New entrants included ECW legend Tommy Dreamer, Mr. Pectacular Jessie Godderz, and King Cuerno. Cuerno was returning from a long absence, as was Shawn Hernandez and Vinnie Massaro. Sadly, we are missing people like Dante Fox, Dr. Wagner Jr. and Texano Jr. so far, I really hope that doesn’t last all season. All in all, this was a solid Aztec Warfare and considering the final two were Pentagon and Marty Martinez, “The Moth” was shown to be a potential main even player of they want everyone’s least favorite sleaze ball to run for the gold. My favorite AW match is still AW 2 and the introduction of Matanza, but this was solid.
Episode two introduces new members of Infamous Incorporated (managed by Famous B and Beautiful Brenda) in Jake Strong, Big Bad Steve and Sammy Guevara. Jake Strong is the real standout here as he is the former WWE star Jack Swagger. It was cool seeing him get such a solid reception by fans in The Temple considering how crappily he was used in WWE towards the end.
I mentioned Antonio Cueto up there, you read that right as Dario is gone. In fact, he is currently dead due to being killed by his father’s goons. I say currently because anything can happen in Lucha Underground (I’m waiting for an undead Dario face-turn). The funny thing is, that the two characters are both played by Luis Fernandez-Gil but could not be any more different. The bombastic arrogance of Dario has been replaced by the cold-hearted no-nonsense demeanor of his father. Instead of constantly putting folks in bad situations like winning a match only to be placed into a second match right after, Antonio states that “he is a far better promotor than Dario” and sets things up for the following week. Let’s see how long that lasts before he also goes off the deep end as all Cuetos do. We saw a bit of this when Matanza lost against Pentagon Jr. only to be berated by his father to a point where he cowered in fear.
Really my only quibble with the start of season 4 was a bit of a continuity glitch wherein, they completely ignored that Vampiro (on commentary) cheated to harm Prince Puma (now in WWE as Ricochet) to help Pentagon yet again. This caused Matt Striker to rip into Vampiro for it. This week? No tension at all – I know time heals all wounds, but the lack of a call-back seems like an afterthought.
While this season was allegedly made with a budget slash in mind, and was touted to be different than different seasons in the press lead-ups to it in such a way that it seemed like it would be worse – This feels just like previous seasons of Lucha Underground. Perhaps there were less backstage vignettes than what we’re used to, but that’s about it. Great job so far, can’t wait for more!