After a year in which World Wrestling Entertainment has insulted its fans to the point that segments of the canvass were rooting for Sheamus when he cashed in the “Money In The Bank” briefcase, the sight of legitimate alternatives when it comes to televised Professional Wrestling wasn’t only a treat, it was a godsend.
For a full year, WWE has served the public bad shows, hamfisted story lines and desperately tried to shove gimmicks and performers down the throats of the viewing public; so much so that the name “Roman Reigns” is greeted with the words “Anybody But You!” on fan-made signs and on Internet discussion forums.
Contrast to that, Lucha Underground, which started a year ago in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles has turned into the darling of the Wrestling community. Lucha Underground is beloved by the Internet, well-respected industry journalists and a die-hard fan base that has followed the promotion fervently. Either by virtue of televised programming on El Rey Network, or by selling an absurd amount of tickets to watch a show in a reformed warehouse called, “The Temple”, Lucha Underground and its product has connected and resonated with the Wrestling community as a whole.
Deeply engrossed in the traditions and mythos of Lucha Libre as a whole, Lucha Underground is different and unique to anything that is currently on television in terms of wrestling. El Rey Network and the executives of Lucha Underground brought the culture of Lucha Libre to the United States and they did it without watering it down, but instead modernizing it for both a Mexican and American population. They showed Lucha Libre respect while modifying it for growth and appeal. In doing so, the promotion thrived. They brought back the idea of episodic wrestling television and gave it a Lucha twist. It was spell-binding.
Don’t get me wrong, there was still the weird storyline archs and “suspension-of-disbelief” – requiring moments, but Lucha Underground stuck with those moments and stories with steadfast dedication and loyalty to the product they were trying to showcase and produce. They didn’t make a joke out of Lucha Libre or themselves. If Drago was going to be a character who was going to believe he was a dragon in a past life? Drago was going to be a dude who had life-like scales, spat “Dragon” mist and had a long, black tongue. If “Mil Muertes” was going to be your “Lucha Libre Undertaker”, then they were going to give him a deep and detailed backstory, full of deaths and resurrections and mythology that deeply affected the overall “universe” that Lucha Underground created.
In short, it was unlike anything we had seen before. It was different and rather than just doing the typical “Wrestling” storylines, they went a completely different way. They built a story that everyone played into. They built a world and a universe.
It was brilliant.
What Lucha Underground Got Right :
The overall presentation of the show was different than anything WWE, ROH or even TNA is producing. Lucha Underground established themselves as a legitimately produced television product, one that would have been just as viable as a soap opera with a wrestling twist or a weekly show on say, Starz, than as an actual wrestling promotion. Visually, it looked more like a movie than a wrestling show.
Also, while other promotions have gone the route of having the backstage politics of the promotion shown to the public and interspersed with the actual wrestling, Lucha Underground did it in a way where it always played into one, overreaching story.
Dario Cueto, the Lucha Underground “founder” was a bloodthirsty youth who swore that when he was older and had the funds, he would create a league where the best in the world would fight and tear each other limb from limb for his enjoyment. His arrogance, bloodlust and manipulation to see that purpose served was the main arch of the first season.
While that was the prevailing story, everything bounced off of that. Everyone who gets brought in has their own purpose and motivation, but their actions come to serve Cueto’s bloodlust in one way or another until his arrogance, bloodthirst and a deep family secret comes back to haunt him and crumble his precious creation.
That aside, Lucha Underground did their damnedest to create or establish stars. Mil Muertes, also known as Ricky Banderas or El Mesias of AAA and CMLL fame, was booked to look like a monster. Johnny Mundo, or the artist formerly known as John Morrison, looked tremendous as an arrogant Hollywood celeb with a holier-than-thou attitude. Alberto Del Rio left WWE, joined Lucha Underground and was booked better than he ever was up in Connecticut and was actually made to feel like a big deal, worthy of the importance of his name.
On the other side of the coin, Pentagon Jr. went from a relative unknown to this ultra-heel who broke arms and didn’t care if you were a man, woman or child. It was enthralling, well-delivered and he became a star seemingly overnight with the help of a perfect gimmick, a well-nuanced story and the perfect stage to tell his story. Feníx also benefitted with a top-of-the-card feud with Mil Muertes that exposed his abilities and just how good of a babyfaced assassin he could be. With a role that should have been laughable, Drago and Lucha Underground fully invested in what should have been a complete failure and made it work to the point Drago got wildly popular with the fanbase and found himself getting extra bookings elsewhere, such as PRW’s Battle of Los Angeles where he was joined by Pentagon Jr in the tournament.
Hell, Angelíco and Son of Havoc were as fun as anybody during the season, given full liberty to showcase their aerial prowess and as such became as over as anybody in the promotion. Prince Puma was given the green light from day one and became the cornerstone of the brand, a move that was surprising considering that as Ricochet he was always a “B-side” attraction, or rather, the guy who always faced the top dog. He was allowed to flourish here and he rewarded Lucha Underground by never having s bad match and consistently being one of the highlights of the show.
What Lucha Underground Got Wrong :
Honestly, there wasn’t much that it got wrong, so to speak. That said, boy did that Chavo Guerrero / El Texano / Blue Demon Jr. / “Mexico” angle suck. Chavo and Blue Demon Jr. looked sloppy throughout most of it and along with the less-than-stellar in-ring performances, the sub-arch of Blue Demon Jr. being revealed as “Mexico” was as predictable and pretentious a reveal as their could have been. Like seriously, the guy with the biggest ego in Lucha Libre decided to reveal himself as “Mexico” itself after Chavo Guerrero was told that “Mexico” was coming for him. I get that you’re a legend in Mexico and that your dad is an immortal name in the industry, but revealing yourself to be the embodiment of Mexico? Please stop.
Beyond that though, there only gripe would be how middling some people looked. The aforementioned Chavo and Blue Demon were just lost in the shuffle at times. In a world where everyone was so out there, Sexy Star also got lost in the mix a lot. It wasn’t a huge problem but it was noticeable.
Who shined brightest:
Prince Puma, Angélico, Fénix and Pentagon Jr looked the best, arguably, and became breakout stars due to Season 1. Mil Muertes looked phenomenal as an absolute monster. It’s Dario Cueto, however, who shined brightest. He was so good as a bloodthirsty, arrogant authority figure that you often found yourself rooting outwardly for his demise. He was fantastic.
– The Trios Tournament, all of it.
– Drago vs Aerostar, Best of Five
– Prince Puma vs Johnny Mundo, “Up All Night” Match
– Fénix vs Mil Muertes, “Grave Consequences” Match
-Prince Puma vs Mil Muertes