by Jimmo Workman (@jimmosangle)
I’m going through one of them periods in my wrestling fandom where I need something new to watch. WWE, as it always seems to do at times, is being lazy and nothing seems ‘must see’ at the moment. For the last few weeks, I’ve cherry-picked at the Dean Ambrose parts, but even they are being overtaken with everything John Cena. I realise this is the future of everything good in the WWE but it’s really killing things for me, more-so than usual. No doubt, I’ll keep up with the pay-per-views, but I’m quite happy missing Raw every Tuesday morning (I’m a UK viewer) and just reading the results to see if anything takes my fancy. Just lately nothing does.
Whilst listening to Jim Ross’ podcast, I caught him talking about ‘Lucha Underground’; a new promotion that has just started out in the States. I decided to download this and give it a try. What’s the worst that could happen?
First up, it was nice to see that the show only went 43 minutes (minus advertisements). I think one of the biggest deal breakers with Raw is that 3-hour run time. I know it’s money for them and blah blah blah, but as a fan, it sucks the last bit of energy out of you to even consider watching it from start to finish. Lucha Underground, similar to NXT, seems to be a manageable, digestible and to-the-point show. Surely that’ll eventually get the viewers in? Wrestling should be easy, enjoyable and make sense, not complicated, tedious and leaving you scratching your head at what just happened.
Anyway, enough of my inevitable negativity, this isn’t a comparison piece…
Lucha Underground started off with a short intro and history to ‘lucha’. This was nice for a novice like me as I haven’t really watched anything ‘lucha’. The closest I have come is watching Rey Mysterio, Eddie Guerrero and whoever else WWF/E and WCW has offered over the years. Now, if that is a completely laughable thing to say then you now know my knowledge of the style!
With any new promotion, you need a solid introduction to it. This episode started with the authority figure, Dario Cuerto, offering the night’s combatants a chance of taking away $100,000 if they would be the one to impress him. This almost felt like what wrestling shows I go to should be about; a one-night, one-off show that has a theme or story throughout and is paid-off at the end.
Match one: Blue Demon, Jr vs. Chavo Guerrero
The first match of the show pitted Mexican legend(?) Blue Demon, Jr vs someone that I knew, Chavo Guerrero. It was nice to see a familiar face and I think that this is going to be an important thing going forward in drawing in more casual fans and people, such as myself, who aren’t aware of the masked and Mexican wrestlers. This was a decent opening match with members of two of the most recognised families in Mexican wrestling history. I’m familiar with the Guerrero name but not so much with Blue Demon, Jr’s past. This is something that I intend to brush up on.
Next, we have a segment in Dario Cuerto’s office, where he has a meeting with Konnan (another face I remember!) and they discuss the best fighters in the world coming to Lucha Underground. Konnan says that he has the best fighter in the world; Cuerto counters that he has the ‘biggest former free agent in the business’ (John Hennigan), who he has brought in so that he can make an example of him due to his lack of respect for Cuerto’s ‘temple’. This segment is filmed so it doesn’t have that live look that a Monday Night Raw has. There’s something about this television show presentation that works; I’ll explain more on this later.
Back in the ‘temple’, with Matt Striker and Vampiro (the commentary team) discussing Konnan’s charge, Prince Puma (indy darling Ricochet), before cutting to a video where Konnan introduces himself and the guy that he has put his faith in. I really liked the history that Konnan discusses about the ancient tribes and the importance of the mask. The sparing match that Puma is having is also really well done, too. Instead of it looking like the typical behind the curtain, wrestling training scene, this looked like proper wrestling sparing with moves and strikes connecting and looking real.
Second match (intergender): Son of Havoc vs. Sexy Star
The second match would see a masked biker character, Son of Havoc take on a luchadora (female wrestler), Sexy Star. We’re treated to a hype video on Sexy Star, stating the importance of the mask and the confidence that it has given her. I can already see her being someone that young girls can look up to and perceive as a decent female role model; unfortunately, if young girls go by the rules of the WWE then they are doomed to think the worst of themselves. The WWE seems to want to add to the female magazines and other such media mentality that girls should look a certain way, act in a negative way, and generally be bitchy in everything that they do. Hopefully with Sexy Star, Lucha Underground can present a female who is strong, confident, wholesome; a wrestler that can make a good impression on younger females instead of ‘bitches be crazy’.
This match only went a few minutes but I think it made complete sense. If Lucha Underground are going to continue having the guys versus the girls then this probably wasn’t the best start by having the video-hyped Sexy Star lose first time out, but it was a good, short showcase of both of these wrestlers. Sexy Star showed desire and that she wouldn’t be intimidated by men. Son of Havoc did what was needed to do and finished the job quickly; hooking her leg a little more tightly was a nice touch in showing that there might have been a little more fight in her, too. Ultimately it made me want to see both of these performers more and, going along with my ‘strong female’ message, it made me want to see Sexy Star more to see her send the right message.
We have another backstage segment, where Chavo Guerrero is in a dark, empty locker room with just a towel for company. Lucha Underground owner, Dario Cuerto approaches and lets him know his disappointment to Chavo’s loss. He also twists the knife a little more by mentioning that, as a result of the loss, he has let down the Guerrero family name. Chavo looks a little angry over this. I really liked that Chavo was that cut-up over the loss and it interests me to see what he does to improve his situation.
Main Event: Johnny Mundo vs. Prince Puma
The third and final match of the show was the main event featuring Johnny Mundo (Hennigan) taking on Prince Puma in what you would assume was the $100,000 reward match.
This was a solid match with two recognisable names. It was fast, flowing, and kept the audience into it (a bit more on them later…). I especially liked the commentary from Matt Striker in this; outlining that there are many styles that inspire the wrestling that we’re going to see. One that was mentioned was the World of Sport era (British wrestling). This was nice to hear, along with Striker pointing out that there are other styles (other than what WWE would have you believe) and they can be shown and talked about. He even implores us to look them up on the internet. I really liked this as other styles of wrestling should be highlighted and showcased. It adds to the variety of what we can watch; hopefully it’ll be shown in Lucha Underground as that would set them aside from the rest.
The ending saw the arrival of Eziekel Jackson. Along with a couple of stooges, he decimated Mundo and Puma to claim the $100,000 that seemingly had his name on it all along. This sets something up straight off the bat and ended a decent, enjoyable first episode.
Jimmo’s Lucha Conclusion
I really enjoyed the first offering of Lucha Underground. It’s an hour long and this makes me comfortable and ready to settle in for the ride week after week. It has a dark and dirty underground feel; literally like it’s just starting out as a promotion. It also has the great looking production, from the camera angles inside the temple (is that going to be what we refer to it as going forward?) to the sweeping shots of Los Angeles to give it a somewhat “big-time” feel.
On The Ross Report, Jim Ross explained his disinterest in seeing another heel authority figure on a wrestling show, but there feels something different about Dario Cuerto. I think an owner/promoter character was needed for the presentation of this show so I’m happy to ‘wait and see’ where he goes.
The most impressive thing to me was the addition of Matt Striker on commentary. Striker is a competent, confident, knowledgeable and articulate man who was hugely underrated on WWE TV. I think he could have been one of the best wrestling announcers. Maybe that’s why he’s not working there, though; unlike WWE, who are a wannabe entertainment show dressed up in a wrestling costume, Lucha Underground are a television show that has wrestling as it’s centrepiece and isn’t ashamed of that. Striker will flourish there with the opportunity to announce wrestling as it should be. I wasn’t so thrilled about Vampiro, though.
I almost feel that WWE would be better off presenting themselves in this way. It would be truer to what they are trying to be.
The only downside I could see was that the audience seemed very… choreographed. Everytime a wrestler entered the temple, they were on their feet, arms raised above their heads, cheering. With the high quality production and such, it just seemed that they were being led with flash-cards; ‘CHEER!’, ‘BOO!’, ‘STANDING OVATION!’… it needs to feel more natural with that, but maybe that’s going to be the drawback of having a television show feel to this.
I’ll definitely be watching from now on to see where this show goes. I think we can all agree that America needs whatever competition it can get when it comes to wrestling!