On Wednesday night, the best wrestling show on television returns. When season one ended nobody was sure we’d make it to season two, but here we are: Lucha Underground season 2 begins on January 27 — tonight, if you’re reading this on publication day — on El Rey Network. We’ll be celebrating like it’s Christmas morning, and we’re even going to be part of El Rey’s secret Lucha Underground premiere party in Austin, TX.
If you’re like a lot of people, you didn’t get a chance to watch season one. You’ve probably heard wrestling fans squeeing about it all year, but maybe it seemed like too much to take in. It’s a Mexican wrestling show for Americans with … what is this, monsters? People are dying? Did I see a guy with a gun in there? What the hell is this about?
We want you to watch the show, so I (as the show’s leading fanboy) put together a primer to catch you up before tonight’s premiere. Below you’ll find out everything you need to know, all the faces you’ll need to recognize, particular matches to seek out and more. So, let’s get to it, shall we?
– It’s Lucha Libre. You probably picked that up from the “lucha” in the title, but it’s important to know. Lucha libre is pro wrestling, but it’s not necessarily what you’re used to on U.S. television. It probably takes an essay to explain, but the short version is that it’s the same, but different. Every part of the world interprets pro wrestling in its own way, and Mexico treats it more like a comic book than a soap opera. It’s not about the sell and the sports-based storytelling as much as it’s about pulp themes of honor, justice and betrayal. Lucha Underground is lucha libre intended for U.S. audiences, so consider it an amalgam of both. It’s the best parts of lucha libre without the culture shock, and the best parts of North American pro wres without insulting your intelligence. There’s more to it, but that’s my best attempt at cramming a hundred years of culture and history into a paragraph.
– It’s ridiculous, but that’s on purpose, and that’s what makes it great. Remember when you were a kid, and you watched pro wrestling with an open mind? Your favorite wrestlers might’ve been surfers in face paint, giant bald guys in yellow speedos who fought for America, barbers, snake-handlers, whatever. As an adult, you might be drawn more towards guys like Kevin Owens, who represent how you feel when you’re in your 30s and pissed off about everything. Lucha Underground hits a knowing sweet spot where the characters are among the most absurd and unbelievable you’ll ever see in wrestling — skeleton ninjas, reincarnated dragons, lucha libre astronauts, the works — and that’s okay. Instead of presenting these characters and wink-wink-nudge-nudging you about how stupid they are in concept, Lucha plays it straight. It allows you to enjoy how balls-out ridiculous everything is and watch a wrestling show like you might’ve when you were little. My favorite is the masked mariachi they found bussing tables at a restaurant down the street.
– It’s a pro wrestling show, but not really. Lucha Underground has some of the best pro wrestlers and the best pro wrestling on TV, but it’s not a conventional wrestling show. It’s been described to me as a, “telenovela about a supernatural pro wrestling promotion,” and that’s on the money. The scenes between matches aren’t filmed live backstage like on Raw, they’re filmed like mini Robert Rodriguez movies. Origin stories aren’t usually told in promos, they’re done via slickly produced video packages like this one. Remember that thing I said about it being ridiculous on purpose? Here’s a dragon man who does nunchucks in a sunset.
– You’ll like the pro wrestling, though. To reiterate, the wrestling is good. Really good. It’s what you liked about 80s wrestling plus what you liked about 1990s WCW Cruiserweights, with clear, easy-to-understand stories that reward you for paying attention, but don’t require a thousand pages of history to understand. You can jump in at any point and get what’s going on, and that’s one of the most glorious aspects of lucha libre. You can tell who you should be cheering for and why within minutes.
– Plus, you’ll recognize some of these people. If you’ve never watched the show and have spent the past however long watching WWE, TNA or the independents, you’ll still recognize a lot of the faces. Rey Mysterio is here for season 2. Johnny Mundo used to be WWE’s John Morrison, but now he’s way better because he’s got a context and some people who know how to work him. Chavo Guerrero is a recurring character. PWG and New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Ricochet is here as Prince Puma — remember, Lucha Underground is a TV show more than a wrestling promotion, so that should I/shouldn’t I conversation about kayfabe is largely irrelevant — and more folks you’ll know like Joey Ryan are showing up every day. Hernandez was here briefly, too, but we don’t like to talk about it.
– The place everyone wrestles is called The Temple, and the fans are the “Believers.” It’s a warehouse in Boyle Heights, California, and if any place in wrestling deserves to be called a temple, it’s this.
– If you want to watch it, it’s on El Rey Network. You probably get El Rey, so check your local listings. If you don’t, you can check out the UniMas website for episodes streaming in Spanish or find El Rey Network on Sling TV for the English-language version. There are so many ways to watch now, and a small amount of effort in any direction gets you the best wrestling thing on TV.
– If you want to read a more in-depth, episode-by-episode recap of the show, you can do that here. We’ve loved LU since the opening moments of episode one, so you can click that link (or this one) and read our reactions to stuff in real-time. Look for anything called “The Over/Under of Lucha Underground.” Start with episode one.
Who You Need To Know, And What They’ve Been Doing
– Your announce team is Matt Striker and Vampiro. You may know Matt Striker from his time at WWE’s version of ECW, doing color commentary on Smackdown, hosting the game show version of NXT in its first 5 seasons or from calling New Japan and AAA events for English-speaking audiences. He’s basically Ted Mosby from How I Met Your Mother as a wrestling announcer. His partner is Vampiro, a Juggalo vampire lord — no, seriously — and lucha legend who has literally tried to kill Sting on multiple occasions.
– Your ring announcer is Melissa Santos. She is a precious flower, and people are always trying to get in her business.
– The proprietor of Lucha Underground (and the best character on the show) is Dario Cueto. He’s a Spanish businessman with a shady past and a deep connection to lucha libre, who has decided to run an underground wrestling promotion to bring the best fighters in the world together so they’ll beat each other to death. If you want an “evil GM” character, this is the trope taken to the max, without any of the bullsh*t. Dario is openly manipulative, promotes violence above all else and keeps his deformed brother “Matanza” locked in a cage. That took a left turn, didn’t it? If you piss off Cueto, he might hold you face-first against that cage and let his brother kill you. Or eat you. It’s hard to tell. Either way you’re dead, so don’t piss him off.
We’re learning more about Cueto as the show goes on. His story is connected to two other major characters — Black Lotus and El Dragon Azteca. Black Lotus is an Asian lady assassin who infiltrates the Temple trying to kill Matanza, only to be stopped by noble old-timey luchador Dragon Azteca, who knows it’d mean certain death for her. He kidnaps her and tries to train her, but she won’t listen to his advice and bails on him for a second assassination attempt. She gets caught, he tries to save her again, and she ends up killing him. It’s dramatic. That sets off an ancient war we don’t totally know about yet, and Cueto, Lotus and Matanza end season 1 on the lam together to avoid it.
– Your Lucha Underground champion is Mil Muertes, managed by Catrina. Mil Muertes is an unstoppable lucha zombie badass who learned at a young age to be empowered by tragedy and death. He’s accompanied by Catrina, an extremely attractive woman with teleportation powers (?) who uses rubble from the Mexico City Earthquake — the same earthquake that created Mil — to control Mil and an army of electrified skeletons known as the “Disciples of Death.”
Explaining Mil’s story requires a quick explanation of another:
– Fenix. Like a phoenix, get it? If you’re the “man of a thousand deaths,” who would you hate more than a guy who can’t die? Mil and Fenix are the light and the dark of the Temple, and to date Fenix is the only man who’s been able to stop Mil. In fact, Fenix managed to kill Mil Muertes in a casket match called “Grave Consequences,” but it ended badly for everyone. See, killing Mil Muertes only makes him come back to life stronger. Nobody could stop him before, and now seriously nobody can stop him. Mil returned, decimated Fenix and ended season 1 by winning the Lucha Underground Championship from Prince Puma.
As season 2 begins, Mil is the champ and Dario Cueto’s on the run, so Catrina’s in charge of the Temple.
– The first Lucha Underground Champion was Prince Puma, a descendant of one of the original Aztec tribes. He served as the show’s hero and protagonist for most of season 1, and he never talks. It’s a Legend of Zelda situation. He’s our Link to the show, and we’re sort of asked to see ourselves and The Temple through his eyes. He’s the protege of lucha libre legend (and former nWo member) Konnan, so he didn’t have to do much talking. Puma valiantly defended the championship throughout season 1, and was only unseated when he had to wrestle a literal unstoppable Death Zombie. I mean, that’s totally understandable.
– Prince Puma’s major rival is Johnny Mundo, most easily identified as “the entitled asshole white guy.” Johnny is the WWE star of the Temple. Along with Cage — all you need to know about him is that he’s a machine — Johnny’s a representation of the “me first” attitude of American wrestling.
At the beginning of the season, he seemed like he’d be a hero. As the season progressed, Johnny became more and more frustrated by not being the top dog that he let his evil side rise up and get the best of him, and by Ultima Lucha — Lucha Underground’s “WrestleMania” — he was throwing people through windows and bringing in his old Fed girlfriend to help him win matches. If you remember John Morrison, this is the version of him you always wanted to see.
– The coolest guy on the show in a walk is Pentagon Jr. To wit, he’s a pissed-off ninja skeleton who breaks peoples’ arms to please his Dark Master. He’s THE BEST. He doesn’t speak English, so all of his scenes are subtitled, and it absolutely does not matter for English-speaking audiences. To see Pentagon work is to fall in love with him, because there is nobody in wrestling cooler than a guy named after a shape who wants to f*cking kill you.
He ended season 1 finding out that the man he needed to break for his final sacrifice — Vampiro — was actually the Master he’d been trying to please all along. He found this out after Vampiro dressed up like a ghost pope and they hit each other with light tubes and set each other on fire. He begins season 2 as that guy everyone watching wants to see set the rest of the roster on fire and murder with light tubes.
Okay, not everyone.
– Sexy Star is the Temple’s female star, a former victim of an abusive relationship who used her pain to grow strong and rise up to become an inspiration to women around the world. Dario Cueto spent most of the season trying to get rid of her, but she won’t give up.
– Son of Havoc, Ivelisse and Angelico. What started out as a creepy, underwhelming love triangle amongst biking enthusiasts turned into the best and most complex babyface friendship on the show. Son of Havoc is a biker with a pair of black underwear on his head who lost all of his early matches, but eventually found the confidence and strength to start stringing together victories. Ivelisse was his hateful, self-centered girlfriend, the self-proclaimed “baddest bitch” in Lucha Underground. Angelico is a stretched-out South African Dean Ambrose who loves weed and dirtbikes. Angelico tried to wedge himself into Havoc and Ivelisse’s relationship as it was ending via … sexual harassment? I’m not totally sure, but it didn’t work out for him. When they’d all established that they hated each others’ guts, Dario Cueto put them in a trios team together for laughs. It turned out they worked brilliantly together, and they were able to put aside their bullsh*t and win Lucha Underground’s Trios Championship. They hung on to those belts, even though Ivelisse breaking her leg, until the Disciples of Death electro-brutalized them at Ultima Lucha.
– Marty The Moth Martinez. Marty’s a former fan with Aztec blood who calls himself “the moth,” but flaps his arms like a bird because I guess he’s never seen an actual moth? He’s crazy, he kidnapped Sexy Star at the end of season 1, and promised that in season 2 we’d meet his (assumedly) equally crazy sister.
– Drago is that dragon with the nunchucks I mentioned earlier. He’s got a cosmic interspecies bromance (?) with Aero Star, a luchador from space who can fly. He’s got rockets in his feet. They’re awesome.
– King Cuerno is a big game hunter who also hunts people for fun. He’s got the best dive in wrestling, dresses like a cowboy in his spare time and walks to the ring with a deer head for a hat. The fact that King Cuerno wasn’t a bigger deal in season 1 is one of the major missed opportunities of Lucha Underground, so we’re hoping he gets more to do in season 2.
– The Crew is a Latino street gang that serves as Dario Cueto’s protection. One of them got fed to a cage monster. It was gross.
– Texano is a huge star from Mexico and a former AAA Mega Champion. His name is “Texano” and he dresses like a Texas cowboy, but he vehemently represents Mexico. He spent most of season 1 at odds with Alberto El Patron — WWE’s Alberto Del Rio — and in retrospect we probably should’ve been on his side.
There are so many more characters for you to discover — a chubby tiger, a 4-foot-5 lucha legend, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg — and more for us to meet in season 2. Former WWE star Justin Gabriel is supposed to show up as a daredevil werewolf (probably not literally, but you never know), and of course Rey Mysterio, a legit contender for greatest junior heavyweight of all-time, will be there.
What Matches Do I Need To See?
All of them, but here are a few that mattered the most:
– Aztec Warfare. Early in the show, Lucha Underground tied all of its characters and stories together in what could be described to casual fans as a Royal Rumble, but with pinfalls and submissions. Aztec Warfare was a major turning point in the growth of the show, because it explicitly pointed out that everything was happening for a reason, and everything was building toward the future. Even the tiniest story details matter.
– Grave Consequences. I was lucky enough to be live for the Mil Muertes/Fenix casket match, and it changed my life. I think about it sometimes and it makes my hands start shaking. A brutal, visceral masterpiece that established Lucha as the show to beat in terms of match quality and over-the-top, poetic, bloody pro wrestling storytelling. It was #1 on our list of the best matches of 2015.
– One Night, One Fight, aka “All Night Long.” Prince Puma and Johnny Mundo had an episode-long Iron Man Match that took them into, onto and through every set, step, chair, platform and location in The Temple. Like Aztec Warfare, it tied together multiple plot points and changed the direction of the characters. Also, it’s nearly an hour of insane, engaging pro wrestling that feels like it lasts about 10 minutes. A must-watch, and another of our best matches of 2015.
– Cero Miedo. I almost put “all of Ultima Lucha” here, but I’ll single out Cero Miedo specifically. The “no fear” match between Vampiro and Pentagon Jr. might be the goriest match ever aired on American television, and managed to up even Grave Consequences in the OH MY GOD, WHAT ARE THEY DOING department. Fire, glass, broken bones, dead popes. The works.
So, Why Should I Watch?
What, have you not been reading?
Lucha Underground is important. Bottom line. It presents a new kind of pro wrestling to American audiences, in a fun, creative way. It’s made by passionate people who love and understand pro wrestling, for people who love and understand pro wrestling. The fans are “believers,” but they’re treated like family. Lucha Underground doesn’t talk down to its audience, or dumb itself down for mass appeal. It’s diverse. It portrays men and women as equals, but doesn’t shy away from what makes them different. It’s a show where minis and exoticos compete alongside former WWE stars and the best talent of the indies, because that’s what wrestling should be. We’re all a part of this brilliant, often embarrassing and compelling-as-f*ck freak show that exemplifies the best and worst of human culture, and it’s been too long since someone with enough money and resources to have a wrestling show on television remembered that.
If you watch the show, you’ll like it. If you think about it, you’ll like it more. That matters. We’ve been given another chance to make this the biggest deal, and we need to do everything we can to let El Rey Network, the producers of Lucha Underground and wrestling fans around the world know we know it matters, and that we appreciate it.
If you missed season one, go back and watch it, but don’t prevent yourself from watching season 2. Jump in. Jump off a really high platform if you have to.