Oh thank God.
Welcome back to the Over/Under of Lucha Underground, our gently reworded Best and Worst report about every episode of the best wrestling show on television. Maybe the best show on television. If you’d like to read about season 1, you can find all of our previous episode reports — we’ve been down with this show since season 1 episode 1 — on our Lucha Underground tag page. If you’re new to the show and are jumping on with season 2 (or just want to know what the hell’s going on), we put together a season 1 primer that answers all your pertinent questions and fills in all the gaps. It also tells you where you can watch the show, if you’re thinking of asking that in the comments.
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And now, praise Dario, the return of the Over/Under on Lucha Underground. Season 2, episode 1. Let’s do this.
Over: I’m Happy To Report That This Show Is Still F*cking Bonkers
Of all the things I loved about season 1 of Lucha Underground, the thing I loved most was the ending montage. Ultima Lucha ended with a The Wire season 5-esque base-touching with all the major stars and personalities to find out where they’re going next, and why. It ended with that gorgeous cinematic shot of Dario Cueto floating through the Temple as the lights went out, lighting him in red like the damn devil before a big TO BE CONTINUED popped up. We didn’t know if it was actually going to be continued.
My favorite part about season 2 (since we’re like 40 minutes into it) is that we haven’t lost a step.
Season 2 starts in a psych ward in what appears to be a damn desert bunker off in bumf*ck nowhere as a brain doctor and some THREATENING ORDERLIES try to rehabilitate Vampiro. The last time we saw him, he was becoming a Dark Master in control of a pissed-off, arm-breaking ninja skeleton. Dude went from affable veteran color commentator to Emperor Palpatine in like five episodes. Here, he’s saying what he needs to say to get out of treatment, and we watch him fantasize about LITERALLY VAMPIRE MURDERING HIS DOCTOR. He beats everyone up, slams the doctor’s head into the table until he’s unconscious and then bites out his neck. This is how the season starts.
When we find out Vamp’s just saying what he needs to say to get out of there, we find Matt Striker and a freestanding muscle car in the desert waiting to take him home. Striker tells Vampiro that they’ve been invited back to The Temple, but it’s changed … it’s a much darker place, because a teleporting ghost lady in control of an army of electrified skeletons have built a throne of luchador skulls for the promotion’s champion, who I will remind you is the lucha libre personification of death itself. Again, this is how the season starts. I have missed this show so bad.
Over: Rationalizing Catrina
As I mentioned, Catrina’s in charge of The Temple. We find out what’s happened to the building’s former proprietor a little later on, but I appreciate that Lucha attempted to come up with a reason why everyone would leave and come back. Mil appears to be bound to this location, so his valet/manager/familiar/boss has to invite back all the fighters she knows or he’ll be the champion of nothing. He’ll have built a skull throne in this Boyle Heights warehouse for nothing if there’s nobody to try to step up and fight him. To the credit of the other wrestlers, this isn’t much crazier an invitation than the first time.
I’m excited to learn the how and why of everything, and they gave me enough to expect that I’ll eventually find out. That’s usually all I’m looking for.
Over: Speaking Of Mil Muertes And His Skull Throne …
THE MAN SITS IN A SHAO KAHN THRONE AND WATCHES THE SHOW UNTIL IT’S TIME FOR HIM TO WRESTLE. He’s like the boss at the end of an old Sega Genesis game, just sitting in the background with his chin on his fist until you’ve beaten everyone on the screen. And then he stands up and whips off his cape or something and you’re f*cked.
There are two major in-ring stories for the episode, and like always, Lucha makes a point to tie together as many stories as they can in the least amount of time. It’s a nice change of pace from WWE taking 20 minutes for wrestlers to say “I’m great,” then padding another 2 hours 40 minutes with whatever they came up with on the fly.
The first is the return of the Unlikely Trio, who have biked back to The Temple looking for opportunities to get back their Trios Championships. Those are held by Catrina’s Disciples of Death, so of course she’s not going to give them that opportunity … but she has to give them something to keep them around, so she puts them in a match with each other. The winner of that match will move on to face Mil for the Lucha Underground Championship later in the night. She (and we) know that Ivelisse, Son of Havoc and Angelico are exactly the kind of people who will chummily sell out their friends for a chance at glory. It’s nothing personal.
They have the match, and it’s a reminder of the dynamic Lucha worked so hard to achieve in season 1. Ivelisse is seen as an equal to Angelico and Havoc, even if the announce team still sometimes goes a little too far with the “Wow, she’s a GIRL and she’s doing OKAY” stuff. The in-ring work speaks for itself. They have a fast-paced, energetic match built around their previously established wacky camaraderie and penchant for hitting each other in the face, and Ivelisse pulls out a victory. I was watching this in a bar in Austin, and the crowd (in the bar) ROARED when she won. The look on her face when she won with a damn La Magistral was pretty priceless.
Unfortunately, Mil Muertes.
Mil descends from his throne to face her as promised, but he isn’t stupid. Catrina and the Disciples of Death show up to decimate and carry away Son of Havoc and Angelico, because they’re the wild cards. You know how I often complain about how The Authority says they hate Roman Reigns, but keep giving him opportunities to make them look like idiots? Mil Muertes and Catrina aren’t going to do that. Mil knows there’s a chance these crazy dudes could interfere and maybe cost him, so he instantly, violently incapacitates them to make them non-factors.
That actually makes the match more dramatic for me, as now poor dead-in-the-water Ivelisse — to clarify, pretty much everyone in the company is dead-in-the-water alone one-on-one with Mil Muertes — has to find creative ways to avoid getting flattened. They do a great job of making her look smart and cunning, even having her lure Catrina into harm’s way for a beautiful distraction falsie. The fact that Lucha Underground can suspend your disbelief long enough to believe Ivelisse could pull it off does wonders for not only her, but for every match on the show, and Mil doesn’t look any weaker for it. She’s a skilled, talented wrestler who’s just a little out of her league, because the champ is literally a death-bringing zombie.
More on this in a second.
The other story is of the return of Fenix, Mil’s arch-nemesis and holder of a title belt that gives him a shot at Mil’s belt. Fenix is the only guy that can beat him, so this puts the champ in a possibly dangerous situation.
Fenix wants his shot, but the Gift of the Gods isn’t as opportunistic as Money in the Bank. You get your shot, but you have to wait a week, and you have to defend it to keep it. That gets Fenix into a match with King Cuerno, the man who’s been hunting him since the end of season 1 — and the low-key best wrestler on the show. To get over the way the belt works, Fenix has a great match with Cuerno and shockingly LOSES, making Cuerno the Gift of the Gods champ. The Fenix/Mil Muertes confrontation is such a lay-up that the tease of it worked, and now you can get fans familiar with the ins and outs of how the secondary championship works without blowing your load on the story everyone will always want to see. Beautifully done.
Plus, you get a King Cuerno vs. Fenix match out of it. My only Under for this (and maybe for the entire episode) is that I didn’t love a lot of the camera work. Maybe I just haven’t watched Lucha in a while, but it felt like we were a little too close to the action sometimes. I think what bugged me is that they shot Cuerno’s Arrow from the Depths of Hell from underneath, which was a cool visual but kinda sold out the part of it we (meaning I) like most: the speed and the distance. I don’t like the Arrow because he clears the ropes and looks like a super hero, I like it because he could start it in Los Angeles and hit you with it in central Texas.
Over: Okay, Back To Mil
Mil doesn’t like what happened in his match with Ivelisse, so he decides to punish her for it. Catrina won’t even do the lick, because she’s not ready for energy transfer. Note: I’m still trying to figure out the logistics of that lick besides it making me feel kinda funny, like when we used to climb the rope in gym class.
This brings the return of two major characters, and maybe the two most important on the show. The first is Prince Puma, who shows up like a white knight … uh, who shows up like a bright yellow spotted knight to kick Mil in the face and scoop Ivelisse out of danger. I like that this only happened after the castigo got excesivo, and only after Son of Havoc and Angelico had been destroyed. It didn’t make me ask a bunch of questions, it just made Puma seem like a good dude doing the right thing and being a thorn in the side of the monster that dethroned him and then throned himself at Ultima Lucha.
As this is happening, motherf*cking PENTAGON JR. shows up out of nowhere. What I loved about both of these returns is that neither was mentioned overtly, so they could function as surprises without feeling forced. The “return to the Temple” angle is great because it makes you happy to see the returning faces, and totally justifies some people not coming back. I guess Big Ryck didn’t get the memo.
Anyway, Puma and Mil are squaring off and you think that’s gonna be the end of the show, and then your favorite character shows up and starts wrecking shop.
Pentagon’s arm-breaker might be the most over move in Lucha Underground, and him pulling it off on Mil did that wonderful thing to me where I’m smiling ear to ear like a kid on Christmas morning, but I’m also repeatedly saying curse words under my breath. That’s the perfect storm of excited pro wrestling emotions.
Under: I Cannot See The Other 30 Or So Episodes Right Now
Because I mean seriously.
Over: Finally, We Get To The Temple
And now, the other bookend to get us ready for season 2.
Jesse Pinkman, Combo and Skinny Pete pull up in a car looking for an underground fighting ring in the area at a place called “The Temple.” They run into Black Lotus (gasp), who tells them to follow her. They do a great job of making you wonder what the hell is going on until the final scene, in which she takes them to a new Temple, started up hundreds of miles away by this beautiful SOB:
At first my brain was like, “oh wow, how great would it be if there was a second Temple, and Dario had just started over somewhere else? They could tie together the two as the season goes on, and we could get a real Raw vs. Smackdown situation going,” and then I realized it was something much, much better: Dario is inviting idiots to come fight at his Temple, charging them 20 bucks and then locking them in a warehouse with goddamn MATANZA. So not only is he effectively slaughtering innocents, he’s making them pay to be slaughtered. That is ICE COLD.
I love this show. I considered just making the episode 1 report a GIF of me clapping my hands and dancing in a circle. Never leave me again, Lucha Underground. Being without you’s like being lost in the dark with a damn cage monster.