Welcome to episode nine (!!!) of season two of the Over/Under of Lucha Underground, our gently reworded Best and Worst report about every episode of the best wrestling show on television. If you’d like to read about season one, you can find all of our previous episode reports on our Lucha Underground tag page. For season two, click here.
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Here’s the one where everything changes. Let’s do it.
Over: Pentagon Jr. Blood Dragon
Almost the entire show is Aztec Warfare II, but I wanted to take a second to say how much I loved the Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon lighting in the opening segment. I also like that we’re finally starting to draw the destinies of Pentagon Jr. and Fenix together, because their real-life relationship never even getting a passing mention on Lucha Underground has to be a purposeful decision. I don’t know if it’ll happen in season five or six or beyond, but one day Pentagon Jr. and Fenix are going to be the point, and their going to be aimed at each other. And it’s gonna be the f*cking best.
More segments with Pentagon saying he has zero fear while crazy lights happen.
Oh, and speaking of the f*cking best …
AZTEC WARFARE II
We finally made it to the Episode 9 Special, aka “the point in the season where Lucha Underground stops setting the scene and gets down to business.” It happened in season one, and it happened again last night.
The first eight episodes of season one were about establishing who the fighters were, where they were fighting, and why. Aztec Warfare devoted an entire episode to a single match featuring 20 fighters, and worked to tie every pre-existing story together into one. It succeeded spectacularly, and almost the entire rest of the season gets smothered in good will because Aztec Warfare validated the belief that everything was happening for a reason.
As good as season two has been so far, it (at least up until last week) had been about the anticipation of action. Dario Cueto and his crew were 375 miles away killing stranger randos in a murder shed. Rey Mysterio Jr. and Dragon Azteca Jr. were training in a dojo, preparing for a war. Mil Muertes was the evil overlord champ, but has spent most of the time with a bum wing, watching from a throne. Aero Star was time-traveling. Even Famous B was just here in commercial form. Last week, sh*t hit the fan. Everyone announced they were returning at Aztec Warfare, Mil Muertes got shockingly unseated as the Lucha Underground Champion, and Catrina set up the match to make Fenix’s life as hard as possible. Everything started to converge.
Before I get to the major point of the match, there’s a lot of little stuff to love.
– Joey Ryan entering the match, then immediately handcuffing himself to the outside railing so he couldn’t be eliminated in the ring. That ended up not working out very well for him, but it wasn’t a bad plan.
– Famous B and the Beautiful Brenda showing up in the crowd to … be famous? Get fame? Did they already get it?
– Like Aztec Warfare Prime, all of the stories from season two get tied together into one. Drago’s trying to redeem himself against “The Dragon Slayer” Jack Evans and his motorcycle werewolf nunchuck buddies. Aero Star’s finally back, and even folks like Argenis and Mascarita Sagrada are showing up to remind us that the whole “return to the Temple” bit wasn’t a two-week engagement. There’s Texano and his issues with Chavo Guerrero, Taya and Johnny Mundo’s beef with Cage — shoutout for glass to the head still not hurting Cage at all — and more.
– The best non-debut moment of the entire match might have been the entrance of Mil Muertes, who shows up at #20 acting all tough and triumphant and then gets BEAT THE HELL TO DEATH by a pissed-off ninja skeleton with a steel chair. I love that Pentagon is managing to be a deranged, psychopathic monster and Stone Cold Steve Austin at the same time. It’s like watching Stone Cold’s actual skeleton go AWOL from his body and beat people up. We’ve long established that Fenix is the only guy who can really hurt Mil, but whoops, Pentagon Jr. can hurt him too, and that probably means something important I bet. Pentagon takes him to the damn woodshed (the steelshed?) and Rey Mysterio’s able to splash him and hold him down long enough for the three. That means that Mil Muertes, the most unstoppable character on the show for a season and a third, is in and out of Aztec Warfare in a matter of moments. A total shocker.
Not the total shocker.
Okay, so lumping in all that stuff I just typed, the larger point of Aztec Warfare is a trio of debuts.
The first and most obvious is Rey Mysterio Jr., making his Lucha Underground debut as the #2 entrant. I was in this crowd, and I have two big memories of being there:
1. When King Cuerno reaches into his invisible quiver to pull out the Arrow From The Depths Of Hell. Listen closely. Hear that one random dude go YYYYYYEEEEAAHHHHHH!!!? Yeah, that was me. Shut up, it’s a thing I like.
2. The Rey Mysterio introduction. That’s one of the craziest moments I’ve ever been a part of. Melissa Santos is like, “from San Diego, California,” and everyone in the room goes SILENT. We’re all like, “wait a minute, we know a guy from San Diego, California … but that’s not the guy she’s gonna OH MY GOD IT’S REY MYSTERIO JR.” It’s like, realization, pause, REALIZATION, SCREAMING. So perfect.
Also, +1 to Matt Striker for his melodramatic but pitch-perfect call of Mysterio’s debut. It’s really hard to put the importance of Mysterio into words, especially on a lucha libre show that needed 20+ years of Rey Mysterio killing it on every platform in practically every place in the world to make happen. Without Rey, lucha libre never catches on in the U.S. like it did, especially not amongst teens watching Nitro. If that doesn’t happen, American indie wrestling doesn’t become this glorious womb of ambitious high-flyers and crazy personalities that ends up not only forming the base of NXT, but redefines how WWE sees its wrestlers. Mexico to ECW to WCW to WWE to Mexico to Lucha Underground. It’s a big circle, and every f*cking inch of that line is Rey Mysterio Jr.
Stepping back, it’s great to see him looking like himself again. Muscular junior heavyweight Rey Mysterio was always weird, and it was always so sad to see him so bulked up, wrestling in a shirt that felt like coverage and not a design choice. It felt like we’d spent too many years meandering through the twilight of the career of a man who deserved so much better, and now it’s like we’re back in the ’90s. He looks young, feels fresh, moves with a snap. He hasn’t lost a step. He never did, he just needed a better place to walk.
Speaking of moving with a snap, the second important debut is your future favorite wrestler, Dragon Azteca Jr.
If you haven’t seen this guy work before, let me put it to you this way: As we were talking about on Twitter earlier this afternoon, on a show where everyone’s fast, Dragon Azteca’s movements are next-level. He’s the next step in the evolution of this. He’s the 1996 Rey Mysterio. And I don’t know if it has a name yet, but when you see him do what we’ve affectionately started calling the “Pizza DDT,” you’ll be seeing the dopest move in wrestling.
I like that DAJ’s debut was sandwiched between the two more obviously important debuts, one socially, one for the universe of the show, to really reinforce what a rookie he is. This is the first character we ever saw on Lucha Underground. We watched him walk through an alley in a hoodie and get beaten up. I’m guessing that when the show ends, he’s the last character we’ll see.
And then, uh …
WELCOME TO MATANZA, MOTHERF*CKERS.
After the #20 entrant comes and goes, we get a “technical error” and another countdown clock. That reveals the glorious return of the best character on television, Dario Cueto, to his rightful Temple. NEVER LEAVE US AGAIN, EL JEFE. Cueto announces that he’s come to take back his Temple, and that there’s one more entrant in Aztec Warfare: his brother, the deformed, face-eating cage monster Matanza Cueto. I love that his full name is “The Monster Matanza Cueto.” I’m okay having to preface every mention of him with 20 minutes of dense explanations.
Matanza is something else. Contextually, this is the character we’ve been waiting a season and a third to see. If you were disappointed by this, what the hell have you been watching? Matanza shows up looking like Tugboat doing Splatterhouse cosplay and starts WRECKING EVERYONE with a super overpowered moveset, and I think that’s my favorite part. It’s a totally new take on a Wrestling Monster. He’s not just hard to knock down. He doesn’t just choke-slam you. He’s got every good move from the game mapped out on his controller and he can like, hit you with giant sit-out powerbombs or huge German suplexes RIGHT AWAY. He’s the scariest create-a-wrestler ever. Not only that, he’s a physical MARVEL who can pull off a standing shooting star press and throw you into the air and CATCH YOUR ASS before murdering you with his reverse powerslam.
He’s incredible, and I love that he pinned guys with a different move every time so there’s not even a way to scout him.
The match comes down to Rey Mysterio, Prince Puma and Matanza. The legendary past, the exciting present, and the uncertain future. It’s like time’s coming together and Lucha’s not only tying together its own stories, but EVERYONE’S. Matanza just plows through everyone and almost nothing hurts him … and what we’ve learned from the lore of Lucha Underground is that not only is this a purposeful plot point (and not just “make the big guy look unstoppable”), it’s something we can expect to pay off. So now we’ve got a new monster champion (who has been around since early on in season one), tied him to the season 1 elite, tied him to the future (Rey and Dragon Azteca), brought Cueto back into power, AND successfully got Mil Muertes out of the match before Cueto/Cueto could stand toe-to-toe with Catrina/Mil. How great is that? They put everything into one match, paid off everything they’d been promising, and left you wondering what’s next.
This is the best show on television. I’m a fanboy, but God, I’m right.