Previously on Lucha Underground: For three seasons we’ve followed the story of Dario Cueto, a Spanish businessman who runs a supernatural underground wrestling promotion (on television) to satiate his blood lust while trying to help a shadowy organization destroy the world by reviving or reincarnating the old Aztec Gods. In the season three finale, Cueto was brutally gunned down by one of the men he was trying to help because he let a mystical gauntlet with the power to transform men into Gods slip out of the hands of a wrestling robot, into the hands of a Mexican wrestling zombie, and then into the hands of a big game hunter who probably mounted it on a squirrel or whatever in his taxidermy shop slash mountain cabin home. Wrestling is … very weird.
Hit those share buttons! Make sure to spread the column around so people can share in our love of all things Lucha, and encourage folks to finally bite the bullet and watch the first two seasons on Netflix. It’s on Netflix. It’s the best Netflix show about all that stuff I typed in the “previously on” section. You can catch up on season 3 via iTunes.
And now, the Over/Under on Lucha Underground season 4, episode 1, originally aired on June 13, 2018.
Over: Tony, Tony, Tony
This week’s biggest storyline development is the introduction of Antonio Cueto, who since I was in attendance for this taping like four months ago I’ve been waiting to write about. Antonio is Dario Cueto’s father, the man he called at the end of last season, and he’s played by the same actor, Luis Fernandez-Gil. He looks like Dario Cueto went on an African safari and fell asleep under a tree for a hundred years.
The opening scene is Antonio and the agent who killed Dario, Agent Godfrey Winter, attending Dario’s “funeral.” We see Dario’s body in the coffin, but Tony and Winter are the only people in attendance. Winter lets it slip that Antonio is the one who ordered the hit on Dario, and we find out that not only is Antonio now in charge of Lucha Underground — the promotion, not the show, although they’re the same thing — but that he’s moved it to an old beer storage facility. As long as the seal’s in the center of the ring, the Temple can be anywhere.
This is not based on ANYTHING I’ve seen at tapings, so it’s not a spoiler, but speculation: I think Antonio Cueto is bullshit. I think Dario Cueto “ordered a hit” on himself while pretending to be his father so he could go undercover and avoid being actually murdered by this mystical Wolfram and Hart motherfuckers he works for. I think that’s why the voice is so over the top, why the look is so over the top, why Dario’s father want to maintain control of Mantanza after seeming not caring about him or showing up for three other seasons, and why Antonio’s so quick to disrespect his son’s legacy and move on without much of a comment. Let’s go all the way back to season 2, episode 5, where we find out the origin of Dario’s red bull:
Since early in season 1, we’ve been wondering if there was a reason why Dario Cueto had a conspicuous, red bull state on the desk in his office. There have been too many shots of it for it to be innocent. The best theory was that that’s where he kept his cocaine. I remember some of us thinking maybe Matanza was a minotaur. You never know with this show. But there was something to it, man, and we weren’t sure we’d ever find out.
Last night, we found out. And holy sh*t..
If you haven’t watched the segment, go watch it. I compliment Cueto’s acting ability all the time, but he knocks it out of the park here. It’s so subtle and nuanced. It’s a story told from a character that is absolutely real, portrayed by an actor who understands the character through and through. I’m gonna try to recap it, but I won’t be able to do it justice.
Cueto tells [Black] Lotus about his mother. He says that she was cruel to him and his brother, until one day he stood up to her and said, “no mas.” That caused his mother to attack him, and he says he might’ve died if his brother hadn’t saved him … by bashing their mother’s head in with the red bull statue. Lotus says she’s sorry for what happened, and Dario says not to be: that was the moment he realized he loved violence.
Let me try to put this into a broader perspective. Dario Cueto loves violence because violence saved his life. You remember that Mil Muertes origin video where he almost died in the Mexico City Earthquake, but realized that death wasn’t something to be feared, it was power? That’s a perfect parallel for Dario. Dario parallels Mil. Mysterio and El Dragon Azteca are the light, and parallel Fenix. Every f*cking second of this ties together to create a bigger, world-creating and world-defining narrative. Everything Dario does to bring these fighters together, everything he does to set up the matches and promote pro wrestling and f*ck with people’s fortunes, is done in the pursuit of the only happiness he knows. Violence was Dario Cueto’s salvation. He’s not evil. His light’s just dark.
No mention of his father at all, right? We’ve only heard about Dario’s dad in passing, that he used to run a wrestling promotion similar to this one, so if his dad’s been out of the picture for decades wouldn’t it make TOTAL SENSE for Dario to adopt that image to escape consequences? Plus, didn’t we already see that “it’s not actually a corpse, it’s just a stuffed dummy” bit on Stranger Things? Isn’t it convenient that the guy who stole the glove from these evil guys is a fucking taxidermist?
I don’t know if I’m right, but that’s what I’m going with. There’s no way that’s a real old man voice, and I think Fernandez-Gil is too good of an actor to do a character that over the top if it’s not a purposeful decision. I’ve got my one good eye on you, Antonio.
Over/Under: Aztec Warfare
This week’s only match is AZTEC WARFARE. Just right away. Normally this a match that happens early in the season to tie together a bunch of new stories and establish the universe, but this one serves more as a “jumping on” point for new viewers, like when comic book companies come out with a new issue #1 so people don’t think they have to know about 600 issues of Thor history to follow along or whatever.
It’s immediately very different. The ice house has a cooler, clearer look. The ropes are blue and yellow, which is EXTREMELY off-putting for longtime fans, but it’s not a bad look. The major reason it gets a “slash under” is because of how awkwardly paced, weirdly edited and meatless a lot of the action from the match is. I mentioned that I was at this taping, and I think because it was their first taping in a REALLY LONG TIME and at a completely new location, it came out like this because it had to. The timer was busted for entrants, the opening was really clumsy because nobody knew where they were supposed to be or what to do next, the time between entrants never felt consistent, and so on. Growing pains, as it were. The fact that it comes out cohesive at all is probably a miracle of editing, and I imagine in the next few weeks the production will improve and things will start to feel impactful again. One of the big hooks of Lucha Underground matches is that the pinfalls have a weight to them, and this one had people getting eliminated into what felt like an abyss. I don’t even remember some of them, and it was the only match on the show.
There have also been a lot of roster changes since the show last taped 600 goddamn days before this, so some familiar faces are missing, replaced by … well, a lot of white guys. I don’t mean that in a pejorative, being a white guy myself, but one of the hooks of Lucha Underground has been the fact that most of (if not all) of the babyfaces and major characters are people of color, and the white people are mostly corralled into a hilarious evil WWE-esque heel faction that cheats all the time and is up their own ass. Worldwide Underground is the BEST.
Here though, the new faces are guys I don’t really feel like watching from other televised wrestling promotions. The two big ones are “Mr. Pectacular,” aka Bro-Man Jessie Godderz from Impact Wrestling, and Tommy Dreamer. Jack Swagger’s publicly announced that he’s joined the company as well, so that’s another. It’s fine, and you know I love me some Jack Swagger, but bringing in all these guys as replacement for folks like Rey Mysterio Jr. makes Lucha feel more like North American TV Wrestling Underground. I liked Tommy Dreamer as much as anybody in 1998, you know?
First of all, Fenix, you da real MVP.
As soon as Fenix enters the match, Aztec Warfare feels like Lucha Underground again. We get through an awkward opening about Dante Fox not being around and Antonio Cueto randomly assigning the #3 entrant (who he decided should enter #3, I think?) would be the new third guy for the Trios Champions, and it’s Son of Havoc. Lots of “heh, sorry, gotta figure out how to tell this story now that we’re like two years removed from the last season” stuff, which will be retroactively fine I think in future episodes. It’s just a stutter-step to start these stories. Pentagon Dark eventually shows up and things get better, but it’s mostly just Penta eliminating guys without a lot of impact.
But hey, Fenix shows up and the show feels like the show. Big, crazy moves you’ve never seen like that double springboard double stomp to the back where he’s jumping BACKWARDS off the top rope. Loud kick sound effects. Big dives. You get folks you know and love like King Cuerno, Mil Muertes, Dragon Azteca Jr., and so on. People who are moving quickly and running and jumping and innovating. Not Jessie Godderz doing body slams, you know? There’s a time and a place for that, and it’s not necessarily in the middle of my big staggered entry luchador Royal Rumble I’ve been waiting to watch for like 600 days.
My favorite of the new cameo appearances wasn’t even a wrestler, but a comedy aside. Vinnie Massaro shows up to compete, and we find out he’s ordered a pizza. It’s late, so he has to receive it on his way to the ring and eat it while he’s wrestling. And who’s playing that pizza boy, you might ask? Mitsunobu Kikuzawa, better known as comedy wrestling legend Ebessan/Kikutaro. I’d be more worried about telling you a masked guy’s real name if he didn’t walk around at shows with his mask on the top of his head like a pair of sunglasses. Kiku is one of my favorite wrestling people ever, and I hope beyond hope that he gets to play an on-screen pro wrestling pizza boy in the Lucha Underground universe.
As for Vinnie, he has the best solo moment of the match when he offers Pentagon a slice of pizza, gets it superkicked down his throat, and gets dumped on his head on an opened pizza. Penta ends up winning the match, which is a good way to remind people that he’s a champion and deserves to be the promotion’s top guy, and Antonio announces that he’ll be defending the championship against the biggest character still employed but NOT featured in the match, Matanza.
So like I said, it’s a good “jumping on” episode marred by some unfortunate editing and pacing issues I think they learned from and moved past. I mean, I hope they did. Lots of reminders of better action from the past and groundwork for the future. Penta and Marty the Moth being the final two in the match feels like foreshadowing, which is good, and we have a lot of new characters to meet and learn about. Lots of familiar faces still to show up, so we get to openly wonder where they are. Did a giant spider eat Sexy Star? I bet it did!
Not my favorite episode ever, but I’m happy beyond words to have this show back.