Previously on Lucha Underground: A bunch of people got sacrificed to The Gods, Jeremiah Crane was brought back from the dead by a snake lady and turned into “Jeremiah Snake,” Johnny Mundo proposed to his girlfriend after wishing for the freedom of a dragon, Pentagon Dark broke a priest’s arm, and we had a HAUNTED HOUSE MATCH. So … things are happening.
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And now, the Over/Under on Lucha Underground season 4, episodes 12-15.
Under: Jake Strong, Ninja Master
You know, as the guy who wrote a novella about Jack Swagger visiting Mars during his time away from WWE, I would really, really like to be enjoying that same character on Lucha Underground. Like, this is the world where he COULD go to Mars, and it’d only be slightly more unusual than everything else. Instead, “The Savage” Jake Strong has been Jack Swagger in slow motion, just kinda lumbering around and smacking himself in the chest while luchadors we’d prefer to see being part of cool, strange stories bumping for him and hanging upside down in ankle locks.
For example, the newly freed Drago just spent forever chained by the neck in an underground desert snake temple, and as soon as he’s freed, what’s his role on the show? To get his ass kicked by the biggest, whitest dude they have, in the slowest 2011 Smackdown style available. There’s even a part where Jack Swagger gets NUNCHUCKS, and I swear to God, if you’d jumped back five years and said THERE’S A LUCHA LIBRE SHOW WHERE JACK SWAGGER FIGHTS WITH NUNCHUCKS, I would’ve lost my sugar. But in practice? He just kinda tucks them under his arm while doing an ankle lock, and … man, I don’t want to be like everybody else and start completely dumping on this season, but there have been so many missed opportunities and chances for absurd glory farted away into B-show wrestling tropes and meaningless “deaths” that I can’t even keep up with the weekly columns.
Aerostar makes the save, and hey, we know where that’s going. I also have a feeling I know where the Jake Strong stuff is going, but I’ll save that for the end of the season where I’m pulling my hair out.
Under: No Mas No Mas
While we’re on the topic of underwhelming, we have the NO MAS match between Jack Evans and XO Lishus. I was live for this taping, and I remember this being better and longer than it was, although I might’ve just been hyped to be in the Ice Temple.
The version we get on TV is just … lackluster. XO is a great babyface, but he’s only been on the show a handful of times, so we don’t have any deep connection to him or any of his stories beyond the aesthetic and the general vibe, which are both GREAT. Jack Evans is in here trying to do submission-based stuff in an ‘I quit’ match, and as blessed a performer as Jack is, his submission wrestling looks like Jake Strong’s high flying. Not only that, but you’re setting up an ‘I quit’ match between a new, scrappy tecnico and the fourth most effective member of a pack of wacky Caucasians, and you still need TWO RUN-INS for the face to win? XO needs help from both Joey Ryan AND Ivelisse to win, and while that could’ve worked if Jack had had the Worldwide Underground running cheap interference from him, they didn’t, and the hero won thanks to a 3-on-1 advantage. What is this, Raw?
Super disappointing. I’d at least be excited for where the XO/Joey romance was going if I thought we could make it five episodes without one or both of them dying.
Over: Mercury Rising
Hey, here’s a fun surprise: Joey Mercury is back, now calling himself “Joey Wrestling.”
This is the best person you can randomly pull from Johnny Mundo’s past to make an appearance, assuming you don’t have enough money to get The Miz to do a cameo and spend the entire hour furrowing his brow about people spending their careers wrestling in a beer cooler in front of 200 people. God, Miz on Lucha Underground would be the greatest thing that ever happened. It’d be like Lawler showing up in the ECW Arena back in the ’90s.
Over: I Now Pronounce You Man And Holy Shit What The Hell Is That
This is pretty terrible episode of television, but here’s the good news: it’s almost entirely saved by the (attempted) wedding of Taya and Johnny Mundo, an extremely lime-green affair featuring a cameo from Cheerleader Melissa, Famous B popping me (on-screen) by saying he could get Texano and Dr. Wagner to come to my wedding for a small fee, and, of course, a crazy man with a talking Satanic doll summoning a sacrificial murderer Ninja Turtle with God powers to destroy like eight tables of tacos and suplex a man in a wheelchair.
If you know someone who has never watched the show before, I think this GIF says everything they need to know: a man being Exploder’d into a bed of tacos, someone in the crowd with a creepy doll celebrating, and then a smash cut to a lime-green-ass bride bleeding from the face.
Man, I’ll be honest … Johnny kinda deserved it. Sure, Ricky Mundo is a dorky weirdo wannabe and all, but he’s actively trying to be a part of your team and gain acceptance. When you spend weeks and months just shitting in his cereal every time he makes an effort, and you mock him to his face when he’s just trying to be a part of your special day, what else can he even do besides go to a supernatural island of abandoned dolls and come back with a spirit-infested toy that talks to him and commands him to kill you?
I was really hoping this would lead to Taya vs. Matanza at Ultima Lucha Quatro, because Taya’s always been the closest thing to a technico Worldwide Underground has and should take Sanitation Raphael to the woodshed for ruining her Big Day, but that’s probably not going to happen.
Under: Catrina And The Waves (Goodbye)
Bruh. [shakes head]
I know that if you read me regularly, you probably think i was all about this 11-ish minute Grindhouse opening to Lucha Undergorund, but honestly? I think it might’ve been my breaking point. About halfway through this my brain was like, “I don’t think you like this anymore.”
So here’s what the segment is supposed to be. Catrina now has “life” again, following her Funerary Box murder of Fenix and absorption of his 999 lives or whatever, so she ditches Mil Muertes. Before she can leave, Melissa Santos shows up to fight her. They fight up onto the rooftop, Catrina gets knocked off, and as she’s hanging, Mil shows back up to let her fall. With Catrina now dead again, Aerostar pops in, absorbs her soul, travels back in time a week and re-implants Fenix’s preexisting 999+ lives back into his body. He then travels FORWARD in time, bringing Fenix back to Melissa.
- usually these types of scenes are really well done, but this one just looked embarrassing. From the washed-out visuals to the fight on the roof where they couldn’t actually safely do a rooftop fight, so Catrina “hangs” onto a pole with most of her body off-screen, and they do a bunch of close-ups to hide the fact that she’s clearly standing on the street with a clangy pole over her head
- here’s the “fall” off the roof, where they couldn’t even make it look like she fell a long way. It seriously looks like she fell like five feet to the ground and died.
- Catrina might actually be incapable of showing emotion in her face. They kept doing these closeup reaction shots and it looked like she was asleep.
- Melissa Santos is a karate master now? I know Lucha guys tend to become kung fu stars in these vignettes, but isn’t this the ring announcer? Who acts scared of everyone that threatens her? Who had to have a big build and a strong partner to help her in the one match we’ve seen her wrestle? Now she’s able to karate a ghost to death?
- speaking of that, is Melissa Santos and Fenix some “storied romance” I’m just not getting? The most we’ve ever seen from them is kissing with lens flares and riding away in his car. It’s not like they’ve been in and out of love, Romeo and Juliet types since the first season. I watch the show religiously, and I wouldn’t remember they were supposed to be in love if they weren’t on-screen pretending when you asked me
- We know Aerostar can travel time, sure, but has it ever been established that he can absorb souls into that little porthole on his chest? This GIF of him doing it and then saying “I’ll be right back” is hilarious. It looked less fantasy telenovela grindhouse and more Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. Dude even had speed lines at one point.
Aerostar brings Fenix back and he’s basically a vegetable, but Melissa doesn’t seem to notice. Aerostar explained that since he brought him back to life and brought him forward in time, there might be some complications, and yeah, I would say that soul transfer from ghost to immortal via a time-traveler’s spandex accessories might not be the best way to get a boyfriend. Just … horrible stuff, man, and I hate typing that. This was the New Day at the Wyatt Compound of Lucha Underground.
Under: We Hope You Didn’t Want To See Joey Mercury Again
Whoops, Matanza sacrificed him. Already. In his first Lucha Underground match. I guess they only had him for the weekend? Why even bring him onto the show? FFS.
To recap, this season’s killed off Mr. PEC-tacular, Cortez Castro, Vinnie Massaro, the Kikutaro pizza boy (and his pizza), Mala Suerte, Saltador, Joey Mercury, Vibora, Mascarita Sagrada, that Great Value Paul Heyman, Fenix, Jeremiah Crane, Catrina, and Angelico (off-screen). We’re like, halfway through the season. BUT AT LEAST JACK SWAGGER IS HERE, AND UP NEXT IS “BIG BAD STEVE.”
Under: This Fan Doing The Birdman Hand Rub To Beautiful Brenda And Big Bad Steve
So after the opening video package of time-traveling romance murders and a sacrifice to the Gods, we launch right into an angle where a mechanic wrestles a war vet while a biker sits in the crowd eating popcorn.
It’s Big Bad Steve vs. Killshot, to further Killshot’s descent into rudo madness and further his issues with Son of Havoc over the Trios Championship and, I’m guessing, which one needs to be more overdubbed. I like where they’re going with this — the post-match stuff had Son of Havoc stealing Killshot’s mask, suggesting they’re probably setting up a mask vs. mask match in the future and hopefully getting Havoc away from a jobber gimmick he wasn’t really supposed to end up stuck with for four seasons anyway — but even the camera men seemed like they didn’t want to be watching a Big Bad Steve match.
Anyway, enough complaining about these episodes, let’s get to the main event, where I can be positive and-
oh god dammit
Well, as if this season couldn’t get any worse, here comes Hot Stuff Hernandez, back to thrill us with his patented combination of duck-face posing and accidentally injuring everybody because he’s sloppier than a Manwich factory and doesn’t give a shit about the people he’s in the ring with. The good news (if there is any) is that Fernandez is out here basically as an NPC to get to the post-match attack, which sets up King Cuerno vs. Pentagon Dark in a battle of People We Might Actually Want To See In Wrestling Matches On This Lucha Libre Show.
Hernandez? Really, guys? HERNANDEZ? What, were all the untrained homeless people in the neighborhood too busy to put o some velour pants and get their arms broken by a skeleton?
Over, Mostly: Tony Hawk’s Pro Wrestler
Up first for episode 14 is another Gift of the Gods challenge match between the champion, El Dragon Azteca Jr., and the challenger, Ivelisse. It’s not bad, but Dragon is visibly slowing down almost the entire match so Ivie can keep up with him. And that’s not to insult Ivelisse or say she’s slow or bad or anything, EDAJ is just so nimble and fast you’ve gotta be a Prince Puma-level motherfucker to keep pace with him.
It’s another strong defense for Dragon, who makes the match memorable by leaping everything-first from the ring into the staircase railing (pictured), which is absolutely bonkers. It’s also notable for XO Lishus and Joey Ryan showing up after the match in matching Vice City outfits to ask Ivelisse to be their Unlikely Trios Partner. XO and Joey is already a better Lucha romance than Melissa and Fenix, don’t @ me.
Over: DARK FENIX
Speaking of Melissa and Fenix, WHOOPS, their romance could not survive soul maintenance and time displacement, as it look like Fenix is now Dark Fenix and would rather shove her to the ground and stomp people than make kissy faces in the lens flares. Fenix, Drago, and Aerostar (the Superfriends) team up again to face the Trios Champion Reptile Tribe and lose, because, well, Aerostar has apparently never seen Pet Sematary and doesn’t know what happens when you bring shit back to life.
I’ll be honest with you, if this season had the exact same stories but like, made sure to pepper in these trios matches featuring actual luchadors and devoted the non-ridiculous parts of the program to good (or at least fun) wrestling instead of run-ins and disqualifications (more on that in a second) and absolutely ill-fitting former WWE stars, I’d probably be really into it. Every time Fenix is in the ring I’m like, “oh yeah, this is why I like this show.”
Under: Goddamn Disqualifications
Apparently you can murder people in the ring in the Temple and it’s fine, but if you shove the referee, that’s a disqualification. That’s how Mil Muertes vs. King Cuerno ends. Seriously. With a disqualification. We’ve seen Mil try to rip someone’s face off and eat it. We’ve seen King Cuerno steal a dead body from a Funerary Box, taxidermy it, and store it in his home. I JUST wrote about a rooftop murder fight that led to a man being brought back from the dead and spirited away in time until he lost who he was and lashed out at the woman who loves him, but shoving the referee is a bridge too far.
This is kinda what I’m talking about with this season. This match only goes about five minutes, and only happens to get to a really bad finish, which then sets up a different match for later. The show’s always done this sparingly, but ever since the Cueto Cup, they’ve jumped head-first into some of WWE’s worst habits. The last thing I want to see on a show with a pace this rapid and this exciting is matches going through the motions and rushing to a [fart noise] to set up something we aren’t even sure is gonna be purposeful later, as now that might just be happening to set something else up. JUST DO THE THINGS, YOU GUYS. I don’t watch Lucha Underground to see disqualifications that set up triple threat matches, Jesus Christ. What’re we gonna do next week, a four-team tag team tournament? Is there a Saudi Arabian Temple we can build to?
Over: Characters We Actually Know And Like, Doing Things
The stinger of this episode features Marty The Moth giving Antonio Cueto a stack of money in exchange for a Gift of the Gods Championship match next week, which works, because we’ve completely lost track of context and how title matches work. He offers him a second stack for “something else,” which we’ll touch on in a moment, but I wish had been, “cut and dye your hair and just pretend to be Dario for the rest of the season.”
Almost caught up. On to episode 15, with our fingers crossed.
Over: Fenix Is Still The Best Performer On The Show
Study question: is Fenix a better Pentagon than Pentagon?
This week we get our first look at Actual Singles Star Dark Fenix, and he rules. He’s wrestling with a real sense of urgency now, a real sense of hatred, and he’s putting the fear of God into his ex-girlfriend and the former friend who yanked him from the afterlife like he was Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Fenix just beats the ever-loving shit out of Aerostar here, complete with ANGRILY DROOLING ON HIS FACE as a post-match celebration, and I’m completely into it. I’m also into anyone putting a wedge in the Melissa Santos romance story, as her yelling “Fenix!” is one flannel tied around the waist away from being Brie Bella screaming “Daniel!”
El Dragon Azteca Jr. runs out to protect his Kashi best friend Melissa, so Fenix lights him up, too. Lucha Underground currently contains zero (0) likeable characters — even Dario Cueto got put in old man safari clothes and turned into Oscar the Grouch — so the next best plan is to turn the coolest guy you’ve got into a slobbering murderer who actually appears to inflict concerning levels of violence on people, instead of, say, hitting a body slam on them and making them disappear via special effects.
That sets up the previously mentioned Gift of the Gods championship match between El Dragon Azteca Jr. and Marty the Moth, paid for in cash, with Dragon having to be a good, scrappy tecnico and take the match even though he’s hurt. I’m going to have some complaints™ about this later, but I want to point out how well done this is, and how it not only allows the champion to go down swinging, it allows the heel to win via his own agency. Not so much, by the end of the show.
LOL: Is His Name Seriously ‘El Bunny’
Did I hear that right? Is Mascarita Sagrada in Bane cosplay seriously called “El Bunny?” Are fifth graders writing this show now? Did you forget to name him and tell Kevin Kross to come up with something on the fly? You could’ve at least called him Lupin the 1/3rd.
Under: WWE’s Lucha Underground
Finally (and maybe finally finally) we have the triple threat match set up on episode 14 between Pentagon Dark, King Cuerno, and Mil Muertes for the Lucha Underground Championship. On paper, this should be one of the best matches they’ve ever done. The first major problem is that character consistency has been thrown in the garbage this season, so nobody really has any motivations, and everyone’s so wishy-washy that they’re just going through the motions waiting for the next batch of characters to leave or die. Like, what’s King Cuerno’s motivation right now? Does he have any? He stole the Gauntlet, but then he entrusted it to someone else to guard, and now he’s just out here doing sneak attacks like always. Mil Muertes just killed his manager, the only reason he was even in this promotion to begin with, and is in there completely unchanged. Pentagon is basically DDP right now, which is fine, but his arm breaking and threats seem more like catchphrases than actual threats now.
Still, the match isn’t bad. There’s some awkward editing, especially on that Backstabber to Mil Muertes late in the match where they go to an overhead view to try to disguise him falling backwards onto Pentagon’s thighs with like, zero impact, but it’s still Penta/Cuerno/Mil, so you’re gonna get some good work. Pentagon manages to retain, because, well … we’re WWE’s Lucha Underground now.
Marty the Moth runs out to attack Pentagon, and Antonio Cuerto shows up to say, “lol, guess what, the Gift of the Gods Championship that we created with a great storyline reason to not be exactly like Money in the Bank? It’s exactly Money in the Bank now, because we need it to be this week.” Again, consistency is in the fucking toilet here. But Marty managed to get a match he wanted AND change the rules to the entire promotion by giving the boss money, so what, is Lucha Underground pay-to-play now? Is it a freemium wrestling promotion? Do I need to turn in my Lucha bucks to gain early access to matches?
The worst part is that Marty can’t even close the deal until there’s another run-in … not from Mariposa, because again, character consistency is [raspberry], but from a spider-themed Chelsea Green, who I’m gonna call Chelsea Black until they give her a name. SHE sneak attacks Pentagon and hits him with a Pentagon Making Himself Backflip, and that, after two opponents in a long match and two separate sneak attack run-ins and a complete reworking of years of promotional championship history, Marty the Moth becomes the new Lucha Underground Champion.
The worst part is that I should love this, and I don’t. It honestly feels like when they got renewed for season four, the one stipulation from the network was, “make this more like a WWE show.” So now none of the characters stay consistent, stuff changes week-to-week depending on how they need it, they repackaged a bunch of characters that already worked (including Dario Cueto, who was the reason to watch the show whether it was any good or not), slowed everything down, brought in some lumbering WWE-types like Swagger and Tommy Dreamer and whoever else and then were like, “okay, if we have a guy do a Hadoken at a dead body to absorb its soul, people are still gonna like it.” And man, I didn’t like Lucha because it was ridiculous, I liked it because it was progressive, and different, and fresh, and because the ridiculous shit actually had context and made sense in the universe they created.
Anyway, join us next week for 15 more character deaths, a Planet Terror remake starring Candice Michelle, and a run-in from Enzo and Big Cass.