– As we always try to mention, you can watch these shows the legal way by having El Rey Network or UniMás. The El Rey website says streaming episodes are “coming soon.” Go to the site and type in your info, they’ll tell you where to watch it. If you don’t have any other option, it’s worth it to find them wherever you can find them, but you didn’t get that from me.
– If you’d like to read about previous episodes, head over to the Lucha Underground tag page.
– I was at The Temple this weekend’s tapings and saw the episodes set to air on March 18 and March 25. I also signed a non-disclosure agreement saying I can’t excitedly tell you everything that happened, so I’ll try not to accidentally spoil things as we go. In case they’re reading, I want to thank all the people who helped get me to LA and to the shows, and I can say without hyperbole or any reason to kiss ass that the El Rey Network and Lucha Underground people are some of the nicest and most caring I’ve ever met in the wrestling business. What this show does isn’t by accident. This show is intentional, and the people behind it not only care about wrestling, but about what wrestling fans think. After years of being told I’m a virgin mark by WWE it’s nice to know some people care about our hearts and brains and want to make a show we can enjoy, and not be embarrassed to tell people about.
– Shares, likes, comments and other social media things are appreciated. Tell @LuchaElRey that you read and love this column.
Please click through for the Over/Under on Lucha Underground episode 12 from January 28, 2015.
Over: KUNG FU ZOOMS, Or
Under, But Still Kinda Over: Cage Promos Are So Wonderfully Bad
Every episode of Lucha Underground should begin with a dimly-lit, melodramatic backstage segment. I wish there was just an entire show of them. I would for real watch a supplementary half-hour of Dario Cueto just wandering around The Temple, running into people and having tensely-worded, symbolic conversations. I might like it more than the wrestling, and I like the wrestling a lot.
Anyway, this week’s show opens with El Jefe finding Cage lifting heavy in a gym lit by The Temple’s eternal through-the-windows sunset and primes him about tonight’s championship match with Prince Puma. Cage is quickly becoming my favorite character on the show because every time he opens his mouth it’s the same, no matter the tone or context. All roads from Cage’s throat lead to him saying he’s a machine. That’s it. If he’s a machine for anything, he’s a machine that produces I’M A MACHINE statements.
This week’s is the best yet, because the camera man does a full KUNG FU ZOOM before he says it. Prince Puma’s gonna lose the championship … HARD ZOOM … BECAUSE I’M A MACHINE. The fact that cages aren’t technically machines unless you really push it makes it great, and I hope one day we get a segment where like, Pentagon Jr. pulls him aside and is all, “hey man, I know you’re into being a machine and all but cages are just box-like enclosures. You could say you’re a pulley or an inclined plane, but those are SIMPLE machines, and you don’t want anyone calling you stupid. Make a baler? Shit wait we already have a guy named Bael.”
Over: Fenix Gets Lucky
This week’s opening match is Fenix vs. Mil Muertes, and I love that we’ve skipped the feeling out process and pushed the EVERLASTING DEATH guy against the EVERLASTING LIFE guy. Lucha Underground giving its fighters very specific magical powers works really well, I think, and Fenix explaining his “never say die” attitude by literally being a mythical phoenix that can shoot die during matches and then be “reborn” at full power is the most clever way I’ve seen to excuse the late match “second wind” comeback in a while.
I also dig that The Temple loves Mil Muertes. The Lucha Underground crowd can be iffy at times (especially when they’re not being edited for television), but they seem to love and appreciate creative and compelling characters. It’s why El Mariachi Loco gets the love he does. That guy’d get bored stares from WWE crowds who only want the familiar and easy-to-digest, but in The Temple he’s celebrated for being entertaining. Lucha Libre is a more direct line to “being entertained and not worrying about all the other stuff” than North American wrestling fans realize. They always want that from WWE, but WWE lives or dies by their stories. They call themselves “storytellers” for God’s sakes. It’s about selling and pathos and right or wrong or whatever, and they constantly f*ck it up. Here, you lose some of the trappings of what a wrestling match is “supposed” to be to US fans, because it’s not supposed to be those things in Mexico.
I could probably write a longform about it, but wrestling being different everywhere wrestling’s popular is one of the things that makes the sport so fascinating. It’s like music, or dancing. It’s a cultural identifier.
So yeah, Mil Muertes wrecks Fenix and goes for a superplex, but Fenix plays it smart and wraps up his legs on the bounce to get the surprise victory. The referee had to be in the perfect spot to make that timing work without making Mil look weak, and he did a great job. Having been at the tapings for episodes airing in March I’m not legally allowed to give you any specifics, but I can be vague as hell, and you will love where this goes.
Over: Aero Star, Y’all
This is the one you show people who don’t watch lucha libre.
The Crew takes on the randomly-collected luchador team of Argenis, Aero Star and Super Fly, and it’s almost a gimme for a good wrestling card. You can pop a hot six-man tag into the middle of almost anything for any reason and make the crowd love it. I think it’s the easiest match to get over because you can build it around the heat like an Australian rules tag, but you can quicken it up for modern crowds. They want that feeling of drama, but they don’t want to soak in it. By the time everything falls apart and people are flying everywhere you’ve got a nutso sprint built on a foundation of something, and usually that’s enough. WWE killed it for a while with The Shield on Raw, but since they broke up they’ve let it slip.
Aero Star is the king here, because nobody out CRAZY JUMPS Aero Star. Unless Máscara Dorada shows up at some point he’s the top cat. I was also really impressed by The Crew here, because up until now we’ve mostly only seen them as replaceable Streets Of Rage enemies. Recruitable gang members in Grand Theft Auto. Here, they’re a functioning trio, and they get the win because they work together. They know each other. Their bond elevates them above their opponents, who may have more experience or a flashier moveset. By validating The Crew, you validate the future THREATS of The Crew. You might not be scared of three guys jumping one from behind, but if they can team up and beat your best tecnicos, that’s another story.
Over: Vampiro And Konnan, Forever Enemies
Vampiro and Konnan as two well-meaning guys who think they know everything about wrestling but hate each others’ guts and will throw hands over nothing even though they aren’t active wrestlers anymore is one of my favorite unspoken stories of Lucha Underground. Vampiro’s been shit-talking Konnan since the first few episodes, and now that they’re in a sitdown interview together it goes from “nice to meet you Prince Puma” to “I am going to literally kill you with my fists” in like 30 seconds.
Vamp wants to ask Prince Puma about winning the championship and facing Cage, but Konnan’s his spokesperson. It’s like Don King and Mike Tyson. You don’t want Mike Tyson explaining things. Konnan takes an aggressive tone (because he’s Konnan), and Vampiro just wants to be a bro journalist. It’s awesome because neither of these guys is being a “heel,” they just rub each other the wrong way. Some people do that. Puma just sitting there in a hoodie trying not to be apart of the issue is great, and it’s so interesting that the iconic hero of Lucha Underground never talks. I wonder if that’s a purposeful decision, like how Link never talks in the Zelda games? I know Miyamoto’s said that Link never talks because he’s not supposed to be a character, he’s supposed to represent YOU, which is why his name’s “Link.” He’s the link between the game and you. Is Prince Puma Link?
Over: HE’S A MACHINEEEEE
The show ends in the only way it can: Cage getting DQ’d for flagrantly booting Prince Puma in the junk and then ripping the Lucha Underground Championship in half. Like, in half. With his hands.
Striker earns points from me (for once) for referencing one of the great Bob Backlund angles of all time: Superstar Billy Graham ripping up the WWF Championship.
Here’s why this works … the Puma/Cage stuff, not Backlund/Graham. Backlund/Graham worked because it was 1980 and Bob Backlund was a sweet boy. Prince Puma is the show’s Latino superhero. As mentioned in that assumptive Link stuff in the previous paragraph, he’s a representative of the people watching. He does incredible things, but he’s basic enough to allow you to live through him vicariously. He can win Aztec Warfare, he can bounce back from defeat and beat his friendly rivals, and he will stand up against threats to not only himself, but his manager and his business. Cage is the opposite of that. He’s a muscular white guy who cuts bad promos. He’s WWE. He’s WWE in the shape of a man. He thinks lucha libre tradition is just Mexican people handing each other capes, and he doesn’t respect it. He doesn’t respect the style or the showmanship. Doesn’t respect the pageantry. He just wants to get in the ring and rip shit up for money. There’s no pride or honor, just bad wrestling business.
When Puma faces Cage, it’s lucha libre standing up for itself in an American market. That’s important. This show’s raging against convention and the expectations of a bored, complacent audience. It’s saying, “here’s what we can give you. This is different. This is for you.” Some people are going to pick up on it, and some people will be resistant. Cage is that guy. Cage sees Lucha Underground and says “I’m better than this.” He says, “what I do works.” There’s no teamwork or fellowship; it’s about aggressively picking sides.
The first showdown between these guys has to end with that disrespect being illustrated, and they couldn’t have done it better. Puma fights valiantly, and when Cage realizes he’s had enough and grown apathetic to the situation, he kicks Puma in the balls. He bashes in Puma’s manager’s face and rips the championship belt in half. The belt made from the gold of all 7 Aztec tribes. Who cares? It’s a prop. A toy. A thing these people like, but he’s not one of them, so he’s going to take it away.
The story now becomes the punishment of ignorance, and the reassertion that Lucha Underground belongs. That’s a hell of a story.