The Over/Under On Lucha Underground Episode 20: Ropin’ The Wind

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Please click through for the Over/Under on Lucha Underground episode 20 from March 25, 2015.

Over: Angelico, Ivelisse And Solving Your Own Problems

So, last week I kinda heaped gasoline in the trash fire that was the Angelico vs. Ivelisse match. It bothered me a lot because of the content, but mostly because it felt like the first time Lucha Underground had failed. It was just bad, and saying “it was just bad” about this show feels super wrong. Nothing on the show’s bad. Everything’s new and fresh and done on purpose. But yeah, sometimes the stuff you write doesn’t come across in the ring and you have to go back to the drawing board.

The followup of Son of Havoc vs. Angelico was such an improvement, and fixed basically every problem I had with its predecessor. The story here is that Son of Havoc has been losing since he debuted, and Ivelisse has been getting madder and meaner about it. At some point she starts directly causing him to lose and blaming him for it anyway. Here, Son of Havoc finally figures it out, gives Ivelisse a grand “go f*ck yourself” goodbye, hits the shooting star press and wins the match. He triumphs because he realized he could do it himself. It’s a face turn via personal affirmation. That’s awesome.

And you know what else is awesome? When you can clearly get across your message and don’t give the crowd something to misinterpret, they follow along. Angelico/Ivelisse was full of gross sexual pins and a guy who’s ostensibly supposed to be the story’s tecnico openly and blatantly disrespecting the idea of women as competitors. So what does the crowd do? They laugh, tell him to “hit the bitch” and chant “no means no.” Rape chants. At The Temple. This week, the story is clearer and handled with grace. Son of Havoc easily could’ve punched Ivelisse in the face or called her a whore or something easy, but he didn’t. He stood up for himself, told her to hit the bricks and showed her up by proving her wrong. When she confronts him, he blows her a kiss and bails. So what does the crowd do? They cheer for the guy they’re intended to cheer for, and they chant “you got dumped” at Ivelisse. See how that works? You can’t necessarily trust wrestling crowds to be functional human beings, so you sometimes have to avoid the seemingly easy shit that turns them into creeps. Just don’t do it. I know you want to, but like two minutes of constructive thinking can accomplish the same goals without opening yourself up for the garbage.

My favorite part is that they had this moment at the expense of Ivelisse, but allowed her to maintain her integrity. Angelico’s all, “hey, I guess that means WE’RE f*cking now,” and instead of being a boring, normal heel and making out with him or whatever, she kicks him in the damn face. That leaves Son of Havoc as the fan favorite who did the right thing for himself, Ivelisse as a strong but emotionally unstable heel who is embarrassed but not worthless, and Angelico as the damage controlled tweener scumbag. It observes and recognizes its own flawed history without selling it out in either direction. It’s not for creeps OR social justice warriors. It’s pro wrestling written and performed by people who are paying attention.

Under: Hot Stuff Hernandez

One of the fears I have for Lucha Underground’s success is that eventually it’ll be the place to be for big stars without WWE jobs, and guys like Rey Mysterio will show up and El Rey will say, “oh, we’ve got Rey Mysterio, who needs this guy with the deer on his head?” There are only so many spots on these shows to begin with and we can go several weeks without seeing our favorite characters … the last thing we need is a TNA situation where the wrestlers we want to see ride the bench while Kurt Angle and D-Von Dudley exchange clotheslines for 5 minutes while the crowd chants LU-CHA LU-CHA LU-CHA.

Anyway, the reason I bring it up is because here’s Hot Stuff Goddamn Hernandez, a guy who is 1000% How He Looks and about negative 4% How He Wrestles. You may remember him from his run in TNA, where he would pick people up and just hurl them at the ground with no back-having whatsoever and break their shoulders. If he wasn’t tall and built like a brick shithouse he’d be nobody, but wrestling is what it is, so he has enough of a resume to saunter into most places as a star. I didn’t like him at Chikara’s King of Trios, and I don’t like him here.

But hey, he’s Hispanic and the fed’s never signing him, so here we are. Maybe we’ll get lengthy telenovela segments where he rants to Dario Cueto about f*cking 80-year old rats and gay slurs everybody.

Over: The Bullrope Match

If you’ve been watching the show in recent weeks, you know the feud between Alberto El Patron and Texano El Guy From Texas has been built around how much they love whipping each other with a length of rope. That sounds more sexual than I’d intended, but whatever. Texano jumped Alberto and whipped him with a length of rope, Alberto got revenge by whipping Texano with a length of rope, and now they’re joined at the wrist by … wait for it … a slightly longer length of rope.

This is the last episode from the set of tapings I attended, and the finish to the match is one of my most vivid memories. The entire thing’s good, but the finish just makes so much sense. Texano’s thing is that he carries rope to the ring, so obviously if he’s gonna be in a gimmick match it’s gonna involve the rope. The problem is that he’s choosing to tie himself by the wrist to a man whose defining characteristic as a performer in the United States is putting armbars on people and not releasing them when the ref says to. That’s the one Alberto Del Rio joke.

So OF COURSE the finish is Texano having things under control and Alberto yanking him in close by the wrist-rope and armbarring him to death. That’s it. That’s the only finish that makes sense, and Lucha Underground’s a good enough show to know that and do it.

Over/Under: The Safety Of Alberto

Following up on the point I made about Hernandez and the fear that former WWE and TNA stars will become too much of a focus as the show tries to grow its audience, I started wondering why I was so okay with Alberto. The simple answer is that I like ADR and hate Hernandez, but I think it’s more than that.

Alberto El Patron is lucha libre royalty. He BELONGS on a lucha libre show. In a perfect world they’d treat him like the Lucha Underground version of Brock Lesnar; this guy who is clearly the toughest and strongest and best wrestler of the bunch and the reigning AAA Mega Champion but only appears every now and then, to punctuate moments or wrestle dream matches. Like, obviously I want to see Prince Puma vs. Alberto, but should Puma go over? I don’t know if he should. And if I don’t know if he should, do I think the match should happen? Is Lucha Underground AAA Developmental like NXT is to WWE, or is it is own thing? It’s its own thing for its own country, right? So where do you draw that line? What becomes the most important thing? Here, or there?

It’s interesting to think about, I guess. In a year, Lucha Underground could look completely differently. It could be Alberto and Chavo Guerrero and Rey Mysterio and Konnan and Hernandez and Homicide and Sin Cara and Juventud Guerrera and like Super Calo and whomever else, and the new fans could be like, “oh man, remember when this show was full of weirdos and jobbers?”

… I like the weirdos and jobbers.

Over: Being Brave Enough To Finish The Story You Want To Tell

I’ve thought about the Prince Puma/Cage championship match a lot since watching it the first time, trying to figure out exactly where it places itself in the show’s overall narrative. Prince Puma’s this mute guy who is sorta supposed to be a link to the audience. You live vicariously through him because he’s vague enough to be anybody, but specific enough to be exciting. You can be him because you don’t really know anything about him. Cage is the antithesis of lucha libre. He’s the white man. He’s the musclebound American wrestler who doesn’t respect culture or heritage or tradition. He’s here to get his shit in and make money.

That’s the story. The pride of lucha libre against the overwhelming shame of what most Americans consider “pro wrestling.” I think this match allowed that story to come to its natural conclusion from the Mexican point of view: no matter how you try to take pro wrestling and define it for yourself, the honor — and justice — of lucha libre will rise up and take it back. Lucha libre wins. Prince Puma’s down and out, but then Konnan shows up with his Valyrian steel walking stick to help out. Hernandez shows up in the crowd to provide a distraction. No matter where you’re coming from, lucha libre protects itself. It perseveres.

And, of course, there’s tons of crazy shit happening. I don’t think I’ve ever been as momentarily flabbergasted by a human being’s existence as I was when Puma hit that shooting star press to the outside, then IMMEDIATELY followed it up with a springboard 450 to the outside through a table. In my brain it all happens in like 20 seconds. Just BOOM, holy shit, then BOOM. That man’s not human. It’s not even wrestling at that point. It’s just a man with avian bones getting real f*cking close to flying.

Great stuff. I don’t think Puma should lose the championship until at least season 2. Give him obstacles to fight through and overcome throughout the remainder of season one — roughly 20 more episodes — and allow the belt and the show’s cypher for the audience to become synonymous. Then play with how it feels to put the strap on somebody evil.

Over: The New (Real) Lucha Underground Championship

It’s perfect.

(I’m mad I didn’t get to hold it.)