– If you read the Best and Worst of Raw column or follow me on social media, you’ll know that last Thursday afternoon I went to the doctor for a stomach ache and ended up having an appendectomy. I spent some time in the hospital and it severely cut into my ability to watch shows and write wrestling jokes, so I’m catching up on that. I’m taking a lighter schedule at the site for a little while as I recover, but I like writing these, so I’m going to do them as reliably as I can. This is episode 21 from last week, and the episode 22 report will be available tomorrow. Thanks for understanding my gutlessness!
– In case you always skip the pre-show notes and still haven’t picked up on this, there are now legal ways to watch Lucha Underground online. You can check out the UniMas website for episodes streaming in Spanish or find El Rey Network on Sling TV for the English language version. Watch this show!
– If you’d like to read about previous episodes or catch up on the latest Temple news and gossip, head over to the Lucha Underground tag page.
– 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 21 from April 1, 2015.
Over: The Fam
So it turns out Big Ryck is back with a posse: his cousin “The Mack” and “Kill Shot,” who may or may not be a villain from 1990s comics. They intimidate Cueto for putting out a hit on Ryck, and he saves his ass by paying them off and allowing them entry into his latest brainchild, a trios tournament to crown Lucha Underground trios tag team champions.
1. The idea of Lucha Underground having trios championships instead of traditional tag titles is the best idea in the world, and I kinda wish everybody was doing it. Tag team wrestling is great, but very clearly peaked in the 80s. Since then, every big promotion’s attempts to promote and book tag team wrestling has fizzled and burned out, and we’re left with this inevitable trend of a bunch of talented tags showing up, killing time, milling around and then breaking up before anything can matter. Then they tag up two singles guys as an “uneasy alliance” and they win the titles, and we repeatedly insist that tag guys are lesser than the impromptu tagging of any two talented singles wrestlers. It’s stupid and insulting, but in a lazy way we’ve all kinda come to accept. Trios wrestling is the shit, from Dragon Gate and Chikara’s King of Trios all the way up to WWE’s brief love affair with The Shield and 6-man tags. They’re the exciting and a little ADD and perfect for modern wrestling fans, and every smart promotion in the world knows it.
2. The Fam is an instant favorite for me (assuming that’s what they’re called, and Striker isn’t just calling them that because it sounds urban). Willie Mack is a license to print money as a guy who looks like the worst athlete in the world and then is SUPER FANTASTIC AT JUMPING AND FLIPPING AND LUCHA ARMDRAGS. “Kill Shot” is CZW’s Shane Strickland in a gimmick created solely to let Striker make gun puns, but at least he has an identity now beyond “the talented flipping young black guy who isn’t as notable or popular AR Fox or ACH or Rich Swann or Cedric Alexander.” And maybe Batman will show up and try to fight him.
Over: White Guy Karate Fight
I wrote about this a little when the El Rey folks sent over an exclusive clip of the match early last week, but episode 21 starts with a WHITE DUDE MARTIAL ARTS BRAWL and it’s exactly what the show (and these performers) need.
If you watch that clip, you’ll see Angelico and Johnny Mundo doing an updated (and much longer) version of the Low Ki/Amazing Red “Matrix Minute” from the olden days of Ring Of Honor. What that means is that instead of exchanging tie-ups and wristlocks and reversals to open the match, they approach it like a kung fu movie and throw these big, exaggerated strikes and moves with split-second dodges and counters. Striker doesn’t yell HOLY CROUCHING TIGER HIDDEN DRAGON WHAT IN THE SAM HELL WAS THAT like he probably should’ve, but it’s admittedly cool as hell and a breath of fresh air for a show that lives or dies on its lucha libre, but flourishes when it allows other styles of pro wrestling to show up and seamlessly mesh.
It’s what these guys need. Johnny Mundo has really been killing it lately because Lucha Underground understands his strengths, and plays to them while avoiding his weaknesses. In WWE, Mundo (then John Morrison) was asked to do his parkour stuff as a garnish but mostly fit into WWE’s mold of “babyface pro wrestler.” Realistic selling, emotive facial expressions and pacing have never, ever been Mundo’s strengths. He’s a living video game character. He looks like a jacked Jim Morrison and can flip 70 times before touching the ground, shouldn’t you be letting him bounce around and do crazy shit nonstop? It’s not what you normally want, but this guy is GREAT at it and not super great at the other stuff. Lucha understands that, and as a result, Mundo’s doing the best work of his career. He made a great decision by choosing this show over a return to WWE.
As for Angelico, man, there’s nobody on the show I dislike but want to like more. He’s extremely talented and charismatic in the ring, but he’s been awkwardly wedged into the awful Son Of Havoc/Ivelisse breakup stuff, so we haven’t gotten a chance to like or dislike him on his own merit. He’s just been a creeper accessory. Here, Angelico gets to remind us why we were so impressed with him in his Lucha Underground debut: he looks like a 2010 WWE developmental guy and wrestles like a damn lucha prince.
Great stuff to open up. I’m not watching Lucha Underground for the same reasons I’m watching WWE, and I’m glad they know it and are okay continuing to be not WWE. Wrestling’s great in a lot of different places for a lot of different reasons, and in a perfect world we’d have a dedicated, easily accessible TV show for all of them.
Over: Black Lotus Gets An Explanation
You know what’s great? A show that isn’t afraid to say, “hey, remember that thing that didn’t make a lot of sense? Here’s why it makes perfect sense.”
About a month ago, the Mysterious Asian Lady who’d been creeping around The Temple was revealed as “The Black Lotus,” and her mission was to find Dario Cueto’s cage monster and destroy him. She found him, got kidnapped in the back of somebody’s car and disappeared. We had no idea how much time had passed, or if Lucha Underground operated on some weird Dragon Ball time where some things happen in real-time and some things happen instantaneously over the course of five episodes. The show’s still fresh, so it really could be anything.
Here, in another of LU’s amazing origin video packages, we find out that The Black Lotus was stopped from killing the cage monster by El Dragon Azteca, a luchador who saw she was making a horrible mistake and snatched her from the jaws of assumed death at the last minute. He’s training her to properly challenge and defeat the cage monster by teaching her Mexican Lucha Libre, and it’s revealed that her motivation is to AVENGE THE DEATH OF HER PARENTS. It’s Chun Li, and Dario Cueto’s got M. Bison in his cage. Maybe Dario is M. Bison. That’d explain a lot. Imagine if season 2 begins with Dario dressed in a cape and that hat. You know you’d lose your mind.
Anyway, this is glorious and now they can keep her off TV as long as they want without it being weird. We also get another wise old (?) luchador character in the universe to match up with Blue Demon Jr. and Konnan, and the show’s ongoing emphasizing of the importance of mentor/mentee relationships continues. Five stars.
Under: Handsy Bathroom El Patron
In what turns out to be the weirdest segment of the night (on a show with a dragon wrestling an astronaut and a lady training to avenge the death of her parents at the hands of a cage monster), Johnny Mundo wanders into the bathroom and accidentally offends Alberto El Patron with a sarcastic comment. Alberto’s response is to get passive-agressively threatening but gets a little too into it, so what should be a simple condescending pat on the back turns into him basically spooning Johnny in the restroom. It’s SUPER WEIRD.
Like, at some point Mundo’s gotta interrupt the pulp dialogue to say “get the f*ck off of me, dude, Jesus.”
Over: Psychology Dragon
Up next is the fourth match in the Best-of-5 series between Aerostar (an astronaut, I think) and Drago (a reincarnated dragon man with a candy tongue). At first it seems like the softest match in the series, but that’s for two reasons.
Firstly, this is all about the psychology of the series. Drago is down 2-1 and if he loses this, it’s over. As a result, Drago notably avoids any big high-risk moves to the outside or big dives, because he doesn’t want to slip up and cost himself the match. Aero Star lives and dies by the high risk stuff, so Drago’s best strategy is to just play it safe, wait for Aero Star to crash and burn on something and take advantage. He does that, and pulls out the victory. The fact that the announce team eventually picks up on it but don’t totally understand his reasoning is great, because it allows us to figure it out for ourselves. We all kinda go, “oh, okay, that makes sense” at the same time.
Secondly, we’ve known since the Best-of-5 was announced that match 5 was the point. The four preceding matches are appetizers for the main course. What they do in match 5 will justify matches 1 through 4 and put them in a new context, as the wrestlers play upon their past experiences and lessons learned to wrestle the best, smartest match they can. Lucha Underground is never afraid to show their work, and I can’t wait to see what these guys have in store.
Over: Any Segment That Happens In Dario Cueto’s Office Ever
Dario Cueto gets two additional segments in his office involving the Trios Tournament, and his ability to pick and choose the teams with ulterior motives:
1. Telling Sexy Star that she’s being tossed into the tournament alongside two partners of his choosing: Super Fly, basically the worst guy on the roster without a broken shoulder, and Pentagon Jr., the guy who is breaking everybody’s shoulders. It’s a great next step in Cueto’s relationship with Sexy: he allowed her into the Temple as a novelty and expected her to vanish after the first few weeks, but she’s a bad motherf*cker and managed to stick around. So now he’s gotta put her into situations where he thinks she’ll get hurt and bail, and she’s gotta keep fighting and proving herself. He knows Pentagon isn’t going to play ball, and is basically counting on him to snap and injure his teammates. Because evil dudes think alike.
2. Telling Ivelisse, Son Of Havoc and Angelico that they’re disappointing and cramming them into a team together to make them work out their issues or fail because of them. Nobody on this team can deliver a line without sounding like a porn actor, which is made so much clearer by Dario’s legitimately great acting. I kinda want him to interact with them every week in a Mr. Kotter/Sweathogs situation until they get their shit together.
Over: The Trios Tournament Begins
So yeah, the first match in the tournament is Sexy Star, Pentagon Jr. and Super Fly against Big Ryck, Kill Shot and The Mack. Cueto’s not only putting Sexy Star in a highly combustible situation and expecting her to blow it up, he’s putting her in the ring against Big Ryck, a guy she’s developed a friendship with over the past few weeks. Cueto is a next level evil GM because instead of just mindlessly punishing tecnicos with handicap matches and “against all odds” stipulations, he just positions them against one another until most of them get destroyed and disappear. It’s brilliant.
The match goes as you might expect. Pentagon Jr. is in this for himself because CERO MIEDO and tries to wrestle The Fam by himself, so Sexy and Super Fly have to tag themselves in against his will. Eventually they start working together, but it’s out of necessity. Super Fly ends up taking the fall (as you’d expect), and Pentagon tries to break his shoulder, not because he’s a tecnico but because he briefly made Pentagon trust and work with a bunch of do-gooders. It’s an attempt at permanent injury because of disappointment, and that is such a relatable kind of evil. Sexy saves Super Fly at the last minute and signs her death warrant, and now the trajectory is set: the baddest man on the planet and Lucha Underground’s best rudo is going after its best, most progressive and important tecnico. It’s high stakes between two of the show’s biggest stars. That’s how you make people watch a wrestling show.
Aside from that, The Fam rules. Kill Shot wrestles like a luchador Randy Orton with his weird, exaggerated body movements (which Striker describes as “swerving in and out of offense and defense,” which almost makes sense). The Mack is the Bomb Dot ES, and I love that muscular giant Big Ryck’s cousin is this seemingly out-of-shape guy who can accomplish physical miracles.
What a lovely episode. I’m sorry my guts fell out and I missed it last week. Time for episode 22!