The Over/Under On Lucha Underground Episode 5: The Gatekeeper And The Keymaster

Pre-show notes:

– If you notice the episode number, this is (assuming you’re reading this on December 4) last week’s show, aired on 11/26. That was the night before Thanksgiving. We were off on Thanksgiving so I didn’t write it up, but I promised I’d double up this week. This just part one of our Lucha Underground recap for the day, so make sure you stick around for the 12/3/14 episode review, going up later today.

– Reminder: 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,” so that’s something to look forward to.

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Please click through for the Over/Under on Lucha Underground episode 5 from November 26, 2014.

Over: Lucha Underground Takes 4 Minutes To Accomplish What WWE Does In 30

Here’s what happens in the first four minutes of Lucha Underground.

They recap all the major stories from the previous week in the opening video package. After that, we jump backstage to Konnan having a conversation with Dario Cueto. It not only establishes who their characters are and how they interact with each other, but manages to make a main-event for the night and have it make sense for everyone. Konnan’s mad at Cueto for sending Cisco and Castro after Prince Puma backstage. Cueto says they don’t answer to him, they answer to Big Ryck. Konnan calls his bluff and asks Cueto to put Puma and Ryck in a street fight to settle things. Cueto reluctantly agrees. It’s great, and Konnan passive-aggressively drinking Cueto’s drink (and Cueto dumping the remainder in the garbage) is the cherry on top.

Boom, perfect, you’re in an out and you’ve recapped everything you need to know for the hour in four minutes. WWE takes 30 to say “you’re the bad guys, tonight you have to do embarrassing stuff.” It takes them four to say “Larry the Cable Guy is here.”

Over: Mil Muertes vs. Drago

Three observations:

1. Matt Striker really needs to stop using “seductive” as an adjective for everything a woman does. The fact that he pauses to say it in a seductive way makes it even worse. There’s the seductive, mysterious Catrina walking down those mysterious stairs, seductively. It’s Lucha Underground, guy, not Femme Fatale. If Catrina makes out with Ivelisse so she can secretly steal her jewelry, call her seductive.

2. I like what they’re doing with Mil Muertes. His sad secret is that he’s not great in the ring — see his standing powerslam that almost goes all the way around — but his character is next level. So, have him exist in the Lucha Underground universe as this larger than life THING that steps out of the darkness and steals your soul, but don’t ask him to get somebody else over. If you’ve got Galactus, you don’t give him a monthly and follow him panel-to-panel, you have him pop in and blow shit up when the shit goes down.

3. Maybe Catrina shouldn’t be licking the guy with the wobbly black slime-tongue?

Over: King Cuerno, Creeper

If you missed him on the previous episode, King Cuerno is a luchador hunter. Both definitions. He’s a luchador who is a hunter, and he’s also a guy who hunts luchadors. He comes to the ring wrapped in the carcass of a deer like he’s trying to survive a night on Hoth. He was defeated by Drago in his debut, so I guess now he’s gonna stalk him and pick at his bones.

He shows up mid-way through the Drago/Mil Muertes match, squatting on that extraneous temple platform. My only complaint is that he wasn’t wearing the deer head when he did it, and/or camouflaging himself with its body to try to make people think an actual deer had wandered up there.

Over: Son Of Havoc’s Continuing Feud Against The Marginalized

One of the most interesting stories happening on these early shows is Son Of Havoc, who keeps getting put into matches against marginalized peoples and LOSING, but thinking the matches themselves have been put together to embarrass him. He had to cheat to beat a woman, and then she beat him. This week he wrestles a mini and loses. Next week (spoiler alert for the next report) he wrestles an exótico and loses. The straight, uptight white guy excuse is that he shouldn’t have been in the matches at all, and never addresses the reason he keeps getting beaten: he’s being a dickhead and not taking his opponents seriously. If he’d stop screwing around and just wrestle matches he’d be doing a lot better.

I’m not going to assume that’s a secret mission statement of a wrestling show, but it’s an amazing message. “Bothered by people unlike yourself being treated as equals? Can’t stop complaining and trying to undermine them? Maybe you should just chill out and try being worth a damn yourself.”

Under: Striker, FFS

I’m using Striker specifically, but he and Vampiro have really fallen off a cliff. Their major problem is that they’re talking up the point of the match as it’s written on the sheet of paper in front of them, then letting their dippy male veteran thing seep in and get in the way. If a mini is wrestling Son of Havoc, they’ll get excited about how “this is Lucha Underground, the doors are open for anyone that wants to compete, big or small!” They’ll talk up Mascarita Sagrada’s legacy and how great he is, then in the NEXT BREATH get exasperated at Son of Havoc for fighting him.

Striker: “What does it tell you about Son of Havoc though, willing to beat up a little person, willing to beat up a woman, I mean eh”

I don’t know, Matt, maybe it tells me that he’s a wrestler in wrestling matches on the wrestling show built around the idea of little people and women being treated as equals? If he shows up in WWE as a Superstar or whatever and starts picking fights with Hornswoggle and Eva Marie, sure, give him grief for it. They have clear divisions between “men” and “everything else,” so crossing those lines might be a reason to condemn him. If Mascarita Sagrada signs up for the match, gets into the ring, wrestles well and wins the match, what’s Son of Havoc supposed to do? Lie down? It’s competition. You devalue the woman or mini or exótico by saying they belong, then very clearly saying they don’t.

Vampiro does it, too. He defends Sagrada against Striker’s complaints, pointing out that Son of Havoc isn’t that much taller. Then a few seconds later Havoc’s on offense, and Vampiro says, “brother, banging his head on the floor, I’m all for that, but hey man, do it to someone your own size, brother.” Pick a talking point and stick with it.

Having a woman and a little person near each other is the worst kind of trigger for Striker. When Sagrada tries to chase Ivelisse away, Striker’s comment is, “normally this is what I watch on the Internet, but not like this!” So everyone who isn’t a man is a character from a ridiculous porno? Get some f*cking perspective, you goon.

There’s also a really terrible moment where Sagrada dives through the ropes to take out Ivelisse, because she’s been cheating the entire match.

Striker: “Payback is an … Ivelisse!”
Vampiro: “Payback is a bbbbbBITCH!”

As bad as it is for the announce team to be straight-up calling Ivelisse a bitch, as bad as it is to make the tired “payback’s a bitch” joke, as bad as it is for Vampiro to not get the tired “payback’s a bitch” joke, the worst is Striker being upset that Vamp didn’t get it and having to thoroughly explain it. OH WELL YOU SEE WHAT I WAS TRYING TO SAY IS THAT IVELISSE IS THE BITCH, SO WHEN I SAID PAYBACK IS AN IVELISSE I WAS SYNONYMIZING THE TWO.

Yeah right, like Striker would ever use the word “synonymize.” He’d say “no homo” after it.

Over: Dario Cueto’s Carrying Around A Legend Of Zelda Key For Some Reason

He needs to unlock a door in this area!

Seriously though, I love the backstage telenovela scenes with my whole heart, and I double love that they can introduce something as ridiculous as Catrina revealing she knows about Dario Cueto’s keepsake key and make me go “OH MAN I WONDER WHAT THAT’S ALL ABOUT” instead of automatically assuming the worst. Theory: Cueto’s been keeping Matt Striker’s deformed twin brother Matt Stryker locked up in the attic.

Over: Sexy Star Is The Best

The next match is supposed to be Chavo Guerrero vs. Sexy Star (to see if she can finish the Guerrero Dynasty with THESE HANDS OF A TRUE QUEEN~), but it doesn’t go very long. Chavo continues to be the biggest a-hole in the world by forcing a kiss on her, which causes her to go NUCLEAR. She kicks his ass, grabs a chair and prepares to bludgeon him until he reverts back into Kerwin White. The referee tries to stop her, so she just boots the ref in the junk. She means business, and it’s amazing to see a woman on a wrestling show get the “she can also KICK ASS” talking point actually also kicking ass.

Over: Chavo And Pentagon, Jerk Juniors

Here’s another thing Lucha Underground’s doing brilliantly: they’re allowing allegiances to form based on character traits, instead of just lumping a bunch of guys together and saying “we’re a team now.” Big Ryck has Cortez Castro and Cisco, and Konnan’s conversation with Dario Cueto establishes that they’re his dedicated goons. There’s a hierarchy to it. Johnny Mundo and Prince Puma are uneasy friends because of a mutual respect and a common enemy. The best is Pentagon Jr., a man who the previous week said he’d come to the United States to make a name for himself because “nobody in Mexico” respects him, showing up to side with Chavo Guerrero, a man Mexico suddenly despises for what he’s done to their heroes. It’s such a perfect pairing. Two jerky, self-destructive Juniors (both in weight class and name) who don’t have any friends or admirers, so they might as well help each other out.

Also great: FENIX. Fenix is my jam. Pentagon and Chavo are going to attack Sexy Star with the chair she brought in, so Fenix shows up and helps her fight them off. We haven’t learned a lot about Fenix beyond “HE FLIPS ALL CRAZY,” and now we know he’s a stand-up kinda guy who doesn’t appreciate lucha libre’s biggest buttholes ganging up 2-on-1 on one of the good guys.

Two complaints, though:

Under: The Way Melissa Santos Says Things

Her “the following HLOOCHAAA” thing is a little much, but my major complaint is how she says certain wrestlers’ names. There’s a value to making your ring announcer a person who actually watches and understands wrestling. I know you think “model/actress” is the way to go, but the announcer’s job should be to clearly convey to the audience who they’re about to watch with specific attention paid to inflection and tone. Listen to how she says “Sexy Star.” Sex-eeeeeeEEEEEEEEE, STAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHH! It doesn’t sound like she’s introducing a bad-ass luchadora, it’s that voice little kids use when they say “oooooOOOh, somebody’s got a CRUSH on yoOOOooouuu!”

You should never be able to hear “coming to the stage” in your brain before your wrestlers’ names.

Under: Four Matches And They’re All The Same Formula

All of the matches on the show were interesting and fun, but they were the same. Mil Muertes vs. Drago was a big strong guy against a little fast guy. Son of Havoc vs. Mascarita Sagrada was a big guy against a little guy. Chavo vs. Sexy Star while it lasted was about how Chavo was big and strong, and Sexy would have to use her quickness if she wanted to win. The main event is Big Ryck vs. Prince Puma, which is the biggest and strongest guy on the show against the fastest and flippiest (and smaller) guy.

At the risk of quoting Prince Puma in a parallel world, you’ve gotta shake it up.

Over: Street Fight!

Aside from Striker once again doing the Alex Riley Memorial Compare The Black Guy To Other Famous Black Guys thing with Big Ryck (this week: Mo Vaughn and Michael Dokes), the main event was great. I really appreciated wrestlers approaching a street fight logically. If anything goes and you run with two cronies who do your bidding, why wouldn’t they just come to the ring with you, stand beside you and fight the entire time? If your friend’s getting beaten up to an excessive degree, why not run down and help him? The unspoken truth of a pro wrestling street fight is that it should almost always end in a gang war. Anything goes. Why wouldn’t it?

I’m excited to see Big Ryck being an actual, valuable wrestler on a wrestling show. For the longest time he was just the bigger, darker-skinned David Otunga in The Corre. He just did bodyslams and somehow won the Intercontinental title. His shirt made him look like a Hostess cake. Now he’s got a real character, is participating in real (and good) main events on a weekly basis and playing one of the most important roles on the show — the massive, threatening tough guy who doesn’t have a lot of skill, but can beat almost anyone by standing near them. He’s the Ray Jackson of Lucha Underground. You can karate kick him all you want, eventually he’s gonna headbutt you and throw you off the stage.

I also really liked how Prince Puma kept making comebacks based on his skill, but also on luck. The timing just worked out. When he was able to separate the gang and take them out one at a time (sometimes with the help of weapons they introduced) he could hang. He was able to do this enough to almost win, too, but Big Ryck doesn’t give a good god damn about being hit with a kendo stick, so that was that. They hang him upside down from a ladder and prepare to JOHN CENA him, and that’s when someone’s SPIDER SENSE TINGLES~.

Over: John Mundo

Look, I’ve spent years explaining why I don’t like John Morrison. Lucha Underground has given me one sentence to explain why I love him now: dude JUMPED OFF A BALCONY and TUCKED AND ROLLED into the ropes to karate fight a barrio gang and its big boss. That is the most ‘Streets Of Rage’ pro wrestling’s been in my lifetime, and I’m not gonna look a gift horse in the mouth. Or throw a gift horse off a balcony.

The finish — Mundo trying to hit Big Ryck with a chair and accidentally hitting Puma — couldn’t have been more choreographed. Mr. Shoe from ‘Glee’ couldn’t have choreographed it worse. But hey, it accomplishes what it needs to accomplish. It gave Prince Puma an unexpected way to lose the match after spending 15 minutes fighting off three guys by himself, furthered the WILL THEY OR WON’T THEY drama between Puma and Mundo and (I’m assuming, because I’m writing this a week late) sets up a Puma/Mundo/Ryck triple threat.

Even the stuff that doesn’t work for me ends up working for me. That’s the value of Lucha Underground. Now, if only we could get Mil Muertes to notice Matt Striker …