– 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. Also, make sure you’ve read Ari Vives’ love letter to Lucha Underground, because she’s got a different, essential perspective on why the show’s worthwhile.
– 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 8 from December 17, 2014.
Over: A Unique Opportunity
One of the best parts of this week’s episode — and trust me, there are a lot — is how self-contained it is. It starts with two 10-person matches, one a one-fall-to-the-finish scramble and the other a battle royal, with the winners of each meeting for an (air quotes) “unique opportunity.” The premise is introduced, 40 minutes of wrestling happens and Dario Cueto actually pays it off with a reveal that matters. Huh!
The first match is the scramble, and it’s BONKERS. It’s essentially Big Ryck in the ring with nine high-flying luchadors who’re all dialed up to 11. The best part is that we know all nine, and they’re characters that exist and have their own things going on on the show. They don’t fill the ring with bodies, they fill it with people we can recognize, remember and react to. Everyone seems important, even if they aren’t. Fenix and Prince Puma are obviously the big babyface stars, but guys like Pentagon Jr. and Drago are there too, and have their rivalry focused on. Secondary characters like Son Of Havoc get to shine, and Mascarita Sagrada looks like a million bucks throwing helicopter hurricanranas and doing clapping push-ups so he can get a pump before attacking Big Ryck. The announce team goes a little far — Striker refers to Sagrada as a “marshmallow” on multiple occasions — but everybody’s going lucha-balls-out and you barely notice.
I’ve read a lot of complaints about Lucha Underground not having “psychology,” and it’s important to remember that lucha libre is its own thing. North American wrestling as we know it (the kind that got popular in the 80s and 90s) is based on what worked in the territories … these occasionally gritty, “real” athletes telling a story about pain and triumph, augmented by larger-than-life personalities to make it seem bigger than life. In lucha libre, the “bigger than life” is established before the matches happen. Luchadors and luchadoras are seen as comic book heroes battling somewhere slightly above us, and their stories aren’t told in working the fingers and remembering your ankle’s hurt 35 minutes in. They’re Spider-Man and Doctor Octopus. One’s got crazy metal arms and breaks everything, and the other looks like he’s gonna get buried under a train, but doesn’t. They rise up, and their actions are Super Real. It’s apples to oranges, and yeah, we’re used to apples, but if you want a true alternative, eat the orange. It’s different, but it’s just as good.
So yeah, the opening match is just 9 dudes doing every bouncing leaping thing they can do and Big Ryck anchoring it. It’s phenomenal, and I just stopped writing so I could go back and watch it again. I wish that happened more often.
Over: Fenix > Puma
Here’s something else I love about Lucha Underground: the subversion of expectation.
Prince Puma’s in the match and he’s obviously one of the big Protagonist characters, so you’d expect him to win, or get cheated out of a win. Neither happens. He ends up going toe-to-toe with Fenix, and Fenix bests him. Counters him, tornado DDTs him out of the corner and hits a big sit-out piledriver (Bigelow style) to put him away. They cut right to the announce team going “WHUH HUH WOOOOWW” and that kinda says it all. Fenix is my jam, and seeing a guy who a few weeks ago was One Of Three get a big, clean win over the golden boy — literally and figuratively golden — was great.
Over: He’s Back!
The opening match also featured the return of my very favorite Lucha Underground character, EL MARIACHI LOCO~. He appeared in episode 3 with my favorite backstory, which is crazy considering Lucha Underground includes death personified and a reincarnated dragon: Dario Cueto found him at his favorite Mexican restaurant, and not only does he play a mean trumpet, he is also crazy. I love it.
I’m sad we didn’t get more promo time for him to establish his “if I win, maybe I’ll play a song for you” gag, but if he’s back, maybe he’ll be a regular. El Mariachi Loco as Lucha Underground’s Heath Slater is a thing I need in my life. I want to be there live when he finally wins, sits down to play a song on the trumpet, then changes his mind.
Over: Lucha Underground Preserves WWE’s ‘Guys Who Are Good At Battle Royals Never Win Battle Royals’ Trope
Match two is a battle royal, and regular readers of anything I’ve ever written know I’m a battle royal mark. The best part for me was that it included Johnny Mundo, formerly one of WWE’s two “guys who are good at battle royals” alongside Kofi Kingston, and they kept with the trope. You see, being called “good at battle royals” and having a series of signature moments where you’re almost eliminated but save yourself means you NEVER WIN BATTLE ROYALS. You’re always almost being eliminated, because that’s what you’re good at. Can you remember John Morrison or Kofi Kingston ever eliminating anybody from a Royal Rumble? Probably not, but I bet you can remember Morrison jumping from the apron to the ringside barricade, or Kofi using an announcer’s chair like a pogo stick.
Johnny Mundo spends 90% of the match dangling from the ropes and showing off, and it gets him to the final two. He’s here for fame, though, so instead of simply tossing his opponent out when he has the chance, he goes for The End Of The World (aka Starship Pain) and gets caught. Mil Muertes gets his knees up, then just beefs up and clotheslines Mundo over the top. This is how fun and easy wrestling booking can be: if you establish who the characters are and their motivations, a lot of matches write themselves. Of course Mundo showed off instead of closing the deal, and of course it cost him.
Over: Using Multi-Person Matches To Tell Individual Stories
Speaking of that, the battle royal had a lot of the same good stuff as the opening 10-man. We recognize all the characters (although there are a few past Mil Muertes victims tossed in as filler) and they maintain their mission statements. The Crew wants to eliminate Johnny Mundo, but they’re kinda inept and don’t have Big Ryck backing them up, so they fail. Sexy Star is obsessed with revenge on Chavo Guerrero, so she attacks him outside the ring before the bell and lets her overzealousness cost her. She should know she’s not powerful enough to stand toe-to-toe with him but does anyway, and his experience (and sliminess) eventually allow him to get the upper hand and toss her out. Everything makes sense. Everything on this show makes sense, and I’m still excited to see it happen.
We also get a few moments of Mil Muertes vs. Pimpinela Escarlata, and that’s a feud I want more of. I want Catrina to lick Pimpi, and for Pimpi to lick back.
Over: Eyeball Continuity And The Lucha Underground Championship
Once the preliminary matches are over and we have two individual winners, Dario Cueto shows up and reveals the LUCHA UNDERGROUND CHAMPIONSHIP. I’m typing that in capital letters because the gold in the belt comes from each of the 7 Aztec tribes, and that is so dramatic. When was the last time you heard of a belt physically mattering outside of what it means socially? The Million Dollar Belt back in the 80s? Winning the Lucha Underground Championship isn’t winning a belt, it’s winning a damn priceless artifact.
I also love that Cueto has a black eye from last week when Johnny Mundo punched him, and that it’s sorta color-appropriate for the amount of time that’s passed. Cueto wearing sunglasses that barely cover it the entire show is also a nice touch. I also really, really adore that he pronounces “ancient” as “an-see-ent.”
Over: Fenix Vs. Mil Muertes, Or
Over: Danny Trejo Should Be At Every Show
The big announcement and (air quotes) “unique opportunity” is that the winner of Fenix vs. Mil Muertes will enter last in AZTEC WARFARE, a 20-person match to determine the first Lucha Underground Champion. I haven’t read any spoilers so I can only speculate, but if 20 people are involved and there’s an order of entry, I can only assume it’s a gauntlet match or some kind of Royal Rumble. The loser of the match gets the (air quotes) “unique opportunity” of entering the match first.
Mil Muertes wins, of course, because he has to. You’ve got this big unstoppable undefeated rudo, you HAVE to have him enter last. That’s the only way to create true drama for your technicos. Muertes entering first and getting beaten 10 guys in when he’s blown up isn’t dramatic. The best part is that Fenix hangs with him and almost beats him a few times, which shows that Lucha Underground’s paying attention to the talent they bring in and knows they should be getting the maximum worth out of everyone on the show. If Cesaro wrestles Cena, he should at least get to kick his ass a little before losing, right?
Under: Hashtag Lick Of Death
Dear Matt Striker,
Hey, you weren’t as bad as usual on this episode! You should probably stop writing 100 hilarious short jokes on a piece of paper and reading them all in a row during Mascarita Sagrada matches, but you did all right. You didn’t actively ruin the experience for me. That said, hey, can you not chuckle about HASHTAG LICK OF DEATH during the Mil Muertes post-match stuff? Sure, I’m on your side, I would be into Catrina licking my face too, real talk, but you cannot say the word “hashtag” before things. Ever. Your smug levels cancel out your ability to be ironic and you’re just making everything really uncool.
Tell Vampiro I said hi, brother.
P.S. Do you know El Mariachi Loco?
Over: Dario Cueto’s Cage Monster
The end of the show is the only dramatic backstage segment of the episode, but they make it count. Cueto wanders into a dark room with his title belt and explains it to someone he’s keeping in a cage. It’s the next step in the mystery of his Key Necklace, and I am all-in if dude’s keeping Blanka under his lucha libre temple. The only clue we get is an American flag on the wall behind the cage bars. I’m open to any non-spoiler-laden fantasy booking, especially ones involving a Spanish businessman kidnapping Kurt Angle and hiding him in an urban Los Angeles basement.