– Welcome back! Let’s not try to have Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve on consecutive Wednesdays again, okay?
– 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.
– 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 9 from January 7, 2015.
Over: Every Story Being Connected In One Match
This week’s episode is one long match: “Aztec Warfare,” a concept created by Evil Key-weilding Promoter Dario Cueto. It’s basically a Royal Rumble, but eliminations come from pinfalls or submissions and it’s no-DQ, so anything goes. It’s great and the hour goes by swiftly, but it does make my job as a multi-page recapper a little more difficult. No backstage stuff to write about, no cool origin vignettes, just a big match.
The good news is that the big match is EVERYTHING. It’s all the Lucha Underground stories we can recall off the tops of our heads — Johnny Mundo and Puma’s beef with Dario Cueto and The Crew, King Cuerno hunting Drago, Sexy Star trying to destroy the Guerrero legacy with THESE HANDS OF A TRUE QUEEN, etc. — all laced together. There are a few stragglers (like Ricky Mandel, who is still here for no reason), but they work as placeholder bodies and keep everything glued together. It’s lovely. Plus we get to see a lot of new relationships formed, like Big Ryck squaring off with Mil Muertes in the battle of the OH SHIT Guys and King Cuerno constantly hanging back, trying to form — then immediately destroy — relationships with everyone.
If you’re a wrestling promotion without pay-per-view and you need a big capper to more or less end your first season of everything, this is an excellent way to do it. Let’s break down some of the particulars:
Over: Passive-Aggressive Dario Cueto
On the previous episode, Mil Muertes and Fenix earned the (air quotes) “unique opportunity” to compete for a prime spot in Aztec Warfare. The winner would be the final entrant, and the loser would enter first. Fenix lost, so he trots out to be #1. Dario Cueto announces that via “random draw,” Johnny Mundo is #2. I can’t tell you how much I love this, not only for Cueto passive-aggressively putting the guy he hates the most in the worst position possible without any chance to defend himself or change it, but for putting Mundo at “number two” so he’d be synonymous with shit.
My biggest complaint about this episode is that there isn’t a second screen experience that allows me to watch Dario Cueto watch the match.
Over: AZTEC WARFARE DRUMMERS
My FAVORITE part of the episode is the AZTEC DRUMMERS who drum along a la Cleveland Indians drum guy John Adams for every entrance countdown. It’s such a wonderful touch for something called “Aztec Warfare” to have a bunch of randos in ceremonial costumes playing people in, and a great substitution for a giant screen with a clock on it. They start drumming, you know somebody new’s coming out. That’s awesome. One of my favorite things about Lucha Underground is that it doesn’t just cast a diverse group of wrestlers and claim “culture,” it brings their culture to the forefront.
Under: Please, Mr. Cisco Was My Fathers Name
Another thing I enjoyed is how some characters had obvious advantages, but the entrance order and timing of Aztec Warfare didn’t work out for them. The big one is Big Ryck, who has dominated most of his no-DQ matches thanks to help from “The Crew,” aka The Three Hunicos. Striker and Vampiro point out how dangerous it’d be if Ryck had three people helping him in an elimination match, especially in a promotion where there isn’t really a tag team scene and most of the other alliances (Puma/Mundo, Chavo/Pentagon) are tenuous at best. You expect it to be a point, but Puma and Mundo work hard to eliminate all three Crew members before Ryck can enter. It’s the only reason Ryck doesn’t win. When he’s entering, two of the Crew guys are there all, “aw shucks, sorry” and he just piefaces them out of his way.
Two notes, though:
1. Cisco is now “Mr. Cisco.” I don’t know if he’s always been Mr. Cisco or what, but that’s funny as hell to me for some reason. It makes him sound like he earned his gang name hooking up modems. “YOU BETTER WATCH YOUR BACK VATO, THAT’S MR. CISCO, HE’S DEADLY WITH A DPC3010 DOCSIS 3.0.”
2. Matt Striker gets about 7 minutes into the show before making me facepalm. For Cisco’s entrance: “This little cholo’s riding solo!” Matt. Dude.
It’s to the point where I have to point out how I’m not going to dwell on Striker’s bad commentary, but if you have the option to watch the Spanish language version on Saturdays, take it. He practically buries the Ryck/Mascarita Sagrada confrontation by once again trying to get over Sagrada as a “marshmallow,” goes into his SEDUCTIVE voice to call Ivelisse a bitch a hundred times during her five minutes in the ring and calls a headscissors takedown a “TOP ROPE RANA STEINER, CALL IT WHAT YOU WILL.” How about you call it what it is, and we learn what to call it from you? No?
Over: Chavo Guerrero, Master Strategist
As a reminder, one of the most magical aspects of Lucha Underground is how it’s changed Chavo Guerrero into one of the best characters in wrestling. This guy’s afraid Mexico’s on his ass for beating up Sexy Star and Blue Demon Jr., so he enters a no-disqualification elimination match with a steel chair and just hits people in the face until they’re gone. He eliminates like three people by just waiting for them to turn around and blasting them. It makes sense, doesn’t it? If you can do anything, why not skip the cartwheels and the casadoras and just squeeze their brain out through their ear with the hardest, flattest, metal surface you can find?
Chavo’s such a scumbag that he turns on the one guy who’s been helping him, Pentagon Jr., and eliminates him with a chairshot. You are ice cold, Chavo.
Over: Sexy Star, Y’all
If you don’t recognize that gear, it’s a tribute to the Carol Danvers version of Ms. Marvel. For everyone wondering, yes, this made me scribble “MR. SEXY STAR” in my notebook.
Over: BLUE DAY-MONG IS BACK, Or
Under: The Crowd When You Tape Everything At Once
Sexy Star’s role in Aztec Warfare is singular: to eliminate Chavo Guerrero at all costs. Whenever she’s whipping around and flipping Not Chavo, it’s in an effort to GET to Chavo. When he’s in her sights, she just kicks and punches him as many times as possible. Everybody on the show should have a purpose, and right now this is hers.
Chavo eliminates Fenix, the fan favorite who’d been in since #1, with a chair to the dome. It comes down to just Chavo and Sexy in the ring, and she starts ripping off her pads like a hockey player and challenges him to a fight and it’s amazing. She beats him down for a bit, but he catches her in mid-air and slams her onto the chair. That sends him up top for the Bad Chavo Guerrero Frog Splash to finish her off, but BLUE DEMON JR. returns and shoves him off. He distracts Chavo long enough for Sexy to recover, swing Chavo’s own chair at Chavo’s own face and eliminate him. That sends Sexy Star to the final four and reminds us that all of Chavo’s bad deeds will eventually be repaid. Your actions have consequences, at least in this promotion.
My only concern is that the heat for Demon’s return wasn’t what it should’ve been. That’s gotta be the result of taping so many shows at once, and not being able to fill your Temple with rabid fans who’ve been watching every week and want closure to these stories. It’s not Lucha Underground’s fault, really, as the season taping schedule they have set up is the most cost effective, but man, I’d love to see how hot the crowd would’ve been if they’d waited months for Chavo’s comeuppance and got it all in this one beautiful little moment.
Over: Big Ryck Vs. Mascarita Sagrada
This was my favorite continuation of a rivalry in Aztec Warfare, even if it isn’t really a rivalry.
Big Ryck and Mascarita Sagrada had a fun confrontation in the previous episode’s battle royal, and it gets revisited here. Mascarita doesn’t just comedy pump and hop around, he straight-up TAKES IT to Big Ryck, and it’s so good. This little guy’s pinballing around, getting the best of Ryck in every situation and making exaggerated COME ON AND FIGHT ME hands. Ryck eventually goes goes BLEARRGGGHHHH and dives into him with a clothesline and that’s that, but for a moment this was the only rivalry that mattered.
I also really loved how protected some of these guys are. Big Ryck only gets eliminated when the tecnicos team up to put him away. Mil Muertes almost single-handedly defeats Johnny Mundo and Prince Puma, but loses focus when Catrina accidentally gets kicked and basically has his Venom tubes pulled out. Everybody’s portrayed as important, even if they aren’t. Mr. Cisco isn’t winning, but his appearance is accompanied by an explanation of why he could. Rick Mandel is nobody, but when he enters the announce team puts him over as a good wrestler who could be a dark horse choice to win. That’s all you have to do, you know? Give everyone an aura of importance, then find ways to maintain it without making every match a non-finish. It’s not impossible.
Over: The Right Decision For Your First Champion
In the end, it comes down to Prince Puma and Johnny Mundo. That’s a direct callback to the main-event of the very first episode, and so is the action itself. Puma’s here with nothing but enthusiasm and God’s-given talent, and might be unintentionally doing Konnan’s dirty work. Mundo is here for fame and fortune, and wants attention more than he wants victories. The final moments of Aztec Warfare are the two “heroes,” flawed as they are, throwing bombs until one of them drops. Eventually Prince Puma’s able to hit a 630 senton for the win, and becomes the new (and first-ever) Lucha Underground World Champion.
A lot of promotions would’ve went the safer route and put the belt on Mundo, because he’s the most recognizable ex-WWE star. He’s the one that can get casual North American wrestling fans to tune in. “Oh hey, THIS is where John Morrison’s been. I liked that guy!” They could’ve put the belt on Big Ryck for something similar, and to reenforce the “evil GM controls everything” schtick. That’s what they went with in episode 1. Instead, they made the right decision: putting the belt on the young, crazy talented guy who in his other life has achieved worldwide success and hype, but hasn’t yet been picked up by the big leagues. Now when he does — and don’t get it twisted, he eventually will — Lucha Underground can say, “hey WWE fans, you like this cool new guy? He was our first champion. Right now our show’s got your NEXT favorite wrestler on it, so you should probably watch.”
In the context of the show, it could go anywhere. Mundo’s obviously going to want a one-on-one rematch, and Cueto’s probably never giving it to him. Konnan will be quick to celebrate Puma’s victory, but Puma hasn’t always blindly followed Konnan’s orders, so we might get some drama. Aztec Warfare managed to tie in literally every other story on the show, so any of them can be tied to Puma.
I’m excited to see where it goes, and happy there’s a wrestling show that lets me type that and mean it.