– Apologies for missing last week’s report, which I’ve included here. I’ll try not to mess up the scheduling again, and I’m sorry for the inconvenience.
– 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 episodes 18 and 19 from March 11 and March 18, 2015.
Over: Cero Goddamn Miedo
Episode 18 begins with the best wrestler in the world (Pentagon Jr.) vs. the Jan Brady to Mistico’s Marcia, Argenis. It’s a better opponent than usual for Pentagon after weeks of Famous B and Ricky Mandel and Ashley Massaro’s deadbeat dad, so the announcers play it up as a more evenly-matched affair. What they are forgetting is that this is motherf*cking Pentagon Jr.
Pentagon’s such a great character because he’s seen the most growth from the early episodes. Guys like Fenix and Prince Puma have interesting stories and are fun to watch, but they’re relatively unchanged. Same with Sexy Star. Some interesting characters from the early episodes like Chavo Guerrero and El Mariachi Loco (grr) aren’t on TV. But here’s Pentagon Jr., a guy who was originally the Teddy to Chavo’s Bob Belcher and brought in as “the third most interesting luchador in a triple threat,” suddenly booked like a tank and CRUSHING people. He’s breaking arms and causing chest reconstruction surgery in praise of an unseen dark master, and if there is a better television character than pissed-off skeleton ninja I’d like to see it.
I hope Lucha Underground sits on who Pentagon’s related to and eventually makes a big deal about it. If you don’t know (or they’ve mentioned it and one or both of us didn’t notice), don’t spoil it for yourself.
Over: The Most Ridiculous (And Greatest) Way To Finish A Feud Ever
To recap for those who haven’t been following along, Mil Muertes was once a kid trapped under earthquake rubble forced to watch his family die one by one until he found comfort in death itself, and rose from the grave (so to speak) as its personification. He “kills” people in some vague lucha libre way that is AWESOME. He’s accompanied by Catrina, a woman of indeterminate origins who might be a normal lady but also might be a teleporting ghost? Lately he’s been beefing with Fenix, a man with 1,000 lives. For real. He can die over 999 times. It helps him in the ring sometimes because it explains why he can take the most punishment ever and come back from it. He’s not invulnerable, that symbol in the middle of the ring’s just his respawn point.
Muertes hates Fenix because he can’t kill him. Muertes’ girlfriend (?) who transfers the dead essences of his opponents through body sweat via the tongue (??) has taken a liking to Fenix, because I guess when you’re having problems with the Death Guy you make him jealous by f*cking Life. Anyway, Muertes won’t stop trying to eat away at Fenix’s 1000 lives, so to stop him, Fenix must put Mil Muertes in a coffin and literally bury him in the ground.
This is why Lucha Underground is a show you should watch.
Under: This Garbage
Over: The Lucha Underground Editing Team
As I mentioned before, I attended this set of tapings live. The first thing taped was Johnny Mundo vs. King Cuerno in a cage, which we’ll get to in a moment. I walked into the Temple and there was a cage, and on one of the posts was Cuerno’s deer head hat. I’d made it to this special place in my wrestling fandom; The Temple, along with the NXT Full Sail Arena, are places where most of the bullshit that bothers me about tired, popular TV wrestling doesn’t matter, and where the things I DO love — logic, athleticism, creativity and progress — shine.
Then, about halfway through the taping, this match happened.
I have to give some love to the El Rey/Lucha Underground editing team, because they made it look pretty good. The version you see on TV still has some problems, but if I’d seen this version live I would’ve just went, “oh, that sucks, whatever, maybe the dragon and the astronaut will show up next.” The version I saw live was … not this. I had no idea actual wrestling moves occurred in the match until I watched this version. On TV, the story is that Ivelisse is a boisterous, awful heel getting in over her head because her ego’s gone unchecked, simultaneously (and unfairly) expecting her boyfriend to cheat for her and leave her alone. Angelico’s in a weird position because he doesn’t want to hit a girl, but he’s also kind of an insulting creeper. Son Of Havoc’s just trying to help but has no idea what to do, and he’s bothered by everything because he’s got no confidence.
In person, the atmosphere was cruel. It was a sexual novelty. On TV Angelico goes for a few sexually aggressive pins, but the original version was TONS of this. Instead of pulling her in for a second and going “whoops, her butt touched me,” he pulls her in and pantomimes buttf*cking her. When she’s on the ground he doesn’t just get happy because she’s sitting on him, he knocks her unconscious, crawls between her legs, throws her legs up on his shoulders and pretends to f*ck her. It was awful. The worst part is that stuff like this can work in wrestling in the proper context; see Edge pinning Beaulah like that to piss off Tommy Dreamer because he’s supposed to be the worst person in the world. Angelico’s not that. He’s the fan favorite here, or the closest thing there is to one. The crowd chants for him to hit the bitch, and after the match chant “no means no” and laugh to themselves. On top of that, none of the character motivations made sense, Angelico’s especially. He doesn’t want to hit her, he just wants to … incapacitate her long enough to molest her? He’s nervous and apprehensive when he accidentally kicks her, as if avoiding doing wrestling moves to your opponent in a wrestling match is “chivalrous” because she’s a woman and you’ve assumed you’re gonna kill her if you touch her. It’s the kind of thing Matt Striker would think is chivalrous, but actually f*cks with a lot of progressive stuff you’re doing on other parts of the show. Wrestlers are just wrestlers and there are no lines drawn unless we’ve got this weird boyfriend/girlfriend breakup story to tell, and then it’s back to zero.
Part of the problem I had with last week’s episode is that I didn’t want to revisit this. It’s not the end of the world. It’s just a bad wrestling match with some regressive shit in it. We see that all the time. The problem I had then and the problem I accidentally had last week is that it happened here. In this place. On this show. In the happy place.
If you don’t agree with me, I probably sound like a selfish pussy or whatever and that’s fine. You’re probably already down in the comments section telling me to wipe the sand out of my vagina, or whatever South Park quote from 15 years ago you still use. Again, that’s fine. But the thing I’ve always loved about Lucha Underground is that the mission statement of the show was stronger than anything that contradicted it. This was a place where people are people and wrestlers are equals, in as much as they can be when they step into a ring. Some are good or bad or better or worse, but it never felt like a gross indie show. It never felt like I was sitting alongside a bunch of guys cheering and pumping their fists because a lady just got punched in the face and they’re getting a chance to do it vicariously through the performers without any consequences. It’s wrestling, I know. It’s just the version of wrestling I’m ashamed of, and wish could stop existing on the shows I choose to watch expecting something else.
Anyway, that’s my point of view. It made me feel terrible, and I’m a loud crybaby so it is what it is. The good news is that the followup match did a lot of damage control for the characters and feud, and the edit job maintained enough to move it forward without throwing the entire thing under a bus. Lucha Underground’s going to fail from time to time. If we want it to be around forever — and most of us do — they’re going to f*ck up and do stuff we hate, and destroy their own good will and hard work. It’s the nature of creativity. I’ve written a ton of stuff I’m not proud of and have grown up from because creating is a process, and sometimes what you write on paper doesn’t come across like you’d like. The fact that the people involved in the show care enough to pay attention to that instead of saying “screw the haters” is the reason I’m still watching, and the reason I enjoyed every other second of my time in that building.
I am going to continue fighting for this precious thing, even if I sound like a dumb idiot doing it.
Over: HERE IS A CAGE MATCH
Hey look, if I write these reports late it gives El Rey enough time to upload full matches to YouTube. Here’s Johnny Mundo vs. King Cuerno in a cage in its entirety, and you should absolutely watch it.
As I said, this was the first match taped on the first set of tapings. I think it made everyone else work a little harder. I said it when the finish happened, but the only reason Johnny Mundo won is because the nature of a cage match takes away King Cuerno’s greatest weapon: his ability to fly through and over the ropes. He does that better than anyone in wrestling. If you put a damn wall of mesh fencing between the ropes and the floor, how’s the dude supposed to fire an ARROW FROM THE DEPTHS OF HELL?
The most totally understandable but frustrating thing about being the kind of wrestling fan I am is that my favorites tend to be the crazy mid-carders who are there to put over the popular stars. Like, I’d rather cheer for King Cuerno than Johnny Mundo, even though my natural instinct is to boo the heels and cheer the faces. Wrestling shows are more fun if you play along and let the performers do their jobs, but damn, sometimes guys are just too good to boo. How am I supposed to boo King Cuerno? He’s a cowboy luchador hunting enthusiast who taxidermied an entire deer for hat and cape purposes. And I’m supposed to cheer the parkour guy?
Mundo has found the perfect mixture of pro wrestling and jumping off stuff. I wish King Cuerno was my dad. So yeah, good stuff.
Over: Crash To Stroud
Man, Clark Duke’s really let himself go.
Over: Aero Star Vs. Drago Part The Third
The opening of episode 19 is match 3 in the probably-gonna-go-7-wink-wink Best Of 7 Series between Drago and Aero Star. Attending sets of tapings that air way after shows you haven’t seen yet is weird. Melissa Santos was like “THIS IS MATCH 3 OF A BEST OF 7” and my brain went whooooshhh. Also weird: none of the entrance music you hear is live. It’s all piped in in post. So you’ve got these guys coming down and posing all big to nothing and it’s unnerving, but oddly reminiscent of old timey, pre-Freebirds wrestling.
Anyway, I saw this one before I saw match 2 in the series, but this one is much, much better. Vampiro points out the reason he likes Aero Star, and it’s the same reason I have: he always brings one or two new things to a match, so even when you’re expecting his signature moveset there’s a chance he’ll change it up and make it more dangerous. This is the crazy nut that jumped off the lighting rig at Rey de Reyes, after all. In this match he does his always frightening blind cannonball to the outside, does a Tree Of Woe double-stomp on the apron and walks across an entire top rope to super rana Drago.
Astronaut is the man. I like him more than Dragon, but only a little. If this doesn’t go to 7 I’m gonna be mad.
Over: Konnan Is Playing Literal And Figurative Chess
The “Konnan’s going to get revenge and kill you for real” videos have evolved from him standing in a rainstorm and looking mad to beating guys’ asses in a rainstorm and playing chess in the park with Prince Puma. Puma is predictably bad at chess and gives up almost immediately because Konnan is a tactical genius and he’s a mute purebred horse. These supplementary vignettes continue to be the best thing about Lucha Underground, and I don’t think they could make one melodramatic enough for me. If Konnan like, discovers his evil twin and gets shot by his mistress maid I will get all excited and blog about it.
Over: VENGEANCE RYCK
There’s a way to do handicap matches and make them work, and it’s called (drumroll please) context.
On Raw, you get this endless string of handicap matches where Roman Reigns and John Cena have to team up against 3-80 members of The Authority, and they almost always win with the outnumbered team winning. WWE believes “overcoming the odds” is enough to substantiate the story and justify anything that happens, because it makes the good guys look good for a second. The problem is that it also devalues the heels, because they’re supposed to be your TOP HEELS. If Randy Orton and Seth Rollins and Kane can’t beat two guys, even with some crazy circumstances surrounding it, how can they beat anybody? A babyface winning a handicap match should be rare as hell, especially if you’re treating handicap matches like punishment.
On Lucha Underground they managed to construct a perfectly logical handicap match with a babyface victory. How? Because context. They established characters, explained their strengths and weaknesses and then put them in a story that honored them.
The story here is that Big Ryck, an extremely large, extremely strong and giant man, wants revenge on his old subordinates, The Crew. They’re a trio of Varrios Los Aztecas members who have proven that they’re weak and spineless as individuals, but ruthless and deadly as a team. The match is anything goes, so they take an early advantage on Ryck by ganging up on him (as a team) and setting up these randomly occurring hardcore spots to try to take him out. They grab kendo sticks, set up chairs in the ropes, whatever. It works, too, until Ryck’s able to build a little momentum and eliminate one of them. That’s when it all falls apart.
Down a man, The Crew doesn’t know what to do and becomes hapless. Ryck’s able to utilize all the weapons in the ring because The Crew put them there, and soon it’s down to Ryck and Mr. Cisco. Because spineless cowards, Cisco decides he’s gonna … uh, bail.
When he gets to the top of the steps, he runs into the OTHER massive tecnico The Crew’s messed with.
She elbows him in the face, tosses him down a flight of stairs and tells him to go f*ck himself. Ryck appreciates the assist, puts out Cisco’s eye with a punch and spinebusters him on an open chair to win the match. Through a simple act of respect and mutual admiration, Sexy Star and Ryck are booked as and treated as equals, even though they’re clearly very different wrestlers of size, strength and sex. Guess what, goobers? If you book a woman to look strong, people buy her as strong. If you book a reincarnated dragon to exist, people buy a reincarnated dragon. We’re along for the ride. Be (and remain) brave enough to do the shit nobody else is doing.
Over: GRAVE CONSEQUENCES
Okay, so, the Fenix vs. Mil Muertes casket match begins with a Dia de los Muertes-style funeral procession bringing the casket to ringside and setting up flowers. It’s spooky and awesome and the announcers actually provide great context for what it’s all about, so I appreciate that.
During this introduction and the early portion of the match, the Lucha Underground announce team reaches their perfect forms. First, here’s Vampiro commenting on vampire cults, because dot dot dot question mark.
“Let me tell you something, man, being involved in vampire cults all my life, this is something that messes with your psyche. You go on the dark side and you are not okay.”
Uh, that explains the time he lit Sting on fire and threw him off a giant screen, I guess.
Striker, on the other hand, simply nails the most Matt Striker line ever:
“There you see the ominous sight of the funerary box, the coffin if you will.”
“The coffin, if you will.” Yeah Matt, we usually call it a funerary box except in some weird rural parts of the country where people call it a coffin. Even though they’re like UP NEXT IS A COFFIN MATCH and Melissa’s all, “to win the CASKET MATCH you have to put your opponent in the CASKET and close the LID OF THE CASKET until they cannot push up the CASKET LID.” But no, funerary box. A dozen extra words and funerary box.
Over: Grave F*cking Consequences
Find this. Watch this. I don’t care how you do it. I don’t care if you have to fly to New York and find somebody selling Lucha Underground episode bootlegs in the subway, fly your ass to New York and give him your money.
I could not be more honored to have been live in the crowd for this match, because it’s one of the best matches I’ve ever seen. It’s easily my choice for match of the year so far in 2015, and the best pro wrestling match I’ve seen period since at least Zayn/Neville at NXT R-Evolution. I can’t praise it enough. But, uh, here’s me trying.
Here’s what the match accomplished that no other match in recent memory has: ambiance.
That sounds like a weak-ass compliment, but it isn’t. From the moment those skeleton-faced folks walked an airbrushed casket to the ring, we knew we were in for something special. Mil Muertes starts the match by diving to the outside, and the story is set: one of these men is going to die. And by “die” I mean f*cking die. This isn’t 1990s WCW Cruiserweight storytelling. This is classic lucha libre pathos. Blood and guts, life and death. Justice. Revenge. All the things that make an El Rey Network guy go yeeeesssss.
Mil makes it violently personal early on by ripping Fenix’s mask. Lucha libre’s got a great way of making you feel like a guy’s face is being ripped off when his mask is torn. That’s your physical identifier for the performer, and when the mask gets torn that’s gone. It’s its own little version of death. A character being erased. They fight throughout the ENTIRE BUILDING and take everything apart as they go. Fenix gets powerbombed on the announce table, beaten with giant metal pieces of the ring, smashed in the face with the coffin and almost suplexed off the damn balcony onto the fans and chairs below. Mil is viscerally vicious, biting at Fenix’s wounds and SPITTING OUT CHUNKS OF HIS FACE. This isn’t a wrestling match. This is a super hero and a super villain fighting to the death, where acts of cannibalism are transitional moves. The danger feels real because it IS real. The action seems in your face because if you’re in that building, they’re walking up to you and beating the blood out of each other IN YOUR FACE. That’s me fleeing in terror in the second picture because Mil’s about to throw my chair at Fenix. I stood for the rest of the match because my seat was covered in the man’s blood, and also because holy shit, this match.
There are so many stories happening, and they all matter. The balance of life and death is illustrated in every turn, from the timing of the comebacks to Fenix thriving in the ring and Mil thriving outside of it. The ring is life. THEY BOOKED A WRESTLING MATCH WHERE THE RING IS LIFE. I don’t have a caps lock strong enough to type that. When you leave the ring, you die. There’s a reason the finish happens on the apron, and Mil gets double-stomped into the casket and taken away. It’s an illustration of loss in pro wrestling, and loss in life. It’s all one big glorious f*cking pro graps metaphor and I want to write a 10,000 page tome about this thing.
When it was over, my hands were shaking. I’d been thrilled by a wrestling match, sure, but I was overcome with emotions I didn’t expect. Worry, because I was watching a guy I like being killed in front of me, kinda-sorta for real. Adrenaline, because they were jumping off railings in front of me and bleeding on my seat. Relief when the comebacks landed. Confusion. Admiration. Sorrow when it was over, and gratitude that it’d happened. I couldn’t wait to tell people what I’d just seen. I saw a bird guy fight a dead guy in pinstriped blue pants over a ghost girl and their magical rock until one of them got put in an airbrushed box and it made me forget everything else. It was being little again. Caring and not thinking and just going with it.
It can still happen.
So yeah, watch this match. It’s the first indisputable Lucha Underground classic. I’m going to go watch it again.