– In case you always skip the pre-show notes and still haven’t picked up on this … well, the show’s over. What’s wrong with you? Was almost 40 weeks of me saying THIS IS THE BEST WRESTLING SHOW ON TV, WATCH IT not clear enough? Do I need to put on a luchador mask and do a puppet show at your house? Come on.
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And now, the Over/Under on Lucha Underground Episode 38, aka ULTIMA LUCHA part two, from Aug. 5, 2015.
Under: Couldn’t Ian Hodgkinson Still Do This
For 38 episodes we’ve had Matt Striker and Vampiro in the announce booth. Things haven’t always gone smoothly. Most of the early episodes are Striker and Vamp trying to see who can pop the biggest boner, or Striker calling a casket a “funerary box” because he’s a specific kind of obnoxiously weird, and we could complain about it. After a while it all kind of evened out, and either they worked out all the kinks or we got used to it. Now Vampiro’s scheduled to face Pentagon Jr. in a PENTAGON JR WINS match, so the announce team changes. The one thing I fear most about the constantly-changing world of pro wrestling is change. It’s why I couldn’t stand NXT backstage interviewer Devin Taylor when she showed up, and will now throw hands at anyone trying to replace her. It’s not even that I like Devin Taylor, I just want some damn constancy. Familiarity.
Vampiro’s replaced on Ultima Lucha by Michael Schiavello. If you want to know something that doesn’t fit the vibe of Lucha Underground, it’s an Australian MMA announcer trying to scream his own play-by-play over Striker’s. I think that was my major problem … he seemed like a guy who wasn’t familiar with the product beyond watching that 37 episodes in 37 minutes video, and they couldn’t figure out who was play-by-play and who was color.
We’d gotten into a rhythm, you know? Striker whisper-growls for a few minutes, analyzing moves and calling the action and comparing whatever he can to the Bible. Then he passes it to Vamp, who goes OH MAN I DUNNO I JUST WANNA SEE SOMEBODY GET PUNCHED IN THE MOUTH. Or, alternately, OH MAN SHE’S SO HOT, I WANT TO HAVE SEX WITH HER. It was a constant. I don’t know, I missed it here. They should’ve had Ian Hodgkinson record color commentary in post, and just cut to shots of him totally fine and not bleeding to death at the announce table.
Under: Hey, Remember WWE
This is kind of an unfair “under,” so I hope you read the text under the boldface.
Alberto El Patron and Johnny Mundo start off part two of Ultima Lucha with a great, heated match that plays off Johnny’s growing cowardice, and emphasizes how emphatically Alberto can snatch your arm from out of nowhere and bend it in half. The finish was very WWE, which would be fine if it didn’t involve two former WWE guys and a run-in from a SUPER former WWE Diva.
In a finish none of us predicted but everyone on the planet should’ve seen coming, Johnny Mundo’s forever girlfriend Melina makes her Lucha Underground debut, costing Alberto the match. I was at the second half of Ultima Lucha live — you can see me in the second row on the upper seats to the right of the entrance ramp, on the side opposite the stairs — and I’ll be honest … nobody recognized her. Melina ran out kinda looking like a soccer mom in a shirt that said “THIS GIRL DOES THE SPLITS” with two thumbs pointing back at her, and everybody was kinda like “…?” That eventually turned into, “is that Melina?” and “it doesn’t look like her,” and “oh.”
So yeah, not my favorite decision. If you’re gonna add more women to the show, why not pull from the world of increasingly dope women’s wrestling, and not from TV five years ago?
UNDER: You Knew I Was Undering This, Right
I probably would’ve enjoyed this more if the payoff hadn’t been her slapping Alberto and getting condescendingly spanked. It’s not anything to get hot about in the Angelico/Ivelisse vein, but it belongs on an NWA show in 1983, not in Lucha Underground in 2015.
On the plus side, Johnny Mundo getting thrown through a window and doused in blood is a great excuse to give him a scarred face and mask gimmick in season two. Give me a crazy Dr. Doom Johnny Mundo, please and thank you. At least the paper bags version of Cody Rhodes.
Over: CERO F*CKING MIEDO
Consider that the Ciero Miedo match between Pentagon Jr. and a scary Pope version of Vampiro featured them throwing each other onto thumbtacks, multiple spots involving light tubes, tons of blood, a broken arm and a man not only getting put through a flaming table, but rolling away while still on fire. Now consider that this happened on TELEVISION.
I can’t get over how special that feels. We’ve seen hardcore stuff before, but have you ever imagined a world where you could watch a pissed-off ninja skeleton set a bloody vampire on fire in the middle of a wrestling show on Wednesday night? It’s crazy. So much about Lucha Underground’s existence is crazy. How did the remnants of Tough Enough and Wrestling Society X drift together in a Los Angeles warehouse and create one of the most unforgettable pro wrestling things in our lifetime?
I’m not normally a fan of ultraviolence in wrestling, but I can be if there’s context. GRAVE CONSEQUENCES was a literal fight between life and death. CERO MIEDO was the payoff for almost an entire season of Pentagon Jr. breaking peoples’ arms as an offering to an unnamed, unseen “dark master,” and finding himself locked in a blood feud with a former demon who’d reformed, had a daughter and tried to move on with his life. How do you give that story the ending it deserves?
Well, about that …
Over: The Dark Master
The best moment of the entire show (not counting the ending cinematic, which we’ll get to) is after the flaming table, when Vampiro rolls back into the ring, defeated, and demands Pentagon Jr. break his arm. At first, it plays out like a broken man begging to be put down. After it happens, we learn the truth: that Vampiro — the dark spirit that Ian Hodgkinson can become thanks to his life in a vampire cult, but had learned to subdue — is Pentagon’s dark master, and that Hodgkinson’s body is the final sacrifice.
The more you think about it, the better it feels. Ian spent his life in this cult learning to channel an evil energy that allowed him to be cruel and violent. When he had a daughter, he pushed it aside. The same spirit that compelled him to be evil is the spirit that compels Pentagon. Ian saw Pentagon trying to break Sexy Star’s arm and stood up for her, because he knows what it’s like to have a daughter … so does that mean the Vampiro spirit made Pentagon target Sexy, knowing it would draw out Ian Hodgkinson from behind the desk? Was it just the happenstance of Sexy standing up for Super Fly, and Ian doing the same for her?
Regardless, how amazing is it that we have a wrestling show that allows us to think about stories like this? Had. Allowed. Oh God.
Over: Aero Star Takes Off (For The First Of Two Times)
I was honestly a little underwhelmed by the Gift of the Gods match. I hope that doesn’t come across sounding severe. It had a collection of great moments — Aero Star leaping onto everyone from “three stories high,” arguably King Cuerno’s best-ever Arrow From The Depths Of Hell and Fenix wrecking Jack Evans among them — but it felt a little disjointed, like everyone was taking turns. Big Ryck in particular looked like he had no idea what he was doing, which is disappointing because I’d grown pretty confident in Ryck as a performer. The edited version of the chair shot that takes him out is MUCH better than the live version, which had him standing still in the middle of the ring for like a minute while Daivari tried to yell at him to hit the ropes. Him hitting the second rope like Rey Mysterio to make sure the chair got him was still pretty bad.
That’s one thing I really enjoyed about the match, though: this was the show’s “good wrestling match,” and the match where some of the less important story points are referenced. As mentioned, Daivari shows up with a chair and whacks Big Ryck in the back, severing their relationship. Marty the Moth shows up trying to get in Sexy Star’s business for taking him out of contention for the Gift of the Gods, and once again gets humiliated.
I’m happy Fenix won, though, because it sets up one of two stories that absolutely need to happen in season two. I assume you’ve already watched the show and/or aren’t worried about spoilers if you’re this far into the report, but Mil Muertes is the new Lucha Underground Champion. He’s unstoppable. The only man to ever defeat him is Fenix, who now holds the Gift of the Gods, a title belt that gives you a shot at the champion. Is there a bigger match in Lucha Underground than Fenix vs. Mil Muertes with the Lucha Underground Championship on the line? If Fenix can’t beat a leveled-up Mil, who can?
The second story I want to see (and sorry if this is in-real-life spoilers, but if you watch lucha libre or have been on Wikipedia you probably already know) is Pentagon Jr. challenging for the Championship. Vampiro says he’s “ready.” He’s got a Dark Master in his corner. How great would it be to see Pentagon Jr. challenging Mil Muertes in a battle of violent supernatural characters? Even better, how great would it be to see Fenix triumph over Mil and take the Championship, only to run into his pissed-off ninja skeleton brother? I don’t know if they’ll ever be related in Lucha Underground’s universe, but man, that’s a story that needs to be told by the best storytellers in televised pro wrestling.
Over: Also, There’s A War Happening
I considered just typing exclamation points for the rest of the show. Can I do that?
In part one of ULTIMA LUCHA, we learn that El Dragon Azteca is forbidden from entering The Temple, and that if he does, he’ll die. The guy in the hoodie from episode one provides the exposition. He enters The Temple anyway, looking for his imprisoned student Black Lotus, but Dario’s waiting for him. He lets Dragon Azteca know that he’s violated “the treaty,” and that the punishment for violation is death. He twirls his key necklace around his finger, suggesting that he’s going to lock Dragon up in a cage and f*ck with him, but Black Lotus — driven mad by Cueto’s not-sure-if-true revelation that Dragon Azteca’s the one who killed her parents — palm strikes him in the spine and kills him. Cueto stops twirling, his eyes get big, and he, Black Lotus and MATANZA (his deformed, cage-dwelling murderous brother) (!!) go ON THE LAM TO AVOID WAR. EXCLAMATION POINTS.
There are 40 more episodes of this in the can and they’ve just been f*cking with us this whole time, right?
Under: Sh*t Happens
This story doesn’t make a lick of sense, unless I’m somehow whiffing it.
Chavo Guerrero attacks Blue Demon Jr. with a chair and brings the wrath of Mexico down upon him. Chavo runs scared for a few weeks waiting for the other shoe to drop, and he eventually gets mauled by Mil Muertes. He quits Lucha Underground and goes into hiding.
Black Lotus goes to the Temple looking to kill Matanza and gets kidnapped by El Dragon Azteca (with help from the hoodie kid, because Dragon can’t enter the Temple, which we just talked about). Azteca offers to train her so she won’t die in the fight, and she accepts. She trains for a while, gets overconfident in her abilities and travels back to the Temple. Azteca is worried about her, so he strikes a deal with an ALSO THERE Chavo Guerrero, who offers to protect her in exchange for protection from Mexico. Chavo and Lotus return to the Temple, Chavo immediately turns on her in exchange for protection from Mexico from Dario, and Lotus ends up locked in a cage beside the guy she wanted to kill in the first place.
So. Dario instructs The Crew to help protect Chavo. He gets a shot at Prince Puma’s Lucha Underground Championship and legitimately gets hurt in the match, putting him on the shelf. The story then becomes that Blue Demon Jr. wants to beat him up as a representative of Mexico, but is upset that a guy named Texano (which does not mean “Mexico”) thinks he’s MORE representative of Mexico. That puts Texano and Blue Demon at odds. The Crew helps Demon swerve Texano, and help him again here by getting the match made a no-disqualification match. Chavo runs out to protect Texano, but it’s obviously a swerve, and now Chavo and Blue Demon Jr. are pals and all that sh*t about Mexico is squashed. Oh, and now Black Lotus and Dario are pals, and El Dragon Azteca is dead.
Why did any of this happen?
Over: The Era Of Death
In the best actual match on the show, Prince Puma gives it all he’s got and does some ridiculously inhuman stuff trying to defeat the powered-up, zombified version 2.0 Mil Muertes, but fails. Mil hits him with a Flatliner off the ropes that causes the EARTH TO SHAKE — they bounce the camera up and down on impact, which would be dumb on any other show, but is amazing here — and wins the Lucha Underground Championship. Now Mil not only commands death, he commands the EARTHQUAKES THAT CAUSED THE DEATH THAT CAUSED HIM. I’m … surprisingly okay with that.
I don’t have much to type about it, but it’s a killer match, and now we’ve got Mil Muertes and the Disciples of Death in command of almost all of Lucha Underground’s championships. The only one they don’t have? The Gift of the Gods, held by the only man capable of defeating Mil. Perfection.
And then, like The Wire before it, we end the season — and hopefully not the series — with a cinematic setting up everything else. Good lord, how do I even start to recap this?
The End (?):
- Dario tells Black Lotus that dark times are ahead, and that it’s too dangerous here … he’ll need to BUILD A NEW TEMPLE. I don’t know if that’ll be in a cheaper warehouse in Los Angeles or maybe at Troublemaker Studios in Austin, Texas (do it do it do it), but it’s at least kayfabe confirmation that the story will continue.
- A WACKY RACES montage featuring various Lucha Underground characters leaving in their chosen modes of transportation, which are all so f*cking pitch-perfect I can’t even begin to explain it. Fenix drives a Firebird Trans Am, King Cuerno (IN HIS CASUAL COWBOY CLOTHES) drives a pick-up truck, and the Unlikely Trio leave on motorcycles: Angelico on a motocross bike, and Son of Havoc in the passenger seat for Ivelisse. Perfect times infinity.
- DARIO AND BLACK LOTUS HAVE MATANZA IN A UHAUL AND HE’S ALREADY EATING HIS WAY OUT. WHAT.
- Is that a medicine ball on his face? IS HE A NINJA TURTLE? WHAT’S HAPPENING.
- Best friends Drago and Aero Star say their goodbyes. Drago turns into a dragon. Aero Star ROCKETS INTO SPACE. This is the kind of followup to “Drago can actually turn into a dragon” that I’d joke about in the column, but not actually expect them to do. The fact that they do the dumb, fun, amazing thing nobody else would dare to do is why this is maybe the best wrestling show ever.
- Marty The Moth has KIDNAPPED SEXY STAR in a COCOON — WHEN DID HE GET COCOON SPINNING POWERS — and teases introducing us to his “sister.” If it’s Mercedes Martinez, I’m all in.
- An Emperor Palpatine’d-out Vampiro tells Pentagon Jr. they’re going somewhere dark, and they vanish in smoke. ALL IN ALREADY.
- El Dragon Azteca is reborn as promised, as the hoodie guy puts on Dragon’s mask, and we pull back to reveal that he’s spraypainted a question mark on the Temple sign. Can Rey Mysterio be summoned like Batman? Is this happening?
Then, finally, an ending shot worthy of the very best HBO original drama.
You’d f*cking better.