Boyle Heights, CA
I’ve been a fan of professional wrestling for pretty much my entire life. As a child, I remember waking up early on Sunday morning to watch Mid-South Wrestling with my dad. I cut my teeth watching legends like Hacksaw Jim Duggan, Ted DiBiase, Junkyard Dog, and Rick Flair. I watched tag teams and stables such as the Rock n’ Roll Express, the Freebirds, and the Four Horsemen develop. Many of these wrestlers would go on to the NWA promotion and/or WWF (WWE for you youngsters out there).
I started watching WCW and WWF and attending their live events once I got into college. I didn’t have cable television as a kid, and never saw WCW or WWF prior to college, so I was blown away by the skill levels of the wrestlers in these promotions and in their stories, ring entrances, and merchandise. WCW turned me on to luchadores and lucha libre, and I quickly became a fan of guys like La Parka, Psicosis, Rey Mysterio, Jr., and Eddie and Chavo Guerrero.
Once WWE gobbled up WCW and ECW, lucha libre was placed on the back burner and I was only able to watch it on Univision whenever I had that particular channel. I watched CMLL and AAA shows when I could, but I slowly caved to WWE since it was literally the only big show left in the states.
Netflix came to my rescue last year when it started streaming seasons one and two of Lucha Underground. Broadcast in the states on the El Rey Network (which I am not offered in my area), the show’s first season drew major heat for its over-the-top story lines and outlandish characters. Murder, a man that claims to be a dragon, another guy who is apparently from outer space, and a lady that controls one of the show’s biggest wrestlers with a rock is just a small taste of some of the stories and luchadores featured on the show.
NOTE: Minor spoilers ahead if you haven’t watched Lucha Underground
Despite all of this absurdity, the show works on a level that WWE would never dare to touch. The in-ring action is fast, high flying, and genuinely fun to watch. Luchadores such as Pentagon Jr. (who is currently going by Pentagon Dark), Aerostar, Drago, and Johnny Mundo (better known as John Morrison) use a countless number of holds and fast moves to impress the crowd. Almost all of the wrestlers use high flying, high risk moves to shock audiences as well. Angelico and Fenix are quite possibly the best at these aerial antics.
There are also “big guys” in the ring such as Big Ryck, Cage, Matanza, and Mil Muertes. These wrestlers will throw out some aerial work as well (especially Cage, who continues to impress me), but rely heavily on strength and intimidation to win their matches.
Oh, and the ladies aren’t forgotten on Lucha Underground. Sexy Star, Ivelisse, Taya, and Mariposa are just a few of the many women that wrestle for Lucha Underground. They don’t shy away from the boys, either. In fact, some of the best matches that I’ve seen so far include female wrestlers such as pretty much every Trios Champion match between Angelico, Ivelisse, and Son of Havoc against any trio that takes them on and a particularly great match between Taya and Cage.
Mascarita Sagrada, a mini luchador, competes against men and women that are two and three times as big as he is and he is often paired up with other unique wrestlers such as Pimpinela Escarlata. Drago, the aforementioned man that claims to be a dragon, walks out into the “Temple” for his matches with a long black tongue. As the seasons have progressed, he’s added wings and a huge headdress that he wears when entering the ring. Another standout wrestler is The Mack, who comes out in old school boots and tights and he’s built just like a wrestler from the seventies or early eighties. He’s not chiseled like a rock and his body jiggles when he moves, but he’s one of the most athletic big men in the game these days. He’s a big high flyer and draws a big pop from the crowd when he enters the Temple.
The storylines are just as flashy and unbelievable as the wrestlers themselves. As I mentioned, in the first season, a luchador was murdered off screen by another wrestler. Blood was shown splattering on the face of witnesses at the scene of the crime. Other story lines involve Pentagon Jr. breaking an arm of each opponent he faces, putting their career on hold. Catrina, manager of Mil Muertes, controls the big man by using a rock. The rock apparently holds some sort of power over Mil and his eventual stable called the Disciples of Death. Oh, and in season two, two of those disciples were murdered by the third one, Sinestro de la Muerte. Other stories include revenge, good old fashioned hate, and the desperate need for glory and fame.
All of this insanity is lorded over by the promoter, Dario Cueto, who is even easier to hate than Vince McMahon, Jr. Cueto is a manipulative sleaze ball, using money, jealousy, and hate to build tension between wrestlers. He often pairs up enemies in tag matches in order to force them to work together. He demands that the referees play loose and easy with the rules so that fans can watch the violence unfold in and out of the ring. Cueto is quite possibly one of the most brilliant creations in all of Lucha Underground.
While Cueto pulls the strings, a pair of guys that are very familiar to wrestling fans call the action in the temple. Matt Striker, best known for his work with WWE’s version of ECW, and Vampiro, known for his work for WCW and CMLL, create quite the pairing on television. Striker calls the matches in a fairly traditional way, throwing in cheesy lines and cerebral thoughts every now and then. Vampiro, the color commentator, often calls matches with spirit that channels the crowd. In fact, he sometimes leaves the announcer’s table to join the crowd. He also translates some of the dialogue by the luchadores and name drops classic wrestlers and wrestling moves. The duo are extremely fun to watch. Striker plays the straight man and Vampiro sort of rambles throughout each episode.
Lucha Underground is definitely a great option for wrestling fans that are tired of the same ol’ same ol’ of WWE. There’s more violence, much stronger language, and elements of history, fantasy, and science fiction woven throughout the show that give it something that makes it stand out from the pack. I recommend watching this program, but be warned that the violence and language can get pretty tough in certain episodes. I personally watch each episode before I decide if my son can watch it with me. F-bombs often run rampant in some episodes and plenty of wrestlers bleed excessively. If you are accustomed to watching the current tame version of WWE, you might want to avoid viewing Lucha Underground with your kids. Other than those elements, though, there isn’t a wrestling program on television better than Lucha Underground.
Thanks for reading this post. I’m actually going to an Aro Lucha event (not affiliated with Lucha Underground but features many LU alumni and current wrestlers) in February and will happily give a full review of it afterwards. If you watch Lucha Underground or any other wrestling shows, let me know what you think about it in the comments!