Mark For War: There’s The ‘Dor
This may have flown under several of you wrestling fans’ radar, but a new federation launched this past week. It’s called Lucha Underground, and its TV show airs every Wednesday at 8PM ET on the EL REY network, an American cable station geared toward Latinos (launched by director Robert Rodriguez a year ago). You probably have it on your cable system. You can go to their website and type in your zip code and cable provider and it will tell you what channel it’s on.
Their weekly hour-long program premiered this past week. Now, unless my cable system is messed up, they are advertising the same episode this Wednesday on El Rey. I have no clue why, but yeah, you can see the first episode I saw last Wednesday this Wednesday at 8pm.
Is it worth watching? Yes.
Does the show have legs enough to have any longevity as a legit wrestling player? At first watch, I’d say, no.
First off, the name of the show comes with a self-imposed glass ceiling. The name “Lucha” right off the bat explains the companies Wrestling MO, which is Lucha Libre. Questionable move. ECW used to be referred to as ECW: Hardcore Wrestling back in the mid- 90s, and then Paul Heyman for the most part dropped the “Hardcore” and rolled with just ECW. The company was able to hang their hats on styles other than traditional hardcore wrestling. Will this organization be able to hang their hat on anything other than Lucha Libre wrestling from here on out?
Also, say the company takes off and becomes successful enough to tour small venues, get good press, and have a few household-recognized wrestlers. Will they really still be “underground”? The rationalization behind the strict demographic is probably based around the fact that it airs on a network geared toward Latinos. But let’s not forget that several wrestling federations have had TV spots on TNN (the Nashville network) and Syfy, and they chose not to have their products go full-fledged redneck or alien.
The action in last week’s episode took place in a dingy lit multi-million dollar hall. It looked like the set of a battle scene from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (“Rig that pipe so it leaks.”). Silkscreen posters of Lucha door masks were poorly hung without care, like posters you’d see their hang in the bedroom of a problem child.
Now as for your cast of characters: first off, there’s a dude name Dario Cueto, the on-air owner of Lucha Underground. He’s their equivalent of a Mr. McMahon, only WAY creepier. He’s essentially a cartel dude that owns a wrestling company and treats his wrestlers like they’re his property. His backstage segments look like they’re filmed by Martin Scorsese or the guy who does the Rammstein videos. At one point (I had to rewind it to make sure I wasn’t seeing things) he aggressively wiped his nose while bitching out one of his wrestlers. Unless I’m reading way too much in to it, they are insinuating that this dude’s a habitual cocaine user. Wow.
You’ve got two recognizable names as commentators: ex-WWE commentator, Matt Stryker, holds down commentary with pseudo-luchador legend Vampiro. Vampiro as a commentator is nothing to write casa about. On the other hand, Stryker is outstanding as a commentator! He’s cut from the cloth of JR. God, if TNA had their shit together, Stryker would be a BEAST of a commentator for them. He and Taz would be an amazing combo.
As for the in-ring competitors, we’re fed a healthy mix of pseudo household names and unknowns that work hard over the course of the hour. We are introduced, early on in the show, to essentially their “Franchise,” Prince Puma. If you’ve ever seen the US Promotion Dragon Gate, Puma wrestlers under the name Ricochet. In Lucha Underground, Puma is a descendant of the Aztec tribe. In real life, Puma is a dude from Kentucky with a tan. Dressing up white dudes to look like Luchadores appears to sadly be a trend in LU. Matt Cross, a white Italian dude, was the second match on the card, wrestling under the moniker “Son of Havoc.” Puma wrestled Johnny Mundo (WWE’s John Morrison) in the main event. The Johnny Mundo name, I actually don’t mind. It kind of a pokes fun at Telemundo. Reminds me of when Morrison used to be known as Johnny Nitro (his name poking fun at Monday Nitro). The match between Puma and Mundo was hot. Outstanding in-ring action from two great workers. It did exactly what it was meant to do, which was establish Puma and Morrison as the top tier wrestlers of the company. Then the wheels fell off at the end. Mundo beat Puma clean in a fifteen min match. The whole episode had several promos that were all about Prince Puma and how he was God’s gift to Lucha Libre. So, in what world does it make sense to job him clean on episode one, show one? After the match, Puma and Mundo shook hands (eh) and the crowd cheered. Then Ezekiel Jackson came out of the crowd with two vatos hired by creepy owner Queto, and jumped Mundo to close the show, for whatever reason.
This program had a very TNA feel: good action, okay potential, slightly hacky presentation, and poor booking. If I had to pinpoint the thing that annoyed me the most, it would be the non-Latino wrestlers that they dress up and call themselves luchadores. Putting luchador masks on a bunch of American wrestlers doesn’t make a luchador wrestling promotion. It makes the wrestling promotion equivalent of the movie Ladybugs (staring Rodney Dangerfield).
Give it a shot though and let me know what you think!
Match of the Week: Rey Misterio Jr. vs. Psicosis (Two out of Three falls), ECW, Philadelphia, PA, 10/17/1995
Lucha Libre invaded US wrestling in the mid-90s — and US wrestling was never the same. Credit goes to the Lucha Libre wrestlers of the mid-90s who got the ball, ran with it, and changed the game with their fast-paced, reckless abandon style. Also, say what you will about Eric Bischoff, but him giving legit TV time every week to said Lucha Libre wrestlers on Monday Nitro helped a lot. Same with Paul Heyman, who was the first of the Big Three promoters to book Lubra Libre matches on his ECW cards on the regular.
If someone asks me to recommend a Lucha Libre match on American soil during this era, I tell them to watch this one. This match is INSANE. That’s all there is to it. Make sure you watch it. The only thing I wish is that this match had an extra ten minutes. Two things are important to note: the first is that Psicosis, in my opinion, is unbelievably underrated. I rarely hear him mentioned in any wrestling circles ever, despite having countless legit matches during the 90s in ECW and WCW. The second is the undeniable chemistry that wrestlers have with each other when they train with each other. Watch a match between Chris Jericho and Lance Storm, or even better, Bret Hart and Owen Hart. It’s almost like they’re sharing a brain in the ring. Both Rey Mysterio Jr. and Psicosis were trained by Rey’s uncle (often confused with his father), Rey Mysterio Sr. I can only imagine what he thought when he got a VHS tape of this match back in Mexico.