That was my response the first time I saw the trailer for Lucha Underground. I wasn’t blown away or repulsed, I was intrigued. I tuned in to watch the first episode, and I thought it was good. Not amazing, but definitely watchable and with plenty of potential. As the weeks and months have gone on, I would say that Lucha Underground has become the best weekly wrestling show in the United States today.
Which is strange for me to say, because Lucha Underground is the opposite of everything I want in wrestling. I want wrestling to be a realistic sports simulation. I generally find over the top characters eye roll-inducing. I basically want 1970s Mid-South Wrestling with modern production values and sensibilities.
Lucha Underground is nothing like that, but that’s exactly what makes it work. They took the traditional wrestling show and threw it out. It’s a TV show that has wrestling on it, not a wrestling show. They mix in mystical elements and it doesn’t break your disbelief, because it’s just part of the world that this show has created. And the segment between matches are some of the best wrestling TV ever produced. Beautifully shot and staged, perfectly acted, amazing atmosphere. I’ve only half jokingly proposed banning backstage segments in wrestling, but on Lucha Underground they’re the highlight of the show.
But despite all that, as we head into this finale LU has an uncertain future. We’ve been hearing for months that they’re going to get picked up for another season…but it keeps not happening. They’re still trying to get financing for another season. And while the show is a critical success, it hasn’t really found an audience. Pro wrestling is a niche product to begin with, and grinding down to the subculture of Lucha and putting it on a TV channel no one gets is not going to result in huge viewership.
It’s called “Ultima Lucha,” meaning “The Last Fight.” And maybe that’s what it will be.
We open with a super stylish vignette featuring Dario Cueto in a tuxedo. He chats with the imprisoned Black Lotus. Apparently her parents were the only two people Matanza didn’t kill. This storyline has a very “Kill Bill” vibe to it, and I love it.
Falls Count Anywhere: The Mack vs. Cage
Cage is such a perfect villain for this promotion. How WWE let this guy go I’ll never understand. Body alone should have gotten him employment for life. They brawl out on the balcony and through the crowd, which reminds me of how much I love the Temple. It’s a character all its own. Mack sends Cage through the door of the storage closet with a massive Spear. Cage busts out my favorite WCW/NWO Revenge weapon, a stop sign. A cooler full of ice gets involved. This is half brutal brawl, half Crash Holly-style fun.
Mack hitting a Stunner on the floor is the most dangerous thing in the match so far. Austin said he totally jacked his tailbone and spine doing that once. And because things have been much too sane so far, Mack hits a Powerbomb from the top rope to the floor through a table. Is that the finish? Of course not.
They head upstairs and we see cinderblocks. Yeah, those might be factoring into the finish. Jesus, Curb Stomp through the cinderblocks. Mercifully, this one is over as Cage gets the pin.
Rating: ***. That was a ton of fun. Sometimes, you’re just in the mood to watch two giant dudes beat the piss out of each other. This was messy and brutal in a great way. Really felt like an out of control brawl between two monsters.
Trios Championship: Team Havoc (c) vs. The Disciples of Death
Quite the journey for Son of Havoc, who started off as a comedy heel jobber and has emerged as a strong underdog babyface in the latter part of the season. Tornado rules here, so it’s going to be wild. Nice of the Disciples to go with different masks so that we have at least some chance of telling which one is which. Hard to do any play-by-play here as people are flying all over ringside.
There’s a sense of foreboding here. It’s clear that Team Havoc is outmatched. They give it everything they have, but Ivilese’s injury is too much to overcome.
But they’re not going quietly. Angelico comes from the top of the building all the way down onto the floor with a Cross Body. That’s an insane thing to do. We’ve seen those kinds of bumps throughout the season, but they never stop being amazing. I just feel like something that huge needs to be the end of the match. You can’t top flying out of the sky. Ivelise gets knocked out by Katrina with a shot from the Stone of Death, and that’s all she wrote.
Rating: **½. Not a bad match at all. Didn’t get a ton of time, but they packed a lot of action into it. I dig everybody in this match. I don’t have a ton of understanding of the Disciples, but they’re super intriguing.
Believer’s Backlash: Drago vs. Hernandez
This is a Lumberjack Match where the lumberjacks are “fans” and armed with leather straps. Lumberjacks with leather straps feels straight out of Jim Crockett Promotions circa 1980, and I love it. Just need Jim Ross here busting out the “country whipping” references. The lumberjacks are dishing out some pretty legit shots from the straps. And Striker just made a Hot Tub Guy reference. You can love Matt Striker or hate him, and I firmly fall in the love category. He wasn’t a great fit for WWE, but he’s perfect for a super-smark promotion like LU.
Hernandez is a total beast. He’s jacked, he can move, he’s got a mean streak. He’s better than Drago. The problem is, he knows it and can’t help himself from showing off rather than finishing him off. But Drago breaks out THE MIST! There is nothing sillier or more safe that gets a bigger pop in wrestling than mist. Has anyone ever used mist and not gotten it over?
Somehow, after everything we’ve seen tonight a top rope Splash through a table on the floor just doesn’t seem like that big a deal. And of course it’s not the finish, because a lesser version of the same move is instead. I won’t complain too much, that was fun.
Rating: **½. Wasn’t a classic, but plenty entertaining. Hernandez has great facial expressions, I loved the fans beating the crap out him with their belts, and the mist always gets a pop from me.
We end on a cliffhanger, as Dragon Azteca makes his way into the temple. So much better than ending the show with the babyface posing the way WWE does 90% of the time now.
Overall: A strong first hour of the show. Three good matches and some intriguing segments outside the ring. Looking forward to the finale next week.
Johnny Mundo vs. Alberto El Patron
Smart booking to put the two biggest names in the promotion up against each other in the opening match of the finale. Keep the casual viewers around so that they can see the guys they don’t know yet.
Mundo has been doing the best work of his career. I don’t know if it’s that he’s gotten better since he left WWE, or that he’s being used better, or if the taped environment is best for him, but he’s been great all season.
Pretty simple story here: Both guys want to be the face of Lucha Underground. Mundo, in his jealousy of Patron, turned heel and slammed Alberto through a glass window. Definite big fight atmosphere for this one. They spilled to the floor almost immediately, with Patron slamming Mundo into the announce table. Mundo blinded Patron with dust from under the ring like the dirty, cheating heel he is. Mundo brought Patron into the ring and set-up for The End of the World (formerly known as Starship Pain in WWE), but Patron crotched him and turned the tide with a Reverse Superplex!
Patron followed with a Tilt-a-Whirl Backbreaker and set-up for a Superkick. Mundo ducked and scored with an Enziguri for a close two count. A missed kick in the corner by Patron allowed Mundo to score with a Back Cracker. Mundo missed a 450 Splash and they went back to the floor. Mundo scored with a Corkscrew Plancha. It’s shocking how easy he makes that move look. Patron came back with the Cross Armbreaker, but Mundo made it to the ropes.
Mundo hit the End of the World, but Patron got his shoulder up just before three. Patron went for a Superick but hit the referee. Patron locked on the Armbar and Mundo tapped, but there was no referee to call the decision. Mundo managed to break out of the hold with a stomp to Patron’s head. Patron locked Mundo in the Armbar while hanging upside down on the ropes…at which point Melina showed up and smashed Patron in the face with Paron’s AAA Championship.
That allowed Mundo to hit the End of the World for a three count.
Rating: ***½. Strong match. These guys have great chemistry. Everything flows so well. They’re intense and physical, but also quick and athletic. I didn’t mind the interference or the ref bump because I thought both were executed plausibly. Melina showing up as a nice surprise.
Mundo and Melina made out in the ring, at which point Patron came back and tossed Mundo to the floor. Patron beat down Mundo, slamming him into the barricade and throwing him into the front row. Patron then slammed Mundo through the window the Cueto’s office. And eye for an eye. Melina went after Patron and got spanked for it. Patron celebrated with his title as they cut to Mundo covered in blood. This feud is clearly not over. Great sequel hook here.
Backstage segment showed Dragon Azteca getting his neck broken by Black Lotus. Cueto then freed Lotus and they were about to release Matanza when the camera cut away.
Cerro Miedo: Pentagon Jr. vs. Vampiro
Pentagon has been on a path of destruction for months, breaking the arms of everyone whose path he crossed. He picked Vampiro as his target, leading Vampiro to return to the ring for the first time in nearly a decade. Pentagon has alluded to serving an unseen and unnamed master. Will he (or she) be revealed tonight?
The crowd was crazy into Vamp here. Great atmosphere for this one. We didn’t know what was going to happen here, but we knew it was going to be something big.
Pentagon immediately grabbed a chair and pummeled Vampiro with it. The beating went on for several minutes, with Vamp getting in virtually no offense. Striker jumped in on commentary begging the director to go to commercial and they did. Nice touch to make this seem serious.
We came back from commercial with Vampiro on a stretcher, but he got off and went back to the ring. Vamp made his comeback with a Spinning Heel Kick. Looked ugly, but got a huge response. Thumbtacks came out and Pentagon got slammed on them. Vampiro went for a Corkscrew Moonsault but missed and landed on the tacks. Absolutely brutal.
Pentagon brought out the florescent tube and smashed it on Vampiro’s head. Then he took a broken piece and used it to cut Vamp’s head open. Pentagon set up a tube in the corner…and got Hip Tossed through it by Vampiro. Jesus, this is rough. Vampiro smashed the last tube over Pentagon’s head. Pentagon quickly reclaimed the advantage and went to the top rope. Vampiro hit Pentagon with a Super Belly to Belly Suplex down to the mat, onto the thumbtacks and glass.
Vamp brought a table out and lit it on fire. Pentagon put Vampiro through the flaming table with an Uranage and pinned him. Vamp stayed on fire for several seconds. Unbelievably brutal match.
Rating: ****. Insane. Just brutal.
Vampiro grabbed the mic and told Pentagon to break his arm. Can’t refuse that request, I guess. Pentagon snapped the arm. Pentagon called for his master…at which point Vampiro revealed he was Pentagon’s master. Wow. Didn’t see that coming at all. Definitely a Russo swerve, but I guess the point is Vampiro is a total lunatic so he didn’t care anyway.
Gift of the Gods Battle Royal: Aerostar vs. Bengala vs. Big Ryck vs. Fenix vs. King Cuerno vs. Jack Evans vs. Sexy Star
Each of these seven has one of the pieces of the Gift of the Gods Championship. The winner unifies the belt, which entitles them to a shot at the Lucha Underground Championship at a date of their choosing.
Hard to do play-by-play on this one as there was too much going on. This was the right place to do this match. A fun popcorn match as a cooldown after the intensity of the last match. The story of the match was Big Ryck destroying everyone and them all ganging up on him.
The highlight was Aerostar jumping off the top balcony onto a bunch of people. Marty “The Moth” Martinez interfered to go after Sexy Star. He got his ass handed to him for it. Star looked great, even being able to outwrestle Big Ryck. I was initially skeptical of the intergender matches, but they work in Lucha Underground.
Big Ryck looked to have the match won until Daivari showed up and beat Ryck with a chair. No one really understood what was going on as Ryck had been Daivari’s bodyguard before this. Fenix pinned Jack Evans with the Fire Driver to win the Gift of the Gods Championship.
Rating: ***. A little messy, but great action. Good variety for the card.
No Disqualification: Blue Demon Jr. vs. El Texano
Blue Demon is the heel here. This storyline has been confusing, with Chavo first turning heel on Demon, then Konnan warning Chavo that “Mexico” would be coming for him, then Texano showing up as the muscle for Mexico…then Demon turning on Texano. Neither of these guys does much for me.
Demon had two goons in suits with him, so this was basically three-on-one. Then Chavo showed up with a chair. He agonized over who to hit, then waffled Texano. Demon hit Texano with the chair and pinned him.
Rating: Dud. I mean, I haven’t been super diligent about watching LU before this. But I don’t have any fucking idea what was going on in this storyline, and I don’t think I’m the only one. Guerrero nearly killed Texano in the first week of LU. Now, they’re buddies. Maybe there’s a good explanation coming? But it feels more like a swerve for the sake of a swerve.
Lucha Underground Championship: Prince Puma (c) vs. Mil Muertes
Puma has been champion since November, winning the inaugural Aztec Warfare match to become champion. Muertes has been a force of nature, with his only loss coming to Fenix in the Grave Consequences Match. He’s essentially a Mexican version of Undertaker, a supernatural force. But instead of Paul Bearer, he has a hot woman in his corner.
Puma is a stud. Amazing wrestler with a ton of charisma. The charisma shines through the fact that he wears a mask and doesn’t really talk. He was introduced as Konnan’s protege, but has broken off on his own. Tonight he faces his greatest challenge.
They fight into the crowd immediately. Muertes was able to overpower the smaller Puma, at which point Puma grabbed Katrina and used her as a battering ram on Muertes. Muertes came back with a brutal Powerbomb onto the ring steps. Puma hit a desperation Baseball Slide and followed with a Suicide Dive, but Muertes smashed him with a chair shot to the head.
Puma kept fighting. He hit an awesome move where he got Muertes up on his shoulders, threw him into the air, and kicked him in the head with an Enziguri. Not enough to keep the monster down. He went for the 630 Splash, but Mil rolled out of the way. Mil scored with a big Powerslam and proceeded to pummel Puma.
Puma just wouldn’t die. He hit a big Cradle Suplex for a two count. Muertes broke Puma in half with a Spear from the apron through a table on the floor. Then he Powerbombed him on the remnants of the table. Muertes hit a Spinning Uranage. Puma responded with a series of kicks that put Muertes in position for the 630…and he hit it! But Muertes powered out at two. Puma went for the 630 again and missed. Muertes hit a big Spear and followed with the Flatliner. Somehow, that wasn’t enough to keep Puma down.
Muertes hit a top rope Flatliner to finally finish Puma and win the Lucha Underground Championship.
Rating: ***½. Strong match, worthy main event. A lot of finisher kickouts, but this is the appropriate venue for it.
Love the season ending with Muertes victorious. And who is the #1 contender? Fenix, the only man to ever beat him.
The show ended with Muertes posing with the Disciples of Death.
And then we went to a montage: Cueto and Lotus packing up to run off together. Fenix taking off in a beautiful Sunfire. Texano rolling off in his pickup truck. Martinez holding Sexy Starr hostage. Son of Havoc, Angelcio, and Ivalese rolling out. Drago and Aerostar going their separate ways. Pentagon and Vampiro together. A question mark on the Lucha Underground flag, symbolizing the coming of Rey Mysterio. And Cueto, on the run but never defeated.
Damn. I’m ready for more.
Overall: An outstanding finale to a great first season. The only match that didn’t deliver was the Blue Demon/Texano thing. They set up a lot of great stuff for next season: Muertes as the dominant champion with Fenix lurking as the #1 contender, Mundo and Patron still at each other’s throats with Mundo now having Melina in his corner, Pentagon under the tutelage of Vampiro. It’s great booking to provide definitive finishes to your storylines while creating new directions for the story to go.
I write this almost a month after the finale aired and we still don’t have confirmation of a second season. My gut tells me we’ll get it eventually, but it’s not going to be for awhile. And really, that’s not the worst thing in the world. There’s something to be said for leaving people wanting more. Right now there is so much wrestling available all the time. WWE with three hours of Raw, two hours of Smackdown, pay-per-views, and ancillary programming like Total Divas and Tough Enough. And Ring of Honor, TNA, AAA, New Japan…it’s novel to actually take a break, let everyone recharge, and come back stronger.
I hope that wasn’t actually the Ultima Lucha. But if it was, it was a hell of a way to go out.
Ultima Lucha Grade: A