Mexican Wrestling Sensation Lucha Underground: A Primer

Published on January 26th, 2016 in: Action Movies, Comedy, Culture Shock, Current Faves, Matshifter, Media, Pro Wrestling, Sports, Staff Picks, TV, TV Reviews, Underground/Cult |

By Sachin Hingoo

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I’ve always been fascinated by pro wrestling’s ability to tell a story in a non-traditional way. Mixing elements of a stage play, a circus, and a TV show, along with the fact that there are usually no traditional “seasons” makes for some potentially great and potentially horrendous narratives that are equally entertaining to me. Lucha Underground, however, is unlike any other wrestling product that I’ve seen.

Like a traditional TV show, it’s broken up by discrete seasons and there’s a much heavier storyline aspect at play (shot in a gritty multi-camera style that evokes many of producer Robert Rodriguez’s films) than in, say, the WWE. Lucha Underground is not so much a wrestling show as it is a show about a wrestling show, taking place in a fictional universe where magic, monsters, and aliens are commonplace.

At the same time, Lucha Underground also goes to other places that other wrestling companies traditionally shy away from–most glaringly, by having intergender matches. Though this can have extremely problematic implications, they’re mostly handled well by the company, usually allowing the female competitors to look just as strong or stronger than their male counterparts.

Lucha Underground is set in the Temple, a run-down warehouse in East L.A. owned and operated by Dario Cueto, a rich, ridiculous bastard whose only concerns are making money and promoting violence. Cueto has invited the best fighters from all over the world to compete in the Temple, for the amusement of the fans in attendance, called “Believers.” If you can imagine Lucha Underground like Mortal Kombat, Dario Cueto is Shang Tsung. Oh, and by the way, he has a giant, feral “brother” named Matanza, chained up in the temple’s basement who actually killed and presumably ate a dude during Season One. No biggie.

The current Lucha Underground champion is Mil Muertes, the Man of A Thousand Deaths. As a child, he and his parents were buried by rubble in an earthquake. While they both perished, Mil survived, thanks to his near-indestructibility. Muertes actually died this season in a “Grave Consequences” match with Fenix that ended with him being stuffed into a coffin.

Muertes was resurrected by Catrina, his twisted and sadistic girlfriend who controls both him and a trio of masked minions called the Disciples of Death. As you can see, Lucha Underground isn’t terribly concerned with tactical or any other sort of realism.

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In the finale of Season One, Muertes defeated Prince Puma, Lucha Underground’s first champion and perennial hero, to win the title. The Disciples also defeated Son of Havoc, Ivelisse, and Anjelico to win the Trios title. The unlikely alliance of Son of Havoc, Ivelisse, and Anjelico is a pretty good example of some of Lucha Underground’s more soap opera-esque storylines.

Havoc and Ivelisse were a couple at the beginning of the season, but Ivelisse got increasingly frustrated as Havoc kept losing matches, eventually jumping in and wrestling in his place. Soon after she started doing this, she had a match against Anjelico, who began to do suggestive things to Ivelisse and messing with her and Havoc. Things escalated, leading to Havoc breaking up with Ivelisse, Anjelico attempting to get with her, and eating a kick to the face for his presumption. Basically, all three of them hated each other when evil maniac Dario Cueto put them together and entered them in the Trios title tournament, which they eventually won. The unspoken tension between the three characters is amazing, and adds a lot of interesting chemistry and subtext to their matches and segments.

Then there’s Pentagon, Jr., who is–and I am not shitting you–a skeleton ninja. Like most skeletons, Pentagon is both extremely sadistic and well-versed in jiu jitsu. He spent most of the season breaking his opponents’ arms in sacrifice to an unseen “Master,” and after goading Lucha Underground announcer Vampiro into a brutal, bloody match (by attempting to light him on fire!), it was revealed that Vampiro had been Pentagon’s master all along, with the violent encounter between the two acting as Pentagon’s “final test,” The two make for an intriguing, exceedingly dangerous unit, that’s for sure.

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There are other members of Lucha Underground’s cast, each with their own particular rivalries and storylines, including Sexy Star, a female luchador who showed an ability to hold her own against male and female competitors alike. She had encounters with Pentagon and others, but as the story often goes, was sadly kidnapped by Marty “The Moth” at the end of the season and wrapped in a cocoon (?!?!?!) There’s Pimpinela Escarlata, a trans wrestler upholding lucha libre’s proud tradition of trans wrestlers called exoticos. And let’s not forget Drago, a literal dead dragon who was resurrected in human form.

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Pimpenela Escarlata

Coming into Wednesday’s Season Two premiere, Dario Cueto has fled the Temple with Mantanza and the mysterious Black Lotus; Mil Muertes and Catrina rule over the Believers; and the questions about Pentagon and Vampiro’s plans for the Temple are equally fascinating. With Catrina seemingly having taken up the mantle of “El Jefe,” will Death’s shadow finally be cast over all of Lucha Underground?

Rumor has it that the iconic Rey Mysterio, Jr. will be joining the cast this season, and that Robert Rodriguez has gotten more involved on the production side, making the sophomore season of the best wrestling show, and one of my favorite shows in general, truly must-see TV. Wednesday can’t come soon enough.

Lucha Underground Season Two premieres on Wednesday January 27, on the El Rey network.

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