I often say that each week in Lucha Underground is bigger than the last, and this week’s episode, featuring the second chaotic Aztec Warfare match, is no exception. On top of the match itself, we will see the Lucha Underground debut of one of the world’s most famous (if not the most famous) luchadors, Rey Mysterio Jr., as well as his protege Dragon Azteca Jr. As if that weren’t enough, the frightening Matanza is on his way back to the Temple with his brother Dario Cueto and Black Lotus in tow.
Battle royals—“every man for himself” matches with many participants—are a wrestling staple. The most high-profile version is the WWE’s annual Royal Rumble event, where 30 wrestlers enter at two-minute intervals and try to survive to the end. In traditional battle royals like these, one eliminates his competition by throwing them over the top rope to the floor. These are my favorite kinds of matches because it’s like a giant superhero crossover episode, where you see characters battle friends and foes alike, along with some matchups and interactions that you’d never see elsewhere. Rivalries develop, alliances break up, and the chaos of having that many wrestlers in a ring at once is a ton of fun.
“Aztec Warfare” is a slightly a different take on the traditional battle royal concept. Though you still have many competitors (both male and female since this is Lucha Underground) entering at intervals, eliminations occur using traditional pinfalls and submissions, meaning that action can take place outside the ring without employing increasingly-tiresome “floor is lava” spots like the WWE leans on in these types of matches. As a result, last year’s “Aztec Warfare” is my favorite battle royal ever and was the episode where Lucha Underground’s first season really found its footing.
We open on Fenix and Pentagón facing off in the locker room. Pentagon tells Fenix that he’s taking the title tonight before Catrina appears and gives Pentagón the bad news that he’s not competing in Aztec Warfare. That’s what he gets for putting his hands on her a few weeks ago. Catrina disappears and Pentagón is pissed off while Fenix just looks confused. I don’t know why he’d be confused since Catrina has been teleporting around and vanishing for like a season and a half, but here we are.
Traditional Aztec dancers (a nice touch that provides some pageantry to the event, even in this gritty setting) welcome us into the Temple as we waste no time getting the Aztec Warfare match underway. Fenix, our champion, is out first and awaits his first opponent.
With a subtle smirk that lets us know something big’s coming, Melissa Santos announces the Temple debut of Rey Mysterio Jr. and the Believers come positively unglued. Matt Striker points out on commentary that most of the luchadors in that ring are there because Mysterio opened doors for the lucha libre style of wrestling outside of Mexico, especially in the US, and it’s true.
Fenix and Rey show respect for each other and this is already a bit of a dream match. The in-ring work here and, frankly, all through this match is uniformly great and I can’t possibly recap it all but I will say that this first encounter between Mysterio and Fenix left me wanting a lot more.
Cuerno the Hunter is in next and takes out both guys, kicking Fenix out of the ring in the process. He executes an insane spear through the ropes down to Fenix on the floor. Johnny Mundo and Joey Ryan are our next two entrants. Ryan’s strategy is to handcuff himself to a railing outside the ring, making it seemingly impossible to pin him. He hangs out there for a while looking smug until Cuerno kicks him in the face. He’s not eliminated but that had to hurt. As he’s getting up, Famous B from those weird vignettes we’ve been seeing the past few weeks saunters up and hands Joey a card.
Prince Puma is in next and almost immediately hits a ridiculous shooting star press to Mundo, Cuerno, and Fenix on the outside. He’s legitimately the best wrestler in the world and really proved it here. Jack Evans comes in, looking for all the world like your 311-loving kid brother and, while that’s happening, Mysterio hits an armbar on Cuerno for our first elimination.
In comes Mundo’s pal Taya Valkyrie, the first female entrant in the match, and she, Mundo, and Evans team up and face off against the masked trio of Mysterio, Puma, and Fenix. Team Gringo isolates Mysterio when the next entrant, Cage, comes through the crowd and goes after Valkyrie and Mundo, with whom he’s been feuding. They fight to the outside when Mundo grabs Cage and flings him through the glass window of Catrina’s office. Though they’ve used broken glass (to disturbing effect, in the case of Cage’s match with Taya) in this feud before, this was still a great spot.
The chaotic action in and out of the ring continues for a while, and Mascarita Sagrada (an athletic masked midget wrestler who’s very popular with the crowd), Marty the Moth, Drago, the Mack, and Chavo Guerrero enter the match. Marty the Moth is eliminated by Sagrada and Mysterio and Mundo hits Cage with a cinder block (!) to eliminate him as well.
PJ Black, the Darewolf, enters to help Jack Evans go after Drago (remember their sweet nunchuck fight?) until alien robot Aerostar makes his first in-ring appearance this season to help out his dragon buddy and even the odds. Unfortunately both Drago and Jack Evans are eliminated in the ensuing battle.
Speaking of dragons, Dragon Azteca debuts in the Temple next and though he’s impressive and athletic, I can’t help but notice that his mask looks like a watermelon. Texano is in and beats up everyone with his bullrope. The Darewolf is eliminated.
Finally, the former champion, Mil Muertes, enters at #20 with Catrina leading the way. As he trudges down the aisle, Pentagon, who’s not part of this match, attacks him and causes him to be immediately eliminated by Puma and Mysterio. He is incensed and tries to attack Pentagon, who slips away. Catrina is just as angry and calls Vampiro (Pentagón’s master) from the commentary desk and tells him to “get the fuck out.” As she argues with him, the buzzer sounds again.
Dario Cueto stands at the top of the ramp, his first appearance in the Temple this season, and the crowd goes as crazy for him as they did for Mysterio earlier. He tells us he’s “El Jefe”, the boss, and this is his Temple. He has one more entrant in the match, and it’s his brother Matanza.
We were introduced to Matanza in a vignette last week, but this is his Temple debut and the Believers go nuts for him. He still looks like Lucha Jason Voorhees, and eliminates everyone in the ring in short order, even tearing off the metal railing Joey Ryan’s cuffed to and dispatching him. He does some really athletic flips and stuff too, which is a weird contrast with his Jason-like persona. Matanza is the winner of Aztec Warfare II, and the new Lucha Underground champion. Dario raises his hand in the ring as the stunned audience cheers and gasps. A subtle little note about Matanza is that they’re playing him up as this feral character, and he shows that by not knowing what to do with the title belt he’s just won. Dario has to encourage him to even raise his hand.
If you’re watching Lucha Underground for the vignettes alone, this episode won’t have much for you, but the Aztec Warfare match is such a great spectacle that I think you’d be missing out if you skipped it. Debuts like Mysterio, Azteca, Aerostar, and of course Matanza, added a ton of surprise to the match and there was a lot of development in the feuds and storylines we have going on, like the issue between Taya, Cage, and Mundo as well as Pentagón and Muertes. Dario’s back as well, so it’ll be interesting to see if Catrina’s hold over the Temple is still valid now that her man isn’t the champion anymore.
On most shows, so many intersecting storylines would be tough to handle and easily bungled, but Lucha Underground is nothing if not well-controlled chaos and adds yet another killer episode to its streak.