The lure of a colourful mask, high-flying and fast-paced energy, and over-the-top characters can’t be denied, even among non-fans of pro wrestling. Lucha libre, Mexico’s own brand of pro wrestling, is an intrinsic part of Mexican culture, and Alex Hammond and Ian Markiewicz’s documentary Lucha Mexico puts this phenomenon on full display, warts and all.
This whole batshit season of Lucha Underground, starting with the rise and fall of Mil Muertes, the introduction of the monster Matanza, and everything in between, has led to this moment. The final three episodes for the year comprise “Ultima Lucha Dos,” Lucha Underground’s season finale, and all the pieces are in place for some wild confrontations.
Doglegs co-founder, and star of the film, Shintaro Yano (ring name “Sambo” Shintaro) strikes a fighting pose. © Alfie Goodrich
Japanese wrestling or “puroresu” is a tradition that goes back to the 1950s, and is most closely associated with a more realistic, hard-hitting “strong style” than we normally see in Western pro wrestling, which is far more choreographed. Strikes usually land for real, though the intention is still primarily to put on a show, not actually hurt one’s opponent. The style is tough on the performers, and those that thrive in the competitive landscape of “puro” are considered some of the best and most resilient wrestlers in the business. Still, the style is often hard to watch, given what we know now about concussions and other injuries that can be commonplace in puro.
You can imagine, then, how hard it is to watch a puro match, not between able-bodied athletes in peak physical condition, but with disabled wrestlers. Heath Cozens’ Doglegs, a documentary about an eponymous group of mostly disabled Japanese wrestlers, is certainly difficult to sit through, but is ultimately worthwhile for its ability to wring triumph from tragedy.
Hey, I just met you,
and this is crazy,
loves lucha libre!
It’s been a few weeks since we’ve visited the Temple, and with Dario Cueto back in control and his feral brother Matanza as champion, the whole show has a different feel. Gone is Mil Muertes looming over the Temple on his throne and the candles and other spooky touches Catrina put in Dario’s office. Instead we’re back to having live bands play us into the shows and a general feeling that chaotic violence can erupt at any time. I have to say that I’m glad to have Dario back in the backstage vignettes in particular, because he’s a much better actor than Catrina and has his sadistic douchebag character down pat.
On this episode of TV or GTFO, Gary and Sachin review the 1994 Hulk Hogan vanity project, Thunder In Paradise! Is Hulk Hogan that kid’s real dad? How big is that boat, anyway? Why is so much of this show echoed in Hulk’s recent real-life Gawker controversy? Will he ever take off that bandana? Find out this week on TV OR GTFO!
Perhaps the most important aspect of the Lucha Underground universe is the personality of Dario Cueto. He’s been around in a limited way throughout this season, but only in short vignettes. In “El Jefe Is Back,” Dario Cueto, El Jefe, is definitely, uh, back. He even brought back a fun little staple of the first season of the show, the live performances! This week, we have Chingon, Robert Rodriguez’s band, opening up the show and they add a fun vibe to the proceedings that wasn’t there during Catrina’s reign, and that’s how Dario sets himself apart as a character. As sadistic and evil as he may be, his ultimate goal is to always entertain the audience and, by extension, make money doing so. Catrina just wanted the power of the Temple for its own sake.
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.
It’s a gigantic week in Lucha Underground, friends. After last week’s outstanding triple-threat match between champion Mil Muertes, Pentagón Jr., and Prince Puma, Fenix cashed in his Gift of the Gods title shot which is our main event for tonight. Let’s also hope that the inter-gender content will be handled better this week, because we have a Trios title match between the Disciples of Death and the team of Son of Havoc, Angelico, and Ivelisse that should be pretty good.
Despite watching this show every week, there are some things about the Lucha Underground product that I’ve glossed over a bit since I started writing these reviews. Lucha Underground features stories and matches that I think we can all agree give reality a pretty wide berth; all of their storylines have an outlandish quality to them. Their potentially problematic (to say the least) choice to feature intergender matches even in this unbelievable universe has earned them some flack, however. Lucha’s handling of matches and angles like this hasn’t been perfect, but it’s mostly been OK because the matches between women and men are presented in a fast-paced, more athletic style that’s not as violent as “hardcore” wrestling can be.
Tonight’s episode is different. We all have our lines, and seeing a woman–in this case, Taya Valkyrie–suplexed off the ring apron and through a table, and then again taking Cage’s Weapon X finisher onto broken glass (it is very clearly prop glass, made of sugar, but the visual is disturbing) steps way over that line for me.
A very subtle theme in this season of Lucha Underground has been Catrina’s meddling with powers she doesn’t fully understand since wresting control of the Temple from Dario Cueto. Since assuming power, she’s done things like reneging on the stipulations of the Gift Of The Gods title to make Cuerno wrestle Fenix in a Ladder Match instead of giving him his title shot or trying to manipulate Pentagón Jr. (not a good idea at the best of times). She may be a magical teleporting queen of death, but you have to think that these things have consequences.