Above all else (besides maybe money), professional wrestling is a storytelling medium. That’s a fact that usually becomes lost or disregarded as a result of less-than-ideal storytelling or Vince McMahon’s incoherent ramblings, but it is the point. And it’s not just the idea of storylines and backstage skits with the cast of Entourage: The best and worst storytelling that can occur in professional wrestling happens inside the ring. It’s upsettingly easy to forget, and that’s why Lucha Underground has been so special during its first and possibly last season. It’s not just the combination of inhuman luchadores and cinematically impressive backstage bits—everything within the wrestling ring matters. With the final three hours of Lucha Underground—with Ultima Lucha—that’s more evident than ever.
Part one of Ultima Lucha last week was a beautiful moment in time, captured within the confines of an hour specifically for star-making moments. Hours two and three, however, are mostly all about the established roles in the company—and this business—and, as a result, are nowhere near as seamlessly fluid as hour one. The roughness of 39 episodes of brutal fighting comes through in these hours, and that ends up alternating between being a good thing and a bad thing throughout the night. In the camp of it being a good thing, though, Ultima Lucha (and Lucha Underground as a whole) is a constant reminder of the place for blood feuds and pure hatred as a motivating factor in professional wrestling. This doesn’t just mean beating the crap out of each other physically, verbally, and mentally for weeks before a match—this comes down to entering a wrestling match like it’s not a wrestling match at all, unless it finally gets to a point where you need to. Despite the wrestlers’ near-constant reliance on going into the crowd during a fight, the fact that these matches of passion and anger aren’t just starting with the participants locking up and chain wrestling means a lot. A good portion of what Lucha Underground does means a lot.
Honestly, with the exception of Johnny Mundo versus Alberto El Patron, hour one was the hour of Ultima Lucha I was the most interested in. Reading the card for the rest of the Ultima Lucha, I had already formed my own underwhelming predictions. Pentagon Jr. would make quick work of Vampiro, absolutely destroying him. The seven-way match would crown a new champion with the Gift of the Gods championship, but multi-man matches in Lucha Underground have always kind of felt more like something to pass the time than something special. Blue Demon Jr. versus Texano would bring two wrestlers I care nothing about and give me no reason to care about them after the fact. Sadly, I was spoiled for the main event, but expectations were high.
Lucha Underground does a lot to subvert expectations with its storytelling, especially in such a jaded world for both wrestling and television fans alike. It’s why it’s arguably the best wrestling show on television, along with its impressive acting and production value, as well as its refreshing love of wrestling itself (and its fans). It’s been said time and time again that this is a great time for wrestling, and shows like Ultima Lucha in its entirety can be a great reminder of that. But like I said, a lot of it has to do with subverting expectations; besides the Blue Demon Jr./Texano match, the rest of the matches I had my predictions for did just that. That extends to the main event too, which leads to a fascinating ending and scenario for the series but is also a great reminder that Lucha Underground topping Grave Consequences or even the Mundo/Puma Iron Man match will be next to impossible.
Getting it out of the way, Blue Demon Jr./Texano is a dud of a match that relies on a continued interested in the muddled Mexico plot between Blue Demon Jr., Texano, and Chavo Guerrero. It’s a storyline that should probably play a huge role amongst the other storylines, yet it remains completely insular throughout the run of the season. The storyline was dead the moment Texano entered it, as his purpose in The Temple has been completely questionable post-Alberto El Patron feud. His interlude with Daivari was never going to elevate either one of them, and the resulting face turn never even felt right. So as this man defends Mexico, there’s nothing there—kind of like in the “match” itself. While Matt Striker and replacement commentator Michael Schiavello do their best to sell the importance and history behind this match, it’s all over the backdrop of a nothing match. Blue Demon Jr. hasn’t been on the show enough for his descent into absolute rudo to mean a thing, and Texano isn’t believable as a face, even when the nondescript scrubs known as The Crew (and I say this knowing full well who Ricky Reyes/Cortez Castro is—they’re still nondescript) are holding him down for a beating.
As expected, the battle royal follows a lot of the Lucha Underground multi-man templates, but it also plants the seeds for future storylines, because this is a television show, and that’s what you do. Also, because this is a wrestling show, and that’s what they do. That’s why Marty the Moth shows up in a match he’s not a part of and tries to beat up Sexy Star, the person who embarrassed him to gain entry into the match. That’s why the end montage—which continues this fascinatingly comic book-esque world and storyline—is such a masterpiece. Not everything may work, but long-term planning is key to Lucha Underground (which should be reason enough for renewal). So of course, Fenix wins the battle royal and the Gift of the God Championship on the same show where Mil Muertes wins the Lucha Underground Championship.
Two weeks ago, I found myself wondering why Daivari would keep Big Ryck on the payroll when he appears to be pretty terrible at his job (much like Daivari—the character—is also pretty terrible at his job). Too often in wrestling, supposedly smart heels continue to align themselves with other heels who are obviously incompetent, instead of simply trading up. Take the Authority on RAW. While Kane and Big Show are off doing whatever old big men do, and J&J Security are on vacation at Willy Wonka’s Factory (I assume) right now, they really should have been relieved of their duties and replaced with newer models ages ago. So when Daivari interferes in this battle royal, furious with the amount of money he spent on Ryck for absolutely nothing, it means something. “It means something” could be the battle cry of Lucha Underground, but it’s true.
While I’m on the subject of Ryck, it’s obvious he has done well and worked hard in Lucha Underground to shed the Ezekiel Jackson stigma. But in a match like the battle royal, where his game plan is to Royal Rumble eliminate everyone (not just everyone but one—he keeps throwing everyone out) from the ring multiple times, it brings back memories of the guy the Prime Time Players used to mock. That’s why Daivari’s—of all people!—interference is the best part of Ryck’s existence in this match (after everyone teaming up against the Ultima Lucha Royal Rumble winner).
Pentagon Jr. versus Vampiro somehow ends up being the one match that opens up an impressive world of possibilities, and even trying to predict where it can go feels like an insult to the storyline. Does it make sense that Vampiro is Pentagon Jr.’s master? If it doesn’t, it feels like it does, especially come end montage time.
The most exposure I’ve had to Vampiro’s line of work outside of Lucha Underground is that one season of MTV’s Wrestling Society X. And even then, I considered him worthy of ignoring in favor of Jimmy Jacobs and Tyler Black emoting all over the place, or Jack Evans flipping like the boneless phenomenon he was and still is. Plus, as I said back when I was reviewing RAW, WCW was never my brand. But watching this match with a Vampiro who is far from his prime, I see something. It ends up being for the best this isn’t just a one-sided decimation, especially since it appears it might be early on. The story in this match is great, and it’s absolutely brutal in a way it should be… but the style of the match is one that leaves me cold. That’s just my personal reaction to any match that busts out the light tubes. But the way I wouldn’t recommend the Blue Demon Jr./Texano match is certainly not the same way I wouldn’t recommend this match; this match is a reminder of how context can make or break a match.
As far as I’m concerned, the match of the night is Mundo versus El Patron, and there was no way it wasn’t going to be. It bears repeating: Johnny Mundo is putting out the best work of his career right now. Alberto has always been great, but his biggest weakness in WWE was WWE itself and its booking. But Mundo is finally living up to the potential that has been seen in him for years. How long did people call Mundo/Morrison/Nitro/Blaze/Spade “the next Shawn Michaels,” hoping he could unlock the missing piece of his entire puzzle? How long before people stopped calling him that because, for whatever reason, that missing piece just appeared to be a myth? Lucha Underground not only retrieved the missing piece: It rearranged the puzzle. The match between Mundo and El Patron is good wrestling, with Mundo playing up the chicken-shit heel early on and doing everything he can to stop El Patron from getting the moment he needs to put him away, and El Patron beating the guy like he owes him money (or like he threw him head-first through a window). And, as we all know, it’s extremely difficult to keep anything a real surprise in professional wrestling these days, so the arrival of Melina (with a mature bob hairstyle) to help out her man is right up there with the Vampiro reveal. As the (friendless) kids would say, I absolutely marked out in this moment.
The only negative is El Patron spanking Melina and Matt Striker having an orgasm over it, especially when Puma later uses Catrina in a less typical, more inventive (and action movie-like) way against Mil Muertes.
The end montage of Ultima Lucha just begs for a season two, which makes the lack of renewal news even more frustrating. Comparisons to comic books and their characters isn’t a new thing for professional wresting, but everything about the montage at the end screams comic book—specifically, Batman. Seriously, Marty the Moth transformed into The Joker (but is he “DAMAGED”?) so fast we almost didn’t notice it. But who is Batman in this instance? That’s easy: Lucha Underground itself. It is the hero of this story. The Temple—wherever that may be next—is the hero of this story. The Believers are the hero of this story. I am the hero of this story. You are the hero of this story. Cero miedo.
- RESULTS: Johnny Mundo defeated Alberto El Patron; Pentagon Jr. defeated Vampiro; (Cero Miedo match); Fenix defeated Aero Star, Bengala, Big Ryck, King Cuerno, Jack Evans, & Sexy Star (Seven-way Battle Royal, Gift of the Gods Championship); Blue Demon Jr. defeated Texano (No DQ); Mil Muertes defeated Prince Puma (Lucha Underground Championship)
- Since I didn’t get the chance to review hour one last week, I’ll just include some quick notes about it: Drago is my favorite, and I’ve never been happier during a Hernandez match. Really, I just have that one note.
- Just to be clear, the Cero Miedo match (Pentagon Jr./Vampiro) was not Falls Count Anywhere until Vampire caught on fire and they had to call an audible, right?
- Apologies for not writing as much about the main event, but while I love what the results can mean, the match itself didn’t speak to me as much as expected, even with some pretty cool spots. There’s always the comments though.
- Dario Cueto and Black Lotus turning Bonnie and Clyde might just be something the world needs. Don’t cancel this show. Or at least give us webisodes. Sorry, El Dragon Azteca.
- Drago and Aero Star just turning into dragons and… spaceships (?), respectively, might be the most beautiful thing to ever happen in professional wrestling on El Rey. Dragons and spaceships are real.
- Ivelisse and Son of Havoc end the season adorably reconciling on a motorcycle, and I don’t see how anyone can cancel a show where that happens. Give them webisodes, too.
- So, um, how do we fix Vampiro?