I’m going to begin this column with a brief story, one my longtime readers (all seven of them) have probably heard before. A little over three years ago I stopped watching WWE following the 2015 Royal Rumble and canceled the WWE Network. It was a difficult decision; I had been watching the promotion ever since WCW died in 2001 and was a fan of several really talented workers WWE employed. But that Rumble event, coupled with WWE killing the love for wrestling in CM Punk (my favorite wrestler) a year earlier was too much; supporting certain talent wasn’t worth my intelligence being insulted and watching a show that had shown, time and time again, that it didn’t care for what I and many other fans I knew wanted. At the time I didn’t know if it would be a short break or if I would never watch WWE again (I haven’t for those wondering). What I did know was I wasn’t ready to give up on wrestling. So I asked several friends about other promotions worth checking out. And wouldn’t you know it, one of them (the same friend who earlier had encouraged me to write less like a robot and more like the goofball I am) suggested to me this brand new promotion called Lucha Underground.
I knew next to nothing about the LU then, aside from the fact it was where John Morrison and Chavo Guerrero Jr. were spending their days. I decided to give it a shot for three reasons though; it reminded me of the WCW Cruiserweight division I fell in love with as a kid, it had some buzz and the color commentator was Vampiro, who I admired enough that I once checked out Wrestling Society X just because he was on it. I ended up binging several Lucha Underground episodes online a few days later (I did not have El Rey at the time) and no sooner did I start was I all caught up. By the time I caught LU “live” on TV for the first time on April 22nd I was hooked; then that night Angelico jumped off the roof of Dario Cueto’s office and I was a believer. I mean I was already, but that solidified it. I loved everything about the LU. I loved the in ring style. I loved how they filmed backstage scenes like they were out of movies. I loved that everyone, no matter their size, race or gender got an equal chance to be king or queen of the hill. But most of all I just loved how much everyone in LU seemed to care. No wrestling show, no matter how good it is, will deliver a great show every week; anyone who knows better knows that. All you can ask for is that every time out the people behind the show do their best to always knock it out of the park. I’ll forever believe that’s what made Lucha Underground (initially) such a phenomenon. Every week you felt there was the effort to put on the greatest episode of wrestling TV ever; sometimes it didn’t work and sometimes it led to Angelico diving off the roof, Matanza killing Bael, Grave Consequences and a career defining feud for both Vampiro and Pentagon Jr. For one hour, or two in the case of Ultima Lucha, it made you feel anything was possible.
Three years later Lucha Underground is now on the verge of entering its fourth season, with the premiere a little over twenty hours away as of this writing. A lot of things have changed for the LU since that awe inspiring first season. Albert El Patron lasted half a season before departing; he is not missed. Others like Rey Mysterio Jr. are; the lucha legend arrived in the second season and left after the third to explore bigger options. Prince Puma, initially booked as LU’s long term top star, has gone off to WWE under his more famous alter ego Ricochet. Most depressing to me is the departure of Angelico, the guy who’s leap of faith defined the show’s crazy spirit. But bigger than any departure is the slow fade of what was once LU’s enormous buzz. The season four premiere will not be the same as the season two one, a triumph for both the show in fans after uncertainty over whether LU would continue. Since then behind the scenes controversies, ownership mismanagement, a lack of TV deals in key countries, an unexpected midseason hiatus in season three and long breaks in between filming (among many other issues) have taken their toll on LU and the fan base. Some of that can be attributed to growing pains; it is after all easy to forget that LU has only been around for four years. But that doesn’t explain it all away. There are many fans from LU’s first season who for those reasons above (and others) are either long gone or no longer excited for LU the way they once were. In some ways I’m almost amazed I’m not one of those people.
It hasn’t been easy; in fact one of my best moments as a writer (in my view at least) was when I decided to wonder out loud just what the hell happened to a promotion that looked to be on the verge of breaking out. And make no mistake, there are several things about LU behind the scenes that I remain wary about. But there’s one thing I’ve never been wary about when it comes to LU and that’s the onscreen product. Through all the behind the scenes controversies the one thing that hasn’t changed is the ground floor effort to always put on the best show ever. Season two of Lucha Underground was great, albeit not on the same level as season one. Season three however was, a 40 episode long trek where people went through the Temple bleachers, a luchadora (albeit the wrong one) won the Lucha Underground Championship, the greatest locker room emptying brawl occurred, a group of ninjas broke Pentagon’s arm, Willie Mack nearly won the big one, Dante “AR” Fox and Killshot had the Omega-Okada of Death Matches and Ultima Lucha Tres concluded with, in my opinion, the greatest two hours a wrestling show has ever produced, from Taya’s documentary to Pentagon finally winning the big one and sending Puma to Florida. It wasn’t always perfect; maybe some episodes had a little too much interference, Sexy Star might not have been the right person to push and it wouldn’t have hurt if Pentagon won the title sooner (although I’m a big fan of how they handled it). But like I said; not even the greatest wrestling shows are perfect. The point is that even as people were put off by the front office miscues, LU the onscreen product remained the same. I may not have loved every LU episode in history but I never turned the TV off after feeling like they had let me down; if anything, the talent onscreen and the production people themselves were, like us, being let down by higher ups who either didn’t understand what they had or didn’t know what to do with it.
And hey, maybe that’s not enough for everyone. Maybe the uncertainty over LU’s future or the people behind the scenes screwing things up is enough to turn people off; I know it is for several people I know even if they won’t admit it. It isn’t for me. Every wrestling promotion I’ve ever followed, be it WCW, WWE, Impact, whoever has always had some dumbass executive with his head in his ass fleeing from the wreckage. It’s something to be mindful of but it’s not a reason to turn off the TV; a reason to turn off the TV is when the talent decides to phone it in and LU’s creative team flat lines. As I just spent a paragraph explaining, that hasn’t happened. I cannot applaud Eric Van Wagenen, Chris DeJoseph and their team enough for each week giving people a chance who wouldn’t get it elsewhere, trying out of the box ideas and doing everything they could to present an innovative, exciting product. And then there’s the gorram roster of superstars. It’s hasn’t always been the easiest for them as many know and many, and I mean many, of them could’ve given the finger to the people in high positions and no one would’ve blamed them. It’s never stopped them from showing up, creating (from what I understand) one of the best locker room atmospheres in wrestling and doing the crazy shit we see every week, from Pentagon to Matanza to Taya to Fenix to Jeremiah Crane to Paul London to the list is endless. It’s [redacted] endless. I don’t know if I believe in the higher ups; maybe one day but not now. But I do believe in the creative minds, I sure as hell believe in the talent and above all I believe that over the next 22 episodes LU is going to try and deliver the best lucha libre/wrestling product this side of New Japan Pro Wrestling.
And that’s why I’m going back to the underground. I’m ready for it all peeps. I’m ready for that long Pentagon Dark title reign where he breaks the guy from I Love the 90’s’ arm. I’m ready for this ice temple that LU has relocated in (RIP the old temple. You shall be missed). I’m ready for my old Rudo Can’t Fail editor Wayne to relive the Fenix-Jeremiah “Sami Callihan” Crane feud all over again, minus Crane spitting in his mask. I’m ready for time traveling ancient alien Aerostar, snake tribes and Paul London tripping balls. I’m ready for Whiteboard Jack Evans to ride off into the sunset (we’ll miss you Jack). I’m ready for Jack Swagger; that’s right, Jack Swagger. If LU could make Chavo interesting again, why not him? I’m ready for Kevin Kross. I’m ready for the lord to be our lord and savior LA Park. It won’t happen but you can’t stop me from wanting it to happen! I’m ready for Fox, Killshot and Big Willie running the trios division. I’m ready to see Ivelisse again. I’m ready to see the look on Mil and Crane’s face when they realize Catrina is all about the Fenix. I’m ready for no Sexy Star (that sound you hear is almost everyone nodding in agreement. Sorry LU guys!). I’m ready for Bestia 666 as Vampiro’s puppet master (come on, it was totally Bestia in the season three closing montage). I’m ready for King Cuerno and his cabin of deer heads. I’m ready to find out who finally beats Matanza one on one. I’m ready for the power glove, which, breaking news, remains so very, very bad. I’m ready to stop saying I’m ready for things! And finally, I can’t wait till my theory is proven right and Antonio Cueto is in fact Dario Cueto in disguise, no matter what that poster and teaser scene tell us. El Jefe will have been alive all along dammit! I’ve lost of how many things I listed there, and there are probably another several things I left out. Like Darth Vader, there is still plenty of good in Lucha Underground. Maybe I’m crazy, maybe I’m the only one left; so what? Because I cannot wait to be there to see what that good is.
(If you have not read my 5 part series The Best 100 Lucha Underground Matches of All Time, might I humbly suggest it’s a great way to prepare yourself for the epicness to come. You can start with Part 1 – Matches 100-81 here or you can skip right to the main event with Part 5 – The Top 20 here.
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