The decisions did not come easy.
Fenix and Petagon Jr. were two of the fastest rising stars in AAA in Mexico. Much like the generation that included Rey Mysterio and Psychosis before them, Fenix and Pentagon were had chosen by Konnan, booking AAA at the time, to be the future of the promotion. But, as politics and wrestling go, things did not go exactly as Konnan had planned. He went on record about it multiple times on his Keepin it 100 with Konnan podcast (new episodes release every Thursday as part of The Jericho Network of podcasts on Westwood One and available on iTunes, Google Play and wherever you get your podcasts) stating that he would constantly butt heads with then head of the company Joaquín Roldan who preferred pushing the older names he felt were keeping fans interested in the product over the younger names Konnan was confident were key to building the next generation of fans and maintaining the company’s status as the hottest product in Mexico.
And then…Lucha Underground happened. It was truly as if overnight, or at least over the course of the first season, Fenix and Pentagon Jr. went from up and coming stars in Mexico to worldwide lucha libre phenomenons. They were getting booked throughout the U.S., getting requests from overseas promotions, and often getting paid 2-4 times what they would get paid for a match in AAA to work outside of Mexico. The lack of pay in their home country coupled with bad conditions for the athletes in general – long 10+ hour bus rides from city to city, shoddy rings in which to wrestle, a lack of general respect from the office notorious for making employees sit around all day and wait to have a meeting – made the real life duo of brothers question how much more they could take.
In September of 2016, Fenix had had enough. He left AAA and found a new home in up and coming lucha promotion The Crash where Konnan was booking and trying to build a new challenger to AAA’s crown. Leaving also meant he had to give up his AAA given name. As any long time wrestling fan knows, often a name change in wrestling can simply mean a new spelling of a name – Taz becomes Tazz, Maximo becomes M-ximo, but Fenix, who many saw as following in Rey Mysterio’s footsteps to become the most spectacular high flyer in all of lucha libre, wanted to pay homage to the man who was inspiring his ascension. So, with his blessing, Fenix became Rey Fenix and even added his own version of Mysterio’s signature cross to his mask.
A few months later, in January of 2017, Pentagon would follow suit leaving AAA on the same day that Daga and Humberto Garza Jr. would, all heading to The Crash as well. He dubbed himself Penta Cero Miedo (adding his Cero Miedo catchphrase to his name). This one was more of a blindside as it was three jumping all at once with no notice, and a grudge that AAA would hold on to tightly. Well, blindside could be argued. Penta was among the chief proponents of better working conditions for the talent and thanks to his success for the company on Lucha Undergroud, he was told he would begin to be treated better. But it turned out to be a case of too little, too late, especially given the way Joaquín refused to elevate younger talent above the mid-card.
(Side note on Penta Cero Miedo. Once Lucha Libre FMV – the name of the legal entity that owns Lucha Underground – filed for a U.S. trademark on “Cero Miedo,” Penta changed his name to Penta Zero M or Penta 0M depending on the use)
Lucha Underground also created their own take on the Pentagon Jr. character, renaming him Pentagon Dark, with a unique spin on the look they could copyright and name they could trademark.
Under normal circumstances, that would have been the end of the story. The Lucha Brothers leave AAA and move on with their careers. It would have been clean and easy…if there was no Lucha Underground.
The brothers knew that their worldwide success was attributed to their exposure on the TV series. They felt loyalty to the producers (hired by Mark Burnett’s production company who had partnered with AAA and Factory Made Ventures on the project) and the producers to them. They wanted to remain on the series, AAA may have wanted them gone, but in the end the decision was made that they would remain.
In the meantime thought (and all of the ins and outs of this may be another story for another day) things became very litigious (excellent word for a lucha libre website on a Friday afternoon) on AAA’s part. The company started sending cease and desist letters to independent promotions who booked Rey Fenix and Penta claiming they owned their names and/or looks and they could not be used. The sent case and desist letters to Masked Republic, the company representing Penta and Fenix for merchandise rights and who had worked to get their t-shirts onto Amazon and major retailer 80stees.com. When Masked Republic provided what they felt was legal reasoning that Lucha Libre FMV and AAA did not have the rights to stop Penta and Rey Fenix from selling merchandise, LLFMV went directly to the companies selling the merchandise and attempted to have the items removed from their stores. Siding with Masked Republic’s reasoning, none of the stores removed the items, but legal threats continued to go back and forth from LLFMV and AAA to promoters and businesses who worked with the brothers.
With Lucha Underground focused on TV production and less concerned with ever becoming a full time wrestling company, talent was starting to be given permission to work elsewhere in addition with many talents ending up heading to Impact Wrestling. Johnny Mundo showed up there as Johnny Impact. Taya followed as her full independent name Taya Valkyrie. LU’s King Cuerno started to work under his AAA name Hijo del Fantasma. Only wrestlers who used the same name in AAA and Lucha Underground would possibly appear in that name on both – Texano Jr. for instance. The reasoning – LLFMV had the exclusive TV rights to the characters as portrayed on Lucha Underground. So, while the same talents could work both shows, the company wanted them using different names, as slight as some of the differences may be.
Yet, despite fan and Impact interest in Penta and Rey Fenix, AAA was not allowing them to be booked. AAA even blocked a planned trip for Rey Fenix to NOAH enabled by the AAA-Impact-NOAH alliance. While Penta worked the TV pilot taping for Aro Lucha and had worked for an MLW taping as well, both promotions were warned by LLFMV/AAA that the company felt the footage would not be able to be used as they claimed legal rights to the Lucha Brother’s individual names and looks due to a clause in their contracts that any “derivative of their character” was also property of the show.
(We could do an entire separate feature on Lucha Underground TV contracts and the plethora of issues with them…perhaps another day).
It was one thing to bicker and send legal threats when there was a near 2-year break between wrapping the recording of Season 3 and the start of recording for Season 4. But, as the day drew closer to everyone’s return to Los Angeles, things seemed to start to shift. I don’t even think anyone can pinpoint the exact moment in time when it changed because according to one source who met with AAA officials during the Season 4 tapings, at that moment there was still anger toward Penta and Fenix for the manners in which they left AAA, but, for the first time, there seemed to be a desire on AAA’s part to come to terms that would allow everyone to move forward.
By the time Season 4 was done recording it seemed as if, despite neither side necessarily loving the idea of a compromise, that it was in everyone’s beset interest to reach one. It would be more beneficial to Penta and Fenix to be able to wrestler globally without having to worry about promoters receiving legal threats. It would be best for Lucha Underground for Penta and Fenix to not be considering walking away from the TV series due to the extraneous circumstances forced on them by AAA. And so, in the weeks that have recently passed, the compromise was reached.
Penta and Fenix can work where they want, when they want, but, if it is for television, they must not use their Lucha Underground names NOR their independent names, they must use their old AAA names. This puts AAA in a position to not only gain publicity out of it, but to have a stake in any merchandise or licensing that comes out of the deals as well.
While many are asking if this means The Lucha Brothers (a trademark they actually own themselves, by the way) are heading back to AAA and leaving The Crash any time soon? Especially with today’s announcement that Rey Mysterio will be returning to AAA for Verano de Escandalo, one has to be reminded that in pro wrestling – and lucha libre – the only thing to never say is never – we have confirmed that at this time, there is no deal in place to appear for AAA at all.
In the end, like much in life, this has been an exercise in compromise. Penta and Fenix remain in Lucha Underground, 3 more “series cycles” left on their contracts, while able to wrestle anywhere else they please off of TV and with LLFMV permission, and using their AAA names, on TV.
The journey to get to the end of this story has been long…and something tells this writer that there are still more chapters to be written.
Lucha Underground returns to TV with new Season 4 episodes on June 13th on the El Rey Network. Seasons 1 & 2 are available now on Netflix. The company has also shifted much focus to their YouTube channel and new content is being added daily.
MLW, where just last night Pentagon Jr. defeated Fenix to become the #1 contender to the World Title, debuts on TV one week from tonight on the beIN Sports Network.
If you enjoyed this story and want more in-depth stories and analysis from inside the politics of lucha libre here on Lucha Central, leave comments below and let us know.