wrestling / Columns

Csonka: 8 Things Lucha Underground Does Right

September 13, 2017 | Posted by Larry Csonka
Rey Mysterio Lucha Underground

Welcome back to column time with Larry. Today we’re going to talk about Lucha Underground. Lucha Underground is a fascinating promotion, due to the fact that they are doing pro wrestling very differently, which has led to wide spread opinion on the company. Lucha Underground has mostly been a critical success, but hasn’t lit the world on fire in terms of making money or showing real growth. It’s mainly locked on the low penetration El Rey Network, but you can catch the earlier seasons on Netflix. The company had big plans; movies, comic books, and national touring. But these things have not come to life for them and at this time, a fourth season is in doubt. While they have failed in those ventures, and making money in general, I do feel that they have done a lot of things right in their two plus seasons in existence (closing in on 100 episodes), and I’d like to discuss those today. Have a good time and feel free to share your opinions. The only rules are “have a take, be respectful of other’s opinions, and don’t be a dick.” We all have opinions, we’re going to disagree, just be cool about it.

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8. They Proved That You Can Still Produce Episodic TV: I’ve talked about this before, but one thing I firmly believe is that most North American wrestling TV feels extremely average and lazy. No one really takes chances, presentation has peaked and it’s only about a show “looking good,” but worst of all is the fact that the basic art of episodic TV has been lost on so many. But I feel that since Lucha Underground has approached things so differently, being more of a “TV show” than a traditional wrestling show that they have done a great job of creating episodic TV. Lucha Underground does something I like to refer to as roller coaster booking. They start at level one so to speak, and then they slowly book through 4 to 6 episodes where they culminate and pay off on some of those stories. This gives the fan base some short-term payoff, a reward so to speak, before they continue on with longer-term angles and then work into the next short cycle. The grand plan is mapped out; the stories are broken down into chapters, and painstakingly laid out to give small payoffs to the fans, like reward for their viewers as they build to a bigger culmination point “Ultima Lucha.” Their use of the excellent cinematics also allows them to keep you up on and advance angles that aren’t being featured without taking too much time away from the current or main focuses.

7. They Proved That You Can Tape TV Several Months Ahead of Time and It Can Still Be High Quality: Quality TV is a must these days, there is no excuse not to have it will all of the great in ring talent and wrestling minds out there, but somehow people still put on painfully average or poor TV on a weekly basis. You can’t do this, because there is simply so much product out there at your fingertips for free or for cheap. For years I have heard the excuses in regards to TNA, “how do you expect them to put on quality TV when they do mass taping so far ahead of time.” It’s not idea, but some people make it out to be way harder than it needs to be. It all comes down to laying out your long term stories, having your plan set in stone (unless an injury happens), and put time, effort and money into properly editing these shows to make them the best shows possible. And that’s where Lucha Underground has thrived, they tape a lot of TV over a three day period, and the wrestlers are asked to work high level matches, sometimes more than one, but they find a way to deliver. But Lucha Underground, whether you’re a fan of their brand or not, has several long term angles laid out that they are constantly building to. Their use of the excellent cinematics instead of cliché promos or forced backstage encounters greatly add to the shows and of course pad some of them out, adding to the great wrestling. The editing of the show is really strong and only adds to the quality of the shows.

6. It’s Given Tough Enough Competitors a Fresh Start: WWE created the Tough Enough concept to not only jump into the reality TV craze, but also as an attempt to build some stars for the future. And they did that, in a way, just not for themselves. More Tough Enough competitors have found their success outside of WWE than inside it. The Miz is WWE’s biggest Tough Enough success story, and he didn’t even win the show. But some of these lost Tough Enough competitors, who for whatever reason didn’t make it in or get a fair shake in WWE, have found new life in Lucha Underground. Son of Havoc is a cult favorite among the fans at the temple, Ivelisse (despite serious injury issues) has been booked as one of their top female stars, and held the trios titles (with Havoc), Marty The Moth Martinez has transformed into a wonderfully demented character and damn fine wrestler, and Johnny Mundo has been one of the pillars of the promotion, along with Puma, Fenix, Pentagon and Muertes. They may not have been “WWE material,” but WWE’s loss has certainly been Lucha Underground’s gain.

5. They Made The Casket Match Interesting: The Casket Match has been one of the most boring and lackluster matches for years, worked at a painfully slow pace and usually lacking severely in the drama department. When I first heard that Lucha Underground was going to do its version of the match, I was more than skeptical; I freely admit that I hated the idea. But I am glad to say that I was very, very wrong and they more than delivered the goods. In fact, I can say as of this writing that the two “Grave Consequences” matches, featuring Mil Muertes vs. Fenix, are the two best matches in the company’s short history. They were awesome stories, had absolutely awesome action and made me look forward to more; a regular casket match has never done that for me.

4. It Re-Invented The Royal Rumble/Gauntlet Match With Aztec Warfare: The WWE Royal Rumble has been a match that I traditionally look forward to each year, but while I love the match, I feel that it has failed to deliver in recent years. They have felt flat, lacked drama and I don’t feel that they have been laid out as well as in years past. TNA often runs gantlet matches, which are essentially the same, but with the addition that the final two men face off in a one on one match, with the winner coming from pin or submission. For a time they put on some very good editions of the match, but I also feel that they have dropped off in quality in recent years. And then came Lucha Underground, and the Aztec Warfare match. They flipped the script, changed the rules and reinvented the match. There are no over the top eliminations, allowing the high fliers to do all of their cool shit and eliminations only come from pin or submission. These changes allow for some dynamic spots from the talented roster, the benefit of near falls and the elimination of “tedious close elimination spots or guys just hanging on the ropes or taking a nap for a long period of time. This has also allowed them to tell their stories, advance or create new stories and make for a much more exciting match overall. In my opinion, the first Aztec Warfare match in season one remains a crowning achievement of action and storytelling, and is one of the top three matches in the company’s short history.

3. It Gave Us a “New Style Authority Figure” : It’s no secret that one of the things that I hate the most about modern day wrestling is the authority figure. Over the years I feel that it has not only become a booking crutch for some promotions, but has also made them very lazy in their writing and storytelling. So when I saw that Lucha Underground was going to have an authority figure and that he was going to be some actor with no experience in the business, I rolled my eyes and feared for the worst. I am glad to say that I was completely wrong about him, and not only do I feel that Dario Cueto is the top non-wrestling performer in the business today but he’s one of my favorite overall performers on TV. What I love about “El Jefe” is that he’s not the cookie cutter evil owner. He is a man that opened a temple to watch people fight to entertain himself. He loves money, he’s not above paying people off, and he’s not above changing his own plans if it ends up pleasing himself or causing pain to the performers he’s not a fan of. He also has a monster brother locked in a cage that eats people’s faces. Seriously though, the man is a great performer, he’s well written, his performances are awesome and the presentation of Dario Cueto has proven that you can do an authority figure that doesn’t feel like a retread or a cliché.

2. It Made The Phrase “One Match Show” a Good Thing: Over the years, the phrase “One Match Show” has gained a negative stigma, and I get why. I have used the phase in a negative way, watching a largely poor or average show to get to that one great match, that diamond in the rough, that one match that makes a show feel worthy of the time that you have invested. It’s hard to work through a 2 or 3-hour show for that one ray of hope. But Lucha Underground, a one-hour TV product has embraced the term and pulled off several episodes that were, in fact, the very definition of “One Match Show.” Episodes containing the Aztec Warfare match, the all night long match, a six to survive contender’s challenge and the Pentagon vs. the Stardom Three all took up the whole show, with only some video packages to fill out and or bookend the shows. I find it absolutely refreshing that the promotion embraces the one-hour time slot, sometimes filling it with various forms of wrestling and cinematics, but they also aren’t afraid to dedicate an entire episode to one match from time to time. The break from formula can be very refreshing.

1. It Gave Rey Mysterio One Last Run: I feel that while Lucha Underground is far from perfect, I have been greatly entertained by the promotion and feel they have done a lot right. But the top of that list is the fact that they gave Rey Mysterio one last rune, one treated with respect, and in turn, Mysterio busted his ass for the company. Lucha Underground didn’t mess around with Mysterio, treating him like a legend since day one, dubbing him “El Rey,” the king. In TV terms, since some people get upset when you call Lucha Underground a promotion, the company treated Mysterio like an award winning actor that decided to have fun, and bring his name value and talent to his favorite TV show. He’s not there to be a star, but he’s a featured performer appearing in a recurring role and when he shows up you know it’s an important episode. Mysterio has been protected, has been treated with respect and delivered when he’s had to do so. The company’s future may be up in the air, but they have done a lot of things right, and one I greatly appreciate is Mysterio being able to have one last chance at glory, and to be looked at as the legend he is. Don’t judge him from his final years in WWE, he’s way more than that, and reminded us at times that “El Rey” can still go when he has to.

In closing it’s very likely that we won’t be getting a season four. They haven’t made money, it doesn’t appear that anyone will be giving them more money, and talents want out and have or are about to bail. They never raised their profile, they never created viable revenue streams and unfortunately, when you don’t do that you can’t survive. I’ve enjoyed my time watching and reviewing the company, and if season three is it, I will greatly miss the show.

– End scene.

– Thanks for reading.

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“Byyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyye Felicia!”