Wrestling audiences are living in a blessed time, particularly on Wednesday nights when we’ve been spoiled for choice thanks to NXT, Ring of Honor and the most strikingly different TV product so far, Lucha Underground. Created by TV mogul Mark Burnett and film director Robert Rodriguez for the El Ray Network, Lucha Underground boasts a unique look and style and an impressive roster that includes familiar names such as Johnny Mundo (formerly Johnny Morrison) and Alberto El Patron (better known as Alberto Del Rio) and many from standout Mexican company Asistencia Asesoría y Administración (AAA). Combining striking visuals, excellent wrestling and storytelling, Lucha Underground is one of the most exciting weekly wrestling series I’ve enjoyed since becoming a wrestling fan.
So what is it about Lucha Underground that has gotten so many rave reviews and dedicated fans,
like me, on the edge of our seats over the announcement of a second season? Other companies and channels have tried to create weekly wrestling shows. I remember MTV’s Wrestling Society X, which had a talented roster but tried so obviously hard to appeal and fell short. LU provides the familiar, heart-stopping standout action for TV trailers – Angelico leaping off of the roof of the boss’ office onto wrestlers below in the ring – and recognizable characters – the paid thugs, the woman fighting the odds, the bitch who orders her boyfriend around, and more. There are familiar moments glimpsed throughout: Chavo Guerrero can never be trusted, and the boss Dario Cueto is self-serving to the max. So far, so familiar, but this promotion is truly a cut above in terms of storytelling. Settling quite nicely into one of the best comparisons that pro wrestling is akin to a soap opera, we are gifted with vignettes that are recorded on film to mimic the aesthetic of a movie, and there is a plethora of backstory where the kayfabe of contracts and illicit shady dealings are made visible directly to the viewer. What a way to have the fate of a character decided! It’s refreshing to be subjected to promos that serve the same clear purpose as the matches and tell one entertaining, cohesive story.
One thing we truly appreciate is LU hasn’t fallen into the trap where you see the exact same characters week in and week out acting out the feud you got bored of a few weeks back. Instead, stories and characters are able to breathe and just when you think someone has fallen off the radar, their string is pulled and they’ve returned to develop a new twist.
They’ve also got the magic of the craft down pat with the inclusion of supernatural storylines such as Drago: a dragon reborn as a man and Catrina who raises her powerful charge, Mil Muertes, from the dead. It’s wonderful to see the out of the ordinary be played straight while still maintaining some of the camp and humour that makes professional wrestling such a well rounded art form we have all grown to love. That contrast, the release of pressure, is definitely needed to carry the show – a fact that the producers seem sharply aware of.
A promotion that is for everyone, but definitely is aware of it’s mature audience in terms of it’s pacing and tone. They utilize this both to captivate the viewers in the crowd, as well as at home. This is a stark reminder that you don’t need to go full “shock” in order to keep anyone over the age of 9 invested. It is possible to make a wrestling product that’s great for all, and it seems that El Rey has their eye on the prize – so much so that there were even whispers of them being in talks for Emmy nominations this past year.
With the recent announcement of a new season being released on January 27th, 2016, it’s safe to say that wrestling fans are eagerly awaiting a follow up to the finale from season one, Ultimate Lucha, which drew to a close with Dario Cueto fleeing the arena. Will the next season be staged somewhere else entirely and abandon the set which has become so much a part of Lucha Underground’s image and success? That would be both a gamble and brave move, a feat well worth the payoff. So fans, you can breathe a sigh of relief that the spray painted question mark was only asking us what’s to come next, not will we ever see you again.
Check out the trailer for season two, and tune in to the El Rey network for more lucha action.