So I am really into professional wrestling (though I still feel uncomfortable about that term). I mean, that much should be clear by now, right? There are tons of editions just like this one on this blog and all of them are titled Why I Love Pro-Wrestling except for the one that is jokingly exchanges the word ‘love’ for ‘hate’. I grew up watching and I fell in love with the wild storylines and larger than life characters. I imagined myself with entrance music and pyro and I actually still do to psych myself up for stuff. I still write promos as they pop into my head (see earlier this month). In the comfort of my home, I recite New Day and Enzo and Cass promos along with the crowds at the arena. I watch NXT and pay-per-views with my WWE Network subscription. I think it’s safe to say that I am a fan.
I came in during the mid-nineties and while I have adapted to changes well, my experience has been perpetually old school. I was late to the party on ECW and ROH. I gave up on TNA at some point. I still have yet to see a single New Japan match even though I’ve been told how good they are. I know what I like and I tend to stick with it even when the WWE has lulls and I am barely paying attention. Still, every so often something comes along that is a shock to my system. Something that is new and exciting and clever and I cannot help but like it even when I thought I would hate it. Case in point: Wrestling Society X. WSX was a promotion put together for an MTV television show. The production value was high and so was the level of talent. The fictional story of the show was that it was a secret society that put on matches in a large bunker. If you blinked, you missed this surprisingly entertaining show.
Flash forward to earlier this year when I am enjoying WWE but I am just in the right mood to want to experience something else in addition. I was listening to my favorite sports entertainment podcast (The Rough House) and Christoff was raving about something called Lucha Underground. Of course, I had heard the word ‘Lucha’ before. There had been Rey Mysterio for a long while, Chris Jericho talked about it in his first autobiography and more recently the Lucha Dragons are a thing in WWE. So I hopped to it and decided to check this thing out through On Demand and YouTube. I was not quite prepared for what I was going to see but I guess I should have known better.
In Mexico, luchadors are like superheroes. They wear masks, are extremely athletic and their performance style encourages a lot of leaping and flying through the air. A little bit of that style can even be seen in North American performers like Chris Jericho, Sami Zayn and Seth Rollins among others. The in-ring action on the show is very wild and crazy. The psychology of the matches is very different from the WWE. In the grand scheme of things, wins and losses do not matter as much. You could go on a losing streak and still conceivably get a shot at a championship belt. It is the big matches where wins and losses matter. Matches are more to show that each luchador has fighting spirit and amazing abilities. It is a little startling to watch for the first time but, like watching a new tv show after a Law and Order marathon, it is refreshing.
All of that is really great but what really surprised me was the storytelling. The storytelling is completely off the rails and crazy and it is one of the top reasons why I have latched onto Lucha Underground. The WWE has a certain level of reality that we all accept. It is a scripted show but within that script, we accept that these are normal human beings who are paid to beat the tar out of each other. The shows are promoted and backed by several corporations working in harmony. In Lucha Underground, the fiction is that a criminal named Dario Cueto runs a lucha temple out of a warehouse in Boyle Heights. He runs the temple according to some obscure Aztec traditions and that includes the use of actual magic. The in-ring action is woven together into a story using backstage vignettes which are shot like a movie and have an intricate, out of this world story. I mean, the thing is produced by Robert Rodriguez so you know there’s a lot of effort behind it.
The show has a lot of stars you might be familiar with if you’re a pro-wrestling fan. Among them are John Morrison, Rey Mysterio, Alberto Del Rio, Chavo Guerrero, Justin Gabriel and Vampiro. Some of them are working under different names. In addition, there are a ton of people who were new to me like Prince Puma, Pentagon Jr., Mil Muertes, Fenix and many more. All of these performers are taking on new and interesting roles. There is Aerostar, a man who might be a time traveler or robot. He is friends with Drago who is a dragon who has taken human form. There are two undercover cops who have gone undercover as wrestlers to bust Dario Cueto. There is Mil Muertes who is probably undead and comes back stronger each time he is defeated. Half the performers are mystical descendants of Aztec tribes. It sounds wacky but I love it. You just have to let go and enjoy the story as it comes right out of left field.