Posts Tagged ‘Lucha Underground’

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: Authority Figures

December 2, 2017

WILPW

One way or another, all of us have a boss at some point in our life. We get up, we go to work and we do our job under their watchful eye. It is their job to troubleshoot problems, write the checks, and make sure we are doing our job right. Usually we only really have the hands-on approach from the big bosses when everything has gone to hell or there is a staff meeting of some sort. Even people whose first job was starting their own business has had to face authority somewhere in their life. Whether it is your parents, teachers, police, or judges, somebody laid down the law and made sure you knew that you just cannot do whatever you want. Whether the authority figure is evil or good, they help move the plot along and give characters a larger world to react to.

The Corporation/The Authority – World Wrestling Federation/World Wrestling Entertainment

Sorry WWE-haters but I could not get through this post without mentioning these two (technically one) groups. The Corporation was established during the Attitude Era when Vince McMahon, announcer, became Vince McMahon, the evil boss who screwed Brett Hart. As the owner of the company, Vince and his family could stack the deck in their favor. They blatantly screwed superstars who did not fall in line and handpicked loyal superstars to support by bending or even re-writing the rules. They feuded with Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Union, Degeneration X and many more. Often, instead of defeating some of their enemies, they just bought them and brought them into the fold. Vince fully embodied the overbearing, completely unfair boss while his kids portrayed the entitled rich kids that everybody hates.

In sort of a revival, Stephanie McMahon and Triple H dusted off the faction and re-dubbed it The Authority, further driving home that they were in charge. Wielding absolute power, they did everything in their power to bring those who opposed them under their heel. At times they feuded with CM Punk, John Cena, The Shield, Dolph Ziggler, and many more. Playing off their real-life positions in the hierarchy of the company, they blurred reality by becoming the focus of the fans’ hate. Their storyline was long and encompassed the whole family and the only way to fight back was to break the rules or find some way to make the rules work in the rebels’ favor.

Dario Cueto – Lucha Underground

Dario Cueto is a different animal entirely and “animal” might be an appropriate word. He showed up at AAA’s Triplemania and offered a briefcase of money to anybody who wanted to come compete for it. He seemed like any other shady promoter. No corporate backing, no board of directors. Cueto is the ultimate authority in his temple which seems to be a front for both a criminal organization and some sort of supernatural entity. The point is, whatever Cueto says goes and there is absolutely no wiggle room for anybody who opposes him. However, faces/tecnicos have been able to exploit his love of violence to get their way but Cueto seeks to screw them at every opportunity. He is heavily in support of anybody he can hold under his thumb, often pushing his own contract players over all challengers. There was a time when I thought that Cueto might actually be The Devil and I still am not completely convinced I am wrong. The El Rey Network made the interesting decision to grab an actor who was completely uninvolved in pro-wrestling and make him one of the faces of their organization. He is not an ex-promoter, a family member of the owner, or an ex-performer. They literally cast his part as if he was in a movie and it really paid off. While both methods of introducing a character like this can work, this proved that getting the best pure actor can pay huge dividends.

Jim Cornette – Ring of Honor

If you are trying to elevate your independent, you can do a lot worse than hiring Jim Cornette to be your onscreen authority figure. He has a distinctive voice and a high charisma partially due to the southern charm he exudes. He also has a big loud mouth and I am sure even he would agree with me on that point. In the real world, Cornette may be sometimes ridiculously out of touch with the product. He still has a great mind for the business and, if I had a wrestling company, I would want him on hand to lend at least some of his wisdom. In front of the camera, he was exactly the shot in the arm that Ring of Honor needed as they got their deal with Sinclair Broadcasting. Cornette was there to shout down the bullies and protect the babyfaces in a direct contrast with who he was as a manager. What really makes me think back with fondness on Corny’s time as the boss on Ring of Honor TV is his feud with Kevin Steen (who is now Kevin Owens). In real life, Cornette hates Kevin Steen and Kevin seems to hate him right back. That real-life hate really translated on screen and was eventually the catalyst for one of my favorite ROH storylines that I have seen (The SCUM storyline). Cornette was the babyface on screen but was kind of the bad guy backstage but it all worked out in the end.

William Regal – NXT

Regal is the on-air commissioner of NXT. On paper, NXT is the latest developmental territory but it has become so much more. It is a place where new blood mixes with seasoned professionals and stars are given freedom to create fun new characters. Because of all this new energy, I feel like they have always liked to infuse at least a touch of the old school to add to its mythology. The trainers down there are older independent, WWE, and WCW performers. Adding Regal was a no-brainer. The NXT can be a wild and lawless place sometimes. In kayfabe, Regal has a long history with the company since events in WCW and WWE are both canon. He has an air of gravitas as the old hand at the wheel, with the experience to talk to the stars of today. In addition, Regal was almost always a heel and was a well-known rule-breaker who was also legitimately tough. It makes sense to have a reformed bad guy as the boss in your organization. He sees everything and knows a lot of the ways heels will try to wiggle out of a fair fight. He really portrays seemingly genuine amusement when he is able to put one over a weaselly heel. He is also great at displaying shadowy, righteous anger when things get out of hand and he has to put his foot down. He is the old sheriff who used to be a bank robber, proud of his wicked past but determined to hold the line.

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Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: The Death of Kayfabe

November 18, 2017

WILPW


Al Snow gives his opinion.

In an earlier post, I described the magic of Kayfabe. For those who forgot and do not want to click back: Kayfabe is the old carny term which basically means the story or false reality that sports entertainment companies weave around their product. Of course, the term was created when everybody was using the term “wrestling” instead of “sports entertainment”. This is the agreed upon device which creates babyfaces and heels (good guys and bad guys) so that there is enough friction to continue fighting. It is also the thing that turns an American named Nelson Simpson into “The Russian Nightmare” Nikita Koloff. It is a necessary part of the business and it has been a big part of how most businesses do things.


They fought over a shampoo commercial.

I was driving around with my brother recently and I was saying something about the business of pro-wrestling. He turned to me and asked me why the performers compete against each other. He understood, as most people do, that there are a championship belt and a contender for that title. He was wondering why people lower on the card would fight each other. The short answer is that they are paid to do so both in real life and in kayfabe. However, that is not exactly what he meant because that simple motivation is something everybody can understand. There are a lot of reasons for these people to fight for. The main reason people compete so hard is that they feud. A feud can start as simply as one performer states that they are the best and another performer tries to prove them wrong. It can be as complicated as one man stalks another man’s girlfriend. It can be something obscure like two men fighting over who gets to be in a shampoo commercial or who has the right to use the letter T in their name. Whatever it is, as long as it is a compelling story or it is told in an entertaining way, the crowd will buy it.


Jim Cornette gives some excellent analysis on Cactus Jack.

The reason why I started writing this post is actually good ol’ Jim Cornette, a man who I respect a lot. You see, Cornette has been involved in the business for a long time. Most notably, he has been the booker (writer) or booking committee for several prominent companies including TNA, WCW, WWF, ROH, and various NWA territories. He has also been an onscreen manager mostly of tag teams in the NWA, WCW, and WWF. He founded Smoky Mountain Wrestling in the nineties and he was the main driving force behind the rise of Ohio Valley Wrestling as the first official talent development territory for the WWE. He has had huge success in the business. So, going forward, please remember that I have enormous respect for both Jim Cornette and the old school side of wrestling that he represents. I have only seen a little of pre-nineties wrestling because I was not exposed to it when I was younger and I only have so much time in the day now. Still, I respect the old-timers for what they contributed, most of which survives in some form in the present day.


He really, really hates Joey Ryan… who isn’t a dick from all other accounts.

Jim Cornette and the old school contingent have claimed that kayfabe is a device that is dying a horrible death. The most recent example of the supposed ‘death of kayfabe’ is the rise in popularity of Joey Ryan. This is really where I sat up and take notice as I am a pretty big fan of Joey Ryan both in and out of the ring. Joey Ryan was simply a great independent wrestler who got brief stays on television in both Wrestling Society X and TNA. His gimmick was as a sleazy wrestler who was sponsored by the YouPorn website and chose The Pina Colada Song (a song about cheating on your spouse) as his entrance music. The old school’s problem is that Joey Ryan is a comedy wrestler. In Cornette’s words, “Funny Don’t Earn Money” because people want to see something they believe is a real fight. He really lost his mind when Ryan adopted a move called the YouPorn Plex (also known as the Dick Flip). In this move (as shown below), Ryan literally uses only his penis to flip his opponent. Cornette screamed that this pushed the limits of suspension of disbelief and that it effectively killed kayfabe (yet again).


Now that’s sleazy.

Obviously, I disagree. Back in the day, promoters and performers somehow convinced audiences that professional wrestling was real. Babyfaces and heels never talked or hung out in public so that fans would believe that they really hated each other. Dusty Rhodes ‘broke’ his leg in a match against Ric Flair and then wore an actual cast in public. He even wore that cast around his house where only his two young sons could see him. The point is that they went to enormous lengths to keep up the illusion that it was all real as part of a grand tradition. Unfortunately, as technology improved and the Internet was born, us fans all started to talk to each other. We started to figure things out and we peeked behind the curtain and now the cat is out of the bag. We know it’s all a show. There is no way we can go back to where we were and I am not sure many people actually want to go back. I definitely do not want to go back there. I love the way things are now.


Joe Hendry proves that funny can equal money.

This is the new kayfabe. Back in the day, we got a bunch of tough guy characters to boo or look up to. Now, kayfabe is so much more varied. One of the things I love about pro-wrestling is the three-ring circus element of it. If you do not like the clowns (like Joey Ryan, Colt Cabana, Enzo Amore, Joe Hendry) in ring one, you can look over at ring two and see the strongman (Samoa Joe, Braun Strowman, Brian Cage). If you do not like that you can look over at ring three and see the acrobats (Ricochet, Ospreay, Neville). However, the business has really grown and we all now have access to hundreds of rings. If you do not like something, there is a good chance that if you turn your head, you will see something you love.


If I can believe the storylines in Lucha Underground, I can believe anything.

Besides, the new kayfabe is not all that different from the kayfabe we have gotten for decades. As long as the internal rules are mostly consistent, I think kayfabe remains intact. Every wrestler responds to Joey Ryan’s genitals in exactly the same way which makes their legendary powers a canon fact. We were told back in the day that Undertaker was dead and we believed it because we wanted to believe it and the announcers and other wrestlers never contradicted it. I choose to believe what they tell me to believe because it is way more fun to play make-believe than pick at it because it does not make sense. We all know that the Upside Down is not real but we choose to believe it when we see that dryer lint floating around. My rule is that if something is fun and nobody is getting hurt, then I support it. Joey Ryan and guys and gals like him is a lot of fun to watch and I am all about having fun. Of course, Cornette is very welcome to earn advertising dollars nitpicking the hell out of it.

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: Supernatural

September 23, 2017

WILPW

It is currently Halloween season and I love traditional lore when it comes to things that were supposed to go bump in the night. Of course, these things have not been proven to exist in the real world but they are ‘alive’ and well in fiction. I thought I would compare the lore of the world of Sports Entertainment with the world of the supernatural and see what I can come up with. Keep in mind that I am playing fast and loose with many different sources and, as usual, this is all for entertainment purposes.


Mil Muertes – Wight

A wight is an undead creature that is created when a person dies but part of their soul remains in their body. A quick note: I am not talking about the ones in A Song of Ice and Fire, those are different. Wights are more than zombies but are definitely not still living humans. They are fundamentally changed and no longer side with humanity. Wights are also often known for the ability to suck the lifeforce from their victims. Their description in Dungeons and Dragons is as follows: “A wight is given a semblance of life through sheer violence and hatred.” and then goes on to describe their life stealing properties.

Mil Muertes is most certainly dead. He is the Man of a Thousand Deaths and, like Fenix, each time he is killed (or defeated) he merely comes back stronger than before. When the monster Matanza killed him during/after their Graver Consequences match, Mil only came back stronger. When he died long ago and ever since he has been resurrected by the dark magic of Catrina. Through it all, he definitely has the sheer violence and hatred part down as he is one of the most dominant forces in sports entertainment today. He has also demonstrated that he can take life by touch when he killed his own Disciples of Death when they repeatedly lost matches. When he died during the mysterious earthquake, Catrina must have returned part of his soul but not all of it. He was fundamentally changed into the unstoppable death machine that he has become.


Gangrel – Vampire

A vampire is an undead creature that was once human but was attacked by another vampire in life. They arise from death with a thirst for blood. There is a lot of debate in the lore what the origin of vampires actually is but my favorite legend is that vampirism is the mark of Cain. It makes each vampire a part of an epic chain of cursed individuals. Regardless, vampires are frozen in the condition they were in before death and are made immortal. Beyond preternatural strength and speed, they also are often gifted with flight and hypnosis powers. It is very hard to put a vampire down for good.

Gangrel showed up in the World Wrestling Federation in the late nineties and he claimed to be a vampire. He drank from a goblet of blood which he also playfully spit into the air during his entrance. He would also use this blood to blind his opponents. While he never showed preternatural strength, he was very successful for a time in the ring. Eventually, he formed a faction called The Brood by inducting Christian and Edge. I do not remember ever seeing Christian or Edge drinking blood and since then they do not act like vampires. I can only conclude that Gangrel used vampire hypnosis powers on them (and later the Hardy Boyz).


Bray Wyatt – Elder God

The elder gods are creatures we really do not know much about mostly because knowing too much would simply drive us insane. The elder gods were creatures of immense power who ruled the land long before the creation of more “modern” religions like Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and so on. They were so powerful and terrifying that the mere presence of them or their offspring could drive humanity crazy. Most of them are depicted as having horrifying tentacles and other alien features but according to lore, those depictions are only approximations and the real thing would be way worse. It is said that the elder gods are sleeping and when they wake they will only be interested in death and destruction.

Bray Wyatt has captivated people since he first appeared. His spellbinding voice and charisma have sent chills down my back just as much as the visuals connected to him. When he first appeared, he led a backwoods cult called The Wyatt Family full of people who were obviously unhinged from reality. One could assume that witnessing the arrival of an elder god could have done that to them. At first, Wyatt came off as a cult leader but eventually, he claimed to actually be a god. His madness is infectious as audiences have seen his cult grow over time. He is very powerful, having the ability to teleport himself or others at will and he once stole the Undertaker’s lightning and Kane’s fire. Finally, he seems to mostly be only interested in inflicting mental and physical pain on his victims. He laughs when he loses and only seems interested in winning if it gains him power or the opportunity to spread his influence.

And all of the rest…

When I decided to do this entry, there were a lot of obvious choices. I chose instead to mostly try to pin down characters that were presented as vague supernatural characters. A lot of characters are marketed explicitly and specifically as supernatural creatures. In the WWE we have both Kane and Finn Balor, both of which are different kinds of demons. We have the Boogeyman who is a boogeyman. There is Drago in Lucha Underground who is a dragon who took human form. World Championship Wrestling’s The Yeti was basically a yeti who inexplicably dresses as a mummy. Maybe next time I’ll try to explain The Ultimate Warrior when he was in WCW and Mordecai from the WWE. Probably not. They both sucked.

Are there any I really missed? Do you have any suggestions of footage I need to watch?

 

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: Monster Heels

August 21, 2017

As part of my ongoing series on heels, I would like to talk about a classic type of heel called the “Monster Heel”. This is a pretty straight forward idea. This type of heel is usually very large and very strong. Like the monsters in movies or fairy tales, they are big, scary, and violent. They attack with overwhelming force and, again like a horror movie, they are really hard to hurt and if they are hurt, it is not for long. The business has a long history of them.


Kane

The first monster heel that I experienced, was Kane. Kane was billed as the brother of the Undertaker, who was already a prominent supernatural figure in the WWF. In Undertaker’s backstory, Kane was thought to have died in a fire accidentally set by Undertaker as a young boy. That belief was a mistake as Kane had survived the fire and he showed up in the company to exact vengeance on his brother for the perceived attack and the death of their parents. He was unstoppable, regularly defeating whole crowds of wrestlers by himself. He destroyed everything he touched, even his brother (temporarily). On top of that, he was billed as (and is actually close to) being seven feet tall.


Awesome Kong

When I used to watch TNA Wrestling close to 2005, there was a lot to like. There was a lot of potential. One of those bits of potential was a woman who had made a name for herself in Japan and was booked as an absolute beast. She had no mercy for her opponents, partially because her character did not even speak English. She was strong and she was nothing like a lot of the female wrestlers on television at the time. Everybody else seemed to be a fitness model and there were more catfights than technical wrestling matches. Kong would flatten her opponents like she was a force of nature. She was strong and resilient and she frightened people. Best of all, one of her finishing moves was called the Implant Buster, a knock on the looks of her more lithe opponents.


Tomasso Ciampa

He might be the smallest person on this list but there is a good reason why Tomasso Ciampa is often labeled “Psycho Killer”. When he hit his stride in Ring of Honor, he was brutal and sadistic and he would stalk his victims just as well as Jason. While he did throw a lot of his opponents around, it was his devastating knee strikes that made an impression on me. His attacks looked like a wild beast, like an unhinged man. His character was a man who did not care about his opponent. I really believed sometimes that he may have knocked his opponent’s teeth and irreparably damaged the soft tissue. I am interested to see what he can do now in NXT that he has turned heel yet again.


Mil Muertes

Lucha Underground is definitely a very different wrestling program. The world of Lucha Underground is supernatural and nobody bats an eye at all sorts of crazy thing happening. So, the existence of Mil Muertes, the man of 1000 deaths, is not a surprise. Mil is a man who has died several times throughout his story but death is not the end. Each time he only comes back stronger. He is summoned back to life by his association with the deadly Catrina and black magic. In the ring, it takes so much for him to be stopped and his moves are beyond destructive. He finishes off opponents with the Flatliner and has in-storyline murdered several people and then used their skulls to adorn his throne.


Vader

Then, of course, there was Vader. I was not present for some of his best work. By the time that I first saw him, he was in the WWF and he was being used more for comedy than as the monster heel he could be. I have since watched the archival footage and read personal accounts from back in the WCW days and I see what people saw in him. Vader never had the most impressive physique but he was strong and he was relentless. He was the master of the powerbomb long before everybody was doing one. The powerbomb is a legitimately dangerous move if you do not complete it correctly and is still no fun if done perfectly. In a memorable moment, he powerbombed Cactus Jack on the concrete outside of the ring, potentially ending his career. He was mean and he made his attacks look real because a lot of them were.

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: Specialty Matches

January 28, 2017


Royal Rumble

This is the type of match that sparked this blog post. The 2017 Royal Rumble takes place tomorrow (1/29) and I am excited. The rules of the Rumble is that every 90 seconds a new superstar enters the ring and the last man who did not get thrown over the top rope wins. I have never watched a bad Royal Rumble match. Some have been better than others but most are full of some awesome moments and great surprises. The Royal Rumble is not really a great place for good technical wrestling but there are some fun high spots. Also, the match is tailor made to highlight a lot of the roster and it has moments for character spotlights. For example, the 1998 Royal Rumble saw Mick Foley enter three times under all three of his personas which made a clear statement that they were separate people. The 1999 Royal Rumble had Vince McMahon spending most of the match cowering or on commentary instead of competing which showed him as a cowardly authority figure. It is so much better than a normal Battle Royal. Lately, I have been loving Lucha Underground’s variation called Aztec Warfare where opponents either pin or submit rather than getting thrown over the top rope. Aztec Warfare feels a lot more kinetic than the Royal Rumble but also feels a little more chaotic.


Elimination Chamber

Invented in 2002, this match owes a lot of its origin to the Royal Rumble and the Hell in a Cell match types. In this type of match, a high enclosed cage surrounds the ring and four pods feed into the cage. Like the Rumble, two superstars start in the ring and at timed intervals, the pods are opened one by one which lets a new competitor into the match. Performers are eliminated by pinfall or submission until there is only one remaining. I would say ‘last man standing’ but they are rarely standing very well at the end of these matches. The pods are opened at random which makes each entrance a bit of a surprise. It also changes the makeup of the match as each performer gets to enter. This match is extremely brutal as the cage’s walls are made up of chains and the floor around the ring looks like subway grating. The plexiglass pods can also be used as weapons. Unlike a lot of match types with multiple people, the matches have been really good at putting a limit on rest spots and some of the best multi-person sequences I’ve seen have been in these matches. The only thing I have seen remotely like it elsewhere is the King of the Mountain match which involves competitors getting locked in a shark cage. It also has a lot of elements of the next match type…


Money in the Bank

This match was invented in 2005 by Chris Jericho who came with an awesome idea. At the turn of the century, ladder matches really picked up a lot of popularity in the tag team division. By the mid-2000s, they needed to come up with a new innovation. In the match, there are five to ten participants who all enter the ring at the same time. Hanging high above the ring is a contract for a championship match that can be cashed in at any time. There is a mad scramble up ladders to get at the briefcase hanging there and there is always a very brutal fight among the competitors to get at it. The match is probably career shortening so I am glad they do not do it more than once a year. Brutal attacks from ladders, with ladders or on ladders are what this match is about. Every single competitor gets to do their finisher and signature moves, often with the aid of a ladder. It has all the anticipation of a normal ladder match but it adds in a lot more chaos and there is a lot less time between high spots. The other aspect, the contract that can be used anytime, is incredibly intriguing and adds an air of anticipation to every event afterward. The only other place I have seen this match type was in the first episode of Wrestling Society X which had two contracts above the ring for their Heavyweight Championship.


Iron Man/2 out of 3 Falls

An Iron Man match is a match where two competitors face off against each other and try to accumulate the most victories in a set time period which is usually 30 or 60 minutes. A 2 out of 3 falls match is where the competitors must win two out of three matches that are immediately consecutive. Both match types allow for multiple finishes without ending the match which gives you the satisfaction of the ending of the match multiple times. The first Iron Man match I saw was Brett Hart vs. Shawn Michaels which saw no falls during a 60 minute period and had to go into overtime. A more normal version happened recently in an awesome match between Sasha Banks and Charlotte Flair. It is a match that shows how much conditioning the wrestlers have and how much abuse they can take. It is kind of like watching a good hockey game as you watch the score go back and forth and wonder who will come out on top. The two out of falls match is similar but is definitely shorter. At NXT Takeover Toronto, we saw a 2 out of 3 falls match between my current favorite tag team #DIY and The Revival (who used to be my favorite at one point). The match was so good that I am voting for it as NXT Match of the Year for 2016 because it easily stole the show. Having to beat your opponent and then get up and beat them again is such an interesting concept that it leads to some awesome matches.

What I Love About Pro-Wrestling: Thanksgiving 2016

November 21, 2016

WILPW

I spent much of this weekend catching up on watching some WWE and Lucha Underground so I thought this week was a good time to focus on a few things I am thankful for. Even if things are not perfect, it is important to focus on what you are thankful for. Much like the New Day, I like to spread the power of positivity and I have been holding onto that power hard in the last year. We are going to need the power of positivity going forward so let us work on igniting the sparks that make us feel jazzed. So let us dip a little into what got me jazzed lately in the world of sports entertainment.

Rich Swann and James Ellsworth

I am from Baltimore and when I see anybody representing Baltimore in a positive way, I feel happy. A little light goes off in my brain and I get excited. When I was watching the Cruiserweight Classic on the WWE Network, I spotted Rich Swann and I thought he was awesome. I love his high energy, party guy quality. I love it even more since his character focuses up as soon as the bell rings. When he first showed up on Raw, he teamed briefly with Cedric Alexander. The pairing was a little questionable as it looked a little racially motivated but I was sad to see that short-lived team break up. Lately, he has been teaming with No Way Jose on NXT which makes a bit more sense as they are both fun-loving, party guys.

James Ellsworth just got officially signed to Smackdown Live and I am happy about it. Ellsworth became a viral sensation when he got stomped by Braun Strowman but went into that match with determination. Before then his main claim to fame was being in a local tag team called Pretty Ugly and he was not the Ugly one. He has since gotten two wins over the WWE Heavyweight Champion in two very funny matches. I am very interested to see where his character goes next. Will he remain a jobber or will he start to build to something else?  After listening to his interview on Talk is Jericho, I want to see more from this humble yet confident man.

Aztec Warfare

I love battle royales. I have been a big fan of the Royal Rumble since its inception and Aztec Warfare is actually an improvement on that concept. I like that only pins or submissions can cause eliminations which gets rid of a lot of the awkward jockeying for position and clinging to ropes. Lucha has been really good for me this season. I love the way Lucha weaves all of their storylines together and makes them collide in this one match. Everybody was gunning for Matanza but it always felt like the Cueto brothers were always ten steps ahead of the roster. That is why it was so shocking when Matanza lost the title and maybe even turned on Dario. Sexy Star leveraged the allies she made and her own fighting spirit to win the top prize in the company. I thought that Joey Ryan would at least be safe from Matanza this year but unfortunately, he ran afoul of Mil Muertes instead.

It is still shocking to me that Prince Puma and Ivelisse were not actually in the match but it just makes their stories more of a surprise going forward. As far as I know, only Mil Muertes is the only person on the roster to come back from the dead but maybe Prince Puma will be the second. A lot of people have (kayfabe) died on the show including Konnan, the Disciples of Death, Mr. Cisco and also Big Ryck. Hell, Big Ryck’s skull was part of Mil Muertes’ throne in Season 2. I love the unpredictability of Lucha Underground and how storyline threads hide for a long time before popping up again. I mean, we got a bona fide appearance of the Black Lotus Triad during Aztec Warfare. So much happened and so much can happen in the future. I’m excited.

NXT TakeOver Toronto

While I do not keep up with NXT as much as I should, I really enjoy the energy of the show and seeing both fresh faces and familiar faces from the indies and other companies. I watched a few episodes leading up to checking out the latest Takeover and I loved what I saw. The Dusty Classic Tag Team Tournament was absolute awesomeness. Every team that I saw was awesome and had good energy and good ring psychology. The final match between TM 61 and the Authors of Pain was awesome, even with the somewhat silly stipulation of Ellering dangling over the ring. It was excellent but it was overshadowed by the two out of three falls match between DIY and The Revival which pretty much stole the show.

Asuka vs. Mickey James was great. As great as it was to see Mickey back in a WWE ring, they kind of treated her like she had just been sitting on the couch the whole time. She was very over in TNA and, among other places, has been killing it in Maryland Championship Wrestling lately. Of course, Asuka has been an amazing addition since she first debuted and remains undefeated. I absolutely loved “Glorious” Bobby Roode (and his amazing entrance) going up against “Ther Perfect 10” Tye Dillinger. I remember Roode from back when I watched TNA and Tye has worked hard for this new push. Finally, Shinsuke Nakamura is a force of nature and his entrance blew Roode’s out of the water. The match between a “Kodiak bear” and a “rabid dog” was a great story and both Samoa Joe and Shinsuke would have deserved that championship.

Survivor Series

I have loved the build to this year’s Survivor Series. I know a lot of people have said that it does not make sense to see rivals having to be on the same team but I like it. Lucha Underground is the king of strange bedfellows tag teams making kidnapping victims tag with their kidnappers and other crazy teams. People have remarked how weird it was to see people who hated each other, working together. Why would they do that? Because their boss told them to. Besides, all of those rivalries paid off and became either strengths or weaknesses. AJ Styles accidentally got Dean Ambrose eliminated. There was a callback to Ellsworth’s short lived rivalry with Braun Strowman. Sasha and Charlotte could not work together and Charlotte blasted Bailey after their win. The women’s division match was great and possibly opened up at least one new storyline. The men’s division match was great and there were a lot of surprises. Most importantly, we might have seen the end of LOL Roman Wins and a reemergence of the Wyatt Family as a credible threat. Even so, my favorite match was actually the tag team match because I have never seen such a fluid 20-man tag team match. I really liked the pay per view and I am excited to see the fallout from it and the now unpaused storylines.

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: Johnny Mundo

July 23, 2016

WILPW

I know that the WWE Draft is currently rocking the headlines of the world of Sports Entertainment. I watched the draft on Tuesday night but when I watched it, it was a little less than live since I could not get to the television until after ten o’clock. I really enjoyed Raw and Smackdown this week. The draft was intriguing and in my heart of hearts I definitely correctly picked the first two drafts. I cannot wait to see how they utilize their separated talent pools. In addition, there are plenty of other recent headlines in the business or adjacent to the business. UFC 200 happened and Brock Lesnar was victorious. As much as I like Brock Lesnar, I could care less because I don’t care for UFC. Ah well. The Final Deletion exploded the internet making millions of wrestling fans sit up and say “Wait, TNA still exists?” The Final Deletion was hilarious but maybe for all the wrong reasons. Only time will tell.

All of that aside, I want to pay tribute to the other big news for the past three weeks. We are officially nearing the end of Season 2 of Lucha Underground. At the end of each season, the twisted temple holds an event called Ultima Lucha. This is an eight-hour event that is aired on El Rey network over three weeks. It is amazing and entertaining and pretty brutal. So let’s take a look at the leader of Worldwide Underground, one of the hottest new factions in Lucha Underground. Let’s take a look at Johhny Mundo.

John Hennigan was given a chance on WWE’s annoying reality show Tough Enough 2. Tough Enough was a show where people trained to be pro-wrestlers and competed for a WWE contract. It was a little annoying because, like other shows of its kind, it encroached on the mainstream product and threatened kayfabe. Kind of the same reason I hated the Diva Search, early NXT and Total Divas. Anyway, Hennigan stood out enough to earn a spot in Ohio Valley Wrestling which was a development territory that fed the WWE at the time. He was good enough to appear on WWE programming while working with Matt Cappotelli at OVW. He was trained by Jim Cornette and “Nightmare” Danny Davis at OVW. He obviously benefited from the training as it was not long before he debuted on WWE Heat and then WWE Monday Night Raw.

Hennigan debuted on Raw as Johnny Blaze and then he changed his name to Johnny Spade and then finally he became Jonny Nitro, assistant to Eric Bischoff on Raw. Thankfully this did not last long but it gave Johnny some more time to work on his promos and develop his streak of arrogance that has lasted through his career so far. He ended up debuting during a great time period. It set him up in the lower mid card at just the right time. It also allowed him to walk around the WWE while people like John Cena and Randy Orton were getting their first big pushes. Still, he was nothing special quite yet but few people get their big push overnight. I mean, neither John Cena or Cody Rhodes were too exciting early on either.

Finally, they found something real for Hennigan to do. They let him keep the Johnny Nitro name even though it was designed as a rib on Eric Bischoff and WCW. Now he was joined by Melina and Joey Mercury. Melina played Johnny’s girlfriend and was a great performer in her own right. Mercury was great too but ended up being more successful as an NXT trainer now. Together they formed MNM, a new stable fresh from Hollywood who were rich, successful and complete assholes. A tag team is a great way for new talent to break into the public consciousness. The trio started winning titles. Most importantly for Hennigan, they started to win tag team titles over and over. MNM went the distance and, in my opinion, remains a very memorable and fun tag team in a field of more bland or weird tag teams. I mean, Heidenreich teamed with Animal around that time. Come on.

Johnny Nitro and Melina jumped back to Monday Night Raw where Hennigan stepped up and started a singles career. He battled some of the greats and held his own and looked even more impressive than he had before. He won the Intercontinental championship from a triple threat with Shelton Benjamin and Carlito Colon. These guys are two extremely talented wrestlers who were both in an early point in their careers. He went on to feud with Jeff Hardy during one of his more lucid periods which ended up being great. Then he feuded with John Cena which says a lot about his skills and the confidence the company had in him. He lost Melina but briefly regained Joey Mercury in a brutal feud with the Hardys. He proved he could be tough and innovative as well as technically proficient and charismatic.

In 2006, tragedy struck and Chris Benoit murdered his family and then committed suicide. In the midst of trying to repair the damage, Nitro won his first heavyweight title when he picked up the ECW World Championship. He then changed his ring name (this is ring name number five, by the way) to John Morrison and added inspiration from Jim Morrison of The Doors to his character. This launched him up to a higher level in the company as this new character took off. He teamed with former reality star The Miz in some of the best chemistry I have seen in the business. In addition, he started to add a lot more to his moveset and became a lot more memorable. I was glued to the Miz and Morrison Dirt Sheet segments and I wanted to see what he would say next. At the time, I blatantly stole his tagline of “Be Jealous”. He definitely shone brightly in his new tag team role.

Of course, he had to break out as a singles wrestler again eventually. This began when Miz and Morrison were drafted to separate shows. I knew we would get back around to the draft eventually! After an attack by the Miz and a feud with heel Chris Jericho, Hennigan became a babyface for the first time since… well maybe the first time ever. He added to his moveset even more, finally adding his current finisher which is a split-legged corkscrew moonsault. He started to add more high flying and parkour elements to his style and got to show off just how athletic he is. It seemed to me that John Morrison was becoming bigger and bigger and should have been a heavyweight champion in the WWE at some point. He had all three of the things it takes to be truly successful in the business: Good mic skills, technical prowess/athleticism and the it factor. Instead, he left the WWE and disappeared into the independents.

Then he finally resurfaced in the Asistencia Asesoría y Administración down in Mexico. Now I never really watched any of that because I found it hard to access at the time. However, then I found out about Lucha Underground which is basically a US spinoff from the AAA. The Lucha style suits John well who adopted name change number six and became Johnny Mundo. He ditched a lot of the Jim Morrison stuff but kept a lot of the cocky heel humor and oozes arrogance. He is doing great things for Lucha Underground as he has excelled in every single spot they have put them. He has had great feuds with Prince Puma, Alberto Patron and Cage along with pissing off everybody along the way. He is arguably the leader of a new faction called Worldwide Underground. Mundo, Jack Evans and PJ Black are cocky heels who do not give a fuck about your rules. Blatant nut shots, blatant cheating, cowardly behavior and class clowning makes them the heels I love to hate. There are great things in John Hennigan’s future.

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: Lucha Underground

April 27, 2016

WILPW

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.


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