Professional wrestling is a very rare form of entertainment compromised of genuine athletic skill and a pseudo-realistic world based on scripted drama. It was never meant to be taken seriously, but we as fans have come to a point where we understand and empathise with the wrestlers and essentially take the fun out of absorbing ourselves in this outlandish sport.
For years, WWE set the example for what is expected of a wrestling promotion, how it should be presented and what the on-screen characters should look and act like. Rival promotions wouldn’t dare challenge the norm, which has created a rather dull and formulaic genre that is starting to turn more and more fans away.
In October 2014, a new wrestling promotion premiered on the El Rey Network, a promotion that innovated sports-entertainment like no other. Lucha Underground set the world ablaze, introducing many to the high-octane Lucha Libre style and providing new audiences with an entirely new perspective on how to produce a weekly professional wrestling programme. Ultimately, Lucha Underground wanted to make wrestling fun again.
Setting itself in a dingy, B-movie style universe, Lucha Underground was a completely different entity to the likes of WWE. Even though it featured some familiar faces, audiences knew that it shouldn’t be something compared to any previous experiences. Each wrestler had their own individual backstory in this abnormal world, whether they be fighting for an Aztec tribe, for their own personal wealth and fame or just for the sake of creating chaos amongst the many masked warriors inside ‘The Temple’. Unlike other promotions, a character’s gimmick wouldn’t be restricted to the realism of everyday life, nor would it be criticised for being too campy or cartoonish in a fantasy environment. Lucha Underground’s roster was comprised of wrestling demons, dragons and at times, literal gods.
The wrestling itself took a backseat role to the narratives that played out in professionally filmed backstage segments. As the show became more popular, the storylines evolved and became more inventive. The wrestlers would vie for ancient Aztec medallions, a gauntlet that wields other-worldly strength and various unique opportunities that kept fans guessing and their imaginations wild.
Lucha Underground made for a really fun hour every Wednesday night. Each episode had a different focus, putting the spotlight on one feud one week, and then another the next. It gave the entire roster equal exposure, making them seem as important as each other. It was the ideal fix for wrestling fans that wanted to find a lighter alternative to the 6+ hours of WWE content every week. Fans were dubbed ‘The Believers’ by the commentary table of Matt Striker and Vampiro. Say what you will about these two as play-by-plays, but nobody could deny just how passionate they were about the product and how infectious it was. The loyal audience would remain loud and proud throughout the long tapings held in the intimate venue.
For four seasons, Lucha Underground remained a cult hit amongst independent wrestling fans. It brought some very talented names to prominence, including: Prince Puma (Ricochet), Pentagon Jr, Fenix, Mil Muertes and Brian Cage. The roster soon picked up some huge attractions in Rey Mysterio, Joey Ryan and Jake Strong (Jack Swagger), who all were a natural fit in the fables of Boyle Heights.
It even brought some very progressive aspects of professional wrestling to light in the west. Intergender wrestling is an everyday occurrence in Lucha Libre, something that is rarely featured on American or European wrestling cards. Lucha Underground allowed female stars such as Sexy Starr, Ivelisse and Mariposa to lock up with the dudes and put on some incredible matches. It was just another innovation on the part of Lucha Underground that allowed it to stand out from the abundance of wrestling promotions.
Dario Cueto, Lucha Underground’s corrupt master of ceremonies, became quite the endearing figure over the years. Being guided by an overbearing dark force that would later be revealed to be Stu Bennett in the promotion’s final episode, Cueto’s maniacal nature gave way to some interesting twists in the storylines. Friends would be made enemies, enemies into allies and fans could rest assured knowing that Dario’s booking will always cater to them. Dream matches were quick to become reality, and they would rarely fail to deliver.
The action itself was fast-paced, hart-hitting and above all, violent. This was in no way a PG friendly product: Cueto would ensure that blood would spill across the Aztec symbol, as wrestlers would brawl all over the warehouse-like arena in a variety of brutal gore-fests. Lucha Underground would add their own twists to the typical match stipulations, creating some really fun matches to sit down and watch in isolation should you ever need a throwback to the Attitude Era style mayhem. Stars would be made in an instant, as they dived from the top of the boss’ office, plummeted through sheets of glass and batter each other with coffins in their very own Day of the Dead ceremony.
Needless to say, episodes of Lucha Underground weren’t always full of grappling marathons or serious mat-classics, but they were a hell of a lot of fun. Unfortunately ,the El Rey Network have chosen not to renew Lucha Underground for a fifth season, which is a huge shame considering the shock ending to season four’s Ultima Lucha finale. LU have fallen on hard times, with wrestlers disputing with the company’s producers amidst dwindling interest from television broadcasters and fans alike.
This slump wasn’t entirely unexpected, after season three hit an all-time-low in the ratings. But you can’t deny that Lucha Underground had the world talking, especially after their transition onto US Netflix. New audiences were being introduced to professional wrestling, albeit through a quite an eccentric presentation. It was exactly what we, as a fanbase, needed to see as a very distinct alternative to the monotony of WWE.
I’ll forever look back on the four seasons of Lucha Underground fondly. Through its brief history, it established a generation of Luchador stars that would go on to become massive hits on the wider independent scene. It allowed for the wrestlers themselves to indulge in their own creativity and have fun in an environment unlike any other wrestling promotion.
I am and always will be a believer. Thank you, Lucha Underground.
What were your favourite moments and matches from Lucha Underground? Make sure you leave them in the comments below.