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By Mike Johnson on 2014-10-29 22:53:58

Welcome to's coverage of the debut episode of Lucha Underground, the new series on The El Rey Network.

Lucha Underground opened with a scene right out of a noir-infused super hero movie where one man was being attacked by several in a darkened setting, complete with slow motion shots of blood flying out of someone’s mouth when they are struck with a punch. Then, like a hero, a masked man (I believe it’s Prince Puma based on the look) hits the scene and dispatches the villains, leaving them laying with a flurry of Lucha moves and strikes. He offers his hand to the formerly outnumbered combatant and asks him if he knows the history of Lucha Libre.

Cue to, I kid you not, a FLASHBACK scene of ancient Aztec warriors battling it out as he discusses the legacy that Lucha Libre has featured over the last 100 years, showcasing photos of former Lucha stars. They then cut to a scene from AAA’s Triplemania show last month where promoter Dario Cueto announces he is inviting all Luchadores to come fight for him in his temple in the United States and dumps a ton of money in the ring. The crowd boos him but he says the deal is done. They then go into a ton of graphics for the opening. Well, this is certainly different!

We then go to some aerial establishing shots of the area around the Lucha Underground Temple in California, which I can pretty much guarantee no wrestling series has ever done.

We go inside the Temple to announcers Matt Striker and Vampiro. Striker welcomes everyone and thanks them for being part of the “Change” that is about to take place. Vampiro says it’s going to be something different.

The ring announcer introduced Dario Cueto. Vampiro says he’s not well liked because he’s not Mexican, he’s from Spain. Cueto said he is the owner and promoter of Lucha Underground and he has invited the Luchadores to fight in his temple. He said this is not a promotion where children can cheer for their heroes but a Temple that honors the Lucha traditions of honor, respect and his favorite, violence. Lots of camera angles out of the norm for pro wrestling with lots of close-ups, even of the crowd, that looks more like a reality TV show than a traditional pro wrestling production.

Cueto said that the Luchadore who impresses him the most will get a $100,000 signing bonus. He said whoever impresses him the most in the ring, they will get the money tonight. He said it was their chance to get rich or die trying. He said the first match will feature men who have Lucha in their blood. Cueto, a legitimate actor, was well spoken.

Blue Demon Jr. vs. Chavo Guerrero

The announcers gave backgrounds on the history of Demon and Guerrero’s families in the Lucha realm. While discussing Demon and El Santo’s movies in Mexico, Vamp referred to them as similar to the “Guardians of the Galaxy” of today, which is a great analogy. They haven’t even locked up and already they are using history as exposition. I like it.

They lock up and do some back and forth reversals on the mat. Lots of overhead shots looking down in the ring, which I don’t recall anyone using since the old Jim Crockett Promotions broadcasts in the last 1980s. They have a circular logo on the mat which adds to the shot.

They go back and forth until Demon uses a flying headscissors to send Guerrero to the floor. He nailed a sliding kick to the outside and they battle on the floor in an area with lots of space and devoid of fans. Demon worked over Guerrero in the corner. Guerrero charged out of a corner but was nailed with a tiltowhirl backbreaker.

Demon sent Guerrero into the corner but he went up and over and turned it into a tornado DDT for a two count. Chavo sent Demon over the top and nailed a pescado to the floor. They mentioned on the commentary that it was a dirty temple and both came up with dirt and grit on their bodies. Demon went for a move off the top but missed and Guerrero covered him for a two count.

Guerrero worked him over and placed him in the corner. He went for a choke but was powerbombed into the ring. Demon locked on a Texas Cloverleaf variation and Guerrero submitted.

Your winner, Blue Demon Jr!

OK match. Nothing that we haven’t seen before but a solid match. The commentary did a great job of setting the stage for the bout, explaining the moves and why they hurt the competitor who take them and pushing the drama of which of them could end up with $100,00 and... that was it. They were focused on the action, which was a nice change of pace.

We go to a vignette where Dario Cueto is sitting in an office with Konnan. Cueto said he thanked Konnan for coming as he wants Konnan to work for him. Konnan said he doesn’t know about working for Cueto but wants some of that money Cueto is throwing around. He said that Cueto wants the best wrestlers and he has one that’s right from this “barrio.” Cueto said that he doesn’t know about the best because he’s signed one who has been all over the world under many names, but in his Temple, he’ll be known as Johnny Mundo. He said that he signed him to make an example of him. He said that Mundo doesn’t respect his Temple and is here for the money and his fame. He said that if Konnan’s man is as good as Konnan says, “have him make an example of Johnny and perhaps, the money will go to him…and to you.” The entire thing was shot like a movie scene with multiple camera shots and it worked, since everything else is shot that way.

When we returned from commercial, more establishing shots. We saw Johnny Mundo (John Morrison) preparing for his match on high beams. The announcers said that he would be facing Prince Puma and Vampiro said he was really interested because Konnan doesn’t invest in anyone unless it’s going to serve him down the line.

They went to a vignette on Prince Puma. Konnan was doing the voiceover and is basically Mickie from “Rocky”, the grizzled veteran who’s now managing the young stud. He told a story about how the Aztec Luchadores would take the heads of their fallen combatants, which evolved into Luchadores today taking the masks of their beaten opponent. They showed Puma doing all sort of crazy moves in slow-motion. Konnan said that he’s descended from his ancient Aztec tribe and represents him and Konnan will show him glory. With that vignette, we now know more about these characters than half of the WWE and TNA undercard.

Son of Havoc vs. Sexy Star

Havoc is Matt Cross in a black mask doing a new character. Star is the AAA star. She entered through the crowd wearing her butterfly-like cape. They aired a vignette on Star who said she grew up with a life of abuse, was scared for her life and even considered suicide. She said the mask saved her life and Lucha called to her. She said she fights for every woman who is no longer afraid and every girl who needs a hero. She said that every woman is sexy and she fights for them to show them they can all be a star. She said will never be afraid again.

Back at the ring, Havoc (with a deepened voice thanks to post-production) said he wasn’t going to fight a woman and told her to leave so she can live to fight another day. Star teased leaving, but then attacked him and began beating him. He shoved her down but she kept getting back up and fighting him to show her as unafraid and a fighter. She was nailed down but Havoc missed a moonsault. Star nailed a rana but was overpowered.

Striker mentioned Charlie Brown and Red River Jack in regard to Havoc’s appearance. OK, he’s my new favorite announcer. Star came back with a nice missile dropkick but was caught and nailed with an over the knee backbreaker as she went for a move. Havoc hooked the tights and scored the pin.

Your winner, Son of Havoc!

Good action for this short bout. They did a nice job getting over Star’s character. The voice on the mic was a little too Black Scorpion-esque silly for me, but it helped establish Havoc’s character.

When we returned from commercial, Chavo Guerrero was sitting in a room despondent from his loss. Dario Cueto walked in and asked him what happened. He said he thought Guerrero would have the first victory in his Temple and would retire Demon Jr. He said that instead, Guerrero tapped out. He asked what his Grandfather and Uncles would think. He said that since Chavo couldn’t get the job done, next week, he would have to bring in someone who will…and once he arrives, there will be nothing even Dario can do to stop him. He said 1000 Deaths might be coming for us all. A disgusted Chavo looked off into the distance. Nice tease for next week.

Johnny Mundo vs. Prince Puma

Puma is known elsewhere as Ricochet and has been all over the world, including Dragon Gate, EVOLVE and New Japan Pro Wrestling. Puma came out through the crowd and got a big reaction, billed as being from Boyle Heights, where the series is shot. They billed this as Mundo’s first match in three years. On TV, that would certainly be true.

They each attempted to go for kicks early but they were blocked. Mundo tried to shoulderblock Puma down but Puma was back on his feet immediately to show off his speed and versatility. Mundo gained control and used a top wristlock. Puma flipped to escape but was trapped in an armbar and nailed with a spinebuster. They went into a nice series of reversals showing some of their aerial maneuvers and speed.

They went back and forth with a fun and fast exchange that saw Mundo go to the floor. Vampiro stood up and applauded. Puma went for a dive but faked out Mundo, bouncing off the ropes. Mundo returned to the ring, where he nailed a backbreaker variation and a Hot Shot. He came off the ropes with a spinning kick, sending Puma to the floor.

Mundo followed Puma to the floor and tossed him back into the ring. Mundo jawed with the fans, allowing Puma to nail a springboard dropkick off the turnbuckles to the outside. Mundo was tossed back in the ring and nailed with a multiple springboard into a back senton. Puma used his legs to pull Mundo into a full nelson like maneuver. Morrison used an ankle lock but Puma used an enziguiri.

Mundo was knocked to the floor, where Puma kicked him away from the apron. Mundo landed on the steps that lead to the ring from the bleachers. Puma went to the floor and they brawled over to the announcers’ table, battling back and forth. Mundo used his Parkour background to come off the table with a strike and sent Puma into the ringpost.

Mundo scored a two count and Mundo cinched in a side chinlock. Puma fought his way back to his feet and they exchanged knee strikes. Puma got the better of the exchange and used a spinning heel kick to take down Mundo. Puma nailed a series of forearms and several kicks in the corner. He nailed a springboard into a flying bodypress for a two count.

Puma went for a standing moonsault but Mundo rolled out of the way. Puma instead nailed a standing shooting star press for a two count. They battled back and forth until Mundo worked him over in the corner with punch after punch in the corner. Mundo sent him into the ropes and scored a kick and a clothesline. He scored several near falls. Mundo signaled for his finisher, which they referred to as “The End of the World” but Puma surprised him with a rollup.

Mundo nailed a springboard kick to the head. Mundo scored a two count. Puma made a comeback and hit a sunset flip into the ring but was drilled. Puma came back with a springboard double knee to the face. Puma went for a springboard 450 splash but there was nobody in the pool. Mundo nailed Moonlight Drive (spinning neckbreaker) but Puma kicked up at the last second.

Mundo went for a pilediver but Puma escaped. Morrison nailed a standing Spanish Fly and nailed The End of the World (Spiral Tap), scoring the pin.

Your winner, Johnny Mundo!

Real good match if you are an action junkie and want to see fast-paced athletics and highspots.

Mundo showed respect to Puma and raised his arm. The announcers wondered what all of this meant for the $100,000 offered by Dario Cuerto. Cueto walked to the ring looking angry. Cueto congratulated Johnny and said that he’s earned “this” and showed off the money. Mundo went to take it but it the case was slammed shut on him. Vampiro said it’s not the first time he’s seen a promoter screw the boys out of a payday. You KNOW that was a shoot.

Ricky Reyes and ‘Lil Cholo hit the ring and attacked Mundo. Puma pulled himself to his feet but the former Ezekiel Jackson appeared outside the ring and grabbed him. He sent Puma to the others, who laid him out with a double team maneuever. The former Jackson wiped out Mundo with a big chokeslam.

Cueto said that if people thought only Luchadores would fight in his Temple, they were wrong. He said he’s been scouting the world and “These guys, they work for me.” They all celebrated as Cueto said, “Welcome to Lucha Underground.” Striker said that the line has been drawn.

They show had credits running over the last minute.

Overall, a good first hour that featured what I thought was some of the best character development on a wrestling program in a long time and a show that felt like an amalgamation of Wrestling Society X and Lucha programming from Mexico, utilizing the best of those elements. It was obvious the production was not cheap and even with the backstage vignettes, they were produced and shot in a way that felt beyond different from WWE or TNA broadcasts. This was a good first episode and the show, obviously designed and framed not as a wrestling broadcast but as a TV series, worked.   They succeeded in creating a "wrestling universe" that felt like it stood on it's own terms, as opposed to being like a WWE retread and the wrestling was solid to good across the board.  I didn't even mind the Cueto character, although I am long exhausted personally with evil authority figures in wrestling.  The debut left me looking forward to week two. 

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