First Impressions: Lucha Underground

Lucha Underground was produced by One Three Media.

Lucha Underground was produced by One Three Media.

I hope you all had a good New Years and have all gotten use to writing 2015 instead of 2014. While the last year in wrestling was…not great, there was one new show that took up root as TNA was rebuilding. This show features high production values, a faster paced action and a roster of (mostly) new faces from Mexico and beyond.

So let’s start the blog off for 2015 with a look at what Lucha Underground has done so far. (Note this review is based upon all of the episodes that aired in 2014)

Production Values:

Lucha Underground airs on the new, and hard to find on most cable or satellite providers, El Ray network founded by Robert Rodregez and the show feels more like a film than a wrestling program. Each episode opens with a produced package recapping whats happened with all the stories of note that episode followed by a helicopter shot of LA leading to the HQ of Lucha Underground. Then it’s into the action with match or a video pushing that nights main event.

This is a far cry from the WWE style shows that most wrestling fans will be use to. While those shows have a live sports feel to them, Lucha Underground feels more like a crisp show with special effects and solid cinematography.

The story packages feature a different colour temperature and a film quality look. While this is kind of a dumb thing for a wrestling show, it makes the show look like nothing you’ve watched before in the world of wrestling. While it’s a plus for the show, it must be costly from episode to episode.

The wrestling side of things is quite different. The Lucha takes place in a “ancient temple” where warriors would fight thousands of years ago, but it’s clear it’s a small studio that might have been use for old episodes of G4’s Arena for all I know.

To cover the action, the show uses an insane amount of cameras at some questionable angles. The worst being a top down angle over the middle of the ring. While this is a interesting shoot for say a ladder match, it only breaks up the action as it more or less obscures the action in the ring. One second you’re watching a flat shot of two masked men fighting the next it’s a Pac-man game with primary colours hitting each other.

The dramatic change in in-ring and behind the curtain cinematography makes the show seem bi-polar in it’s appearance. One second we’re in a overly produced superhero film, the next its a show with production values a bit higher than Ring of Honor. It’s worse when they switch between the two during a match to advance something that’s happening backstage.

That being said, this style works more than say the TMZ style of Impact Wrestling, with it’s camera’s always running style and is one of the more memorable things about LU.

The Roster:

Image: One Three Media

Image: One Three Media

You can have a well shot product all you want but it’s the talent that will keep us coming back, and for the most part Lucha Underground has an interesting roster. While the show is based around Lucha, the majority of the roster are names that don’t really fit in the world of Lucha but more the North American version of wrestling.

Lucha staples like Blue Demon Jr. (former NWA Champion) and Chavo Guerrero Jr. (former WWECW Champion) are backed up with the likes of Johnny Mundo (John Morrison), Big Rych (Ezekiel Jackson) and Son of Havoc (Matt Cross). While these names are featured heavily in certain parts the show, they are staring to push more new Mexican masked wrestlers like Fenix and Drago (more on those two in the next section).

However, the real stars of the show are the heel authority figure Dario Cueto and the manager/rising star team of Konnan and Prince Puma (Ricochet). These three seem to be the main focus of the program moving forward.

Konnan might end up being the Paul Heyman of the organization, meaning that anytime he’s on screen the program shines it’s best. While he hasn’t been able to wrestle for years, Konnan has landed in a place of comfort that gives him ability to help Puma get over in this world, the thing that all Legends should do.

The show does sport two full time female wrestlers; Ivelisse and Sexy Star however, their focus is part of my issues with LU and I’ll get into that later.

The Match Quality: 

While Google translates Lucha into “free wrestling” it can be seen more as a dance rather than the WWE product the majority of us grew up on. The action is fast and features more spinning, jumping and flipping moves adding to the spectacle of the match. Over the years the style has been adapted to the mainstream from Bret Hart hitting plancha’s in the early 90s to now with basically everyone on the NXT roster, however LU somehow doesn’t translate it well all the time.

Don’t get me wrong, the show has some great matches, my favourite example being the three-way between Fenix/Drago/Pentagon Jr. (see above) but at other times it doesn’t work, the best example of that being anytime Big Ryck is in the ring.

And while that can more a comment on talent (I mean theres a reason why Jackson was let go) for a show based around Lucha you’d hope that it would be more impressive. While the show is still building towards it’s goals, the show feels like Lucha is only one part of the greater show, much like a Crusierweight division of sorts.

Adding more to the awkwardness are the intergender matches. While the idea of a intergender wrestling league might have been joked about by Andy Koffman, in Lucha Underground it’s more uncomfortable than anything else.

Growing up in Canada during the height of the Attitude the second there was any violence from a man to a women an insert shot of the crowd would cutting away from the strike. In Lucha Underground, you watch a whole 8 minute match with the women get beaten up and losing in a lopsided contest. While I praised the show for looking different, these matches might be giving them the image they don’t want. I understand that Chikara might do it, but it’s not as aggressive as this.

Commentary Team:

Image: One Three Media.

Image: One Three Media.

2014 was a terrible year for Commentary in Wrestling. While the two main shows offered bad, at times awful, teams of Michael Cole/Jerry Lawler/JBL on RAW and Mike Tenay/Taz on Impact Wrestling, Lucha Underground wouldn’t have to do much to not be as awful.

In LU their are two teams for each language receptively. The Team of Vampiro/Matt Striker (Striker is replace by Hugo Savinovich for the Spanish version) seems like an odd pairing at first. While Vampiro is well versed in the world of Lucha (with him getting his first major push in CMLL) Striker is more known for his work in WWE programming where he was good for a period of time followed by a hurriedness final years after making fun of Lawler one to many times.

That being said, the two have moments where they click well with each other. Striker is used more for the technical calls and bits of backstories and Vampiro fills in the rest like a Colour Commentary should. Despite this the two aren’t perfect as they both dip into the wacky well too often as Vampiro over-exaggerates on height of moves and seems to get off on watching a little Luchadors get kicked in the face.

Making it even more painful are the jabs at WWE/TNA that are said ever so often. It’s easy to see why you’d want to make fun of their product for not being as “good” as yours, but their product is more rounded and widely available to most who want to watch. As a wise man once said, “You do not throw rocks at a man whose got a machine gun.”

Overall:

With a year of injured Daniel Bryan’s, quitting CM Punks, and dying TNA TV contracts the Lucha Underground finds itself in a really lucky spot. It’s different enough to stand out from the WWE as well as Ring of Honor or Chikara Pro and features some solid wrestling. They have some great talent, a good direction and lots of room for growth in the weeks and months to come.

However, it feels gimmicky at times with it’s extremely high production values and annoying commentary, features weird camera angles/cut-aways, has a reliance on non Lucha/unimpressive talent and showcases uncomfortable intergender matches.

All that being said, if you have access to the El Ray Network (or know what Kickasstorents is) then this is solid product to look up.

Lucha Underground is produced by One Three Media and airs on the El Ray Network (English) and UniMas (Spanish).

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