Lucha Underground: Episode #1 – Welcome To The Temple

Lucha Underground – Episode #1: Welcome To The Temple
Date: October 29, 2014
Location: Lucha Underground Temple, Boyle Heights, CA
Commentators: Matt Striker, Vampiro

Welcome to the first in our series of Lucha Underground Season 1 rewatch reviews. I picked up the LU beat about 3/4ths of the way through Season 1 (I believe my first review was Episode #32 – All Night Long) so there is a lot of ground to cover, and for completist purposes, I’m looking to get episodes #1-#31 up before the Season 2 premiere in January 2016. For those unfamiliar with the show, Lucha Underground airs Wednesdays in English on El Rey Network and Saturdays in Spanish on Unimas.

While I was holding out for an official way to do a group rewatch (Netflix, DVD release, El Rey throwing all the episodes up on their site On Demand), it does not appear that one is coming any time soon. So if you’re looking to catch some of these episodes, the best advice I can give you is to head over to Dailymotion and search the date listed on each of these episodes. Most of them can be found there in an acceptable visible format.

My policy for these will be to not spoil things in the body of the review in case you’re following along for the first time. At the end of each review there will be a bolded SPOILER Section in which I may make a few comments about where we’re going for those who watched the show. So without further adieu…

We open with a cinematic fight scene in a dark warehouse in which a man in a white hoodie is getting beat up by shadowy figures. A man in a green shirt and mask comes to his aid and takes down one of the figures with a flying headscissors, another with a lucha arm drag, and the final one with an airplane spin into a slam. He approaches the man in the hoodie and says “Come with me.”

The man in green begins talking to the hooded man about the seven ancient Aztec tribes, with filmed sequences of Aztec ancestors running over the speech. Then the man in green asks the hooded man what he knows about lucha libre. He begins to explain what lucha libre wrestling is with numerous Mexican wrestling clips flashed during the speech.

Then we get a video package of Dario Cueto explaining his temple and Lucha Underground, complete with clips from a speech he gave introducing the concept at AAA TripleMania 2014. Dario throws money in the ring and buys the AAA luchadors to “compete for him in America” to immense heel heat from the AAA crowd.

The show then shifts to cinematic clips of luchadors emerging from caves, and from across fields, presumably making their way to the temple to fight.

The segment ends with the man in green asking the man in the hoodie if he will join them. They shake hands. Then we get numerous clips of Lucha Underground in-ring highlights that take us into the title card.

Reaction: A very effective, visually striking set up for the show’s concept. In less than three minutes, they tell you the show is based in Aztec mythology, the Lucha Underground promotion is run by Dario Cueto who seems to be a rich slimeball selling these pieces of Mexican heritage for his own profit, and that the luchadors you will be seeing are predominantly from AAA in Mexico. It also sets a cinematic tone for the season and differentiates Lucha Underground from any other wrestling show on television.

Melissa Santos welcomes us to Lucha Underground from inside the ring. There is a band playing on an elevated bandstand above the crowd.

Matt Striker and Vampiro are our commentators.

Melissa Santos introduces Dario Cueto, who makes his way to the ring with a key around his neck, and a briefcase in his hand. Vampiro points out that Cueto is not Mexican, but a Spaniard.

Cueto says that he’s opened his doors to the best fighters in the world and that they will either kick ass or get their asses kicked. He says this is not a stadium where children cheer for their heroes, but his temple where they adhere to the ancient traditions of courage, honor, and violence. Cueto says the luchador who impresses him the most tonight will get a signing bonus of $100,000, and opens the briefcase to show stacks of cash. Cueto says this is a chance for all the luchadors to get rich or die trying.

Reaction: Solid promo, again trying to differentiate the tone of this show from WWE or TNA. Cueto rushed through it a little, but it was short and effective enough.

Match #1 – Blue Demon Jr vs. Chavo Guerrero Jr

Demon and Chavo shake hands to start. The two do a little break-even mat wrestling to start, and trade the advantage on a test of strength, before Demon breaks it with a hand stomp. Chavo gains the advantage with a snap mare into a side headlock, but Demon takes over with a very sloppy tilt-a-whirl headscissors that sends Chavo to the outside. Demon follows it up with a baseball slide that knocks Chavo to the ground. Demon connects with a slap to Chavo’s face and sends him back in the ring.

Inside, Chavo has a kick blocked and Demon knocks him to the ground with another slap to the face, and follows with a third. Demon hits a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker and grounds Chavo with a rear chinlock. Chavo fights up, but Demon slaps him again. Demon whips Chavo to a turnbuckle and charges, Chavo tries to leap frog over him, but Demon catches him on his shoulder, however, Chavo turns it into a DDT and covers for a near fall.

Chavo and Demon get to their feet and Chavo sets Demon up like he’s going to monkey flip him, but then just takes Demon over the top rope, and hits a plancha to the outside. Chavo rolls Demon back in the ring and goes up top, but Demon knocks him off. Demon slams Chavo, then goes to the top for a senton, but Chavo moves, and covers Demon for a two count. Chavo set Demon up on the top rope and tries to go for a hurricanrana, but Demon holds on and powerbombs Chavo from the top for a near fall. Demon then locks Chavo in El Pulpo (modified sharpshooter) for the submission win.

Winner: Blue Demon Jr via submission
Rating:
*
Reaction: Bad match. For all the hype about this new, exciting, action packed product, this was probably the worst match they could have put on to try and hook new fans. It was slow and sloppy. Demon’s just bad in the ring, and Chavo looked like he was on his last legs. The finish was extremely anti-climactic. Striker’s commentary was also annoying here. He’s still very much in WWE mode, with McMahon-like calls of “Is Demon $100,000 richer? No!” on near falls.

We go from the match to a filmed segment with Konnan in Dario Cueto’s office. Cueto tells Konnan he’s happy Konnan decided to work for him. Konnan says he’s interested in Cueto’s money, but he’s also interested in showing off the best fighter in the world, someone from the neighborhood where the temple is. Cueto says he is going to put Konnan’s boy in the ring with the hottest free agent in the business, Johnny Mundo. Cueto says he signed Mundo only to make an example of him, because Mundo is only here for the money and fame. Cueto tells Konnan that if his boy is as good as Konnan says, he should make an example of Mundo, and he may walk away with the $100,000

Commercial Break

Striker hypes Mundo’s debut while we see Johnny doing pull-ups somewhere in the temple. Vampiro says Konnan is self-serving, and that’s an indication his kid, Prince Puma (first time he’s named), may be just that good.

We then get a Prince Puma introductory vignette, It starts with Konnan introducing himself over clips of him coaching Puma in a sparring session, mixed with renderings of Aztec history. Konnan talks about how his grandmother used to tell him stories about the seven Aztec tribes and their warriors, the original luchadors. He says long before Game of Thrones, the luchadors would claim the head of their fallen opponent, and that is why the mask is the symbol of life in lucha libre. Konnan says Prince Puma traces his bloodline all the way back to the Aztec tribes, and as such, is born to be a lucha libre legend.

We get introductions for our next match, Son of Havoc vs. Sexy Star, but first, a vignette on Sexy Star.

We see Sexy in a rundown gym, staring in a mirror, then we cut to clips of her sparing. In voice over, she says that when she used to look in the mirror, she saw a woman who was afraid because she came from a world of abuse, and thought about killing herself, but lucha libre and her mask saved her life and showed her that women are as strong as men, and can do all the things men can do. Sexy says she trains for every girl who no longer needs to be afraid, and wins for every woman who needs a hero, because every woman is sexy and every woman is a star.

Reaction: Two very solid pieces. The Konnan/Puma one is a fine table setter for Puma’s debut. He’s clearly established right away as the star attraction of the show. The Sexy Star vignette is actually better (aside from the fact that Sexy’s broken English sounds like backwards talking Laura Palmer from Agent Cooper’s red room dream in Twin Peaks). In less than two minutes, Lucha Underground builds a better female star than WWE has in years (NXT notwithstanding). It’s very simple. An empowered woman. But can Sexy Star back this big push up…

Match #2: Son of Havoc vs. Sexy Star

Before the start of the match, Havoc grabs a mic and tells Sexy he’s not wrestling a woman. He tells Sexy to leave the ring, take a count out, and live to fight another day. Sexy leaves the ring and the referee starts counting. At five, Sexy jumps back in the ring and unloads a haymaker on Havoc. Havoc shoves her away, but Sexy charges again. Havoc shoves her and grounds her with a shoulder block.

Havoc misses a springboard moonsault, and Sexy takes Havoc down with a hurricanrana, and then goes for a body scissor into a forward roll, but Havoc counters by just smashing her face first into the mat. Havoc whips her to the turnbuckle, and Sexy tries to leap frog out, but Havoc catches her. Havoc pauses to taunt for a second and Sexy slides out the back, shoves Havoc towards the other turnbuckle. Sexy charges Havoc, and he lifts her over the rope to the apron, where Sexy slaps Havoc in the face. Sexy climbs to the top and hits a flying body press for a near fall. Sexy gets up and charges Havoc for what looks like a running bulldog, but Havoc grabs her, picks her up, and hits a backbreaker, covers, and pulls the tights for the pin.

Winner: Son of Havoc
Rating: *1/4
Reaction: Not bad, but short. Havoc’s obviously a good worker, and Sexy looked fine here. Sexy is set up to be the “Never Give Up” character of this show, so having her job here makes sense and creates something for her to fight from underneath against.

Striker teases Johnny Mundo’s first action in three years coming up in the main event.

Commercial Break

We see Chavo sitting in the locker room, soaked in sweat. Dario Cueto walks in and asks Chavo what happened to him tonight. Cueto says he set Chavo up to defeat Blue Demon once and for all and prove that the Guerrero family is the greatest family in lucha libre history, but Chavo tapped out. Cueto asks Chavo what his grandfather and uncles would think of that. Cueto says one thing is for sure, the $100,000 won’t be going to Chavo. He adds that because Chavo didn’t finish the job tonight, he will have to bring in an opponent next week to take care of Demon, but once this man is here, there will be nothing he can do to stop him. Cueto says one thousand deaths may be coming for us all, which causes Chavo, who didn’t move once during the segment, to show concern. Great delivery by Cueto throughout this whole segment.

Match #3: Johnny Mundo vs. Prince Puma (w/ Konnan)

The wrestlers are introduced, but we get a commercial before the action

Commercial Break

The bell rings and, and the crowd does some Lucha Dragons-esque “Lucha!” chants that Puma indulges for a second.

Puma and Mundo trade kicks before Mundo shoulder blocks Puma, and Puma immediately kips up. Puma takes the advantage with an armlock, but Mundo flips out of it and reverses it. Puma does the same, attempting to flip out of the armlock, but Mundo keeps it locked in. Mundo then grabs Puma and does a front takedown for a one count. Puma jumps right up and hits a crucifix into a pin for another one count. Mundo goes to take Puma’s legs out from under him, but Puma flips over Mundo’s sweep, and dropkicks him. Both kip up and stand off.

The two restart with a collar & elbow tie up. Mundo grabs the advantage with an arm drag, but Puma bounces up and does a couple flips into a headscissors. Then Puma hits the ropes and comes back with a twice-around flying headscissors, followed by a dropkick to knock Mundo out of the ring. Puma teases a dive, but Mundo spies it and moves away, Puma does a handstand into the ropes, and then backflips into a pose on the center emblem in the ring.

Mundo gets back in the ring and grabs a side headlock. Puma shoots Mundo off, but Mundo catch Puma with a backbreaker, and a stun gun to take the advantage. Puma reverses an irish whip to the buckle, but Mundo catches him with a back elbow and a spinning front kick, which knocks Puma out of the ring. Mundo follows Puma to the outside and slides him back in the ring. Mundo plays to the crowd on the apron, which allows Puma to hit the corner springboard dropkick on Mundo, planting him on the apron. Mundo rolls inside the ring, and Puma follows with a leap to the apron and a springboard senton onto Mundo. Then Puma locks in a reverse triangle, but Mundo reverses it into an ankle lock, and grounds and pounds. Puma gets to his feet, with Mundo grabbing Puma’s leg, and Puma hits an enziguri that knocks Mundo to the outside.

Puma flips onto the apron and Mundo tries to sweep his legs, but Puma jumps the sweep and kicks Johnny in the face. Puma pursues Mundo, but gets cut off, and Mundo slams Puma’s face into the apron. The two trade blows over by the announce table, then Mundo runs and jumps off the table, attempting a flip into Puma, but Puma moves. Mundo lands on his feet, Puma charges him, and Mundo lifts Puma and drives him face first into the steel post. Mundo slides Puma back into the ring and covers for a near fall.

Mundo locks in a chinlock and Puma fights up and out, but Mundo cuts him off with a kidney shot. Mundo goes for a side suplex, but Puma flips out of it, and ducks under Mundo and hits a spinning enziguri. Both men get back to their feet at the same time. Puma starts hitting running, flying, clotheslines and uppercuts then an enziguri from the apron, followed by a springboard body press into a pin for a near fall. Puma follows with a standing moonsault, which Mundo rolls away from, but Puma spies it, lands on his feet, and hits him with a standing shooting star press instead, for another near fall.

Puma goes for a side suplex on Mundo, but Mundo fights out, and then runs at, and drives Puma across the ring into the corner, before unloading punches on Puma. Mundo follows with running clotheslines, a heel kick, and a Shining Wizard for a near fall. Mundo signals for the End of the World and sets Puma up in the corner, but Puma schoolboys Mundo for a two count. Mundo unloads some punches and goes for Moonlight Drive, but Puma fights out of it and elbows Mundo into the ropes. Puma hits the ropes, but Mundo counters with a springboard enziguri for another near fall.

Mundo sets Puma up for a C4, but Puma fights out with elbows. Mundo falls into the turnbuckle and Puma charges, but gets lifted over the ropes to the apron. Puma hits a shoulder into Mundo’s gut, then a sunset flip, but Mundo rolls through and counters with another Shining Wizard. Mundo goes for End of the World, but Puma rolls to the apron, jumps up, and hits a springboard into double knees to Mundo’s face and covers for a near fall.

Puma signals for a splash, heads back to the apron and attempts a springboard 450 splash, but Mundo moves. Mundo gets up and hits Moonlight Drive on Puma for a close two count. Mundo gets Puma up and goes for a powerbomb, but Puma rolls out of it. Puma attempts a clothesline, but Mundo counters it into the C4, drags Puma to the turnbuckle, and hits End of the World for the win.

Winner: Johnny Mundo via pinfall
Rating: ***1/2
Reaction: Excellent TV match, and a great main event to sell this first episode. Puma is an incredible athlete. The things he does, just as throw away moves, are incredible. Mundo didn’t show much ring rust at all and held his own.

After the match, Mundo helps Puma up and congratulates him on a great match. Dario Cueto emerges from his office and makes his way into the ring with a briefcase. Cueto congratulates Mundo and tells him he’s earned the money in the briefcase, and opens it. Mundo reaches for the open briefcase, and Cueto closes it. Mundo starts jostling back and forth with Cueto for the case, when all of a sudden two guys jump in the ring and attack Mundo and Puma. A third man, who appears to be the former Ezekial Jackson, slowly approaches the ring. He gets up on the apron, grabs Puma by the neck, and delivers a clubbing blow across Puma’s chest, before shoving him back toward the other two, who hit a tandem codebreaker. The beatdown continues, and the former Jackson, finishes off Mundo with a chokeslam.

Cueto reenters the ring and says to the crowd “Did you think just luchadors would compete in this temple?” Cueto says he’s been scouting the best fighters in the world and that these guys in the ring work for him. He hands the briefcase to Jackson, and ends the episode by proclaiming “Welcome to Lucha Underground” and grinning.

Episode Grade: B
Final Thoughts: A pretty good pilot episode. The main goals here were to inform the public what the product is (check), show how it’s different from WWE (check), introduce some of the core characters (check), and put on an entertaining show (check). The production values of Lucha Underground jump off the page from the very beginning of the show. It’s clear this is unlike any wrestling show we’ve seen before. They’ve gone all in on this film style, and it looks gorgeous. If the stories can match the production, it can really grow into something special. The in-ring action was hit and miss. The Chavo/Demon match was a really bad way to open this thing up. Obviously the two most well known names to American wrestling fans, on the show, were going to be Chavo and Mundo, and I’m sure they wanted recognizable guys out in front on this first episode, but Blue Demon is just bad. The Havoc/Sexy Star match was fine for what it was. The Puma/Mundo match delivered a very good TV main event. If that match is the tone of the show going forward, then the show could deliver some great episodes. Clearly, Lucha Underground did not want to waste a lot of time on in-ring promos. It seems they’re trying to stick mostly to matches, with the filmed pieces added in. The introduction of the three guys at the end sets up the first big bad guy foils for the season. I’m sure we’ll get more on them, and the fallout, next episode. 

Next Review: The story of The Crew, and a thousand deaths come to the temple!

From here on out, it’s Spoiler talk

 

 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * SPOILER Section* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I was really struck by how the opening scene foreshadows a lot of the season. Obviously, as we’ll find out later, the man in the green mask is El Dragon Azteca and he’s essentially recruiting the shrouded figure to help him fight against Dario Cueto (There’s no definitive break in the opening vignettes, but we’re supposed to see it as Azteca’s side, and then Cueto’s side). I had assumed the shrouded man was Prince Puma when he returns in vignettes later in the season, but I’m not so sure at this point. Something to track as we move along.

It’s also nice to see Dario Cueto had the key from day one. Obviously that becomes a much larger plot point later in the season (Matanza!)

It’s hard to imagine this Chavo/Blue Demon feud lasts all season, but at least there’s long stretches where both disappear from TV. It’s undoubtedly the worst aspect of LU Season 1.

Sexy Star was given a great introduction, and she held her own this week, but her work will get considerably more sloppy as the season goes on. The idea behind her is fine, but she’s just not quite strong enough in the ring to support it. It’s fun to see Havoc in full jobber mode, and his evolution should be fun to track.

The Mundo/Puma match was fantastic, but obviously doesn’t even come close to the All Night Long match later in the season. Mundo didn’t do any talking this week, but his babyface act through the first part of this season always felt off. He really comes into his own later when he turns heel. And what can you say about Ricochet. The guy oozes charisma as Puma. He’s far and away the star of the season (apologies to the yet to debut Pentagon), and without him it’s hard to imagine what this show would look like.