Lucha Underground Season 2 Preview

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wOaZ2tbDhis]

We are about three weeks away from the January 27th Season 2 premiere of Lucha Underground (8 PM ET, El Rey Network), and with that, it’s time for a preview of the season, which I’ll cover in 10 questions (with mild Season 1 spoilers, but absolutely no Season 2 ones, because I don’t read them) after the jump…

Question #1 – Can the production values live up to Season 1? 

Much has been made of how Lucha Underground Season 2 (and apparently an already greenlit Season 3 to follow shortly afterwards) actually came to pass — suffice to say, it was not the easiest of paths for the company to get to this point. Despite nearly universal critical acclaim for its first season, the show attracted a small audience of about 100k per episode on fledgling El Rey Network, and while data on how the show did with its Spanish language audience on Unimas was not readily available, the limited data that’s been put out in public suggests an audience of about 200k-250k. Looking to grow its audience and capital, the company courted Univision, Netflix, and Televisa during its offseason, but struck out on all three. Only an infusion of cash from the company’s investors, believing the product is worth the effort, got us to this point. Unfortunately, indications are that the budget is a little smaller, and the episode order may be reduced. One of Lucha Underground’s crowning achievements is its high quality production values, particularly its film vignettes. If Season 2 is noticeably more bare bones in that department, it could have an adverse effect on the how the season is received.

Question #2 – Can the company survive the departure of Alberto Del Rio (fka El Patron)? 

Some of you who have watched Alberto Del Rio’s return to WWE may be wondering what all the fuss is about as League of Nations segments lull you to sleep, but make no mistake, El Patron was a major get for Lucha Underground at midseason last year. He drove interest to the show, his stature gave the company credibility, he had some terrific matches, especially his Ultima Lucha match with Johnny Mundo, and most of all he was ridiculously over with Lucha Underground’s audience. Compare this to a MexAmerica promo:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xMwNxQ5VKLc]

While the departure of El Patron was unfortunate for Lucha Underground, it did free up money for the company to bring in another lucha libre legend, Rey Mysterio Jr. Those who have seen Mysterio in AAA, and towards the end of his WWE run, know that he’s not what he used to be in the ring. Knee replacement surgery has sapped his ability to execute his trademark springboards that defined him in WCW and much of his WWE run, and decades in the ring have just started to take its toll on his body. But Mysterio can still ramp it up against the right opponent, and he’s still very much a legendary figure in the eyes of people who follow lucha, which will lend the show the credibility it may have lost with El Patron leaving. But while the credibility Mysterio brings is good, he can’t become the guy the company revolves around. They have to be very careful not to defer to their few legends, and concentrate on building their core stars. So using Mysterio in a program with someone like Pentagon JrPrince Puma, or Fenix would be a tremendous use of him. Re-running Mysterio vs. Chavo Guerrero Jr, not so much.

Question #3 – Will Matanza live up to the hype

So much of the buzz for Lucha Underground last year came from its most far-fetched storyline: Dario Cueto’s brother is a legit monster who ATE THE FACE OFF A DUDE (ok, well not really, but it did kind of look like it). The long-term story arc of the Cuetos versus whatever El Dragon Azteca’s syndicate is, is essentially the plot of Lucha Underground as a show. We caught a brief teaser-like glimpse of Matanza at the end of Ultima Lucha as Dario Cueto skipped town with Black Lotus. He will almost assuredly be more centrally involved, and visibly on camera this season. He has to be a credible enough force of destruction to live up to the hype, or it could be a near-fatal blow to the show, because of how integral he is to the main story. If Matanza, for all his face-eating mystique comes off as a geek, it’s a bad omen.

Question #4 – Will Lucha Underground continue with inter-gender matches? 

One of the very few criticisms of Season 1 was its use of inter-gender matches, specifically in terms of how visually startling some found them. LU did no real softening of them for the most part. Members of The Crew beat the hell out of Sexy Star, full on punching and kicking her in the face. Yes, wrestling is fake, but even fake (although fairly well pulled off) portrayals of violence against women do make some people uncomfortable, and many reviewers noted it as a negative last season. LU seemed to defend itself by saying they very much subscribe to the comic book/Mortal Kombat way of portraying their wrestlers, but it will be interesting to see if they switch things up, feeling it’s not worth the potential scrutiny.

Question #5 – Can the company make a second star?

One of the lasting impressions left by the company from Season 1 is that Prince Puma (aka Ricochet) is the face of the franchise. He was firmly established as the banner star of the Lucha Underground carrying the title from its inception until the end of Ultima Lucha, and his ascent to the top was very well executed from beginning to end. The goal for season two has to be to make a second, homegrown star. Fortunately for Lucha Underground, they have many good candidates for that role. Pentagon Jr ended Season 1 on fire. Of all of Lucha Underground talents, he may be the most beloved by the fans. He got so over as a heel, he flipped into arguably the second biggest babyface in the company by the end of the season. Whether they double down on his arm-breaking, satanic nastiness, and ramp him up as the top heel, or turn him into an anti-hero babyface, he could be the company’s next big star. His brother Fenix also is a suitable candidate to be elevated. His wars with Mil Muertes really put him on the map last season, and holding the Gift of the Gods Championship, which he can cash in for a title shot, puts him in a prime position to ascend the ladder. Other potential breakout stars are Jack EvansAngelicoDrago, and King Cuerno.

Question #6 – Will we get Dario Cueto ‘on the road’ vignettes and will we see Matanza chained to a Motel 6 shower?

If there’s a god, yes. Cueto (played by actor Luis Fernandez-Gil) was one of the brightest spots of Season 1. The mannerisms of the character captured everything you’d want in a slimy, carpetbagging, Spanish-born rich boy exploiting Mexican lucha libre for his own sadistic amusement and profit. When last we saw Cueto, he was fleeing The Temple, Black Lotus at his side, and a trailer full of Matanza hitched to the back of his SUV, to hide form potential revenge seekers affiliated with El Dragon Azteca’s syndicate. While we know at this point that Season 2 will take place at The Temple, it is highly likely Cueto’s return to it will play out behind the scenes, at least at the beginning of the season. Therefore a series of vignettes of Cueto on the run, dealing with every day everyman issues as he hides out has a wealth of potential.

Question #7 – Will we get another Aztec Warfare match, or any other new match concepts this season?

The first introduction of many to Lucha Underground last year was clips of the Aztec Warfare match, LU’s 20-man pinfall/submission Royal Rumble style match in which Prince Puma became the first Lucha Underground champion. Will the match take place this year? Will the title be defended in it, or will it be a #1 contender’s match? Also what other innovative matches, or re-imaginings on existing match concepts might we get this season. LU unveiled quite a lot of gimmicks over the first 39 episodes. We got Aztec Warfare, a Trios ladder match, several different hardcore matches, a leather strap lumberjack match (Believers’ Backlash), an improved version of a casket match (Grave Consequences), a not-quite iron man match (All Night Long). I do not believe they’ve given us their take on a cage match yet…

Question #8 – Who the hell is the special forces luchador shooting people and killing terrorists in that Season 2 trailer?

Because he may already be my favorite. Nah, still Pentagon. But he’s a solid #2.

Question #9 – How crazy will this season actually get? 

We’ve all heard the rumors. Aliens. Here’s the thing about Lucha Underground, it walked a fine line in dealing with the supernatural and science fiction. Yes, the Disciples Of Death constantly appearing out of thin air, or Aerostar blasting into the sky like a rocket, or Drago turning back into his actual fire-breathing dragon self are all inherently nuts for a wrestling show. But one, this isn’t quite a wrestling show, and two, the way most of these things were done looked and felt like it fit in the universe of the show (only DoD was kind of hokey, mostly because the effects looked bad). In the show’s offseason, the show runners’ desires to branch more into the supernatural became a little clearer, and with that came the rumor that the show might have aliens. If by aliens, they mean a luchador, in the vein of Drago, who personifies an alien, then it’ll probably fit right in with the rest of the show. If they mean cheesy little green guys, or a luchador with six arms, or their aim is to make aliens the overall focus of the show, this could get really ugly really quick.

Question #10 – How much of a deep dive into El Dragon Azteca’s story will we get this season? 

The presumably deceased El Dragon Azteca represents an entire half of the show’s main story that’s really yet to be explored save for a very few vignettes that focused mainly on him explaining lucha libre, and teaching Black Lotus how to fight. Clearly he has spies working in The Temple. Clearly he’s in some type high level, good and evil struggle with Dario Cueto over the soul of Mexican lucha libre. And based on the ending vignette of Season 1, his demise is the impetus for Rey Mysterio Jr’s arrival. How will Rey play into it? Is El Dragon Azteca really dead? Is El Dragon Azteca really a man, or is it a title and someone else will take the mantle? What is the core beef between his side and Cueto? Where the hell does Matanza fit into this? So many questions!

Well, that’s just a small slice of things to think about heading into Season 2. We didn’t even touch on Marty The Moth tying up Sexy Star in his creepy, rapey room, or The Mack channeling his inner Stone Cold.

Three more weeks!

If you want some background on Lucha Underground and Season 1, I’d recommend my Intro to Lucha Underground piece.