Lucha Underground S2E11: Bird Of War

Lucha Underground – S2E11: Bird Of War
Date: April 6, 2016

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Previously, on Lucha Underground…

Joey Ryan and Cortez Castro were given orders to find evidence to arrest Dario CuetoThe Mack attempted to build Sexy Star’s confidence after she was tortured by Marty The Moth and MariposaMatanza destroyed Pentagon Jr, breaking his back.

Last week, I talked about the potential concerns of the reign of Matanza, namely, that his matches needed to be more violent if he was going to be destroying all the heroes of the temple, and that squash match after squash match could lead to somewhat boring shows, which is very off-brand for Lucha Underground, which is traditionally high speed and high action.

This week’s episode alleviated a lot of those fears with a significantly better main event between Fenix and Matanza. The match accomplished the same goal — building Matanza as an unstoppable monster — and Fenix got about as much offense as Pentagon (it was pretty much a prolonged squash), but the match, the layout, the level of violence, and the storytelling was much better than last week. In short: Fenix made Matanza look like a million bucks.

The way in which Lucha Underground is building Matanza as its new unstoppable star, philosophically, is the antithesis of everything WWE has done for years. Wins and losses matter. Domination (as opposed to 50/50 matches) matters. High profile guys with made names in the promotion have to lose definitively (and not get their win back a week later). And all of this equals to putting the full focus of the promotion behind one guy who is the guy. If it works, you’ve set up something great, and something that, when a challenger finally rises up, would draw significant interest. If you pick the wrong guy, it could be bumpy. I am much more confident after this week that they picked the right guy in Matanza.

This week’s show ended with a very simple ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’ moment between Mil Muertes and Fenix. Well on his way to being pounded through the canvas by Matanza, all looked lost for Fenix, when Catrina distracted Matanza on the house mic, and Mil Muertes emerged, taking the opening, to knock Matanza out of the ring, foreshadowing a showdown between the two monsters. As Matanza departed, Muertes acknowledged the broken Fenix’s presence, but didn’t pounce, seeming to indicate that he has bigger fish to fry at this point, and Fenix may be useful in subduing this more powerful enemy. Fenix, for his part, was left staring at Catrina atop the stairs, and wondering why this woman saved him. The origin story of Catrina should be a pretty fascinating one when the show gets around to it. This literal tug of war between life (Fenix) and death (Mil Muertes) and her ultimate fate as some lost spirit has been very loosely crafted over the first two seasons, but could really be tied together with one killer vignette that makes all the pieces fit.

Elsewhere on this show, we got the return of COPS: Boyle Heights. Joey Ryan and Cortez Castro starred in another horribly acted vignette in which they were given orders to win the Trios Tournament to gain favor with Dario Cueto, so they could get close enough to him to find evidence to bring him down. For their part, Ryan and Castro pulled off their first win, defeating Mack, Marty The Moth, and Mariposa. The Ryan/Castro/Cisco team looks like it could be a fun dysfunctional team moving forward. The Mack/Sexy Star vs. Marty/Mariposa storyline isn’t quite working for me. I like the individual work of everyone involved. Marty’s an A+ creep. Mariposa’s been fine so far. The Mack is quickly becoming one of the biggest fan favorites with the Temple crowd, and Sexy Star’s generally been fine as a character even if her matches are shaky from time to time. But there’s not enough meat to this storyline. Maybe a little more insight on what Marty & Mariposa did to Sexy Star would make me feel a little more into it.

There were three tremendous vignettes on this show:

  • Dario Cueto and Vampiro discussing the aftermath of Matanza/Pentagon was top notch. Cueto is far and away the best actor on the show, but Vampiro is very good in his own right. The teasing of Vampiro edging up to the breaking point, and the idea that Vamp and Pentagon will be back for revenge is a nice seed to plant as the show moves into other Matanza based feuds.
  • The Killshot origin vignette is one of the best vignettes the show has done in general. A black ops war vet, fighting his way out of a POW camp, killing dozens of guys, wrestling to forget. It’s a tremendous character. Obviously the show knew it had gold on their hands here, because that vignette was heavily featured in the Season 2 trailer.
  • The Rey Mysterio/Dragon Azteca/Prince Puma team formation had a very superhero movie vibe to it. Rey is probably the second best actor on the show. The image of these three looking off the roof, shrouded in darkness, only their masks illuminated, should be one of the iconic ones for the show. Prince Puma finally spoke, and Ricochet’s southern accent, considering he’s “an Aztec Warrior and Boyle Heights’ favorite son,” was pretty funny. I guess Puma moved to Boyle Heights as a teenager, is what I’m going with.

Lastly, I want to talk a little about Ivelisse. She’s a very good wrestler. Tasked with carrying Kobra Moon, who’s not particularly good, in a singles match this week, she really got a solid match out of the situation. It makes me think she would be a much bigger star on the show if Lucha Underground had a dedicated women’s division, where she could wrestle even matches, instead of being a punching bag in most of her matches against the guys, and I think it would translate better overall to people who watch the show. I also started thinking about how crazy it is that WWE didn’t see value in her when she was in developmental. But then I thought about it a little more, and I saw it, and it speaks to how backwards WWE can be sometime. First, she’s a very attractive woman, but she’s not cut from the “WWE body mold.” She’s a little thicker all around, and this is a company that previously made it abundantly clear they thought Nattie (!) was too fat to be a featured diva, which is insane. Second, she was in developmental about four years ago, and at that point in time, WWE’s womens wrestling was still very much a slap and hair pull operation. If this woman came in legitimately wanting to wrestle, no wonder they booted her. All this said, given the legitimate changes WWE has made in their perception of women, and their changed viewpoint on women’s wrestling, especially in NXT, she would be a tremendous pickup for them. That said, I hope she stays in Lucha Underground and becomes a star there.

This was a very good rebound show, and more importantly, just a fun episode to watch. All the wrestling was solid, but there was no blow away match. The vignettes were very well done, and there was some really solid story development. I’d recommend checking it out.

Misc. Notes

  • Lucha Underground did a combined audience of 234,000 (156k first run, 78k replay) with a slight dip in the show’s overall rating because the show’s median age seems to be increasing week after week, which is somewhat puzzling (this week: 58.9). The 234,000 combined makes this the most watched show on El Rey to date. By comparison, TNA this week did 338,000 combined for its two showings. So LU is slowly creeping up on them.
  • MVP was both hired and fired by Lucha Underground in the past week. He released a statement on YouTube about it which I’ll embed here. Basically, he violated the terms of his non-disclosure agreement when he interviewed LU cast members on his MLW podcast. I wondered if this specifically had to do with his Catrina interview and the mild spoiler he gave out on her Season 3 plan. I did hear the podcast (which was pulled a few hours after it was posted), and other than that Catrina nugget, there was nothing overly spoilery about it.

The Matches

Match #1 — Ivelisse vs. Kobra Moon

The two traded armlocks early before Ivelisse took Kobra down, into a cross armbreaker that Kobra got out of with a rope break. Ivie did some nice chain wrestling around a hammer lock. Kobra got Ivie in a headscissor that Ivie reversed into a roll-up for a near fall. Kobra popped up and put Ivie in a dragon sleeper, but Ivie broke it with knee strike, then hit a series of arm drags, followed by an elbow into the turnbuckle. Kobra grabbed Ivie in a headscissor again, and draped over the ropes for leverage, but the hold was broken before five. Then Kobra hit a knee strike to Ivie’s head, as Ivie was hanging on the middle rope, which produced a near fall. Part of Kobra Moon’s snake gimmick is she slithers into covers, and covers her opponent laying almost perfectly on top, face to face, with the person, instead of a traditional pin attempt.

Kobra continued her advantage with a shoulder to Ivie’s gut, and then locked in a not-quite-Tarantuala, hanging over the ropes again, which was broken before five. Kobra hit a butterfly suplex, which she floated over, into a butterfly lock, but Ivie got to her feet and reversed it into a northern lights supelx for a near fall, then floated over the pin and locked in a front chancery choke. Kobra fought out, and Ivie reversed a whip into a tilt-a-whirl, into a reverse russian leg sweep. The two traded chops and forearms, then Ivie got pissed and pounded Kobra, hit a bunch of kicks, and a t-bone suplex for a near fall. Kobra popped out with a weak chinbreaker, then hit a Gory bomb for a near fall. The two traded kicks, then Ivelisse hit a sunset flip powerbomb (Code Red) for the pin.

Winner: Ivelisse via pinfall
Rating: **

Match #2 — Trios Tournament — Joey Ryan & The Crew vs. The Mack, Marty Martinez, and Mariposa

Vampiro had no clue who The Crew guys were and kept calling them Cortez and Castro until Striker had to point out to him that there’s one person named Cortez Castro.

Cisco started with Mack, and the two had a fist pound of mutual respect. Mack hit a shoulder block for a near fall. Cisco hit an elbow, then a springboard armdrag. Mack came back with an armdrag, so Cisco hit a top rope hurricanrana, followed by another Mack armdrag, a series of leg sweeps from both, then a stand off between the two, and another fist bump.

Joey Ryan tagged himself in and demanded “the girl.” Mariposa slapped Ryan, so he face planted her. Mariposa hit a lucha armdrag off the ropes. then a hurricanrana into a pin for a near fall. Mariposa came back with a dropkick to the knee, and a heel kick to Ryan’s back and tagged in Marty. Ryan hit a dropkick to Marty’s face and tagged in Castro. Marty cut Castro off with a knee, but Castro planted Marty near the corner, Cisco tagged in and hit his corner dropkick for a near fall. Cisco went for a springboard move, but Mariposa kicked him off the ropes, and Marty slammed Cisco and tagged in Mariposa. Marty grabbed Mariposa and front face slammed her into Cisco for a nearfall. Cisco and Mariposa traded missed dropkicks before Mariposa hit one, and tagged in Marty. Marty hit an exploder suplex on Cisco into a turnbuckle for a near fall. Cisco fought out of a headlock,and hit a neckbreaker, then a hot tag to Castro, who hit a DDT on Marty for a near fall. Ryan stole a tag from Castro, and Mack stole a tag from Marty. Mack unloaded on Ryan, hitting a spinning back elbow, a body slam, and a leg drop for a near fall. Ryan cut Mack off briefly, but got hit with a Samoan drop into a kip up into a standing moonsault for a near fall.

Everyone hit the ring and brawled from the ring to the outside leaving Mack in the ring alone. He set up a dive, but Mariposa got in his way, so Mack just kicked Mariposa off the apron into the crowd of guys below, then ran and hit his dive wiping out all five competitors. Mack rolled Ryan in the ring, but Marty blind tagged himself in. Marty and Mack got in a slap fight, then traded chops, the Mack said fuck it and hit Marty with a stunner. Castro and Cisco snuck in behind Marty and hit a shatter machine, then Ryan stole the pin from his partners.

After the match, Mariposa attacked The Mack, but Sexy Star made the save and got some moves in on Mariposa.

Winner: Joey Ryan & The Crew via pinfall
Rating: **

Match #3 — Lucha Underground Championship — Matanza (c) vs. Fenix

Fenix pumped himself up and charged Matanza, but got tossed across the ring. Fenix tried a wastelock, but Matanza reversed it into an arm lock that Fenix sold as if Matanza was breaking his arm. Matanza blocked some kicks, and then just eviscerated Fenix with a shoulder tackle before grabbing Fenix and pounding his head into the mat repeatedly. The key here is Fenix is selling almost everything as if he’s dying.

Matanza grabbed Fenix and choked him into the turnbuckle. He whipped Fenix out to the other turnbuckle, and Fenix dodged a charge and hit a series of kicks that barely phased Matanza. Fenix celebrated his strikes, oblivious to Matanza not being hurt, and went to run out of the corner, but Matanza grabbed him by the tights, pulled him back, and hit a vicious, vicious german suplex into the middle turnbuckle that could have easily broken Fenix’s neck.

Matanza stomped Fenix, then dragged him to the middle of the ring. He whipped him to the ropes, but Fenix held onto them and tried some kicks again. Matanza finally sold a kick. Fenix tried a springboard, but Matanza caught him and teased the Wrath of the Gods, but Fenix slipped out, and did a handspring, attempting a back elbow, but Matanza caught him in mid-air, shook him like a rag doll, and German suplexed him in another very cool, very vicious looking spot.

Fenix rolled outside, but Matanza grabbed him and dragged him back inside. Fenix caught Matanza with a superkick, then a springboard missile drop kick that stunned Matanza. Dario Cueto yelled at Matanza “remember mama!” Fenix charged Matanza and got backdropped onto an apron. Fenix punched Matanza in the face, and sold it like he just punched a wall, and Matanza leveled Fenix with a right hand, knocking him off the apron.

Matanza jumped outside and lifted Fenix onto the apron. Fenix desperately kicked at Matanza stunning him again, then went for a tope, but Matanza caught him and powerslammed him on the floor. Matanza pounded Fenix on the floor, then tossed him in the ring, and hit Wrath of the Gods for the pin.

After the match, Matanza continued pounding Fenix’s head into the mat until Catrina and Mil Muertes made the save.

Winner: Matanza via pinfall
Rating: ***