I don’t necessarily want to date myself, but it’s been a long time since I watched pro wrestling. Long enough that I remember Hulk Hogan taking on Rowdy Roddy Piper (before he went Hollywood), I remember when “WWF” did not stand for “World Wildlife Fund,” and I still think of The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin as “new.” And, to be honest, I was never much of a fan. For all the “controversy” at the time whether or not wrestling was “real” (quaint in hindsight, but it was a raging argument among the 12-year-old set) seemed silly – it was obviously totally (and stiffly) choreographed to the point that no one was ever in any real danger.
So it was a bit of a shock to see how far into the 21st century Lucha Underground has brought the sport. This is definitely not the wrestling I remember.
The major advantage Lucha has over the WWE is that, where the WWE stages live events in huge arenas and keeps cameras rolling so they can broadcast what happens, Lucha is a TV show first and foremost. If a move goes wrong, they do it again until it looks right for the cameras. And those cameras also get to make much more interesting moves, with crazy crane shots bobbing in and out of the ring while the wrestlers do their thing.
For their part, the wrestlers are terrific; the athleticism and, apparently, threshold for pain is higher here than I’ve seen before. I don’t want to say that I completely forgot that the wrestlers are working together to sell the moves, but I remembered it less often than I expected to, and I let out at least half a dozen involuntary noises in reaction to some of the more bonecrunching moves in the season 2 premiere – and there were a lot of them.
The other area where Lucha stands out is with its cut-scenes between matches: rather than just having someone hold up a microphone so one wrestler can direct spittle-flecked threats at another direct to camera, this show stages elaborate, cinematically lit scenes to establish the beefs and rivalries between the wrestlers. Season 2 opens with Vampiro, one of the two announcers, being let out of a mental hospital and taken straight to the Temple by his co-announcer, Matt Striker, in a lowrider, and goes right to a Gift of the Gods Championship match, with the winner earning the right to challenge the Temple’s champion, Mil Muertes.
The second match features the trio of Son of Havoc, Angelico, and Ivelisse, whose announcement to Catrina, the evil daughter of the evil (and missing) owner of the Temple, that they have teamed up leads to an order to fight a three-way match for the right to challenge Mil Muertes immediately after. To say more would spoil some interesting twists – suffice to say that in the Temple, the people who start a match aren’t necessarily the same people who will finish it.
Oh, and what does The Artist Formerly Known As The Rock think?