Machete don’t text, but he do … er, does attend wrestling shows, apparently. Catching a glimpse of Danny Trejo actually looking like he’s having fun is just one of the side attractions of Lucha Underground, the showcase of Mexican lucha libre (free fighting) that beams down to Malaysian fans every Monday night at 9pm on Astro’s Kix HD channel.
The Dwaynester caught a bunch of episodes over the past weekend, up to the crowning of the first Lucha Underground Champion, and … wow, he is impressed. The athleticism of the luchadores is breathtaking and the risks they take are simply insane.
The show, which made its debut in October 2014, is now well into its second season while our local broadcast is only about a third of the way through the 39-episode first season.
Which is good news, because that means Lucha Underground is going to be with us for at least half a year more before going on a break!
If you haven’t sampled the unique madness of this programme yet, you’re missing out on some raw (hur hur) and exciting stuff.
The show is produced by reality-TV veteran Mark Burnett (Survivor) and movie director Robert Rodriguez (Sin City, Machete, From Dusk Till Dawn) and is firmly entrenched in the rich traditions of Mexico where they don’t just talk of wrestling families, but of wrestling dynasties.
Lucha Underground’s sole setting for its first season is a no-frills arena called The Temple in Boyle Heights, Los Angeles (supposedly just three freeway exits and a right – or was that a left – from Hollywood). The show is run by a somewhat sleazy promoter named Dario Cueto, who is fond of making shady back-room deals with the bad guys to keep the good guys down.
The talent pool comes from the US independent circuit and Asistencia Asesoría y Administración, or AAA, one of Mexico’s largest wrestling promotions (which also owns a stake in the Lucha Underground franchise).
Familiar faces you will find include Johnny Mundo (John Morrison/Johnny Nitro from WWE), Chavo Guerrero and Big Ryck (Ezekiel Jackson from WWE), and later in the season, Rey Mysterio and Alberto el Patron (aka Alberto Del Rio – remember, this season was taped from late 2014 to mid-2015).
It will eventually be revealed that Cueto and his schemes are part of a bigger picture that will become apparent to viewers as the season progresses. This takes the whole “storyline” angle of typical sports entertainment programmes one step further, most likely thanks to Rodriguez’s storytelling sensibilities as a filmmaker.
As stated earlier, the series is steeped in Mexican traditions, not only in the high-flying, rapid-fire wrestling style but also the costumes, most notably the masks. They are designed after animals, deities and folk heroes, and the wrestler is supposed to take on the identity of whoever/whatever his mask represents in the ring.
So far in Lucha Underground, we’ve seen masked wrestlers like the fearsome Mil Muertes (whose name means “1,000 deaths” but whose wrestling tights look kinda like my pyjamas), the agile Fenix, Super Fly and Drago, the sexay lady Sexy Star, and the talented, courageous Prince Puma.
Not everyone wears a mask, but everyone gives it 110% in the ring (as well as above it and just outside it). One thing the Dwaynester found a little hard to get used to is how women wrestlers like Sexy Star and Ivelisse actually step in the ring to wrestle with men.
In WWE, for example, only Chyna was convincing when wrestling across gender but here, the women don’t hesitate to unleash the full force of their ferocity on the guys.
The one-hour format of the show means it seldom outlasts its welcome, and tells its stories in a much leaner, more compact framework with typically two to three matches per show. (Exception being the Aztec Warfare event, a 20-person battle royal where eliminating a wrestler entails pinning him/her or forcing a submission.)
The setting is really bare-bones, and even the ladders in the matches are a far cry from the bright, shining, camera-friendly constructs you see on WWE. These ladders look like you might need tetanus shots just from touching them!
It all adds to the atmosphere, of which Lucha Underground has oodles to spare. I like it – and you will, too! Or Machete will have words.
Step into the Battleground
SO Mick Foley is the general manager of Raw and Daniel Bryan will run Smackdown Live after the brand extension? Looks like the next WWE Battleground (July 25, on the WWE Network) is aptly named; things could still change on the card after the Raw/Smackdown draft. For now, this is how the upcoming pay-per-view stands.
Championship: To be contested in a triple threat match involving champion Dean Ambrose, and challengers Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns. After Rollins and Ambrose battled to a controversial draw on this week’s Raw, all bets are off.
Championship: The Miz defends against Darren Young, who will have his life coach Bob Backlund in his corner. Mmm, pass me a chicken wing.
US Championship: Rusev defends against Zack Ryder. Next!
Grudge match #1: Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens aim to settle the long-running feud which destroyed their long-standing friendship.
Grudge match #2: John Cena battles The Club, with Enzo Amore and Big Cass on his side. They should have made it this Hair vs Hair.
Grudge match #3: Natalya and her former buddy Becky Lynch are out to settle their rivalry. Mostly just Nattie being in a snit.
Fear and loathing match #1: The New Day will probably need to drink their Booty-Os with a straw after this clash with the Wyatt Family. We’re not feeling any positivity about this.
Oh, and there will be one more tag-team match with Dana Brooke and Charlotte facing Sasha Banks and an as-yet-unnamed partner. Why not just give us the Women’s Championship match we all want to see? Oh, right – Summerslam.
And we’ve come to the end of this month’s edition. See you on Aug 18 when we’ll round up the effects of WWE’s brand extension and preview Summerslam. Until then, enjoy the Battleground and don’t forget to take a trip to Lucha Underground!
Grunt ‘n’ Groan is a monthly column on sports entertainment shows. Got anything to say on the subject? Drop Dwayne a line at email@example.com with “Ring Post” in the subject line.