When Lucha Underground debuted on the El Rey Network over a year ago it created a revolution in Professional Wrestling. It provided viewers with something completely fresh and innovative, qualities that are sorely lacking in the more mainstream companies including the Indie darling that is ROH.
Through a combination of breathtaking matches, compelling characters, and a built in living, breathing culture, it became hugely popular in a very short space of time. Stars such as Prince Puma, Pentagon Jr, Mil Muertes, Sexy Star, and many others got over in a major way with the crowd who engaged with this product like no other.
When season one came to an end fans were left chomping at the bit for more Lucha Libre action. There were some concerns over the fate of the company after rumours circulated about the possibility of there not being a season two but all that is in the past now as finally Lucha Underground has returned to the screen. It is a huge relief to be able to say that it is still the best thing in wrestling today.
The new episode began with a recap of the ending of Ultima Lucha from last year. For those who had watched the event it was a reminder of how incredible it had been and how oddly poignant the show’s sign off was. For those who weren’t fortunate enough to be a LU fan at the time it was something of an introduction to the character’s although it will more likely have just been a tad confusing for those people as it told nothing of their series long build or individual motivations.
With the reminders out of the way the next thing up was a video package of Vampiro in a mental institute. It makes a certain degree of sense as Vamp turned out to be Pentagon Jr’s master at Ultima Lucha and returned to his former psychotic ways. Now most will have assumed that the continuation of this storyline would have seen Vamp act as a manager to Pentagon and guide him into this season but it appears that, for the time being, this whole angle has been put to one side.
The video saw a psychiatrist evaluate the vampiric one and deem him fit for re-entry into the world. That opinion came with a handful of anti-psychotics and the advice not to return to people or places from his past. The fact that he is immediately picked up by commentary partner, Matt Striker, should show that his new found sanity is not going to last. Although that should have been clear ever earlier when he is shown to be daydreaming about straight up murdering the psychiatrist and the orderlies.
The action moves to the arena after this, or more specifically the boss’s office, as Fenix tries to use his Gift of the Gods Championship to get a World Title match with Mil Muertes that night. Instead the new boss, Catrina, ordered him to defend his own title against King Cuerno and so the first match of the night was set. Though before that happened there was a brilliant shot of Muertes sitting high up in the arena on a throne. The iconography here was very reminiscent of Dia De Los Muertos which is fitting since Catrina is a name closely associated with the festival and the entire aesthetic of the Muertes character and the Temple at large has always been once of death and one that basked in Hispanic, particularly Mexican and Mayan, culture.
Gift of the Gods Championship Match- Fenix (c) vs. King Cuerno.
Both of these men stood out last season as two of the most talented Luchadores in the company. Fenix became wildly popular as a tecnico (good guy) who utilised athletic, highly stylized offence and showed a tremendous deal of resiliency in his brutal battles with Mil Muertes. Cuerno set himself apart as one of the leading Rudo’s (bad guys) of the brand by being relentless in his hunting of the fan favourites. His gimmick of a highly skilled hunter made for a surprisingly compelling character also.
This match was always going to be something special and it did not disappoint. Both men showcased exactly what had made them so popular as Fenix’s athleticism shone through as he bounced around the ring and executed Tornado Plancha’s with ease. He showed off a more technically sound side too as he transitioned from a Springboard Cutter into a Dragon Sleeper. Cuerno, for his part, showed off his well-documented aggression through moves such as an Apron-Hung DDT and a jaw dropping and hard to describe Double-Underhook Tombstone Piledriver which ended the contest.
Both men put forth a match that perfectly encapsulated what LU is all about. The action was fast paced and exciting yet it still told a story. It wasn’t just high spots for the sake of doing them but rather they were done in a way that fit the flow of the match and when it was time to do away with them they were traded out for impact moves and submissions. This is exactly what separated the in-ring action presented on LU from all other Indie promotions in the first place, they give you excitement and sense in equal measure in matches like this and it makes for much more enjoyable viewing.
It was a little surprising to see this title, which is a lot like the MiTB briefcase, change hands on the season opener but surprises like that are big reason to watch this show.
Winner and New Gift of the Gods Champion- King Cuerno.
After this there was backstage interaction between the former Trio’s Champs and Catrina. She informed the turbulent partners that they would be competing against one another and the winner would face Mil for his championship in the main event. Another surprising and exciting prospect.
Number One Contenders Match- Angelico vs. Son of Havoc vs. Ivelisse.
You know how WWE is patting itself on the back for its Diva’s revolution despite the fact they’re doing the same old tired stuff as before? Well LU are actually furthering women in wrestling and if you want proof of that then look no further than this match. Ivelisse, for anyone unaware, is a woman whilst the other two competitors are men.
See, LU don’t just pair the same females up over and over and call it progress because at least they’re on TV. No, instead they show them as tough athletes who are capable of fighting with the men on the roster and winning. Which is exactly what happened here.
The match itself was perfectly good. The crowd were definitely into it as you’d expect since they’ve always had love for all three of these wrestlers. It was a little too short to get too much in the way of action but what they did do was very well done. It may not be possible to get tired of seeing Angelico hit that Shuri Knee as it just screams brutality whenever he connects, especially when he caught Ivelisse square in the jaw.
All three performers got in a good amount of offence and no one left the match looking weak but obviously it was Ivelisse who looked like a million dollars as she picked up the win via a Strong Cradle on Angelico. Meaning she would be pulling double duty as the shot at Mil’s title was up next.
Winner and New Number One Contender- Ivelisse.
Lucha Underground World Championship Match- Mil Muertes (c) vs. Ivelisse.
The odds were never going to be in the plucky challengers favour here as Mil only won the title at the end of the last season having been built up as an unstoppable monster. It would have been a massive surprise, and not necessarily a good one, if they had moved the title off of him in the first show back.
Ivelisse was starved of support early as her partners were attacked by Muertes’ stablemates, The Disciples of Death. This left her all alone to face a wrecking ball of a man, who still had Catrina in his corner.
The booking was pretty much perfect in its working of the crowd and telling of a true underdog story. Ivelisse fought tooth and nail to topple the champ, using her MMA experience to catch him in Guillotine Chokes and Rope Hung Juji Gatame’s. This is where the commentary teams, particularly Striker, showed themselves to be far and away better that the WWE’s teams as they talked up the relevant attributes of Ivelisse and actually made you believe that she was in with a shot. They furthered the story rather than some App or a Network and that helps a show appeal to an audience immeasurably.
Throughout the match she swung wildly at him and even managed to get two near falls that brought the crowd to their feet, the noise of the support for her was immense. Ultimately though she could never get going as Mil would always just bat her down with a clubbing blow.
She rallied well and showed the fire of a champion, which could be something to consider for the future? There’s no reason why a woman couldn’t be World Champion and it wouldn’t need to seem like a politically correct gimmick either as LU already has a history of pushing women as men’s equals.
In the end she fell victim to a Flatliner and lost the match. Muertes attempted to continue his attack at Catrina’s behest but was himself attacked by Prince Puma who rescue Ivelisse. To cap off a fantastic night, Pentagon Jr returned and attacked the champion with a Backstabber and a maneuver he has used in the past to break the arms of his rivals.
Winner and Still Lucha Underground World Champion- Mil Muertes.
All in all, this was a superb show that brought this series back with a bang. Every fan will be looking forward to Wednesdays a whole lot more now as the best wrestling promotion around looks to get people talking week after week with high octane action and actual attention to storylines.