Friday, January 13, 2017

Fake Fighting Frenzy: Lucha Underground 1/11/17

Sadly I wasn't quite able to write up Raw and SmackDown this week because I went on an epic journey across the country that ended up taking over 24 hours and sucked my will to do pretty much anything. Also I didn't watch Raw because the College Football Playoff Championship Game was on and it was like a hundred times better than whatever happened on Raw. I made sure not to miss this week's Lucha Underground, however, because it was the mid-season finale and we're not going to be getting any more Lucha Underground until SUMMER which is incredibly, unbearably sad. But hey, maybe now I can go back and do write-ups for every episode up until this point so all the lovely Vundablog faithful can get caught up on the wonder that is Lucha Underground. Silver linings, right? Anyway, let's get to this week's episode...




-We open the show with Dario and his mysterious benefactor talking about Cage and his gauntlet and how its power is consuming him and how, pretty soon, they will be mere men amongst gods--gods, Dario is quick to point out, who owe them a great deal of gratitude. This, of course, brings up so many questions. Are Dario and his friend (and their even more mysterious super boss) going to be creating even more gods in Lucha Underground? And why do these gods owe them a debt of gratitude? Just for incarnating them or is it more than that?
-The two are then interrupted by El Dragon Azteca Jr. demanding a DEATHMATCH with Matanza. You know, the same El Dragon Azteca Jr. who recently said he wants to literally murder Matanza? Yeah, THAT El Dragon Azteca Jr. Dario's all "um, sure, okay, kid, it's you're funeral..."




-Matt Striker introduces the show as he does every week, selling the main event deathmatch by wisely pointing out that the last time they had a deathmatch, it effectively ended the career of King Cuerno. Then he brings up what Mil Muertes did to Vampiro last week and Vampiro stops him short and, with the devil in his eyes, looks into the camera with more intensity than we've maybe ever seen from him and warns Mil that his time will come. Matt Striker throws it to Melissa Santos to start the show and wears a look of serious concern for his friend. Great work by both.




-First match: Texano v. Joey Ryan. Poor Texano went from fighting for the Ultimate Opportunity to be possessed by the soul of a God to fighting Joey Ryan, who, up to this point in Lucha Underground, has basically been a NPC. Yeah, he was a police officer for a while but now he's not doing much of anything. He's still Joey Ryan so the match is fun.
-The main thing here is that Famous B and Brenda show up dressed in their own ridiculous interpretation of "things people from Texas wear" and cheer on Texano (who they started trying to recruit as their new client last week) in the worst possible southern accent imaginable. Famous B screaming "COME ON TAY-HAW-NO" definitely increased my enjoyment of this match considerably, not gonna lie. Ultimately Famous B ends up distracting the ref long enough for Brenda to slip Texano a "lucky horseshoe" to hit Joey with to pick up the victory. It's an interesting dynamic because Texano is clearly the face and Joey is clearly the heel and Texano is very visibly conflicted about winning the match this way but, interestingly, he also doesn't hesitate to do it.
-I'll be interested to see where both Texano and Joey go from here. Texano seems primed to join Famous B and Brenda and turn heel--though he could just as easily tell them to go screw--but Joey really has very little direction or development going on with his character and yet, in spite of that, is popular with the fans on reputation and sheer strength of personality and charisma and now has a little sympathy on his side as well so I'm really interested to see where he goes from here. Will we ever get to see his infamous Dong Style in Lucha Underground? I certainly hope so.




-Johnny Mundo comes to the ring for a very WWE-style promo segment. He makes it work because he's such a phenomenal heel but it felt a little bit out of place on a Lucha Underground show. I think that was partially the point, though. In a lot of ways, they do a really good job of positioning Mundo and Worldwide Underground as being representative of everything American/WWE about wrestling and making them hated villains because of it. That's really kinda brilliant when you think about it.
-Anyway, Mundo complains that no one believed in him except PJ Black and Jack Evans, gives them a group handshake and then kicks them out to address The Mack personally. He doubles down on the fat-shaming, telling Mack he's "not built to go all night long" and that he doesn't belong in the same ring as him which brings out Mack for the very WWE-esque attack. Mundo calls for security (LOL) and Mack just stuns every one of them. It's all so WWE but it works for both characters--Johnny as the embodiment of everything LU fans hate about American wrestling and Mack as the reincarnation of the Attitude Era that many of those same fans loved.




-Our second "match" is Cage's debut with his new possessed gauntlet. He faces "Veneno" who is more or less portrayed as a jobber, albeit with a twist--more on that in a minute.
-Sadly, Cage takes off the gauntlet to wrestle. I was kinda hoping the thing would now be inseparable from his arm but I guess you can't exactly wrestle with a huge metal glove on your arm.
-The story of this match is that Cage is EXTRA aggressive and hostile now--yes, even more than he was before somehow. It's great because LU shows us a glimpse of what exactly Dario meant when he said that the power of the gauntlet is consuming Cage.
-I'm really looking forward to seeing Cage descend more and more into god-possessed madness as the power of the gauntlet continues to consume him. Plus that moment when god-possessed Cage faces off with god-possessed Matanza is going to be MOLTEN HOT FIRE. Maybe, like, literally. I wouldn't be surprised if they super slow burn that one until like Ultima Lucha Quatro (assuming there's going to be a fourth season) and start setting it up at Aztec Warfare IV. How great would that be? It would definitely require some next-level special effects but I trust LU to pull it off in a way that really puts over the supernatural awesomeness of it.
-So the other big story in this match is that Veneno (Spanish for "poison") is a SPIDER themed wrestler. And we all know what that means. Amazingly, Sexy Star sets a pro wrestling record for fastest recognition of a blatantly obvious truth ever--especially amazing considering she originally thought it was the butterfly themed lady who insisted it wasn't her. Sexy sprints to the ring and screams "IT WAS YOU" in Spanish, kicks Veneno in the face, and screams "STAY AWAY FROM ME" before leaving. Not a very auspicious debut for Veneno. But why is he tormenting Sexy? Or IS he? Guess we'll have to wait til Summer to find out. DAMMIT!




-Catrina runs into Prince Puma in the back training (which is pretty much always what Puma is doing back there it seems) and they kinda trade some barbs about the visions they're having about each other's pain (or, well, Puma's visions about Mil Muertes's pain and Catrina's visions of Puma's; you get the idea). It kinda just seems like a reminder that this is the A-story of season three at the moment but there's also a detail revealed that seems like it could be important later:
-Catrina tells Puma that once you come back from the dead, things are never the same--that you start hearing voices. I wonder what that means. Knowing Lucha Underground, I doubt that this is a throwaway detail. I also wonder how this plays into Puma's decision to kneel to Vampiro and call him master. I know he rescued him from the realm of the dead but are the voices telling him to follow Vampiro too? Are they telling him to destroy Mil Muertes? Are Puma and Mil (the only two in the LU universe to ever return from the dead) hearing the SAME voices? What are the voices telling Mil? Are the voices orchestrating the entire feud between Mil and Puma? AHHH SO MANY QUESTIONS WHY ARE YOU LEAVING ME UNTIL SUMMER, LUCHA UNDERGROUND?!?!




-Finally, our main event: El Dragon Azteca Jr. v. The Monster Matanza in a DEATHMATCH. This match is every bit as amazing as it sounds on paper. Matanza is freakishly strong and Azteca is freakishly agile and athletic and their talents complement each other perfectly and create an incredible chemistry.
-The highlight of the match for me was Azteca going FULL SPIDERMAN by latching onto a...I don't even know like an air vent or something and f*cking springboarding off it and into a plancha. That is INSANE. Look at that photo above. He was clamped onto that air vent thing and literally had to let go, twist his body 180 degrees and do a somersault with, like, three inches of surface area to push off from at MOST, all in one fluid motion. It's un-f*cking-real.
-Matanza finishes off Azteca by chokeslamming him THROUGH THE BLEACHERS to the floor of the Temple which is quite a drop and looked dangerous as all hell. The ref throws out the match and it totally works because CLEARLY Azteca is for real dead from that.
-This brings out Rey Mysterio Jr. to come to Azteca's aid, which causes Matanza to lose his mind and violently push through the crowd (pretty sure he forcefully pushed down at least one audience member) to attack Mysterio. The two have an INTENSE brawl that ends with Mysterio backdropping Matanza through Dario's office which causes Dario to have a freaking panic attack and demand that everyone leave the Temple.
-I'm dying to see where they go with this story. The Mysterio/Matanza rivalry has the potential to be absolutely incredible but I really hope Matanza comes out on top, to be honest. Mysterio already got the rub of being the first guy to pin Matanza and he doesn't need to be put any further over or made to look any stronger than he already is. I hope Matanza destroys Rey and Azteca vows revenge and they blow off THAT feud at Ultima Lucha Tres with Azteca becoming 1. the first person to ever kick out of the Wrath of the Gods (that moment will be HUGE; they have done such an amazing job of protecting that move to the point where it seems absolutely bulletproof so the first time someone kicks out of it is going to absolutely light the Temple on fire--ESPECIALLY if Mysterio himself can't even kick out of it when he and Matanza finally meet one-on-one), and 2. the first person to ever defeat Matanza one-on-one. Azteca is the kind of up-and-coming, outrageously talented young star that deserves to get that kind of treatment to make him a goddamn KING in Lucha Underground. Hell, have Mysterio come out at the end and declare him "El Rey" if you wanna do it big. If you do this right, you could turn a mid-level guy that the crowd really wants to love into the Next Big Thing; one of the elite guys in Lucha Underground that everybody comes to see.




-But brace yourselves, folks, because we're still not quite done. The last scene of the episode shows Marty the Moth stalking Melissa Santos after the show. Suddenly, a sack is thrown over Marty's head. He awakens tied up in the basement dungeon he and Mariposa used to torture Sexy Star only to find that MARIPOSA is his kidnapper. The weirdest part about it is that she seems quite pleased with him. She tells him well done and admits that "maybe [he's] not that little boy anymore; maybe the moth has seen the light." She slaps him and leaves the room and the last thing we see is Marty rocking back and forth, repeating to himself: "I did good. I did good."
-So what the HELL is going on HERE? Last week Marty unexpectedly attacks Mariposa. This week she kidnaps him while he's stalking Melissa Santos and ties him up and tells him he's done well and all this makes him pleased with himself. Is she praising him for attacking her or for stalking Melissa or both? Why is she praising him for any of this? Where does this go from here? Once again, we have to wait til summer to find out which is SO F*CKING INFURIATING.
-Come back soon, Lucha Underground. I don't know how I'm going to be able to wait for all the answers to the many questions you've left me with. Thank you so much for being a wrestling show that cares about developing characters and telling fully formed stories. It is truly a thing to behold.

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