I had suggested back in February that the very next entry would be further thoughts on Lucha Underground. I had not been quite ready to divulge my thoughts, though.
So I've now watched all of Lucha Underground's season 1 and have seen the first 2 episodes of season 2. Right off the bat I can see a sort of con to making a television drama about an underground wrestling temple: unlike the shows like Game of Thrones, where major events and turning points are alluded to but not revealed (unless said fan is stupid), well...wrestling is not discussed in such a hush-hush way. So yeah, expect plenty of reveals regarding previous key matches and plot developments. Before the end of the season, I knew exactly who the new Lucha Underground champion would be (didn't stop the match from being awesome), I had accidentally spoiled for myself Johnny Mundo's heel turn and the eventual reappearance of his real-life girlfriend (even though I personally didn't buy him being a bad guy, I just don't understand the appeal of Alberto El Patrón) and a random Youtube clip revealed to me someone ended up in the mental hospital. These annoyances aside, I can see that the producers of Lucha Underground are ambitious enough as the temple is now larger and fitting in more people.
One interesting flavour is that the first season always opened up with a band, who sometimes played during the show as well. I fully understood the reason for this: it's to get the crowd energised and hyped up. In season two they seem to have completely done away with this...I guess by this point the crowd just walk into the warehouse excited. That and considering how the mood is much darker this time around, having a band playing happy music would be too dissonant in tone.
So before I get into my praises for Lucha Underground, I will complain about a personal problem: I do not like the interview segments. Thankfully these segments are not frequent or a standard feature of an episode, but what is up with the editing? Each time Vampiro (the interviewer) presents the person being interviewed, there has to be still-shots and a caption, as if you're reading a comic book. That's dodgy enough but the interviews are so obviously heavily edited and cut, with way too many angle changes and...why does Vampiro constantly interrupt? They're terrible and far too annoying!
With that I'll segue to the commentators: Vampiro and Matt Striker. This was a delightful little surprise as I know who both of them are. Vampiro wrestled against Sting in WCW, back when I was first getting in to wrestling. Matt Striker got hired by the WWE after news broke that, while teaching, he had taken sick leave and holiday in order to wrestle. The school fired him but he had been hired by the WWE. Now, it's actually quite unusual for a commentating duo to be made up of exclusively ex-wrestlers; usually the formula is play-by-play being a seasoned commentator or journalist, with the ex-wrestler being the colour commentator. Nope! Here it's both. Now at first I had found it hard to tell their voices apart, since commentators rely on having a recognisable voice. Eventually I figured out the differences, chiefly relying on their accents (Vampiro's Canadian). I have to admit, I like these two together: they're both enthusiastic, both have great camaraderie and a good friendship they bring to the forefront. Admittedly Vampiro plays a tiny bit more of a character than Matt does. So while Matt is so good at play-by-play that he sometimes finds himself making up names for improvised moves on the spot, Vampiro is normally playing a sort of role of wrestling fan that has insight into what a wrestler could be thinking. And he likes to show appreciation of the female form. What I disagree with 'the internet' on is that Vampiro is not a heel commentator (someone who supports what the 'bad guys' do). Matt often shows his appreciation for smart, albeit heelish tactics and Vampiro is not above interfering in an event if he feels the need to. Plus Vampiro will never get over his hatred of Konnan. Above all of this though, I appreciate it when they're quiet and don't say anything. At key moments, it adds to the drama of what's happening in the ring.
So, commentators aside, I'll talk about the referees. No glass-jawed referees! Thank the Lord! I was so tired of referees being easily distracted or taken out with just one punch. Granted there was a much where a referee had been taken out, but the bump was so vicious it was believable. In a recent match, a referee got a blow, but he tried to maintain his role by crawling on his hands and knees to follow the match. I applaud.
Camera men - they're awesome! The camera crew are following the wrestlers all over the temple or arena, no matter how many there are or how chaotic it gets. Some of them even get inspired to do a zoom on a leap. Where did they get these guys? They're brilliant! (It was great of Matt to devote a shout-out to these guys at the end of the season.)
We also have the ring announcer Melissa Santos. At first I didn't really know what to make of her, she's just the pretty face who shouts out the names of the wrestlers coming in to the ring, as well as where they're from. (As an aside, I like the nice touch that no one's weights are announced, it gives the feeling this place really isn't running under any sort of proper supervision and literally anyone can enter.) After a while though, I noticed that I found her minute gestures and facial expression rather entertaining, as well as how she sing-songs a few of the locations. "From the 5-5-Niiiiiiine!" The entertainment value went up when Pentagon Jr. attacked her, simply because every time she introduces him after that it's obvious she really doesn't want to be in the same place as him. As a nice little aside, most wrestlers don't even think of seeing Melissa as a person to attack. In the WWE I sometimes wonder why so many of the performers are looking or staring at the ring announcer.
It's also inventive that there are two entrances, so there is either a cloudy tunnel to go through or the wrestlers can enter through the fans or believers by descending the stairs. As can be predicted, the heels or bad guys usually go through the tunnel, but there are notable exceptions and sometimes an entire team will subvert this. So it's not a rule, which I like, as some high-flyers choose to jump into the ring from the top of Dario's office.
One slight annoyance is, I have no idea what most of the entrance theme music sounds like. You can hear the start of them, but the crowd is so loud you normally can't hear any. I don't really know what to think of this, if I were in the 'temple' I would scream and drown out the music too. Might just be a consequence of having a wrestling show in a warehouse, who knows?
So a major enjoyable element is that matches of face vs. face and heel vs. heel happen all the time! I love that element, I hate the idea of the best matches only coming from designated hero vs. villain set-ups. In the very first episode and with the wrestling world's debut of Prince Puma, Johnny Mundo was so impressed that, even when winning, he holds up Prince Puma's hand and shakes it. Later, popular faces Aerostar and Drago had a best-of-five series, which started out all spectacular and filled with Lucha Libre high-flying spots, but got slowed down and more psychological with each later match. And I want to focus on these two because, previously, I had said that the entire thing is aware of how ridiculous it is and we are just enjoying a show of crazy personalities manifested in masks...
In this universe of Lucha Underground, Drago...is really a dragon. I was floored when a vignette had him go through a curtain, followed by a dragon's roar and a gust of fire. Even Prince Puma is starting to growl a la King from Tekken, which is weird, since his entire backstory is that he is a normal mortal being, a descendent of an Aztec tribe. The series became way more interesting...