Lucha Underground altering its format has worked
Unlike most televised wrestling programs, Lucha Underground operates on a seasonal basis. LU’s first season was hailed by critics and fans alike for its inventive back stage segments, the cinematic shooting style and dynamic in-ring action. For Season 2, logic would dictate that Lucha Underground just stick to the same winning formula that worked in Season 1. That they didn’t has been a surprise, but an even bigger one is that it’s paying off.
Last season, Prince Puma was the dominant Lucha Underground champ for most of the year. He staved off the challenges of stars like Drago, Johnny Mundo and Hernandez before finally losing to Mil Muertes. Instead of having Muertes simply repeat Puma’s season long reign of dominance, Lucha Underground went a different route.
Early on, Pentagon Jr. broke Muertes’ arm forcing him to sit in his iron throne atop The Temple entrance like a dark overlord. It made for a tremendously ominous visual. While his rivals battled, Muertes resumed his title defense and once again defeated every challenger until he faced another monster.
Matanza Cueto, the brother of Lucha Underground founder/owner Dario Cueto, made an immediate impact. In his debut, Matanza won Aztec Warfare and became the new LU champ. His reign put him in direct contact with Muertes. That’s set off a King Kong vs. Godzilla style conflict.
Muertes and Matanza is not like the aerial acrobatics battles of Puma vs. Drago or Puma vs. Mundo. Instead, it’s the irresistible object and immovable object battle for supremacy. That’s led to more brutal and painful looking matches with these two brutes.
Cueto ruled The Temple and kept everyone off guard with his seemingly random, mischievous booking of matches. For most of the season, Catrina was in charge as she abused her power to intimidate Muertes’ opponents. Catrina proved a far different style matchmaker and again provided yet another take on the crooked booker character.
Taking a preemptive approach before fans get bored with Puma, Mundo, Aerostar, Drago, Son of Havoc, etc. this season has largely focused on other talent. The Mack, Jack Evans, El Dragon Azteca, Cage, Taya and Matanza have been given significant screen time to help increase LU’s overall depth. And the reinvention of jobber Famous B into a get fame quick style advisor has been great.
The shift from Season 1 stars also allows them to get involved in intricate feuds with the Season 2 talent who now have had an opportunity to truly establish themselves. It’s smart booking that not only works for the present, but firmly establishes the foundation for the future.
This season has also been heavier on an overarching theme. Dario is in the crosshairs of law enforcement who’ve seen undercover operatives to compete. Fortunately for Dario, he’s aligned with far more powerful players in Boyle Heights. In all likelihood these segments shouldn’t work, but they definitely add to that episodic feel that’s so important for Lucha Underground’s format.
The only aspect that’s not quite working is the treatment of Rey Mysterio Jr. When Alberto El Patron (del Rio) arrived in The Temple last year he wasn’t treated like Lucha Underground’s savior. He was a star, but positioned no brighter than the rest of the top tier of LU. Mysterio, however is treated as more like a legend honoring LU with his presence and it’s not the best presentation for him at this stage of his career.
When Mysterio forsake a pin to allow Prince Puma the chance to hit his finisher and get the win in their Trios match, Matt Striker phrased it as the passing of the torch. It struck the wrong chord as Puma was the standard bearer of the promotion last season, not some on the rise rookie badly in need of a rub from Mysterio.
As season 2 winds down with only two more episodes, Lucha Underground deserves a lot of credit for taking unconventional chances on Season 2. Not everything was perfect, but it set the promotion up for another entertaining season where fans definitely won’t have a sense of been there, seen that before.