One of the main complaints that wrestling fans tend to have is that there is no real alternative to WWE if you want a truly different wrestling product.
This has always been a misconception as there are hundreds upon hundreds of unique promotions the world over, but the best of the bunch with a current TV deal is Lucha Underground.
If Vince McMahon's stop-start booking and WWE's occasional sloppiness frustrates you then here's why you should track down some of the action from Boyle Heights.
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It feels dangerous
For all the great things going on in WWE and elsewhere, they each have that same artifice; a glossy sheen that lets you know that, whilst there is danger, it’s a sanitary and probably very safe working environment.
Lucha Underground is taped in The Temple, Boyle Heights, Los Angeles and it could not be more different. There are concrete steps that the wrestlers make their entrance down, that is a bleacher stand for half of the crowd and wooden chairs for the other half.
The lighting rig is very low, and the show’s authority figure (currently Dario Cueto) has an office which you can see on the top right corner.
The Temple is very much a set, and all the elements combine to make something truly unique, not seen in any other wrestling company.
People fight on top of the office/leap from it to the ring, wrestlers get flung into the crowd and that lighting rig has even been used as a battleground. It looks dirty, and real, and like something that could only exist in the underground. Hence, Lucha Underground.
It's shot like a movie
Wrestling can be shot in a variety of different ways. You’ve got your heavily blocked segments like WWE produces, where everyone is clearly standing on a mark.
TNA shoots things handheld to give the impression that things are happening naturally (which works really well, incidentally), and ROH has a simple point and shoot style that fits in with the classicist style that the company usually has.
Lucha Underground treats its story lines like episodes of a TV show, and the vignettes and segments are shot accordingly.
The constantly moving camera, the use of special effects, the use of non-diegetic music – these are all common tropes in LU that you just don’t see in other companies.
Not only do they look and feel kick-ass, but they tell a lot more story in their short run time than, say, a twenty-minute promo at the start of every episode of Raw. Some are obviously better than others, but considering there are several of these segments in each episode you can forgive the lapses.
There’s a long-running arc of Dario Cueto and the Temple being under investigation by the FBI, and now a mystery man who has yet to be revealed. It’s a page-turner of a story line, and it keeps you coming back for more to see what happens next. And it is always presented with real verisimilitude.
The roster is great
Lucha Underground has a ton of depth on their roster with more names appearing every couple of weeks or so.
Season one gave us Johnny Mundo (John Morrison in WWE), Chavo Guerrero, Mil Muertes, Prince Puma (who you may know as NJPW's Ricochet) and many more besides.
Despite having an absolutely stacked roster already, so far this year we have seen the debuts of Matanza Cueto, Rey Mysterio, Dragon Azteca Jr, Joey Ryan, Mariposa, Marty The Moth Martinez, Daga, Killshot, Famous B and PJ Black.
It seems a certainty that more will follow before the season has finished, and that Lucha Underground’s roster will continue to rival the world’s best.
The main event is always great
The opening matches of each episode are usually pretty good; particularly if they involve the Trios Championship (currently held by Johnny Mundo, Jack Evans and PJ Black), but they never hold a candle to the main event.
A typical LU main event can be anything from a technical wrestling masterclass, an arena-wide brawl, or a gimmick match. Of the latter, so far this season we have had a cage match, ladder match, Aztec Warfare (Royal Rumble with pinfalls), submission match and many more besides.
The best of recent times, and one of the best matches ever seen outside of a PPV setting, was the ‘No Mas’ (‘I quit’) match between Sexy Star and Mariposa.
This was where the show went to the next level: that match was a masterpiece - hard-hitting, dramatic, and it told a great story as part of a long feud.
We’ve also seen some crackers between Mil Muertes and Matanza, and Pentagon Jr and Prince Puma. All different types of matches, some with gimmicks, some without, all great examples of maximizing your minutes.
This is the logical way wrestling should be booked, of course – save the best for last – but Lucha Underground has this philosophy down pat.
The characters are unique
Whilst presenting the luchadores in a way that is perhaps more palatable to poor rubes who didn’t grow up watching El Santo movies, the spirit of the piece is the same and each performer has their own character, usually introduced through slick vignettes.
Of particular note is how heavily these characters lean on a supernatural element, and in a lot harder way than The Undertaker and Kane do.
In the space of one episode, you generally get more of a feeling for someone’s character than a thousand scripted promos on Raw can give you.
Take Matanza Cueto – current LU Champion, and brother of the Temple’s ruler Dario Cueto. We were introduced to him over a period of four spaced out vignettes where Dario led lambs to the slaughter against his brother to prepare him to take the Temple back from Mil Muertes and Catrina.
We were told that Matanza had been incarcerated for the last some odd years for murder, and that he is criminally insane. He’s a cross between Michael Myers and Jason Vorhees, essentially.
On top of that, Dario is holding the key to Matanza’s freedom over his head in a sinister way so that the monster must do his bidding. It’s not King Lear, but it’s got more depth than Vince McMahon telling AJ Styles he wants him to be like a little ‘pitbull’.
The above are five compelling reasons for you to start watching Lucha Underground before season two concludes.
It's an easy show to get into, and it really is a great alternative to the somewhat predictable things that WWE is guilty of serving up to its viewers. Everyone should become a Believer in this exciting and innovative company.