Masked wrestlers and lucha libre have long been the domain of Spanish-language programming on weekend afternoons and small venues in paisa neighborhoods in major cities in the U.S. Flyers for lucha events in the suburbs of L.A. can be found plastered on the glass doors of tienditas and mercados. One network, however, is betting that there’s a larger audience for lucha libre and will premiere a new show this week to prove it.
Lucha Underground is El Rey’s weekly series featuring luchadores from Mexico’s famous AAA wrestling promotion house who will mix it up in the ring against each other and wrestlers from the U.S. independent circuit. Luchadores such as Blue Demon Jr., Chavo Guerrero Jr., El Hijo del Fantasma, and Sexy Star will pull off suplexes, leg drops, and flying head-scissor takedowns against newer faces/masks such as Prince Puma, Johnny Mundo, Mil Muertes, and Big Ryck.
“I am grateful that Robert [Rodriguez] and the [El Rey] network wanted to work with me,” says executive producer Mark Burnett, one of the driving forces who got the show greenlit. “I get to bring my A-list team, who’ve done all these big shows with me, merge it into Robert’s team and partner with AAA out of Mexico. This is the dream team.”
It is only natural, even inevitable, that lucha libre would make its way to El Rey. The network is owned and operated by none other than director/producer/writer/editor/stuntman/grip/electrician/catering service guru Robert Rodriguez, who created it to cater to audiences that reflect his background: bilingual, U.S.-born Latinos.
Lucha Underground will be a bilingual show, but mostly in English, and will deliver the high-flying antics lucha libre is known for. The show will include the types of matches wrestling fans have come to expect plus matches exclusive to lucha libre such as “mask vs. mask,” where the loser is unmasked and forced to continue his career without it. LU will also feature inter-gender wrestling matches. Sexy Star and other luchadoras will get a chance to literally whoop the patriarchy in the ring against male challengers, one on one.
“Even for fans of American wrestling, lucha libre distinguishes itself both inside and outside the ring as something fresh, unique and exciting,” adds executive producer Diego Gutierrez. “To bring this tradition to the U.S. is part of a process of giving the vast, growing Latino culture in the U.S. its due and for mainstream audiences to discover yet another rich Latino tradition.”
Statements like that can easily be brushed aside as public relations hyperbole. Thankfully, we were able to sit in during two episodes at the warehouse in Boyle Heights, where all episodes have been taped save for a few shot at another location in Anaheim.
We can’t give out too many details as the matches we watched won’t air until December (we’re not the type to spoil the good stuff) but, rest assured, it was as entertaining as it was impressive. The luchadores pulled off a number of high-risk moves, talked tons of smack, and, best of all, had no problem leaping out of the ring to slug it out inches away from the barricade-less stands.
This is one show that looks like it’ll live up to the hype before smashing it on a table with a backflip shooting star press off the top of the turnbuckle.
Lucha Underground premieres Wednesday, Oct. 29th at 8pm on the El Rey Network.