Lucha Underground is not afraid to get fucking weird. Its characters include a monster, a dragon, a wrestler who travelled through time, and Catrina, an evil seductress who accompanies a man of a thousand deaths and licks the faces of defeated opponents. She can also teleport. When it comes to wrestling shows airing in the United States, Lucha Underground is doing it’s own thing, and the show’s cast and creators wouldn’t have it any other way. Here are 6 reasons you should check the show out, even if lucha isn’t really your thing.
Lucha Underground airs Wednesday nights at 8 p.m. on El Rey Network.
Photos by Itzel Alejandra Martinez for Remezcla.
The story is weird, but complex and awesome.
Five episodes into its third season, the show has built a surreal lucha world with Aztec mythology as its base and almost no idea strange enough to dismiss entirely. The show takes care to to tell its own stories while remaining respectful of the culture. Karl Toube, a Ph.D who specializes in Mesoamerican studies, worked with the producers to make sure they got it right. A standard episode has more in common with a regular television drama than it does with other wrestling shows. Well, except for the fact that no other television drama is based on the seven Aztec tribes.
“When we had our first conversation with Robert Rodriguez about all this product, he always loved lucha libre and the lucha masks, but the problem was how to present this kind of product to the American people without being disrespectful with our roots, with our Latin American roots,” said Dorian Roldan, who helped bring the show to life and works with both Lucha Underground and Asistencia Asesoría y Administración, a Mexican lucha libre promotion. “So we start to talk about what were the origins of the lucha libre, so when you start to see all these fights in the Aztec wars with the masks, with the jaguar warrior, and with the eagle warrior, we start to develop studies with this Ph.D professor and we found really interesting myths.”
The acting is better than on other wrestling shows, and so is the wrestling.
Great effort is put into the acting and storytelling, and it shows. “I think the character acting part’s been slacking in this industry for so long that I take pride in my work playing Catrina and I always try to bring different layers and levels,” said Karlee Perez, who plays the aforementioned Catrina.
Inside the ring, the combination of high-flying action and top-notch production gives fans something they’ve never seen before, and that has allowed it to win over a loyal following that’s made it possible for the show to start planning limited touring. The diverse mix of athletes who all bring their own take on the lucha style makes for must-see matches every episode. Even “Stone Cold” Steve Austin loves it. As one of its fans put it during the show’s panel at New York Comic Con, this is no three-hour talk show. The show is set at a warehouse known as The Temple in Boyle Heights, California. During the panel, fans cheered loudly when producer Eric van Wagenen stated that there are plans in the works to take the show on the road as early as 2017, with the show filming for the first few months of the year before touring.
Men and women can compete equally.
Other wrestling promotions separate their roster into men’s and women’s division, with the two rarely competing against each other. In The Temple, luchadoras are given the same chance to prove themselves as the luchadores. “Just the fact that we can and are allowed to compete with a male if needed for storyline or whatever,” said Ivelisse, who has been with the show since the beginning. “To me that is a step in the right direction enough for us as females and how we’re portrayed and presented as capable competitors out there.”
Rey Mysterio Jr.
Rey Mysterio Jr. joined the show in the second season, and he remains the greatest. The fact that the show films for a few months in one location is a large part of what helped lure wrestling legend Rey Mysterio Jr., the most well-known member of the cast. But he was also drawn to the idea of helping to build the promotion and bringing his career full circle. “When I saw the product, I knew that there was something special there,” he said. “It’s like me going back to my roots. I think to be able to, in a way, end up my career the way I started it with lucha libre style — I can’t ask for more.”
At 41, Mysterio has been known to mainstream wrestling fans from his time in WCW in the 90s before he moved on to the WWE. Should he ever decide he’s tired of the physical aspect of wrestling, Lucha Underground provides him, and other veterans, with the option of transitioning into more of an acting role, which is particularly attractive to Mysterio, who’s always been passionate about lucha libre. “If we could have Rey Mysterio on our show for 20 more years and he just wouldn’t take bumps anymore he would move into more of a on-camera character part that acts,” said van Wagenen.
The wrestlers you haven’t heard of are dope too.
Lucha Underground’s roster is comprised of talented actors and wrestlers, some of whom are previously known to U.S. audiences, but many of whom are not. A lot of the roster comes from AAA in Mexico. The show is able to recruit from indie federations in the United States because it’s primarily concerned with the T.V. rights of the wrestlers. Whether you’ve heard of them or not, they’ll win you over with their characters and athleticism. “The talent that Lucha Underground has right now is probably the best talent out there, to pick the best out of the indie scene,” Mysterio said. As for how the show can recruit such a talented roster, is not as hard as it was when the show started out.
“I always found it interesting that so many people said no, at the beginning,” Perez said. “Now everybody and their mom wants to be on the show.”
You don’t have to worry about catching up.
If you’re intimidated by the fact that you’ve missed two seasons and a total of 70 episodes, El Rey has you covered with short recaps of the first two seasons: