Season 1 of Lucha Underground generated a loyal and dedicated viewership that I am happy to count myself as being a part of. With only an hour of TV time on a small network, and with a presentation style that completely went against the grain of traditional wrestling programming, Lucha Underground managed to capture people’s attention and tons of praise from those who watched it.
The premiere of Season 2 was highly anticipated from the loyal viewers who waited for months to see its return. I am happy to report that Season 2’s premiere episode was excellent. It was fast paced, exciting, captured everything I loved about season 1 and provided us with new material to get excited for going forward.
How pleased I am with Lucha Underground’s return was enhanced when the new broke that a third season has been confirmed and the show will be made available for streaming on iTunes. It is an exciting time to be a fan of this show and I am happy to see the hard work and creativity is paying off.
However, due to Lucha Underground’s unconventional cinematic approach and breaks from traditional wrestling formatting, not everyone is going to be happy with it.
Not surprisingly, Jim Cornette does not count himself among Lucha Underground’s supporters. I say it isn’t surprising because if you’ve ever listened to Jim Cornette speak about the wrestling business, you know he is about as old school and traditional as one can be. Something like Lucha Underground is something I can’t envision
Cornette watching for more than five minutes before getting frustrated with it.
Below is a transcript of Jim’s comments from his Jim Cornette Experience Podcast from MLWradio.com
“This f**king Lucha Underground horse s**t,” he said. “That is the most heinous horse s**t I’ve ever seen in my life. We joked off the air and I said ‘Well, I’ll probably like the match but I won’t like the concept of the show because it has writers.’ I didn’t like nothing. This is more embarrassing than anything I could have dreamed of.”
“It’s a TV show,” he continued. “It’s a movie. It’s not wrestling, it’s not a sport. They make no pretense of even attempting to make this s**t believable. The production is incredible. It looks like Scorsese directed it. The cinematography is wonderful. it looks like a John Ford western, whatever the f**k. I can’t say enough about the production. And it’s another nail in the coffin of wrestling being taken seriously as a sport or anything that’s not completely predetermined. There’s nobody on the face of the planet who could watch this s**t and believe there is any legitimacy whatsoever. It shouldn’t be called pro wrestling at all. It’s a movie and they’re wrestling in the movie. That’s all it f**king is. That backstage horse s**t that obviously takes multiple takes to shoot something like that. Nobody’s believing these people. It’s a scripted performance of a movie or a TV show. That’s all that s**t is.”
“And then, good God,” he said, turning to the wrestling. “I watched Prince Puma and Felix. I know lucha is obviously acrobatic. But this was a choreographed f**king Chinese acrobat Olympics gymnastic tumbling routing. That’s all that f**king was. And the three-way ladder match is more garbage horse s**t hardcore wrestling where they’re beating each other up with furniture that doesn’t work with you, and somebody is going to get killed. And just more of this ladder goofiness. And the recap of the year, where there’s Vampire hitting people with light tubes and thumb tacks on the ground. And John Morrison, I like, he was an OVW guy. I like him as a person. I’m sorry to see him in that atmosphere instead of real wrestling.”
He finished up, saying, “The only way to save this god damned horse s**t is if they got everyone in that f**king Temple who is associated with Lucha Underground and all the tapes of everything they’ve ever shot and put it in the same place and drop a nuclear f**king bomb on the whole god damned thing. That would be the best way to treat Lucha Underground if you are a wrestling fan who has any pride in pro wrestling as a performer, as a professional or fan, because it’s more writer’s happy horse s**t making wrestlers phony.”
Now I have no intentions of cursing Jim out, telling him he’s wrong, or getting angry about it. The style that Lucha Underground is going for is different from what we’ve come to expect from weekly episodic wrestling. However, there is always room for healthy debate, especially as it relates to arts and entertainment.
Now the major point of contention for Jim Cornette is the cinematic presentation of the show, which I imagine would be the make or break determining factor of whether or not you will enjoy Lucha Underground. If all you want is traditional wrestling formatting and style, then you will not enjoy this at all. Plain and simple. If you are craving something different that is unlike every wrestling product that has ever been produced, then you’ll probably get sucked in pretty quickly like I was. Cornette argues that Lucha Underground is not believable and they make no attempt to be. Honestly, I will argue the opposite and say that Lucha Underground is actually one of the more believable wrestling shows around because of the dedication to its format and style.
For years and years, I argued that wrestling needed to be treated more like a sporting event that is happening in real time. I still feel that format can work, and it would be much better than WWE’s attempts at backstage segments where everybody stands awkwardly next to each other and woodenly recites scripted dialogue filled with too much exposition and no pronouns. WWE’s current style is a weird mish-mash where they can’t seem to decide if they are presenting it as a fictional sporting event or as a scripted TV drama or as a variety show with skits. It feels like they try to do all of it and as a result, none of it comes off naturally and the show is filled with contradictions. Because so much of it comes off so stiff and awkward, I always felt like just sticking to the “sporting event happening in real time” format would be the best way to go.
But Lucha Underground went to the complete opposite extreme of what I suggested for years. They went for straight up televised drama with cinematic level production and stories that evolve week to week. This style of presentation also allowed for more supernatural elements to be incorporated into the show such as half dragon men, luchadors that can literally fly, and a death worshipping cult. Cornette even admits in his review that the production of Lucha Underground is amazing and compares it to the work of John Ford and Martin Scorsese. It is the quality of their production and the dedication to their own identity that makes Lucha Underground more believable than most other wrestling shows that steer away from it.
Never at any point during an episode of Lucha Underground do I question the motivations of the characters and never do they come across as forced. The characters feel very natural within this unique universe that they inhabit. I completely buy Catrina as a mysterious death worshipper that can teleport at will. I believe that Drago is literally half dragon. The cinematic presentation helps enhance those aspects of the show and make them feel more at home than they probably would on shows like Raw, Impact, or ROH. Also key are the performers themselves who get lost in the characters they are portraying. Dario Cueto is particularly effective in just about every scene he’s in. Watch any scene from Season 1 of him talking to Konnan. It doesn’t sound like a typical wrestling promo nor does it sound like the typical WWE backstage segment. It sounds like two human beings with clearly defined personalities and goals having a conversation. Combine the believable performance with the cool setting, the music, and the camera angles, and I become completely immersed in the world. No matter how weird it may seem, just about anything can become believable if you present it right, and that’s what Lucha Underground does.
I don’t think saying Lucha Underground lacks believability is the proper assessment. It isn’t realistic in the sense that the stuff that happens on the show can’t happen in the real world, but I can say that about a lot of TV shows and movies. Game of Thrones isn’t realistic in a lot of ways. Heck the world is literally a world of fiction. Westeros does not and never has existed, and neither do fire breathing dragons or ice zombies. However, through great performances, a great setting, and a great story, the world becomes believable and the audience becomes immersed in it. If other forms of entertainment can use these methods to engage the audience, then why can’t a wrestling show?
Sure, it won’t be recognized as a legitimate competitive sport (which is what Jim seems to want) but the art of Pro Wrestling isn’t that anyway. It is physically demanding, immensely difficult, and requires a strict dedication to the craft to perfect over a long course of time, but it isn’t a competitive sport. Pro Wrestling is probably the most unique form of visual storytelling on planet Earth. The people that do it use their athletic abilities and their personalities to take the audience on a roller coaster ride of emotion and when done well, it can make you laugh, cry, cheer, boo, and everything else In between. At the end of the day, what matters is that the wrestlers and their stories are able to engage me and build up the climactic match ups that serve as great payoffs to the story. Right now, Lucha Underground does that better than most wrestling shows, and at the end of the day, that is what matters most. They took unconventional routes to get to that point, but that just makes them more unique when compared to the rest.