Today, January 27, 2016 sees the season two premiere of Lucha Underground at 8pm ET on El Rey, the network owned by director Robert Rodriguez and Spanish language television juggernaut, Univision. Even if you haven’t watched wrestling in years, even if you’ve never watched professional wrestling, even if you’ve watched wrestling recently and hated it, you absolutely need to give Lucha Underground a shot.
Only one hour
One of the toughest things about keeping up with WWE, the world’s largest and most popular wrestling promotion, is thatÂ the promotion’s flagship show, Raw, requires a 3 hour, weekly commitment. Once you take into account secondary shows like SmackDown and NXT, monthly pay-per-views and loads of other content online and on the WWE Networkâ€¦being a WWE fan can start to feel like a full-time job. Fortunately, Lucha Underground is one hour, once a week, that’s it. Not only is it much easier to keep up with, but there’s also less recap and a higher concentration of big matches that actually matter.
The other major difference between Lucha Underground and the vast majority of other wrestling promotions is that it operates based on seasons â€“ just like most other fictional television shows. This is great because, once again, watching Lucha Underground is a finite time commitment. But, perhaps more importantly, using a season-based format means that the Lucha Underground writers, producers and creative team can approach their art much like the creators of your favorite serial drama do theirs. And that means they get to demonstrateâ€¦
It’s not a knock on other wrestling promotions to say that they don’t often have the benefit of perfect foresight. A promotion like, WWE, ROH, TNA, NJPW or countless others has to concentrate on making sure that they can keep running shows most every night for the rest of eternity, forever and ever, amen. That, combined with the unpredictability of signings, injuries and even fan response, means that even if those companies planned ahead extensively, they’d likely end up changing things around eventually anyway. Lucha Underground, however, is able to plan their entire season as a single, ongoing, interlocking storyline, and it definitely comes through in the final product.
Most wrestling promotions produce their product â€“ at least the backstage and interview portions â€“ with a look that goes back and forth between “gritty” and “found footage movie.” Most of the time, this is done to great success, as it helps put forth the idea that what we’re watching is an actual sport-based promotion. Lucha Underground goes another direction, however, producing its intense, fascinating backstage segments in the same way you would expect from a well-done cable drama. If you’ve ever been put off by the overall “feel” of wrestling, Lucha Underground aims to change that with theirÂ approach.
Closely related to Lucha Underground’s production values is the show’s overall aesthetic, which is not only the best in wrestling, but arguably the best in all of television. From the marketing materials and logos, to the wrestler’s costumes and their ornate masks to the very building that the show takes place in, Lucha Underground is clearly the result of people who knew exactly what look they wanted the program to have, and went after it with wild, almost reckless abandon. It’s absolutely stunning how they were able to create an aesthetic that is at once so pleasing to the eye, while also paying homage to Mexican Lucha Libre culture, but never in a patronizing or colonialist fashion.
Intergender matches aren’t for everyone. In fact, they can be extremely polarizing for a bunch of reasons that have been well, well, far-too-extensively covered elsewhere. But, if intergender matches do happen to be your particular cup of tea, if you like seeing women go head-to-head with men inside the squared circle, not as an oddity or curiosity, but as actual, serious competitorsâ€¦Lucha Underground might very well be the only place stateside that you can see it happen weekly on your television.
No matter what wrestling promotion you’re talking about, the crowd is a massive part of how absolutely everything is received. A hot crowd can make a good match great and they can make a solid contest fizzle â€“ they, as an active participant in the drama, are a crucial componentÂ of the art of professional wrestling. Fortunately, the Lucha Underground crowd â€“ which is largely comprised of East Los Angeles locals â€“ is absolutely riotous, and makes every match feel more important with their boundless energy. It’s the perfect blend of a phenomenal aesthetic, great wrestling and fun environment, including Spanish language bands that play live in between filming, and it all serves to whip the crowd into a frenzy.
We’ve talked around it enough, it’s time to discuss the real main course of any wrestling promotion: The actual in-ring talent. And Lucha Underground has in-ring talent by the boatload. From Mexican wrestlers who you might not get to see otherwise, like Pentagon Jr, Fenix, and Drago, to American independent stars like Joey Ryan, Brian Cage, and Son of Havoc, aka M-Dogg Matt Cross, Lucha Underground has a roster that’s not only amazing, but chockablock with brand-new names to fall in love with. Plus, on top of all of that, the second season of the show features the debut of one of the greatest, most influential, innovative and transformative professional wrestlers of the last 20 years: Rey Mysterio.
It’s an alternative
For years, to most people, wrestling in America â€“ and much of the world, actually â€“ has meant one promotion: WWE. As a result, diehards and nonfans alike have come to associate the specific WWE approach to wrestling as being the only real option. I don’t think that Lucha Underground will be challenging WWE for professional wrestling supremacy any time soon, but it’s always good to have competition, especially something as different as Lucha Underground is from the standard American wrestling baseline. By watching Lucha Underground, you’re helping to diversify the medium of professional wrestling in terms of talent, approach, and style.
Free videos on YouTube
El Rey is becoming available on more and more cable packages, but at the same time, a lot of people are cutting the cord and getting rid of cable altogether. While Lucha Underground isn’t available on any streaming services â€“ their own or aggregating services like Netflix and Hulu â€“ the show’s producers are smart enough to realize that they need to give the growing number of people without cable a way to enjoy the show. They aren’t full episodes, but the El Rey YouTube channel regularly uploads not only highlights and recaps, but entireÂ matches from the weekly shows, meaning that you can keep up with things without becoming a dirty, immoral, pirating, torrent-watching thief.
But the best part about Lucha Underground? It’s a gateway drug. Sure, I bet some people who stumble across the show might leave their wrestling fandom at an hour a week during Lucha Underground seasons. But I think the larger percentage will start to branch out, whether by checking out the LU-affiliated AAA wrestling, the WWE work of Lucha Underground stars like Mysterio and Johnny Mundo nee Morrison or even a local wrestling promotion that might have booked Cage, Ryan, or Ricochet (aka Prince Puma). Whatever you choose, Lucha Underground is a great way to ease yourself into the crazy, awesome, crazy-awesome world of wrestling fandom.
Lucha Underground season two premieres on Wednesday, January 27 at 8pmET on El Rey Network. Do you plan on checking it out?
Aubrey Sitterson is the host of The World’s Smartest Rasslin Talk Show, STRAIGHT SHOOT, available on YouTube, iTunes, Stitcher & Podomatic. Follow him on Twitter or check out his website for more information.