Wrestling Review: Lucha Underground (2/25/15)

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Lucha Underground Prince Puma vs Cage

Like an episode of NXT, Lucha Underground has to accomplish a lot within a very short window of time. Unlike NXT, they do not have the benefit of airing on a subscription-based network that can go without advertisements should it so choose. That Lucha Underground frequently outpaces NXT is impressive given that they lose about 10 minutes an episode to the WWE’s much-hyped product, and is due in large part to the rather effective way that they’ve built the pocket universe of The Temple. This episode begins quickly with a live musical performance by Mariachi El Bronx and Vampiro and Matt Striker setting up the most important match of the night. Quick, fast, painless, and, with a cut from the commentary position to the ring, we’re ready for the first match. That happens to be a rematch between Aerostar and Drago. Matt Striker, when he’s not trying to be a fan, is actually a decent announcer, and is quite effective in setting up this technico vs. technico match. He says that when two wrestlers share a mutual respect the action between them will be move-for-move, hold-for-hold. And that’s true, as the two start by shaking hands. It doesn’t take long for things to get out of hand though, as Aerostar takes Drago out of the ring with a headscissors, then follows through with a step-up springboard plancha that would have 99% of wrestlers crazy enough to try it eating floor.

Aerostar comes up a little gimpy after that, which lets Drago take over. There’s some sloppy exchanges between the two as both men try to fit a crazy amount of action into a six minute contest. The big spots are impressive, but when Aerostar tries to flip over Drago in the corner, kicking his man in the head accidentally, and nothing happens? It’s noticeable. But the match is as even as Matt Striker claimed it would be, as Aerostar and Drago reel off big move after big move until Aerostar hits the biggest of the contest, a sunset flip powerbomb to the floor. Knowing he has the advantage, he rolls Drago into the ring, follows through with a springboard splash, and gets a clean win. As the two shake hands, Dario Cueto steps out of the office to say that he enjoyed their matches thus far, but that he wants to see more. Since the two are tied and so evenly matched, they’ll wrestle in a best of five situation with a “unique opportunity” on the line. Drago and Aerostar look pretty excited by that idea, and, over the course of three more matches, the intensity between them should pick up.

Tonight’s main event is Johnny Mundo vs. King Cuerno in a first time ever encounter. They put the match over by running a video of Cuerno running in slow motion from rope to rope, before launching himself into his suicide dive. These video packages are short, but they always do an effective job of showing the athleticism of the Lucha Underground stars. Running the ropes is so basic that nobody stops to think about it, but watching Cuerno’s flesh ripple on contact, the message here is that every action in wrestling, no matter how small, has its consequence.

After another short burst of music from Mariachi El Bronx, it’s time for Cage vs. Prince Puma. The production music for Lucha Underground is pretty noticeably bad compared to the live band, who, at times, have a camera on them that shows their reaction to big moves. Why not just have the band play the luchadores to the ring? Cage, if you’re new to Lucha Underground and are unfamiliar with the California scene, is an absolutely jacked monster of a man. As a cocky gringo, he stole Puma’s championship and ripped it apart, injuring both the champion and his manager in the process. Puma is making his return from that injury here and charges down the Temple steps and into the ring, where he’s almost immediately thrown around like a bag of rice. This is a classic speed vs. power match, and, as such, Cage has the advantage. Vampiro speculates that Prince Puma is a little lost without Konnan in his corner, and that’s how things play out at the beginning. Every time he tries to press his speed advantage, be it with a kick or a springboard maneuver, Cage is able to counter it with raw strength. One springboard move leads to a terrible transition, but it’s one small misstep in an otherwise very crisp match. A second springboard gets Puma caught, curled, and thrown overhead. The most impressive sequence early is all Cage’s athleticism, as he catches Puma with a powerslam, rolls through, and misses with a moonsault. But Puma quickly does Cage one better, as the missed moonsault leads to a step-up springboard shooting star press to the floor.


Puma throws Cage back into the ring and hits him with a springboard 450 splash, but Cage is able to kick out at two. He finds Cage too heavy to lift, which lets Cage run at him for a clothesline. Puma ducks and uses the momentum to lift Cage up, but Cage blocks the kick Puma tries to throw at him from the fireman’s carry and gets picked up into a gutwrench powerbomb… which he reverses into a hurricanrana for two! These guys are just effortlessly putting together a series of impressive, high-impact moves, and it’s not even a championship match. Puma, yet the untested champion, feels he has something to prove, and Cage must win this match in order to receive a real title shot. The belt isn’t there since Cage ripped it up, but it manages to feel important nevertheless, especially as Puma kicks out of a series of increasingly brutal deathblows. After a pumphandle facebuster, Cage decides to utilize a stretch muffler to go for a submission. Puma looks like he is going to tap out, but Konnan reappears, willing his charge to the ropes. The appearance of the legendary luchador only raises Cage’s ire though, as he powerbombs the champion twice and follows through with his crazy Weapon X finisher.

That’s not enough for Cage, though, as instead of going for the cover he mounts Puma and starts to level the defenseless champion with a series of forearm shots. Wanting to protect his charge, Konnan grabs a towel off of a ringside attendant and throws it in, signalling Puma’s surrender. Cage celebrates his win, draping the towel over Puma’s face like a flag. Backstage, Konnan tells an agitated Puma to follow the art of war. Cage thinks he knows how to beat Puma, but he didn’t pin the champion or make him submit. Puma needs to realize that this gives them a mental edge over Cage. They’re playing a game of deception. Whether or not that’s true, Puma looks like he wanted to keep going. Vampiro called Konnan’s play part of his agenda, which is something he’s been hinting at since the first episode of Lucha Underground. Konnan’s the manager of an exciting prizefighter, so I’d say his agenda is keeping his charge healthy enough for another fight. If there’s something sinister going on, it is unclear what, exactly, that is.

Dario Cueto takes a meeting with Sexy Star in his office. She, like everybody else watching Lucha Underground, is tired of men running in at the end of her matches. She feels like, despite what The Crew did to her friends last week, she had that match in hand. Cueto, who wanted to use The Crew to eliminate Star, Mascarita Sagrada, and Pimpinella Escarlata, twists Stars words around, insinuating that she has a problem with Big Ryck. She says that’s not the case, and that her issue is with The Crew. Cueto offers her a match with Big Ryck, which she takes to mean a tag team match with Ryck as her partner, but that’s not the case. Cueto wants Sexy Star to wrestle Ryck, promising that no men will come to rescue her, and that the winner will get to settle their issue with The Crew first. This makes Star happy. I think it’s good that Lucha Underground is addressing one of the chief criticisms of how they present intergender wrestling as part of its product. As for how it’ll play out, we’ll have to wait and see. Pentagon, Jr. wrestles a quick match against a California wrestler named Vinny Massaro, who is rather schlubby-looking for a televised product, but since he’s there to take a beating it doesn’t really matter. Pentagon lets the world know that this match is dedicated to his yet-unseen master, then takes apart Massaro in short order. His chops are brutal. His superkick is on the button. He wrecks Massaro with the pumphandle driver and picks up the win. Just as Vampiro speculates that Pentagon, Jr. may have calmed down, he goes under the ring and pulls out a table. He powerbombs Massaro through it, applies his armbreaker to the thoroughly beaten Italian, and breaks the arm as he has done to his last few opponents. He kisses the mat and pays tribute to his master, who I’m looking forward to seeing. Pentagon, Jr. flat out rules.

King Cuerno has been hunting Johnny Mundo for some time now, targeting the former WWE Superstar’s knee, which is the secret to his parkour. Cuerno has one of the coolest looks in all of wrestling, which, considering the incredible variety of luchadores in Lucha Underground, is saying a lot. Johnny Mundo isn’t messing around, either. He skips his usual entrance and gets right down to business. His temper lets Cuerno outsmart him for a bit, but Mundo quickly takes Cuerno down and knees him in the face. Cuerno goes after Mundo’s knee right after the nearfall and looks to hit a slingshot move, but Mundo hits a superkick and follows Cuerno to the floor with a huge barrel roll!


Shortly thereafter, Mundo gets Cuerno back in the ring and starts working his rival over with a series of clotheslines. Striking has never particularly been Johnny Mundo’s game, but he has a pretty decent spear. Mundo tries to hit the Moonlight Drive, but it’s too early. Cuerno goes for his finisher, the Thrill of the Hunt, but the same goes for him. Though this is a first time meeting between two guys who wouldn’t have had much reason to be interested in one another before Cuerno thought of Mundo as a good trophy, the two wrestle one another like they’ve studied each other’s game. Like the opening contest between Aerostar and Drago, that means that they go move-for-move, each one hoping their next blow will be the one that tilts the advantage in their favor. That seems to go to Mundo, as he hits Moonlight Drive and looks for his End of the World finish, but his knee gives him some pause and Cuerno kicks him from the top turnbuckle to the floor. That lets Cuerno hit a tope suicida, which runs Mundo into a guardrail. Mundo tries to put some space between them, perhaps looking for some of his parkour-based nonsense, but Cuerno beats him to the punch with another tope suicida, this one sending Mundo into the commentary table. Curneo gets a third tope suicida, and Mundo is really out of it. His knee was banged up before the match, his back is banged up now, and though he’s usually the master of working a wrestling match on the floor, Cuerno has him. The referee starts a 10 count and Cuerno is up well before it, but he just looks at Mundo and lets the referee finish to end the match in a draw. Huh. The two do a double clothesline spot, but if that was the finish of the match, there was some miscommunication. Soon they’re up and fighting again, ignoring the referee as they brawl through The Temple, all the way up the stairs. Things get so heated that Cuerno decks the referee, right before Mundo powerslams him through a chain link fence. It’s a nice, spirited brawl that will lead to another match down the line, but things were really starting to pick up and get interesting before the strange 10 count. Given Mundo’s love of a no longer cool form of free running and Cuerno’s hunter gimmick, I wouldn’t be surprised if the two settle it in a falls count anywhere match. Maybe we’ll even see what’s out there beyond the walls of The Temple. Still, when members of the audience are gathering around the announcer’s table to watch what’s going on from a tiny monitor, you’re doing something good.


Results

  1. Aerostar def. Drago via pinfall. GRADE: B-

  2. Cage def. Prince Puma via forfeit when Konnan threw in a towel as Cage pummeled his helpless charge. GRADE: B+

  3. Pentagon, Jr. def. Vinny Massaro via pinfall. GRADE: C+

  4. King Cuerno and Johnny Mundo went to a double count out. GRADE: B

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