It's time to update you on the Lucha Underground project, now that the first two weekends of television tapings have already taken place.
As was expected, despite making fans sign nondisclosure agreements and even going so far as to confiscate mobile phones, detailed spoilers have been easy to find in places like this week's Wrestling Observer Newsletter and the luchablog.
The first thing to note is that this is not an American version of AAA wrestling, even though some AAA wrestlers are being used in the series. Dave Meltzer described it as "a cross between Wrestling Society X with Vince Russo style booking", due to the hybrid indy / WWE style matches and the main storylines exhibiting some of Russo's tropes (a heel authority figure with evil henchmen to do his dirty work, the second show building to a swerve turn). Lucha expert Steve Sims claims that he won't even report on the promotion anymore as it's not a lucha show, despite its name, and is closer to a PWG show (which is far from the worst thing in the world, but may not be what Hispanic fans are looking for in their wrestling programming).
However, although there is reason to be fearful about Mark Burnett's vision for the product, we can't fairly judge the quality of the programming before the first episode of Lucha Underground hits the air in four weeks time, as the shows will feature a lot of backstage interviews and vignettes which weren't shown to the live audiences. At the very least, the series should look major league given that a large amount of money is believed to be being spent on production.
Regarding the contract issues, a lot of the independent talent originally linked to the project ended up turning down their offers from Lucha Underground due to the restrictive nature of the contracts and the money not being high enough to make up for all the restrictions, although the biggest names were offered better deals and did end up signing. Falling into the former group were the likes of The Young Bucks, Brian Kendrick, Matt Sydal, Frankie Kazarian, Joey Ryan, Candice LaRae and Scorpio Sky, whilst the latter category included Chavo Guerrero Jr., John Morrison, Konnan and Ricochet (which in his case required the company to come to some sort of mutually beneficial arrangement with Evolve, who he is also under contract to). Basically, the feeling seems to be that the wrestlers that didn't sign with them were expendable as they were all scheduled for roles that could easily be filled by other people.
The English language announcers for Lucha Underground will be Matt Striker and Vampiro (who has little experience in the position, having only made his announcing debut at last month's TripleMania iPPV, where his performance was panned). In a funny story, the idea of using Jim Ross as their play by play man was nixed because those in charge felt Good Ol' J.R. was too heavily associated with WWE, which is ironic given the amount of ex WWE talent being used in prominent positions.
The main road agent was Chavo Guerrero Jr. who told the wrestlers to do less and make it mean more like WWE performers do, while Konnan was pushing for a more high spot oriented PWG style, so the end result will likely fall in between the two ends of the spectrum. This is another reason to be concerned, as if Lucha Underground is not careful then they could fall into the TNA trap of coming off as a low rent version of WWE by not differentiating themselves enough from their larger main rival and failing to offer a true alternative vision to fans.
Here are the results from the first set of Lucha Underground TV tapings on Sept. 6th (not including dark matches):
- An actor playing the heel promoter announced that whomever impresses him tonight would win $100,000.
- Blue Demon Jr. pinned Chavo Guerrero Jr. in a match where Demon's knee went out catching a dive and he had trouble finishing the bout.
- Sons of Havoc (Matt Cross) defeated Sexy Star in a match that didn't click.
- Johnny Mundo (John Morrison) pinned Prince Puma (Ricochet) in a good match. After the match, both Mundo and Puma were jumped by the Crenshaw Crew of Cortez Castro (Ricky Reyes), Cisco (Lil Cholo) and Big Ryck (Ezekiel Jackson), and were paid off by the evil owner.
From night two:
- The Crenshaw Crew cut a promo, but were attacked by Johnny Mundo and Prince Puma, which led to a tag team match where Johhny Mundo & Prince Puma defeated Cisco & Cortez Castro after the babyfaces hit simultaneous 450 splashes in what sounds like a pretty spectacular aerial showcase.
- Chavo Guerrero Jr. & Sexy Star beat Sons of Havoc & Ivelisse Velez when Chavo pinned Havoc with a frog splash in a decent bout.
- Mil Muertes (AAA star Mesias under a mask, managed by Karlee Perez, aka Maxine) defeated Blue Demon Jr. After the match, Chavo Guerrero Jr. chased Muertes off with a chair, before turning heel by lamping Blue Demon with the foreign object. Chavo went on to destroy two referees, B-Boy, Famous B and Sexy Star when they attempted to make the save and laughed maniacally at the carnage he had caused.
According to PWInsider.com, AAA wrestlers Drago, Fenix Jr. and Pentagon Jr. missed the first weekend of tapings because their work visas weren't ready, which caused some rewrites to the first couple of episodes. However, they worked a three way match in the first of this weekend's tapings, which was said to have more lucha libre content, including the addition of AAA's El Hijo del Fantasma and Mascarita Sagrada to the Lucha Underground roster.