Thursday, August 6, 2015

Ultima Lucha sends Lucha Underground out with a bang!

As Wednesday night came, Lucha Underground's future was still uncertain. While the show ended with an ominous "To be continued...", as of this writing the show has not officially been announced for a season two. El Rey needs stronger partners to keep the show going, but it seems likely we will at least see a short second season as they strive to make Lucha Underground work as well financially as it does creatively.

The shows were originally taped way back in mid-April, but pre-recording has never hurt Lucha Underground's epic brand of in-ring action. Lucha Underground is a show made for compelling series television first and that was apparent as they pulled out all the stops for the epic first season finale, Ultima Lucha.

The show actually kicked off last Wednesday, with a stellar three match card. It opened with a brutal battle between Cage (a man that will soon wrestle in the co-main event of TripleMania) and Willie Mack. Their battle was Falls Count Anywhere, and they took that stipulation to an extreme as they fought up and around the temple. The battle ended high in the bird's nest with a win for Cage, but both men came out of this looking like contenders for season two.

The Trios titles were on the line in the second match of the night as Angelico, Son of Havoc and the still-injured Ivelisse defended against Catrina's new Disciples of Death. The Disciples have only been around a few short weeks, but that didn't seem to bother them as they brutalized the champions. But with Ivelisse's offense limited and Catrina guiding the action, the numbers game was just too much for the underdog champions. In the end, they became the first champions to lose their titles in Lucha Underground history.

Angelico still got in an insane dive. Image credit: Lucha Underground.
Night one ended with Hernandez and Drago in a Believers' Backlash match. It was a demotion from the title shot Drago almost received, but the much larger Hernandez was still a great opponent for the reborn dragon. Hernandez took a pounding from the leather straps in the believers' hands with a final top rope splash giving Drago the decisive win in what will likely be Hernandez's final Lucha Underground match.

Night one was an amazing hour of stellar wrestling and storytelling. And it still didn't compare to the two hour finale of Ultima Lucha.

With Vampiro wrestling, noted MMA announcer Michael Schiavello joined Matt Striker for commentary. He took to lucha immediately and his presence actually helped the big fight feel of the finale.

Still less painful than a head through a window. Image credit: Lucha Underground.
Night two kicked off with a match I expected much later on the card: Johnny Mundo versus Alberto el Patron. But even in the opening, Mundo and Patron did not let anyone down. Their blood feud erupted into a brutal war which saw each man seriously hurt by night's end. But even as Patron looked to score his second win over Mundo, the debuting Melina arrived to hit him with a chair and help her longtime onscreen love pick up the win. But Patron wouldn't go down that easily. He came back after the match to put Mundo's head through the glass pane in a door, a fitting vengeance for the pain Patron suffered weeks before.

While that encounter was bloody, it was nothing compared to the brutal war between Vampiro and Pentagon Jr. that came next. Pentagon blindsided Vampiro early on and beat the hell out of him with multiple chair shots on a surgically repaired spine. (Those were particularly devastating to yours truly as I recover from my own spinal surgery.) It seemed the match would come to an early end with Vampiro being carted out, but he refused to stay down and came back into the ring. He brought thumbtacks into play and ripped Pentagon's match to draw more blood. With both men brutally beaten and bleeding profusely, Vampiro brought a flaming table into play. But Pentagon reversed things and sent Vampiro through the table to get the win.

Did I forget to mention the multiple glass light tubes?
Image credit: Lucha Underground.
Post-match, Vampiro demanded his arm be broken. Pentagon Jr. complied, then called out for his master. Vampiro rose behind him to reveal himself as Pentagon's master, setting up another dark, mystical presence in Lucha Underground.

In a backstage segment, the Black Rose storyline continued as Cueto's words convinced her to turn on Dragon Azteca. She murders her master with a blow to the spine and abandons the temple at Cueto's side.

The seven person Gift of the Gods title crowning came next. When multi-person matches have a purpose they always become better and this battle between Big Ryck, Sexy Star, Aerostar, King Cuerno, Fenix, Jack Evans and Bengala was no exception. The former Ricky Marvin came into his own as an endangered bengal tiger, clearly setting up a war with the hunter King Cuerno. Daivari fired Ryck with a chairshot, clearly setting up another face turn for the mercenary. Sexy Star was harassed again by Marty the Moth as their angle continued here and at show's end. Fenix, Aerostar and Jack Evans continued to show why they are three of the top high fliers in the world. Aerostar ended his participation in the night with an amazing dive from higher than even Angelico has reached, but ultimately Fenix took the win over Evans, a very sensible move considering the main event.

Texano and Blue Demon Jr ended quickly without much push for the Mexico storyline. Texano dominated early before the Crew and eventually Chavo joined forces with Demon to leave Texano on the mat.

The main event was the longest match Lucha Underground has put on without devoting an entire show to it. Unlike Aztec Warfare and the Bell to Bell match, this one was built on compelling in ring storytelling. As young as both men still are, Prince Puma and Mil Muertes are veterans behind their masks. They knew exactly how to deliver on a great match that allowed Puma to focus on his speed and Muertes to focus on his power while also showcasing both men's abilities to keep up with the other. By the match's end, both men were getting an equal amounts of crowd support and rightly so. Muertes fought the match without shenanigans from Catrina and kicked out of one of Puma's best looking 630s of the season. Puma in turn kicked out of a Flatliner, but a second Flatliner from the top rope ultimately brought the end and a clean Muertes title victory.

And while the Disciples of Death and Catrina joined him in the aftermath, Mil Muertes seemed less than impressed with their presence. It seems clear that he won the belt on his own and his approval of Catrina's presence may be waning.

The show ended with vignettes meant to end this season and tease another. Drago and Aerostar shake hands before Drago disappears into the flames below and Aerostar turns into a blinding light ascending towards the sky. Marty the Moth has Sexy Star tied and promises an equally insane sister in her future. Vampiro sees a great future for his student Pentagon. Angelico promises to meet Son of Havoc somewhere down the road before he goes for "one last ride" with Ivelisse. And the mysterious hooded individual that ended night one dons Dragon Azteca's match and paints a large question mark over the Lucha Underground billboard. The show ends with the temple darkening around a walking Dario Cueto even as red light burns brighter on his face.

It offers a clear implication for season 2: are the luchadores of El Rey working for the devil himself?

Only in Lucha Underground can that story work and it does so beautifully as the dark forces align to end Ultima Lucha. And while season two isn't official, I cannot imagine this being the end. Because if it is, we have lost the most compelling weekly wrestling program of the twenty-first century.

It truly is that good.

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