We all loved Lucha Underground.
I was a huge fan. Judging from previous Magnificent Seven topics, Mike Chin was a huge fan as well. There was a period of time where Lucha Underground was an Internet darling that couldn’t be questioned and could have been the future of the professional wrestling business.
That has come and gone. Most of LU’s biggest stars have moved onto other things. There’s been no hint of an announcement of a Season 5. My Internet BFFs Larry Csonka & Jeremy Lambert just did a podcast labeling Lucha Underground as a “dead promotion”, which brought this column on.
Why did Lucha Underground fail? Here are seven reasons why.
7. Matt Striker & Vampiro as announcers
Don’t get mewrong, there are few things more enjoyable than Vampiro behind a microphone during a wrestling match. Especially if he’s about to do a run-in and needs somebody to play his music. But you need somebody that’s knowledgeable beside him in order to fill in the gaps. A play by play guy who’s in tune with what’s going on and is more interested in getting the performers & the action over than themselves.
Matt Striker is a smart guy, but he’s more interested in letting us know how smart he is than actually teaching us. He’s a good color guy, but he hasn’t shown himself capable of being the main voice. Michael Schiavello outclassed Striker pretty easily at the first Ultima Lucha, and I don’t know why he wasn’t invited back. Maybe that was why?
Also, Striker’s call on the Killshot/Dante Fox WMD match where he listed every war reference he could think of was more annoying than anything I’ve heard on WWE commentary since Michael Cole stopped heeling.
6. Dr. Wagner Jr’s booking
You’ve managed to book one of Mexico’s biggest wrestling legends. Somebody who’s filled arenas time & again as a main eventer. A man who’s part of lucha libre royalty, son of a legend and brother of a man who worked for years in WCW. A guy that’s not exactly known for working on the cheap.
What do you do with him?
If your answer involves putting him with your joke manager and having matches with midgets, you too could have written for Lucha Underground.
5. The follow-up on Vampiro as Pentagon’s Master
My favorite Lucha Underground match was the Pentagon Jr. vs. Vampiro Cero Miedo match at the first Ultima Lucha. Pentagon had been baiting Vampiro throughout the season, while talking about this Master that he was serving while breaking arms and creating havoc. After overcoming the legend of Vampiro in a pretty ultraviolent match, Vampiro revealed that he was the mysterious Master, and the two celebrated while Lucha Underground fans wondered what they just witnessed. Was it leading to anything meaningful? Did Vampiro pass the torch to Pentagon?
Nah, it was total Russo stuff. Vampiro took a bunch of meds between seasons and they tried to downplay the connection while he was on commentary. Eventually they went back to it kinda, with Vampiro trying to influence Prince Puma after Pentagon went Dark, but it was too late by then.
4. Making Sexy Star champion, then taking the title off of her immediately
Intergender wrestling is one of those hot-button topics. People either love or hate it. LU was on board with it from the start, then when they heard the criticism they leaned even more into it. I admire people sticking by their convictions that something will work, even if I don’t think it’s a great idea.
I didn’t think that Sexy Star as Lucha Underground Champion was a great idea. She had a great story behind her continuous matches with men, but the in-ring component wasn’t there. Women like Tessa Blanchard can get intergender stuff over because of their work. Sexy Star…not so much.
But they gave her the belt, which was fine. Attempting to get some attention with a female winning a traditionally male title isn’t the worst idea in the world. The biggest problem I had: the whole thing lasted a week. Sexy was a prop to move the title from Mantaza Cueto to Johnny Mundo. They could have put anybody in that spot.
LU managed to turn off the people that hate intergender wrestling by giving Sexy Star the title, then turn off the people that wanted something meaningful out of it by having her lose a week later. That’s pretty impressive.
3. The taping schedule
People say that the whole “airing live” thing is overrated, and I tend to agree with them. Most of us watch these shows on a timeshift anyway, whether it’s via DVR or a streaming service or whatever. As much as I would love for it to be 1995 again and for airing live to matter, viewing habits have changed. From that perspective, Lucha Underground taping their matches months in advance really didn’t matter. Heck, most people that read the spoilers probably forgot them before the episodes actually aired.
One drawback for LU was pretty simple though: they couldn’t react to what their fans were wanting, good or bad. Especially in Season 4, which was all taped within a month due to budget issues. Their writers have admitted that things probably would have gone differently if they knew certain characters coughJakeStrongcough wouldn’t get over with their audience.
The other main drawback: injuries. If a wrestler couldn’t make an LU taping because they were hurt, they couldn’t be featured for most of a season. Ivelisse had especially bad luck with injuries keeping her out of vast portions of seasons. I’m pretty sure the baddest bitch in the building would have at least gotten that Sexy Star title run if she wasn’t always hurt.
2. The draconian contracts
Listen, I understand the value of keeping characters around for a lengthy period of time, especially when you’re starting out. But there comes a point where the promotion has to give the performer something to work with. Maybe LU thought they would have more things for people to do. Maybe they thought they would have one season each year. When they didn’t, and it was affecting wrestlers’ chances to make money, LU should have worked with the wrestlers to make everybody happy. Instead, they blocked their workers’ chances to go elsewhere even if plans for the show’s survival were murky at best.
LU was in the right, legally. And sure, the wrestlers could have looked harder at their contracts or have been more skeptical about what the promotion could actually deliver. The promotion was never going to win that PR battle though. The more wrestlers that complained about LU contracts, the worse the company looked. And the less we cared whether or not they came back to TV.
1. Doing nothing between seasons
The idea of a season for wrestling has been floated around from time to time as a way to keep wrestlers fresh & the product from getting overexposed. Lucha Underground’s seasonal production has highlighted the reason why major companies haven’t gone that route: ending production for any amount of time kills momentum.
Season 1 was awesome. Nothing happened for a long time. Season 2 was cool. Nothing happened for a long time. Season 3 was ok, and most of us forgot about the show by Season 4.
There’s no real excuse for a company to completely drop off the map between shows in the social media age. Keeping interest going during slow periods is easier than ever. AEW has weekly YouTube videos, along with Chris Jericho constantly creating memes & keeping his name in the news. ROH & Impact regularly post things on their various channels keeping people updated. And I will bet you that your local Indy updates their page more frequently than LU did out of season.
There’s a lot going on out there. If you’re not doing something to try and keep our attention for weeks or months at a time, we’re going to lose interest.