My Night at the Lucha Underground Temple (No Spoilers!)
Last night (actually during the day, but night sounds better), I attended a taping of Lucha Underground in downtown Los Angeles. The last taped/televised wrestling event I attended was back in high school when I got to witness Stone Cold Steve Austin feuding with Mankind and the very first ever appearance of Edge in (appropriately enough) Austin, Texas. Aside from that though, I also hadn’t been as excited to see a wrestling show since the late 90s as I was last night heading out to The Temple, the huge, dusty warehouse tucked away amongst the gritty LA streets where Lucha Underground takes place.
I’ve tried to put my finger on what exactly made me so excited for Lucha Underground. I mean, obviously PWG shows are great and a lot of fun, but with Lucha Underground, there’s also a weekly television show to watch. I felt a sense of investment in the characters and storylines past what would happen just on the show I was about to see. If you haven’t seen Lucha Underground, I implore you to seek it out. If you have the El Rey Network and you enjoy professional wrestling, then you must see this show.
And once I was there, it very much was a “show” in the televised sense. As soon as I arrived at the Temple, it was obviously a “set”. PAs were running around with headsets, directing fans where to park, and checking them in while grips and gaffers set up equipment. We got checked in and we entered the Temple, sworn to secrecy on the outcomes of the brutal contests of strength that were to take place.
The televised aspect of Lucha Underground is really interesting to see as a guy who has been to many wrestling shows, both taped and not. And I’ve also been to scripted television series tapings which were “filmed in front of a live audience”. But this was a strange amalgam of both. It was both a strictly regimented production and a professional wrestling experience. We were directed to our seats by PAs while a badass mariachi band played over one of two ring entrance areas and told to keep our cellphones off. Once seated though, it was clear how much actual thought went into the entire production. As the band played, I noticed soft smoke billowing in from somewhere, giving the room something of an old school feel. And I suddenly felt as though I actually was in a secret location watching an underground/slightly illegal fighting event. Sure, there were times where you could tell the ring announcer, and at times even the referee, were waiting for their cues from the PAs to begin, but other than that, there was nothing to take you out of the immersive Luncha Underground experience.
Except that there was. While the bell-to-bell in-ring action was done with an overall serious tone and with respect to what I feel professional wrestling should be, there was also no explanations whatsoever to the live audience as to what exactly was going on storyline-wise. There were certain plot points that didn’t make sense just from the context of watching the show that night, for example, but I also trusted those things to make sense and play out when the time comes on television. Unlike some other pro wresting TV shows, perhaps, where I don’t trust things to be followed up on or really ever mentioned again. It was interesting though to watch a wrestling event where no consideration was given to whether or not the wrestling fans in attendance understood the overall character arcs. And really, that’s ok. Because what I took out of this is that Lucha Underground is very much a television show about a wrestling promotion. Not, as is traditionally the case, a wrestling promotion with a television show. However, essentially, the focus of this show is on the wrestling and the wrestlers. I was never asked to download an app, or given statistics on how the show was faring against other shows airing that night. Nor was there any lame comedy that distracted from the serious tone of the show. And, most importantly, I never felt insulted for paying attention or being a fan. It was, all in all, a damn good show and a hell of a lot of fun.
Then, the second show started. For the most part it was just like the first. Good matches and fun wrestlers. But when the real surprise came, it turned the evening into something really special. When Alberto El Patron was announced, the Temple went batshit crazy. The response that the former Alberto del Rio received as he came to the ring was one of the biggest pops I’ve ever personally seen live. And there were only about 200 people in the sold-out space.
I have been an Alberto fan since he debuted in the WWE. But, through various reasons not his fault, I lost interest in the character. But, I didn’t lose interest in the guy. And when he got on the mic last night, he was on fire. It felt like he was speaking from the heart about why he was there, what he had been through and what he planned on doing next. And the audience was with this guy 100%. I had never really seen how charismatic Alberto is when given the freedom to be himself. And the same could be said of other guys too, I’m sure. But what it made me realize, as I watched what turned out to be the main event of the evening, was that wrestling is becoming something of a culture. And maybe it has been for a long time. Now though, with ROH wrestlers appearing in New Japan and AAA wrestlers appearing on ROH and Lucha Underground shows, there is a real feeling of anything being able to happen. And by recognizing the championships and history of wrestling in other promotions not only makes the championship and the wrestler seem more important, it makes the professional wrestling business seem bigger as a whole.
Alberto got both ‘El Patron’ chants from his current AAA character as well as ‘Si’ chants which he started during his WWE run. It didn’t matter than this wasn’t a WWE event. Because even from a “kayfabe” standpoint, it makes total sense that someone could be in multiple promotions. Needless to say, Alberto’s debut in Lucha Underground was not without incident, but those events will play out in time. Until then, seek out this show if you haven’t already. If you think of wrestling promotions as countries with governing bodies in charge of them, you could perhaps consider WWE as a dictatorship that refuses to recognize other countries. But, what some other countries are starting to realize is that opening your borders can be good for everyone involved. And the feeling I get from Lucha Underground is that of a country with a more diplomatic system wherein more than one person has a voice and those in charge have trust in their people to get their jobs done to the best of their ability. Give a try yourself and see what you think: