Guest Editorials GUEST REVIEWS: Lucha Underground - perspective from TV taping, editorial on strengths & weaknesses of first episode
Oct 31, 2014 - 12:05:12 AM
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10/29 "Lucha Underground" series premiere
By PWTorch correspondent Mark
I attended the last taping they did on October 19 (an episode that is set to air in February).
From what I heard, the first few episodes were filled with mostly extras. But, as the tapings went on, more fans attended. Initially, though, there were not a lot of actual fans in the audience.
The set is amazing, very different, and as the show goes on more fans pack the area where some of the guys come down there stairs. It has a very Fight Club/Thunderdome-esque feel. Also, I think Matt Striker ditches the fancy clothes and goes with something more underground-looking. For our taping, it was a Lucha t-shirt with a sweatshirt over it, and jeans and sneakers. Much more fitting for the theme.
The production team used a crane, four hand-held ringside cameras, a hard camera, and one above the ring. From what I understand the budget for the show is super low, but they are spending a lot on cameras, and production value.
The chants became more organic once wrestling fans filled the crowd. The live crowd that sits in the bleacher section - close to the announce table - is about 6-8 feet from the ring. All seats are very close to the action. It's a really fun atmosphere. And, yes, despite what heel authority figure Dario Cueto says, there are kids there cheering on their favorites.
The characters they are adding to this show are amazing, and the matches that I saw were really good. Fast-paced, action-packed. I had not been to a live event in about five years, and I had not watched WWE in about that long. This was refreshing, fun, and brought back a lot about what I like about wrestling. Also, for my taping it was mostly matches, I did not see anything that was driving a storyline. I saw only matches; no promos. I think those are all those taped segments they are going to use during the show
For the first episode, I think people have to cut some slack, as they are trying to carve out a new path. And, I am guessing the reason there were so many commercials was because they didn't cut the main event. So, they loaded all the commercials up front to have an uninterrupted main event. It has promise. I, for one, am a fan. Tapings resume again in January, and I will be back for more.
"Lucha Underground" Series Premiere
By PWTorch reader Vince
When I first heard about Lucha Underground, I was expecting it to be a very different project than anything seen before when it comes to the presentation of a weekly wrestling show. I went in thinking LU was more a TV show about wrestling, and not the more traditional live sports event. On a scale of 1 to 10 (one being an NHL/NFL-type sports event and ten being Arrow), I expected the program to be somewhere in the 8 or 9 with heavy storytelling elements and multi-camera shot fights on the streets. What we got was maybe closer to a six or seven. You could make a case that it's a federation or you can look at it like Pokemon (how dated is that reference?).
Regardless of what you think it is, Lucha Underground looks good being "it." The cinematography is on-par with anything out there, not just pro wrestling. They have done location shooting to give the world of the show an international feel and rich back-story. There is a difference between the "telenovela" camerawork and the cameras that film the action. This could be looked at as good (differentiating between the sports and the storytelling), or bad (the show can feel disjointed). I'm leaning more to that being an advantage to the show, but it's too early to say. It could get annoying.
Notably, the cameras are not acknowledged by the characters in the backstage skits. That is clearly shot like a movie or TV drama. I like that it's clear from the get-go. Nothing is worse than not knowing when a wrestler is supposed to know the camera is there and when not. If you go with they don't know, go all out. The show made Konnan look like a real actor so kudos to the director. The scene with Chavo Guerrero and "owner" Dario Cueto was the highlight of the night backstage-wise.
In The Temple, as they call the wrestling arena they fight in, it's very gritty with lots of concrete and a "worn out" wrestling ring. The room is very small, the audience even smaller. But, you see production guys running around during matches; hopefully they clean that up. Play by play-guy Matt Striker and commentator Vampiro have a very humble desk. No pyros, no special lighting. There was a band, though. I'd hope that if they are going to be there they would have a bit of a bigger role. Maybe they could play all the intros. Maybe they did. I only saw them once.
The ring announcer was not the greatest ever. She was pretty, had a clear voice, and tried to sound as Hispanic as possible, but not the biggest issue in the world. If they have some spare change, though, making a play for Justin Roberts might not be the worst idea ever. Striker and Vampiro were solid. I just didn't like the way they sold Son of Havoc pulling the tights. Hopefully that was just a bad call, and not a sign of things to come. Other than that they came off likable and credible. I liked how Matt encouraged people to find out for themselves about all the different wrestling there is in the world. "We can talk about that here."
A big complaint going around has been that there was very little Lucha Libre-style wrestling in the first set of tapings. And that's true. If you went in thinking it will be CMLL in English then you will be disappointed. This, to my knowledge, has been addressed, so my advice is to either sit through the growing pains, or just wait a while and jump in on the show a few weeks/months in. But, as for the wrestling presented, I kind of see what they initially were going for. With a 44-minute air time, they managed to fit in three matches that were all designed to be different.
The first fight with Chavo Guerrero and Blue Demon, Jr. was slow and deliberate. The people were expecting a fast-paced high-flyer, but they instead got hand stomps and submissions. An okay match, but as the first ever fight, it left a lot to be desired. Nice touch on calling the refs by their names, though. I'm always for that.
Son of Havoc. So, did the two Havoks from TNA have a kid? Anyway, he had jobber written all over him. The biggest thing about this match of course is the inter-gender aspect. At first I didn't love that they went for the "I used to be a victim" route. But, as long as that's in the past and the play Sexy Star as an equal to the other fighters this has a chance. No one questions Black Widow in The Avengers fighting men. It can be done.
The main event of Prince Puma vs. Johnny Mundo was great. Both men were touted as big stars and the whole show had a natural build-up to the match. Johnny Mundo (John Morrison) hasn't lost a step, and actually had some grit to him. Prince Puma (Ricochet) got to show his moves and even some charisma poured out. These two will be a good duo to root for going forward. I'm sure many will pick apart all the moves, so no need for me to go through that.
Finally, the big elephant in the room. The heel boss. Yes, it's a tired trope. Yes, I wish it would go away. Yes, there are other ways to promote wrestling. No buts.
But, I love the Dario character and especially the guy who plays him. The story is intriguing and gets the ball rolling. Still, as the first thing on the show, it does give a little feel of "not again." Not that little even. The one upside for me is that he did have three wrestlers, actual in-ring talents to take the heat he generated. Big Ryck looks imposing and hopefully he's gotten better in the ring.
All in all, I thought this was a promising first episode. With a fairly secure slot (39 episodes planned), they can take their time and grow this thing. Color me interested.
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