I have this feeling of déjà vu after watching tonight’s Lucha Underground. In a scene almost exactly mirroring the end of Monday Night RAW from January 4, a heel authority figure, upset that their chosen one has lost the title, forces the new champion to defend their belt in the company’s big annual battle royal. (It is important to note this was taped well before WWE ran their version of this angle.) While the broad strokes of these stories might be nearly identical, the fine details of both are vastly different.

Tonight, Catrina’s empire collapsed. Going into the show, she had set her pieces up to get rid of her most tenacious enemies all in one evening. The Disciples of Death would surely make short work of the team of Son of Havoc, Angélico, and Ivelisse, forcing them to quit and leave The Temple forever. Fenix was set up to be dispatched by Mil Muertes, who looks more powerful than ever. It was going to be a great night for the Temple’s new proprietor. Oh, but the best laid schemes of mice and men, how they so often go askew.

It all started with the trios titles. The match itself was short, but not without some nice high spots. The challengers did a nice spot where each of the Disciples of Death members was in a different corner and they each ran corner to corner getting a shot in at each of their opponents. They also hit a trio of dives that looked great. At the end, Angélico recaptured the upper hand and hit the Fall of the Angels into a shooting star from Son of Havoc for the victory.

Catrina’s grip on the Temple had started to weaken. Later in the show, the Disciples of Death would pay for their failure as Mil Muertes tossed them around the locker room, blasting them with the stock After Effects lightning effect. Here’s a compositing tip for next time, Lucha Underground production team: Lightning emits light. I love the campiness of this show as much as anyone, but this just looked like some 14-year-old’s YouTube channel.

Catrina asks Mil to spare the last Disciple, but Mil refuses and throws him to the ground. Which… kills him? If the Disciples of Death really are gone, it’s for the best. It was silly to have a team hold your trios championship that are nameless, faceless henchmen. I understand the need for these guys; after all, what would Shredder be without the Foot Clan? However, you don’t put titles on the Foot Clan, you save that for Bebop and Rocksteady.

Catrina’s last vestige of hope, her champion, Mil Muertes defended his title in the main event against Fenix. On paper, given their previous matches, this one looked pretty good going in and it absolutely lived up to expectations.

The brutality was off the charts in the match. It truly felt like a wild, chaotic brawl. They fought all over the building, they bled, they tore at each other’s masks, they obliterated rows of fans. It was awesome. The match contained several moments and images that have stuck with me afterwards.

  1. Mil countering a tope from Fenix with a chair shot to the head. Just absolutely brutal.
  2. Mil biting at Fenix’s now exposed scalp.
  3. Fenix tightrope walking the railing of the balcony only to be shoved off into a section of fans who had no time to move. Plants or not, it took me completely by surprise and really kicked the match into gear for me.
  4. Fenix tightroping the railing a second time, only to do a hop onto the post and come off the low balcony onto Muertes.
  5. Mil Muertes getting mount on Fenix and raining down absolutely brutal haymakers while blood spattered all around Fenix’s head like a crimson halo. Haunting and visceral.

The crowd bit on every near fall down the stretch. When Fenix reversed the Flatliner into a wacky lucha roll up for the 3-count, they erupted in cheers. The crowd on the floor circled around Fenix and celebrated with him à la Jose Aldo at UFC 142. Matt Striker went bananas on commentary. It felt like a huge deal to everyone.

This is where the Lucha Underground story looks very different from its WWE mirror image. The crowd actually cheered for the good guy. The authority figure didn’t just get a little tiny comeuppance, Catrina’s world was reduced to ashes (and by the Fenix, no less). They gave the fans a guy they could root for and they let the heels get beat decisively. These are the two things completely absent from WWE programming since WrestleMania XXX.

Will Catrina get all her heat back next week at Aztec Warfare? I doubt it. There are plenty of formidable competitors that are going to be entering the Temple to take that strap for themselves. Texano is coming off a big win over Chavo Guerrero on tonight’s show. Rey Mysterio makes his debut in the match, as does the freshly minted Dragon Azteca he’s been training. (Their segment tonight was their best yet.) Not to mention Prince Puma and Johnny Mundo are both focusing their attention on the match and are developing super-human strength, apparently.

There is, of course, another big debut that we’ll be seeing next week. This week we finally, after all this time, got to see Matanza. Short of Brock Lesnar, I can’t really think of a human being who could have lived up to the image of the monster that we all had in mind after going without seeing him for season 1. It’s like the shark in Jaws, what you imagine in your brain is so much scarier than anything they can show you.

What we ended up getting was a guy whose body more closely resembles Rusev’s. The outfit reminded me right away of that old PS2 game, Manhunt. That’s not to say that he wasn’t intimidating, because this big dude in a creepy mask, covered in blood is downright terrifying. It reads more “serial killer” than “monster,” but I can’t say I’m disappointed.

The Matches

  • Trios Championship Match: Ivelisse, Angélico, & Son of Havoc def. The Disciples of Death – Not a terribly long match, but it made the most of its time. I hope that this is the last we see of the Disciples of Death. Thumbs Up
  • Bull Rope Match: Texano def. Chavo Guerrero – I expected to hate this because neither Texano nor Chavo really do much for me, but I was pleasantly surprised by this one. That’s not to say it was a great match, it was average. But, it went down easy and there wasn’t much bad I could say about it. Yeah, Sure, Why Not, Have a Thumb Up
  • Lucha Underground Championship Match: Fenix def. Mil Muertes – This match was great. It was brutal and felt completely out of control. The crowd was rabid and added to it. Go out of your way for this one. Thumbs WAY Up (****1/4)

Random Thoughts

  • Given that Hayabusa is one of my favorite wrestlers of all time, it was cool to see Lucha Underground acknowledge him at the top of the show.
  • I have no idea what Catrina is talking about when she mentions wanting to steal Fenix’s power from him.
  • Melissa Santos’ dress was kind of wacky, but I dig it.
  • “Ivelisse has a history of LBIs” – Matt Striker invents a new acronym.
  • Did Catrina have 100-year-old paper laying around to send those invitations out on? Or did she have the Disciples of Death individually soak them all in tea?
  • The dude rubbing his chest all over after a particularly hard chop from Texano cracked me up.
  • “Chavo has literally choked the life out of Texano” – No, Matt, he hasn’t.
  • Another fan asked Catrina to lick his face. She licked her finger and wiped it on him and then I think he legit fainted.
  • “Cannibalism, I’m feelin’ it, Matt!” – Wait, wha?
  • I don’t know what the crowd was chanting at Fenix, but what I heard was “Natty Bo”.