When it comes to, well, practically any creative medium, how you start is vitally important. The first paragraph of these reviews is often the hardest to write for that reason. The first scene of a movie should hook you and draw you in. The introduction of a speech is designed to do the same. Wrestling shows are usually booked in similar ways, as well. Lance Storm has said before that if he’s not going to be in the main event, he wants to be in the opener. It’s a chance to set the tone and grab the audience.

This week’s episode is a clear example of what happens when you fail to do this. As I started this review, I was ready to dump all over this show. However, as I looked back over what actually happened on this episode, Bird of War, I realized I liked a whole lot more than I thought I had. It just so happens that the show went off the rails before it really got started.

The very first thing was a brief conversation between Dario Cueto and Vampiro, set up much like Vampiro’s mirror hallucinations from season 1. This time, rather than giving in and headbutting the mirror (or killing Dario who was there for this instance), Vampiro takes his medicine and stuffs his demons back down. This wasn’t bad, but it definitely felt like a bit of a retread.

Then did we ever have a vignette. We got to spend a little more time in the police station with Ricky Reyes, Joey Ryan, and Captain Vasquez. This was just bad. It’s one thing for Ricky Reyes to deliver his lines poorly. He’s a wrestler, not an actor. This gal they have playing Captain Vasquez, though, she’s really not much better here. Everyone sounded stilted and wooden, Ryan less so than the others. It felt like a bad direct-to-DVD movie and not in the good way segments often do. With most of these vignettes being so well done, both through craft and a bevy of takes, the ones that bomb, bomb hard. This should be a really fun storyline, but instead the segments have been awful.

That segment was followed by an awful match, with Ivelisse taking on everyone’s favorite, Kobra Moon. I will say, this was far better than Kobra Moon’s previous outings. That isn’t saying much, as she looked absolutely terrible in both matches, but it was an improvement. The crowd loves Ivie and she’s been good in the trios matches, but even she couldn’t save this match. She had to do some of her offense in slow motion like the Darin Corbin gimmick just so Kobra Moon could keep up. (I’m not joking, she literally throws a slow motion punch in this match.) Kobra Moon lost, which caught me by surprise after her previous two matches seemed to be building her up as a serious threat. I wonder if after the first set of tapings they rethought some things.

The rest of the show was actually pretty good, looking back on it. The bad taste the opening two segments left clouded the rest of the show for me, but there were a few things I really liked.

The promo for Killshot was great. He gave a sit down about his history as a deadly special ops sniper. Intercut with the interview was footage of him clearing out a camp of bad guys (“or so they told him.”). It was different than the usual kung-fu fight with random masked dudes and came off pretty well-polished and choreographed. He also has a new mask that makes him look a bit more serious. This made him feel like a big deal and was compelling. It also sets up all sorts of future directions they could go with him. Do some of his missing squad make their way to the Temple? Does the government come looking for him? Do his former captors come back for revenge? This took a character I didn’t really care about and made him far more interesting, it was great.

The next match was part of a trios tournament, pitting two teams with wacky partners against each other. Dario forced The Mack to team with Mariposa and Marty the Moth on one side, and on the other Joey Ryan joined up with Cortez Castro and Mr. Cisco. Especially after the opener, when this match was announced I despaired and wondered what I’d done to deserve this. A couple minutes in, I was blown away. I really enjoyed this match and I think Mr. Cisco might’ve looked the best in it. Those are two things I did not expect to say going into it!

Mariposa’s aura was gone completely here. No fancy wings, no special treatment, no impressive offense. She didn’t shine in the match much and after the match got beat down by Sexy Star to the point she needed to be saved by her brother. I’m kind of surprised they had Sexy get the upper hand already like this. I thought for sure this match would get built to over a longer period of time for her to get her revenge. I’ll spare you my fantasy booking, but I can think of a few ways to have built it longer. Not mad they did this, just surprised as we’ve still got a whole lot of season 2 left.

Speaking of decisions that caught me off guard, we had an interesting rooftop segment later on. Dragon Azteca Jr. spray painted a question mark on the Lucha Underground sign and sat and waited until Rey Mysterio showed up in a new mask that I would totally believe is the Zack Snyder version of Hawkman. Does this mean that when Dragon Azteca Jr. wants to talk with Rey he spray paints a question mark on something? Like a way more permanent Bat-Signal? How does Rey know which one to go to? Anyway, the big news was that the two of them will be entered into the trios tournament next week.

Who will be their partner? “Me,” says Prince Puma. Wait, what? He can talk? Why hasn’t he talked before? Why is this the first time he’s talking? He says, “Me,” and “Damn right, we do.” That’s it. You go all this time to have an extremely charismatic guy wear a mask and never utter a word and you pay that off with this? It baffles me completely. I liked the segment, the dramatic music and the final hero shot made these guys feel like super heroes. It was great. The decision to have Puma talk and say nothing is just bizarre.

We ended with another Matanza title defense, this time against the former champ, Fenix. It was a squash, just like last week’s match against Pentagon. Again, Fenix was unable to get Matanza off his feet at all. He hit some superkicks to stun the monster, but only ever briefly. It made Matanza look unstoppable and made Fenix look courageous in the face of certain doom. It’s hard to really say much more than that.

After the match, Matanza continued his beating, only to be stopped by Catrina. I liked the way this made a certain amount of sense. Catrina does have some weird, strange affection for Fenix, even if he is Mil Muertes’ biggest rival. Having her break it up was an interesting wrinkle.

It lead, of course, to Mil jumping Matanza from behind. Mil, like everyone else, was unable to get Matanza off his feet, but he sent him out of the ring and on the retreat. Looks like soon we’ll get a clash of monsters between the two, which looks like it should be good. “MMA Math” says that Mil stands no challenge after losing to Fenix and Fenix being destroyed, but as they say, “styles make fights.” This fight will be two monsters clubbering each other and you know what? I’m into it.

The Matches

  • Ivelisse def. Kobra Moon – This was bad. I’ve already said enough. Thumbs Down
  • Joey Ryan, Cortez Castro, & Mr. Cisco def. Mariposa, Marty the Moth, & The Mack – Surprisingly good. I expected to hate it and ended up getting really into it. Some great work from almost every one in the match. Why would Mariposa stop The Mack from doing an offensive move for her team, though? Thumbs Up
  • Lucha Underground Title Match: Matanza© def. Fenix – Another total squash for the man named Slaughter. That’s basically what the match was. Hopefully Mil Muertes can give him an actual match. Thumbs Up for what it was

Random Thoughts

  • Ok, the fact that the muzzle flashes in Killshot’s video were orange when the rest of the video was sepia toned drove me crazy.
  • Famous B approaching Mascarita Sagrada to make him famous was great.
  • I liked how Vampiro was picking out things with Joey Ryan and Cortez Castro that we interpreted differently than him because we know the backstory.
  • Striker, on the other hand, called Matanza the “Eater of Worlds” as though no one was going to notice that gimmick infringement.