From the first scene of the first episode, Lucha Underground separated itself from its competition by having something that no other wrestling company could lay claim to: a story.

Sure, most companies have reasons for the matches and they have stories that are told in the ring and out of it to explain the reasons for the matches, but Lucha Underground took that a step further. It wasn’t just going to tell you why these two men are fighting on this day, they were going to give you a mythology to follow and endgames to anticipate. Functionally, it is a wrestling show, but narratively it had aspirations of being much more.

Last season, we got away from that a bit.

Apart from short introductions to Councilman Delgado and Captain Vasquez, we lost track of the bigger story. Dragon Azteca Jr. and Black Lotus had their match that should’ve played heavily into the mythology of the show turn into an angle to get Pentagon’s new gimmick over. Sure, some weird stuff happened, but the momentum was missing. It didn’t feel like the show was going anywhere.

Tonight’s episode, The Amulet, was a giant step back to the show’s story-driven ways. The titular amulet was introduced in a series of vignettes that took us all the way from tonight back to “A Millennia Ago”. It introduced twists to the motivations of several characters and began to lift the fog, ever so slightly, around what the endgame for the show might look like.

We now know that Captain Vasquez is over 1,000 years old, kept young by a magical amulet. A war is coming to earth and she is sworn to fight it against whatever this enemy may be. It’s not even clear if she knows, but suspects Dario Cueto to be the key to finding out. Undoubtedly, Councilman Delgado’s boss is either the “big bad” or the stepping stone to him, but that is yet to be determined.

We know that Catrina has the other half of this medallion, which explains her having existed for “hundreds” of years. Curious the discrepancy in ages, perhaps we’ll get the story of how the medallion came to be divided at some other point. We also know that Joey Ryan is playing both sides of this “War” and will be a double agent for Dario from here on out. Not for free, of course, because as he said, in the line of the night, “He’s got child support to pay.” Ricky Reyes has been outed and sent back to the Temple, which certainly won’t go very well for him.

I like that we don’t know much about the War and that they’re rolling out this mythology carefully. I also like that we finally are back to having this larger story again. It helps give the show some flavor and keeps it from being just another wrestling show. We’re going somewhere and I find that interesting and want to know more. They really hit stride here again this week.

That’s not to say that the acting is spectacular and that there’s no cheese to anything that is happening. Of course it’s a little cheesy, of course there’s some camp to be had here. Anyone who contests this is denying reality and grading the show on one heck of a curve. On the other hand, anyone who levels that charge at the show is missing the point. Calling Lucha Underground “campy” is like calling wrestling “fake,” of course the show is campy, that is the whole point.

Look at the ads that are run during your average episode of Lucha Underground. Look at the movies and shows that are on the air on El Rey at any given time. Look at the producer behind the network and, to some degree, the show. Lucha Underground is trying to be an over-the-top sci-fi wrestling show with zany stories. Tonight, I believe they succeeded to that end rather well.

I’ve not even touched on the wrestling portion of tonight’s show yet, which was capped by a fantastic hardcore match between Marty the Moth and Killshot. Dubbed the “Weapons of Mass Destruction Match,” it basically meant all weapons were legal, military themed props were strewn about, and Matt Striker was going to namedrop everyone in the G. W. Bush administration. While the first two matches were nothing but quick squashes, the main event delivered in a major way.

So many spots in this match had me cringing or covering my face. These guys put themselves on the line with some incredible risks and some flat out bad ideas for anyone interested in self-preservation. Marty taking two thrown chairs to the face springs to mind immediately as something you really couldn’t pay me to take. Many moves were breathtaking and made you legitimately fear for the safety of the performers.

I won’t spend any time clutching my pearls over how unsafe the match was and scolding these guys for not being more careful. They’re grown men that knew exactly what they were doing. I certainly wouldn’t do it myself, but if they’re willing to go out there and put on this kind of show, I’ve got no problem watching it. I subscribe to Vampiro’s way of thinking, as elucidated during the match, “When the fans are cringing, that’s how you know it’s good.”

Speaking of commentary and cringing, we’ve got to talk about Matt Striker before we wrap this up. And not just his overabundance of contrived allusions and callouts crammed into every nook and cranny of the main event. (Hans Blix and Boutros Boutros-Ghali both got name dropped in the first minute alone!) There was something he said towards the tail end of the match that I found tasteless and hypocritical.

Marty the Moth has been creeping on Melissa Santos for quite some time now. He kept it up tonight during the main event, even taking her hostage briefly to distract Killshot and escape to the crowd. Later in the match, he taunted her and Matt Striker said something so tone deaf, I had to rewind to make sure I heard it properly.

“Marty takes his time to taunt Melissa… perhaps the spoils of war.”

Vampiro adds, “Hey, when in Rome.”

Get it? It’s a joke about how if Marty wins the match, he might rape Melissa Santos. Isn’t that funny? ‘Cause it’s a war-themed match, so winners do the raping. Get it?

Look, I’m not going to pretend like I’m some over-sensitive wannabe language police that wants to ban everyone from saying things I personally find distasteful. I don’t want Matt Striker to get fired. I don’t want to start a hashtag. I’m not that upset over this one. It’s a bad joke to make, if you can even call it a joke; the delivery was matter-of-fact in a way that made it all the more unsettling to me, honestly.

Here’s what I definitely don’t want, though: Matt Striker to ever lecture the audience about the progressive righteousness of intergender wrestling again. Unfortunately, he did it almost immediately after, when Mariposa interfered and was put through a table. When you so casually throw out the rape of the ring announcer as something not even out of the ordinary, you lose all moral authority to preach to anyone about empowering women.

This comment was misguided, unnecessary, and ugly. The fact that this was not edited out of the broadcast blows my mind. I don’t know how you hear that line and think, “Eh, let’s leave it in.” This was a failure on multiple levels that should have never made the air.

Let’s not end on that downer, though, let’s wrap up the finish. I don’t know what in the world Killshot and Marty were thinking, but the driving double stomp off the ladder through the table was terrifying. I literally watched through the gaps between my fingers. It was a brutal, spectacular finish and really put the cap on a great hardcore match. These guys are absolutely insane and for tonight, I’m so glad they are.

The Matches

  • Dr. Wagner Jr. def. Mascarita Sagrada
    • The whole match was basically a Doctor Driver and a pin.
    • I can’t help but think a match with Mascarita slots Wagner at a certain level and I don’t think that’s a good thing.
    • The Famous B and Brenda schtick, while entertaining, seems more suited to a comedy guy, but that doesn’t seem to be what they want to do with Wagner.
    • Basically, I’m confused with where he’s going and what he’s doing here.
  • Mil Muertes def. Argenis
    • There was a running release powerbomb that was pretty scary.
    • Mil basically squashed Argenis completely, which is fine.
    • Striker demonstrated a complete misunderstanding of an EKG on commentary.
      • (They get farther apart, not closer together before it flatlines, Matty.)
    • The main point of this was Puma’s attack on Mil rekindling their rivalry, as Vampiro suggested last week.
  • Weapons of Mass Destruction Match: Killshot def. Marty the Moth
    • Match Rating: ****
    • Marty coming out with camo, face paint, and a machine gun was great. The blood added even more to the effect.
    • Will give Striker credit where it’s due, when he began a eulogy for Killshot after he was powerbombed out of the ring, I loved the call.
      • Vampiro walking that one off was great, too.
    • “Vamp, you’re like one of those guys who goes online and watches Faces of Death…”
      • “I’m like one of those guys who actually submits those tapes”
      • Loved that exchange, too.
    • Great stuff, definitely worth checking out if you’re into hardcore matches.