The Rise and Fall of Lucha Underground

The Rise and Fall of Lucha Underground.

by Carlos Los Espada

The year 2014, Robert Rodriguez announces a new concept was to mix the word of Lucha Libre and storytelling outside of the ring (made popular here in the US.) Thus Lucha Underground was born.

This formula delighted wrestling fans and made them “Believers”. It was a nice alternative to fans who were looking for something new and exciting. Pitting good vs evil, the lover of violence/promoter Dario Cueto was the mastermind of creating riffs and playing all sides against one another. This made for fun twists and turns.

Slated or seven seasons, they unfortunately only made it to four. Shortly after the El Rey Network closed its doors. (with their new broadcasting deal with Roku, no word of rekindling LU has been announced)  this left fans with nothing to fill the void.

A big part of Lucha underground was their steps in making and bringing traditional matches and ideas to the states. Like six-man tag teams, 7-way matches titled the Aztec Warfare, Haunted House Match, bull rope match, and texas tornado tag matches to name a few.

Let’s not forget their Luhcadoras! Much like in Mexico and Japan, LU celebrated and honored their female wrestlers. This was way before any other US promotions. Ivelisse, Catrina, Sexy Star, Taya Valkyrie, Mariposa, Melissa Santos, and Black Lotus.

The Rise and Fall of Lucha Underground

Marty Elias had this to say

“When we booked the Sexy Star vs Mariposa No Mas” match we asked both of them to bring it!  During the match, I was talking to both of them to be vicious and attack each other! 
They didnt disappoint and that match set the standard for women wrestlers to be taken seriously, hence shortly after that WWE announced the Diva Revolution!?”

The show had two Lucha legends involved Vampiro, (As a color commentator, creative, match producer.) and Konnan (Handler for Triple-A talent,  also a match producer and creative)

Which was interesting considering their history. However, it seemed to work for a bit. The company was great at creating its characters, such as Mil Muertes, Prince Puma, Dario, and Matanza Cueto. Gave many new up-and-coming wrestlers, as well as those popular in Mexico a place to shine, Rey Fenix. Pentagon Dark, Drago, Aerostar, Texano, Brain Cage, Marty The Moth, Killshot, The Mack, Even bringing in household names such as  Chavo Guerrero Jr, Rey Mysterio, Johnny Mondo, El Patron, Blue Demon, and former WWE referee Marty Elias.

Season one and two started strong, the wrestling world was in love with Lucha Underground. Season three and four were where the cracks began to show. Some of the matches began to be repetitive with some missed opportunities with matches.

Another issue was it took nearly two years for season four to air. So why with a show so popular with both wrestling and non-wrestling fans alike end so suddenly?

Let’s dig into companies that were the backbone of the promotion. Lucha Underground would farm talent from Triple-A, one of the biggest promotions in Mexico. United Artist Media/MGM was also involved in the partnership with El Rey Network.

After all, this was to the network, a TV action/drama with wrestling. With the way, ratings were going and the talks throughout social media, it was clear that Lucha Underground was quickly becoming a contender! Bear in mind this was way before AEW was even a thought.

Lucha Underground S1:E35 Rewind | Fight Booth
Mil Muertes (shown on the right) turning Son of Havoc (Matt Cross) (shown on the left) upside down [Photo: Fight Booth]
Since they did not own many of the wrestlers, there would be no tours, no house shows, no licensing deals, or pay-per-views. All things that would have kept the promotion afloat and perhaps had the mantel, now held by AEW.

As someone who comes from a market and product development background. It spun my head at the amount of missed opportunities by the  Lucha Underground movers and shakers. Licensing deals are a goldmine and have proven to keep brands funded. Just look at what WWE, KISS, and Disney have accomplished due to licensing out their likeness, names, characters.

Reading and listening to a lot of what some of the workers had to say about LU behind the curtain. It was a great concept with too many chefs in the kitchen. Sadly that will cause a promotion to fold. The contracts the workers had to sign, kept a lot of them from actually working while LU was between tapings.

It seemed like the management of LU did not understand that wrestlers make their living staying active. This was not a cast of actors, this was a roster of wrestlers. This would lead to a lawsuit between a few of the show’s stars and the El Rey network. As many of the workers were being pressured to sign on with more active promotions.

Lucha Underground | Inside Pulse
Jack Evans (shown on the far left), Johnny Mundo, PJ Black & Taya Valkyrie (shown on the right) speak with Dario Cuerto about concerns they have [Photo: Inside Pulse]
Sadly when season four ended, the believers were disappointed. Oddly enough Lucha Underground is still getting a lot of fans old and new revisiting the series on streaming services. Major League Wrestling is attempting to recapture the magic of Lucha Underground.

Mil Muertes (now King Muertes, Drago, Aero star, Dario Cueto (known now as Cesar Duran), Matt Cross, and others are there to help the promotion along. However they are missing the key ingredient, LU was more than just matches. it was a story being told and told well. Their cinematic vignettes kept people glued and wanting more.

It helped to have both cinematic and wrestling writers on staff. This is in no way a knock on the promotion as it is during well with on its current course. Their announcement of the Azteca Underground has sparked interest with fans of Lucha Underground. So if anyone from MGM, Triple-A, and the El Rey network is reading this. The door is still open for a new and improved Lucha Underground! This was the rise and fall of Lucha Underground.