When talking about major North American wrestling promotions, the conversation always begins with WWE, TNA and ROH, but in the last year, a new promotion from Boyle Heights, CA, has been making waves on the El Rey Network: Lucha Underground. The promotion has featured some of the hottest independent stars in wrestling, such as Prince Puma (Ricochet), Johnny Mundo, Jack Evans & PJ Black to name a few, but it is their flair for innovative storytelling and show formula that has got the entire wrestling world talking.
While the storytelling has often be criticized for being “too unrealistic," this comes in stark contrast to WWE, who almost always lack imagination and innovation, which helps the young Lucha Underground stand out even further. Despite positive reviews within the industry, the show was in doubt for a returning second season after season 1, but have thrived since announcing their return, even announcing the third season already, which is definitely a positive sign going forward. The show has thrived on building its own stars (Prince Puma, Mil Muertes, Fenix & Pentagon Jr.) and luring lucha legends like Rey Mysterio Jr. & Alberto El Patron to perform, making it a legitimate promotion that has a brighter future than many in Japan, Europe, North America or anywhere in the world.
While WWE itself is trending in a positive new direction with help from NXT and many new stars, the following 13 reasons outline why week in week out Lucha Underground is a better, more entertaining and consistent wrestling product than WWE Raw & SmackDown.
25 They Allow Performers To Grow Organically
While not a problem specific to today’s product, WWE has had a habit of pushing stars way too early and derailing their careers, such as Kevin Nash or today's Roman Reigns, but early on in the lifespan of the young Lucha Underground this has not been a problem. Prince Puma (or Ricochet on the independent scene) was pushed as a descendant of the warriors who paved the way for today’s stars and was more than ready for the position, as he is arguably the best pure wrestler in the world. Other main event caliber stars like Mil Muertes, Pentagon or Fenix all grinded their way to the top, and their position in the company felt organic, rather than forced, which may be a small complaint for some, but makes a difference to the fans.
23 The Commentary Is Better
Another major complaint in modern day WWE is how horrible week in week out the trio of Michael Cole, JBL and Byron Saxton are, especially when Mauro Ranallo and Corey Graves find themselves on lesser shows, and this has definitely been a major strong point in the early goings of Lucha Underground with the pairing of Matt Striker and Vampiro. The talented duo combine together early to call the moves, give the matches a genuine fight feel and give the fans an insight into the minds of the performers, while giving the promotion the legitimacy and atmosphere that it deserves, as Striker himself is one of the most underrated color commentators in the wrestling world.
21 Fans' Opinions Are Respected And Built Upon
One of the major complaints in WWE in recent memory is how Vince McMahon forces his handpicked performers on the fans, and Kevin Dunn has infamously edited crowd noise and signs to go along with this. While the fans cannot always dictate the product (the writers and performers have to tell the stories), this blatant disrespect of the fans and their opinions is a huge problem. The Believers in the Temple feel like they are a big part of the show, and while the writers and the performers dictate the wacky story lines, the fans feel like an important presence that these parties definitely take notice of and respect.
19 Matches Are Often Unpredictable
The best hour of pure wrestling that Lucha Underground have produced in Season 2 was the second installment of Aztec Warfare, and what a match it was. While the Royal Rumble often feels like a dragged out hour of slow moving action to get to the eventual only 2 contenders in the match, Aztec Warfare was filled with unpredictability and intriguing storyline advancements throughout. There was the usual high flying brilliance from King Cuerno, Fenix, Prince Puma and the likes, storyline advancements involving Johnny Mundo & Brian Cage and Pentagon Jr & Mil Muertes, and best of all the surprise involvement of the aforementioned Pentagon, and the LU debuts of Rey Mysterio Jr & the Monster Matanza, which combined to make it an hour of pure edge of your seat excitement and unpredictability.
17 Satisfying Storyline Payoffs
Throughout the history of WWE, fans have often been left pondering what happened to storylines their favorite stars had been involved in just weeks earlier which had been dropped for no reason, or anxiously, pessimistically awaited the storyline payoffs for their favorite performers, as faith in the writers to deliver satisfying conclusions has been dwindling even more in recent years. These worries never cross the minds of the Believers or fans watching at home, as even though the storylines are wacky and unpredictable, they can be assured that these stories have been well thought out and will deliver satisfying conclusions, such as the shocking and exciting reveal of Pentagon’s master being Vampiro, which is in stark contrast to one of the most infamously horrible WWE reveals of all time, as Vince McMahon being the ‘higher power.’
15 All Performers & Storylines Feel Important
A common ‘smark’ criticism of the WWE product today is that if you’re not Roman Reigns or John Cena, Mr. McMahon and the creative team don’t care for you beyond their annoying 50/50 booking style, which couldn’t be more opposed by Lucha Underground, who pay attention to every fighter, making every promo, storyline segment or match on any given card important must see TV. Whether it’s Johnny Mundo, Prince Puma, Sexy Star or Mil Muertes, each performer is given an entertaining storyline that ultimately culminates in a big match or pay off, which makes it all the more easier for the crowd in attendance or the fans watching at home to engulf themselves in the action and become connected to the unique stars who make Lucha Underground what it is.
13 "Big Fight Feel" Matches
Whether it be due to the immensely talented commentary duo and their ability or the atmosphere generated by the Believers or the emotional connections the stars make you feel, Lucha Underground brings with it many ‘big fight feel matches’ on a week to week basis, which make it all the more exciting for fans. Mil Muertes vs. Matanza Cueto, Johnny Mundo vs. Prince Puma and Aztec Warfare are three fantastic examples of when all these key elements come together to make magic inside the ring, which is what fans crave from their wrestling product. Due to their unique TV format with no PPV’s, Lucha Underground thrives on making each week and each big match feel as important as possible to the fans.
11 Storyline Consistency & Continuity
How many times have you been watching WWE Raw or Smackdown and two superstars who had recently had issues, all of a sudden appeared on TV together like nothing had ever happened with no explanation whatsoever? Continuity within storylines and characters is not something WWE is particularly fond of, as the show is written week to week, with no long term planning, making interactions like these the norm when watching WWE, but due to the excellent writing staff at Lucha Underground, these mishaps are often avoided. It can sometimes be a small mistake which many don’t notice, but the continuing mistakes from WWE make them more obvious, and when beautiful continuity like that of LU is seen, it makes you as the fan appreciate a well thought out and written TV product even more.
9 Heels Are Protected
While Seth Rollins is one of the best performers in recent WWE memory, and no doubt the future of the company, he was booked terribly as a cowardly heel in his WWE Championship run before injury, being booked to lose on TV, which does nothing to protect the credibility of the man or the championship, which WWE obviously pay no attention too. Compare this to the recently debuted and new LU Champion Matanza Cueto who is being protected at all costs, and it has a major effect, painting him as a monstrous beast who can not be defeated, something which rarely happens on WWE TV, as all heels, no matter big or small fall victim to the dreaded 50/50 booking, leaving everyone on the same level in the company.
7 In-ring Consistency
Perhaps WWE’s best quality right now is the wrestling due to the pushing of several independent stand outs like Cesaro, AJ Styles, Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn, yet there are still too many inconsistencies with the booking and subsequent in ring action to believe WWE have changed their philosophies and are ready to go all in on the ‘new era.’ With outstanding performers like Fenix, Prince Puma, Johnny Mundo, Jack Evans & Angelico on their roster, it is no surprise that in ring consistency has been one of the main draws for Lucha Underground, with each TV episode giving fans at least one or two jaw dropping highlights which leave fans anxiously waiting for more action week after week.
5 Stars Aren’t Talked Down To By Authority Figures
While this is a very specific issue that I and many others have with WWE, Stephanie McMahon often talks down to stars, and with no comeuppance possible due to her on screen role in the company, as Batista tweeted, it does nothing for the performer. In Lucha Underground, Dario Cueto pushes his love for wrestling and violence, and over all does a fantastic job as on screen boss, knowing when not to over stay his welcome, and his interactions with the wrestlers are often positive for both parties. Even when Mil Muertes and Catrina were in charge of the product on screen, her interactions felt intense and meaningful, and a more hands on involvement meant that no one felt she was dampening the product or anyone’s position/credibility within said product.
3 Limited TV Time Doesn’t Make The Product Stale
5 hours of main roster TV is produced each and every week, for now with one combined roster, not including ‘C’ shows like Main Event or Superstars, which means a repeat of the same matches over and over again, making the product feel repetitive and stale, even with the arrival of sensations from Japan or NXT call ups. Similar to NXT, Lucha Underground runs one hour of TV each week, meaning only the most important angles get time, putting the pressure on the writers to make the product as good as possible, which keeps it fresh from week to week, as matches never feel like they have been repeated, and with new stars coming in as often as possible, this fresh, exciting feeling fans get while watching the product should continue for as many seasons as the show runs, as the possibilities for new angles and matches are endless.
1 Overall Unpredictability & Creative Storytelling
The biggest problem with today's WWE product is the lack of creativity or imagination with the storytelling, which can be no problem if simple and effective stories are told like on NXT, but neither of these usually occur on RAW and Smackdown. From week to week, the fans don’t know what to expect on Lucha Underground but are obliged to indulge in the storytelling, as it is always entertaining and unpredictable, which makes for an enjoyable wrestling show. Whether it be the changing atmosphere when Mil Muertes became champion, Marty “The Moth” Martinez against Sexy Star, the constant arrivals of lucha legends or independent standouts or the meteoric rise of fan favorite Pentagon, Lucha Underground has the ability to entertain every demographic of wrestling fan, and this chaotic feeling is one which wrestling fans have yearned for in a weekly product for over a decade.