In most respects, it’s silly to compare ECW to Lucha Underground. The latter program features nothing but Mexican-style, acrobatic mock combat. ECW only had luchadores for, like, one or two nights, and Super Crazy doesn’t count because he did not wear a mask. LU has an international film company that produces multi-million dollar James Bond films supporting it. WWE bankrolled ECW, but nobody knew that until ECW completely ran out of money. LU embraces elements from serialized dramatic television to enhance the escapism and fantasy components of pro wrestling, whereas ECW borrowed its aesthetic from local cable access to better ground itself in the crummy, smelly real world.
However - the two federations do have two significant similarities. One: Jim Cornette hated ECW, and now he hates Lucha Underground. Two: Internet fans, bored to death with the same ol’ same ol’ the WWE’s been cranking out every week and/or the forgettable display of halfassery that limps across the screen and calls itself “TNA,” may start declaring themselves Lucha Underground devotees before they’ve even seen a single episode.
But those habitual wrestling viewers who haven’t seen Lucha Underground yet needn’t fear if their cable provider doesn’t carry the El Rey network and they can’t figure out how to bittorrent television shows. We here at TheSportster have seen not just the first, but the first two episodes of LU season 2, and found that despite the masks, traditional WWE and/or TNA viewers should come across more than their fair share of familiar faces.
So here’s a rundown of LU wrestlers you might not know that you already know. Read this, and you won’t feel out of the loop if you ever overhear someone mentioning Johnny Mundo’s run as ECW champion, or Prince Puma’s tag team with Matt Sydal, or Vampiro’s descent into madness.
15 Rey Mysterio
Let’s get the super-familiars out of the way first. Mysterio appeared, in an appropriately mysterious fashion, at the close of the second episode of Lucha Underground’s second season. What's in store for the former WWE champ and the de facto American face of lucha libre? We don’t know, but we’re fairly certain that flips and moonsaults and othersuch offensive daring shall commence. Keep in mind that by LU standards, Mysterio's offensive arsenal is considered conservative, safe, and fairly grounded. It's going to be kind of like how Dan Harmon was thought utterly insane when he was working for NBC, but now he's the normal, pragmatic guy in the Rick and Morty writers' room.
14 Johnny Mundo
Are you a regular WWE viewer who goes to bed every Monday night disappointed that this wasn’t the week John Morrison made his return to Raw? Did you watch the Casey Jones/Kick-Ass fight on Super Power Beat Down and think “Jeez, whoever played Casey did a great job! I wonder where I can see more of that dude?!” In either case, Lucha Underground is the present location on television upon which to view the Prince of Parkour. Turns out “Mundo” means “World,” and now that we know that, we understand why he started calling “Starship Pain” “The End of the World,” instead.
13 DelAvar Daivari
Though we controversy mongers here at TheSportster principally remember Daivari for his involvement with the Muhammad Hassan/London Bombings fiasco of 2005 - wrestling mongers may associate Daivari more closely with his lengthy career in WWE, TNA, and various indie promotions. He used to be a Kurt Angle flunky, he hated America in TNA, and now he shows up to do stuff at the Lucha Underground temple. For a while, the stuff he did was alongside Ezekiel Jackson, but they killed off Jackson’s character. Unlike WWE scribes, Lucha Underground writers can literally kill off characters if the mood suits them to do so.
12 Son of Havoc
Evidently, Matt Cross was eliminated from WWE’s Tough Enough back in 2011. In the long run, his career setback turned into a plus for wrestling fans, who can now enjoy watching him bounce around on Lucha Underground under the guise of Son of Havoc. He’s sort of like a Son of Anarchy, except Leela isn’t his mom, and he kills people with planchas instead of knives and bullets. Now and again, SoH co-holds the Lucha Underground Trios titles with running buddies Angélico and Ivelisse.
11 PJ Black
In a curious subversion of expectations, “Darewolf” PJ Black - formerly known as Justin Gabriel - lost his inaugural Lucha Underground match to The Mack. Normally, when a video package including clearly scripted streetfights and a wrestler's voiceover talking up his own thirst for challenges and danger and so forth airs to hype his debut, that wrestler soundly trounces his first opposition. Not this time though! Oddly enough, The Mack narrowly avoided a WWE career of his own at one point, and was set to make his first appearance in NXT before being released under ambiguous circumstances.
Sometimes, Vampiro is an out-of-shape but jovial veteran providing color commentary alongside Matt Striker. Other times, he goes off his meds, and transforms into a violent, Satanic creature who sets himself on fire and gives Pentagon Jr. ideas for insidious mischief. As of Season Two, Episode Two, Vampiro’s got his insanity under control, but we all know it’s only a matter of time before his mind snaps like a twig and he resumes his usual mayhem. It’s too bad Sting is so unlikely to ever make a Lucha Underground appearance, for it's high time Vampiro set Sting on fire once again.
9 Matt Striker
Are there WWE viewers who miss Matt Striker? Possibly! He was an entirely competent on-air talent for about eight years. Surely, he gained a few fans during that period, right? He’s got more than 100,000 Twitter followers, so we’re certainly not going to sit here and pretend he’s a nobody, even if we we happen to personally disagree with his political opinions. It’s a free country! Matt Striker doesn’t have to agree with us about everything, or about anything at all. Matt Striker should feel perfectly comfortable expressing any opinion he wants to. Matt Striker is friends with Tommy Dreamer and he appears on the Lucha Underground television program.
Ever wonder what happens when you rat out Bill DeMott for whatever (we’d care not to imagine) sick, twisted, depraved “training” techniques he employed while head NXT trainer? Turns out you get to go work for a company where you and your colleagues (hopefully) aren’t subjected to constant abuse, and everything works out! Back in her NXT/FCW days, Ivelisse was a tag team partner and rival of Paige, which means one of LU’s top female stars used to do pretend fighting with a woman who should be one of the WWE’s top female stars, but isn’t because of a stupid reality show. It’s a small world.
Brian Cage has previously done his thing with WWE developmental and TNA, and currently plies his wares in LU. We do think it’s a mistake to go by the ringname “Cage,” simply because it’s evocative of Johnny Cage, the lamest of all the Mortal Kombat characters. Do you know why there aren’t any pro wrestlers who go by the alias Zangief, despite his purported expertise in wrestling? Same reason. Zangief was useless in Street Fighter II. Some people will tell you Balrog was actually the worst, but they are incorrect. Balrog was unstoppable, if you figured out how to time his punches correctly.
Known as one of the rare indie female wrestlers who everyone has at least heard of aside from Sara Del Rey and MsChif, Cheerleader Melissa has now worked under a mask on not only one but two cable TV shows that don’t advertise her under the name she’s best known for. We don’t yet know much about her Mariposa persona, but hopefully it’s more credible than Raisha Saeed. We’re sorry, but even in our advancing years, we hate finding out that pro wrestlers aren’t really from the countries the announcers tell us they’re from. It’s still real to us, damnit.
5 Chavo Guerrero Jr.
Doomed to be forever overshadowed by his substantially more charismatic and gone-too-soon uncle Eddie, Chavo Guerrero enjoys elder statesman status in LU. We can safely assume, based on his longstanding rut in various midcards and having never demonstrated a lick of main event potential, that he will never find himself in a position to compete for the LU World Title. He certainly won’t wind up holding LU’s answer to the Money in the Bank Briefcase. That could never happen and we refuse to believe anyone who says it could. The internet is full of lies.
4 Joey Ryan
Welp, as of Season Two, Episode Two, we still haven’t seen Joey Ryan on Lucha Underground yet. But when we do, will we finally see The Move That Rhymes With YouKoRnPlex debuted on national TV? As huge advocates of internet-based cross promotion and adult entertainment, we at TheSportster can only hope so. Truly, we won’t be satisfied until Joey Ryan can hit The Move That Rhymes With YouKoRnPlex on Triple H, win the WWE world title, and bury the PG-era of WWE once and for all. Because we are the purest and greatest of dreamers.
One could accuse LU of an over-abundance of NXT castoffs, but eh, pro wrestling’s always been something of an incestuous business. As Maxine, Karlee Perez never made it to the main roster of WWE, but she went onto to become LU’s alpha-female/queen of dark forces, Catrina. If we wielded mind control powers over a small hoard of seemingly demon-possessed warriors, our ambitions to conquer would extend well beyond the world of pro wrestling. But not unlike The Undertaker and Bray Wyatt before her, Catrina’s setting her bar for unholy domination relatively low.
2 Prince Puma
Ricochet has worked like, basically everywhere except WWE and TNA. What’s up with that? It’s weird! With the amount of onetime presumptive future WWE stars running around the indies and TNA, you’d think Triple H and Stephanie McMahon were handing out developmental contracts as if they were coupons for free froyo. You would be wrong, but you’d think that! But those of us lucky enough to have been wowed by Ricochet at any number of the VFW Halls and/or high school gymnasiums can now see him jump around like crazy in LU.
1 Mil Muertes
Remember a few years ago when the Sinister Minister had his fake son Judas Mesias attack his other fake son, Abyss? Rumor has it Mil Muertes (translation: A Thousand Deaths) tore out Judas Mesias’ still-beating heart, ate it in front of Mesias while Mesias drowned in his own blood - then took over Mesias’ human body in order to embark on a professional wrestling career. As of Season Two, Episode Two, Muertes holds the LU Heavyweight Title, and is clearly too badass to lose it anytime soon. And if you read anything on the internet that tells you otherwise, it is lies.