Lucha Underground: The Very First Episode

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When it comes to Lucha Underground I am far behind in what’s going on. Sure, I caught a few episodes of the most recent season and I’ve seen some random clips thanks to the Tube of You; but I’ve neglected the wave of awesome which is: Lucha Underground. Now thanks to Netflix, I can tend to an all new addiction!

YAY!

That brings us to this series, where I start at the very first season of Lucha Underground and work my way to the present.

Let the violence begin!

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Right away the show begins to establish and identify itself as just the kind of entity that it is: which is not your standard WWE programming in the slightest. The pilot weaves together the history and culture behind lucha libre in order to educate viewers; whether they’re seasoned fans or brand new to that style of wrestling.  Hell one of the ways it does this is by having the first ever match on the show feature two legacies/legends of wrestling: Chavo Guerrero Jr and Blue Demon Jr. They too are used to further the history and storytelling aspect Lucha Underground is trying to establish right off the bat.

The entire premise of this program seems simple and is outlined in the very beginning. The point is to be an alternative to what’s out there. They’re unapologetically violent and utilizing a style all their own.

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The first episode also establishes how women are used in their programming. It’s simple: they’re used as fighters that are just as valued as their male counterparts. Through using an intergender match on their very first episode it establishes how different the program is from others, which is incredible. It’s boldly making a statement: that no matter their sex, talent will be used equally and it isn’t using genitalia or gendered stereotypes to depict it (unless of course, you have your occasional misogynistic d-bag, but that’s just a character type, not a booking standard).

From the start it’s making sure the viewers know that female competitors are equal to (or even better) than their male counterparts by having the first intergender match be Son of Havoc vs. Sexy Star. Sure, Sexy Star lost, but not for a lack of trying, and she wasn’t depicted as a woman afraid to go in and fight. She was shown as strong and relentless, and that’s the type of portrayal and representation I can get behind.

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Yes,  the programming is brutal but, it does not try to pretend that it’s not vicious or hide what it’s like.

I’d also like to point out the commentary team, which really is the equivalent of ‘mood music’ for the show. The duo of Vampiro and Matt Striker are holding down the commentary table. I must say–I’m into it. It’s very comfortable, and relaxed. Nothing feels forced, and in fact, it feels like you’re watching the programming with two incredibly knowledgeable friends just shooting the breeze. Their commentary style meshes well with the overall tone of the programming, something which I think is incredibly hard to achieve.

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So far, I’m very pleased with starting this show from the very beginning.

Damn It, Roman!

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Ah man….Roman Reigns. I know, I know. I talk about this guy a lot. But I mean, how can I not? Everyone talks about him!

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His fans? They talk about him. There’s social media accounts dedicated to him because of how much they love him. His haters? Hell they can’t stop talking about him. They too have social media accounts dedicated to getting Roman fired. There’s petitions about it, about him, people boo him out of the building. Good grief, Roman Reigns is forever a trending topic in the online world of professional wrestling/sports entertainment.

Right now we seem to be at a sour spot for countless fans out there. So far, it’s been said that The Undertaker’s last match was in fact his match against Roman Reigns at WrestleMania 33. This is seen as a problem for many. Yes, a lot of it has to do with the fact that none of us can fathom the fact or are willing to accept that The Undertaker is retired. Instead he should quite literally be immortal and wrestle for all eternity, but that’s a whole other issue.

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The issue is that the person that was his final opponent was Roman Reigns. Now while this is seen as going out in a classic way: passing the torch to the younger guy to carry the company; the issue is who the torch was passed to. The fact that it’s Roman bothers many, but personally? I’m not completely bothered by it. Mostly because the match itself was horrifying. It’s clear that Taker should in no way have been wrestling, and he clearly cannot go anymore. The man’s body is in no physical condition to do this, hence the absolute slaughter that we witnessed.

To be frank, his last match should have been with Brock Lesnar when the streak ended. He should not have wrestled after that, as he clearly hasn’t been the same. It’s been like watching your grandfather try to fight a spry young man in the prime of his life while he himself is on his last leg. It’s awful, and it’s downright painful to my soul.

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Now, should his last match have been Brock? Nope. Again, that’s something that could have gone to a younger talent to pass the torch along. Maybe if Bray was in all his creepy prime, he could have done it. Or hell, it could have been Finn Balor if timelines were different. But Brock? To end the streak? Come on… If there was no possible way to pass the torch to a younger talent, I’d have gone with Kane, or bring back the Legend Killer to finally do the greatest job of all time, kill Taker.

Unfortunately time doesn’t work like that. We don’t have our own TARDIS’ lying around for us to fix these grave mistakes. Instead, we make do with what we’ve got, and as fans, we can choose to enjoy it or choose to change the channel. When you choose to stick with the product, you’ve got to face the facts. This isn’t your show, and you can’t manipulate it any way you want it, even if it’s that’s the way you need it, most of the time it’s just not going to happen.

Take for example, turning Roman heel, as though that is the be all end all to save the day. Now, I remember this being said about a certain John Cena. Would it have been great to see? Hell yeah? Will it happen? Nah. Yet look at Roman, the man killed the Undertaker (though I would still technically give that to Brock Lesnar), and he’s been booed out of the building ever since. That sounds like a pretty solid heel, or at the very least if they’re not willing to fully embrace it: an antihero. Though I suppose it depends on the day and the crowd he’s playing to. He’s already treated like a heel by the fans and every opponent he has is cheered as a face. So what does it matter whether or not he makes a full fledged heel turn?

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We’re at a very confusing time right now in wrestling. Heels are cheered and babyfaces are booed whether that’s out of boredom or just because they’re stale. Maybe it’s the fact that we’re a jaded audience these days that relates far more to a cynical heel than a hopeful babyface. Whatever the reason is, the lines between good and evil are clearly blurred especially with WWE’s writing as of late. While we seem to firmly believe the recipe for success is a classic good versus evil fight, it’s very rare we can achieve these classic archetypes in a time where being the antihero or the bad guy is all the rage.

So where does that leave us? The fuck are we to do with Roman Reigns being booed out the building and this rocket strapped to his ass, knowing that everyone hates it?

Change the channel, honestly. The same people that whine about his push and other superstars being buried are the same people that swear that indy wrestling is better. So…go watch it. There’s other programs to watch, why must something be destroyed just because you don’t like it, knowing that you can’t control anything that happens? Lucha Underground, Ring of Honor, New Japan Pro Wrestling, and countless others that I’m missing are all available for you to watch. So support them, help them grow, so you can someday see the types of storylines and wrestling that you want to see. Come back to WWE when things have changed or you’re drawn to something that’ll grab your attention more than your painful hatred and disgust of Roman Reigns. I know, it’s hard to get rid of such an addiction, but I mean….why put yourself through that hate?

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Seeing Monday Night Raw: LIVE! (3/20/17)

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Yes that’s right, I in fact saw Monday Night Raw, live, at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York on March 20, 2017.

So let’s get down to it: what was it like?

First of all: it’s kind of amazing. When you finally get through security and spend twenty to thirty minutes looking for your seat because every single usher tells you to go to the next staircase: you finally land in your section. I myself had floor seats, section f5. Just about ten or eleven rows back from the barricade, a little before the WrestleMania sign.

The seats were okay. To be frank it was hard to see any of the action over anyone’s heads. To top it all off, the screen showing the fight was blocked by the lights and was basically far too vertical to watch comfortably. In addition to that people decided they were going to stand on their stupid chairs to get the perfect picture. Yes, thank you assholes who needed to do that; because everyone behind you is clearly seven feet tall and can see over you.

And you can’t teach that. Sorry. Moving on!

It felt like a mediocre episode of RAW. I anticipated crazy twists and turns because it’s two weeks to WrestleMania but I didn’t get any of that. I was also hoping I’d see Seth Rollins (even though people swore he was in the crowd at one point before retreating). However, I got to see my queen Stephanie McMahon live; as well as Triple H, Mick Foley, The Undertaker, and Chris Jericho. The Undertaker’s great, but there’s just something about seeing Chris Jericho live that really feels magical and makes me think “holy shit, am I really here”?

By the way, I mostly went because I really, really wanted to see Cesaro (he’s my favorite wrestler if you somehow haven’t gotten that) and his match ended far too quick for my liking. So…very disappointed.

Let’s talk about the chants.

Yes, there was a scandal recently, and of course Brooklyn had to start their charm. Before the show even began they shouted “We want Paige!” to the tune of “New Day Rocks”. Every single time she or Xavier Woods was on the screen they screamed. They also requested the presence of Brad Maddox, and typically CM Punk. Which still, to this day, is extremely pathetic and makes no sense.

CM Punk is not coming back, and if he is it’s going to be a Bret Hart situation twenty or so years from now where it’s just for a paycheck. Then he’ll probably critique a really great young talent horribly.

Then the sections began to fight. Above me the sides were chanting “That side sucks” at each other. My section retorted with “We got floor seats!”, which prompted them to say “floor seats suck!” in return.

It was super juvenile. During a match no less. Great, but yeah, go women’s wrestling right?

Also the children are probably the worst little smarks I’ve ever seen. Yes, I frequently come in contact with smarks that make me sigh heavily and ever regret joining social media platforms and dabbling into the wrestling fandom but I digress. The child behind me was saying just about every single match sucked, said Roman Reigns couldn’t wrestle (really kid?), and other shitty things I typically see adults say on twitter like Nia being fat or Alicia Fox having a busted face. Way to go, preteen. Already an asshole.

Oh, and on an unrelated note: A Bayley fan sat in front of me. Adorable little girl, really sobbed to hell when Bayley lost.

I laughed, I know it’s cruel but….yeah I cackled.

Something I thought was VERY interesting was the reception to Roman. It was very John Cena like, half the arena loved him, half hated him. At some points, the crowd unanimously booed. However, when Roman geared up for that spear and went for his classic “ooaahhh”, every single person belted it out with him in unison; something I frequently confused with boos while watching at home.

So you can’t ever say that Roman doesn’t connect with the fans.

I also didn’t have an experience with persistent males trying to strike up a conversation with me or ask for my number, unlike the last time I went to a WWE show. I’m not sure if it was because I went with a male, or because my exhausted face screamed “look at me and I will ruin your life”; but it was great.

The show was okay, the atmosphere felt like the stupid part of Twitter coming to life…but, it was nice. I just really need to see SmackDown live or stick to house shows.

 

An Ode to the Deadman

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It’s a feeling that I won’t ever forget. The chill that runs down my spine. The goosebumps that pop up all over from excitement. For 20+ years now a simple gong has inspired fear in his opponents, and excitement from fans. He is the Demon of Death Valley, the American Badass, the Deadman, the Phenom… he is the Undertaker and if this is indeed now his final ride we should soak it all up and enjoy what could be the last few months of the his legendary run in sports entertainment. This is my ode to the Undertaker.

Before I get into it I just want to take a quick second to introduce myself. My name’s Russell, I’m from Brooklyn, NY and this will hopefully be the first of many articles of mine on this awesome site. Now let’s get down to it. I love the Undertaker. I’m willing to bet that you do too. How could you not? He embodies the spectacle that is professional wrestling.

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Awesome entrance? Check. Memorable ring style? Check. Memorable signature and finishing moves? Check. Awesome attire? Check. Memorable debut? Yes. There’s no mistaking the Deadman. There is no other like him. He has tombstoned just about damn near everyone in the WWE and has taken quite a few superstars on their last rides. And now let me address the man directly.

Dear Undertaker,

Whether it’s your dark and terrifying persona or the American Badass rolling in on a Harley, you still laid and continue to lay the beat down on any who stand in your way.

Countless superstars have fallen to you.. Edge, Batista, The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, JBL, Randy Orton… you name a superstar and at some point in their career they have fallen victim to you.

You showed Shawn Michaels what fear feels like when you massacred him in the first ever Hell in a Cell match. You made sure Mick Foley would never be the same when you launched him off and through that same hellish structure. You terrorized the entire WWE when you formed the Ministry of Darkness. You showed the locker room that two brothers of destruction can take down all who come in their path.

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Of course this wouldn’t be a proper thank you without bringing up the streak. Your record now stands at 22-1 but no one will ever forget that you went 21 straight years without a loss at the grandest stage of them all. You struck down legend after legend and some more than once. Some have never beaten Triple H in their entire career and you beat him three times at Wrestlemania. You showed Bray Wyatt he has a lot to learn before he can call himself the new face of fear. You showed the Big Show and A Train that even a numbers advantage means nothing when someone challenges you at Wrestlemania. You showed a 16 time World Champion in Ric Flair that there are some battles even he can’t win and you showed your brother Kane that the Deadman will always prevail against the Demon.

You had the greatest match in the history of professional wrestling when you took on Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania 25 and showed the world that even at his absolute best, the Heartbreak Kid was still no match for the Phenom. A year later, you would prove it again under the bright lights of the University of Phoenix Stadium at Wrestlemania 26. HBK would never topple you.

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I could keep going on and on about your accomplishments and about the path of destruction you’ve left in your wake but there’s much more to you than just what you left and continue to leave in the ring. You continue to haunt the dreams of every WWE superstar, you continue to show us the drive and passion and energy you have for the fans and the company. You have an aura about you that commands respect when you enter the arena. You give me people a reason to stand up and cheer in a world where there are so many things to be unsure about.

If the rumors are indeed true that you will feud with AJ Styles for the WWE title and win it, there is no one more deserving at this point in their career. For you to go out a champion would be the cherry on top of possibly the greatest pro wrestling career in history.

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I want to say this final thank you to the Undertaker. Thank you for some of the most memorable moments in the history of professional wrestling. Thank you for giving the kid inside of me something to cheer for every time you enter the arena. Thank you for your continued service in WWE and your continued service to your fans.

Wait… there it is again… that unmistakable sound of a gong. That unmistakable sound that we soon may never hear again. That sound that reminds us all that a deadman still rules the land of the living.

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By: Russell Hartman

SmackDown: Taking Souls & Diggin’ Holes (Highlights 11/15/16)

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The 900th episode of SmackDown live is brought to you by Mauro Ranallo, who promises that it will be L-I-T. Given that I trust this man, I’m going to assume that he’s correct and it’s going to be a great night.

Maryse wins the title!

Okay maybe she didn’t win and The Miz is actually holding it….but she won for her husband. Maryse is the MVP of SmackDown and she’s the best wife in the world for helping her husband. I look forward to her turning on him and holding the championship herself.

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Natalya be Tubthumping.

Honestly she’s a great coach, speaking such wise words of Chumbawamba wisdom to Alexa Bliss. Team SmackDown is extremely lucky.

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Nikki vs. Carmella

It is VICIOUS between the two of them. There’s so much feeling and emotion there and I’m actually interested in this story because it’s not some garbage they threw together last second for Total Divas. It’s also allowing them to be vicious and “go hard” just like the guys do when feuds are continuous like this. It’s different, and I like it.

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RAW Invades SmackDown

WHAT?! It was AWESOME. Nia Jax made a clean sweep tossing around the entire women’s SmackDown team before the ladies managed to regain control. Plus Naomi did a beautiful splash off of the top rope. Ugh, fantastic.I’d love to see more of this. These two matches/segments didn’t feel exclusively female like WWE’s been doing for years, they felt like two matches/segments that would apply to any gender.

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“Taking souls and diggin’ holes.”

God damn it, Undertaker is so cool.

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The Raw Bits: (Highlights 11/14/16)

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Right off the bat RAW started out by giving me extreme secondhand embarrassment. The moment Mick started dancing and partaking in his best imitation of Enzo Amore, I just…I felt like an embarrassed grandkid. Kudos to you Mick ,but um, I’ll be here hiding in mild embarrassment. Then it got worse when Stephanie McMahon unveiled her soccer mom inner self….gosh. Too much to handle.

Damn it, wrestling is so stupid and ridiculous, I love it so much.

Roman’s a great partner.

Sure, Kevin Owens wouldn’t help during the match; and yeah, he tagged himself in just as Roman was finally about to execute his finisher and take the win for them. However, even though Kevin was the legal man Roman did the right thing. He knocked out their opponent and dragged Kevin’s body on top of Sheamus in order to secure the win. Honestly, that’s a great, and considerate teammate being so selfless and supportive.

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The New Day is ready for cuffing season.

They show their readiness with a stunning interpretation of cuffing season, using a New Day sock and unicorn horn. They didn’t even remember to wrap the horn first, sigh. So irresponsible.

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Closing Segment RAW Vs. SmackDown

From Kevin cupping Chris Jericho’s sugar tit, to AJ Styles and his soccer mom hair making it on the List, all the way to James Ellsworth being dubbed Chince McMahon. I just….this entire segment was complete gold and too hilarious for words. Raw vs. SmackDown was perfect and I can’t wait for this match at Survivor Series.

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Stephanie McMahon loves Mortal Kombat

“Finish him!”–Such orders sound so fitting coming from Stephanie.

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What It’s Like Watching: Lucha Underground

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For the first time this week I was able to watch Lucha Underground on television. I have no idea how this happened, but suddenly I had acquired the El Rey network and I was not about to let it go to waste. I hopped on my stationary bike in a pitiful attempt to do some cardio, and I dove into the world of Lucha Underground.

Holy shit, what a world it is.

My previous experience watching LU was always whatever clip I could manage to find on the internet in an attempt to piece together an episode. Sure, I’m very late in the game but you can blame my service provider for that.

My first match of the episode was: Famous B with Brenda and Dr. Wagner vs. Mascarita Sagrada with Son of Havoc in a Believer’s Backlash Match 

I know what you’re thinking, what the fuck is a Believer’s Backlash Match? I’ll tell you what it is–it’s pure gold. This was ridiculous in the most incredible way. I saw magic happen–actual magic that produced a bowling ball which led to a perfect strike! I saw a cardboard standee get the Marie Antoinette treatment. I mean, I did see popcorn get used as a weapon, and while my heart whimpered at the thought of that popcorn not finding a home in my stomach; I dealt with it.

The match was incredible. It was silly, it was ridiculous, the wrestling was awesome and it was so fun to watch. On top of all that, it told a story that didn’t need to be fed to the audience. While I was completely oblivious to the plot of their feud in the beginning, by the end of the match I understood exactly what was going on and I was able to enjoy the show like I had been following this entire time. Plus I enjoyed the inclusion of the audience, and the “all weapons being legal” stipulation to the match.

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All Inclusive Matches

The second match I enjoyed was: Ivelisse, The Mack, Marty The Moth Martinez, Mariposa and Jeremiah Crane vs. Killshot, Dante Fox, Brian Cage, El Texano and Argenis.

The Winner of this match will be entered in Aztec WarFare 

May I just say this right off the bat: the names for their matches and segments are fun. I definitely dig what’s going down here.

I can’t say anything bad about this match, this was a great match. More importantly what I loved was the inclusion of women in this match. I love Ivelisse very much and she’s a wrestler whose matches I will go out of my way to find and binge away a weekend over. Ivelisse I’m familiar with, and I knew she would bring her A-game. This was the first time ever being exposed to Mariposa, and I was not disappointed. To see the women wrestling the men and not being treated as though they’re fragile or incapable was so refreshing. They’re included in matches and showing that they can throw down with the boys and can even be better than them.

 

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A Puma put to sleep.

The final match of the night was a Grave Consequences match, featuring: Mil Muertes with Catrina vs. Prince Puma

Good lord if you think anyone would actually die in a match, it might actually be this match. It was brutal, right off of the bat. The second Mil Muertes made his entrance, Prince Puma was on him like shoppers on Black Friday. The match was on fire from start to finish, and leaves you desperately rooting for the underdog as these two wrestlers finally put an end to their story together.

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How does it feel?

So how did I feel watching Lucha Underground? Fucking great. The show is an hour long, and with three fantastic matches PLUS extremely cinematic (and entertaining) promos, it’s a recipe for success. Not a single moment of it feels like the show is dragging on. I wasn’t begging for the show to just end in preparation of everything else I had to do before calling it a night. To me, that’s exactly the way a show should feel. You should feel completely immersed in it that the time just flies by and you don’t feel pained by watching the program.

On the other hand, as a Latina, I really love what Lucha Underground is doing. The immersion of culture without any mockery or objectification is such a pleasant change of pace. I want the utmost success for LU.

Added bonus: the commentary team does not make me want to put my head through a desk, nor keep any of them away from society for being horrifyingly mysognistic. Take notes, WWE, Lucha Underground is doing some great things.

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