Lucha Underground was a novel attempt at re-creating professional wrestling for American television. It eventually failed in the sense of not having enough viewers to sustain production, but LU did have some great matches and, relevant to recent productions by AEW and WWE, brought us another way of presenting professional wrestlers.
In particular, Aerostar turned out to be a space-time traveler, with appropriate vignettes. He teleported across space and even more so across time.
This past week we’ve seen Matt Hardy teleport. Ok, Matt later came out and said it was an optical illusion by Vanguard 1. But even the optical illusion angle hearkens to LU and how the ghost(s) could play games with the wrestlers.
Now WWE presents teleporting Undertaker, and teleporting Firefly Fun House.
Both WWE matches, if we dare call them that, are clearly out of the ordinary for WWE. Yet the Undertaker-AJ match would fit into the LU universe. And the Firefly Fun House strikes me as what would happen if the Juggalos and Insane Clown Posse ever had a chance to show up on LU.
Yes, traditionalists will hate this incursion of fantasy into professional wrestling, but many traditionalists hated LU too (and also the Hardy Broken Universe.) And yet here we are, WWE relying on fantastic, magical stories to fill this time of no crowds.
Don’t tell Dan Lovranski this.
Yeah I totally agree. Loved Lucha Underground, it was so far ahead of its time and should have been a lot more successful.
The talent roster was incredible - look at all the things they’ve gone on to do in big companies. And the storylines were a lot of fun.
If there’s no LU there is no Broken Matt and thus nothing of what we got at Mania
Loved the first two seasons of LU. Then they leaned too heavily into the implausible stuff after that. What hurt them, though, was being on a small network.
And let’s also show some love to that man Jeremy Borash (and Impact Wrestling) for giving life to Matt Hardy’s “Broken Vision”. I feel like that (along with LU) served as the template for two of Mania’s most talked-about segments (Spoiler Alert: I kinda LOVED one, and the other…Not so much.). Getting to see J.B. do the Broken thing w/the backing of the biggest company on the planet was the highlight of my WrestleMania weekend!
S01 of LU was just amazing, there was really good stuff after that but the show ultimately lost me in S03. They tried really hard but i think they become too cute for their own good. Still I think everything they did was at least a level above what WWE had produced for the last couple of nights - storytelling and especially cinematography wise. WWE are overproducing in such way that it becomes phoney, campy and B-C movie-ish. And I usually like those, but for some reason I just can’t get in the WWE stuff. And a huge part of that is their inconsistent storytelling.
I don’t disagree. The first two seasons were incredible but the storylines got a little too wacky by the third. I still liked the actual wrestling but stuff became a little too far fetched. But S1 and 2 were my favourite wrestling programming since the late 90s.
I actually really liked both productions WWE did, but liked Firefly Funhouse a bit more. Just the fact that WWE actually referenced and explained past storylines absolutely stunned me. Even better, it made sense and told a longer story. Loved it
There is also a great lesson to learn from Lucha Underground - for a show that relied so heavily on that element and watched its audience decline. It is the balance of presenting things differently while also realizing time/place and listening to what your audience is telling you.
Forget those that criticized the LU product outright - the first two seasons of that show were really excellent and in particular, S1 was a fresh presentation. It was a lot of those same people watching in those seasons, that checked out and the popularity of the show dropped.
It was Pentagon killing women that saw the biggest ratings drop and the show never bounced back after that, as I recall. Also (for me) they went too full of themselves with some of their storylines and like you said - they lost the right balance and that made the show too fragmented.
I think one of the important things for WWE to keep in mind is that they are building a “separate world” or at least a distinct one. The Field can’t be in a match like that one week and then have a 13-minute TV match with a midcarder the next week. The biggest misstep with The Fiend was almost immediately booking him into a Hell in a Cell match where they didn’t want him to win, but he couldn’t (or so we thought) lose without being legitimately beaten.
WWE has been unable to create a true “attraction” for decades now. They tried it with Brock for a bit, but it very quickly became ridiculous that anybody except him was the champ (or at least the #1 contender). If they can keep these Fiend programs fresh and keep titles away from him - and book him strong without having him pop up from 15 finishers - I think they might have something with legs.
Another thing to consider is that the arenas aren’t going to be empty forever, and the paying live crowd historically has a pretty low tolerance for pre-taped and backstage (or whatever other location) stuff…
Also, can’t forget that John Cena is a pretty special opponent. Who else can hold their own with Bray in a segment like that?
I give LU a lot of credit for their style and presentation but the big flaw to me was the lack of history and back stories with characters. It was a promotion asking you to invest in the “brand new”. What I think has proven to be a winning formula is utilizing characters we know and love, backstories, history, inside jokes that serve as fan service (i.e. Vince’s “that’s such good shit”). When you can bottle all those elements up, I think fans are willing to go along for the ride.
scarcity, creativity, history, and fan service all usually create a winning content formula.
That’s Bryan Alvarez’s assertion. But I doubt this cause-effect, of Pentagon attacking women and the downturn in LU.
First, why should we believe that a TV show is perpetual? There have been a few long running institutional TV shows, by which I mean major networks owning a timeslot. Think 60 Minutes, or The Tonight Show.
In the wrestling world, WWE Raw has become, sort of, that type of institution. But other wrestling shows have come and gone, or withered to a point where there is but minimal audience.
There is no reason that a wrestling show has to be perpetually produced. I think we’ve been too influenced by the longevity of one show, Raw, to think that all wrestling shows are supposed to be like that. Remember, WWE has had many shows that lasted just a while then went away, or the name was just recycled years later.
Anyway, LU did not have stellar viewership before Pentagon broke the arms of women (who just happened to be Japanese stars we all love today.) So the eventual demise of LU I do not ascribe to their inter-gender violence.
LU viewership was always a small niche among television viewers. Still, I think the “sports entertainment” industry can learn several positive things from LU, including being willing to be more cinematic for special occasions.
I don’t think it was only one thing either - El Ray was a channel that so few people got and the people behind LU didnt do enough to merchandise and promote what they had.
I didn’t watch much of LU, but doesn’t any new show ask you to invest in a the brand new? Did they introduce a lot of people poorly initially?
Assertion for a good reason, when you look at the drop of the numbers right after that. I don’t “like” the explanation either, but when the numbers speak even the gods keep silence (like we say here).
You make a good point about new shows. I guess I was thinking of it in terms of what Wrestling fans are accustomed to, and their willingness to buy in to new characters right off the bat.This is still an industry heavily driven by nostalgia and old/familiar characters.
Most new TV shows ask you to learn new characters but are pulling from a much larger base (tv viewing population) and therefore only need a fraction to stick.
If we say the Raw audience is 2.5-3mil on any given week, a new show needs a larger piece of the pie to catch on in Wrestling.
Id argue that these weren’t new characters at all to Lucha fans or AAA fans.
Season one had people like Blue Demon, Chavo, Vampiro, Alberto Del Rio, Morrison, etc. They also eventually had Rey Mysterio.
I honestly think it was more people being unaware that it existed.
So it’s the addition of a background track that makes traditional location shoots turn into the now ballyhooed cinematic match.