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Friday, September 16, 2016

Lucha Underground Season 2 Episode 26: Ultima Lucha Dos - Part III

1. Fenix, Aerostar & Drago vs. Jack Evans, Johnny Mundo & PJ Black

ER: Really great match in terms of tecnico craziness, and without a dud PJ Black performance this could have been one of the great modern spotfests. So let's enjoy it for what it was, a tremendous showcase for Fenix and Aerostar. Drago seemed to have a problem overshooting things this match, but his heart was in a kind and crazy place. Evans was kind of going into business for himself, stealing some attention by doing silly things like bumping bigger delivering a move than the guy actually taking a move (at one point he catches Fenix on the top rope, and then goes flying off the apron with nobody bringing it up, felt almost Teddy Hart-ish). But damn Fenix and Aerostar. Those guys seem like they're just making up their looniness as they go, and I love them for it. Aerostar walks around the ropes like he has fly paper on the bottom of his shoes, and Fenix was just great glue centering this match. Didn't care tons for the Bullet Club style home stretch where all the illegal stuff happens and then some other guy interferes to cancel out the cheating, and Striker makes dogshit shoehorned 3rd Bass references, but whatever, Aerostar and Fenix are awesome.

MD: They've really done an amazing job moving wrestlers up and down the card in Lucha Underground. It doesn't always work, which is why we had an inconsequential Mil Muertes match earlier but Drago and Fenix have been at the top and that makes them in a trios with Aerostar feel all the more important. I think this match sort of highlights how I look at LU differently than Eric (and certainly Phil). I have a hard time distancing myself from the fact it's a TV show with wrestling matches. That's the thing that we've been all but programmed to hate and rebel against, certainly since 98-99 and how that idea killed things we loved, but that's really what we're dealing with, and when it works, it works. In that regard, the Angelico return felt like a big, earned moment, and I think it worked almost solely because the beatdown had gotten into overkill. If the beatdown hadn't gotten that annoying, the comeuppance wouldn't have mattered as much. To me, the bigger problems in the match were the inconsistency of the ref's actions. It makes sense (begrudgingly) when a ref is trying to keep a tecnico acting tecnico but those lines just aren't drawn in this show. They set up a big transition with a ref stopping the babyfaces so really, the match should have been over immediately, later on, after the ref got pulled out. If they're going to introduce an element, they should be consistent with it. Past that, this was fun and action packed with the crazy spots Eric mentioned. I could have used a little less butt-based offense, a little less collaboration, and a cooler looking triple team Invasores battering ram, but it's not like any of these guys are Kraneo.

2. Dragon Azteca Jr. vs. Black Lotus

ER: I couldn't begin to explain (or care about) the Black Lotus story, and I'm pretty burned out on intergender matches (especially singles matches), and I had never seen any Angela Fong matches before, so was not too excited by this one. I like Azteca and thought he had some pretty nice stuff here. He set her up nicely to succeed, and I think about half the time she did. There were some ugly moments like her flimsy elbows, but I liked how she ragdolled after Azteca's response elbow. Azteca worked fast and crazy, that missed springboard 450 to the floor was just nuts. I don't know how someone's ankles don't just shatter after that. I thought Lotus' sliding knee looked good and she took a brutal bump into the ringside barrier, but after a bit it was a little annoying seeing Azteca bumping so hard and fast for her offense, and there was a lot of stuff they both made look clunky. I wasn't too crushed when Pentagon came out for some arm breaking, though it's a bummer that Azteca was just an afterthought.

MD: I get that they consider 2 and 3 part of one big season and that it set up Pentagon vs Rey to start S3, but having Sid come down and destroy someone is never a very good way to make a grand debut. Just too much weirdness here, with the announcers as clueless as Eric about the ongoing storyline and the intensity coming and going far too much considering MURDER was on the line. I do think this match, as much as any they've done, highlighted the Street Fighter II sort of feel they say they go for where a man and a woman can just face off like it's Chun Li vs Ryu or something and you're barely supposed to notice. Sexy Star overcoming adversity to be a symbol is too primal a part of her character for that. We were supposed to buy Black Lotus as an equal threat and I'd say that they managed it 75% of the time as opposed to Eric's 50%. That said, I had forgotten this had gone so long in my first watch and I've already forgotten most of it again a few days later.

3. Pentagon Dark vs. Matanza

ER: This didn't actually do much for me, which is a shame as I obviously like both guys. The Vampiro-as-Master thing, and characters who can't be hurt always end up problematic, as they usually just start selling for reasons never explained. Add to that, the structure of the match just bored me after awhile, even if I liked a lot of the moves being done. We get literally 8 minutes of Pentagon control to start, and other than insisting on being called "Dark" and the S&M vignettes with he and Vampiro, he didn't act any more vicious than we had previously seen. Shit, last season he almost lit a guy on fire. Here, he added some weird campy, swishy strut. Did anyone else notice that? He did it several times so it had to be intentional, just braining a guy with a chair and then doing a little Charles Nelson Reilly walk. Matanza took a big beating on the floor, taking some wild bumps into chairs, taking chairshots to various body parts (I loved when he went for almost a desperation double leg and Pentagon nailed a chairshot while he was rushing in), all sorts of chops and leg kicks, big tumble into the barrier.....but it just went on way too long. Matanza goes from a guy who can never be kept down for more than a move or two, to a guy who just takes an 8 minute beating, for reasons, I suppose. So Matanza takes an overlong beating, then starts throwing Pentagon around (though here more than any other time it's way too obvious that - just because he CAN do them - Cobb should not be doing standing shooting star press/standing moonsault). I'll never tire of Cobb's stopped momentum suplexes, but then the finish was just lame as Pentagon gets distracted by Dario (why does he hate Dario again?) and Cobb hits him with a barbed wire bat and that's all she wrote. Real disappointing. The beatdown went on so long, Matanza sold until he didn't, Vampiro looked like an exhausted Guardian Angel, and overall it just kinda bored me.

MD: This is another case where the story and the execution weren't quite in sync. I'm actually pretty torn on the Pentagon stuff from this episode. It was just all over the place tonally. He destroyed Dragon Azteca, Jr. and Black Lotus, both of whom are fairly sympathetic. He lost here, while dominating and being extreme or what not, but also playing to the crowd and drawing cheers. He got upset after the match. Then at the end of the show he came out and killed Vampiro and that was the way they ended it. It was all over the place. If they had pulled the trigger and gave him the title, it would have been one thing. This doesn't feel like the best way to tease a face turn to the crowd and then make try to make him more evil. It was just muddy all around.

Just from sheer results alone, it's a big deal that Pentagon was able to dominate Matanza so thoroughly. That, in and of itself, made the Dark transformation feel more meaningful, and that was, very much in how they protected Matanza so far. While I think the beatdown had to drone on annoyingly in the trios match, I agree with Eric that it was too long here; they could have gotten the same point across in half the time and everyone would have probably looked better for it (Pentagon's offense wouldn't have seemed inconsequential. Matanza wouldn't have had to work from underneath for so long). I'm a bit torn on the shooting star press too. I really disliked acrobatics which happened in the Mack vs Cage match after some nasty shots. Here, though, I think it might have added to the unreality and surreality of Matanza, the inhuman nature of him, that lumbering final boss who's not just strong but impossibly (and improbably fast) in the way that you punch the wall in frustration. That said, I didn't buy the finish. Vampiro needed to screw up more, maybe? It was nice, however, to see Dario's best Jimmy Hart impression as the sacrificial lamb who was saved at the last moment. No, this was just too all over the place. Frankly, I think they would have been off shifting this transformation earlier in the season and running Grave Consequences II with Mil and Matanza here instead.

4. Taya vs. Ivelisse

ER: I think I like both of these two more as trios workers. I think they've almost always added a bunch to their trios matches, but here they just have a very standard, so-so singles match. Some of the brawling was good, some of it was sloppy. A lot of the "brutal" kicks that Striker was rubbing one out to didn't come off as heavy as he wanted them to. And then we get interference leading directly to the finish for the 4th straight match as Catrina teleports, derp derp.

MD: I don't have a ton to say about Taya vs Ivelisse. Taya is 100% into her character and she's a really good heel act because of it, but I'm with Eric that she's better as part of a team. The first chunk of the match was built around Taya's short ddt onto the chair, which I thought Ivelisse sold well, but then the announcers seemed to completely miss it. I don't know. I thought this was about as effective as it could be, but like almost everything else on the card, it suffered from a "mid-season" sort of feel and the interference that goes along with that. This show was painfully lacking in finality.

5. Prince Puma vs. Rey Mysterio

ER: I liked this quite a bit, still have no idea how Rey is working the way he's working. Weren't his knees just powder like a decade ago? Puma was in a tough spot as the storyline and announcing were pushing this all the way as a passing the torch match, but the crowd seemed way into Rey and didn't seem to care if a torch was passed or not, they just wanted to see a hot match. The match didn't land with me as well as it did for others, I thought some of the rehearsed stuff came off too rehearsed, and I didn't think it came anywhere close to Rey/Ki. Most matches don't come close to Rey/Ki, but it felt like a lot of the people over the moon for this match were mostly shocked that Rey could still go like this. And again, it is shocking that Rey can go like this, but we've seen him in a MOTY within the past year. But we got to see some pretty spectacular stuff here. It still boggles my mind how they manage to land on their feet after doing a headscissors over the top rope, that's like a vaudeville stunt that would have made someone famous. I rewound Rey's belly slide splash to the floor a few times, I've never seen it land so damn violently. I have no clue how Puma didn't shit his pants. I liked the struggle through some of the things they did, loved Puma going for splash mountain and Rey kicking him in the kidneys to get out of it. Ugh then fucking Striker actually had to start calling shit a "I'm Sorry, I Love You" moment. Twice. And then fucking Vampiro did. Shut the fuck up. Let this be its own shit. I wanted to vomit when he said it. The finish is nuts, loved how it played out with the 619 getting caught but turned into a gross reverse rana, and then Puma going all SUWA/Psicosis on that balls out top rope rana. Good lord that looked neck breaking. I'm not totally sure why Rey went over here. Rey is one of the all time greats, a true legend, and everybody knows that. They spent so long building this up as Puma's big star making moment, that him losing just makes zero sense.

MD: It's weird but I kind of miss Konnan as part of Puma's act. I think he would have added something here, maybe even more than he would have subtracted. Before I go on a tangent, let me say that I liked the match a lot. Rey's smoothness is outright amazing to me. It's not just that he hits incredibly complex things cleanly, but he does it with such physical purpose. It's always with the right emphesis or the right positioning and so often it takes into account his own selling appropriately for the point in the match he was in. Also, I had completely forgotten how great his punches could be because he never used them much.

It's hard to sort of babyface vs babyface matches sometimes, because you have to seek out something other than shine/face/comeback to use as an analytic model. Here, though, there were a number of story threads, including escalating intensity, Puma's youth vs Rey's experience, and Rey going for the 619 and Puma going for moves out of the fireman's carry. Going back to these gave the match narrative touchstones and it became far more than a 50-50 spotfest.  I don't entirely mind the finish because it gives Puma something else to shoot for. Again though, that's a bit of a mid-season thing.

I have to add that the very worst moment of wrestling I can think of all year was when Striker went on about the "I Love You Man" moment. What referential madness. That's the only word for it. Pure madness. He couldn't have stepped further outside the moment of the match if he ... actually, I can't even think of a way he could have broken up the flow of the match and undermined any actual emotion in that moment more. It was that bad.

ER: I honestly do not give a shit about Pentagon turning on his master. He already almost lit him on fire a year ago, I don't care about their relationship, it never made sense from go. Here he canes him out of paralysis or something, and makes him "darker", even though he didn't do anything different than he did previously. So Vampiro takes some nasty as hell bat shots and bleeds like somehow only fat guys can bleed, but....I don't care. Pentagon came back and cut a redundant babyface promo about how he was Pentagon DARK, which sounds like a new Mountain Dew flavor, and then he lost. Again. Why do I care that he can make a fat retired wrestler bleed?

MD: I think so much of the strength of Ultima Lucha I was that they didn't know they were coming back, so they made sure to tie things off, down to the closing montage. Here, this closed more like a mid-season break. They should have spent a minute doing another montage just to hanmer home that what happened on this show mattered.


COMPLETE LUCHA UNDERGROUND EPISODE GUIDE


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