Segunda Caida

Phil Schneider, Eric Ritz, Matt D and occasional guests write about pro wrestling. Follow us @segundacaida

Saturday, November 21, 2020

LUCHA UNDERGROUND ~FINAL~ EPISODE: Ultima Lucha Cuatro - Part 2

ER: When I started Lucha Underground season 4 TWO YEARS AGO, who could have possibly predicted it would take two years to complete? It was that magical combination of near total disinterest in the product after seeing the show's quality decline each season to the next, with a stupid completionist attitude of "you've already written up the rest of the show, might as well finish this race". I loved the first and second season, found some bright spots in the third season, and have just not really enjoyed a lot of this final season. Replacing Dario with Antonio was a brutal decision, most storyline payoffs were weak or poorly constructed, and the roster wasn't anywhere close to as interesting as it was in the first couple seasons. But I like finishing projects, and this one was more of an attainable goal just because it was actually finite. And so, six years after the show began and just over two years after the show's finale aired, we come to the conclusion of Lucha Underground on Segunda Caida.

TL: LU is one of the weirdest entities in recent wrestling history: A pro wrestling outlet with genuine backing and a fresh take that became this supernova of a favorite within not only the wrestling community, but with actual, honest-to-God mainstream buzz. We're talking about a show that was featured at SXSW after its first season, for crying out loud! And then they predictably gave it all away, going away from what made it so appealing in the first place and making some questionable decisions both with personnel and booking that it could never really recover from. What was found out by the time Season 4 came around was that, just as a show can earn tons of goodwill basically overnight, it can lose it just as fast, if not faster. Talent predictably lost faith in the direction of the company when predatory contracts were handed out like a death sentence, and on top of that, outsiders brought in never really elevated the organically grown original roster member to the heights necessary to thrive. That may have been the most crucial aspect of the company: It was COMPLETELY organic and self-sustaining, and the pro wrestling trope of guys with name value on the outside looking in at the hot new show on the block trying to get involved because they're "veterans" essentially killed a lot of what made it work. So here we are, seeing how high the dead cat can bounce.

ER: I liked our opening Mundo/Taya segment. Mundo has good Meathead Han Solo energy, and Taya's braid shaking sell of the doll possessing her was hilarious. They seem like fun.


2/3 Falls: Dragon Azteca Jr. vs. Fenix

ER: This match was good enough, and they tried some big things, but I cannot get interested in the Melissa Santos/Fenix angle. She doesn't have the acting chops to pull it off, and it was far more interesting when they were just fawning over each other like they were in a 2000s Morrissey video. Her having to act through ring announcements is ruffff. The first two falls are a little dry, felt like they were holding back for the third fall, which makes sense. Rudo Fenix isn't really any different than Tecnico Fenix, other than occasionally glowering at Melissa, and a lot of his offense looks like it's focusing more on a soft landing, which makes some of their exchanges look tentative. The tercera gets changed to Falls Count Anywhere by Antonio, and we get some violent callbacks to the earlier falls, but they also don't make a ton of sense. Fenix hit a nice German in the ring on Azteca early in the match, and it's weird when he hits one on the floor that is sold basically the same as the one in the ring. Similarly, Azteca won the segunda with his big tornado DDT, yet when he does the same on the floor Fenix is up wandering into place seconds later. It's weird to do callback spots when you're only calling attention to the newer painful versions being somehow less effective. We get some nice big spots around a table that refuses to break (nice rana off the upper level seating, big Fenix senton off the top to the floor), before it finally gets pulverized by an Azteca cradle driver off the top. The big spots didn't really lead to any big pinfall moments though, and it all felt like it was just building up to be the background to Melissa's involvement, which leads to no justice or interesting storyline wrap. It does lead to Shaul Guerrero as our guest ring announcer for the final hour of the promotion's history, so that's a weird footnote.

TL: A bit too cooperative at the start for this one, and the rapid cuts on the strike exchanges make me beg for a wide shot to see how bad it looked in full. Azteca had a nice dive, and the Fenix Driver to finish the first fall was definitely nasty. Azteca's crispness on offense is always fun, shows out a bit in fall two with the absolutely wild swinging DDT to even it up. The restart to make the final fall Falls Count Anywhere was a bit on the nose, but at the same time, it'll give Fenix an excuse to do something mighty dumb. I liked the German basically out of nowhere on the floor, as suddenness in a stip match based on the ruleset always pops me. The swinging DDT on the floor was even more wild than the one that evened up the match, but I wish there was at least a pin opportunity off it. And then Fenix kicks out at two off the rana through the table, rendering that point moot, I guess. The Fenix Swanton to the floor where he basically wipes out on the table is some Great Sasuke shit, and then Fenix takes the Cassadora through the table for a near fall and I guess you have to actually kill him? And then one time through the table and another Fenix Driver finishes? So Azteca never really had a shot? Just a strange layout for the match, doesn't really give Azteca a rub as the Azteca/Melissa stuff made him look dumb, and then Antonio says, "Love makes you do strange things," which is the cherry on top of this. Shaul Guerrero is fine? This company mystifies to the very end.



The Mack vs. Mil Muertes

ER: This had the same kind of unhinged first season cartoon violence that made that season so damn enjoyable. Two heavyweights work a fast sprint that has hard punches and kicks, big dives, hard bumps, big nearfalls, and an axe getting swung at Mack's head. It is a death match, after all. This felt like the entire match was really made for absolute Temple Fan Enjoyment, as each section was worked the way the Temple seems to respond to. Muertes is my favorite brawler in the fed and I could watch him knock Mack in the head with those big right hands all day. Both guys hit crazy topes, and Muertes has an awesome one that knocks Mack backwards into the ringside casket. But I also really liked the big nearfalls section where both guys had titanic finishers spammed to death, like a sick Mack powerslam and an even sicker flatliner that Mack takes crooked on his head. The finish stretch is classic LU, with Mack hitting a few stunners and then breaking a damn brick over Mil's head, putting him down with one last big stunner. Great all action match that felt like them getting an opportunity to work the match I knew they could work together. They had a singles match earlier this season that was incredibly dumb, a Haunted House match that included a "serious" section where Muertes got out a knife. This showed they had much better ways of integrating weapons into a match that was actually interesting. I'm happy they got a second singles match on the books as it's a singles pairing I always wanted from LU. It took until the literal final episode to deliver, but we made it.

TL: The pre-match was cute, Shaul not finding her footing yet is a bit odd given she's only 30, only an AEW ring announcing credit to her name? I'm extremely happy this matchup is happening, as Mil and Mack were two of the bright spots in the promotion's history, and the casket to start has me stoked. Mack is nuts, hitting his fat guy tope con giro and braining himself on a DDT on the apron. And then things pick up from there and these are two guys that know how to turn it up a few notches. The weapons in the casket is an awesome touch, and then the Muertes tope sending both into the casket was gnarly. We have an axe and a sickle involved, so I guess someone's been watching Mr. Pogo matches. I mean, a couple of weeks ago, someone actually got shot during a wedding angle on IMPACT so an axe doesn't surprise me. An ICE PICK, goddamn. I just rewatched Basic Instinct a couple weeks ago and yeah, the ice pick shots led to grimacing. A spinning heel kick that looked nasty AND Mack saying "KUNTA KINTE 3000" before laying in a shot, Mack rules, man. Muertes also hits his nasty chokeslam, so I feel like I'm getting everything I wanted out of this match and then some. Mack getting to kick out of the Flatliner is a great sign of respect considering how protected that finish is, AND THEN MACK HITS HIM WITH A BRICK AND A THIRD STUNNER FOR THE WIN. Mack's run in LU was an absolute blast, and Muertes was without a doubt the most consistent person in the entire run; to see them go out with one last banger against each other is incredibly satisfying. Highly doubt anything will touch this for me the rest of the night.

PAS: This was good stuff, a classic Mil Muertes garbage brawl with blood, dumb bumps and stupid weapons. Nothing in this felt space alieny or spooky ghosts, just two big dudes escalating violently until the ending. The spin out of the chokeslam into a stunner was really cool, I wonder if Austin and the Undertaker ever did that spot? I liked the Icepick as Kevin Sullivan's spike and the blood looked really cool in Mack Afro's like red soul glow activator.  LU eventually killed me, and I stopped caring about any of this stuff, but this match is the kind of thing that initially drew me to the fed. 


Johnny Mundo vs. Matanza

ER: I am genuinely excited for this one. I don't think I'm being hyperbolic or nostalgic to say that this episode has captured a real Season 1 vibe so far, the obvious best season of the series run. Is this like how March 2001 WCW was actually feeling like things were changing for the better, just a few episodes before it was all over? The power glove thing is soooo stupid but also soooo perfectly Lucha Underground. Mundo has a super power glove and it gives us a sign of Matanza we've never seen before, because now Matanza actually fears something. So we get a fun mixture of invincible Matanza as he kicks out of an early Moonlight Drive and other Mundo attacks, and tosses him with a few hard landing suplexes. The Gift to the Gods looks great, and Matanza really chucks him off the top with an overhead belly to belly. They brawl up to the top of some Temple structures, and we get fun Mundo parkour leap into a far wall, but he still gets caught by Matanza and tossed into a different wall. We get a big stunt fall where Mundo gets tossed through a roof ("You can see the asbestos falling from the walls," says Striker, a poor thing to have on tape when it comes to future class action lawsuits) and we get the big LU moment of power glove Mundo emerging through a door in the wreckage. Scared Matanza is a fun sight and something we might as well get to see in the final episode, love how weird begging off Matanza felt. We still got a couple of Matanza last gasps and this never felt like Mundo was going to dominantly come back, and it still felt like a big deal when Mundo put the monster away.

TL: Matanza's entrance gear is absolutely outrageous, some shit that he should have worn every week. Big time Vader mastodon helmet vibes with it. And yeah, I'm with Eric, the Power Glove is one of the great kitschy pro wrestling gimmicks of our time, and Mundo has the range to do fun stuff with it. And that happens in the start where he shows it could actually take down Matanza, a great bit of psychology to start, and then Matanza catches him and starts absolutely mauling him with sick power moves, including an impressive vaulting belly-to-belly. Mundo had a nice little comeback, too, and then just an insane Super German Suplex from Matanza with Mundo vaulting off the top of the post for maximum height. If you're gonna have a bombfest and aren't going to crush each other like Mack and Muertes, at least go big and with style, you know? The parkour stuff was great, too, which is a rarity in a Mundo match for me, so these guys are doing a great job with this match style, something that has genuinely impressed me. It's wild that LU missed so much in Season 4 only to have a match that encapsulates everything about it in basically one match, and the Johnny rising from the dead to use the gauntlet's power to kick out of the Wrath of the Gods and BIG PUNCH his way to victory, just a boatload of entertaining pro wrestling bullshit. Eric and I have watched a ton of cheesy horror movies lately so all those tropes rang true here, and both guys played the roles to perfection. Wild that he'd give up the glove like that, though, better man than me.

ER: I disagree with Tim's statement that there are such a thing as "cheesy horror movies". 


Pentagon Dark vs. Marty The Moth Martinez

ER: The Moth has basically retired from wrestling post LU (he has had less than 10 matches since this one, and this one aired two years ago), and he goes out with an all time LU performance. This whole match is the Moth show. He hits a true gusher, no blood packets for the Moth, just that thick kind of blood that soaks your entire head and thins your hair. Marty throws himself around ringside with abandon, going through several sets of chairs and hard into the ringpost (which is when the blood starts flowing). LU is a fed where basically everyone (especially heels) was required to take sprawling bumps through ringside chairs, in the same way everyone in NOAH had to learn how to get thrown into a guardrail. Guys getting tossed into chairs is always something that lands with me, with so many moving parts that it always looks painful and chaotic. Now considering guys go through chairs at least once per LU episode, it's pretty awesome that Moth's chair bumps actually stood out as crazy. He hip tosses Pentagon through a table, rips at his mask, stabs him with a fork, eats what appears to be a piece of bacon, and gets Pentagon bleeding. The match needed more blood, so this is obviously a good thing. That's about all Moth got out of this, busting Pentagon open and eventually hitting him while stuck in a trashcan, because the bulk of this was Moth making Pentagon look like (Antonio Cueto voice) A GOD. Moth bumps around for Pentagon and makes Penta come off like the top guy, eats a flipping piledriver off the floor, flies out of the ring through a table, gets a barbed wire board bounced off his head, gets thrown through glass (!), and eats a sick package piledriver through a bunch of chairs. Pentagon was essentially working as Hogan during the last couple LU seasons, all catchphrases and relying on others to violently bump for him, but with enough charisma it is a tecnico formula that clearly works.

TL: Perhaps the most telling thing about LU is that Marty Martinez, who has essentially disappeared from pro wrestling since this finale, is in the main event of a show in the last episode of the series, and is in a match that really has little doubt going into it of who will win. Just an absolutely weird run for him, too, as the whole psychopath gimmick was so hit-and-miss outside the ring, only to see him overperform inside the ring, including with Fenix at Ultima Lucha Tres. But we know it's Penta Dark's night to end it on top, and the only thing to consider going in is if he'll actually go for it or hold off knowing that sweet Tony Khan money is coming. Marty is going for it early on, though, taking wild bumps and hitting an absolute gusher two minutes in, and if you're gonna go out, you might as well go out bleeding all over the place. Penta is bringing it, so I'm happy about that, at least. These two really do just go all out, chair shots, the garbage can shots, and then the bat shots to the garbage can Penta is stuck in, just really violent shit. I mean, Marty does lesser stuff like the table bump to the outside and then goes through the pane of glass full on, takes the Fear Factor through chairs...look, this is absolutely the Triple H at Royal Rumble 2000 performance from Marty, a very good way to go out, and Penta did enough here to make it worth watching. I don't think I liked it as much as Muertes/Mack, but I'm a big fan.

ER: Hilariously, a barely mobile Vampiro brings in his MASTER, who is actually honestly seriously called Hexagon Dark (because why would you follow a master who has one less side?) and Vampiro's master is the tiniest little man! I thought it was Darby Allin, but apparently it is Australian Suicide, who is the same size as AAA era Rey. They couldn't have found anyone with decent size? Bring back Ezekiel Jackson from the grave and put him under a Penta mask? I'm pretty sure the only guy in LU smaller than Hexagon would be Mascarita Sagrada, but I'd have to see them standing side by side to be certain. And then Jake Strong comes out and cashes in Gift of the Gods to be the final champion in LU history!! The whole episode felt designed to give the LU fans nothing but matches they wanted and finishes they wanted to see, and then the entire series ends with the fans bummed out and quiet about Jake Strong.

TL: The Australian Suicide Hexagon Dark master bullshit was hilarious to me, and leading to the obvious Strong cash-in bullshit was even more hilarious. Marty goes out like that knowing he's done, and then you get about as impactful a Strong cash-in as when he won his MITB cash-in. This means that LU absolutely was thinking a Season 5 was going to happen, when everything about the show said otherwise, and the postscripts, with Matanza getting his heart ripped out (?!?), Strong getting the glove, Taya being possessed by a damn doll, I think I would have loved to see Lucha Underground Season 5: Temple of the Gods. AND THE WADE BARRETT REVEAL. GODFREY IN THE LIMO. Why is Lucha Underground deciding to become interesting right when I lose interest? AND LITTLE CUETO IS BACK? Okay, I take back everything I said, bring it back, man.

ER: And we get a long, wistful series of vignettes, segments designed to set up the storylines for a season 5 that was assuredly never going to happen. Black Lotus murders Matanza with the gauntlet, Strong steals the gauntlet from series punching bag and perpetual loser Dragon Azteca Jr. (breaking his ankle just to remind him that he's a loser), Taya is possessed, and Wade Barrett is revealed as a higher power (in 2018 we would have had no clue how true a higher power he was, as taking Mauro Ranallo's voice off of television is a real god tier move). And to really hammer home the cruelty, we get one final glimpse of Dario being resurrected, and as much of a drag parts of this last season was, I would have obviously been back for season 5 and WARRING CUETOS!! But they went out with a very strong last episode, and that will leave a lot of goodwill for a promotion that I watched in its entirety.

TL: This is still pretty obviously the death knell for the promotion given most of the guys on top are with other promotions, namely AEW, but you have to give them credit for at least making it look like they had a plan going forward. Dueling Cuetos, leaning in completely to the Gods motif, I mean, gimme 22 episodes of that, please. Someone is going to want to watch this the entire way through years from now because it'll be readily available on something other than Tubi and be flabbergasted by what happened here: a promotion that got a ton of talent, most of them at exactly the right time, but only went forward with specific guys due to a number of factors that seem so incredibly dubious in retrospect, only to stumble sideways into greatness multiple weeks due to that multitude of talent. LU was odd until the very end, and perhaps the only thing that would be more odd and more fitting is if somehow they got everyone back together for Season 5, even with all odds stacked against them. We'll be ready when it happens.



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