Im neuen WON war Lucha Underground eines der großen Themen. Ein paar nette Hintergründe:
In a project that started with much fanfare, the first tapings of Lucha Underground took place this weekend in Boyle Heights, in Los Angeles, and already left people with the feeling of what could have been with a revitalized AAA product doing an Hispanic-geared project built around names like Alberto Del Rio, Rey Mysterio, Myzteziz, Perro Aguayo Jr. and Blue Demon Jr.
Instead, we got a show that was described as a cross between Wrestle Society X with Vince Russo style booking at the first taping on 9/6, with a heel owner (believed to be an actor) and his Authority like henchman, the Crenshaw Crew who were Cortez Castro (formerly Ricky Reyes, real name Rick Diaz), Cisco (formerly Lil Cholo) and Big Ryck (using that spelling, Rycklon Stephens, the former Ezekiel Jackson).
The first show was taped in a largely empty studio, with a few wrestling fans and most extras, maybe 100 people in all, who were mostly hired to be studio audiences at television shows, and were being paid $9 to act as fans, but in a building with no air conditioning and them having no emotional attachment, they just sat there for the most part. There weren’t even enough to come close to filling the building. Aside from wrestling web sites and social media, the only word regarding tickets was flyers put on cars at the PWG Battle of Los Angeles shows the previous week. There were virtually no Hispanic fans at the first show, but Blue Demon Jr. and Dorian Roldan on twitter promoted the second night of tapings and gave the address, just telling fans to show up.
The second show on 9/7 had more wrestling fans and a hotter crowd. There were still several dozen extras.
All week long, the promotion urged the talent to keep everything under wraps after stories got out regarding contract negotiations. Fans had to sign non-disclosure letters about the results of the tapings, yet pretty much everything got out both nights anyway, not that in the long run it will make a bit of difference.
The shows are said to be the complete brainchild and vision of Mark Burnett, the reality show guru. The shows are completely scripted. Much of the talent on the original roster list didn’t sign over the contract issues noted last week, including Joey Ryan, The Young Bucks, Candice LaRae, Frankie Kazarian, Matt Sydal and Scorpio Sky.
There were a few wrestlers who were considered stars and given good deals, which included Chavo Guerrero Jr., Konnan, the former John Morrison (whose name is Johnny Mundo, Mundo being Spanish for world–his original name in the script was Johnny World and that still may be what his name ends up being ), the former Jackson, and the pairing of the masked Prince Puma and manager Konnan. Prince Puma is Trevor Mann, better known as Ricochet. A deal was worked out between Evolve and the promotion to get Mann. There were reports of the promotion spending big money to buy him out of his contract, but those close to Evolve denied that, just saying all three sides reached a deal that worked in all of their best interests. The idea is that the rest of the shows were scripted out and they believed that the talent and roles they had done scripts for could be filled by hiring new people.
Matt Striker and Vampiro will be the English language announcers for El Rey. No word on the Spanish crew for UniMas, nor has there been any announcement from UniMas on the show, when it starts, or the time slot. Vampiro was heavily criticized in his announcing debut as an English language announcer for TripleMania. The reports we got is that talk of Jim Ross as an announcer, which never even got to the point of negotiations, was nixed because they felt Ross was too connected in fans’ eyes with WWE. The joke was that they then hired Striker, and hired Jackson and Morrison to be two of the top stars.
The shows are heavily interview oriented and backstage skit oriented, so the live crowd didn’t see much of the product, mostly just the matches.
They ordered all fans to put away their phones as they were afraid of information getting out, but it still did. They ended up confiscating phones, but didn’t ask anyone to leave because the building was so empty to begin with.
From fans, the complaints were long periods of down time. It appeared they had spent a lot of money on the set.
They only taped five matches the first night, and it appeared two of them were dark matches.
Famous B (Brian Winbush) pinned B-Boy (Benjamin Cuntapay), both using their Southern California indie names, so that may have been a dark match. A second match saw someone billed as Mil Muertas, a masked man that was AAA star Mesias (best known as Puerto Rican star Ricky Banderas, real name Gilbert Cosme), managed by a woman who was Karlee Perez, the former Maxine in WWE, beating Magnificent Martin, who was Martin Casaus, the Donny Osmond looking guy on the Steve Austin season of Tough Enough. Martin was seconded by Kitty Meow, who was Kitty in the old WOW promotion.
The next three matches were for what is likely the debut episode on 10/8, which means they are only taping one television show per night, which is decidedly not cost effective for a one hour television show.
The matches were described to me as WWE style television bouts. Chavo Guerrero Jr., as the agent, was telling people to do less and make it mean more. Konnan was pushing more of a PWG style. The point being, this was not a Lucha Libre show even though Lucha was in the title.
Before the first match, “the promoter” came out, who is a heel and announced that whoever impresses him the most tonight will get a $100,000 bonus. Blue Demon Jr. (Luis Robadan) pinned Chavo Guerrero Jr. Demon’s knee went out during the match in catching Guerrero Jr. on a dive when he slipped on a ringside mat. They went to the finish twice but Demon’s knee wouldn’t hold up. Son of Havoc, who was Matt Capiccioni, better known as Matt Cross, also from the Austin season of Tough Enough, beat Sexy Star (Dulce Garcia) , the masked AAA woman wrestler, in what I believe was a two out of three fall match (either that or they taped multiple matches). Sexy Star is not someone who should be doing long singles matches. I was told this match didn’t work at all. The last match was Johnny World (Morrison) pinning Prince Puma (Ricochet) in a good match, but not a great match. Konnan was not with Puma, although that could be because he just had his hip replaced and he’d have to be out there on crutches and they may not have wanted to debut him on television like that. The Crenshaw Crew then attacked both guys and were revealed as the heel owner’s henchmen.
Of the five AAA wrestlers announced for the project, three, Fenix, Drago and Pentagon Jr., weren’t there, with reports that it was due to working visas not being completed, which in and of itself sounds like a bad sign. In fact, the only person on either taping who is not a U.S. citizen is Sexy Star.
AAA was doing television tapings over the weekend in Mexico where most of its top stars were.
They’ve also announced that bands will be playing at the TV tapings. Whether that will be to entertain fans during the long breaks, or part of the series, is unknown, but from what I did hear, nobody spoke of bands playing as part of the finished product, only that it will be a show built heavily around backstage scripted segments.
Hernandez and Ivelisse Velez didn’t appear before the audience the first night, but did the second night. Melissa Santos was the ring announcer. She had a background as part of a Women of Wrestling revival attempt by David McLane in recent years. The report we got is that she was cute, and she could correctly pronounce the names of cities in Mexico, but aside from that, she was terrible.
On 9/6, a show likely taped for 10/15, Hernandez pinned Ricky Mandell in a dark match. Hernandez won with the pounce. Mandell came off the top rope and Hernandez was supposed to catch him at one point but lost his balance and stumbled. The Crenshaw Crew cut a promo, but were attacked by Johnny Mundo and Prince Puma. Mundo went after Big Ryck. Cisco and Castro attacked Mundo until Puma made the save and a tag match was made. Mundo & Puma then beat Cisco & Castro using simultaneous 450 splashes on each guy. Puma did cool stuff and was the standout. Guerrero Jr. & Sexy Star beat Son of Havoc & Velez when Guerrero pinned Havoc after a frog splash. Guerrero Jr. & Sexy Star were the faces. Decent bout. Muertas beat Demon Jr. After the match, Guerrero Jr. teased making a save for Demon Jr., He chased Muertas off with a chair, but then did the swerve and hit Demon Jr. with a chair. Two refs jumped in, but Guerrero Jr. laid them out as well. B-Boy and Famous B, who will likely have different names, ran in, and both got taken out with a chair shot. Sexy Star (who teamed with Chavo in week one), came out, but Chavo hit her with a chair as well. Chavo continued to beat down Demon Jr. with a chair until apparently the show ended with Chavo sitting in the ring laughing while everyone all over the ring was laid out.
One person at the taping noted the show, which took 90 minutes to tape, felt like it was the Guerrero Jr. show. The idea of building around Guerrero Jr. as the top heel rival for Demon Jr., a guy who was booked in a Heath Slater-like role in WWE and didn’t get over in TNA, and is now about to turn 44, made no sense. Even though Eddy Guerrero was a superstar to Mexican Americans and Chavo Sr. was a headliner in California in the 70s and Gori is a Mexican legend, Chavo Jr. was a prelim guy in the U.S. and never any kind of a star in Mexico, nor is he a Guerrero just breaking into the business.
The plan is to tape 39 episodes at the studio over the next seven months as the first season, and then next year try to break out with touring, major shows, PPV and merchandise.
One person said that it looked to be a about a $700,000 production, which is roughly what WWE spent for Raw in a major arena as recently as a year ago. So they nickeled and dimed talent and lost key people (although probably the biggest factor in losing out on the top talent was more the seven year exclusive contracts), but could save millions if they just taped two shows per night instead of one, or even taped three-ways and not have the long delays between matches by getting everything not match related done in pre-tapes. Considering they have a writing team that mostly worked for WWE, including head writer DeJoseph, clearly those ideas wouldn’t be a secret.