Sunday, February 5, 2017

Lucha Underground: Ultima Lucha Dos Review

The 2nd Season of Lucha Underground reaches its conclusion!

Lucha Underground: Ultima Lucha Dos
Los Angeles, California 7/6/16, 7/13/16, & 7/20/16 (Taped)

The first part of Ultima Lucha Dos mainly consisted of Dario Cueto’s “A Unique Opportunity” Tournament, where the winner would receive….a unique opportunity.

1.) “A Unique Opportunity” Tournament - Semi-Finals - Falls Count Anywhere - Cage vs. The Mack: ****

Before this match began, Dario Cueto came out and said that, because he loved the Falls Count Anywhere Match these two had at the first Ultima Lucha so much, he wanted them to replace that magic again, and makes the match a Falls Count Anywhere Match. When the dust settled, I thought these two managed to just top their match from the first Ultima Lucha, which is saying something, because that match was really good. Of course, there a ton of weapons involved, from trash cans to stop signs, and we got a big table spot with The Mack jumping off a railing to the floor to put Cage through a table. This was just a crazy brawl, and the fans were into it from start to finish. In a nice callback to their first Falls Count Anywhere Match, Cage tried to curb stomp The Mack through a cinder block, but this time, The Mack countered with rollup, and scored the victory over Cage!! The Mack advances to the Finals!! This was a great match involving two guys who know each other very well. It packed with action, and was the perfect choice to start off the show.

2.) “A Unique Opportunity” Tournament - Semi-Finals - Boyle Heights Bar Fight - Son Of Havoc vs. Texano: ***1/4

Much like the first match, Dario Cueto came out and added a stipulation to the match, but in this case, he made it a Boyle Heights Bar Fight, because when he sees a cowboy and a biker, he thinks of a bar fight. They basically had a small bar set up a ringside, with stools, glasses, and so on. This wasn’t nearly as good as the opener, but I still fought it was a pretty good match. They used the weapons available to the best of their ability. It’s nice to see Son Of Havoc get showcased in a singles environment after his run with the Trios Titles, but as far as Texano goes, he was “eh” for most of Season 2. He’s far from bad, but he really didn’t do anything that was memorable (as far as matches go) all season. Son Of Havoc ultimately got the win after double stomping Texano into some broken glass.

3.) “A Unique Opportunity” Tournament - Finals - Falls Count Anywhere - The Mack vs Son Of Havoc: **3/4

So Dario Cueto decided to make this a Falls Count Anywhere Match because his “Unique Opportunity” is so amazing and incredible.. In hindsight, I really don’t know why this match was given this stipulation, because these two just wrestled a regular match, and didn’t venture outside of the ring much at all. I actually would’ve preferred if this was just a normal singles match. We already saw a Falls Count Anywhere Match that these guys weren’t going top, and when you give a match that kind of stipulation, there’s a certain expectation, and these guys didn’t meet it. I’m not trying to crap on the match itself, as I thought both guys did a solid job considering they had both wrestled once already, but I do think this added stipulation was a little unnecessary. In the end, Son Of Havoc got the victory over The Mack, winning the “Unique Opportunity” Tournament!

After the match, Dario Cueto comes out with Black Lotus, who is carrying two briefcases. Cueto congratulates Son Of Havoc on his victory, and goes over his two choices. One briefcase has $250,000 inside, while the other has a contract for a shot at the Lucha Underground Title at Ultima Lucha Tres. Son Of Havoc makes it known that he wants the title shot, saying that it doesn’t matter how much money was in the other briefcase. Cueto says Son Of Havoc can have his guaranteed title match…..IF he wins one more match. He also adds that, if this “mystery opponent” wins, then he gets the $250,000. Famous B comes out, and introduces his new client, the legendary Dr. Wagner Jr., as the mystery opponent.

4.) Dr. Wagner Jr. (with Famous B & Brenda) vs. Son Of Havoc: *

So after all of that hype over the “Unique Opportunity” Tournament, it concludes with Dr. Wagner Jr. essentially squashing Son Of Havoc in two minutes. I have to be honest…..that’s bullshit. Son Of Havoc is incredibly popular, and I think they could’ve done something if they let him have that title shot (I’m not saying he should win the title, but they could build up to it with him defending the briefcase and such). This was just crappy end to this part of the show, and the tournament as a whole. We saw diminishing returns from a match quality standpoint, and the way they handled this from a booking standpoint just makes Son Of Havoc look bad. I know they probably wanted to do something with Dr. Wagner Jr. & Famous B, but there were better ways of utilizing them than this. Dr. Wagner wins the match, meaning that he (and I guess, by proxy, Famous B) win the $250,000 in the briefcase.

5.) Gift Of The Gods Title - Seven-Way Elimination Match - Daga vs. El Siniestro de la Muerte vs. Killshot vs. Marty “The Moth” Martinez vs. Sexy Star vs. The Mariposa vs. Night Claw: ***3/4

Night Claw, who is being portrayed here by Flamita from Dragon Gate, was the mystery participant in this match, which kicked off the second part of Ultima Lucha Dos. Unlike the previous seven way matches for the Gift Of The Gods Title, this was an elimination match. For the most part, I thought it was pretty good. All seven participants had chances to shine in here, and there was entertaining action throughout. The biggest moment of the match came from Night Claw, who hit a moonsault off the roof of Dario Cueto’s office to the floor, onto a number of his opponents. Also, Kobra Moon came out at one point to watch Daga (she’s been stalking him for a good portion of the season). I forget the order of the early eliminations, but I know it came down to a final four of Killshot, Marty “The Moth” Martinez, Sexy Star, & The Mariposa. The Martinez Family teamed up to eliminate Killshot, meaning that Sexy Star had to overcome both of her tormentors alone. Despite the odds, Sexy Star was to eliminate The Mariposa, and then made Marty “The Moth” Martinez tap out to win the Gift Of The Gods Title! Again, I thought this was pretty good, for the most part.

6.) Death Match - King Cuerno vs. Mil Muertes (with Catrina): ****

This issue actually goes back to the start of the season, where Catrina basically blocked King Cuerno from cashing in the Gift Of The Gods Title when Mil Muertes was Lucha Underground Champion. After Mil Muertes lost Graver Consequences to Matanza Cueto, King Cuerno took Mil Muertes, and kept him as (essentially) a hunting trophy. That didn’t last long, however, as Catrina soon revived Mil Muertes, who made King Cuerno his immediate target. Now, they’re having a Death Match. I thought this was great! These two had an awesome brawl that included all sorts of plunder. Mil Muertes looked dominant for a good chunk of this match, but King Cuerno did get fair amount of offense in as well. They went all over The Temple, and weapons like ladders, stairs, chairs, tables, and band equipment were used. At one point, they went up the tall entrance stairs, and put each other’s heads through windows on the second level. We also got to see Mil Muertes powerbomb King Cuerno through three separate tables, all in a row. He then finished King Cuerno off with a crowbar shot and a tombstone piledriver. This was simply a brutal match that included some incredible spots. It was definitely one of the best matches on the entire show.

7.) Lucha Underground Trios Titles - The Worldwide Underground (Johnny Mundo, Jack Evans, & PJ Black) vs. Aero Star, Drago, & Fenix: ***½

This match kicked off the third part of Ultima Lucha Dos, and the two hour Season Finale. I love the fact that Matt Striker referred to the Aero Star/Drago/Fenix trio as “The Super Friends”. It totally fits them. As far as the match goes, you would think this would be great, given who was involved. While it was a very good match that featured a ton of fun action, it wasn’t a great match. I think a lot of that had to do with the shenanigans we saw towards the end of the match. The referee got taken out at one point, which allowed The Worldwide Underground to use low blows, along with the title belts. It seems like the rudos were going to steal the win, but then Angelico came out (he still wasn’t fully healed from the injury that took him out of the second half of Season 2) and attacked them with his crutches! This switched the momentum of the match, and allowed the tecnicos to make a comeback. Eventually, Fenix scored to pin on Johnny Mundo to win the match for his team. Aero Star, Drago, & Fenix are your new Lucha Underground Trios Champions!! Again, this was a pretty good match, and it was cool to see Angelico made an appearance towards the end of the match, but the heel shenanigans that came before that definitely hurt the match, in my view.

8.) Dragon Azteca Jr. vs. Black Lotus: **1/4

Here we have the only match on the card that was built up exclusively in the backstage cutscenes. I won’t explain the details, because there’s a lot that goes into this particular story. As far as the match goes, it was relatively decent for the four minutes or so that it went. Dragon Azteca Jr. looked good, and Black Lotus actually had a few impressive moments of her own. However, the match ended up getting cut short, as Pentagon Jr., now known as Pentagon Dark came out and attacked both. He then proceeded to break both of their arms. It’s so odd that they spent all of this time building up to this match in the cutscenes (going all the way back to Season 1 when we first saw Black Lotus), and then it ends in a No Contest when Pentagon Dark (who wasn’t even involved in the feud in any way) attacks both of them. It just makes no sense, but whatever….

Pentagon Dark then cuts promo talking about his transformation, and then says that he will destroy Matanza Cueto! That pretty much leads us into our next match….

9.) Lucha Underground Title - Matanza Cueto (with Dario Cueto) vs. Pentagon Dark: ***1/4

Matanza’s first defense of the Lucha Underground Title was against Pentagon Jr., and in that match, Pentagon Jr. got absolutely destroyed. After a long road to recovery, and a rechristening of sorts, Pentagon Dark had emerged to get revenge. This was a very….interesting match to say the least. The early portions of the match were completely dominated by Pentagon Dark, and there were times where Matanza actually looked like he was outmatched. Matanza was able to comeback, and we got a bit of a back & forth match. Towards the end of the match, Vampiro got up from commentary and introduced a barbed wire baseball bat into the match (because it was No DQ), and Pentagon Dark went to use it, but Dario Cueto intervened. Pentagon Dark went after Dario, and it looked like he was going to break Dario’s arm, but Matanza hit him with the barbed wire baseball bat, and hit his finisher to score the win.

I have a lot of things to say about this match, and the decision to have Matanza retain his title here. Given the storyline coming into this match, you would think that Pentagon Jr. (I know he’s Pentagon Dark now but I’ll say Pentagon Jr. for this argument) was 100% winning this. He had gotten destroyed by Matanza earlier in the season, got back on the road to recovery, came back better than even, and even underwent a more sinister transformation. All of that would lead any logical person to believe that Pentagon Jr. was winning here, but nope, that’s not what happened. I thought it was a terrible decision to have Pentagon Jr. lose here, especially in the manner that he did (One shot with the barbed wire baseball bat? To a guy whose back is already covered up by his gear? Really?). Everything was set up so perfectly here. Now was the time to put the Lucha Underground Title on Pentagon Jr., one of the most over guys in wrestling, and they completely whiffed on it. I know the excuse for not pushing him more in Season 1 was that they didn’t know how big he was going to get, but by this point, Pentagon Jr. had appeared in PWG’s annual Battle of Los Angeles Tournament, and had wrestled a big match against Chris Hero at AAW. This time, there was no excuse. You can just tell when you watched this that the crowd got immediately deflated with that finish. They wanted Pentagon Jr. to win so bad, and it was such a disheartening finish. This was easily one of the worst booking decisions Lucha Underground has ever made.

After the match, Vampiro tried to console Pentagon Dark, but his protege just shoved him and left.

10.) Ivelisse vs. Taya: ***

This was a feud that had just started up several weeks prior, if I recall correctly. They’re essentially fighting to see who really is “the baddest bitch in the building”, as Matt Striker described it. For what this was, I thought it was fine. It was a short match, clocking in at just under seven minutes, but I think they managed to pack in a fair amount of action in the time they were given. Both looked good, and the crowd seemed into it. Towards the end of the match, it looked like Ivelisse had the match won, but then the lights went out, and Catrina appeared. She attacked Ivelisse, and then disappeared. The referee (who disappeared when the lights went out) then reappeared, and counted the pinfall for Taya, who took advantage of the situation to win the match.

After the match was over, Catrina returned to the ring, and said that “death comes to everyone, even you….bitch”, and gave her the lick of death.

11.) Prince Puma vs. Rey Mysterio Jr.: ****1/2

The main event of Ultima Lucha Dos is a genuine dream match (especially if you know the wrestler that’s portraying Prince Puma), and it delivered on all levels. I thought this was a fantastic match!! I don’t know if it was the best match of the entire seasons, but it’s certainly up there. The action from start to finish was awesome, and the crowd was hyped throughout the entire match. Prince Puma was, of course, amazing (as he always is), but Rey Mysterio Jr. did a really good job here as well. Even though he’s older, and not as quick as he used to to be, he still managed to hold his own in this one. Not only was the action great, but they told a good story with the young rising star challenging the legend. Ultimately, Rey Mysterio Jr. got the victory here. I think the decision to have him win is the only thing that people can really criticize about this match. It doesn’t bother me as much, but still recognize it as issue. That being said, this was still an incredible match, regardless of the result.

After the match, the two embraced, and Mysterio told Puma to be with his people in his ring, and left as the fans applauded their hometown hero.

Then, Matt Striker & Vampiro were in the middle of sending the viewers off, when Pentagon Dark came in from out of nowhere and attacked Vampiro! He then superkicked Matt Striker and went back to assaulting Vampiro. He used the barbed wire baseball bat from earlier for most of this attack. Vampiro got busted open, and Pentagon Dark started licking his blood. Pentagon Dark then said he was now the master as the in-ring portion of the show came to close….

Overall: 8.25/10

This was such a tough show to rate. There were a number of booking decisions that were questionable, at the very least. Of course, there’s the obvious one surrounding Pentagon Jr., but then there’s the whole conclusion to the “Unique Opportunity” Tournament, plus the fact that there was combination of interference, referee bumps, no contests, and overused heel shenanigans in four of the last five matches. That just doesn’t look good at all. You can’t have all that bullshit on your biggest show of the year. At the same time, however, I can’t give the show (as a whole) too much crap, because I had three matches at **** or higher. Despite all of the questionable booking decisions, there was still great wrestling throughout most of the show, and that’s something that can’t be ignored. Prince Puma vs. Rey Mysterio Jr. was easily the best match on the entire show, with a tossup for second between King Cuernio vs. Mil Muertes and Cage vs. The Mack. As a whole, Ultima Lucha Dos was a very good wrestling show, despite all of the various issues.

When looking at the larger picture, this show might be more significant for an entirely different reasons. If Lucha Underground does come to an end at some point (and that could be soon that we think, considering the issues they have with taping shows, plus some general unhappiness among the talent), I think people will come to see this particular show as the turning point for the company as a whole. I’ve heard about what’s been presented thus far in Season 3, and it hasn’t been getting a lot positive reviews. General interest in the product has really declined with Season 3, and while I don’t think it’s the sole contributor (the increasingly sci-fi nature of the show, it’s characters, and the cutscenes have become a big turnoff for some), I would say the decision to not put the title on Pentagon Jr. on this show is potentially an important reason for that. Again, it was the moment every fan had been waiting for, and they failed to deliver it to us. If he had won the title here, I think attitudes towards Lucha Underground would be a lot different right now. Would it have changed the fact that not a lot of people of talking about Season 3? Maybe, but you never really know when you speculate about these sorts of things. The bottom line is that while this show had a lot of great wrestling, the booking in certain matches did more harm than good.

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