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    Monday, July 6, 2020

    Temple Run (7/6/20): Contenders to the Throne

    Welcome back to Temple Run! This time, we’re covering the middle portion of Season Two, with episodes 16 to 21 being the focus of this week’s review. Next week, we’ll tackle the last few episodes of Season Two with Ultima Lucha Dos, before moving on to Season Three.

    Story Beats

    Let’s start at the top, with Matanza and the Lucha Underground Championship. After leaving Mil Muertes for dead in Graver Consequences, Matanza’s next challenge was an equally imposing Machine in the form of Cage. Before that, though, Cage had to win the Gift of the Gods Championship so he can issue a challenge. Unfortunately, this was made harder because his medallion got stolen by a surprise return to the Temple.

    I want to take this moment to give some praise to this guy. Chavo Guerrero Jr. is one of my favorite characters on this show because of how simple his gimmick was. In a show with dragons, time-traveling spacemen, and dead people, Chavo managed to keep up in terms of being memorable. There were really just three things to his character—he lies, he cheats, and he steals. That’s all there is to it. Every feud and big match he had came because he stuck to the Guerrero credo and screwed someone over, and he always got his comeuppance for it. It's not flashy, but Chavo always managed to portray it very well. While he was never at the top of the card, he played a solid role in giving us a person we could always root against.

    Anyway, Cage overcame Chavo and won the Gift of the Gods Championship, and immediately set up a title match against Matanza the next week. Unfortunately, being a machine was not enough to overcome a monster, and Matanza continued his hot streak with another convincing win. 

    Looking back, I’m always surprised at the fact that they never pulled the trigger on Cage as Lucha Underground Champion. Out of everyone that never won it, Cage was probably the closest in terms of where he was on the Lucha Underground food chain. While he portrayed a monster heel throughout Season One, this season saw his gradual turn into a fan favorite. He had a catchphrase that the fans loved, as well as his own Terminator-esque chant/stomp that rang throughout his matches. While it wouldn’t have come at Matanza’s expense, there were plenty of opportunities for Cage to win the big one down the line, and it strikes me as a missed opportunity that Lucha Underground never did this.

    The rest of these episodes set up the next contender to the Lucha Underground Championship, with some more zany matches thought up by Dario Cueto to award this. This led to the return of one of the Temple’s favorites:

    Pentagon Jr., who had been out of action since losing to Matanza, returned and won two straight matches to win another shot at the Monster’s Lucha Underground Championship. Through these episodes, we saw Pentagon recovering while Vampiro prepared him for a return to the Temple. We’ll cover this match more next week as it happens during Ultima Lucha Dos, but it’s important to note that Vampiro never really approved of Pentagon returning this early to the Temple. Their vignettes are a nice look into one of this show’s most complicated relationships, and it helps explain a lot of things that happen between them in the future.

    The rest of the card also move forward on their respective stories and feuds, especially as the show started to build towards Ultima Lucha Dos. The lucha libre all-star team of Rey Mysterio, Prince Puma, and El Dragon Azteca Jr. ran into some problems with each other, and that cost them the Trios Championship. Mil Muertes was buried, and then rose from the dead (again!) after King Cuerno kept him on display like a trophy. Kobra Moon had a thing for Daga and started stalking him in his matches. Also, Mr. Cisco got arrested and his real name was revealed to be Francisco Garza. That just seems like a wasted opportunity for a storyline, because they never explored how he was related to Hector and Angel.

    Notable Debuts & Appearances

    No new luchadors debuted in this set of episodes. However, a quick mention goes to Lorenzo Lamas, who played the devious Councilman Delgado as part of the show’s darker and more mysterious storylines. Yes, that’s the same Lorenzo Lamas who starred in shows like Falcon Crest and The Bold and the Beautiful, and if you know those shows you’re probably way older than I am.

    In a way, though, we did have a debut on this show—we saw the formation of the Worldwide Underground. Johnny Mundo finagled his way into a trios team with Jack Evans and PJ Black, and it was a match made in heaven. 

    In a show where the life expectancy of teams seemed to be terribly low, these guys stood out because they stayed as a unit for so long. In many ways, they were also this show’s version of the Bullet Club—a team that took over a promotion via classic Western heel tropes like cheating and being obnoxious. As far as the “normal” gimmicks go on this show, the Worldwide Underground was the best among them. We’re gonna be talking a lot about these four (and Ricky Mandel/Mundo later on!) in the next few reviews.

    The Fave Five

    1. Matanza vs. Mil Muertes, Graver Consequences Match for the Lucha Underground Championship (Episode 16). The sequel to the previous clash of the titans was so massive, they needed even graver consequences for it. That just meant a lot more caskets around the ring, but this match made use of all of them. Mil getting his mask torn is a nice throwback to last season’s Grave Consequences match where he did the same to Fenix. This was Matanza’s biggest win to date and a match that solidified his place atop the Lucha Underground pyramid.

    2. Jack Evans, PJ Black & Fenix Johnny Mundo vs. Rey Mysterio, Prince Puma & El Dragon Azteca Jr., Lucha Underground Trios Championship Match (Episode 18). It’s the birth of the Worldwide Underground, and their debut as a unit couldn’t have gone any better. Mundo, Evans, and Black worked so well as a trio of assholes, and it was that cunning that got them their first championships in the Temple. This was an intense match with several near-falls that made you think it could go either way, and the title win was a surprise when it first aired. Also, this match had a lot more dick kicks than Shinsuke Nakamura and AJ Styles.

    3. Matanza vs. Cage, Lucha Underground Championship Match (Episode 19). Cage challenged right after Mil Muertes, so how did they make sure that this wasn’t another big boy showdown? Simple, Cage just flew around the ring like his opponents usually did. It’s fun watching him break the stereotype of a big power wrestler, and it really looked like he could have won the match at several points. Cage fell short here, but this was arguably the peak of his popularity in the Temple.

    4. Aero Star and Drago vs. Jack Evans and PJ Black, Nunchucks Match (Episode 20). Yes, you read that right. It’s as awesome as you’d expect something with nunchucks to be. Seeing Drago work those weapons was a sight to behold, and that’s something only Lucha Underground could have pulled off. This was less technical spectacle, more martial arts movie with some wrestling sprinkled in, and for that, it’s worth a mention on this list.

    5. Johnny Mundo vs. Taya vs. Ivelisse vs. King Cuerno vs. Pentagon Jr. vs. Fenix, Six to Survive (Episode 21). Banking on the success of previous one-match episodes, they found another way to do it well. The great part about this match is that they found a way to resolve the chaos quickly—King Cuerno, Taya, and Ivelisse were eliminated before the halfway mark, and it all tied it to their storylines. That left us with Mundo, Pentagon, and Fenix for a solid 20 minutes of wrestling. If there’s anything that AEW has taught us, it’s that two lucha brothers and an asshole make a great combination. The final stretch between Pentagon and Fenix was a nice callback to their early Season One matches where they tore the house down, only it was Pentagon who came out on top this time.

    Photos taken from Lucha Underground
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    Item Reviewed: Temple Run (7/6/20): Contenders to the Throne Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Anthony Cuello
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