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    Friday, March 25, 2016

    Temple Rants (3/23/16): Aztec Warfare

    Last week, we saw a huge twist put to Aztec Warfare. In another glorious chapter of their rivalry, Fenix pinned Mil Muertes to become the new Lucha Underground Champion. That didn’t sit too well with Catrina, who announced that Fenix would have to defend his championship this week as the first entrant in Aztec Warfare. Hopefully he didn’t talk to Roman Reigns for some advice, but talk about a mountain to climb. Meanwhile, Ivelisse, Angelico and Son of Havoc have finally reclaimed their Trios Championship, defeating the Disciples of Death to make Team Catrina 0-2 for the week. Elsewhere, we learned that Dario Cueto is on his way back to the Temple, as were the duo of Rey Mysterio and El Dragon Azteca Jr.

    Well, folks, we’re finally here. After several weeks of hype and buildup, Aztec Warfare is finally upon us! Now, since this is a special episode, I’m not going to run through the episode match by match like I normally do. Instead, I’m going to take out the major plot points/highlights we picked up, talk about it piece by piece, and see what it means for Lucha Underground moving forward. Without further ado, let’s get started!

    A New Kind of Nightmare

    Let’s get this big fish fried and done with: Matanza Cueto is your new Lucha Underground Champion.

    Moments after Dario Cueto made his triumphant return to the Temple, he announced a surprise 21st entrant— his possessed monster brother, Matanza. The masked menace then made his way to the ring and demolished half of the roster, eliminating nine other luchadors to win the big gold belt in his debut.

    What immediately struck me with Matanza is that he far eclipses the terrors we’ve seen in the Temple. We’ve seen reign of terrors by guys like Pentagon Jr. and Mil Muertes before, but these guys could be stopped. Sure, they were breaking arms and locking people in coffins, but other guys were able to go toe to toe with them in the ring. Matanza didn’t just terrorize people, he made everyone else look far below him. Weapons, flippy shit, signature moves, politics (nice try, Chavo) — none of these dented the monster’s dominance. Heck, two of Lucha Underground’s greatest warriors (Prince Puma and the debuting Rey Mysterio) teamed up to take him on, and they just got demolished. That is how you make someone look like a monster.

    Sure, Matanza isn’t as big as many expected him to be, but he somehow makes up for it by being very stocky. That makes him look bigger than a majority of the other guys, at least. The closest comparison that comes to mind is Tazz: short, stocky suplex machine that absolutely kicks ass. He can even fly, as evidenced by that standing shooting star press he used to take Chavo Guerrero out. As the owner’s brother and the promotion’s top champion, expect to see more of Matanza in the coming weeks. I, for one, am looking forward to seeing more of him in the ring.

    Zero Fear of Death

    While Matanza was busy tossing people around, Lucha Underground’s resident boogeymen were going at it.

    The stage was set for Mil Muertes to come in last at Aztec Warfare, giving him a great opportunity to reclaim the title he lost last week. Unfortunately, the only reason he got to enter the ring was so that he could get pinned and eliminated, as Pentagon Jr. assaulted him from behind.

    While I’m disappointed that Pentagon Jr. wasn’t even in Aztec Warfare, it did make sense. His run-in with Catrina a few weeks back put him on her wrong side, so the proprietor not giving Pentagon Jr. an invite wasn’t surprising. Nevertheless, Cero Miedo still found a way to get involved in Aztec Warfare, setting up a very promising feud with Mil Muertes. Both men have been featured heavily this season so far, so expect rivalry to be a major plot point moving forward.

    What’s going to make this feud interesting, though, is the involvement of their allies. After Pentagon Jr. took out Mil Muertes, Catrina took out her frustrations on Vampiro, levelling him with a slap that echoed across the Temple. That was a bit of a shock to see play out, because Catrina’s been built up as a big supernatural force, and seeing her having such a human moment kind of took that air away. While we haven’t seen the commentator act as Pentagon Jr.’s master this season, Vampiro’s been very blatant with his support and praise for his protégé so far. I don’t know if this will be the catalyst that snaps him back into his dark form, but it’s going to be fun seeing that unfold.

    The King is Here

    From the moment Melissa Santos announced his name, you can tell that it was going to be a big night. Rey Mysterio’s debut was amazing, and it’s easily one of this season’s best moments. Everything about it was perfect. The crowd reaction, Striker and Vampiro’s adulation, Fenix’s respect — all of these things drove home just what it meant to have Rey Mysterio in Lucha Underground.

    Kicking off Aztec Warfare with Rey Mysterio vs. Fenix was a great move. Fenix is one of the hottest young luchadors around, and the fast pace gave Rey an opportunity to show that he could still go like he used to. For the rest of Aztec Warfare, we saw a Rey Mysterio that was amazing – a far cry from the Rey we saw towards the end of his WWE run. He can still dish out those 619s and top rope splashes, and can go toe to toe with Lucha Underground’s younger fighters. If this is the Rey Mysterio were going to see in the Temple, then he’s an amazing addition to the show.

    It’ll be interesting to see whether Rey will slot into the overarching plots of the show, or bring his own into the Temple. With El Dragon Azteca Jr. in tow, we might see them start their quest to unite the seven Aztec tribes. He’s their biggest name attraction at this point, so you have to figure that he’s going to get major screentime. Let’s wait and see what he’s going to do, but hopefully Rey is in this for the long run.

    The Art of (Aztec) War

    Aztec Warfare, on its own, was a great watch. With so many guys out at the same time, you run the risk of making the match too difficult to follow because there’s so much going on. Fortunately, Lucha Underground made this match very easy to watch by telling this story in several phases. Time was provided to feature several ongoing feuds, and the roster brought their A-game to put on a show in the ring.

    The order in which they came out was just a little too convenient, though. Oh hey, Johnny Mundo and Taya are dominating? Cage comes out right after to fuck things up. PJ Black came out and immediately helped Jack Evans with Drago? Here’s Aero Star right after to level the playing field. Maybe those could have been spaced out a little bit so the whole match felt a little more natural. Nevertheless, here are some more points to think about after Aztec Warfare:

    • Man, Johnny Mundo seems to have a thing for tossing people through office windows, doesn’t he? Cage was this week’s victim, and Mundo finally found a way to turn off the machine thanks to a big hit from a cinder block. Funny how the one weapon Cage used to take out the Mack at Ultima Lucha turns out to be the one that knocked him out. This feud is getting more and more violent by the minute.

    • A moment of silence for Fenix and his week-long reign as Lucha Underground Champion. While I would’ve wanted to see more of this guy ruling the Temple, I don’t think he’s done with chasing the championship just yet. Catrina may no longer be in charge, but Dario Cueto is back and he’s not exactly your biggest fan. On the other hand, Fenix is the only person in Lucha Underground who has won more than one championship, so you’re ahead in the race to be the first Grand Slam champion.

    • Drago, Aero Star, Jack Evans and PJ Black continued their bathroom brawl at Aztec Warfare, fighting all around the audience area. Unfortunately, no nunchucks were involved. Somebody get Teddy Long to fix this.

    • Famous B finally showed up at the Temple (with Brenda in tow!), looking for some new recruits. He seemed impressed with Joey Ryan’s wit, as well as Mascarita Sagrada’s boundless energy. Who will be the first person to call 423-GET-FAME?

    • Speaking of Mr. Sleaze, how fun was it to see Joey Ryan handcuff himself to a rail so he couldn’t get eliminated? It’s one of those things that you realize is legal, and then start to wonder why more people aren’t doing it. Remember when Chavo Guerrero just started whacking people with a chair at last year’s Aztec Warfare because it was no-disqualification? That’s the kind of thinking that’ll bring you success in life.

    • Keep an eye out for El Dragon Azteca Jr.. While his time in the match was short, what I saw was enough to make me want to see more of this guy. He’s involved with Rey Mysterio, so I expect that we’ll see him quite a bit. Hopefully that means more in-ring time.

    • Welcome back, Mascarita Sagrada! I’ll remember you by how Matt Striker described you: “Call him a paragraph, because he’s too short to be an essay!”

    • Welcome “back,” Argenis (LOL). Thanks for eating a 619. Here’s to seeing you doing something more meaningful this time around.

    • Aztec Warfare 2’s Absentee List: Sexy Star (too traumatized thanks to Mariposa?), Mariposa (tormenting Sexy Star), Ivelisse/Angelico/Son of Havoc (busy celebrating their championship win), Kobra Moon (busy fixing her mask), Bengala and Pimpinella Escarlata were some of the notable names absent from this match. So are Killshot and The Crew (Cortez Castro and Mr. Cisco), but they lost their chance to get in the match. Well, they did only get 20 competitors for it, so some were bound to be left out.

    Overall, Aztec Warfare was an excellent show. The in-ring action was great, as usual, but what puts this episode over the top is just how things were shaken up. We’ve got a new Lucha Underground Champion, the big boss finally returning, a big lucha libre star debuting, and a feud brewing between two of its featured stars. At the same time, some ongoing feuds continued along, waiting for a bigger payoff somewhere down the line. There’s been a huge change in the power structure, and the landscape has been drastically altered in the Temple. It’s another A episode for Lucha Underground this week, and we’ll see how they deal with these changes in the weeks to come.

    How did you find Aztec Warfare? Let us know in the comments section right below!


    Anthony Cuello is an HR professional and training designer. When he’s not sleeping or reading the Harvard Business Review, he covers PWR and Lucha Underground for Smark Henry. A psychology nut, he tends to watch wrestling looking for these small nuances of in-ring behavior. He dreams of a wrestling business with good people management practices, and hopes to help make that happen one day.

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    Item Reviewed: Temple Rants (3/23/16): Aztec Warfare Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Anthony Cuello
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