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    Friday, November 18, 2016

    Good Lucha Things (11/16/16): The Art of War

    Last week saw Prince Puma and Mil Muertes renew their storied rivalry, as both men sought to end the other’s life during the deadly Grave Consequences match. The hometown hero put on a valiant effort, but could not get it done as Mil Muertes threw him into a coffin, just like he once did with Puma’s mentor, Konnan. In another rivalry, Mascarita Sagrada finally got some revenge on Famous B, entertaining the Temple in a great Believers’ Backlash match with some very unconventional weapons. Meanwhile, the rest of the show worked towards figuring out who gets a ticket into this week’s Aztec Warfare, and by the end of it 5 luchadores found themselves qualified for the big dance.

    Welcome to Aztec Warfare! Lucha Underground’s take on the classic Royal Rumble is their second biggest event of the season, and is one that I’ve been looking forward to since the season began. Now, because this is a special episode, I needed an expert to help me sift through all the violence and bloodshed. So I got some guy called Sun Tzu to help me out. Apparently, he wrote a book called The Art of War, which works for me because we’re reviewing something called Aztec Warfare. Clearly, this is a match made in heaven, so I think we’ll do just fine.

    Alright, let’s get down to business!

    “When you surround an army, leave an outlet free. Do not press a desperate foe too hard.”

    I’m not the biggest fan of Sexy Star winning the Lucha Underground Championship. Truth be told, I don’t think she’s as good a luchadora as she’s made out to be. She’s had good matches, yes, but the rest of her bouts have shown her to be quite sloppy and uninspired at times. I wouldn’t call her the best female wrestler in Lucha Underground, but the show has made her out to be the shining model of what a strong luchadora should be. With the angle they’re going for, it makes sense why they wanted to give her a run with the Lucha Underground Championship.

    That said, the important part is that her win was believable. When the match came down to Sexy Star and Mil Muertes, I was worried that they’d just let her win via some “overcoming the odds” inspirational bullshit. That would completely destroy any credibility Mil had, especially given how he’s been built up as one of the Temple’s end bosses. Rather, they found a clever workaround—Mil Muertes lost not because he was bested, but because he got cocky. There was no reason at all to attempt the top rope Flatliner onto a table, as up to that point, he was dominating the match. Mil’s arrogance (perhaps boosted by last week’s destruction of Prince Puma in Grave Consequences) led to Sexy Star finding that one way out, and she capitalized by putting him through the table to win. Sexy Star looks good coming out of this match—she was crafty and found an opening to victory—but at the same time, Mil Muertes still looks like the force of nature that he is.

    Moving forward, I’m not sure if we can expect a long reign for Sexy Star. They’ve created that big feel-good moment already, and I’m really not looking forward to her defending the belt if the matches are going to be like her previous ones. Conveniently, Lucha Underground has got that covered, and it involves a certain Gift of the Gods Champion cashing in his title shot next week.

    “The wise warrior avoids the battle.”

    Speaking of Johnny Mundo, he was this close to actually winning Aztec Warfare this week.

    Aztec Warfare allows for people to team up and work as a unit, and this was what the Worldwide Underground did to great effect. As soon as PJ Black and Jack Evans came out, they isolated their foes and slowly picked them apart via the numbers game.  When they weren't doing that, they were avoiding the likes of Matanza and Mil Muertes by hiding under the ring. By the time Mack and Sexy Star teamed up to take out the Worldwide Underground, there were so few luchadors left that Mundo had a decent shot to win.

    Were it not for Angelico descending from Dario Cueto’s office roof (never gets old), we may have well seen Johnny Mundo capture the elusive gold. The silver lining for Johnny is that by virtue of holding the Gift of the Gods Championship, he gets another shot next week when he faces Sexy Star for a championship again. This is all too familiar as Mundo just beat her several weeks ago, and with the Worldwide Underground being a crafty unit, I can definitely see Mundo ending next week’s episode as the new Lucha Underground Champion.

    “There is no instance of a nation benefitting from prolonged warfare.”

    Matanza Cueto’s reign of terror as Lucha Underground Champion came to a screeching halt this week, and it may have been Dario’s arrogance that led to their undoing.

    Ultimately, Dario Cueto underestimated everyone in Aztec Warfare. By entering his brother first, he left him open to take a ton of offense from just about everyone that competed. Heck, Matanza was already out on the floor within the first five minutes, which is usually a sign that you’ve bitten off more than you can chew. He’s had a dominant run as champion, but from the start, you could just feel that this was the night he was losing that belt. True enough, Matanza’s elimination came after everyone hit him hard, with Rey Mysterio Jr. delivering the killing blow.

    Matanza’s post-elimination assault on Mysterio paints a picture of what will happen in the next couple of weeks, with the Cuetos likely turning their attention to the lucha libre legend. I’m fine with this if it keeps Matanza away from the title scene for a little bit, though Dario will probably give him a rematch. Thanks, nepotism. There’s also some nice history they can play off here with Rey’s protégé El Dragon Azteca Jr., who has been raring to go at it with Matanza since the tail end of last season.

    “Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.”

    Pentagon Dark’s never-ending quest to break arms (and win the Lucha Underground Championship in the process) faced another roadblock this week, when Black Lotus returned for some payback. We knew this was bound to happen since he broke Black Lotus’ arm at Ultima Lucha Dos, but watching it play out was still fun to watch. Black Lotus also brought some ninjas with her from Hong Kong and together, the quartet easily crushed Pentagon’s hopes of winning Aztec Warfare. Yes, we have ninjas in the temple now, which is absurd and awesome at the same time.

    Ninjas aside, why am I incredibly hyped for the Black Lotus Triad? Take off the kayfabe-tinted glasses for a second, and just look at who accompanied Black Lotus this week. The wrestling world knows them as Io Shirai, Kairi Hojo and Mayu Iwatani from joshi puroresu promotion STARDOM. If these names aren’t familiar to you, just know that these are legitimately the best female wrestlers in the world right now, and we’re about to see them clash with one of Lucha Underground’s biggest stars. I am very, very excited for this.

    “Do not repeat the tactics which have gained you one victory, but let your methods be regulated by the infinite variety of circumstances.”

    Sucks to be you, Joey Ryan.

    “You’re unsuited for the rage of war. So pack up, go home, you’re through.”

    No, that’s not from Sun Tzu, but from legendary warrior Captain Li Shang. This is perfect for all the poor shmucks who came out for Aztec Warfare, but only served as bodies for the big boys to toss around. In no particular order:

    • Famous B (so much for being "retired")
    • Mascarita Sagrada
    • Kobra Moon
    • Ricky Mandel

    What I really didn’t like about this was that they took up space that we could’ve otherwise given to some guys that could have made a better effort at competing, because that’s how we get the violence and bloodshed that Lucha Underground is all about. Cage and Fenix did not sit out for this shit, guys.

    Overall, this week’s Aztec Warfare was a great show. The match was entertaining from start to finish, and most guys contributed at least one fun moment in the ring. There was no big debut like we had with Rey Mysterio last year, but the mix of new and returning faces set up some nice feuds that I can’t wait to see play out. Sexy Star’s win was booked in a way that made sense, and I’m looking forward to seeing her get a shot at redemption when she faces Johnny Mundo again next week. I don’t think it was as good as the previous Aztec Warfares, but it’s still a very solid match, so I’d say this ends up as a B+ on the grading scale.

    What did you think of this week's episode of Lucha Underground? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!


    Anthony Cuello is an HR professional and training designer. When he’s not sleeping or reading the Harvard Business Review, he covers 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: Good Lucha Things (11/16/16): The Art of War Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Anthony Cuello
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