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The Women of Lucha Underground
Here's a sentence you've totally, 100% never heard at the start of one of my columns; it's time to talk about Lucha Underground! Yes, after taking a few days off to sing the praises of Kamaitachi vs. Dragon Lee, delve into Daniel Bryan's uncertain future and settle the Pepsi vs. Coke debate once and for all (among other things), it's back to the Temple (which is back in business this weekend for more season two tapings!), a place where hopes and dreams are realized and where you better lock that cell in the freakin basement (just ask Bael. RIP!). I know what you're thinking; haven't you covered Lucha Underground to death already? What more is there to say while we wait for the LU to return on January 27th? Well, aside from the fact that LU is returning 47 days from now (so long!) and that the El Rey Network will be holding a 40 hour long marathon of season one that is sure to end at least a few marriages and leave me in a state of deliria and happiness I haven't felt Riley Finn got on that helicopter and stopped ruining my favorite show...where was I going with this? Oh yes, there's still stuff to talk about Lucha Underground. Yes, I've covered everything from what I'd like to see in season two, the great matches we saw in season one and a whole lot of other stuff. But there's another subject that deserves some focus; the beautiful, wonderful, exceptionally talented women of Lucha Underground.
I briefly eluded to this in my column about the Young Bucks vs. Joey Ryan (King of Dong Style) and Candice LeRae a few weeks ago, but I'll say it again here; after being treated like dirt for almost a decade, women's wrestling has seen a major revival in the year 2015. We had match of the year candidates, real revolutions, false revolutions and even the second ever (and first well known) female World Champion in the history of wrestling (congrats Princess Kimberlee and shout out to Nicole Matthews for being the first in 2014!). Whatever way you want to slice it, women's wrestling had a great year, and Lucha Underground was a huge part of it. Since the Temple opened its doors in the fall of 2014, the LU has been at the forefront of the movement to legitimize women's wrestling, and it did so with a novel concept; it put them on equal ground with the men. Oh sure, women vs. women matches did exist in the LU (who can forget that Sexy Star-Ivelisse encounter), but more times than not, you would see them tangling with the boys, whether it be singles matches, tag matches, trios matches or title matches. Some did (and some may still) sneer at the idea of intergender matches, a practice largely discarded by mainstream wrestling over the course of time. To my surprise, I found it to be riveting, inspiring, and when done to the peak of its potential, downright excellent. By allowing their women to fight with the men and compete for the same titles, Lucha Underground and its creative team managed to create something unseen in mainstream wrestling in years; a downright equal promotion all around (this is even more noticeable when you consider that "dragons", "aliens" and whatever Jack Evans is are allowed to compete there). Hell, other than Mad Max: Fury Road, I can't think of something this year that was as awesomely feminist.
The amazing thing about it all? That Lucha Underground did all of this with a group of only five female performers, three of which never wrestled during season one. That may seem pretty sparse, but the results show that it was much better to have quality than quantity. You had Sexy Star, the AAA luchadora who transitioned from being a top level ruda into one of the most inspirational, lovable, pure heroines who was so much a technica she made John Cena look like Empire Strikes Back era Darth Vader. There was Ivelisse, the legit "baddest bitch in the building" and without question the toughest wrestler in Lucha Underground (all apologies to the rest of the really tough roster, especially Fenix, who went through a roof at one point. In the words of an old stoner friend of mine, NBD man. NBD). Outside of the ring, Catrina used sexiness, dark vibes and a hunger for power to singlehandedly revive the manager/valet spot in wrestling, while Black Lotus went from a mysterious enigma to a Kill Bill style warrior out for revenge. Finally, there was Melissa Santos, the best ring announcer in wrestling, period, end of story. Not since the Avengers has there been a group of five or more individuals that have accomplished so much!
Now here's the rub, and this is very important here. It's one thing to have talent; it's another thing to use them in a way that makes them both important and memorable. What made all of these women stand out and become well known commodities in the wrestling world is the fact that the LU always, and I mean ALWAYS, made them feel like they were important. From day one, Sexy Star was pushed as the ultimate underdog who backed down from no challenge (her match with Son of Havoc on LU's first episode, while short, was important in establishing this), and thus, every single one of her storylines was either main event caliber or close to it. Ivelisse not only had big matches, but she won a freakin title in one of the best main events of the entire season, all while wrestling on a broken ankle (an injury she continued to work with till the bitter end). Black Lotus, the would be third in ring performer, never wrestled at all, but instead was instead the protagonist (and later antagonist) of season one's most mysterious storyline. You could make the argument (a wrong argument, but still) that she's the most important out of everyone I listed here, and my buddies at the Last Real Heels podcast have been closer to the ring than she has.
Melissa Santos, in many ways, represented the growth of the show. As Lucha Underground turned into the best wrestling show on TV, she turned into the best ring announcer, a wonderful parallel that was only matched by her ability to invoke passion, excitement and (in the case of Pentagon, who tried to break her arm) hate when announcing the next wrestler to descend from the Temple steps. And Catrina; what can you say about Catrina? For all the greatness, bad assery and diabolical hating that made Immortan Mil Muertes the Beast King, the reality is that Catrina was the brains behind the operation. Every move Mil made was calculated by her, every decision or consequence (no matter how Grave it was. See what I did there?) was planned by her. Catrina may not have won Mil's Lucha Underground Champion or the Disciples of Death's Trios Championships in the literal sense, but she basically deserves those titles just as much as them. Mil and the Skeletors are the Mobile Infantry; Catrina is Lt. fucking Rasczak (I will now go and prepare to meet death at the hands of Immortan Mil for that statement).
What I'm pretty much getting at here is that not only were these women talented, not only were they used correctly, but they were major, MAJOR parts of Lucha Underground. With the exception of Melissa (who was by the way the only person not named Matt Striker and Vampiro to appear on every single episode of Lucha Underground), they were all either central protagonists or antagonists of the show at one point or another, with Catrina possibly being the main villain aside from El Jefe himself. That's not just remarkable, it's unheard of. For all the talk about revolutions and this and that, there's really only three other places in the wrestling world where you can find at least one woman as a central figure; Bayley in NXT, Candice LeRae in Pro Wrestling Guerilla and the aforementioned CHIKARA Grand Champion Princess Kimberlee (you could argue Stephanie McMahon in WWE as well if you were feeling frisky). That Lucha Underground has found not just one but five women who all play a major role in making the promotion the bees knees is awesome and downright thrilling. It's also kind of sad that they're one of the few examples of women in wrestling be used as performers that actually matter.
Thankfully, it appears Lucha Underground will continue their progressive ways in season two, where we know for certain at least two new female wrestlers will debut; the acclaimed Cheerleader Melissa (a lot of Melissa's in the Temple) and whoever is playing Marty the Moth's sister (AJ Lee! Please be AJ Lee!). Meanwhile I would bet my beloved Batman bobble head that the awesome Taya Valkyrie will make her way to the Temple as well, which would then give you two all world female wrestlers coming in (and hopefully three, depending on who is Marty's sister) to join the core four. Regardless if Melissa, Valkyrie and the mysterious Sister Moth are the only ones to join up for season two, the future of women's wrestling in Lucha Underground looks bright. There will continue to be a sense of equality in the Temple, there will continue to be big stories told with women in main roles and there will be at least seven women continuing to show the entire world they can do it just as well as the men do in their respective positions. So with all due respect, Lucha Underground doesn't need a women's revolution; it's already had one.
And that's not even the best part. That will be when one of these women follows in Princess Kimberlee's footsteps and claims the Lucha Underground Championship for itself. As I said in regards to Candice LeRae winning the PWG Championship, it's going to happen, it's going to be awesome, and you will never, ever forget where you were the day it happened.
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