Thursday, June 28, 2018

The Blog of the Gods: Death Is Not The End

Feníx may have died a thousand deaths in this week's episode
Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein
Episode three of season four of Lucha Underground featured a revisitation of perhaps its signature match with an unsavory addition. Grave Consequences from this season took up about half of the show, and nothing else was built to overshadow it, yet the opening match may have been the best thing all night, at least in total. But I'm rambling too much. It's time to get onto the main show.

Vicious and XO-Lishus

The show opened with a Worldwide Underground backstage vignette that featured Ricky Mandel and his creepy-ass and apparently sentient doll, but the main focus saw Johnny Mundo giving orders to Jack Evans. The Reptile Tribe has declared WAR, and Mundo wanted his boy to fire the first shot. Well, rather than fight some icky snakes, Evans decided he'd rather push around the plucky and decidedly queer-friendly XO Lishus in a "Put up or Shut up" match. Lishus, better known around the East Coast as Sonny Kiss, was the latest new face to arrive at El Templo Nuevo, and as it would turn out, he was probably the best to date.

Aside from the flashy dress or the makeup, Lishus doesn't trade an inch of either his authenticity as a queer-friendly character or his bona fides as a pro wrestler. He can flaunt his stuff around the ring one minute and then fly headfirst into some seamless lucha action the next. He seemed a bit gassed by the end, but I chalked that up to getting under the bright lights of television for the first time. But everything clicked for him. He closed the window on ranas. The handspring into a dead stop and slap in the corner was the right kind of sassy for someone looking to curry favor with the crowd. Twerking after his big dive to the outside was a real crowd-pleaser.

Putting him against Evans was a stroke of brilliance too because even though he can do all the mind-blowing highspots, he's content to sit on the exciting stuff and just grind and prick around. From continuing to insist on doing his own entrance to the funky submissions to answering Lishus' handspring show-move with one of his own (the eye-gouge), he knows how to get someone over in a tight spot even better than, say, Mundo could even. Of course, the bigger story, even bigger than Lishus grinding out the win in his debut, will be Evans blowing off orders to try and big-time some rookie only to get hoisted by his own petard. If it leads to an eventual Mundo/Evans match, then I'm all in, possibly with my pants off. For now though, it's more than appropriate to appreciate the opener for what it was, a perfect introduction to the believers for a guy in XO Lishus who seems to have potential as high as the sky.

But Didn't I Just Hear That?

LU isn't quite known for in-ring promos, which for them is good because the backstage vignettes actually work given their weird status as television show/wrestling event hybrid, a huge reason why Pentagón Dark's promo was, well, so weird. I guess it had its place, since it set up a sneak attack from Cage in front of everyone, but still, it felt out of place. The only real thing I have to say for the whole segment was that unless Matt Striker actually said that Penta couldn't break Cage because he wasn't a man but a machine live, then he's a real piece of shit for jumping all over Cage saying the exact same line as a victory salvo after his successful ambush. Then again, Striker did reference fucking PizzaGate during Aztec Warfare. He's not exactly known for his judgment.

Don't You Forget About Your Friend Death

Grave Consequences I was the best match that I've seen in Lucha Underground history, the best casket match ever, and just one hell of a dramatic piece of wrestling. Because wrestling is built on copycatting and diminishing returns, it was only a matter of time the original two competitors were placed back in the match, only this time with a third. Jeremiah Crane, the elseworlds version of Sami Callihan, got himself entangled in their dark game of life vs. death, and well, he didn't really add much to the match outside of an easy avenue for Ivelisse to come back and wail on him with a hammer in similar manner that he did to her at Ultima Lucha Tres. I get the storytelling aspects, but it's not a surprise that the match didn't really pick up to levels of the first one until after Crane got dumped.

It's not that Mil Muertes and Feníx didn't try their best to make the match work no matter if the third wheel was there or not. The big spots were huge, especially the set-piece ones that involved Feníx jumping off things. A lot of wrestlers are good at jumping off things, but Feníx has turned it into an art. I mean, take for example when he leapt off the high fridge mechanical room over like five rows of human beings onto Crane and Muertes fighting on the mezzanine, or when he acted like he was gonna rana Crane from the top through a table but ended up leaping over him to hit Muertes with a splash on the floor. Some guys like AR Fox and Darby Allin are reckless with their bodies to entertaining effect. Others like Will Ospreay rely on freakish body control for precision flips and highspots. Feníx combines both.

But what really made him stand out here was after Crane's elimination, he just kept taking a progressively worse ass-kicking to really underscore the fact that yes, it was Grave Consequences and not some milquetoast WWE-esque triple threat match. It wasn't just the catapult into the exposed bottom turnbuckle or Muertes mangling his mask and busting him open or the multiple chokeslams into the casket or the time he got countered into a belly to belly throw into the casket or the visual of the casket itself all mangled and busted, but the escalation, the continual breaking down of Feníx's body and spirit, as if Muertes had to whittle away each of his 1,000 lives to get him to stay in the fucking box. Perhaps a straight-up rematch of the first Grave Consequences wouldn't have been as good as said first one, but I can't help but wonder how much Crane held the match back. Eh, c'est la vie, right?

Not a Man, but a Monster

The show close focused on one of the big problems I had last week, that Matanza Cueto wrestled more like, it's not that guarded a secret anyway, Jeff Cobb rather than the bloodthirsty monster-man he's come to have been known as. Apparently, it's because his soul was locked up in a key (get it?), and now Papa Antonio Cueto tires of having any semblance of his human son around. What does the destruction of the key mean though? Will Matanza show up next week and literally rip someone's head off? Or will he just be given a goat to maul, causing an onlooker to remark "Matanza doesn't want to be fed, Matanza wants to HUNT!" I sure hope so.