|Hey, Pentagón Dark beat Matanza Cueto one-on-one, no biggie|
Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein
Roid Rage, The Wrestler
Killshot and The Mack were thrust with a new partner whom they did not voluntarily choose in Son of Havoc, and the three of them had to coexist this week. Yet, that story thread kinda disappeared in the aether because hey, Famous B went out and bought himself some new clients. While Sammy Guevara is perhaps the hottest prospect, the match was clearly a way to set up the former Jack Swagger, now "Savage" Jake Strong, as a future contender for the supernatural cast of characters in the show's main event. Although he sorta left WWE on a decidedly downward trajectory, his fresh start in a far grimier setting seemed to give him a burst of fresh air. I think it really hit the crescendo when he had Killshot in the ankle lock and The Mack came in and just pimp-slapped him. He flinched momentarily and shot this wild-eyed look at Mack, like he walked in on him giving his girl a bit of the Chocolate Thunder. It was in that moment that I realized what Strong was and how he'd fit in with the motley crew of skeletons and golemesque reapers and deranged possible cannibals and a literal mythical reincarnating bird made flesh. Basically, he was Captain America in the most fucked up sense possible.
Watching him just dispatch Big Bad Steve, Guevara, and B in the post-match hammered that point home. The vacancy in the eyes, the analgesic swatting of kicks and punches like they were insects landing on him, the insatiable thirst for imagined retribution until each and every single payer lay broken on the canvas, those actions weren't the ones of someone who was sober. But unlike the moral conscience of the Marvel Universe (unless he's written by Nick Spencer, but fuck that guy), the source of his power isn't some kind of super soldier serum, but it's steroids, or some mix of steroids and PCP. I mean, I haven't read spoilers, but I'd be shocked if it wasn't at least heavily implied Strong had a performance enhancer hookup, and for said PEDs to work in the Temple not how they work in real life, but how dickhead sportswriters on witch hunts for home run kings imagine they work. It is a brilliant stroke, because the Temple already has enough fantasy and mystery overpowering its big-time players. Adding in some mad science is a welcome change of pace. I think Jake Strong will fit in nicely in the Temple.
A Dance of Dragons
The prestige wrestling portion of the program unsurprisingly featured El Dragon Azteca, Jr. and Drago battling over the first of seven medallions that comprise the Gift of the Gods Championship, and boy was it lucha libre excellence distilled into a television sprint. The two dragon-themed wrestlers left me wanting a bit more, but man, what they ended up putting on as a show was sleek, smooth, and silky. I could have watched them for a half-hour. That being said, outside of the implications of Azteca winning the medallion, the segment on the whole seemed to focus on the tenuous grip Kobra Moon has on her perch. She ended up mad at Drago for losing the match, but the hens came home to roost from her actions of illegally siccing Vibora on Johnny Mundo and causing him to get bounced from Aztec Warfare. It seems like she's at the center of more than a few threads going forward, and all of them pulling on something greater.
Cueto Down, Cueto Down
So, for those whose memories are a bit hazy, Dario Cueto is, well, muerte. In his place as Jefe of Lucha Underground is his father, Antonio, who is played by the same guy with makeup, prostheses, and a really bad scratchy accent. Either way, other than cosmetics, Antonio seems to be less patient than his son, and way less subtle about things. He's also got some kind of mystical aura behind him that belies his feeble exterior, because Matanza Cueto was straight up scared of him after losing his first ever one-on-one match in his tenure there. Obviously, Dario's dealings in the dark arts were well-documented, but at no point did he give off any sort vibe that he was in control of the powers he served. Antonio, however, feels like he's at the epicenter, conducting the dispersal of said powers like a symphony. It's all connected: Catrina's life force, the Gauntlet of the Gods, whatever fuels Matanza. Antonio and his sacred relic with the bullhead obviously play into things, and it almost feels too obvious how it all ties together that it's setting up for a giant swerve, perhaps starting in motion next week with Jeremiah Crane's insertion into the Fenix/Mil Muertes GRAVE CONSEQUENCES match.
Speaking of the main event match itself, it was disappointing in that for the first time, Matanza wrestled like the guy under his mask rather than the separate entity of a bloodthirsty automaton bent on destruction and death. I mean, the guy underneath the hood is good. REALLY good. But feeling like a match that could've happened in a random indie on the East Coast maybe telegraphed the decision a bit too hard? I'm not one to complain about the promotion's Champion being put over too hard, and honestly, if anyone could wreck Baby Huey But Homicidal, it should be the magical arm-breaking skeleton. I just wish I could've seen more from Matanza here, y'know?