Thursday, July 12, 2018

The Blog of the Gods: Blood Simple

Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein
Another Wednesday has passed and that means another night of hunkering down in Antonio Cueto's Temple has been gifted to Believers everywhere. It's a good night when the violence is plentiful, and in that regard, well, it was a good night. A whopping four wrestlers got their Gift of the Gods medallions as well, leaving only one left in play. Without further ado, the time has come to get started.

Don't Doxx Me, Bro

On one hand, Cueto doxxing Cortez Castro in front of the Believers was a low move. I mean, how do you blow a guy's spot like that in front of people who are already in a mood to see some senseless bloodshed? On the other hand, Castro is a cop, and one who was pretty corrupt at that. So of course, if you want to give someone up to the Monster Matanza to literal death, well, you might wanna go with the dude who was trying to bring your operation down from the inside, right? If anything, Matanza just decimating all these satellite characters and wrestlers who've outrun their narratives is great cleanup work. It's like running a defrag on your hard drive. Wait, do people still do that, or am I showing my age again? Either way, Matanza will lean up the roster in time for Ultima Lucha Cuatro before Season Five (if one is in the works) bloats it up again.

Fuck Your Sleaze

Intergender wrestling is neither good nor bad inherently, mainly because gender is a work. You present two (or more) people in a simulation of an athletic contest, regardless of what their genders are, and they tell a story. The further away from gender roles defined by an insular society that only even recognizes two out of the possible ∞ genders, the better the match will probably be. If you stick to what traditional Western "values" dictate as how people of set genders should act, then the match is gonna come off as shitty and condescending.

For as much proselytizing for intergender wrestling that Joey Ryan does on social media, he sure does indulge in the shitty, condescending version of it when he wants to. It's not just the Boobplex, which was cute for a little while when he was doing it in Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, almost wrestling Candice LeRae exclusively. Like, the entire match vs. Ivelisse Velez, a former Trios Champion and someone who has been established as one of the scariest non-supernatural threats in the entire narrative was just every lazy trope about what would happen if a man faced off against a woman with the rider that it should all be forgiven since Ryan sold for Velez and did the job.

You have to ask yourself the question, would Ryan stand imposingly and borderline no-sell while giving off an abusive domestic partner vibe for Rey Mysterio? I imagine the answer to that question is "no," which sort of makes all the other stuff that he WOULD do for male opponents, like rubbing them into his chest hair or attempting to stick the lollipop he stores next to his gross dick into their mouths come off as not only sleazy, but incredibly rapey as well. It just puts everything in that much worse of a light, and then the spillover outrage will go towards people like Jordynne Grace, who on the reg works matches against opponents who don't go full condescension with her. It's damaging on the whole, especially since Lucha Underground is on television and for the customers who get El Rey Network with the price of their cable bills, it's viewed for virtual free.

I mean, Velez won the match and did so by acquitting herself well. It was perhaps the best single performance she put in since I've been watching Lucha Underground off and on back to the first season. I don't think it's that much to ask for her to have an opponent that wrestles her like a wrestler, not like a scumbag male chauvinist. It's 2018. You can build up bad guys in wrestling without playing to the basest shit possible, because you do damage to the survivors and the inconvenient truth is that too many abusers in the audience see nothing wrong with Ryan's actions. Do better.

Two Medallions Are Better Than One

So the triple threat IMPLOSION of the Trios Champions for an Aztec Medallion turned out to be a contest for two of said components of the Gift of the Gods, adding an extra layer of intrigue to the match. One would expect The Mack and Killshot to team up against Son of Havoc since the latter member was just thrown on the team against anyone's will. However, the match did not play out at all with the two original members of the trio taking sides. If anything, Mack went into business for himself against the exhortations of an extremely intent and supremely cranky Killshot, not just at the finish, but the entire match. Matt Striker mentioned that Killshot actually scored the pin on Mack in their match at Ultima Lucha Tres, so it's not like the original trio has always been united. My guess though is that this was different because Havoc was an outsider.

Anyway, this match owned because all three dudes were unleashed to their highest levels in this match, especially Mack, who can throw down with anyone bigger or smaller than him. I wonder why PWG doesn't ring his phone anymore. I guess it's because he doesn't titillate the hardcore fans in Germany or the United Kingdom. Ah well. Still, when the three were all engaged in the hard-ass strike circle towards the end, it showed Lucha Underground distilled down to its purest form, a bunch of guys, possibly in masks, just throwing the hardest strikes at each other (or more accurately, slapping their legs so, so hard while pantomiming violence) while some member of the Cueto family cackles in his office at the cornucopia of violence he's provided.

The finish wsa incredible not just for the story elements, but because it was so expertly sequenced, starting with Mack's attempt at a superplex through his momentary hesitation on which guy to in. While I could point to any part of that closing stretch as a paramount, but probably my favorite part saw Killshot ripping Havoc from the top into a fireman's carry by wrenching his beard. One would think that you'd naturally grab that rat's nest at several points in the match for an advantage, but it's done so sparingly that when it does happen, it's special. Anyway, the implications and the post-match shenanigans, namely a bitter as fuck Killshot, mad at Mack for pinning him and not Havoc, slapping the medallions down, probably signal an end to the Trios Champions' reign sooner rather than later, which in wrestling parlance means they're keeping the titles until Ultima Lucha Cuatro or even longer.

One last note, Vampiro noted that he hated when wrestlers worked over a body part, which is both on brand for the Temple's inherent scuzz and for Lucha Underground's fight club atmosphere. As a meta commentary, it works because how many people work a fucking limb in a wrestling match only to have either the offense not to figure into the finish at all or for the wrestler getting worked over to stop selling it almost instantaneously as they move into their comeback? Sometimes, Vampiro actually has trenchant insights. Other times, he wonders if Joey Ryan hit Ivelisse Velez with a closed fist, as if that matters in the lawless lands of Lucha Underground. C'est la vie, I suppose.

BIG BOY SZN f/ Cero Miedo

When Cueto announced Cage vs. Mil Muertes for this week, my HOSS FIGHT sense started tingling, and boy, was I ever rewarded. The two resident sentient sides of cow of Lucha Underground (Matanza is more the living incarnation of the round, shank, and oxtail areas) threw everything they had at each other and then some. The funniest part saw Cage hit a rana that is surprisingly better than a good portion of the people who do it in WWE, the commentary team remarking that Muertes doesn't do moves like that, and then him going "hold my beer" before answering with a satellite headscissors of his own. Who said the beefy lads can't fly, eh? My favorite portion of the match, however, was the mass parade of ref bumps, with Muertes hitting the first ref accidentally with the Reaper's Trident spear and then each wrestler hitting their finisher on the other, getting a visual pin, a replacement ref coming out for an unsuccessful pinfall, and each one of them getting intentionally murdered by the aggrieved party. Combined with the doxxing and sacrifice of a literal police officer in the first segment, the Lucha Underground roster has major issues with accepting authority, and I for one am here for it.

The real story of the match, however, was not with the two wrestlers themselves, but with a third wrestler who decided he was going to blend in with the crowd and ambush Cage when the time was right. Remember, Cage waylaid and laid out Pentagón DARK a couple of weeks back, and I'm not entirely sure it's fair to expect the fearless skeleton with anger issues and a collection of arms to sit idly back and take it without recourse. After Muertes had picked off the weakened Machine Not Man, the Champ laid out his challenge for next week, a title defense because he has Cero Miedo of anyone, especially dudes who like to hit him from behind. On the surface, it's a circumvention of stipulation, that Cage gets the shortcut to the title by losing the match for a mere piece of the title that would grant him a shot. As long as you're not Wade Keller and don't clutch pearls over STIPULATIONS, you could see that the Champ might be feeling a bit of his own hubris, or that he wasn't done taking from Cage the pound of flesh that he's owed. Either way, I'm fine with violence.

Another thing that I didn't pick up during the show but The Cubs Fan at Luchablog did was the change in body language Catrina had towards Muertes. Granted, relationship turbulence between the two is nothing new. She helped Feníx win the first Grave Consequences match way back in season one, and even recently, she professed to a grieving Melissa Santos that The Man of a Thousand Births was the one who loved Catrina and not the comely ring announcer. The wardrobe change, which commentary made a point to highlight, might also mollify some sort of change in personnel alignment as well. Either way, the Muertes/Catrina relationship will be one to watch going forward.


One place where the drop in budget for effects and production is not a definite negative was revealed last night. The uptick in cheese and hokeyness actually works for the Rabbit Tribe, which is a stable borne straight out of a B-movie, although those trappings at the beginning at least led to an upgrade in aesthetic, to more of a Nine Inch Nails music video. Progress. Anyway, Mascarita Sagrada made good on his promise to bring them to the White Rabbit, who summarily ordered Paul London to murder the poor mini. Obviously, Lucha Underground leans on death a lot, but it's not able to create the kind of gore in the ring that befits a Robert Rodriguez-associated production. However, give them a pre-tape segment, and man, I didn't know a guy that small could have so much blood. Personally, it took me back to playing Mortal Kombat 3 on Sega Genesis. In fact, I hope if Lucha Underground makes it to season five, it gets an upgrade in budget and has that much blood on every episode.