By Will Pruett
I am 30 years old and I have had cable for most of my life. I missed the era of closed circuit pay-per-view watching and honestly, it makes me a little sad. Being in a crowd of wrestling fans is usually amazing. Sitting at home alone watching shows can be draining. Fans bring energy to a show, whether you’re in a building live or watching with a vocal group. This is why I drove into Downtown Los Angeles on Tuesday afternoon to attend a special screening of Lucha Underground’s Season 3 Finale (Ultima Lucha Tres Part 4).
I’ll admit to not really reading the invitation, aside from where the show was, and having no idea what I was getting into. I rushed to my seat and looked down at my armrest. There was a button to turn the water on or off. This is obviously not a standard feature in movie theaters. Then, I realized this wasn’t just a fancy theater footrest, but that my seat rose precariously out of the ground. This was a “4DX” theater, meaning the seats, fans around the room, water jets, fog machines, and air cannons have been synced with the action on the screen. With this screening, Lucha Underground became the first TV show to be shown in this type of theater.
A communal experience was what I came for and the community around me seemed to not know what to expect from the moving seats either. We were jostled, cajoled, sprayed, and fanned in unison, each new effect drawing some gasps, then delight. Each new way the seats tossed us around, we greeted with a laugh, smile, and sometimes applause. Add to this a show with two hours of very intense wrestling and every person in the theater seemed to be having a good time.
Even as the night bore on and there were no new effects to be had, certain moments still drew expressions of joy. Occasionally, the chairs and the wrestling in the ring would be synced absolutely perfectly (as opposed to almost perfectly) and we’d find ourselves twirling with a flying headscissor takedown. It was neat when it was perfect. At the same time, the constant small shakes with every punch could get tedious. When you knew what to expect, it wasn’t quite as fun. They could have saved some tricks, effects, or movements until the end and built throughout the show. Maybe not shaking everything at once would help sustain the novelty.
The wrestling show itself, Lucha Underground, is a show I walked away from at the end of its second season. After calling it the future of wrestling and the next great advance of artistic quality in its first season, it proved to be a disappointment in its second. This was the first episode of season three I watched.
I was struck by how much I missed The Temple as the show began. Going to Lucha Underground tapings in Los Angeles was always an undeniably great time. I have also missed the cinematic style of the show. The lighting feels different. The vignettes feel different. It’s a different take on what wrestling can be and I still appreciate the creativity that has gone into it. What I loved about Lucha Underground when I first watched is still true today.
At the same time, the problems that caused me to walk away from Lucha Underground were still apparent. The show seemed to ratchet up violence to an absurd degree, especially things like large men slamming much smaller women, and the use of glass, barbed wire, and various other weapons. Season one didn’t go to this dark place aside from the Vampiro vs. Pentagon match at the first Ultima Lucha. Matt Striker is still insufferable (at one point, most of the theater was yelling “shut up” at the screen as he spoke). Every match on this show had some form of interference. The first two matches had rule changes and restarts provided by maniacal promoter Dario Cueto. Dario was an interesting character at one point, but seemed to settle into being a less stable version of the insane authority figure many feared he’d be.
I enjoyed watching this episode. Heck, I may go seek out my colleague John Moore’s recommendations for what I must see from season three. Should the show get a fourth season (which seems like it could happen, but under immense budget constraints), I’d watch the premier to see the fallout from the cliffhanger ending of this episode.
Lucha Underground has always been a mixed bag. Much like seats vibrating and shaking you with the wrestling you’re watching, it’s a fun new experience, but has limited staying power. Novelty is necessary to remain innovative.
Lucha Underground’s novelty wore off, even as this show crescendoed with the long awaited Pentagon Dark championship win. What was once new and innovative settled into the tropes of overbooked professional wrestling, which was depressing to see. I’ll still fondly reminisce about the good ol’ days of season one when the world was innocent and full of hope.
Last week’s essential viewing:
What matches/segments/moments do you need to see from the last week of wrestles?
Anything involving Shane McMahon, Kevin Owens, and Sami Zayn – Sometimes stories come out of nowhere and wrestling seems to give you a gift. I feel like this is a gift structured specially for me. Owens and Zayn becoming friends again has utterly charmed me. Shane McMahon and Owens had a great Hell in a Cell match with an amazing build. These three guys are putting something special on our screens and it’s the only reason to watch Smackdown right now.
The Shield reunion – Speaking of only reasons to watch WWE through certain seasons, Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, and Dean Ambrose provided that in Autumn 2012 and 2013. Their reunion hasn’t been perfect, but it has had some perfect moments. Their entrance this past Monday? Perfect. The triple powerbomb to Braun Strowman? Perfect. WWE rarely gives us everything we dream of (a subject for another day) but The Shield reunion has provided some great moments.
The Usos vs. The New Day (WWE Hell in a Cell) – An innovative and exciting tag match from two teams who can’t do any wrong together.
What I absolutely positively love in wrestling this week:
Sami Zayn – I’m not sure I ever expected to heel Sami Zayn as a villain. It doesn’t even feel natural to type. I thought it would break my heart. I was so entirely wrong. Zayn, before his antagonistic move at Hell in a Cell and since, has been convincing, conniving, and truly motivated. Sami’s logic is just solid enough to make him believable. As a fan of his, I can’t even say he’s wrong. It’s a great place for a heel to be and a great place for a top level performer.
If you enjoy getting a little bit of what I love in wresting, check out my new YouTube series called “What I Love About Professional Wrestling!”
What I absolutely positively love in the world this week:
You’re The Worst – This television show (on FXX) is in the middle of its fourth season and is still surprising and delighting me, but don’t go into where it is now. Go back to the beginning and watch the show’s transcendent second season. This is a sitcom, yes, but it also shows a very real struggle with depression and addiction. It shows the effects of PTSD. It brings us truth in action in a remarkable way. It’s one of my favorite shows on TV (up there with Master of None). Aya Cash and Kether Donohue are particularly amazing, by the way.
Got something to say/react to in today’s piece? Write to me at email@example.com or on Twitter @wilpruett. Just let me know whether you’d like your name attached to your statement or not. Alternately, there’s a comment section just below this article, so comment away!
Here are some of the super fun and appropriate things mailed to me after my last piece:
“How many times can you use the word ‘delightful’ in one column? Get a thesaurus!” – Shauny
This person was right, actually. I overindulge in the word “delightful” and should probably back off a little.
“Where have you left your balls? Your liberalism is such a turnoff.” – Brandon
Ummm… The current location of my testicles is private, but I am sure I haven’t left them anywhere. As for my liberalism, I hope you can find a pro wrestling writer who delivers the kind of liberalism that turns you on.
Okay, so a ton of people wrote in about that particular piece of mail rightfully calling the guy an idiot as well. Keep the mail coming, friends!
SSMGOTW (Superfluous Shane McMahon Gif of the Week):
How f—ing good was Owens vs. Shane!?!? It was a religious experience.
We’re Done Here:
It’s been a couple weeks and the world has one less Aaron Rodgers playing football, one more Star Wars trailer that makes me cry every time I watch it, a whole lot of SNES Classics, and a bunch of other things happening too. I hope you’re all well, good, and fighting the good fight (or napping the good nap). Until next week…
Will Pruett writes about wrestling and popular culture at prowrestling.net. Of interest to him are diversity in wrestling and wrestling as a theatrical art form. To see his video series “What I Love About Professional Wrestling” subscribe to his YouTube channel. To contact, check him out on Twitter @wilpruett, leave a comment, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.