By Graham "GSM" Matthews
In case you haven't heard, Lucha Underground's Ultima Lucha Dos is quickly approaching, and for those unaware, the highly anticipated event is essentially the promotion's version of WrestleMania. Headlined by Prince Puma vs. Mil Muertes for the Lucha Underground Championship and Pentagon Jr. vs. Vampiro in a bloody brawl, last year's installment definitely did not disappoint, and this year's show should be no exception. The entire card is pretty much set in stone, and the first part of the three week extravaganza will kick off this Wednesday, July 6th.
But let's back up for a moment: if you haven't been watching weekly, you have really been missing out on some wonderful wrestling. I can't stress enough that the consistency of the program, in addition to the amazing in-ring action, is a breath of fresh air compared to WWE, TNA and other companies. There isn't a better time to get into the product than now, especially with Ultima Lucha Dos right around the corner. As we prepare for what should be a Show of the Year candidate, relive these ten classic contests from the latest season of Lucha Underground.
10. Drago and Aerostar vs. Jack Evans and PJ Black - Nunchucks Match (June 8, 2016)
On that note, there is no better way to kick off the top ten list than with the incredibly entertaining duo of Jack Evans and PJ Black. They found chemistry together from the get-go as allies and made enemies out of Drago and Aerostar. If you aren't all that aware of the universe Lucha Underground takes place in, it is worth mentioning that they do have several stipulations that may seem silly to the outside viewer, including this unprecedented Nunchucks match.
But it was every bit as awesome as it sounded. Evans, who was largely a forgettable wrestler in Season 1, came into his own this season and began proclaiming himself as "The Dragon Slayer" following his upset victory over Drago. Their ruthless rivalry escalated to a whole other level in this Nunchucks match as all four competitors raced to reach the nunchucks hanging high from the temple. Once they had them in their possession, they held nothing back and inflicted an adverse amount of punishment on each other. Evans and Black dominated a majority of the matchup, but it was ultimately Drago and Aerostar who reigned supreme.
9. Cage vs. Taya - No Disqualification Match (March 9, 2016)
When Melina debuted at the end of Johnny Mundo's match with Alberto El Patron at Ultima Lucha and aided him to victory, I was excited at the idea of the former power couple reuniting on TV (did they ever actually break up?). Thus, I was mildly disappointed when I heard she she wasn't being brought back for Season 2, but little did I know that Taya would fill that void perfectly. I was unfamiliar with her work prior to Lucha Underground, but it didn't take long for her to blow me away with her amazing in-ring ability.
This is no exaggeration: Taya is better than some of the boys when it comes to her wrestling skills, and moreover, she can endure pain like an absolute boss. She clashed with Cage in the midst of her and Mundo's rivalry with him early on in the season in a barbaric No Disqualification, and her body was put through total hell. Cage is an impressive specimen himself, and the brutality of the bout might have been more than some could handle. The sadistic side of me enjoyed it immensely, however.
8. Rey Mysterio, Prince Puma and Dragon Azteca Jr. vs. Johnny Mundo, Jack Evans and PJ Black - Trios Championship Match (May 25, 2016)
What could make the alliance between Jack Evans and PJ Black even more epic? Adding Johnny Mundo to the mix! They initially had Fenix as their third partner, but he was "mysteriously" attacked backstage before the bout and Mundo served as his replacement. And he couldn't have been a better fit for the group. All three athletes are not only awe-inspiring in the ring, they're super full of themselves, and that shared trait immediately made them a tremendous trio.
As for their opponents, they were quite dream team themselves consisting of Rey Mysterio, Dragon Azteca Jr. and Prince Puma. They had as electric of a match as one would expect and there were far too many counters for me to recount. The fast pace of the contest resulted in it being a breathtaking bout from start to finish, and although the babyfaces came close to securing the victory, the heels outsmarted them to take the titles.
7. Cage vs. Johnny Mundo - Steel Cage Ancient Aztec Medallion Match (April 27, 2016)
The aforementioned Cage vs. Johnny Mundo rivalry was one of the best parts about Lucha Underground 2 because they were such polar opposites. Cage was a top heel in the promotion for a majority of the previous season, but his unadulterated strength got him over as a major fan favorite heading into Season 2. Meanwhile, Mundo evolved into a slimy heel in the second half of Season 1 and entered Season 2 with a head of steam.
After simmering for months and months, their bad blood came to a head on the April 27 episode when they collided in Lucha Underground's first ever Steel Cage match. An Ancient Aztec Medallion (which earns you entry into the Gift of the Gods Championship match) being up for grabs was the last thing on the mind of either competitor as they were solely focused on beating the living hell out of each other. The steel structure hardly did Cage justice as Taya repeatedly got involved, but even that wasn't enough as he overcame the egotistical couple to pick up the win and the medallion.
6. Lucha Underground Championship Aztec Warfare Match (March 23, 2016)
Aztec Warfare was one of the best bouts from Lucha Underground Season 1, so I was highly anticipating this year's installment. Essentially, it's their version of the Royal Rumble match. Two luchadors start out in the ring and every two minutes or so, another athlete enters the fray. Wrestlers are eliminated via pinfall and submission, and the last man standing is deemed the victor. Unlike last year, however, it was established that Season 2's Aztec Warfare would be for the Lucha Underground Championship.
One week removed from his monumental title win over Mil Muertes, Fenix was at a distinct disadvantage. Yes, I realize this sounds exactly like the story WWE told with Roman Reigns in January, and although it aired afterward, it was actually taped months beforehand. And it was well-executed, too. The action early on was exhilarating, and the temple lost their minds for the debuting Rey Mysterio. He seemingly had the match won before the late inclusion of the long-talked about Matanza Cueto, who totally cleaned house.
Mysterio was on the verge of victory, but Matanza's pure power was too much to prevail. This resulted in the returning Dario Cueto's brother being crowned the new Lucha Underground Champion, a title he has had a stranglehold on ever since. While it wasn't superior to last year's Aztec Warfare, it was still spectacular in itself, and miles better than the Royal Rumble.
5. Fenix vs. King Cuerno - Gift of the Gods Championship Ladder Match (March 2, 2016)
The feud between Fenix and King Cuerno that took place over the first month and a half of Season 2 was a blast to watch unfold. First, Cuerno beat Fenix on the season premiere to capture the Gift of the Gods Championship. Then, Fenix avenged the loss in a non-title Last Luchador Standing match. The rubber match had to be something special, and the stakes can't be any higher (literally and figuratively) than they are in a Ladder match.
Although the match started out slow, the solid storytelling more than makes up for it. They spent the better part of the 17 minute-plus match using the ladder as a weapon against each other opposed to climbing it to reach the title, which tends to grow tiresome in most Ladder matches. What I liked a lot about this bout was how it felt more like a sequel to their other encounters and not a standard rematch, and by that I mean they played off previous spots and innovated instead of repeating the same spots.
It was only after putting Cuerno through a table that Fenix was able to reclaim the championship hanging high above the ring, and the prospect of him facing off against old rival Mil Muertes for the Lucha Underground Championship was thrilling to say the least.
4. Four Team Elimination Trios Championship Match (April 27, 2016)
A lot like in Season 1, the Trios Tournament was undoubtedly a major highlight of the latest season. Despite being paired at random, regardless of whether they had history or not, everyone who teamed up worked well together and it created a compelling dynamic. The tournament came down to Ivelisse and Son of Havoc (Angelico was out injured in storyline) being forced to defend their Trios titles against the qualifying teams of Joey Ryan and The Crew, Jack Evans, PJ Black and Fenix, and the dream team of Rey Mysterio, Dragon Azteca Jr. and Prince Puma.
Putting eleven wrestlers in one ring can oftentimes result in a massive train wreck, but this was anything but. In a way it was, but by train wreck, I mean you couldn't afford to turn your head for two seconds let alone blink at the risk of missing something. The elimination stipulation worked to their benefit because once Ryan and The Crew as well as the defending champions were eliminated, that was when the pace really picked up.
By that point, new champions were guaranteed. The remaining teams dueled it out and every nearfall was more suspenseful than the last. Rey Mysterio had his best outing in a long time, Prince Puma showcased his unbelievable athleticism, and even Dragon Azteca had a breakout performance with all that he contributed. They didn't hold the Trios titles for more than month after this evening, but it was a monumental monument when they won them. The contest came off as choreographed with everyone taking turns hitting their spots, but it was a masterpiece of a match, nevertheless.
3. Mil Muertes vs. Prince Puma vs. Pentagon Jr. - Lucha Underground Championship Triple Threat Match (March 9, 2016)
While Fenix was busy battling with King Cuerno over the Gift of the Gods Championship, don't think for a second that Mil Muertes was idly sitting by awaiting his next challenger. He already had two hungry stars gunning for the gold: Prince Puma and Pentagon Jr. Puma was owed a title rematch coming off his loss of the title at Ultima Lucha, whereas Pentagon was riding a wave of momentum and was immensely over with the audience.
Pentagon and Puma faced off a few times in order to determine a true No. 1 contender to the title, but both of their bouts had inconclusive outcomes. A Triple Threat match pitting all three luchadors against each other was made official for the March 9 episode instead, meaning Muertes didn't have to be pinned in order to lose his precious prize. Multi-man matches are usually hit or miss based on who is involved, but these three exceeded all expectations and made magic together.
Pentagon and Puma teamed up against Muertes early on, but their friendship was tossed out the window shortly thereafter as both of them were desperate to take home the title. They took the fight around the arena and into the crowd with Puma performing a Shooting Star Press on his opponents at one point. It was also superkicks galore, which was a bit hokey I will admit, but the audience ate it up.
Pentagon might have had the match won had he not taken his time trying to break the arm of Puma. Muertes reemerged just in time to lay out his adversaries with one ferocious Flatliner and pinned them simultaneously so there was no question who the superior star was. Just a terrific Triple Threat that had this viewer on the edge of his seat the entire time.
2. Sexy Star vs. Mariposa - "No Mas" Ancient Aztec Medallion Match (May 4, 2016)
I was honestly skeptical as to how this match was going to play out. Prior to this point, believe it or not, Lucha Underground had never had the women main event an episode by themselves. Granted, their women's division isn't that deep, but that's still surprising given the recent revolution of women's wrestling in WWE and other promotions as of late. Well, it was better late than never, but I was more than happy to eat my words once this match was over because it was that damn good.
At the end of Ultima Lucha last year, Sexy Star was abducted by Marty "The Moth" Martinez and he teased the arrival of his unidentified sister. It took time, but she was eventually revealed to be Mariposa, who had been haunting Star for months. Personally, I was never high on Star. Not because she was awful in the ring or anything along those lines, and her character was very clear-cut, but she was always being protected at the expense of others (i.e. when she beat Pentagon Jr. clean for no reason).
That wasn't the case during this feud at all because her fear caused her to become weak. Mariposa took full advantage of that, and in this first ever "No Mas" match, she brutalized her all over the temple. Sexy Star's willingness and determination to fight through the pain was commendable and caused fans to rally behind her. They went higher up than anyone else had before, and even I was questioning whether that was a good idea.
The Mack (Star's ally) and Martinez both got involved at one point, but I appreciated how they didn't shift the focus away from the women. Battered, bloodied and bruised, Star forced Mariposa to submit to score an Ancient Aztec Medallion. But most importantly, she could finally rest easy knowing she had conquered her demons.
1. Mil Muertes vs. Fenix - No Disqualification Lucha Underground Championship Match (March 16, 2016)
Before you watch this match, you would be wise to check out their first two in-ring encounters because they really set the stage for this contest, but I'll sum up the build for you. Fenix and Mil Muertes had one of the most ruthless rivalries of Season 1 with Fenix destroying Muertes in a Grave Consequences match only for Muertes to return and exact revenge in a Death match two months later. Both battles were among the very best the show had to offer, and thus their third major meeting was highly anticipated among the "believers" at the temple.
As I alluded to earlier, Fenix announced one week in advance on March 9 that he would be cashing in his Gift of the Gods Championship, which he had fought for months to get back in his grasp, against Muertes for the Lucha Underground Championship. As longtime adversaries, they wasted no time in battering each other and going so far as to rip their masks off. I could have done without the latter, but it certainly added to the intensity of the matchup.
Lucha Underground is never short of amazing wrestling, but it's the stellar storytelling that separates a good match from an exceptional one. Because of their history, Fenix and Muertes worked especially well together and went to great lengths to secure the victory. Fenix's fighting spirit saw him refuse to give up throughout the bout, and although it appeared to be all over when Muertes had Fenix in position for the Flatliner, Fenix rolled through for a surprising three count to become only the third Lucha Underground Champion ever.
The celebration that followed gave me goosebumps, and seeing the sheer shock and adulation from the believers in the arena was wonderful. Sadly, Fenix's Cinderella story was cut short at the hands of the debuting Matanza Cueto the very next week in Aztec Warfare, but that didn't at all take away from this night's magical moment.
SEE ALSO: "RJ's Two Cents - Why WWE Needs to Sign Prince Puma"