Michael Dorgan takes a look at an exciting new American wrestling production and examines whether it can compete with World Wrestling Entertainment’s global brand appeal.
Last week saw the airing of a new wrestling production, Lucha Underground. The one hour show emphasises the high-flying, explosive moves of lucha libre; an ancient Mexican combat tradition known for masked wrestlers who wage war in a gritty battleground called “The Temple”.
Aired on the American El Rey network and in Spanish on UniMás, the weekly pre-recorded television series features professional wrestlers from the Mexican wrestling promotion Asistencia Asesoría y Administración (AAA) as well as the American independent circuit. Some familiar names to WWE fans include Chavo Guerrero and Johnny Mundo a.k.a. John Morrison. The wrestling is high paced and intense and far more acrobatic an imaginative than the WWE (No 5 move Cena’s here).
The imaginative use of countless camera angles ensure a more cinematic experience to matches reflecting the production influences of Luchas backers, film director Robert Rodriguez and television producer Mark Burnett who’s United Artists Media Group produces the show. There are no mundane, uninteresting segments which are often used by WWE to fill its massive 3 hour Monday Night Raw shows.In fact Lucha went out on a limb for its debut show and offered up a male versus female bout, ‘Son of Havoc’ who fought ‘Sexy Star’!
But can it compete with WWE? Probably not. The WWE brand and its wrestling stars are internationally recognisable and a show that consists of so many masked, Latino wrestlers really constricts any potentially commercial universal appeal. In saying that there is a massive yearning by wrestling fans, disillusioned with the PG era WWE product, for something different, exciting and quite frankly more adult and realistic.
Currently TNA (Total Non-stop Action Wrestling) is the WWEs main competitor but the company seems to be in rapid decline, running into massive financial difficulties and has seen many of its biggest names depart the organisation. In fact the WWEs reality show, Total Divas often outperforms TNA in the ratings.
Last year TNAs best talent, A.J. Styles, left the company after his contract expired, saying that he could not accept TNA’s new offer which would have seen him take a 60% paycut. Styles now works with New Japan Pro Wrestling. Hulk Hogan left the company in late 2013 and returned to the WWE while Sting has also joined the WWE (whether he will appear in the ring remains to be seen).
Alberto Del Rio, recently fired from the WWE due to a backstage altercation with a WWE employee, has indicated that he will be joining Lucha Underground next year so it does seem like a production which can attract some big stars going forward.
It was competition between the WWF and WCW that drove a golden era of professional wrestling during the Monday Night Wars/Attitude Era of the late 90’s early 00’s and genuine wrestling fans would hope Lucha Underground could some day have the same affect, but only time will tell.
For those without access to American networks, the first show is available on YouTube.
Michael Dorgan, Pundit Arena.