If you've ever flipped by a Spanish-language TV station and wondered what lucha libre is all about, Robert Rodriguez's El Rey Network is bringing an English-language version stateside. It is a faster, more colorful, and more acrobatic cousin of American pro wrestling, and Rodriguez and Mark Burnett, of Survivor fame, are looking to expand its audience in the United States.
In the above exclusive clip, Prince Puma — whom hard-core wrestling fans may know as Ricochet from Dragon Gate USA — and Johnny Mundo — whom even casual fans may recognize as John Morrison from WWE — duke it out for $100,000 in prize money.
The in-ring action is faster paced if you're used to seeing John Cena and Big Show wrestle. Mundo misses his split-legged moonsault, Puma connects with the chocolate rain (what the announcer calls "beautiful double knees") but misses the 630-degree senton, and Mundo finishes him with a moonlight drive, all within 50 seconds.
The show's creators are making lucha accessible to fans used to the WWE style, while maintaining the institutions of Mexican wrestling. The traditional conflict of good guy versus bad guy (técnicos versus rudos) is intact, but Aztec mythology will also be incorporated into the stories. If nothing else, it's probably the only wrestling show on television incorporating archaeological research into its design.
Burnett hopes to draw fans of all contact sports — including pro wrestling and MMA — as well as second- and third-generation Latinos looking to reconnect with their culture: Mesoamerican with an urban edge. Production designer Kelly Van Patter calls the visual style Fight Club with a Latino flair.
The rising popularity of luchador masks on Halloween makes this a good time of year to premiere Lucha Underground; with only 39 episodes in its initial run, will it generate enough interest to keep it around for a second Halloween?
Lucha Underground airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on El Rey Network.