Described as “a Mortal Kombat telenovela” and “one of the most innovative wrestling shows since ECW,” Lucha Underground adds an Attitude Era eyebrow arching to the century-old lucha libre tradition and incorporates practically every other wrestling style and Aztec mythology, just to make sure you’re paying attention. Each hour-long episode is packed with fierce fights and cinematic storylines — all of which, including championship-deciding matches and brutal gimmick-heavy beatdowns, are resolved without constant teasing to pay-per-view.
Originally aired on Machete director Robert Rodriguez’s El Rey cable network, the show’s first two seasons recently began streaming on Netflix, opening up the “Temple” (the turn-of-the-century Boyle Heights factory where Lucha Underground is filmed) to a whole new set of potential “Believers.” The character developments revealed during the stylishly shot dramatic interludes between matches heighten the emotional payoffs of the fights considerably, but the often acrobatic, occasionally intensely violent and consistently over-the-top, jaw-unhinging wrestling itself is always the main event. That’s no small feat when the cast of characters includes a time-traveling space-lord and a face-licking necromancer. Even describing one of the best fights would spoil a macabre storyline a season in the making.
If you’ve missed out on the first two seasons of Lucha Underground, or just need a refresher course on why the show is so endlessly binge-worthy, check out these 15 Lucha Underground Matches You Need To Stream Right Now.
15. Johnny Mundo vs. Prince Puma vs. Big Ryck (S01E07)
Largely reserved for Royal Rumbles, Wrestlemanias and other pay-per-view events, ladder matches have been inducing vertigo and endangering athletes since they first appeared in the 1970s. Lucha Underground — in what’s become a recurring theme on the show — broke with wrestling tradition by introducing a ladder to the ring in “Top Of the Ladder”, not as a way of settling a storied rivalry, but as a way of starting a few. Gleefully sadistic Lucha Underground “owner” (and comic book star) Dario Cueto, played by character actor Luis Fernandez-Gil, dangles a briefcase filled with $100,000 above the heads of three of his fiercest competitors like a deranged child swinging a dead mouse at hissing alley cats…and with much the same result.
Dirty hits, hard falls, and extremely unsportsmanlike conduct abound in this anything-goes match that builds bitter feelings between competitors and complicates alliances for many episodes to come. And just like the aforementioned cat scenario, eventually, somebody’s going to end up losing an eye.
14. Pimpinela Escarlata, Sexy Star, and Mascarita Sagrada vs. The Crew (S01E15)
Trios matches pitting three-person tag teams against each other, mini-estrella matches featuring little people, and flamboyant, gender-fluid exótico wrestlers are all part of lucha libre tradition. Equal-footing intergender matches are easily one of the more attention-grabbing aspects of Lucha Underground‘s aesthetic. In “Eye for An Eye”, all of these things come together in one gloriously insane no-holds-barred match. The mercenary street-fighting Crew (comprised of Cortez Castro, Mr. Cisco, and Bael) take it as an insult to their machismo that they’re even being forced to enter the ring against Sexy Star, Mascarita Sagrada, and Pimpinela Escarlata, who’ve clearly been teamed up for pure novelty value. The unlikely trio of underdogs carry themselves with dignity, however, and instantly get the crowd on their side, even as they’re being pummeled by the vengeful Crew.
Lucha Underground storylines offer many small and large triumphs for its most easily underestimated competitors, but its Davids just as often suffer severe beatdowns for going up against Goliaths, and this match gives glimpses of both in nearly equal measure — no slingshots needed.
13. Texano vs. Alberto El Patrón (S01E17)
“A War Started in Mexico” offers viewers exactly what it promises by reigniting the rivalry between Texano and Alberto El Patrón (aka Alberto Del Rio when he wrestles in the WWE) over the Mega Championship for Mexico’s Asistencia Asesoría y Administración (AAA) organization. Viewers who haven’t been watching AAA lucha libre got clued in on the animosity quickly in a previous episode during what should’ve been Patrón’s triumphant introduction to the Temple.
Offered the mic for a bit of in-ring self-promotion (a wrestling fixture that’s mercifully rare in Lucha Underground), Patrón is almost immediately interrupted, Kanye West at the VMAs style, by his old rival Texano, who’s apparently followed him across the border just to steal his thunder. Even if you didn’t see the buildup to the match, the brutality of the blows exchanged (not to mention the ferocity of the follow-up “bull rope match” three episodes later) should leave little doubt that these two either absolutely hate each other or have at least had plenty of practice making it look like they do.
12. Sexy Star vs. Super Fly (S01E22)
Lucha Underground‘s respect for wrestling history and lucha libre tradition is equaled only by the disdain owner, proprietor, and numero uno heel Dario Cueto shows for anything that might get in the way of more violence in the ring. Pitting former allies Sexy Star and Super Fly against each other in “Mask vs. Mask” is just the beginning of Cueto’s devious scheme. Just before the match begins, Cueto makes a surprise announcement that the winner has to remove the loser’s mask — effectively ending the unfortunate luchador’s career. In lucha libre tradition, mask matches are the climax of heated, storied rivalries, built up for weeks (if not years). Under Cueto’s sadistic rule, however, a high-intensity match with irreversible ramifications can be announced on a whim, as a punishment for too much civility between wrestlers.
While Cueto clearly shows no respect for either luchador, Sexy Star and Super Fly battle like reluctant samurai bound by a strict code of honor, neither pulling punches nor relishing in their landing. The internal conflict of the warrior rarely plays this well in the ring.
11. Son of Havoc, Angelico and Ivelisse vs. The Crew (S01E24)
“This team puts the ‘fun’ in the word ‘dysfunctional,'” says announcer Matt Striker of the trio of Angelico, Ivelisse, and Son of Havoc as they enter the ring in “Trios Champions” for what’s about to become a grueling night. The team — made up of the recently broken-up Ivelisse and Son of Havoc and wannabe third-wheel Angelico — was assembled at the insistence of owner Dario Cueto for unclear motivations, probably just because he thinks it’s funny. After surviving a three-way trios match that pits them against some of the biggest, meanest, and best wrestlers Lucha Underground has to offer, and even gets the crowd involved, the “dysfunctional” underdogs become the butt of another joke from the grinning promoter.
Amongst outraged boos, Cueto announces that not only is there a new team entering the tournament — the dreaded Crew — but that Havoc, Ivelisse, and Angelico must face them immediately in a no-holds-barred match. Considering Ivelisse just spent the last several minutes of the previous match hobbling around on a bum knee, the team has the odds against them stacked higher than ever before. But in Lucha Underground, heightened drama is just another thing to jump off of.
10. Prince Puma vs. Drago (S01E25)
To get a shot at the championship belt in “The Way Of The Drago”, the mysterious, venom-spitting masked luchador Drago must put his career on the line. As per Dario Cueto’s demented stipulation, losing to hometown hero Prince Puma would mean Drago is barred from Lucha Underground‘s Temple for life. And, since Drago seems more mythological beast than mortal man, no one’s sure exactly how long that banishment might last. Under ordinary circumstances, this first meeting between the two high-flying técnicos would be fast and fierce, but the raised stakes mean harsher submission holds, harder hits, and life-or-death intensity levels.
By forcing all-or-nothing aggression out of its would-be people’s champs, Lucha Underground often pushes competitors into anti-heroic actions, giving them no easy choices and leaving the viewers to sort out the morality for themselves like some post-modern HBO drama. Perhaps Deadwood could have used more backflips off the top turnbuckle.
9. Prince Puma vs. Johnny Mundo (S01E32)
“All Night Long” puts two of Lucha Underground‘s most promising and experienced competitors, Johnny Mundo (née WWE’s John Morrison aka Johnny Nitro) and Prince Puma (aka New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Ricochet), in a one-on-one iron man match from the first bell until the cameras stop rolling. A running tally of pin-falls and submissions will decide who makes it home with the championship belt, but all other rules and regulations are out of play in this no-disqualifications match. Normally illegal moves and outside interference fueled by other rivalries are to be expected, and the seemingly unending arsenal of makeshift weaponry stashed beneath the ring (ladders, tables, a crowbar) comes into play.
The announcers’ table and even the bandstand aren’t reliable safe spaces when the clock starts to run out. “We hope you at home have a heaving chest and a pounding heart,” wishes the nearly breathless announcer Matt Striker near the end of the match. Imagine how Johnny Mundo and Prince Puma feel after 40-plus minutes of this insanity.
8. Drago vs. Hernandez (S01E38)
“The insurance waivers have been signed,” announcer Matt Striker reminds viewers more than once during “Ultima Lucha Part 1”, and with good reason. Lucha Underground‘s first-ever “Believers’ Backlash” match serves as a variation on the classic lumberjack match, allowing for a select few in the crowd to hit Hernandez with leather straps anytime he exits the ring. But, as Striker repeatedly points out, Hernandez is free to hit back without fear of being sued. The belt-snapping “believers” are also technically allowed to hit Drago, too, if he steps outside the ropes, but the entire Temple comes together against Hernandez, reportedly to pay him back for mocking their belief in dragons. (Yes, seriously.) Talk about a tough crowd.
As wrestling bloggers, podcasters, and other suspiciously familiar-looking audience members gleefully get in on the beatdown, we’re reminded of the point of every “fan’s revenge” type match — nobody’s more bloodthirsty than the people paying to see this stuff.
7. Prince Puma and Pentagón Jr. vs. The Disciples of Death (S02E02)
Hero/villain team-ups are a staple of any decent cape-based comic book, and Lucha Underground offers viewers a similar thrill in “The Dark and the Mysterious” by pitting the mostly noble Prince Puma and the sadistic Pentagon Jr. against the skull-masked trio the Disciples of Death in a 2-on-3 handicap match. The fundamental differences between Pentagon and Puma typically put them at odds, but the two opposing forces must form an uneasy alliance to try to put down the Disciples, who are partially responsible for taking the Temple to “a much darker place.” One where even the sociopathic Pentagon seems to no longer feel at home.
Like many rivals-turned-teammates, Pentagon and Puma spend nearly as much time fighting with each other as they do against the dread Disciples, who for all their evil ways always manage to operate as a cohesive unit. And, like many complicated battles in the eternal war between good and evil, this fight will go on long after the final bell tolls.
6. Texano vs. Chavo Guerrero Jr. (S02E08)
Putting two titans and lucha libre legacies like Texano and Chavo Guerrero Jr. in opposite corners of a ring, as occurs “Life After Death” is almost guaranteed to result in a memorably savage match, but the intensity is ensured by attaching them at the wrist to either end of a thick “bull rope.” Since both luchadors descend from long lines of wrestling tradition, Striker worries about how the loser will face his family after being forced to “ride the sandpaper pony.” Meanwhile, his co-host Vampiro, who wrestled with their families in Mexico, discusses the possible class resentment at play.
Texano, once the longest reigning AAA Mega Champion, is also billed as a “blue-collar brawler” while Guerrero takes every chance to flaunt his privilege as the scion of a famous wrestling dynasty. While many bull rope matches forbid submission holds to discourage straight-up strangulation, Texano and Guerrero are given no such guidelines, and that cowbell tied between the two is sure to be used for more than musical accompaniment. You may have picked that up from the image above, of course.
5. Fénix vs. Mil Muertes (S02E08)
When a bull rope brawl between two pedigreed luchadors only makes it to the undercard, the main event better be something close to a mortal struggle, and the aptly named “Life After Death” delivers almost literally. Resurrected from the ashes like his namesake, the mysterious Fénix must battle the undead Mil Muertes (whose immortality seems to stem from a much more sinister source) in a fight that intentionally echoes the everlasting battle between the forces of light and darkness. Muertes himself is no stranger to resurrection, having fought in AAA and other promotions under various names — including a “casket match” at Guerra de Titanes 2006 that climaxed with his character El Mesías being thrown into an active volcano.
The struggle between the forces of life and death is made even more complicated by Mil’s ringside companion Catrina, who holds some mysterious power over the massive luchador. Her habit of licking Mil’s opponents after he’s pummeled them into submission seems to mean something more when she kisses Fénix. Maybe a daughter of darkness can only rebel by flirting with the light side.
4. Everyone vs. Everyone Else (S02E09)
The last-man-standing match is first introduced to Lucha Underground in “Aztec Warfare” when owner Dario Cueto offers the newly fashioned championship belt up to whoever manages to outlast every other opponent in an epic episode-long brawl. “Aztec Warfare II” ups the ante a year later by introducing several new luchadors to the Temple. Among the new recruits are the legendary Rey Mysterio (a name many American wrestling fans will recognize), Dragon Azteca Jr., and an inhuman behemoth whose very existence is a massive spoiler — both to any uninitiated fans who haven’t seen the season-plus buildup to his entrance and to the luchadors hoping to win the championship through anything close to a fair fight.
Suffice to say that any remaining illusion of fair play under owner Dario Cueto’s sneering regime is eliminated long before the final challenger is taken out in this brutal battle royal. Even the power of death itself does not hold sway for long in the Temple.
3. Cage vs. Johnny Mundo (S02E14)
At first, “Cage in a Cage” — featuring (what else?) the wrestler Cage in a steel cage match versus Johnny Mundo — just seems like a no-brainer play on words. But once you, like, start to meditate on the true meaning of the man they call Cage inside an actual cage, it becomes an Inception-style peeling back of the layers of reality and its stand-in symbology — what the French postmodern philosopher Jean Baudrillard would call the Simulacra and Simulation. Just kidding. You get Cage (the person) in a cage (the thing), and you get Johnny Mundo stomping on said Cage, yelling “What’s my boot taste like?” The cage is also climbable, and a great launching point for aerial acrobatics.
Mundo and Cage fit lucha’s bulkier rudo role, but both are surprisingly nimble in the air — Mundo in a flashier and photogenic parkour kind of way, and Cage in a gravity-punking sheer-force-of-will style that seems to defy practical physics. And though you might think the cage operates under the same rules as Thunderdome (two men enter, one man leaves) you get a surprising amount of outside interference. Gimmicks within gimmicks, wheels within wheels, Cage in a cage.
2. Sexy Star vs. Mariposa (S02E15)
Many of Lucha Underground‘s best storylines would require several spoiler alerts to fully relate, but recounting Sexy Star’s second season character arc might require a trigger warning. The intense lead up to her no-holds-barred tap-out match against Mariposa in “No Mas,” has to be one of the most highly charged plots in the history of professional wrestling, but the payoff is as cathartic as the climax of a good horror film. “Mariposa” is Spanish for butterfly, but the luchadora bearing the name has more in common with the Death’s Head Hawkmoth from The Silence of the Lambs.
Mariposa and her brother Marty “The Moth” Martinez put Sexy Star through hell on and off-camera, but even without seeing any of the backstory, watching Mariposa pursue Sexy Star from the ring to the stands to the rafters — tearing her mask, bloodying her face — and seeing Sexy fight back feels like rooting for Jamie Lee Curtis to escape from Michael Myers at the end of Halloween.
1. Rey Mysterio vs. Prince Puma (S02E26)
The final fight in season two’s finale, “Ultima Lucha Dos Part 3,” doesn’t feature the gimmicks or the potential controversy that make many of these matches must-sees. Instead, we’re left with two warriors in a battle of honor, competing simply to be the best at the sport they love. Veteran Rey Mysterio, who’s been helping to popularize the high-flying luchador style with American audiences since he made his WCW debut in the late 1990s, wants a match with Prince Puma to see if he still has what it takes to go head-to-head with a young wrestler at the peak of his powers. Puma, who’s has probably been through more than anybody character-wise during the first two seasons — other than Sexy Star, of course, and the couple wrestlers who straight up die — wants to see if he has it in him to beat the man he’d idolized for all these years.
The fact that Puma, two seasons into his career as the character, seems to have almost as much at stake as the 20-year vet he’s going up against is a powerful testament to Lucha Underground‘s ability to combine wrestling’s past with its possible future. May they forever butt heads, awesomely.
What are your favorite moments and matches from Lucha Underground‘s first two seasons? Let us know in the comments below.
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