“4 a Unique Opportunity”
The Mack – Cage – Texano – Son of Havoc
Lucha Underground Ultima Lucha Dos, Part One
6th of July 2016
The Temple, Boyle Heights, California
The match: It’s night one of Ultima Lucha Dos, the second of Lucha Underground’s annual season-closing super-cards, and head honcho Dario Cueto is offering another of his “unique opportunites”. One past recipient of such an opportunity ended up being banned from competing in Lucha Underground for ever. An opportunity floating around in season three seems to entail using the victorious wrestler’s body as the corporeal vessel for a vengeful Aztec God. Dario describes this as his “greatest unique opportunity” to date. We may want to take this with a pinch of salt.
Four competitors have been selected “four” this “unique opportunity”, with two semi-finals and a final to play out consecutively on the same night. We start with Cage and The Mack in the ring. Dario emerges from his office and commends the two hosses for the brutality of their match at last year’s Ultima Lucha, also a show-opener. Ever the romantic, the boss wants this tradition of early-doors violence to continue, so he announces a falls count anywhere stipulation. RING THE BELL!
Cage makes some good, good lucha things to start us off. He follows a neckbreaker with a beautiful big boy moonsault but Mack fights back with a stiff forearm and T-Bone Suplex. An enziguiri sends Cage into the ropes, and Mack cross-bodies him out to the floor. The brawl goes into Dario’s office, which delights the boss. Cage smacks a glass-framed Lucha Underground poster plucked from his employer’s wall over Mack’s head. Bodies are further brutalised with chairs, a road sign, a guitar, the contents of a tool box and some lucha themed piñatas which were intended for the crew after-party. Mack finds some beers, takes a swig, and hits Cage with a picture-perfect Stunner, which makes Matt Striker do a bad Stone Cold impression. Mack frog-splashes Cage through a table from a great height, but it’s not enough for the three count! The end comes with a call-back: Cage pulls a cinder block out from under the ring and sets Mack up for a curb-stomp, which is how he won last year. But thanks to Mack’s messy chugging technique Cage slips in a puddle of beer, and gets rolled up for the win.
Next up is Texano vs Son of Havoc. We see that a bar has been set up outside the ring. Dario is out to explain. Call him crazy, but when he sees a cowboy and a biker, it makes him think of one thing: A BAR FIGHT! An opening exchange turns in Texano’s favour when Havoc back-flips into the ring-side railings, but The Man From The Open Road fires up and fights back, slamming Texano through a door. Havoc steps into the “dark abyss” on the other side and fetches a fire extinguisher and fireman’s helmet, lighting up Texano with pressurised foam. Texano staggers over to the bar and tries to recover by swigging vodka and pouring it on his face, then cracks Havoc’s head with the bottle. When Texano subsequently realises that Havoc is wearing a helmet, he kicks him in the groin. Texano sets up bar stools and a beer keg in the ring but Havoc re-gains the advantage, top-rope-rana-ing his opponent into a pile of broken, legs-up wooden stools. Texano no-sells it and once again gets to work on Havoc’s balls, only to pay for it by being big-back-body-dropped through the entire bar. Just to make sure, Havoc grabs a bunch of empties from under the ring, smashes them underfoot and drops Texano onto the shards for the win.
After this chaotic first half, the final between Son of Havoc and The Mack is a relatively sober falls count anywhere match, with both men showing clear signs of wear and tear. There’s some flips, some outside brawling, and then Havoc finishes Mack off with a shooting star press. Havoc, a perennial underdog and Lucha Underground original, celebrates with the fans while Dario emerges from his office with two black briefcases. Inside one is $250,000, more money than Havoc has ever seen in his life. In the other, a contract for a Lucha Underground Championship match at Ultima Lucha 3! Havoc decides to twist, and takes to the top rope to celebrate with his first ever guaranteed main event contract. So there you have it, Havoc will be in the main event at Ultima Lucha Tres…ASSUMING he wins ONE MORE MATCH. Since the noble biker doesn’t want the money, Dario is offering it to his next opponent. If said opponent wins, he gets the cash; if Havoc wins, he gets to keep his title shot. Famous B, fresh from selling out his legendary client Mascarita Sagrada in the run-up to Ultima Lucha, emerges in the entrance way. He has a new client and it is lucha royalty, Dr. Wagner Jr. The injustice is palpable as the fresh-as-a-daisy veteran enters the ring and, after enduring a brief flurry of offence from an exhausted Havoc, beats him with a Doctor Driver, ending Havoc’s dream just as soon as it had begun. Famous B, ecstatic at having backed the winning horse, bounds into the ring proclaiming his newfound wealth, while Dr. Wagner stands tall to close.
Why does it define 2016? Because it demonstrates with uncommon clarity that Lucha Underground is boss. The writing team behind this innovative promotion possess a real knack to make every little part of the whole matter. More than that, it shows how the supposedly minor strands of LU’s universe sometimes prove more richly rewarding than the major strands. While the co-main event of Ultima Lucha Dos, the title match between the newly-christened Pentagon Dark and The Monster Matanza Cueto, was a disappointing end to the challenger’s redemption arc (which is of course different to suggesting that the match didn’t matter), this tournament – seemingly thrown together at the last minute in order to get a bunch of upper-mid-card performers in on the action – over-delivered to an impressive extent.
“4 a Unique Opportunity” occupied an entire episode, and told a single, simple story in three stages – two babyfaces overcome bigger, meatier foes before the bolder babyface secures the ultimate prize, only to have it snatched away through the sadistic scheming of his boss – but it was keyed in to a host of other stories unfolding throughout the show. The night begins with a flashback to Cage and Mack’s barn-burner the previous year and closes by adding a layer to Famous B’s nascent heel turn, topping that off with the abrupt and shocking introduction of a new but familiar character to the Temple. There’s a lot happening, but it all makes sense, it all knits together, it lays the groundwork for future storylines and raises the status of everyone involved. There have been other episodes of Lucha Underground which have pulled off similar feats – the three Aztec Warfare matches being a prime example – but this tournament’s big achievement is that it pulled it off without any real prior fanfare, highlighting the attention to detail that exists at every stratum of the Lucha Underground card.
My thoughts: Unexpected, brutal and brilliant. In one fell swoop we see the fates of Mascarita Sagrada, Famous B, Dr. Wagner Jr. and Son of Havoc being tied together, Cage and Mack being confirmed as blood rivals, Havoc getting over like never before, and Texano being dropped on his back through an entire bar. There were matches that stood out on the Ultima Lucha Dos card more than this, but none that I remember more fondly. From now on, the least promising match on their season-closing super-card is the one that entices me the most.