New York Comic Con 2016 is in the books and after a lengthy and exhausting weekend, one of the final panels was for Lucha Underground, currently early into its third season. As a huge fan of the series, it was great to see. Not just for the hour of discussion, but for how the massive conference room was packed. Over the past three years, the show has slowly but surely expanded due to word of mouth and it’s starting to show.
The panel was moderated by Sam Roberts and included wrestlers Rey Mysterio, Catrina, Ivelisse, and Taya, as well as referee Marty Elias, executive producers Eric Van Wagenen and Skip Chaisson, and AAA co-owner Dorian Roldan. It began with a trailer for season 3 (which had been playing non-stop on certain screens in the building throughout the weekend), turned into questions from Roberts, a couple clips were shown involving the next episode, and then a somewhat short Q&A from the fans in attendance.
Here’s some of the stuff we learned:
1. We got some idea of how things came together from the three producers in attendance. Dorian wanted to bring lucha to the US for quite some time and the others decided to incorporate Aztec mythology, including getting help from experts who know their stuff on the subject. While Eric had experience working with wrestling – mainly through Tough Enough – Skip did not, although he was a big fan back in the day. He loved the larger-than-life backstories from late-80s/early-90s WWF and wanted to bring that back, giving us over-the-top characters in a more modern setting.
Also, as a comics and martial arts film fan, he wanted to mix in some of their styles of storytelling.
2. Certain characters were written into detail before being cast, such as Prince Puma and Mil Muertes. They figured out the IPs (ie. the logos and general aesthetic) before even writing any of the story. Then they found the right people for the specific characters and at times tested them out with dark matches before seeing whether or not to pull the trigger and make them part of the show.
3. Sami Callihan, who appeared recently on the show as Ivelisse’s dipshit boyfriend Jeremiah, is an example of a wrestler who was sought out first before they wrote the character. Once they saw he was available, they jumped at the chance of using him.
4. Taya talked about the unique gender roles in Lucha Underground. How men can fight women like it’s no big deal. She said it’s a huge honor to be a “luchadora” and not a “Diva” and is proud of how women are getting stronger and stronger. She feels that it shouldn’t be just a Lucha Underground thing and that intergender matches should be a normal part of wrestling.
5. Catrina’s Lick of Death was her idea and not something horny male writers told her to do. From the first day there, she was matched up with Mil Muertes and given a paragraph of details about her character. She thought about the Poison Ivy-type female villains who would have a kiss of death and figured she would go a step further, deciding, “What if I lick ‘em?”
She’s constantly teased about it being her brainchild because, you know, it’s kind of gross and she made that bed.
6. Catrina lost her passion for wrestling after her less-than-memorable WWE run. Lucha Underground has reinvigorated her interest and she feels this was meant to be. “It’s been quite the ride since day one.”
7. When asked about being skeptical about Lucha Underground when it was starting up (while not being specific, Roberts seemed to allude to Jeff Katz’s Wrestling Retribution Project as a comparison), Ivelisse admitted that after twelve years of wrestling and bad experiences, she was definitely skeptical. Fortunately, she had experience working with Eric Van Wagenen and that gave her enough faith to see it through.
8. When talking about the show’s early goings, Marty Elias joked about having to beg people to come to the Temple early on because it seemed like just another failed attempt at a promotion. They had to move people into the frame during those initial episodes. Now they need to kick people out because everyone wants to see it.
9. In a clip of this week’s episode, there’s a situation involving Chavo Guerrero and El Dragon Azteca Jr. backstage. I won’t spoil what happens in it, but Rey Mysterio’s hammy reaction to it needs to be seen to be believed. After the clip, Mysterio owned to it and said that due to Skip’s cinematic background, he trusts his guidance and loves doing the backstage vignettes.
Speaking of clips, a later one was an ad for this week’s main event and it’s just enough of a spoiler for me to even say what it is. Let’s just say that Dragon Azteca Jr. vs. Pentagon has a wrench thrown into it and becomes something more interesting.
10. Skip told an anecdote about how since Game of Death had a fight involving two nunchucks, they figured maybe they should find a way to do a fight with more. Then the different wrestlers started chiming in with their own crazy ideas and that’s how we got the ridiculous Aerostar/Drago vs. PJ Black/Jack Evans bathroom fight.
11. Eric loves the post-production style instead of going live like other wrestling shows because they can keep adding and fine-tuning their show. “That’s what you see in movies and that’s what you see in dramas.”
12. Roberts jokingly brought up Donald Trump as the biggest bad guy in wrestling, mainly due to Eric having worked on The Apprentice. Mention of Trump got lots of boos from the crowd and Eric began to talk in all seriousness about how he no longer wanted anything to do with Trump after he said all the anti-Mexican stuff. Eric is honored to work with all the Mexicans and Mexican-Americans on the Lucha Underground staff. 75% of the show’s cast is non-white and roughly 50% of the production is non-white.
“I’m proud of the people we work with.”
13. Roberts talked to Mysterio about being the grizzled veteran. Rey described himself as chill and in no way a trouble maker. He tries to pass on advice when he can and is very happy to be part of this. He hopes that this can continue for many, many, many years so they can entertain fans on a different level.
14. Mysterio wore a rubbery, Batman-like mask at the panel. He put over how amazing Drago’s appearance and outfit are and due to his enthusiasm and compliments, Drago hooked him up with his mask designer. Unfortunately, Mysterio can’t wrestle in it well, so he uses it for non-wrestling appearances such as here.
15. A fan asked about getting more merch. There is definitely more on the way, but it’s taking time. It’s growing pains from the fanbase interest growing faster than they prepared for. Roberts made a callback to a discussion from earlier about how you have to go into these things knowing how fickle wrestling fans can be, only now it’s the other direction. They were so prepared for the criticism that they were blindsided by the fan demand.
16. In easily the biggest bombshell of the panel, they announced that touring is indeed in the works. The crowd was very happy to hear this. They simply don’t want to make the mistakes of others and would rather go too slow than too fast. Someone shouted out “TNA!” as a way to call out their touring failures, which got a response from Eric of, “I’m not saying anything about TNA…”
The plan is to film for the first five months of the year and then do some spread-out touring over the following seven months in areas that would be into it. People in attendance were pretty demanding about at least one New York show and one fan even pointed out that Fenix and Pentagon Jr. recently sold out a venue, so they should be totally fine.
Dorian said that it should be starting next year. The big problem is that the Temple itself is such a part of the show, so how can you tour when the arena itself is a character in itself? But they have big news coming soon, so stay tuned.
17. Roberts asked Mysterio about his opinion of the current WWE cruiserweight division. Mysterio was there in the early 2000s and saw as the existing division fizzled due to lack of interest from behind-the-scenes despite Dean Malenko’s best efforts to keep it going. Mysterio feels that the division is probably stronger now because of what Lucha Underground brought to the forefront.
18. When asked if there was ever any ideas for Lucha Underground deemed too weird, it was admitted that nothing is so much left on the cutting room floor as they just hold off for later. They know that they need to be slow, such as not having Catrina show off her teleporting ghost powers in the very first episode.
Dorian added to this by talking about the time he was reading scripts for AAA and Lucha Underground and the differences were staggering. Namely because the Lucha Underground script involved the world “teleportation.”
19. Catrina discussed having the confidence to come off as the controlling one in her relationship with the massive Mil Muertes. Much like the Lick of Death, she said that you simply have to own it. She joked about the Lick of Death and how sometimes she tries to find the cleaner spots on her victims because by the time the match is over, they’re all sweaty and bloody.
20. Speaking of which, the final question was, “Whose face tastes the best?” Catrina responded with, “Maybe I should go down there and taste yours?” but after thinking about it, she looked over to Ivelisse and said it was easily her.
As always, Lucha Underground airs 8pm ET on the El Rey Network on Wednesdays and is available via iTunes. Check back here at Den of Geek for some interviews with the cast.
Gavin Jasper is jonesing for this year’s Aztec Warfare. Hopefully it’s soon. Follow him on Twitter!