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Good Lucha Things (7/25/18): Gift-Giving in the Temple


If you thought last week’s twist to the Gift of the Gods Championship match was the only trick up Antonio Cueto’s sleeve, color yourselves surprised.

Before we got to this week’s main event, Papa Cueto threw us another curveball—only three of the remaining six would get to compete for the Gift of the Gods, setting up a trios match where the winning team got that opportunity. These last-minute surprises are standard Cueto fare, although this week’s twist does feel like it was tacked on just for the sake of having more drama. Last week’s removal of Mil Muertes from the match was already a big enough twist because it took out the biggest threat, and gave him a reason to go after Mack. This week’s surprise pretty much felt like a way to get Son of Havoc and Ivelisse to team up after a long time—not that there’s anything wrong with this, but it felt a little forced.
Nevertheless, the ensuing trios match was a fine appetizer to the main event. King Cuerno, El Dragon Azteca Jr. and Dezmond X were smart to cut off Ivelisse from her team throughout the match, before action spilled out of the ring and we got our usual sequence of topes and lucha things. The finish felt a little flat as King Cuerno just hit Son of Havoc with Thrill of the Hunt after he flew out, especially since you would’ve expected Mil Muertes to run in after he got kicked out last week. Havoc picking up the loss was the right call—it adds more fuel to the ongoing drama between the Trios Champions, since this gives Killshot another bullet to fire at Havoc. Mil Muertes eventually showed up and beat up the Trios Champions, with Killshot accidentally hitting Mack at one point. This drama is far from over.

The actual title match itself was given time, and the remaining three delivered. They told a great story with all three men having different motivations—King Cuerno as the wily veteran looking for the right time to strike, Dragon Azteca Jr. as the guy looking for that landmark win, and Dezmond X as the rookie looking for the big upset. We’ve had a number of 10-minute sprints for main events the past weeks that this longer bout felt like a breath of fresh air, which was great. Dezmond X, in particular, managed to stand out and fare well against the more established fighters in Cuerno and Azteca. His rapid, short strikes combined with the usual lucha libre fare makes him stand out, and by the end of the match he was already getting cheered by the crowd. The wise poet DMX sums up Dezmond’s stint perfectly: “X gon’ give it to ya.”

As much as El Dragon Azteca Jr. needed this win, I’m also a little disappointed at King Cuerno coming up short again. As things stand with Pentagon Dark as Lucha Underground Champion, Azteca looks set for a rematch against the man that once broke his arm. Lucha Underground gets some continuity points for this, but I would’ve loved to see a King Cuerno-Pentagon Dark feud instead. Cuerno goading the often-angry Pentagon Dark into some sort of trap would’ve been fun to see. At the very least, there’s still the slim chance that happens—Azteca will still have to defend that Gift of the Gods Championship, especially if he doesn’t cash it in right away.

Savagery and Sacrifice

There isn’t a whole lot else in this episode aside from the Gift of the Gods stuff, but we did get a couple of quick matches to establish two of the Temple’s biggest behemoths.

First up, Jake Strong made quick work of former partner Sammy Guevarra, tossing the young upstart around before slapping on an ankle lock for the win. As quick as this match was, I liked that they gave Guevarra his own moment to shine, including that Angelico-esque dive off a high spot in the Temple. That still wasn’t enough to stop Strong, though, and he picked up another victory in the process.

At this point, the question isn’t if they’ll pull the trigger on Jake Strong—it’s when they’ll pull it. With both clients of Infamous Inc. now on the shelves, I’m guessing that we’ll see Strong take on bigger names in his next match. They’ve done a good job of building him up in the undercard, and now it’s time to see him work his way to the top of the Temple.
Matanza Cueto’s sacrifice to the gods continued this week, with Vinnie Massaro (and the pizza guy, I guess) being the unfortunate offering. This might have been the most amusing sacrifice segment of the three we’ve had so far, largely because they gave Massaro a nice send-off before getting annihilated. At this rate, though, we’re already running out of dead weight for Matanza to destroy. There are still a couple of wrestlers I can see them sacrificing (hi, Argenis!), but at this rate, the pool is running pretty thin. Either things slow down in the next few weeks, or they introduce some James Ellsworth-type jobbers for the Monster to feed on. Both of these options would be fine.

Oh, and a quick note on Vinnie Massaro’s last segment: Lucha Underground made it clear what side of the pineapples-on-pizza debate they’re on, and literally no one except fellow writer George Pastor is applauding this. They chose poorly—pineapples taste great on pizza.

Quick Hits:

  • If the commentators are anything to go by, Dezmond X’s thing seems to be the new hotshot rookie in Lucha Underground. This is bothersome because while Dezmond has had some nice matches, they’re completely ignoring the fact that Jake Strong is also in his rookie season this year. What's more valuable—winning an ancient Aztec Medallion, or breaking the ankles of three different people? This “award” isn’t as clear cut as it seems, folks.
  • We finally hear from Marty “The Moth” Martinez, who hasn’t appeared since getting his arm broken by Pentagon Dark in the season opener. He’s still creepy even with a broken arm, and it seems like he’s set to go after Pentagon for the Lucha Underground Championship. With him, Cage and El Dragon Azteca Jr. all staking a claim, there’s a line forming for the Lucha Underground Championship—as it should be.
This week’s episode was good, largely thanks to the main event three-way for the Gift of the Gods Championship. They gave it enough time to shine, and we got a great match where any of the three men looked like they could’ve won it. Otherwise, the rest of the episode is just fine—I don't know if we can take more of Jake Strong and Matanza destroying people. C+

Photos taken from Lucha Underground



*****

Anthony Cuello is an HR professional and training designer. When he’s not sleeping or reading the Harvard Business Review, he covers Lucha Underground for Smark Henry. A psychology nut, he tends to watch wrestling looking for these small nuances of in-ring behavior. He dreams of a wrestling business with good people management practices, and hopes to help make that happen one day.

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