Lucha Underground: Ultima Lucha Dos Review

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Following the successful first season of Lucha Underground, anticipation for the second chapter of this arc certainly ran wild. With the ending of season one tying up loose ends but also preparing the show for a future season, you could tell that something big was on the horizon for these stars.

So far this season, we had our fair share of big moments. The reign of Mil Muetres and Catrina followed by the return of Dario Cueto and the debut of Matanza showed the struggle for power between wrestlers. Rey Mysterio making his way to the promotion also provided the star power that the lucha libre promotion was looking for while new stars like El Dragon Azteca quickly became prominent figures.

For me, the storyline aspect of the show was the most compelling thing about it. However, there were a lot of matches that really stood out during the course of season two. Matanza and Cage had one of the best big man matches I’ve seen in a long time, Rey Mysterio was still able to hang with even the greatest of wrestlers at the promotion while Aztec Warfare II was an incredible episode to sit through as well.

However, this four hour extravaganza would be the culmination of another season of storylines and drama. Pentagon Jr would challenge the monster Matanza, hoping to get revenge for Matanza almost breaking his back in their last match. Prince Puma wanted to prove that he was even better than arguably the greatest luchador of all time. There were a lot of matches that was very much looked forward to by the fans, but could the three part show deliver?

 

Part One

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The first episode in this trilogy saw Dario Cueto’s “Tournament 4 A Unique Opportunity” which saw a four man tournament take place. In the first round, Cage faced The Mack in a rematch from last year’s Ultima Lucha while Son Of Havoc took on Texano. Both matches were hardcore matches, with Cage and Mack having a falls count anywhere match as well as Son Of Havoc and Texano having a bar room brawl. I thought the Cage and Mack match was really good, which was expected when considering how great their match from last year was. I don’t think this match was better than last year’s but it was still good. The Son Of Havoc/Texano match was also not bad but I can’t help but think that it would have been a much better match without the hardcore stipulation.

Let me get the big criticism out of the way. I’m sure that hardcore fans loved all of this innovation with weapons but these stipulations took away from the lucha libre style of wrestling that lucha fans tuned in to see. Not to mention that having so many hardcore matches on the first show left the fans feeling less excited for hardcore angles down the line, like the Death match with Mil Muetres and King Cuerno. Regardless, The Mack and Son Of Havoc won. They faced off in a short falls count anywhere match, which Son Of Havoc won.

Dario Cueto came out with two briefcases and gave Son Of Havoc one of two options. Son Of Havoc could choose between $250,000 or a Lucha Underground title shot at Ultima Lucha Tres. Son Of Havoc then claimed that it wouldn’t matter if there were $250 MILLION in that briefcase, he would want the title shot. Now, I understand putting the title over as if this was the most important thing in the world to a wrestler. However, would anyone really pass up on $250 MILLION just for a title shot? It seemed like a ludicrous claim to me, that the Lucha Underground title was worth more than $250 million. That’s probably more than what Lucha Underground is worth. Heck, I’m sure you could start a very strong wrestling promotion with $250 million and make YOURSELF a champion!

Havoc takes the title shot, which of course sprung a trap. Dario revealed that Havoc would only get the title shot if he won one more match. If his opponent won, that opponent would get the $250,000. Famous B then came out to reveal the opponent, who was his new client. It was a pretty big client for Famous B as it was revealed that Son Of Havoc’s opponent was Dr Wagner Jr.

This was a pretty big reveal. Dr Wagner Jr won in about two minutes, much to the delight of Famous B and his girl Brenda. I liked the whole culmination of Famous B’s quest to find the right client and in the end, he found a client that was already famous. I was kind of let down by the fact that I was expecting him to actually show up with a lesser-known name. I get the reveal that he found a client that was already famous, but Famous B’s whole service was about GETTING people famous. Dr Wagner Jr contradicting that was a little disappointing. I guess that’s a heel for you!

 

Part Two

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The “main attraction” of part two was the Gift of the Gods championship match, which was a seven person elimination match. Cage cashed in his title shot a few weeks before so a new champion had to be crowned. Sexy Star, Marty the Moth, Mariposa, Killshot, Night Claw, Daga and Sinestro de la Muerte were the seven entrants. The one thing which really got to me about the match was that the very best wrestlers in this match were eliminated the earliest. Killshot, Night Claw and Daga are all tremendous workers, so seeing them eliminated before the likes of Sexy Star and Marty the Moth felt like a slap in the face to those talents. Night Claw, who was debuting, looked awesome in this match. He eliminated two men and probably was the most over out of the bunch, before being eliminated.

It was down to Marty The Moth, Mariposa and Sexy Star, with the heels ganging up on Sexy Star. Mariposa was eliminated after Marty accidentally punched her in the face. I love how Mariposa’s origin story, according to Marty, was that she was part of a tribe of great warriors, yet she was eliminated her from a mere punch from her brother. Unless Marty has a punch that is equal in power to the Big Show’s WMD, I find it very hard to believe that Mariposa would be done after just one punch.

Sexy beat Marty to win the Gift of the Gods title. I know Lucha Underground wants to promote the idea of the women being just as good as the men, with two of the final three of this match being women. I’m also not totally against the idea of inter-gender wrestling, although I would go forward with extreme caution when booking such a program. If a woman is over enough and talented enough, she can wrestle the very best male athletes for all I care. That’s if the woman IS over enough and talented enough. Sexy Star wasn’t over enough, I don’t think. Sexy Star is not talented enough either. She’s an OK female wrestler but there’s only a handful of male wrestlers on the roster worse than Sexy Star. Every one else is miles ahead, so the idea that Sexy is supposed to be on par with these men is pretty unbelievable… even for Lucha Underground.

Next up was a “death match” between Mil Muertes and King Cuerno, which was essentially a no disqualification match. There was no murdering going on, but Mil sure did destroy King Cuerno. They brawled, with the heel Cuerno being more of a showboater while Mil was all about bringing the power game. Cuerno took a lot of punishment in this match, including rolling down the stairs. Their fight led them to the stage where the band that was playing were hanging out. Mil no-sold his head being thrown into a window. Cuerno put his hands on Catrina, which was the beginning of the end for Cuerno. Muertes put Cuerno through three tables with powerbombs, hit him with a crowbar, hit a tombstone and won. This was a fun no disqualification match, which did a great job with the two characters. Muertes was allowed to be a big, badass heavy hitter and Cuerno sold like crazy during the onslaught.

During the show, Mr Cisco was wired by Cortez Castro and Joey Ryan to meet with Dario Cueto. Cortez re-assued him by telling Cisco that Dario wasn’t going to kill… all the motivation one needs to meet with an sociopath! Cisco was doing this in order to clear himself of all charges. So Cisco meets with Dario, with Joey and Cortez listening in. Cisco claimed that he wanted to be in on whatever Dario was planning. It almost kind of worked with the storyline, as Cisco was so bad when acting here that Dario saw right through him. He asked if Cisco was wearing a wire and it was revealed. He grabs the mic and asks the cops to come get him. He asks if the cops wanted him for murder, quickly following up by saying if they weren’t before they would now. He grabbed the red bull from his office and killed Cisco with it by bashing him in the head. A very good scene which I’ll get more into later when I discuss the final scene of the season.

 

Part Three

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At the start of part three, Vampiro gave Pentagon Jr some last minute training before his match with Matanza. In a scene similar to the Empire Strikes Back moment where Luke goes into the cave, Pentagon Jr went into a similar cave and fought his own demons. He eventually bested Vampiro, who told him that he was ready.

The two-hour final part began with Drago, Fenix and Aero Star challenging Johnny Mundo, PJ Black and Jack Evans for the Trios Championship. A very fun and action-packed trios match as usual. When you put six wrestlers as good as these six together, a lot of great stuff will happen. I would argue that it was a bit too much, especially with Angelico’s return to get revenge on Mundo, but it didn’t bother me too much. Everyone worked well with each other and Drago, Fenix and Aero Star ended up winning the belts. Fenix became the first person to achieve the Lucha Underground Grand Slam, winning the Lucha Underground, Trios and Gift Of The Gods titles. I think that Fenix accomplishing the feat in two seasons, as well as winning all of the belts in the same season for that matter, hurts the prestige of the titles a little. However, at least there were good stories told in the build up to each of his title reigns. Therefore, I don’t really have a problem with it. It wasn’t like complete title hot-shots or anything. A great opener to the show.

El Dragon Azteca faced Black Lotus. Initially, this was a really weird match. It started off as a normal match and then El Dragon Azteca took control. He was the aggressor in this inter-gender match and the fans died down a little. Trying to promote the idea of a babyface male against a heel female in a match is really hard to do, as how are the fans supposed to root for the heroes in that situation? Heck, El Dragon Azteca was shown to be vastly superior to Black Lotus. Then Pentagon came into beat up both wrestlers, causing a no contest. He broke both their arms, and that was the end of this grudge match between Black Lotus and El Dragon Azteca. No satisfying conclusion to their entire program AT ALL. Ended in four minutes by a man that hadn’t had any interaction with either character up until this point. This led to Vampiro announcing that this was not Pentagon Jr, but now Pentagon Dark.

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Pentagon Dark cut an awesome promo in Spanish, which was thankfully subtitled. Even if it wasn’t, you can tell that Pentagon always shows some serious passion in his promos and the fans hang on to every word he says. He told the crowd that he was Pentagon Dark and wanted to fight Matanza now. Matanza came out, meaning that the Lucha Underground title match was the third match on the five-match card for this final part. I personally would have put this in the main-event although at least the position of the match made more sense with the ending of the show in mind.

This was a really great match to watch and I’ll explain why. The whole idea behind this transformation of Pentagon Dark was to show that this was not the same man as before. After training from Vampiro, he has become a totally different person to the man that fought Matanza and got destroyed. Therefore, the rematch was structured much differently than the first match. It’s not like when John Cena gets angry and the announcers say that this was a new John Cena, even though he wrestles exactly the same. Pentagon destroyed Matanza this time around as the training of Vampiro paid off. He destroyed Matanza, had the match won until Vampiro whipped out a bat wrapped in barbed-wire. This barbed wire bat would end up being Pentagon’s undoing as Dario’s involvement caused Matanza to grab the bat and use it on Pentagon. He hit him in the back with the bat, hit his finishing powerslam and just pinned him. I will criticise the ending just a little, as the series had previously shown Pentagon being able to take Negan-like barbed-wire bat shots TO THE HEAD from Vampiro. He took a hit from the back, was hit with Matanza’s finisher and beaten. I thought, after taking 90% of the match, that Pentagon getting beat like that was rather underwhelming. Other than that, it was a great match. Vampiro, who stopped taking his meds after part two to train Pentagon a little more, went back on them after this match.

Taya wrestled Ivelisse. A decent women’s match which saw Taya win and Catrina attack Ivelisse with a jawbreaker of some type. It appears that Catrina will be wrestling during season three, which I’m a little worried about. Catrina, as Maxine in WWE, was still a part of the worst women’s match I’ve ever seen in NXT along with Kaitlyn in 2010. How far Maxine has progressed in more than five years is unknown, but I do pray to all the Aztec gods that she’s good enough to be able to do decent work with the likes of Ivelisse.

The main-event was Rey Mysterio vs Prince Puma. This was an incredible match, with magnificent chemistry and great story-telling aspects to it. It was the up-and-comer Prince Puma needing to do whatever he could to beat the legend Mysterio. The crowd was into every move and the drama was there. This is a legitimate contender for the best Lucha Underground match of all time. There’s just one small complaint I have and it’s Matt Striker on commentary. He was not suited to call a match like this. Firstly, there were a lot of times when he was calling the match more like a fan than a legitimate commentator. Him calling a particular spot the “I’m sorry, I love you” moment felt so tacky and almost unprofessional if you will. Did you really need to tell the audience what was going on between Mysterio and Puma, when Puma found it hard to find the strength to put away this legend? Secondly, after Mysterio won, Matt Striker made an absurd claim about this being the future of Lucha Libre. If Prince Puma won the match, I could buy that line. However, the veteran Mysterio beat the future in Prince Puma! If Rey Mysterio is the future of Lucha Libre, then Lucha Libre is not going to be great shape should Rey retire in the next few years!

At the end of the show, Pentagon Dark attacked Vampiro. Vampiro was off his meds, so Pentagon just simply beat him up effortlessly. It was a pretty bloody beatdown. He did this because Vampiro introduced the barbed-wire bat in his match when he didn’t need to. Along with that, after telling Pentagon that he was ready, Vampiro introducing the bat proved that he still didn’t have enough faith in him so Pentagon was angry. Pentagon came off as such a star after Ultima Lucha Dos was finished.

The big ending saw Dario Cueto arrested and taken away in a police van. While in the back of the van, Dario simply smiled. And that was that…

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Overall, it was a good four hour event. We didn’t get any really good stuff until the Death Match but we did get some really great matches following that. The Pentagon Dark/Matanza match was great and the Rey Mysterio/Prince Puma match was a wondrous match. I thought the ending of the season fell flat to me, considering how great the finale of last season was as it tied up the loose ends. Following this, there’s still a lot of unanswered questions and a lot of stuff that needs explaining. Let’s hope that we get some answers in season three, which begins in September.

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Lucha Underground: Aztec Warfare II Review

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NOTE: The following was written several months ago, days after the episode took place. Therefore, no aspects of future storylines after Aztec Warfare II will be discussed.
Season One’s Aztec Warfare match was one of my favourite matches in the first season. It saw the best in the Temple battle it out to crown the first Lucha Underground champion. When the smoke cleared, Prince Puma won the title. In Season Two they brought it back, with Lucha Underground Champion Fenix being forced to defend his title as the number one entrant. Did Aztec Warfare II deliver just like the first one?
As Catrina had declared at the end of the last episode, Fenix was the #1 entrant. He was the first entrant in the first Aztec Warfare match so this was a little case of deja vu. It was also funny, because Lucha Underground had their champion defend the title in a multi-man match that was taped in December. Fast-forward to January and the WWE had Roman Reigns defend the WWE title in a Royal Rumble! Think about that for a moment.
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#2 was the debuting Rey Mysterio. Mysterio revealed that he was in the match the week before but these fans obviously had no idea as they went nuts for Rey. As soon as Melissa Santos said “From San Diego, California,” you could hear some rumblings as if the fans started to figure out where this was going. As soon as Melissa said “Rey,” there was an eruption in the Temple!
I have to say that Rey looked in great shape during the match. Rey was very active throughout the match and he did a tremendous job in lasting the entire match. I remember watching him in the 2013 Royal Rumble and he looked blown up after like a minute. I couldn’t help but notice when I watched that particular Rumble. This Rey Mysterio was nothing like that Rey Mysterio that was in WWE a few years ago. Rey looked great and it was probably helped by the fact that this was in a taped show. If Rey was blown up at times, then Lucha did a great job in editing it out!
Fenix was, by far, the biggest mark for Rey as he came out. He showed respect for Rey and encouraged him to go up to the turnbuckles for his entrance. We started off with a great exchange between the old veteran and the young lion. Great to see and Rey was able to keep up with the pace of Fenix. Number three was King Cuerno. Mysterio, Fenix and Cuerno threw down for a while.
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Argenis was #4, making his return to the Temple as Argenis. He was actually a part of the Disciples of Death. I don’t actually think that the Disciples of Death are done yet though. I’ve seen a teaser Instagram post from Lucha that promoted a trios rematch between Ivelisse, Son of Havoc and Angelico against the Disciples of Death. They might wrap up that trios team after the rematch and let Argenis do his own thing. Argenis was fine in this match but he was really there to be the first of Rey’s victims. He was the first man eliminated after eating a 619. Johnny Mundo came out as #5 and then they went to the adverts.
There was a clever spot where Fenix used Mundo’s foot to boot Mysterio. Joey Ryan was #6 and his plan was to handcuff himself on the rail to keep himself from being pinned. It was a clever spot but all I kept thinking about when I watched this was when Big Show pinned Essa Rios on the wall in a hardcore match! Thankfully, this was not a Falls Count Anywhere match so Ryan was safe… FOR NOW!
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Prince Puma was #7. He ran wild and hit everyone (except Joey Ryan) with a Springboard Shooting Star Press. That was an incredible spot. Jack Evans was #8. King Cuerno tapped out to Rey Mysterio’s cross armbreaker to be eliminated. The luchadors (Mysterio, Puma and Fenix) then teamed up to take out the “rudos” Mundo and Evans. Rudos is another term for heels in case anyone was wondering. Evans and Mundo got together and waited for #9 to come out, who was in fact Taya. Big pop for Taya when she came out. There was awesome spot with the luchadores and the rudos faced off in a six man tag confrontation. Cage was #10 and ran wild, as we went to the adverts.
Cage beat up all the rudos until Mundo threw him into Catrina’s office. If you’ll recall, he turned heel by throwing Alberto El Patron threw the same window. Mundo has a thing for pulling a Shawn Michaels on the luchadors! Mascarita Sagrada was #11. Cage quickly re-entered the fray and hit a big discuss clothesline on Mundo. He hit the Weapon X on the outside and Prince Puma hit the standing moonsault to eliminate Mundo. Marty the Moth was #12. He dominated the match for a while. Drago came in at #13.
Drago went after the “Dragon Slayer” Jack Evans. They brawled into the crowd and Drago spit mist into Joey Ryan’s eyes. Sagrada and Mysterio teamed up to eliminate Marty. The Mack was number 14 and he hit Marty with a stunner for good measure.
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Then there was an awesome moment in the ring, with Mack and Cage having a stare down. As they started trading punches, there was a shot of the ring with the entrance steps behind them. So as Cage and Mack are fighting, Jack Evans starts rolling down the steps and to the floor! It was one of the funniest aspects of this match but it was also one of my biggest criticisms of the match too. There was so much going on during the match that it was hard to keep up. As stuff was going on in the ring, Drago and Evans were doing big spots in the crowd. At least in the Royal Rumble match, they make it clear over who the spotlight was on and who they wanted the fans to focus on at one time. In Aztec Warfare, it just seemed like there was too much going on at once. It was all great but it was all clunked together it seems.
There was also another spot where Fenix threw Mascarita Sagrada into Joey Ryan, who was obviously not in a position to catch him! It was almost like Sagrada hit one of the bouncers on a pinball machine and bounced off him and onto the ground! Poor Sagrada!
Chavo Guerrero was #15. Sometime during all of this chaos, Drago hit a powerbomb on Evans onto with outside benches. Chavo eliminated Mascarita Sagrada with a camel clutch submission, getting him his redemption for losing to Hornswoggle every week on RAW in 2009. Cage was eliminated by Taya, after Mundo hit him with a cinder block. I’m totally expecting a cinder block match between Mundo and Cage, with the winner having to a break a cinder block over the head of the other. Maybe that’s a bad idea for a gimmick match but that’s where it looks like it’s going with all of these cinder block attacks. I don’t know whether that’d work but I’m willing to give it a chance!
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PJ Black came out as #16 and Fenix eliminated Taya with a German suplex. Black double-teamed Drago with his new buddy Jack Evans. He hit a suplex to Drago on the benches. That spot and the powerbomb spot from earlier did not look pretty. Not sure whether all of this was really necessary but the crowd was going nuts for this crowd-brawling. Aerostar was #17, which lead to a tag team battle with Aerostar and Drago battling Evans and Black. There was a double elimination with Aerostar beating Evans and Black beating Drago. Aerostar put Evans away with a top rope Canadian Destroyer-looking move which got a huge reaction.
Dragon Azteca Jr was #18. Here’s the issue with the way that the Lucha Underground shows are put together. We, at home, knew who Dragon Azteca Jr was. We got the big story with Dragon Azteca Jr and Rey Mysterio and by watching the television, it’s easy to understand his stake in Aztec Warfare. However, this crowd had no clue about who this guy was and he was met with little reaction! Vampiro did mention that he recognised the mask but it was not like anybody else in the crowd did. Dragon Azteca Jr did turn the fans around with a few high spots including an awesome dive over the ring post and onto the outside.
Texano Jr was #19. He was running wild and he eliminated PJ Black. Mil Muertes was #20, as declared by Catrina in the last episode. Pentagon Jr, who was not given an invitation to compete, took out Mil with a chair. This got an incredible reaction from the Temple. He threw him back into the ring and Mil was pinned by Rey and Puma. Catrina was angry at Vampiro and slapped him. As this confrontation was going on, the timer was counting down. Then came out Dario Cueto….
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I was beaming with joy when I saw Dario come out! Dario may have possibly gotten the biggest reaction of the night! He declared that he was back in charge and that there was going to be a 21st entrant into Aztec Warfare. He revealed the entrant to be his brother… Matanza!
I like Catrina a lot but seeing Dario back in charge put the biggest smile on my face. Nobody can out-do Dario Cueto as being an authority figure in Lucha Underground.
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Matanza did the big roar spot as he came out, pushing away everybody that was left. I loved what came next. He immediately targeted the champion Fenix, hit a German suplex and pinned him. The fans were all stunned as the champion was the FIRST man to face the wrath of Matanza. It made you realise that this Matanza fellow was not someone to mess with!
The Mack took on Matanza but saw his Stunner on Matanza no-sold. Matanza eliminated Mack and Aerostar to boos from the Temple.
Texano tried to choke out Matanza with a bull rope but he was taken out with a sit-out powerbomb. Matanza then targeted Joey Ryan, who was still handcuffed on the railing. Matanza broke the steel to set Ryan free. He killed Ryan with three rolling gut-wrench suplexes and pinned him. I was impressed at how Matanza was able to pull this off as it would be a very difficult sequence to pull off.
Chavo tried to form an alliance with Puma, Rey and Dragon Azetca but then quickly turned on them all. Matanza and Dragon Azteca battled but Matanza quickly disposed of him. Chavo then tried to form an alliance with Dario Cueto but Dario told Matanza to kill Chavo. Matana eliminated Chavo and Puma until it was down to Matanza and Mysterio.
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They had a great little final two and Rey had done really well to make it this far and looked fine at this stage. Rey hit the 619 but then Matanza caught him with a running powerslam and pinned him to win Aztec Warfare.

Dario then handed the Lucha Underground title to Matanza. It’s almost like Matanza had no clear what to do with this belt until Dario told him to raise it! It would have been awesome if Matanza had tried to eat that belt or something!

I have to say that Lucha Underground knocked it out of the park with this Aztec Warfare match. Rey Mysterio’s debut was well executed. There was rarely a dull moment as there was a lot of action. There were a number of instances where there seemed to be too much action going on at one time, preventing the fans from properly keeping up with everything. Dario Cueto’s return was awesome and Matanza came out of this looking like such a star. He destroyed everyone like few monsters had dominated before. Rarely has a monster been booked as convincingly as this. Brock Lesnar was booked dominantly but it’s not like he eliminated everyone else that was left in this year’s Royal Rumble for example. Matanza eliminated the champion right off the bat and everybody else had no hope in hell of beating him.

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I’ll end this with two things. I do agree with Wrestling Observer’s Bryan Alvarez with the sentiment that “Matanza” maybe should have been a much bigger fellow. It was built up on television that Dario Cueto’s brother was a lot taller as Dario would be shown to be looking up at this monster. Maybe they were planning on having someone bigger but they changed their mind. I’m really sure what their mindset was but I was expecting someone much bigger.
With that said, Matanza was great at being Matanza. He decimated everyone. I was just in awe about this entire ending with Matanza running rough-shot on everyone left in that match. He threw everyone around like it was nothing to him. Nearly everyone was hit with one move and beaten. This dude was able to pull off standing moonsaults among other incredible feats. This guy was something else.
HUGE THUMBS UP FOR LUCHA UNDERGROUND!

Wade Barrett And Damien Sandow Among Several WWE Releases

How’s it going everybody? Thomas Robinson here with the Armbar Express. Big news coming from the WWE on Friday as eight releases were announced with the departures of Wade Barrett and Damien Sandow being the biggest ones of the lot.

With that said, there were a number of surprise releases among the group of superstars. The full list of wrestlers released were….

  • Wade Barrett
  • Damien Sandow
  • El Torito
  • Hornswoggle
  • Alex Riley
  • Cameron
  • Santino Marrella
  • Zeb Colter

What we’ll do with this post is run down everyone that was released and I will give my thoughts in the latest mass exodus of WWE talent.

 

Wade Barrett

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Barrett’s departure has been well-known for a while. He’s discussed it in the past and it appeared that he was done following his excommunication from the League of Nations. Throughout the years, for the Armbar Express, NoDQ.com, SLTD Wrestling and even WhatCulture, I’ve talked about Wade Barrett passionately. This man had everything that the WWE could want in a top heel and they really dropped the ball on him. Now granted, there were a number of times where Barrett was picking up momentum but unfortunately picked up injuries that stopped him. However, there’s also been a fair share of disregard for Barrett by the WWE writers in the past few years.

He’s been a King of the Ring winner and a multi-time Intercontinental Champion, but it still feels like Barrett was never able to accomplish any of significant value since he debuted on RAW as a part of Nexus. That angle could have made Barrett a star but whether it was down to “backstage politicking” or lack of confidence in the Nexus as a whole, Barrett was never really given a great main-event run. Despite this, Barrett’s had some great periods of getting over to a high level. As Bad News Barrett in 2014, Barrett was one of the most over acts in the entire company. It’s sad to see him go but the pressure is now on for Neville to waive the flag for England in the WWE.

 

Damien Sandow

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The fact that WWE had nothing creatively for Damien Sandow to do in the last 12 months just goes to show how badly WWE screwed up the booking of this man. The fact that Damien Sandow has now been released after holding the Money In The Bank contract and being one of the most over acts of 2014 and 2015 is just an unfortunate fall from grace for the man that has received endorsements from legends such as Mick Foley.

For a company that claims to embody “sports entertainment,” it’s astonishing that they wouldn’t push Damien Sandow to the level that he could get to. After all, Damien Sandow has been entertaining with every gimmick he’s been given. Whether it’s just being the intellectual saviour of the masses or just parodying other superstars, Damien took the ball and ran as hard as he could with it. He’s like Eric Young in the sense that he could make any gimmick work. It boggles my mind how WWE never gave him a legitimate run as a main-eventer considering how over Damien got.

 

El Torito

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El Torito was a surprise release. I actually liked El Torito and he actually had a lot of value as a little fella that children could get invested in. Not only that but he could actually work in the ring as a luchador. As a suitable replacement for Hornswoggle as the top… little man in the company, El Torito was the right man. I know that his character didn’t get over to a tremendous degree but he was good enough to be a great little lower mid-card character that could keep the crowds happy. I guess the WWE didn’t really have a lot of future plans for him but you could tell that anyway as soon as he broke up with Los Matadores in an angle which went… nowhere.

Torito, much like a lot of these guys, just didn’t seem to have a place in the company anymore. Especially with Los Matadores being repackaged back to Primo and Epico, there was not much else for Torito to do.

 

Hornswoggle

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Hornswoggle had already been on the company’s bad books ever since his suspension last year. Taking his inactivity afterwards into account, this was the least surprising release for me. After ten years of goofy angles, which include being Vince McMahon’s illegitimate son and being the anonymous general manager of RAW, what else could Hornswoggle offer in terms of storylines? He did pretty much all he could with WWE and now’s the time for him to move on. You gave us some of the most unique and bizarre wrestling angles of all time and even reigned as the final Cruiserweight champion but this is the end of the road unfortunately.

NOTE: It’s actually already been confirmed that Hornswoggle is starting up with Global Force Wrestling as… Swoggle.

 

Alex Riley

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Again, this was an inevitability. Alex Riley had been in NXT for years in hopes of revitalising his wrestling career. He feuded with Kevin Owens and then really just floated around in the NXT roster after that. Riley had also been very outspoken on Twitter about how WWE was using him on the main roster and on NXT.  Really, there was little chance of anything major happening for Riley in the near future.

There was a time where it really felt that WWE were going to get behind him after he broke up with The Miz in 2011. He got some big pops as he feuded with him and even BEAT him at Capitol Punishment 2011. Considering that he beat Miz, right after he dropped the WWE title to John Cena, that shows you just how much stock they had in him. He had segments with Cena and Steve Austin and it looked for all the world like they were really going to push him to be the next top babyface. He had the charisma for it anyway.

However, for whatever reason, Riley’s push was dropped and he was really never able to recover again. The big reason about why Riley’s push was ended was reportedly due to a confrontation he had with John Cena backstage. It was probably in Riley’s best interests to not get on the bad side of these top guys in the company, but it was a shame that his full potential was never realised before he parted ways with WWE.

 

Santino Marella

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Santino had been retired as an in-ring competitor for a number of years. Santino’s gave us many years of laughs and entertainment but it was very difficult for Santino to make a significant contribution to the company strictly as an ambassador and in a non-wrestling position. With several big legends on the pay-roll in the same role as Santino, there was little need for him anymore.

You’ll be missed Santino!

 

Cameron

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As strange as this may sound, Cameron was the most shocking release of all. The reason I say this is because I truly believed that Cameron was making a serious effort to contribute more to the company. Whether it was going back to NXT to develop her wrestling skills or taking part in outside projects, I think Cameron was trying really hard to make the WWE realise that she wanted a place in her company and that she could deliver. Despite all of this, with the sudden increased demand of women’s wrestling, Cameron was going to have a difficult time attempting to live up to that standard set by the likes of Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch, Paige and Bayley.

Cameron did have a number of off-screen incidents while in WWE, including her infamous DUI where she reportedly tried to bribe a policeman and didn’t tell WWE about it. She also had the incident on RAW where she tried to pin Naomi on her stomach. Despite her recent efforts, I guess it’s time for Cameron to say girl bye.

 

Zeb Colter

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Colter was sailing in the same boat as nearly everyone else that was released, in the sense that there was not a lot for him to do within the company anymore. He came in as the effective manager for Jack Swagger and delivered tremendously on the mic. The issue with Zeb was that he was one gimmick hit. He was really only able to deliver well with the Real American gimmick and whenever he was with Jack Swagger. When they tried to put him with Alberto Del Rio, it was a momentous disaster to the point where Del Rio has never really been able to recover.

 

What do you think of these releases? Who are you going to miss the most? Is there anyway that you’re glad to see leave? Tweet us your response @ArmbarExpress or leave a comment below.

Top Five Worst Swerves In Season One Of Lucha Underground

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Let me just state before I get a lot of angry comments that I LOVE Lucha Underground. It is by far the most exciting product in wrestling today. It’s developed an incredible television program with a great mix of wrestling and drama. HOWEVER, it is not totally in-excusable. There were a lot of questionable writing decisions that took place in season one. I’m going to take you through the five worst swerves in season one of Lucha Underground and recap each of them in depth.

Blue Demon Jr Heel Turn

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One of the more frustrating angles for me to watch was the one featuring Chavo Guerrero and how “Mexico” was coming for him. It was revealed that “Mexico” turned out to be Texano Jr., who had turned face to get revenge against Chavo. Chavo berated Blue Demon Jr. (who he turned on at the start of the season) and got at Blue Demon for letting Texano fight the battles for “Mexico” instead of him. Blue Demon’s response was to attack TEXANO and to turn heel, declaring himself to be “Mexico.” All it took was one jab by Chavo Guerrero and Blue Demon was turned to the dark side. Wow.

Blue Demon Joins Forces With Chavo Guerrero
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Unfortunately, things got worse in this storyline. So after Blue Demon Jr. turned on Texano, a match was made for Ultima Lucha. This was no disqualification, so the Crew got involved on behalf of Blue Demon. Chavo Guerrero then came out and it was teased as if he was going to hit Blue Demon with a chair. There was a few problems with this. Firstly, there was no reason to believe that Chavo would act as a babyface to save Texano. Secondly, you already knew where this was going if you’ve ever seen a Chavo Guerrero heel turn. Chavo hit Texano with the chair and it was revealed that Chavo had formed an alliance with Blue Demon Jr. The reason that this is a problem was that Chavo ALWAYS hits someone with a chair whenever he turns heel! Ask Rey Mysterio and well… BLUE DEMON JR! After an entire season of promises for revenge from “Mexico” and Blue Demon Jr, Chavo and Blue Demon joined forces. This was a swerve just for the sake of swerves. And it wasn’t the only swerve at Ultima Lucha
Vampiro Revealed As Pentagon Jr’s Master
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As of me writing this list, season two of Lucha Underground has already started. At the moment in the series, I’m not too bothered by Vampiro being Pentagon Jr’s master. After watching Ultima Lucha and the literal blood feud that Vampiro and Pentagon were having, I thought this swerve was so dumb. The idea that Vampiro was pulling the strings the whole time just seems like a waste of a legitimately interesting angle. You could have brought up an enemy of Vampiro’s past or somebody new. Even Konnan would sort of be OK if you consider Konnan’s feud with Vampiro. But VAMPIRO just seemed like such a downer of a swerve. Maybe I’ll completely changed my mind later on in season two and I’ve sort of accepted it at the moment.
Davari Turns On Big Ryck
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This was swerve THREE at Ultima Lucha. If this were to have happened on any other episode of Lucha Underground, I wouldn’t have been too bothered. But this took place in the middle of THREE swerves during the show and it was a struggle to just care when Davari attacked Big Ryck. I don’t think it matters anymore, as Big Ryck was killed off in the Lucha Underground COMIC BOOK! Yes, a wrestling character was killed off in a comic book. Let that sink in. However when looking back, I just struggled to see the point of it.
The Black Lotus Season Finale Swerve
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The only reason why I was mad at this was because of all of the build that went into building up this angle. The angle of Black Lotus, who was training to take out Dario Cueto and his brother. All of this build and all the scenes filmed outside of the Temple. After ALL OF THIS… Black Lotus turned on her master. They had better make all of this worth it in season two. I would be so mad if nothing exciting happens with this.
A lot of these swerves actually took place in the last half of the season so maybe it could be put down to the writers losing their steam towards the end of the series. If that’s the case, then it’s probably a good thing that season two is expected to feature less episodes. I’ve always talked about the fatigue issues with writers in WWE and I really hope there’s not similar problems in Lucha Underground. Please guys, keep the swerves to a minimum!

Top Five Best Storylines In Season One Of Lucha Underground

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One area where Lucha Underground succeeds is its storylines. Here’s the Armbar Express’ top five storylines in season one of Lucha Underground.

The Rise Of Mil Muertes
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If any professional wrestling booker wants to know how to book a big monster heel properly, take notes from Lucha Underground. I hate WWE’s treatment of heel monsters and the aftermath of these pushes for the likes of Ryback, Braun Strowman, Umaga and Rusev. They’ll go on some great unbeaten run, they’ll get beat and then there’s no recovery attempt made in order to keep them strong. Lucha Underground did a tremendous job with the rise of Mil Muetres. It was not like Mil beat every wrestler that stepped in his way. He’s been beaten and Fenix even beat him in the Grave Consequences match they had in the middle of the season. Rather than hurting Mil, the defeat only made him stronger as he came back and killed Fenix in a rematch. He became stronger than ever as he won the Lucha Underground title at the end of the season. Just perfect booking of a monster heel. Every time a monster should get beat, he should come back stronger than ever and look more of a threat each time. This was well done by Lucha.
Prince Puma As Lucha Underground Champion
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Prince Puma was such a star during season one of Lucha. He lived up to the promotion of being the “heart and soul” of Lucha Underground. He’s put on tremendous matches over and over and was really well booked as champion. Every challenger seemed like a legitimate challenge but Puma fought them off. Each challenger presented something new for Puma to deal with. Cage was just a force to be reckoned with that Puma had to overcome. Hernandez had the psychological warfare that Puma had to deal with. Johnny Mundo was someone that had beaten Prince Puma in the first episode of the season and forced Puma to try and put away his past demons. Drago was a rival luchador in terms of style that Puma had to overcome. Chavo Guerrero had the Crew to back him up. King Cuerno was someone that was cold and calculating. Every challenger was unique in the way that they presented a challenge to Puma and Puma had to overcome the odds. This is how a babyface builds momentum.
Pentagon Jr’s Path Of Destruction
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I’ll admit right now that I am such a huge fan of Pentagon Jr. Initially, this guy was really shown to be just another midcard heel on the show. However after Pentagon was double-crossed by Chavo at Aztec Warfare I think, Pentagon began being booked more seriously. He developed a mean streak which saw him break the arms of all his opponents after he beat them. It was a slow but well planned build for Pentagon. He went after the lower card talent, worked his way to the mid-carders and then started going after stars like Sexy Star. He wasn’t thrown against a top guy right off the bat. He built a reputation. What’s that lead too? Why Pentagon Jr is now a top guy in the second season of the show. All the little victories add up.
Son Of Havoc, Ivelisse and Angelico’s Trios Turmoil
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Teams put together that don’t get along are a common thing in wrestling, especially when developing rivalries. The way Son Of Havoc, Ivelisse and Angelico were put together and presented though was pulled off so well. It started with a number of weeks with angles between the three of them as singles stars, with Angelico causing issues between Ivelisse and Son of Havoc. All of this tension led to Dario Cueto making them a trios team for the tag team titles, which really told a good story. They had to work together in order to succeed and defied the odds to win the trios titles. It’s the simple case of a team that really shouldn’t work that you’re cheering on to get on the same page. Plus, the chemistry between Havoc, Ivelisse and Angelico was really good as well.
Drago Banished From The Temple
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Drago’s another favourite of mine and I’ve always enjoyed his work on the show. He’s got a cool look and a great gimmick that just grabs your attention. He was actually given a decent story arc which started off with a really well put together best of five series against Aero Star. The winner would earn a “unique opportunity” and as the series progressed, things intensified between the two luchadors. Drago won, which led to Dario Cueto announcing that Drago would get a Lucha Underground title shot. If he lost, he would be banned from the temple. Drago did lose and was banned from the temple until he found a loophole in one of Dario’s number one contendership matches. Drago was given one last chance to return to the temple and fight for the title but would unmask if he lost. Drago won in a great storyline which really put him over as a babyface.
The development of stars is the thing that really impresses me when I watch this show. These stars are developed through the storylines and it’s the little things that made all the difference. The impact of all the rivalries and events that happen in these luchadors’ lives matter. Nothing is a waste and it’s really a testament of the writers. Good job guys!

Comparing The Kayfabe Of WWE And Lucha Underground

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Kayfabe is a very interesting concept, especially in 2016 where the fans are more knowledgeable of the scripted side of professional wrestling. In the age of social media, there’s not going to be a great deal wrestling promotions can do to convince everyone that the things you see on their television shows are 100% legitimate. Therefore, it would surely be OK to suggest that kayfabe is dead in professional wrestling right? Well, not exactly.

Whenever someone asks me why I enjoy wrestling, I usually respond by stating that I enjoy wrestling for the same reason that someone would enjoy Game of Thrones or Walking Dead. For whatever reason, it’s entertaining. Calling out wrestling fans for liking a product that’s “fake” is the equivalent to calling out Game of Thrones for liking a show that’s unrealistic. We are wrestling fans not for the realistic nature of the content but for the story-telling and in-ring action. We don’t care about how ridiculous of a concept the “Canadian Destroyer” move is. Whenever Petey Williams hits it, it will cause a reaction every time.

However, what does interest me was one article I came across which hyped up the second season of Lucha Underground. It came from Cageside Seats and it made this point:

“The WWE doesn’t expect you to buy into the reality any more, but it sort of does. It is clear why they don’t seem to know who is getting cheers or boos or have any way of influencing it. They are strangely aware of their predicament but powerless to stop it.”

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This line got me thinking about the kayfabe of both WWE and Lucha Underground. Lucha Underground obviously has a less intense schedule than WWE. They only have to put out one show per week which lasts about an hour. WWE have to put out content for RAW, SmackDown!, NXT, Main Event and even content for the WWE Network. Lucha’s advantage is that, with a much more relaxed schedule, they can better prepare in advance. The fact is WWE has a much harder time with writing its product than Lucha Underground. Let’s just be honest.

So in some ways, you can forgive WWE’s method of booking and writing. The one thing which it needs to be pulled up on is the consistency of their kayfabe. For the reasons stated above, Lucha has been pretty consistent with establishing that their content is scripted with the action in the ring being real. WWE is not as consistent.

It’s a very strange dynamic where, as mentioned earlier on in the Cageside Seats article, WWE goes back and forth on how they treat kayfabe. WWE doesn’t really expect its fans to accept their storylines as but if anyone in the company gets in the way of that, you are the enemy.

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For example, the WWE insisted on continuing a failed love rectangle angle with Rusev, Lana, Dolph Ziggler and Summer Rae. However, TMZ reported that Rusev and Lana had just become engaged. The WWE got so mad at this news coming out that Rusev and Lana were both punished for “breaking kayfabe.”

In a strange way, WWE understand that the fans know better but still insist on maintaining aspects of the storylines which the fans know for a fact is not true. Dolph did try to suggest to fans on Instagram that he was legitimately with Lana but not a lot of fans were buying it. I believe WWE’s issue with Rusev and Lana is that they made WWE look like liars, which the WWE doesn’t want. They understand that the fans can tell fiction from reality but they hate being accused of lying to the general public, despite promoting a product which is based around fiction.

I actually don’t think a lot of people outside of WWE had an issue with the Rusev and Lana engagement, as it actually got the mainstream attention from TMZ. It’s also not like they couldn’t have worked this in the angle as Rusev and Lana were both part of the storyline. If it emerged that Lana was cheating on Rusev with John Cena for example, I would totally understand why that would cause a stir as John Cena is portrayed as a hero. I can also totally understand why WWE were so upset in 2005 at Matt Hardy for revealing Edge and Lita’s affair on the internet. Edge and Lita were the ones that were having the affair in that situation but Matt was the one that got fired because he got in the way of the Kane and Lita angle, which they had been building for around a year. To get mad at Rusev and Lana for something like this just doesn’t seem right.

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The difference between WWE and Lucha Underground though is that Lucha doesn’t go out of its way to convince you that their product is real. The product is promoted and presented as fiction. That’s how Lucha Underground establishes itself as a television program rather than just a pure wrestling program. On the other hand, WWE presents itself as a three hour long television program with huge attention paid to being socially relevant. Therefore, WWE cannot properly present itself as fiction. This was made especially clear on Monday Night RAW a few weeks ago when The Rock decided to “go off script.”

It’s a very complex relationship between WWE and kayfabe. To be fair to WWE, there have been more bizarre uses of kayfabe in the world of wrestling! Remember when WCW decided to do a scripted angle on Goldberg refusing to follow the script? We can throw around several definitions of what we think kayfabe is but in the end, I don’t think EVEN Vince McMahon will ever have a definitive definition for kayfabe. The fact is, he probably doesn’t need to come up with one. For WWE, kayfabe is interchangeable. Kayfabe is whatever the company wants it to be, which is not exactly a bad thing. People will argue that inconsistent kayfabe is detrimental but tell that to those in charge of the finances of the company.

Could Kalisto Be A Star In WWE?

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Contrary to popular belief, wins and losses are vital to those in WWE. While those in WWE are working in a kayfabe world were wins and losses are predetermined, those predetermined wins and losses make a hell of a difference to a wrestler’s rise to or fall from stardom. One win can make you a star. One loss can be the beginning of the end. However, there was one victory recently that sparked interest from the WWE universe and myself.

There were a number of wrestlers involved in the WWE World Heavyweight Championship Tournament which were seemingly brought in just to fill up the bracket. Nobody never believed that Titus O’Neil was going to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. There was no reason to believe that Tyler Breeze would win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship a month after debuting on the roster. There was no chance in hell that Kalisto from the Lucha Dragons would ever beat Ryback in the first round right? However, the whole idea of anything can happen in WWE can strike when you least expect it.

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There’s no way that Kalisto could possibly beat Ryback right? Well as the gods of unpredictability would have it, Kalisto beat Ryback in the first round for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship Tournament. Quite the shocker to say the least, but was there a lot more to the victory than just to provide a big upset?

Someone like Tyler Breeze getting a huge upset would make sense as he’s just arrived on the main roster. Someone like Kalisto though is different. Kalisto first arrived on the main roster in March as part of the Lucha Dragons. It’s not like Kalisto was ever built up to be a singles star. It did seem that WWE was trying to promote Kalisto as the star of the team as he usually the one tagged in for the hot tags and he’s got the more flashy moves in him than Sin Cara. However, there seemed to be no real intent of pushing him to challenge for the Intercontinental Championship or anything serious like that. He was just another part of the roster.

On the other hand, Ryback had just been coming off losing his Intercontinental title and has received a number of pushes since he was repackaged as Ryback in 2012. When looking at things like that, there was no real reason for Kalisto to beat Ryback at all unless it meant that there was something  big in store for the high flyer.

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What does WWE want to do with Kalisto? Do they want him to eventually be their top Mexican representative so they can build a bigger audience in that part of the world? Do want him to join a number of high flyers in WWE to build a Cruiserweight Division? What motivation could WWE have had which would have them put Kalisto over Ryback in the first round of the tournament?

On RAW, Kalisto was beaten in the quarter finals by Alberto Del Rio. As much as I love Del Rio, I had a problem with WWE ending this “Cinderella story” before it even began. The unlikely contender defying the odds was the key story going into that match but it was quickly ended by Del Rio. So it was not like Kalisto was going to make it to Survivor Series as pushing Del Rio as a main eventer is a big priority for WWE. However, there’s obviously enough intrigue for WWE to possibly do something with him. In today’s WWE, having something to do is a hell of a lot better than having nothing.

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I’m going to sort of turn this into a “How I Would Book” post for a brief moment as I believe Kalisto losing to Del Rio actually sets things up nicely for if WWE were to ever try to push him. If you’ve ever watched Lucha Underground, AAA or any form of lucha libre, you’ll know that there’s a lot of pride involved. Kalisto should be portrayed as a proud warrior that seeks to be the best wrestling has to offer. Him beating Ryback and losing to Del Rio teaches him that he does have what it takes to become a star but still lacks something (possibly motivation) to truly unlock his full potential.

That’s Kalisto’s motivation as he requests more singles matches. He loses initially but then is able to pick up that one win again against someone like Kevin Owens or Cesaro. He’s starting to learn from his mistakes and looks better and better every time he’s in the ring. Kalisto then gets on a roll from this win and he and Sin Cara team up again and eventually earn a shot at the tag titles at Royal Rumble or Fast Lane. They come close but they eventually get beat. Kalisto is given an opportunity to compete for the United States Championship at Wrestlemania against the champion Del Rio, but only if he and Sin Cara split up. Cara tells him to go for it and Kalisto earns a title shot on RAW. He is finally able to beat Del Rio at Wrestlemania to capture the gold.

That was just a short idea I came up with in my head but it tells you the potential the WWE have now created with this victory that could make a star out of Kalisto.