Friday, October 2, 2015

Top Ten of 2015: Lucha Underground Matches

I plan on turning this into a series where I will be reviewing the best matches of the year from each promotion that I watch. WWE (I'll separate NXT), NJPW, ROH and Lucha Underground. For the other companies, I'll do the list at the end of the year or the start of next year, but with Lucha Underground done until 2016, I figured now would be a good time to make this list. So here are my picks for the top ten matches in Lucha Underground in 2015. That's literally the only criteria. Just take place in 2015 in Lucha Underground.

10. Match 5 in Best of Five Series: Aerostar vs. Drago - 4/15/15
There were a lot of people that I really grew to like thanks to Lucha Underground and Drago is one of those people. His style was just so much fun to watch. Here, he was in the midst of a pretty great Best of Five against Aerostar, with the winner getting one of Dario Cueto's "unique opportunities." Side note, I really love Dario Cueto. He stayed out at ringside to watch this, giving it a bit of a big fight feel. He looked so happy to watch these two just go at it for his enjoyment. They played off the previous matches in the series, which was great. Even though a table was brought into play, this was more about respectable competition. When Drago won with a rollup, Aerostar wasn't upset and showed respect post match. ***¾

9. Cero Miedo: Pentagon Jr. vs. Vampiro - Ultima Lucha
Yea, I probably rated this match higher than most people but dammit if I didn't love it. Throughout the entire season, Pentagon Jr. was breaking arms and became one of my favorite people to watch. While I enjoyed the build to his match with Vampiro, I felt like it was kind of a let down as I was never big on Vampiro throughout his career and he looked to be in pretty bad shape on commentary. He proved me wrong by going out and doing everything in his power to have the best, craziest match possible. Normally, I'm not a fan of the light tubes and the flaming tables, but it all worked here given the angle. It wasn't just violence for the sake of violence and it played right into the angle. The post match reveal of Vampiro being Pentagon's master was fantastic and should make for some fascinating television in season two. ***¾

8. Steel Cage Match: Johnny Mundo vs. King Cuerno - 3/11/15
One of the cool things about Lucha Underground was that I don't recall them doing many specialty matches more than once. This was the only steel cage match they did all season and it worked wonderfully. Johnny Mundo was one of the bigger names in LU and King Cuerno made a name for himself with some top notch performances. Their feud was built up as them hating each other and they just brawled instantly at the bell, which was very much appreciated. Cuerno wanted to escape and win but Mundo wanted to stay in and finish him. It played into the finish as Mundo chose to hit a corkscrew moonsault off the top of the cage, rather than escape. The risk paid off as he got the 1-2-3. ***¾

7. Alberto El Patron vs. Johnny Mundo - Ultima Lucha
Besides Wrestle Kingdom 9, Ultima Lucha was my favorite show of the year. The second night, which was the better show, started with Alberto El Patron taking on Johnny Mundo. Two guys who have been revitalized since leaving the WWE. Mundo threw Alberto through a window earlier in the season and Alberto wanted blood. Mundo played the cowardly act early on, frustrating Alberto. They built towards bigger stuff later on in the match and there was a ref bump. Normally, I'm not into ref bumps, but it wasn't overused in Lucha Underground and it led to a cool moment where Melina made her debut to attack El Patron. This allowed Mundo to win, but keep El Patron rather strong. I figure the AAA Mega Champion couldn't take a clean loss. El Patron did get some revenge by throwing Mundo through a window, leaving Mundo a bloody mess. It was a damn good opener for a damn good show. ***¾

6. Falls Count Anywhere: Cage vs. The Mack - Ultima Lucha
Technically, the actual opener for all of Ultima Lucha was this Falls Count Anywhere match between Cage and the Mack. Throughout the season, Cage was built up as an absolute beast, even taking Prince Puma to the limit at times. The Mack had more of a fun style but their styles worked really well together for this opener. They kept the match short, going less than eight minutes, but it's hard to find a more enjoyable eight minute match. The Falls Count Anywhere stipulation was taken very seriously as they never even entered the ring. They fought through the crowd, into this strange closet like room, used multiple weapons and it was a blast. Mack parodied Stone Cold in a funny moment but things got a bit serious with the finish. Cage curb stomped Mack through a cinder block in what might have been my favorite finish of the year. Just a great, short, fun match. ****

5. Trios Championship: Angelico, Ivelisse and Son of Havoc vs. The Crew - 4/22/15
I absolutely loved the Angelico, Ivelisse and Son of Havoc group. Early on in the show, I felt that Ivelisse and Son of Havoc were a bit underutilized, but once Angelico entered the picture, things just turned around. Here, they believed that they won the Trios Tournament and became champions, only for Dario Cueto to throw a wrench in their plans and make them face the Crew in a no DQ match. Maybe I overrated this a bit too because of how much I loved the performers but the story told here was great. Ivelisse was really damaged  while Angelico and Son of Havoc were taken out, leaving her alone. Angelico did one of the biggest spots all year, diving from the top of the Temple to take out the Crew. They went on to win the Trios Title, and it felt extremely earned by the end. Just great stuff. ****

4. Aztec Warfare - 1/7/15
The earliest match on the list to take place was one of my favorites. I remember playing Royal Rumble matches in games like No Mercy where they allowed pinfalls and I thought it was cool. Lucha Underground had a giant Royal Rumble style match that allowed for pins as well as a No Disqualification stipulation to determine their first ever champion. It lasted nearly an hour and took up an entire episode of the show. There are very few Royal Rumbles in history that I liked more than this, as this was just so entertaining. Having no over the top rope rules allowed for everyone to get in their fantastic dives and give it a different feel. I appreciate how they made sure to revisit the rivalries that had been established up to that point. Storytelling was such a great aspect of Lucha Underground throughout the season. The final two were Mundo and Puma, which was fitting as they main evented the first ever episode. Puma won with a 630 to become the first ever champion in a fantastic showing. ****¼

3. Lucha Underground Championship: Prince Puma (c) vs. Mil Muertes - Ultima Lucha
The final act of season one of Lucha Underground saw Prince Puma, the first and only champion in history, take on the monster that is Mil Muertes. The booking of both men throughout the season was fantastic. Puma knew that he had to come at Muertes with speed, while Muertes used his power. They involved Catrina in cool fashion outside, with Puma picking her up and using her as a weapon. Speaking of weapons, this match involved a steel chair and a table. Puma's 630 had beaten everyone but when he hit it here, Muertes kicked out. Then Puma kicked out the Flatliner. See how effective a finisher kick out can be when it doesn't happen every week? Puma went for another 630 but Muertes got up and hit a top rope Flatliner to win the gold. This was a fitting end to a fantastic season of television. ****¼

2. Lucha Underground Championship All Night Long: Prince Puma (c) vs. Johnny Mundo - 6/17/15
Here go these two men once again. They faced off on the first episode and were the last two guys in Aztec Warfare. The difference here was that Johnny Mundo had turned heel. I liked his face work in LU, but once he turned heel, he kicked it up a notch. Similar to Aztec Warfare, this match took up an entire episode, hence the All Night Long name. After Puma won the first fall, Mundo won four straight to take a commanding lead. That was only like 15 minutes in, giving it a really fun start for an Ironman match. The second fall that Puma scored came after they took a huge spill through two tables in a major spot. He scored another and Mundo wisely played prevent defense. He ran away, frustrating the fans and Puma. El Patron returned to stop this and it led to Puma tying it up. Puma would win with a 630 in the final seconds to retain. It can tough to do a match like this since they tend to be hit or miss, but this worked masterfully. They played off their history, worked smart, kept things entertaining, set up the future Mundo/Alberto match and allowed Puma to pick up a massive resilient victory. ****¼

1. Grave Consequences: Fenix vs. Mil Muertes - 3/18/15
Of everything I saw in Lucha Underground this year, nothing topped this match. It's on my overall top ten matches of the year and for good reason. This was a casket match and it was the best one I've ever seen. Considering their rivalry and the booking of Mil Muertes, this was expertly done. It boggles my mind that Judias Mesias sucked so hard in TNA, but found magic in the Mil Muertes role. He brutalizes Fenix, who sold like a champ throughout. The violence in this match is top notch. Fenix bleeds a ton and Muertes even rips his mask, adding to how personal this was, while also giving a great visual. I loved that with this match being so heated, neither guy tried to put their opponent in the casket until the finish. They did a great job in using the casket as a weapon at times. Fenix finally put Muertes in the casket to win and even after this, they managed to build Muertes right back up into champion. Do yourself a favor and check this match out. ****½

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