Last weekend, I attended a live taping of Lucha Underground in Los Angeles. I’d like to thank Adriana from El Rey Network for all her help in setting up my attendance at the taping and arranging for interviews with some of the stars of Lucha Underground. I’ll be posting excerpts from the interviews in the coming weeks, but first I want to share the experience of the live taping itself. If you’re going to be in the Los Angeles area, I highly recommend checking this out.
“…Everyone wants to be excited by something magical and wondrous – to be reminded of how they once saw the world …” –John Geddes
That’s the first thing I felt when I approached the Lucha Underground Temple for the first time. I’d arrived early in order to conduct interviews prior to the taping. I’ve lived in and around the Los Angeles area for most of my life, and attended my share of wrestling shows, but there was definitely a different vibe I felt here. Something amazing was happening and it was almost palpable. I felt like a little kid in the hour before his birthday party, smiling and eager to get things started.
There was an overwhelming sense of excitement from everyone I spoke too or saw walking around. The Luchadores, the ring crew, the production crew, everyone was kind and friendly and eager to share the product of their efforts. There’s a feeling of family amongst everyone working for Lucha Underground and El Rey Network. I’ve been around a few Television and film crews and know that’s not always the case.
The excitement comes from that sense of family, I think. Further, I’d say that sense of family comes from being a part of what this team of people is accomplishing each week. It’s not hyperbole to say that Lucha Underground is changing the way professional wrestling can be presented on Television. I think everyone at Lucha Underground and El Rey knows they are part of something special, and that breeds the excitement. My own excitement only grew as I got to see the set, and more importantly…
After I’d conducted a few interviews, I was taken on a tour of the set led by Executive Producer Eric Van Wagenen. Eric was just as excited as everyone else I’d met so far, and proud to show off the set. I was treated to a tour of the Lucha Underground locker room, the office of Dario Cueto, and the altar of the Temple, the Lucha Underground ring.
The grittiness you see on Television is not fabricated. The show is filmed in an old warehouse in the Boyle Heights area of Los Angeles. That being said, it’s gritty without feeling dirty. The set design team has done some amazing things to turn this old warehouse into the beautiful temple you see on TV each week. The locker room features Aztec inspired murals painted by prominent local graffiti artists. Dario Cueto’s office features framed old newspaper clippings covering Lucha Libre and boxing on the walls, and more Aztec themed art. The centerpiece of this set though is of course the ring, and the temple built around it.
I walked into the temple and was immediately impressed. I’d seen this on TV and had an idea, but seeing it in person really made me appreciate the detail that had gone into the temple’s creation. The Aztec style Luchador painted in the center of the ring looks awesome in person. The temple steps that so many of the Lucha Underground stars use to approach the ring are right on top of the bleachers, giving fans unprecedented access to them as they descend for battle. The Temple conveys the feeling that it was built for battle.
I won’t go into spoilers, but the wrestling itself at Lucha Underground is top-notch. Seeing it live really made me appreciate the high-flying Lucha Libre style that much more. The men and women of Lucha Underground put their bodies through incredible feats of athleticism that come with the risk of major injury. They do this all for your entertainment, and the fans in the Temple appreciate it.
The crowd was hot from beginning to end of the taping. Chanting for the wrestlers, for the announce team, even ring announcer Melissa Santos got some love. We all know that a great crowd can make a good wrestling show great, and the fans in the temple make an already great wrestling show amazing.
That’s what I left the Lucha Underground feeling, and I wasn’t alone. The crowd filtered out of the arena with giant smiles on their faces. I stuck around for a photo with Son of Havoc and Prince Puma, both of whom were very gracious to the fans getting their pictures taken. Happiness was the overall feeling I got from everyone at Lucha Underground. The luchadores are happy to be there, they talk of the differences between Lucha Underground and other places they’ve been.
Throughout the interviews I conducted, a theme recurred, some version of, “this place is amazing, it made me remember why I loved wrestling”. No one is trying to disparage other organizations, but they hold Lucha Underground up as an example of how fun wrestling can be. That’s the overall impression I took from Lucha Underground Temple. Happiness resides in wrestling once again, and it lives in a small warehouse in Boyle Heights. It lives in Lucha Underground.
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