What’s it like to go to a Lucha Underground taping

Lucha Underground tapings are a fun time and something you should try to go to if you have the opportunity to sign up before tickets run out. It feels primarily like a TV show that broadcasts wrestling, but it’s still a pretty fun wrestling show. My experience going was back in February. It probably will be the same if you’re going this weekend or later on.

The toughest part is actually getting tickets. If you want to go to Lucha Underground, you need to email the contact email addresses as soon as they post information for tickets (usually a couple weeks before the taping.) Follow Lucha Underground on Facebook or Twitter and just keep an eye out for hints of an announcement. Tickets are completely free, which is why they’re also scarce. They can’t fit more than 250 max, and it doesn’t take long to fill those spots. If you’re looking to increase your odds, try to asking for the Sunday show. Both are high demand but Sundays seem like they have a little less.

This is a good place to disclaim that I did not follow the strategy above; I waited until late to commit to actually going to Los Angeles. It worked out, because I’m goofball on the internet with a slight noteworthy profile and someone was nice enough to hand me VIP tickets. Do not try that at home.

Once you’ve gotten your tickets, try to get to the Temple early. The paperwork will tell you to get there at 2pm and the show doesn’t start until 4pm. That’s correct, but you’d like to be waiting in line around 1:30 if you can. Seating is assigned by the order you show up. If you’re late, you’re going to be one of those people standing at the top of the staircase. It’s cool to be that close to the wrestlers, but that area can get pretty packed during the first show.

Just getting to the building is a bit of a work. There’s a small parking lot attached to the building, which requires some really creative parking to even come close to fitting in all the cars, and it’s not so easy to get out if you get in late. There was a big line wrapping around the building just to get into the parking lot on Saturday, and it had filled in by the time I showed up on Sunday. (The guy who was running the parking the weekend I was there was pretty much a real life Tetris master in figuring out where everyone should go for maximum space.) Street parking was legal on Sundays and you might be able to get away with it on Saturdays. The Temple is in a warehouse district with not much else seemingly going on during the weekends, so there are other place to park and walk in.

If it’s your first visit to Lucha Underground, you’ll need to sign a non-compete form and have your photo taken. This really doesn’t take long per person, but everyone’s got to do it and that line can get long. Your seating location is only determined after all that’s taken care of, and they give out the better seats first. People who’ve been there before only need to get their name checked to get that seating location, so they’ll end up getting their seats first (and better.) This is why you want to be there early if you’re concerned about where you sit.

One other thing: the ticket notification mentions you can not wear a shirt with a logo. This is a serious rule, they will not you in if you have a logo. If you’ve forgotton to wear a plain shirt, you can either buy a Lucha Underground shirt and wear that over the top, or put tape over the offending logo or just turn the shirt inside out.  (It’s also mentioned not to bring cell phones. You can get away with checking them if you’re only pulling them out during the intermission, though you didn’t hear that from me. They will find you and have a word with you if you’re taking photos during the show.)

There’s not a lot to do before the show. There was a food truck when I was there, as well as a ice cream truck. There’s a small merchandise stand inside the general admission waiting area, with the same shirts and caps and other merch that’s now on the online store. There’s Lucha Underground standups you can take pictures in front of – pictures before the show and after the show are fine. You don’t get much access to the luchadors at any point, but Vamprio did come out Sunday to talk to the crowd and do an impromptu Q&A.

I had a slightly different experience. Those VIP tickets gave me access to a VIP room prior to the show. It’s a small, quite dark bar area curtained off from the rest of the warehouse. It’s a free open bar – the beer company listed as a sponsor is sponsoring the VIP room. They had food too, some chops and some sandwiches I couldn’t figure out. I probably could’ve asked someone, but my entire thought process was “as long as I stay quiet, no one’s going to realize what a horrible mistake it was to let me into the VIP area” so skipping sandwiches was a necessary sacrifice. There seemed to be some dads bringing their sons to a wrestling show, some actual Very Important People who I couldn’t recognize and the band walking in and out to grab something to eat. It filled up before show time, and seemed more full on Sunday when I showed up later. I couldn’t find a place to stand out of the way, until I realized that outside on a 75 degree day was a beautiful place to stand out of the way and went with that. (No one every IDed me – I introduced myself to all of one person, which is the key.)

The Lucha Underground staff starts seating everyone around 3:30. They’ll take small groups in and a time, probably just to keep control of everyone. The bleachers and the stairs are the last areas to fill up. The crew keeps grey sheets over all the mats to keep the TV clean before the show starts. Inevitably, someone tracks warehouse dust on them as soon as they take the sheets off, and annoyed crew members clean it off. They actually pulled out a hand vacuum to clean up the mats and the ring at one point, which struck me as the surest sign I was not actually at an indy wrestling show. (AAA needs to steal the vacuum bit, it would be so much effective than Piero kicking thumbtacks out of the ring after every Joe Lider match.) Nothing’s happening until everyone’s seated and they’re happy with the cameras, but the band will play very loudly to kill time.

Every venue I’ve seen on TV always strikes me as smaller in person. The warehouse is about a normal size, but the Temple/factory ring set itself is small enough that I had trouble getting a sense of where I was seated at first because I couldn’t grasp how closer things were to each other. It still has it’s charm. (Melissa Santos is also smaller in person, also still very charming.) The practice ring seen in the vignettes is no more than 90 feet away from the the main area, and it’s something you can walk by (and take pictures in front of) on the way in and out of the building. The entire area where fans have access seems no more than a 1/3rd of the entire warehouse space.

The tapings start off with Melissa or Vampiro reading a normal disclaimer, reminding everyone of the rules, explaining which show dates they’re taping, and generally trying to get the crowd excited for what’s to come. The tapings may start and end with special segments for the fans. The vignettes aren’t shown in the Temple, so Dario made an appearance at the beginning of the one taping to explain a plot for us live fans, and the Saturday show ended with a promo to set up a match for Sunday.

These were obvious as just for the live crowd, because those segments were in only in English. Lucha Underground is a bilingual show – by the ratings, it’s a Spanish language show that some people also watch in English – so the taping breaks reality to accommodate the necessity of doing things in two languages. Melissa will introduce a luchador first in Spanish, then in English. We saw Dario make a proclamation in Spanish, then come back out of his office to make the same speech in English. The luchadors themselves generally stick to their native language. It’s always Spanish first, English second. The crowd seemed to mostly be English-only speakers, so that order works – they kind of get the idea on the Spanish version, they totally get in on the English, and then Lucha Underground edits in the English reaction.

There’s other weird quirks that are more TV show like than a normal wrestling show. The band is live, but you the entrance music is not. It’s all added in later on. Melissa, Vampiro and Striker change into different clothes after the intermission, to make the different week feel different. (Never saw Hugo.) The announcers also seemed to be reading from a prepared script for the close up segments prior to matches, and even getting back out of them. There was a delay before intermission one of the nights while Striker re-read a section, and it got so quiet that you could hear him from across the set. The fans aren’t artificially moved around, but there is a bit of naturally shuffling after intermission – some people have seen all they need to see and take off, and the people standing in upper level and brought down to fill out those empty spaces. (Lucha Underground will fill that standing area as much as possible because they know they’ll be pulling people out of it later; if you get stuck with a bad view, it’ll get better.) There is a bit of dead time between matches, enough that you can sneak out to the (outdoor port-a-potty) bathrooms if you must, but you’re not moving while the show is going.

On a normal Lucha Underground show, there’s between 7 and 9 matches. The first match will normally be a dark match, featuring people who have yet to debut on TV or luchadors who don’t have a match that night. On occasion, they’ve started with a match which will actually air, if it’s something that takes extra time to set up (like the Mundo/Cuerno cage match) or if it’s replacing something that didn’t work out the previous day. The matches themselves feel a little bit longer than they seem on TV; they have editing to cut them down if they need be. They can edit out botched spots too, so you may see something repeated to keep the good version. There’s about a twenty minute intermission after the first show of the taping is finished, then it takes a little while to make sure everything’s sorted before starting again. (The food truck was still there at intermission, but the merchandise was all gone – get that before the show.) The taping schedule has it starting at 4 and ending at 8, but it moved quicker than that. They were done by 7 on night one, and 7:30 the second show.

The matches were all as fun to watch live as they have been on the show. If you’re getting there by 2 and not leaving until past 7, it’s going to be a long day (and it’s a better day if you bring friends or make them), but it’s wroth it to get to see the matches. There’s no way of knowing exactly who’s going to be there, and even the most update spoilers are only going to hint at one or two matches for that weekend of tapings – a lot of different matches can develop in a month’s worth of show. The crowd is usually loudly into the matches. The regulars have their favorites – Son of Havoc and Mariachi Loco in particular are over as Honma-like losers who the crowd are desperate to see finally get a a big win while still thinking they’re actually pretty good wrestlers. Lucha Underground doesn’t prompt or push for particular reactions to segments, they’d just like people to make some noise and appear interested. That’s not too hard. It’s a enjoyable time.

I made my trip to Lucha Underground because there’s (still) no guarantee Lucha Underground is going to be around next year. There’s no guarantee I’m going to be around next year either, to be fair. Fear of cancellation wasn’t the vibe at the show though – it came off as people trying to put on a good show, and trying to figure out how they were going to make the next show even better. I’m glad I came out to Los Angeles, and I hope I find a way to get back out again.