I went back and watched episode 1! Seemed like a good idea. The first episode is Lucha Underground, but it’s a different Lucha Underground than will end the season on Ultima Lucha. Every show is going to change over the course of thirty nine episodes, especially shows which are just starting out. This show, with scripts being rewritten the day before the first show, was changing even as it was being filmed for the first time. It’s still the same same concept, but the differences stick out when you go jump back in time nine months. Some of them were even interesting!
It’s the same building in that first episode, only you’ll have trouble noticing it. The main lights are only on the ring. To keep with the grindhouse aesthetic, the fans have colored lights shined on them, but there’s a dark void surrounding the ring. (The Puma/Mundo brawl to the floor requires spotlights to be seen.) There’s a lot less fans too; just a couple sitting behind Vampiro & Striker, plenty of empty spaces on the bleachers, no one standing at the railing, and no seats at all on the floor. They’re careful not to show the section of seats on the hard camera side, so who knows what was happening there. It’s strange to see all that extra empty space; they’re a long way from turning people away. They’d start to add the floor seats and turn on the lights by episode 3, but it’d take until the end of the first run of shows before they hit capacity.
Matt Striker wears a vest, a dress shirt and a tie on the first few episodes. It turns out that Lucha Underground is not a tie wearing show, unless you’re Mil Muertes. This turned out to definitely not be a formal vest wearing show. Striker pushes the differences in the style of wrestling (asking Vampiro to explain a lot of history) and the style of show (“no kids in brightly colored t-shirts” – kids would actually be there by show #2) during commentary. Those theme setting commentators would mostly fade away when there were past matches and storylines to talk about okay. Vampiro is pretty much Vampiro. It’s impossible for him to be anyone else. That first episode had a lot of GoPro style shots of the announce desk, with Matt Striker’s pen taking up most of the screen. It was a technique to cover up edits, but done so much that it gave away the game. LU got a bigger and better responding crowd in later episodes, so they could use those shots as well, and they moved the camera to the center of the desk to show more of the announcements and less of their writing instruments. Even Melissa has changed a little bit; she seems to be hanging on to the last syllable of names longer.
The Blue Demon/Chavo Guerrero Jr. match was derailed by a Demon knee injury. It wasn’t well received when people were watching that first episode. It would feel totally out of place in one of the later episodes, where the style has become fast paced, high spot focuses, and often involving gimmicks or stunts. At least part of that change is due to building to Ultima Lucha and the show itself, but I imagine it would be the same way even as a second season started. Even on that first show, the Puma/Mundo match is a very different style of match. The stylistic change was inevitable once Lucha Underground got more of the people they wanted from the beginning.
It’s been mentioned that first vignette – the one with Dragon Azteca and what’s his name – impressed the people in charge of the promotion so much that all the other vignettes were reshot in that style. Not all of them: there’s a shot of Johnny Mundo doing pull ups backstage done in traditional wrestling single cam shot. The announcers can even see what’s happening backstage at this point, or at least it’s happening more concurrently with the action. This show also has the first of a few early Dario/Konnan sit downs. The two haven’t spent as much time together in the second half of the season, but they’re pretty instrumental in getting the character over. Dario had some in-ring segments on the show – opening it with a very un-Cueto speak emphasizing the importance of courage, honor and violence – and the turn at the end of the show, and both of those come of as more generic owner bits. Dario really shines in the quieter moments in his office.
Other random differences
Ivelisse is not with Son of Havoc, may not even be a person on this episode. Dario’s red bull is on his desk, but cropped out of the picture. Sexy Star’s well done introducion promo is done in English, which she never speaks English again. Big Ryck is wearing jeans, and not his ratty gym shorts gear. No one ever claims Prince Puma’s spirit animal is the jaguar, though I’m holding out hope for Ultima Lucha. There’s a segment where Dario forces Dorian Roldan to take money for the rights to five luchadors (Demon, Sexy, Fenix, Drago, Pentagon) to the disapproval of the TripleMania crowd which comes off as an artifact from a script a few drafts ago and doesn’t connect with anything. (When Fenix, Drago and Pentagon finally clear the border and make it to the show, Konnan claims he’s the one who found them.)
Strange moments of foreshadowing and unexplained phenomena
Dario brags about signing Johnny Mundo to humble him, saying Mundo disrespect this Temple and “is only hear for the money and the fame”, which seems to be closer to the truth than it seemed. Striker mentions Mundo & Puma can go “All Night Long”, which might only be meant as a theme song reference at the time but I’m giving him credit anyway. Dario is angry Chavo didn’t injury Demon into retiring, and that’s exactly what he has Chavo try to do when they next face off. The guy Dragon Azteca saves at the start is indeed a guy in a white hoodie; we see the top of his head and he’s got hair, but that’s all we know.
Prince Puma’s shown wearing the puma headdress he’d debut later
King Cuerno and Mil Muertes are also shown before they debut.
Hernandez wouldn’t debut for an even longer amount of time, but there’s a shot of him taking a dropkick from Ricky Mandell in a dark match.
And this looks like Dragon Azteca doing a tornillo (note the D on the boots)
Maybe he’s also this guy in green?
But – who’s the evil bunny??????
(Edit: It’s “El Bunny”, according to the presentation slides from Dorian Roldan speech on Lucha Underground back in May. It’s 15:34 in.)