Tonight is the last episode of Lucha Underground Season 4. It may be the final episode of the series. No one knows for certain if they’ll be back or not. Like many mysteries on this show, it’s continued existence is going may take a lot longer to be resolved.
I’m a bit exhausted with this perilous existence of Lucha Underground. Perhaps some of you are as well. I’ll save the future of the show until the end.
The matches on this two-hour episode
- Matanza vs Johnny Mundo
- Fenix vs Dragon Azteca Jr., best of three falls
- the Mack vs Mil Muertes, in a death match
- Marty the Moth (c) vs Pentagon Dark, a Cero Miedo match for the Lucha Underground championship.
That’s only four matches, which seems a little light for two hours. It may actually be the other way. On the most recent episode of The MMM Show, which I’m going to “borrow” significantly from here, Lucha Underground Executive Producer Eric Van Wagenen mentioned he actually asked El Rey if they could get a third hour for this episode. They were politely turned down, but it speaks to how much time some of these matches got. Everyone on the show – including the hosts who were in attendance – said it was a long day of filming. It’s not just the matches that’ll air: they revealed there will be another vignette montage to end the season. The idea of those vignettes, and maybe the entire last episode, is Lucha Underground will answer some questions while also opening the door for a lot more questions.
The MMM show had lots of thoughts from Van Wagenen and Lucha Underground writer Chris Roach about how the season was put together and progressed. It is a bit of a distant memory for those involved. This last episode was sent in months ago and filming finished months before that. A common thread about that production is while they’re happy with Lucha Underground Season 4 turned out, they don’t want to film another season like in such a compressed time period. Roach wishes they would’ve been able to get viewer feedback while they were on the air (this comes up in a discussion about Jake Strong), while Van Wagenen pointed at injury problems taking people out for a weekend meant people being off screen for months. Dante Fox missed all but the last tapings because of something that just took a couple weeks to be cleared up. It’s mentioned Fox would’ve probably been in Dezmond X’s spot if he had able to participate at that point, and Dezmond was in for that weekend only because it was the only time he was available. (Sort of the same: Joey Ryan was written out because he wasn’t available the last weekend and Sammy Guevera was.)
The visa issues come up again but Roach is careful to point out a lot of the big ideas they wanted to do in Season 4 did come off as planned. They wanted the Taya/Johnny wedding, the Johnny/Matanza Ultima Lucha match, and the Son of Havoc/Killshot mask match. That last one is interesting because it came off on screen as if it was something improvised only because Fox wasn’t around. Penta/Marty seems like it was also a planned destination, though Roach mentions they would’ve had Penta hold the championship longer if they had more than 22 episodes this season. He also noted that there were complaints Pentagon was booked too weak in Season 3, and then complaints he was booked too strong in Season 4, as pointing out there’s always going to be some complaints.
Speaking of complaints: Jake Strong! Chris Roach seemed aware while confused about the negative reaction to him. To me, it was people reacting similar as they did to Matanza early on – the vocal portion of the audience doesn’t like to see established characters look non-competitive against new wrestlers they haven’t embraced. It didn’t really turn around for Matanza until the story allowed him to win over fans by having good competitive matches, and Strong hasn’t had a chance to have many of those either. (They kind of acknowledged they’re saving up the first big win over Strong similarly as they did Matanza – we’re waiting a while for it because they want it to mean a lot when it happens.) Strong coming into LU as a blank slate, essentially unchanged from xenophobic WWE character, hasn’t helped. Everyone noted Strong was a likable guy in real life, and Roach confirmed this role was always designed for Strong (and not something being saved for Kross and had Strong thrown in when Kross was doing a WWE tryout.) They noted Strong’s win over Drago & Aerostar was in part to play off a plot point – Aerostar saved a mind-controlled Drago from a Pentagon armbreak last season, so Drago did the same to save Aerostar from an ankle break this season.
Overall, this season was meant to be sort of “the Empire Strikes Back” season, where things go badly for the heroes. Strong winning is part of it. Where they go back is a question. Van Wagenen mentions the idea of a “major reboot” for Season 5 early on, but then he and Roach talk later about Season 5 kind of being the endpoint for stories they told in Season 1. (At one point, that seemed to me like the idea for Season 7.) “You can only see the same stuff with the same people” for so long.
They didn’t commit to different people coming or going for Season 5, because they don’t know if they have a Season 5. It’s not said on the podcast, to avoid spoilers, but there are obviously some people who are going to finish up with LU or already have. But I guess finishing is relative – if wrestlers are free to work on other TV shows, and the schedules match up, LU seems amenable to let people come in for short periods of time if they’re available only that way.
Some random trivia
- This is not part of the podcast, but there’s a great Aerostar story at the end of this article on The Wrap about the vignettes on this show.
- Big Bad Steve’s name was decided late. Like, late enough that he might have not known that was his name until they announced it on the way to the ring.
- Reklusa was asked to dye her hair dark to fit the character better. They thought she was great.
- There was an attempt to bring back Sexy Star this season. Sexy Star turned them down. Judging from how she’s doing a lot more wrestling lately, I’m guessing she’ll be back in Season 5 if the offer still stands.
- The original plan was for Drago to drive the forklift, but the union said no to that.
- The Rabbit Tribe was penciled in as winning the Trios titles the morning of Ultima Lucha taping. They changed it to the Reptile Tribe, feeling there was more they could do with the belts, the trios titles changing hands on every Ultima Lucha was being too predictable, and it would be the best way to give all three teams some sort of story.
- Rich Swann was confirmed as being backstage at Lucha Underground at least one weekend and nearly signed to come on the show. It wasn’t Swann’s first LU connection. He tagged along with Ricochet back when he was brought to the original Temple before they started filming Season 1 to convince Ricochet to sign a deal. That finally did it for Ricochet – and it also convinced Swann, who strongly wanted to be on the show after seeing the setup. (It didn’t work out because he was under contract to someone else – WWN?)
- The budget didn’t allow it, but Roach had an idea of a vignette for Catrina & Detective Vazquez to fill in the hinted at backstory. They’d be in the Old West, Catrina would get stabbed, Vazquez would give her half the amulet to keep her alive – and since he’s a time traveler, Aerostar would be watching from the crowd. They have a lot of Aerostar time traveler ideas.
Will they get to use those ideas? Now we’re to the not fun part.
It’s pretty clear the Lucha Underground staff sees it as a proud accomplishment to have taped the entire season within a
week month. They also see it as something they’re not willing to do again. This season was about as cheap as possible because of the compressed taping schedule, so they’d need more money – from El Rey or from other investors – to do it at more measured pace. Van Wagenen talks about trying to bring in different partners, which suggests he does not expect El Rey to contribute additional money. The issue with getting more investors is trying to do that is what led to the long delay between Season 3 and Season 4 – and even then, it didn’t work out and they were left with the short taping schedule.
Neither Van Wagenen nor Roach had any recent conversations with the people higher up in the food chain about this show. Both work on other projects and only get information about the show when it’s in production or – for Van Wagenen – when they’re working on renewal. They got some information about Season 3 last year because they went to ComicCon, but that hasn’t happened this time around. That also means they’ve definitely not yet talked to the new El Rey Head of Programming, just announced in that position to today. The plan is for more original hours of programming on the network in new genres. Van Wagenen mentioned the show can survive as long as El Rey survives. Someone that takes El Rey into a different direction could harm that survival.
Van Wagenen always struck me as pretty optimistic about the chances of survival after Season 1 and Season 3. Some of those situations look now like they were a little bit bleaker than he let on. This time, Van Wagenen kept a neutral tone on the future. “I got no answers for you […] Good shows sometimes get canceled for business reasons. Sometimes shitty shows go on for years and years.”
It may be a while before there’s a decision. Van Wagenen mentions talks about a next season usually doesn’t start happening until about a month after they’re off the year. That’s complicated by the timing: not much is going to get done in December due to the holidays, and due to budgets for 2019 not being set until early that year. Everyone expects El Rey to have money for Lucha Underground, but they can’t act on until they have a number set. It may take even longer to find that additional investment money they’re looking for. On top of all that, they don’t want the same problem with work visa delays as this past season. They want to give themselves at least 24 weeks for the visas to get done, which is a big block of time to wait. If you add all that time up, Season 5 tapings would start in late summer at the earliest. If tonight’s not the last Lucha Underground episodes, it’s very possible it could nearly a year before you see the next one.
This is about the exact opposite of any scenario I want. I’d like Lucha Underground to have another season, especially one that sounds heavy on conclusions. I really hate the idea of another long break between seasons. I think I dislike the idea of a medium sized time where the future is left uncertain even more. At this point, I might even be willing to trade not getting any closure on the storylines for getting closure on series. I know uncertainty is not what anyone involved wants, but I’m also not sure if there’s a point to coming back if it’s going to take that long. There’s a lot of people who’ve found other ways to use their time during the previous hiatus. This season’s ratings suggests more are dropping while they’re on the air. I understand Lucha Underground is going to exist as long as enough people can make money doing it, but I’m not sure how many people will actually be waiting for Lucha Underground if tonight’s the last anyone hears about it for months.