Lucha Underground has made waves since its 2014 debut as a strange and innovative cross between telenovelas and a more traditional weekly wrestling show. Lucha Underground leans into a wild supernatural mythology that colors every aspect of the show with an enthusiasm unmatched by almost any other promotion, and its third season has added an element of mystery that highlights the show’s ability to blend engaging storytelling with a consistently high quality caliber of wrestling week-to-week.
After a five month break, Lucha Underground returns to the El Rey Network on May 31. The main event is an “All Night Long” match for the Lucha Underground championship between the superstar of Worldwide Underground, Johnny Mundo, and the number one contender to Mundo’s title reign, The Mack. In case you forgot where season three left off, or haven’t caught up on the first half of the season, Paste Wrestling is ready to fill you in on the events that led us to tonight’s championship challenge in the mid-season premiere.
Dario Cueto has often evoked the power and legacies of seven ancient Aztec tribes, beginning with the powerful fan-favorite Prince Puma and expanding this season with the introduction of Paul London and the strange acolytes of the Rabbit tribe. As more and more tribes join the Temple on their individual quests for glory and enlightenment, el jefe has begun talking more and more of war. Throughout the first half of the season, Dario has dropped hints that he and his brother Matanza Cueto have been preparing for war since their childhood—but war with who, and for what, remains to be seen. His partner-in-crime, Councilman Delgado, has had more screentime than ever before, dropping hints that Cueto and Delgado are in league with a powerful force looking to use the Temple to find a foothold here in our mortal realm.
It’s not just Dario bracing themselves for danger, either. Captain Vasquez, the dogged investigator who has been chasing Dario since season one, carries half of an ancient pendant passed down to her by her ancestors and seems to know Dario is hungry for more than just the power and violence that running the Temple affords him. Her pendent matches one carried by the mysterious Catrina, lover of the deadly Mil Muertes, both of whom seem to have walked the earth longer than any mere mortal could ever hope to. After Captain Vasquez sent her undercover agent Cortez Castro back into the Temple as a “new man” near the end of the season, little was heard from or about her. With luck, Lucha Underground will explore more of her role in the war Cueto’s waiting for … and perhaps explain if the medallion she holds is an old family heirloom passed through generations, or if she, like Catrina, is far older and wiser than she’s so far let on.
Prince Puma has been a fan-favorite since his debut, and cemented his legacy in the Temple as Lucha Underground’s first ever champion. Though he was introduced as a loyal and dedicated force for good among the morally ambiguous competitors in Dario Cueto’s bloodthirsty world, Puma has taken a far darker turn over the first half of season three. He’s dead set on revenge against Mil Muertes for the Grave Consequences match that saw Puma’s former mentor Konnan permanently exit Lucha Underground, and despite Puma finding himself trapped in the very same coffin this season, he returned still gripped with a thirst for Muertes’ blood and newly haunted by dark voices that Catrina seems strangely familiar with. Against his better judgement, Puma gave in to Vampiro’s tempting offers for training in the dark arts, and returned to lay out Muertes after a match with a new black hoodie and bad attitude. While Ricochet, the man under the mask, seems bound for glory in other worlds down the road, neither he nor Lucha Underground have offered any hints about what lies ahead for Prince Puma down the road. We might know we’re due to see the last of him soon, but will he leave after vanquishing his greatest foe, or will Mil Muertes and Catrina put the big cat down once and for all?
It’s not all gloom and doom in the world of Lucha Underground. Worldwide Underground, the band of buddies that has coalesced around Johnny Mundo, have consistently offered some of the most endearing and engaging comedy moments of the season, their antics giving the show some much-needed moments of levity amidst its spookier, darker stories. While the Darewolf PJ Black, Jack Evans and Johnny Mundo lost their trios championships to Fenix, Drago and Aerostar at the end of last season, the boys and Taya immediately bounced back in the Season three premiere, dedicating themselves once again to chasing Lucha Underground gold. While Taya found herself sidelined from in-ring action with an injury over the course of the season, she’s stayed busy, finding time to interfere on Johnny’s behalf in matches all while filming a documentary about the Temple’s rock star that’s sure to make a splash with the Believers when it premieres in the back half of the season.
Move over, Smackdown: Lucha Underground is the true land of opportunity, with Dario Cueto handing out bigger and better ultimate opportunities than ever before in season three. Chief among these was the prize he teased for the winner of a best-of-five series signed between Brian “The Man They Call (Who Is Not A Man, But A Machine)” Cage and the “Blue-Collar Brawler” Texano. In the process of awarding audiences with an incredible series of matches that culminated in a back-to-back pair of breathtaking, bloody brawls, Cueto awarded Cage with a gauntlet seemingly imbued with a serious magical punch. We didn’t see the gauntlet in action before the midseason finale, but the fleeting moments Cage has worn it seem to make him angrier and more physical than we’ve ever seen him before, leaving an unsettling question for the show’s return. Is Cage using the gauntlet, or is something in the gauntlet using him?
Sexy Star and The Mack’s friendship has been one of the most charming parts of the series so far, but both of them have a glaring weakness that lead to their defeat in vitally important matches, making the other promise not to come to ringside to support their friends. Their commitment to standing alone, and their commitment to honoring their friends’ wishes, left both of them at the mercy of Worldwide Underground. After winning Aztec Warfare—the only way anyone this season has been able to get the title off the Monster Matanza—and becoming the first ever woman to hold the Lucha Underground championship, Sexy Star lost the title a week later when Johnny Mundo cashed in his Gift of the Gods match. The Mack emerged victorious in a “Battle of the Bulls” number one contender tournament, only to fall prey to Worldwide Underground shenanigans and lose a match that gave Johnny Mundo the right to choose the stipulation for their title challenge.
With some nasty insults, Johnny made it clear he didn’t have any faith in The Mack to put up a real challenge, and added insult to insult by making it an “All Night Long” match, meaning the show returns tonight with an hour-long battle between the smug Mundo and the consistently underestimated Willie Mack. With the Cueto brothers seemingly at odds over their goals, and Matanza perhaps incapacitated by Rey Mysterio in a gruesome midseason finale confrontation, The Mack and Johnny Mundo have an opportunity to have one of the most competitive title bouts of the season, and keep the Lucha Underground championship in the unusual situation it’s recently found itself in: held by someone not backed up by a supernatural legacy.
Lucha Underground returns to El Rey Network on Wednesday, May 31 at 8 PM ET / 7 PM CT. The first two seasons are available now on Netflix, and all three seasons are available for purchase on Amazon and iTunes.
C.K. Stewart is a freelance writer with a lot of opinions about comics, wrestling and wrestling comics. He can also be found at Newsarama or livetweeting terrible pay-per-views on Twitter @ckayfabe.