Lucha Underground S3E17: The Gauntlet
Watch: El Rey Network, Sling
Lucha Underground Temple – Boyle Heights, California
The opening recaps Angélico’s feud vs. Worldwide Underground; the ongoing best-of-5 series between Cage and Texano Jr.; the wacky stuff with Jeremiah Crane, Mil Muertes, and Catrina; and Prince Puma’s Grave Consequences defeat vs. Mil Muertes.
Ptince Puma is with Vampiro and has taken to calling him “master” now, apparently on a “journey into darkness”, as Vampiro calls it. Oh boy.
Jeremiah Crane def. Mil MuertesNR
Apart from a crazy header bump that Jeremiah Crane takes at the start of this match, there isn’t much of substance in the action here; Mil Muertes lays it on pretty heavily, and I had in my notes at this point that the match was apparently “going to be a squash?” It does end up more of an angle than a match, but not in quite the way that I had been guessing: As Mil sets Crane up for his flatliner, Prince Puma runs in to beat down Mil with a kendo stick while the ref is distracted by Catrina. Crane takes advantage of this to win.
Crane scurries out of the ring after the match, probably happy to have recorded a win in any way possible. This leaves Puma to continue his beatdown on Mil, much to Vampiro’s pleasure.
Jeremiah Crane def. Mil Muertes in 1:56 by pinfall.
Backstage, in between his near-unbridled fawning over Johnny Mundo, Ricky Mandell hands Sexy Star a package for her (addressed in stereotypical ransom-note lettering) that he claims to have found in the catering area. Inside is the spider that’s been haunting Sexy Star over the past few episodes; given the wackiness that is Lucha Underground, perhaps she’s fortunate that it wasn’t something less benign.
Famous B interrupts Texano Jr.’s training session to try to sell himself as Texano’s manager, claiming that Texano has an “image problem”. An unconvinced Texano concludes, “Maybe they cheer me if I kick your a—.”
Jack Evans, PJ Black def. Angélico, Son of Havocok
There’s some amazing athleticism in this match while it lasts, but unfortunately, it doesn’t live up to its potential. It’s derailed when Angélico lands awkwardly on his left elbow and injures it. Jack Evans wins quickly after by pinning Son of Havoc with a middle-rope Phoenix Splash.
— Jocay 🇪🇨 (@Jocay19) December 29, 2016
Jack Evans def. Son of Havoc in 5:18 by pinfall.
Dario is staring into his mysterious box in his office when Sexy Star interrupts him to demand a match against Mariposa – well, not so much a match per se, but an “old-fashioned beating”. It’s left ambiguous whether that wording distinction will have any actual significance; her words in Spanish are “arrastrada a la antigua“, which does idiomatically translate as El Rey subtitles it, but “arrastrada” can also literally mean “dragged”, which is a scary thought: not a bull-terrier match, please. I’m probably overthinking this way too much, and in any event, Dario obliges.
Ultimate Opportunity Best of Five Series: Texano Jr. def. Cageeh
Cage enters this match with a 2–1 advantage on Texano in the series. This match starts quickly but is really meant only as a lead-in to the final of series: One of the turnbuckle covers comes off during the match, and Cage splits his forehead wide open against the exposed turnbuckle. A Texano powerbomb wins it and forces a fifth match.
Texano Jr. def. Cage in 2:15 by pinfall.
Dario comes out of his office and orders that fifth match to occur right now, with “anything goes” rules.
Ultimate Opportunity Best of Five Series: Cage def. Texano Jr.very good
Cage, still bloody from the previous match, and Texano go all-out in a fitting finale to their series (and, presumably, feud). The obvious climax (amid all of the other big spots outside the ring) is Texano knocking Cage off the top of the grating to the floor and following up with a big plancha, and yet there’s room for more craziness when they finish inside the ring. I think the sequence for which I pop most is Texano’s counter of Cage’s forearm into a submission hold, which Cage turns into a pin attempt. Cage ends up hitting a piledriver on Texano for the win.
I might be on an island here, but as much as the spots are there and the match is structured as a big match should be, something about this match feels slightly off compared to the other big matches that Lucha Underground has had this season. Perhaps it’s the artificiality of the fourth match that made this match necessary; perhaps it’s the timing of these matches relative to the previous three, or my incoming skepticism about the whole series (which I write about a bit more below). Whatever the cause, there’s something here that prevents me from becoming completely invested in this match, in a way that is probably not completely objective. I’m probably going lower on the rating for this match than I should.
Cage def. Texano Jr. in 13:40 by pinfall.
Dario declines to reveal his Ultimate Opportunity in front of the crowd, beckoning Cage into his office, where he reveals that the Ultimate Opportunity in the box is a gauntlet. A derisive Cage initially refuses it, but on Dario’s insistence, tries it on and becomes pleased with its power, nearly choking Dario with it.
As a closing note, when the Ultimate Opportunity series started, I wrote that I was skeptical that they’d be able to have five materially different matches. I’m happy to have been proven wrong, and part of my initial inclination does stem from a comparison to the first season best-of-5 series between Aerostar and Drago, in whom I’m much more emotionally invested to be honest. But at the same time, I can’t help but feel as if the extended pause after the first three matches undermined the urgency and importance of this subplot. Steps were taken to keep the feud relevant, but it feels as if those steps should have perhaps ignited the Ultimate Opportunity, not merely kept it from becoming stagnant.
Perhaps the circuitous route that Cage has taken becomes more or less irrelevant as the NES Power Glove – erm, I mean, Dario’s mysterious gauntlet of power – transforms Cage into a major power figure in the complex machinations occurring in the Temple. Then again, it’s just about equally likely that it turns him into a pawn for Dario or Dario’s boss. We’ve seen supposed payoffs end up being duds or otherwise having huge caveats plenty of times on this show. Perhaps that prospect has also been eroding my subconscious take on the Ultimate Opportunity series.
LUCHA UNDERGROUND S3E17: THE GAUNTLET
Decent Effort - 6/10
Plot is obviously the focus of this episode. In terms of the actual matches, as hard as Cage and Texano work, something feels off about the match, and it's difficult to rate this episode highly given that and the knowledge that there's a bunch of missed potential in the tag match.