Written By Julio Martinez
Being the grandson and son of legendary wrestlers Gory Guerrero and Chavo Guerrero, Sr., respectively, did not mean that Chavo Guerrero, Jr. would automatically go into the family business. He recalls, “Going to school I was into football, basketball, soccer, I didn’t really think about wrestling. I just kind of evolved into it.” Guerrero Jr., who made his professional wrestling debut in May 1994, is one of over a dozen luchadores (Mexican style wrestlers) who will be competing in Lucha Underground, filmed in East Los Angeles, debuting Wednesday, October 29 (8pm ET/PT) on the El Rey Network.
Guerrero Jr. began his career wrestling American style and is a six-time WWE champion. “Lucha is kind of different,” he admits. “Lucha libre (freestyle) originally featured a lot of high-flying maneuvers and lots of fast action. Now that it is has become popular in the U.S., it has become a hybrid of a lot of styles. But it is very entertaining and crowd-pleasing. I think it is going to become very popular on American TV.”
There are a number of companies and individuals that also believe the lucha libre style of wrestling will be a hit on Anglo TV. Lucha Underground is produced by One Three Media in association with FactoryMade Ventures for El Rey Network. Executive producers are Mark Burnett, Eric Van Wagenen (also showrunner) and Brian Edwards of One Three Media; Dorian Roldán from Lucha Libre AAA; Alejandro Garcia and Antonio Cué Sánchez-Navarro; El Rey Network co-founderRobert Rodriguez; and FactoryMade Ventures and El Rey Network co-founders John Fogelmanand Cristina Patwa. The series will be distributed internationally by One Three Media.
“We are all very confident that Lucha Underground is going to attract a lot of viewers,” says exec producer Van Wagenen, who is serving as showrunner for the series, having previously exec produced such wrestling-based series as Bully Beatdown and W.W.E. Tough Enough. “El Rey is a branding network they is in place to service the large Latin American audience that is in America, particularly second and third generation U.S.-born Latinos who speak Spanish but probably speak English as a primary language.”
El Rey is confident there are a lot of people who have a connection and a fondness for lucha libre not only in the Latin community but also in the wrestling fans community. Van Wagenen affirms, “Our goal is to create a unique product that feels connected to the roots of lucha libre but is sort of updated for some of the more U.S. sensibilities, increasing the production value so that it is very much in line with Robert Rodriguez’s and also Mark Burnett’s television style.”
The high-flying luchadores of Lucha Underground include Prince Puma (aka Trevor Mann); Mil Muertes (aka Ricky Banderes); Johnny Mundo (aka John Hennigan); “B-Boy” Benny Cuntapay; Cortez Castro (aka Ricky Reyes); Catrina (aka Karlee Perez); Angela Fong; Son of Havoc (aka Matt Cross); Big Ryck (aka Ryckon Stephens); Ivelisse; Mr. Cisco (aka Lil Cholo); Martin Casaus and Holly Meowy; Blue Demon, Jr, Sexy Star, Fenix, Drago and Pentagon Jr. Vampiro and Matt Striker serve as commentators. Melissa Santos as the Ring Announcer.
Guerrero Jr. laughs when asked if there are frequent injuries. “I have been doing this for 18 years and I’ve been hurting for 18 years. Usually, they are just nagging injuries I have to work around. Luchadores fly very high and land very hard. There are no pads on our bodies. The only thing that breaks my fall is my skin. So, there is pain involved. But we are also well-conditioned, highly trained athletes. We know what to do to put on a great show and then walk away from it.”