By Liliana Valenzuela
Date/time: Tuesday, March 15, panel at 2 p.m. at Four Seasons and evening show at Austin Music Hall, 8-11 p.m.
The panelists: 2 p.m. panel with Brandon Stroud, Pro Wrestling Editor, Dorian Roldán Executive Producer, Eric Van Wagenen, Executive Producer and Showrunner, Joseph Chaisson Executive Producer, Rey Mysterio Jr.
4:30 p.m. press conference with Eric Van Wagenen, Executive Producer and Showrunner, Ivelisse Velez, Wrestler, Vampiro, Commentator and Wrestler, Rey Mysterio Jr., Wrestler, Catrina, Wrestler, and Johnny Mundo, Wrestler.
Evening show at Austin Music Hall with those and other wrestlers.
The gist: The creators and performers of “Lucha Underground,” a TV series that mashes the world of wrestling with that of telenovelas (Spanish soap operas) now in its second season, discussed some of the successes and challenges they have encountered during the filming of the first season. And in the evening, for the first time ever, the characters of this show took it outside their usual venue in Boyle Heights, L.A. on the road and presented it at the Austin Music Hall. Lucha Underground is an El Rey Network production, Austin Filmmaker Robert Rodríguez’s network. Rodríguez was not in attendance at the panel or press conference.
The takeaway: About 50 Lucha Underground fans waited since 12 p.m. noon outside the Austin Music Hall for the 8 p.m. show to get a glimpse of their Lucha Underground superheroes, wrestlers who fight, conspire and sometimes cry in this show.
The producers wanted to “create something a bit different from the wrestling world, something that would bring the Comic Con and the Sci-Fi crowds,” said Eric Van Wagenen, executive producer and showrunner. And added “one of the challenges is to get more eyeballs on the product.”
For the wrestlers, being in a TV series has meant having a bit more downtime, different from being on the road almost 360 days a year, said long-time wrestler that goes by Vampiro. “We can recover physically and the level of stress goes way down,” he said. Plus, “it builds anticipation for the audience,” from one season to the next.
They producers commented on how this is more of an indie project, with indie filmmaking values.
“The creators, the writers, everyone is one the same page, there’s no ego,” said Vampiro. He especially likes the camaraderie on the set, he said.
The show has some fantasy, supernatural elements embodied by Catrina, the lady dressed in black. “I’m allowed to do over-the-top things, play with her, test the waters, including the lick of death,” said the enigmatic Catrina.
The storyline in the telenovela-like format has allowed some of the actors to learn to “dial it down” when they’re on the set, said Johnny Mundo. “People go to hear music, see movies, TV, to feel something,” said Mundo, “at the heart of it is the emotion.”
For all the wrestlers it was exciting to be performing outside of “The Temple” for the first time, the location in Boyle Heights, L.A. where there are the “sweat, blood and tears of so many people…it has magic,” said Vampiro. This was a dry run for them, he said, so they might do more live events around the country from time to time.
Rey Mysterio, Jr., who comes from a Mexican wrestling dynasty, thought his wrestling days were over. He said he was looking forward to spending more time with his wife and family when the opportunity of this show came along. It’s all about “enjoying yourself and making the fans happy,” he said. “It’s been a good environment.”
The show naturally integrates the Mexican and the American culture of L.A. without too much effort, said Wagenen. “This show is a love letter to L.A. and the integration of Mexican culture,” he said.
Aside from El Rey Network, Lucha Underground is available on iTunes, where it went to the top 10 shows on its first week and is #1 in the sports category, said Wagenen. They’re also looking at international deals, he said.
And, judging from the enthusiasm of the mixed and raucous crowd ranging from Mexican-Americans dressed in the luchador garb to Anglo families with small children, Austin is ready for more Lucha live.