Wednesday, May 20, 2015

LU Wednesday: Mil Muertes, Wrestling's New Face of Fear

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It appears there has been a lot of chatter recently in the professional wrestling world, particularly in regards to one man; Bray Wyatt. The former Husky Harris is a popular, compelling and frustrating dude, which makes it easy for guys like myself to write about him. Recently, two of the best writers on Lords of Pain got into a disagreement over him. On one hand, there's Leaf, a dude so good he once created a fictional Wyatt back story that I was even behind the times on. He believes Bray has been hurt by his "big time losses" over the past year, a crushing kayfabe consequence that has helped neuter his image as wrestling's "New Face of Fear." On the other side, there's 'Plan, my homie and a worthy opponent in a column competition. He respectfully, but strongly, disagreed with Leaf's assessment, saying that judging Bray's reputation by wins and losses is a poor way to view Bray (and wrestling in general), and that Bray's moniker as the "New Face of Fear" comes from how he molds himself into what scares his opponent the most. They're both very interesting arguments that you should read (here's Leaf's column and here's 'Plan's. Read 'em!), and I can see both sides of the argument. There's just one point that both make that I absolutely, positively cannot agree on. Sorry guys, Bray Wyatt is not wrestling's "New Face of Fear."

Now that you've gasped, gulped and exclaimed "HOW COULD CULT SAY THAT ABOUT BRAY WYATT?!!!" a few times, let me explain. Bray Wyatt is certainly a talented performer, a dude with unlimited skill on the mic and a great motor in the ring. In theory, he should be a top star in wrestling for years to come. But the "New Face of Fear"? Is this open mic night at the comedy club next to my local 711? Let's be real; the only thing Bray Wyatt is the face of is "meh." He's been that way ever since his feud with John Cena ended last year. Before the end of that feud, Bray was certainly on his way to become said "face of fear"; he looked different, he felt different, his words were actually different. Then the feud ended and so did everything that made Bray interesting. Gone were his mystique and his wonderful words, replaced with cheesy holograms, actions that made no sense beyond hardcore fans looking way too deep (sorry Steve, I love you but it's true) and endless, rambling, confusing promos. Bray went from being the face of fear to (get ready to gulp 'Plan) being what CM Punk once described Alberto Del Rio as being. I believe that quote went a little something like this, "For someone with so many speeches, you really don't have anything interesting to say, do you?" That sounds less like the "New Face of Fear" and more like a Wachowski's film that went 45 minutes too long. In Community terms, Bray Wyatt is the opposite of Mil Muertes.

Ah, look at that transition into me discussing wrestling's actual "New Face of Fear." I'm sure some of you are wondering now who Mil Muertes is, and well, if you don't know that, you may not be as big of a wrestling fan as you seem to think (I'm kidding. I just wanted to try on a line used by WWE fans whenever you disagree with them. It stings going the other way, doesn't it guys?). In any event, Mil has been many a man over the years. Mexican wrestling fans will know him as El Messias, a legitimate badass for AAA who was once in kayfabe killed and brought back (spoiler alert; that's a prelude to something down the road. I warned you). American wrestling fans may remember him as Judias Messias, the dude who feuded with Abyss in TNA, had James Mitchell as his manager and was about as scary as one of those cat memes. Now he's Mil Muertes of Lucha Underground (best wrestling promotion in the world!), the man of a thousand deaths and the most frightening wrestling character since 90's Undertaker. But what makes Mil Muertes so terrifying? Simple; unlike Bray Wyatt, he gets the job done.

Now I can already hear 'Plan grumbling about that last point, so let me explain right now that I don't mean "get the job done" in terms of wins and losses. This is pro wrestling, a fake sport where wins and losses don't matter, so the fact that Mil's W/L record is better than Bray's has no bearing here. What does have bearing however is that Bray Wyatt is simply not convincing in his role, or at least wasn't when I stopped watching WWE several months ago. Nothing the character aims for worked for me during and after the Cena feud; most importantly, I never believed any one Bray feuded with from that point forward was actually afraid of him. All I saw was a guy acted like a ramblin boy of pleasure with a cryptic as hell background that only the most hardcore of hardcores would understand. That's not scary; that's just there. I get that WWE is aiming for the "you fear what you don't understand" angle, but that just isn't working. There eventually has to be a point. What's Bray Wyatt's point other than mumbling a promo that sounds like the exact same thing you heard last week?


It's the exact opposite with Mil Muertes. One, his cryptic mouth piece Catrina is actually mysterious. How that woman was let go by WWE is perplexing as hell, as she easily could be a top manager there right now (or a top wrestler, as Catrina did lace up the boots several times up north). Slinking and seducing her way through the Temple, it sometimes hard to know if Catrina is even on Mil's side. One minute they appear to be in synch, the next she appears to abandon him, all while you wonder if she's actually trying to motivate him or if your head really is about to explode. It's mystery that actually leads to some plausible sense in the end. It's also the perfect contrast to how Mil provokes fear within his opponents. You can see it in every match he has. Win, lose or draw, Mil's opponents are always terrified of him. Chavo Guerrero was terrified of him. Blue Demon Jr. was terrified of him. Prince Puma, the current Lucha Underground Champion, was terrified of him. And the man that eventually conquered him, Fenix, was the most terrified of him.

Let's focus on that feud there, because that is the main crux of this whole issue. Like I mentioned earlier, 'Plan's thoughts on Bray Wyatt were that he embodies the fears of his opponents during a feud, and that his eventual defeat is the hero overcoming said fear. In theory he's right, although again I think Bray has been such a poorly written character the past year that you don't see that effect. Fenix vs. Mil Muertes is 'Plan's theory done correctly. Mil embodied everything that Fenix feared; whereas Fenix was the man of a thousand lives, Mil was the man of a thousand deaths, coming to collect his soul. No matter how many times Fenix put Mil down, no matter the fact that he seemingly stole Catrina away, Mil just kept getting back up. It all built towards that Grave Consequences coffin match (in my opinion, the best match Lucha Underground has featured thus far), which is where Fenix overcame it all. And trust me, he was afraid in that match; afraid of the flame being burnt out by Mil, afraid of his face being exposed (Mil now famously tore Fenix's mask to shreds, a big no no in the lucha code of conduct), afraid of simply being wiped off the face of the earth. Instead, he faced his fear, rose up, put Mil in that coffin and became a star. It was perfect storytelling and it maintained Mil's aura even as it appeared he was being killed off (spoiler alert; he wasn't).


I want you to picture that night now as if it were happening every week, though perhaps not to the same extent. Because that is exactly what Mil Muertes brought to the table before that match and appears to be what he'll be doing now that he and Catrina have returned. Already the duo are playing mind games with Fenix once again, and it'll now be interesting to see how Fenix is able to conquer his fear again, knowing his greatest enemy can't be put down. It's stuff like this that has gotten me hooked on Lucha Underground and characters like Mil. Yes, Bray Wyatt might be a compelling talent and certainly his character is a great idea. But that's all he is, an idea, and an incomplete one at that. Mil Muertes is reality (ironic because the character isn't if you think about it). He isn't presented as a rambler or cryptic for the sake of cryptic, he's presented as a man who, win or lose, gets the job done every single week. Not every couple of weeks. Not every couple of months. Every week. It's why he's the man of a thousand deaths. It's why he's the man from beyond the grave. It's why Mil Muertes is wrestling's "New Face of Fear."

Don't believe me? Watch the match below, which if there's any justice will eventually make 'Plan's 1,000 Matches to See Before You Die Part 2: Electric Boogaloo series. Still don't after, why not check out Lucha Underground tonight on El Rey? Or are you too scared to enjoy wrestling every week instead of every other?

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