AR Fox And Swerve Strickland Take Their Feud From Lucha Underground To AEW Dynamite

The first episode of "AEW Dynamite" in 2023 from Seattle, Washington looks to be an eventful one, between the rumored production changes the show is expected to undergo and the six-match card that just so happens to feature three top wrestlers from the area. One of those wrestlers is Swerve Strickland, who will go one-on-one with recent AEW signee AR Fox. To some, this is just another solid match on a jam-packed show, a chance for Strickland to show out in his hometown. But for others, this match is a journey to the past, to a time when Strickland and Fox battled each other under different names, out in Boyle Heights, California.

During its short, but unforgettable four-year run, Lucha Underground proved to be too weird to live and too rare to die. Until, of course, it did die. Outside the ring, LU, as its fans called it, was known for its poor management and questionable long-term deals, which ultimately ended the show prematurely. In the ring, however, the promotion was unlike anything ever seen, combining the in-ring sensibilities of lucha libre, modern indie wrestling, a hint of Wrestling Society X, and a cinematic flair that harkened back to the early lucha libre films of El Santo. 

Wrestlers would die, executives would plot to take over LU's universe, Aero Star would travel back in time, and future AEW star Angelico would jump off roofs. Of all the alternative wrestling promotions in the world, Lucha Underground fit the description better than the rest.

Shane Strickland developed Killshot between Lucha Underground seasons

Along for all of Lucha Underground's wild ride was Shane Strickland, who entered the promotion during season 1 as Killshot. At first, Killshot was just a guy in a mask that flew around a bit, making it difficult to stand out on a roster filled with high flyers like Prince Puma and Fenix or charismatic psychos like Pentagon Jr. So between seasons 1 and 2, Strickland developed Killshot's backstory into that of a former soldier who, after experiencing the horrors of being a prisoner of war, had now entered into lucha libre, fighting to forget his demons. 

That worked until early in season 3 when Killshot learned that during his escape he left a fellow soldier behind. That soldier was Fox — dropping the AR in favor of Dante Fox — who wasn't cool with being left to die by Killshot all those years ago.

Any wrestling promotion that's around for longer than a skip and a hop has a rivalry that defines it. For WWE, many would say it's The Rock vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin. For New Japan, it's Kenny Omega vs. Kazuchika Okada. During Lucha Underground's 3rd season, Fox vs. Strickland — who had previously crossed paths sparingly while working for Combat Zone Wrestling – became that rivalry. 

Throughout the course of the 40-episode season, the two feuded nonstop, getting involved in each other's matches, brawling during locker room clearing scuffles, and facing off twice, once in a four-way match and another time in a singles match, with Fox winning. It came to the surprise of no one when they collided in a feud-ending Hell of War match at Ultima Lucha Tres Part 1. Where else could this feud end? What did surprise many was what came next.

Dante Fox and Killshot met in Hell Of War

For nearly half an hour, AR Fox and Shane Strickland delivered violence beyond the dreams of LU's on-screen authority figure Dario Cueto, a man who ate violence for breakfast. Eliot Stabler of "Law & Order: SVU" fame once said "once love morphs into hate, there's no telling what you'll do," and this match fits that quote to a T. 

Over the course of this two-out-of-three falls match (the stipulations were First Blood, No DQ, and Ambulance), chairs, ladders, glass, barbed wire, and a whole assortment of other weapons came into play, with both men bleeding. Things were so gruesome that at one point a piece of Fox's flesh could be seen on a stretcher used to wheel him into the ambulance. 

By the time Strickland sent Fox tumbling 15 feet or so off a platform and through more glass, then loaded him up into the ambulance for the win, it could be argued that Hell of War may, in fact, have been too tame a name for a match featuring such carnage. What no one could argue, however, was how great it was. Already beloved in and out of LU, Fox, and especially Strickland, suddenly became hot commodities on the independent circuit based on their performances. 

ESPN released articles on both Fox and Strickland while praising the match, and years later it would be revealed that Strickland became a favorite wrestler of Jox Moxley's after that match.

Years later, the war rages on

The match at Ultima Lucha Tres was effectively the end of Shane Strickland and AR Fox's run together. The duo teamed together with Willie Mack and won the Lucha Underground Trios Championships one episode later, but they would interact only once more in LU before it closed, largely due to Fox missing most of season 4 with an injury. After two matches against each other on the indies, Fox and Killshot did their best Journey impression and went their separate ways, with Fox remaining in the independents while Strickland made it all the way to WWE, and then later AEW

Despite the link the two shared from their classic match, it seemed like they would never cross paths in the ring again. Then Fox signed with AEW late last year, putting things into motion that led him and Strickland to Seattle.

Things have certainly changed in five years for not just the promotion and Strickland and Fox's names, but also their characters. Once the hero fighting against the vengeful villain, Strickland himself is now the bad guy, having betrayed Keith Lee and aligned with Parker Boudreaux to form Mogul Affiliates. Fox is no longer a soldier looking for revenge but is instead looking to make the most of the opportunity in the prime time he's long waited for. Gone is The Temple, replaced with Seattle's Climate Pledge Arena; gone are also the stretchers, glass, barbed wire, and ambulances. 

Barring a change of plans, the battle between Strickland and Fox will likely be the complete opposite of the hell they put each other through in the past. The view has changed and the crowds have grown. But the war that began all those years ago in the Boyle Heights warehouse? It's only just begun.