I recently spoke to Lucha Underground's Chavo Guerrero about the show's big season 2 premiere this Wednesday. Chavo speaks about the backstage environment in the company, working as an agent, and his new clothing line.
Lucha Underground has a big season 2 premiere [this Wednesday]. What can fans expect out of Lucha Underground season 2?
"If you saw season 1, you're going to see more of the same, but better. Now that we've actually cut our teeth and know what we're doing now, we're going to knock it out of the park. I compare it to the Terminator movies. You see a sequel come out and they're never as good as the original. Terminator 1 was great, but when Terminator 2 came out it was like 'Wow, they outdid themselves.' That's kind of where we're out. We have a lot of eyes on us. Not just the people who are following up from season one, but people who are hearing this buzz. We can't have production values being less than before, or the wrestling less than before. We have to do it, and that's what we're going to do."
Season 1 was truly one of the best wrestling shows ever. It's really different. I watched the backstage segments and wasn't sure how to feel because they were different, but what's wrong with being different? How did you feel about the interesting format of the show and how were you approached about that?
"Your feelings are kind of the same as everybody's. When I first saw it, I was blown away. Everybody says they're different and nobody actually is. We heard what the fans are saying. By the second episode, fans were saying 'this is different, I think I like it.' By the third episode, everybody was hooked. We're a TV show, that's what wrestling is. Everybody else is a live event company. TV shows drive you to their live events, PPVs or channel. They're trying to upsell you to something else. We don't do that. We're trying to get you to watch next week, and next week, and next week. That's what wrestling should be. We're wrestling in a Breaking Bad show or a Robert Rodriguez movie. I was so glad it was something fresh and not recreating what was on TV already. I say that WWE is the Coca-Cola of wrestling. They're the brand. Everyone tries to compare themselves to WWE. If you make another brand like WWE, you're a knockoff, you're RC Cola. If you make a completely new beverage, you're making your own thing. That's what Red Bull did. They made themselves an energy drink. Then Monster and Rockstar came out. I'm glad we redefined wrestling, and I really feel we did that. People will watch other wrestling shows, and if you're not a wrestling fan, it's hard to get immersed in that product. If you're a wrestling fan, it's a great TV show. If you're not a wrestling fan, you don't have to be, but you'll be a fan of our show because it's that compelling. We make every character mean something. There's no throwaway characters or job characters. If they can't do that, they just won't be on the show. We have great writers in Chris DeJoseph and our writers. They're just so good at what they do."
I spoke to Chris DeJospeh recently, and he talked about how LU only has three writers compared to WWE's 20-something writers. Do you think WWE has too many cooks in the kitchen?
"They have one cook. That's the problem. Vince McMahon, maybe Triple H, that's all they have. These other writers, they take vacations. Freddy Prinze is a friend of mine. He's an award winning actor-writer who took a hiatus from Hollywood to go take a huge pay cut to write for this show. We quit the exact same day. He knew why I quit. He said 'I left Hollywood, writing and starring in TV shows because I love wrestling, and all I do is take vacations. We come up with all of these ideas and pitch them, we come in and they get shot down or watered down. The boss wants to do this and we make it work.' I think that's the problem. I can talk and talk about it because I'm passionate about it, but our writers aren't handcuffed. They have range. We can get away with a little more because of El Rey. It's fun. It makes our show different. Our writers can really show their writing capacity. I told every one of them I didn't know they were that good at writing because they were never allowed to run. They were held back and tied down. They're excellent. For us to be on the Emmy radar in the first season, that's huge. Wrestling has never been like that."
"Anything can be done in wrestling if it's done correctly, and at the right time. One of the biggest compliments was Vince Russo came by. Like him or hate him, he made a huge impact on wrestling. He came by our show and was so happy about wrestling and flipped out when he saw me hit Sexy Star with a chair. He said 'this is what I wanted to do in WCW and I couldn't. We couldn't even touch girls. When I saw you hit Sexy Star, the wrestling world changed.' People were like what the heck is this show? People were shocked. I have this Luchadora who's tough as nails, tougher than most of the guys saying 'You better hit me,' so I hit her! I hit her good! She got her payback and hit me a bunch of times. If you look back, I don't say 'I don't want to work with this guy.' I'm not going to prima donna everybody else. I figure if they want me to do it, I'll do it and we'll get everybody over to the best of our abilities. That really got Sexy Star over and it got me over. It was a win-win for our TV show."
They'd never do something like that in WWE, and I wonder why, because it's an entertainment program. We don't think twice when it happens on Breaking Bad, but in wrestling, we do. Why does wrestling get treated differently?
"If you look at the Attitude era, WWF did that kind of stuff. Now they've went after other sponsors and have to be PC. They went after McDonalds and Coca Cola. Money talks. They're going to water their product down to make money. It's not going to make everyone happy, but they're making more money. I definitely see their point. But we wanted to be different. Mark Burnett, our creator, actually said that he'd rather fail being different than succeed being the same. We're a different product. If you look at our show, we've killed people on the show. That character's gone. You don't see that on wrestling. You don't see John Cena getting killed. It's just a different product."
I've always heard that Vince McMahon would rather make a dollar his way than a million someone else's. Maybe that's why they're creatively stifled right now.
"I agree, but the guy has made a lot of money his own way. The way we can even exist is because of what Mr. McMahon did, the progression of wrestling. We just went another way with it. He did it. He took a lot of chances. I wouldn't be where I'm at if not for Vince McMahon. I say that because I learned so much not only from him teaching me but me watching him. You learn to take chances. He always says that he's failed much more than he's succeeded, but when he suceeds, he succeeds big. That's business, relationships, anything in life. You don't always hit a home run. Babe Ruth and guys like that were home run kings, but strikeout kings. People sometimes let failures define their life, but life is defined by your successes. I really learned from Vince McMahon that it's not about how many times you fall. You're going to fall a lot, but you get back up. Just get up and knock it out of the park.
Are you on good terms with WWE?
"I guess, I haven't really talked to them since I left. I'm on good terms with my agent and producer friends there. I don't think I'm on bad terms. You never want to burn a bridge in business. So many people don't want to piss anyone off so they keep everything PC even when they're not in the organization. I can't do that. I tell it the way it is. If that gets you in hot water, it gets you in hot water, but you have to respect it. I'm not living my life thinking I have to keep an opportunity open. That's something I learned from Vince. If I fail at anything, at least I did it my way."
You mentioned you haven't talked to them. Have they contacted you for any WWE Network projects or anything like that?
"I've always been tied up with other organizations. When you leave, you kind of stay away for a bit. Then I went to TNA for a bit. You can't really work for anyone else. When I left TNA, I had some conversations with WWE. Not really about work, not like going back or anything. Then I went to LU. You can't really do business with another wrestling organization like that, you're tied up. That's the reason I haven't done anything, I guess. I've been locked up a lot."
Do you see yourself moving into an agent-producer role after your career?
"I do that now! At the end of Lucha Underground it says 'produced by Chavo Guerrero.' What I'm doing now, I'm on-air talent, but I'm involved in every aspect of that show. From writing to the matches to the wardrobe, everyone's asking me directly or indirectly. Wrestling is what I do. These guys are Mark Burnett people, and they're the best at what they do, but they don't know wrestling. That's where I came in. When I first signed with the company, I brought up that I had a lot more to offer and they agreed with that and I stepped into that role. They didn't know what to expect and I didn't know what to expect. I give them all my knowledge of wrestling, and they give me all of their TV knowledge, which is great. Showing the guys how to shoot wrestlers, showing the sound guys how to set up. Now they got it. When they first came in I was telling everybody 'you need different mats on the outside, the turnbuckles aren't right. The wardrobe, they can't wear that. You can't shoot it that way, they're flying out of the ring right there.' They're pros and they've gone to the moon with it. I hope they don't realize and want to get rid of me (laughs). It goes back to my experience with WWE, to TNA to the Guerreros. My family's kind of been everywhere and it's learning, learning, learning. Sometimes you don't realize how much you know until you put it to work."
Rey Mysterio joined Lucha Underground as well. How do you feel about that?
"I have no idea what you're talking about, that hasn't even aired yet (laughs). For any organization, that's like getting a Tom Brady in football. A huge free agent pickup. Where we're at, where he's at, it's such a fit. I've heard 20 or 30 times that someone is the next Rey Mysterio. No way. There's one Rey Mysterio. There are a lot of people who are really good, but one Rey Mysterio. For us to get him, it just worked. He came backstage one time and looked at me and said he'd never seen anything like this. He's such a great person to work with professionally. We're really happy to have picked him up, and he's really happy too."
Tell me about this VLR clothing line of yours.
"I applied for the Viva La Raza trademark, and I couldn't believe nobody had it. We switched it to VLR. Me and some of my partners are creating this brand for everybody, but it has Latino overtones, because that's pop culture now. We're giving them something that's so cool, everyone is going to want to do it. It's like low riders. Low riders were originally a Latino concept, but it was so cool, other people knocked it and it got into Hollywood and everyone wanted a piece of it. That's what we're doing with this brand. It's Latino, but it's bigger than that. It's a cool brand and I've got great partners behind it that have done this kind of thing before that saw potential in it. It can be really big. VivaVLR.com, you can see our snapbacks and t-shirts, but in 2016, we're going retail and some other places."
Those VLR shirts kick ass.
"Thank you! We have so many other designs. We have to walk before we run, but you know, a baby wants to run before it can walk. Sometimes you fall. We're trying to crawl, walk, run. We're launching it slowly on purpose."