Author: Marc Madison
Lucha Underground fans will be pleased with Van Wagenen’s open and forthcoming responses regarding the upcoming season. After fans waited in anticipation of the upcoming season, Van Wagenen remains very high on the talent and is quick to give them all the credit for making the show a success. He also discusses how Lucha Underground is unlike other wrestling promotions on television today. His enthusiasm for the upcoming season allows fans to look forward to a number of new and interesting story lines.
Van Wagenen remains actively involved as a producer for a number of other Mark Burnett programs. His work credits include; The Celebrity Apprentice and Bully Beatdown. His film production and editing credits include The Amazing Race and Survivor. Van Wagenen has also produced programming for the WWE with their network exclusive show Legend’s House. The recent announcement of season two of Lucha Underground has allowed Van Wagenen to open up on a number of different topics along with the future of the show. To read the complete interview, check out the questions below.
10. How did the creation of the show come about? What inspired the concept?
My job initially for the first several months was to really pull everything and everyone together on the same page and to try to get everyone to share the same vision. It was really hard at first, it took several months and it took several episodes of taping before we all started to see what was working. But the original concept came from the El Rey Network, one of the original shows that they wanted to develop was a Lucha Libre product that was a little more updated and made for second and maybe third-generation Mexican Americans."
9. Within reason, based on the events of last season’s finale, what storylines can fans reasonably see developing further?
Obviously everyone’s favorite Pentagon Jr. who has been unleashed and on the loose and how we handle that– especially with his relationship with Vampiro. That is definitely something that a lot of people are going to want to know and we’ll be addressing that in the early episodes as well.
We’ll eventually get around to answering all the questions we posed in Ultima Lucha some might have to wait a few weeks before we get to them, but it won’t be in a way that is predictable. I’ll just say that. (chuckles) We are very unafraid to try things. We got away with a lot in season one, but we have a lot of goodwill with our fanbase. We’re hoping that our fans will trust us enough to grow and build and resolve in the least predictable way as possible."
8. How has the show evolved since its inception to the season’s finale? How can you foresee it developing over the course of the next season?
I think that that was the biggest shift and risk that we took and it was definitely kind of something that we were nervous about, but we were very pleased with the level to which our fans accepted it. They loved the fact that we weren’t trying to copy the paradigm that the WWE presents or that TNA presents. We were trying to do something that was out there and a little bit fantastic and not so grounded in reality and the response has been great.
So, I think we’ll continue to push things. I think we thought that we would be more traditional still at the end of the season one, but that was where we started doing things like having Drago turning into a fire-breathing dragon, and Mil Muertes being resurrected, and killing Bael- doing these kinds of crazy things. Once we saw that the audience had an appetite for it than we kind of stepped on the gas."
7. When considering casting, what do you take into consideration as it applies to Lucha Underground?
That’s why guys like Prince Puma and Johnny Mundo and even Brian Cage are fairly valuable to us because they can go with anybody. They can go with the American wrestlers and they can go with the Lucha guys and everybody looks great.
Personally, I kind of like the guys that don’t fit the mold. Guys like the Willie Mack and Matt Cross. Guys that don’t fit, what you would consider the WWE standards. We’re not trying to compete with them. We are trying to compete in the areas where they are not."
6. Wrestling storylines have to resonate with an audience and often times in other promotions they don’t. To what can you attribute the connection the story lines have had with the Lucha Underground audience?
We have hired actors to work with. Luis Fernadez Gill who plays Dario Cueto his job is not to be a wrestler. He’s a great actor. We’re grateful that we have him. He makes everybody more believable because he’s so good. I think that we are doing something that is familiar yet different. You are watching a dramatic show like you would watch any other drama series on television and it just so happens that it’s about wrestling. We’re putting less burden on the actual wrestling performer to be convincing."
5. With the inclusion of talent past and present from notable promotions, what would the likelihood be of a cross-promotional showcase of talent much like GFW/TNA? Would the idea be entertained?
No one knew who Pentagon Jr was a year ago, nobody knew who Fenix was a year ago. Guys like Matt Cross and Angelico and Ivelisse were only known by the most hard-core of wrestling fandom. So we’ve discovered that through our presentation and booking and our live events and the editing of the show that we do that we can really do an effective job of creating or own organic original stars."
4. What does the balance of 2015 and now moving into 2016 have in store for Eric Van Wagenen & Lucha Underground?
Personally, I am also working on Mark Burnett’s The Celebrity Apprentice, which is gearing up with our new host Arnold Schwarzenegger. That will be shooting in the spring probably after we finish shooting Lucha Underground."
3. One question that tends to be asked is, much like other sports, how are the ideas of an off-season for wrestling. Thoughts?
We don’t have pay-per-views to build to and so our motto is if we can put on something every week that our competition can’t, that’s our competitive advantage. For us every week there has got to be something that people are talking about. That’s our only chance for survival, to keep people talking every week."
2. Among the most popular social media trends was #NetflixneedsLucha. That said, what’s the likelihood of a streaming service/availability for residents outside the US to watch the prior season?
1. With the announcement of season 2, what can you share with us as being the biggest hold-up?
There are still some deals that are pending that we hopefully be able to announce soon that will be big and exciting and probably guarantee us a way for us to stay on the air for a long time. For now, we have a path to do season two and we’ve found some ways to make it cheaper, but not lose quality. We are leaving some options on the table for subsequent seasons and additional episodes to happen next summer."