On its last show before premiering on Vice TV, Major League Wrestling dropped a major surprise, reintroducing Lucha Underground’s Dario Cueto (played by actor Luis Fernandez-Gil) as an on-air presence. MLW has introduced Azteca Underground as a new component of its show, bringing elements of lucha libre to MLW Fusion.
Seeking to add a unique element to the company’s content, MLW CEO Court Bauer has introduced Azteca Underground as a new concept that shares connective tissue with Lucha Underground, an innovative wrestling show that ran from 2014–18 and still possessed plenty of potential when it went off the air.
Speaking with Sports Illustrated, Bauer discussed the return of Dario Cueto, MLW’s move to Vice TV and the upcoming MLW draft.
Sports Illustrated: What will make Azteca Underground so different and distinct for MLW?
Court Bauer: Wrestling fans across the world love luchadores, but the genre hasn’t been showcased in a consistent manner in America. Azteca Underground will provide that for the fans. Wrestling is also a super-competitive landscape, and we have an opportunity to really stand out with this project.
SI: To fully commit to this project, you needed the presence of Luis Fernandez-Gil, who perfectly captured the role of Dario Cueto in Lucha Underground. Thinking long-term, I’m not sure this would work without him.
CB: He was a priority for us, and Luis signed a long-term deal with the company. He’s an incredibly talented, accomplished actor, so he was very important.
I was involved in a very limited capacity in Lucha Underground. I started as the AAA president of their American division for a period of time, so I was in that orbit, as was Konnan, who really was involved in every phase of Lucha Underground early on. It’s kind of like returning to a recent chapter of our careers. I wasn’t involved in the creative side, but to work with Luis again is phenomenal.
SI: Is he reprising the role of Dario Cueto, who was supposedly deceased, or veering off into a new story? And, in terms of talent, should we expect surprises from AAA?
CB: We’ll see how it plays out over the summer, but where Dario goes, lucha follows. We wanted this to be super tight, and we wanted to surprise people by bringing back a new character. We were able to pay it off in a way that made people feel good.
We have some big plans, and there is a lot of potential to grow. We have a long-term strategy, and we’ve been planting seeds for the past 10 months. That’s what we want, a slow burn that always delivers with our television and videos online. If you’re that immersed in the product, we want to reward you.
SI: Beyond the reveal at the end, there were other important parts of last week’s Fusion, particularly revolving around Alex Hammerstone’s chase of MLW champ Jacob Fatu and Myron Reed’s defeat of Lio Rush for the middleweight title.
CB: We’re also going to have the draft, which will expand and upgrade our roster. There is a lot to anticipate on what’s ahead.
SI: Last week’s finale wrote off Salina de la Renta, who was spectacular during her run in MLW. Natalia Class, who played de la Renta, added so much to Fusion on a weekly basis. What stood out most about her work?
CB: Her character had an incredible story arc. You saw her ascension, and then the mystery of her disappearance, which played into Azteca Underground’s arrival last June when she returned. Her story in MLW concluded last week with the season finale, and we saw the new power dynamic with this shadowy new character. The baton has now been passed, and it’s going to be an interesting pivot.
To work with Natalia, you immediately see she’s incredibly talented. She commanded attention and thrived on national television. She did an incredible job. I wish Natalia success and health.
SI: You have a new home on Vice TV. Big picture, what does the move mean to MLW?
CB: If there was one network that fit the way we identify MLW, and how we like a raw, immersive vision of the product, you couldn’t fit better than Vice. It’s the perfect home for MLW. It’s very authentic, which you see when you watch Dark Side of the Ring. We’re so excited for this new chapter, and we’re ready to kick off our July tapings when we tape July 10 in Philadelphia.
SI: What can you share about the MLW draft?
CB: We’ll be leaning heavily on our digital end, so this can be followed on social media. It will reveal the next era of MLW, with some prospects, international talent and star power. A lot of talent will be returning, but the draft is really going to unlock itself in a lot of surprising ways.
SI: Will we see draft picks from Azteca Underground?
CB: Not directly. The combat world of MLW will be very different from the world of Azteca Underground.
SI: In terms of everything currently taking place within MLW, what excites you most moving forward?
CB: Having fans back. They bring so much life to our shows. Coupled with Fatu-Hammerstone and the emergence of Azteca Underground, from a creative point of view, it’s hard for me to sleep at night thinking about what’s ahead. We’re very excited to show where this goes next.
Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.