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LaBar: Memo to Jim Cornette about Lucha Underground

| Sunday, Jan. 31, 2016, 5:57 p.m.

LOS ANGELES — As I lean my head out a side door of the Lucha Underground Temple, I hear a chant, in unison, from 500 fans expressing the dislike for Jim Cornette and his comments made about the Wednesday night show on El Rey Network.

The long-time wrestling manager and promoter went on one of his profanity filled rants he's become famous for in the latter half of his career about Lucha Underground not being professional wrestling. You can read the full transcript here at your discretion.

The line that sticks out to me from Cornette is “And it's another nail in the coffin of wrestling to be taken seriously as a sport or anything that's not completely predetermined.”

I shouldn't be surprised. If it didn't take place in one of the original Confederate states and the pace of the match goes up 5 mph, then it's not real professional wrestling to him.

Jim, what year do you think this is?

The depth of a character like Prince Puma is too much, and we need to keep it simple with characters like the Dirty White Boy? Is this all part of your shtick and you just wanting to get a rise out of people? I sure hope so, at least you would have a profitable publicity explanation for what's otherwise pessimistic ignorance.

Lucha Underground is a special flavor. Lucha Underground isn't for everyone. ROH isn't for everyone. WWE isn't for everyone. It's all a matter of what you're wanting to get out of what you're watching. I don't think there's anything out there that can satisfy Cornette because we're in 2016 and everything evolves, unlike him.

The secrecy of the art and the expectations of the viewing audience isn't what it was in 1985. It's become part of the definition of professional wrestling to being a live theatrical encounter with athleticism. More simply stated, it's widely accepted and acknowledged that outcomes are predetermined.

Having said that, professional wrestlers today still show respect to the industry with their performance in front of an audience. They're not any less committed to their craft just because many of the secrets are out, but they understand you need to work different ways to get the audience lost in the entertainment and forget what they know. That, to me, is Lucha Underground.

Yes, the vignettes and storytelling are produced like a Hollywood movie. Hollywood movies, which everyone knows are scripted entertainment, are a multi-billion dollar industry per year. People want to be entertained.

Even the legitimate outcomes have evolved. Twenty years ago, if people wanted to watch a physical contest with no predetermined finish between two people, they watched boxing. Twenty years later, they watch the UFC.

Did professional wrestling used to be better back in the days when secrecy and the truth behind the magic tricks were better kept? In a way, yes. A lot of people say the NFL was better before the increased rules of safety. Same with the NHL. Same with music heads saying they don't make them like the used to. It's human nature to reminisce about the past and what used to be because it's not like that anymore.

In his rant, Cornette talks about missing wrestling that drew big crowds and big money. What he's referring to drew big money and crowds at the time, and it was the expectation in some places. Go rent out a convention center in Tennessee for a show and film the old-fashioned 1985 southern-style story and characters, then put in on television and let's see how many people watch or how much money it makes. It wouldn't because the viewers expect more today. It's OK to appreciate the past, but you can't live in it. Then again, Cornette's been wearing the same bad outfits and carrying a tennis racket for 40 years.

I've been around wrestling my entire life. The reason I like Lucha Underground is I enjoy seeing the amount of money, detail and quality addressed to a professional wrestling show that doesn't have to be done live in one take in a crunched time format. Lucha Underground doesn't produce as much content as WWE, and it has an offseason. It's a nice change of pace to be able to perfect more aspects of the storytelling both in the ring and out.

I've spent many hours up close and personal with the performers, crew and fans here at Lucha Underground this week. So much of my documentation I'll be sharing in the near future. I can tell you these performers at Lucha Underground know their craft in the ring. Yes, the stories have a supernatural feel sometimes to them and some of the action is fast-paced like a Hollywood fight scene — but the same professional wrestling principles are applied with the technique of doing it right to protect each other and the psychology of the story being told.

To write off this show to the point of saying the best thing that can be done is “drop a nuclear bomb on it” is the ramblings of a guy who makes a living on complaining about everything because he doesn't fit in anywhere anymore.

Justin LaBar is a staff writer for Tribune-Review. He can be reached at 412-320-7949 or jlabar@tribweb.com .

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