Lucha Underground to be mix of lucha libre and American storytelling

Professional wrestler Johnny Randall Hennigan shares how his filmmaking background influenced him and reveals insight into the creation of his alter egos in World Wrestling Entertainment and new wrestling TV series Lucha Underground.

Words by Elaine Xu, Imagine TV Network

Johnny Randall Hennigan, also known by his wrestling alter egos John Morrison and Johnny Nitro during his time with the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), says he had always wanted to film action movies. This desire began when he was a filmmaker at the University of California at Davis and he says being part of Lucha Underground allows him to be part of something different. He describes it as feeling "like an action movie fueled by the essence of Robert Rodriguez."

Image credit: KIX/KIX HD

Hennigan will wrestle for the professional wrestling franchise Lucha Underground as one of the masked wrestlers, going by the ring name of Johnny Mundo. He is focused on his goal of taking the championship title and reveals that his alter ego will gradually evolve into a dark and villainous character.

He adds, "The in-ring psychology is faster and harder than anything I have experienced. It was definitely a challenge for me both physically and mentally. I had to constantly reinvent myself in the ring and as a competitor I want make Johnny Mundo relevant..."

Despite having to film in English and Spanish for Lucha Underground, he is unfazed by the bilingual challenge as he both born and raised in Los Angeles and took Spanish classes in high school. "I definitely have learnt Spanish over the years and I also happened to have a long relationship with a Mexican girl."

The key is to give the audience what they want. "For me, there is less thought on the words and more effort put into the emotions," he explains. As a result, he communicates what he wants to say with his emotions. He also remarks that he has evolved the character of Johnny Mundo into one that is  more sinister than John Morrison [from WWE] and has been labeled as a rudo, or bad guy.

Image credit: KIX/KIX HD

"The world of Lucha Underground feels dark, mysterious and sometimes even supernatural," he says, adding that the high-impact in-ring action is complemented with "elements of Mexican folklore, crime dramas and hints of the occult and paranormal."

He calls Lucha Underground a mix of lucha libre, a form of professional wrestling in Mexico that the television show is based upon, and the American-style of storytelling. Ringside commentators Matt Striker and Vampiro also help to provide insight into the history of lucha libre by describing the origins of certain wrestling moves and the roots of long-standing feuds.

Facing of against wrestlers like King Cuerno, Fenix, Prince Puma and Son of Havoc, he describes the fights as a "boiling pit of different psychologies and styles" and says they approach wrestling in a fundamentally different way. His favorite match is the "All Night Long" match against Prince Puma. "I cannot say enough good things about that match, it was such an honor to be part of it."

While most wrestlers might compete for pride, glory or revenge, he explains that beyond these motivations, the characters in the television show have extensive, fleshed-out backstories that go back hundred or thousand of years. "I mean our World Champion is a masked death god that murders characters in the story line, who wouldn’t want to watch that?"

Lucha Underground premieres on KIX (StarHub Cable TV Channel 518) and KIX HD (Singtel TV Channel 309) at 9pm from 25 April 2016.

 

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