Wednesday, July 08, 2015

For Matt Striker, The Past is Prologue

"I harken back to events that made everything you remember possible. 
I am aware of origins."   - Matt Striker

I don't know Matt Striker, but I suspect he and I might get along if we ever crossed paths.

Striker is the play-by-play broadcast voice of Lucha Underground, the cutting-edge wrestling program that airs Wednesday nights at 8PM ET on El Rey Network. At present, El Rey Network can be a little hard to find; it's a relatively new network. But I absolutely promise you if you make the effort to get there, Lucha Underground is so worth that effort.

It might seem strange that a 53 year old fan of 1970s and 1980s territorial wrestling like me, terminally stuck in the past and who has very little interest in today's wrestling product, could be so enthusiastic about such a modern, alternative product as Lucha Underground. But I am completely, totally, 100% head-over-heels in love with this show. Nothing else in wrestling compares to it today. Heck, not much on TV compares to it today. It is the best hour of my television week.

Lucha Underground combines the best parts of Mexican lucha libre, American independent style, Japanese strong style and even a little European style, too. It is the perfect hybrid, making it almost a style all its own. It also contains some the best story-telling through a series of short, gritty, cinematic style vignettes. It's just magic and wonderful in every way.

I didn't know a whole lot about Matt Striker when I discovered Lucha Underground. I wasn't watching WWE when he was a regular wrestler and commentator there. I first became aware of him when he and Ricky Steamboat dubbed commentary for the 1-hour broadway Flair vs. Steamboat match from the "Boogie Jam" in 1984 that was on Ricky Steamboat's WWE DVD set. Hearing him on that, I figured he had to be a big fan of the 1970s and 1980s. And it appears I was right.

From the onset, I enjoyed Striker's enthusiastic commentary on Lucha Underground. He and his broadcast partner Vampiro do an outstanding job on calling their matches. They walk the line perfectly between the professional call of the action and also letting you know they are fans just like us. For my money, they are the best in the business right now.

Matt Striker and Vampiro call the action on Lucha Underground.

As I got interested in Lucha Underground, I quickly started picking up on Striker's frequent references to old-school wrestling, making comparisons to wrestlers and teams from the 1970s and 1980s. Some of these were very obscure, some more widely known. I loved it! His analogies seemed almost educational at times. He would even occasionally reference angles from 40 years ago, but without making them seem like old references or being out of place.

Two quick examples: Charlie Brown and Greg Valentine's famous t-shirt "I Broke Wahoo's Leg"...

(1) Charlie Brown

On an early episode he compares the look of wrestler Son of Havoc (outstanding indy star Matt Cross) to 1980s masked wrestler Charlie Brown.

For those of you here that might not even remember Charlie Brown (from out 'a town) he was the creation of the legendary "Boogie Man" Jimmy Valiant in angle with Japanese wrestler Kabuki and manager Gary Hart in the fall of 1983. Valiant lost a loser-leaves-town match to Kabuki by some sort of chicanery and came back under the hood as Charlie Brown. The joke was, of course, that Boogie had this big beard at the time and it came flowing out from under that mask and drove Gary Hart crazy because it was so clearly Jimmy Valiant. '"You can trust Charlie Brown," Boogie told fans on a video-taped message. "I know he's cool, because I met him in jail."

Son of Havoc has this huge beard, too. It flows out from under his chinless-style mask. The comparison to Charlie Brown had not even crossed my mind, but when Matt Striker mentioned it, I laughed out loud. It was an absolutely perfect visual comparison with that mask and that beard! It was a small thing, really, but it helped me connect with this new product in those early days in a way I might not otherwise would have done. I remember thinking at the time, if this guy remembers an obscure angle and character that lasted all of 4 months just over 30 years ago, this is my kind of wrestling announcer.

(2) Greg Valentine's T-Shirt

There is a crazy masked luchadore named Pentagon Jr. who is one of the main characters on Lucha Underground. He has a penchant for breaking his opponent's arm after defeating them in a match. As crazy as that gimmick sounds, Striker put it all into perfect perspective by explaining that throughout wrestling history, wrestlers have sometimes made trophies out of the act of breaking oppoenent's limbs. "Greg Valentine," he said, "wore the t-shirt that said 'I Broke Wahoo's Leg.'"

Well, I popped like crazy for that. I stood up cheering! We're talking about something that happened in 1977, thirty-eight years ago as I write this. He said it pretty quickly and I'm guessing it went over the heads of many people. But if you lived that era, it hit you right in the face. It was a brilliant observation and played perfectly into the ongoing story of Pentagon, Jr. But it also served a purpose that mirrors one of the main objectives of this website: you keep on bringing up those names and those special moments so that the memories of them will never die. It's like in the old days of folktales; people passed along great stories from one generation to the next so that the next generation would never forget. That's what Striker did there. And somewhere in the woods of Carolina, a father told his son about Greg Valentine and Wahoo McDaniel while together they watched Lucha Underground.

After the show, I tweeted from the Mid-Atlantic Gateway account how much we loved Matt for making such an old-school Mid-Atlantic Wrestling reference. Striker even tweeted back, stating his affection for the old territory and included a photo of an old, worn out Mid-Atlantic Gateway t-shirt he had that featured, amongst other images, the image of Greg Valentine wearing the "I Broke Wahoo's Leg" t-shirt.

I started reading about Matt Striker at that point and discovered he had actually written about the t-shirt in a column he wrote in-charchter for the WWE website back in 2007. The quote at the top of this page is from that article.  -- "I harken back to events that made everything you remember possible." - - These are sentiments I certainly appreciate; everything that has happened helped lay the foundation for what we know today. To quote Shakespeare, "What's past is prologue."

So we are big fans of Matt Striker, if for nothing else than his tip of the hat to Greg Valentine and his famous t-shirt. But for more than that, I thank him for the great work he does on Lucha Underground, the respect he shows for the history of the business, and how he has helped make wrestling fun again.

- Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

Season #1 of Lucha Underground on El Rey Network comes to a dramatic conclusion with "Ultima Lucha" on August 5, but the series is expected to go into re-runs at that point and should allow you to catch up on the entire 39 episode season before, hopefully, a season two premier later this year.

Matt Striker and Vampiro call the action on Lucha Underground every Wednesday night at 8:00 PM ET with a replay at 11PM and 2 AM.
Don't miss it. Ride with El Rey.

The Lucha Underground webpage is at