And during season two of the series the performer found a perfect female counterpart in Taya. The duo has complimented each other quite well, feather boots and all.
“It’s been fun to collaborate with someone who has this ability to roll with the punches and improve and go with the flow. She is amazing,” Mundo said, leading up to Lucha Underground’s Ultima Lucha Dos 8 p.m. Wednesdays on El Rey Network.
“It’s fun to work with her. We crack up the whole time and are having a good time. I think that is why it’s so fun to watch because it translates to the fans that see we have a passion for what we do. We started wearing matching gear. I believe that aspect of sports entertainment can show the alignment of characters. I have been having a blast. She is super talented. I’m lucky to be paired with her. I hope everyone keeps watching because the direction we are taking I think is going to be very interesting.”
Mundo turned full-on rudo or villain early into the season. This evolution for the fan favorite was helped with Taya and by joining forces with PJ Black and Jack Evans. Collectively known as World Wide Underground, the group found success together by winning the trios championship.
“A very small number of people have won the trios championship,” Mundo said.
“It’s really an honor because I believe Lucha Underground is the best promotion right now in terms of the acrobatics, story-telling and depth of character. It’s finding its own identity and growing. So being the trios champion feels like we are carrying the flag of Lucha Underground. It’s a personally fulfilling experience. I couldn’t be happier to be teaming with Jack Evans, PJ Black and Taya in World Wide Underground.
“I think we are the coolest faction in the history of sports entertainment. PJ and Jack are so ridiculously talented. There is nothing they can’t do. They come to every match full of ideas and original ideas I’ve never seen or thought of. I usually have the same mindset and so does Taya. So that creates a great collaborative atmosphere. We are all from different parts of the world and bring with us diverse life experiences in the world of wrestling. Putting all these ideas together makes the group so unique and special.”
Mundo has embraced the arrogance and villainy of his onscreen character. He gets inspiration from the likes of Macho Man, Shawn Michaels, Mr. Perfect, Edge, Christian and Eddie Guerrero.
“Sometimes people in wrestling are a little bit afraid of trying to become a true heel and eliminate all the redeeming qualities of yourself,” Mundo said.
“Ultimately, people become wrestlers because they were fans as kids. It happened to me. As far as being heel goes, I think the less you care about what people think of you the more freedom you have to take away things that make the crowd happy. Ultimately, the more happiness you can take away from the crowd, albeit in a fun way, the more they are going to hate you. Coming into Lucha Underground after 10 years of experience in WWE and another three or four years on the independents around the world, I just have lots of ideas.
“I think that real world experience and professional experience is what shapes that I am in the ring…People want to make noise. They want to be entertained. That is the point of what we do. So you have to be entertaining with what you are doing no matter what. But keeping that heel energy intact is a skill I think some people hold themselves back. They have that secret desire to be liked. I think I had that when I first started. Now that I understand the business a lot more than I did when I started, the secret for me is experience.”
The wheels really started turning for Mundo’s persona development working with the powerhouse Cage. Outside of the show, the rivals teamed up with Chavo Guerrero to win the AAA Lucha Libre World Cup in June.
“One thing about Cage is when you first look at him, he looks like a huge meathead,” Mundo said.
“You don’t expect someone that looks like Cage to be as intelligent as far as wrestling psychology goes. You don’t expect someone to be as careful and coordinated as he is and to have as many ideas as he does. He has really been a pleasure to work with and blew me away as far as all the things he can do physically and the amount of knowledge he has about wrestling.
“It’s really important to be self aware when you are a wrestler, and he is very self-aware. When you look at a guy like Cage, you think he should be doing power moves. But I think he has a good idea of who he is in the ring and because he has that, everything is easy. As long as both people know who they are in the ring, the match is going to work themselves out.”
Mundo, known outside of the Lucha world as John Morrison, appreciates the vibe of the show. He describes it as a good nature to competitiveness where everyone wants their coworkers to succeed. In many ways, the 36-year-old’s passion for pro wrestling was renewed in Lucha Underground.
“When I think about all the stuff I’m interested in like film-making specifically and action and comedy and wrestling, it’s all here,” Mundo said.
“When I didn’t feel like I was being able to use my ideas in WWE is kind of when I got burnt out and tired of it. Since I’ve been at Lucha Underground I’ve been thinking of more and more things I’d never thought about before. I’ve been testing myself physically and am capable of far more today than I was in my 20s, which is not usually how it works.
“It’s been cool being around this roster of talented people like Fenix, Prince Puma, Cage, Son of Havoc and thinking to myself, ‘I can do anything they can do. I just have to train myself intelligently.’ This place has really lit the fire under my ass again to push myself mentally, physically, in the word of pro wrestling. I think that comes down to having a creative outlet. I can’t tell you how good Lucha Underground is.”
Mundo is happy in Lucha Underground, but that hasn’t stopped rumors of WWE’s interest in him. At some point the alum says he would love to go back and test himself against the new generation of superstars.
“Just because I think I feel it would be a whole set of fresh match-ups for me,” he said.
“Also, I feel like when I watch WWE that I really feel like I can hold my own against the entire roster. I can put up matches that nobody can put up against all the different people. That being said, I’m not going anywhere. I can’t imagine a more perfect situation than what I have right now. Lucha Underground is great.
“The locker room, the talent here and the bond between everybody is one of the coolest locker rooms I’ve ever been a part of. Everyone is friendly and funny and really supportive of each other. The production staff is like my friends. I feel like we are really are an excited, tight-knit group of passionate people who are creating something really special. I feel proud to be a part of it and don’t want to leave.”
Mundo still follows WWE to some extent and their latest developments in 2016. Among those being the signing of AJ Styles.
“He has been pounding the pavement in this business forever,” he said.
“He is super talented, humble and friendly. It’s really cool seeing him in WWE. As far as the brand split, NXT and the cruiserweight show, I feel like NXT and the cruiserweight show is a reaction to Lucha Underground. WWE looking at the product we are putting out is really something that is resonating with people who are craving faster paced, more acrobatic, harder-hitting action. I feel like they have modified their product a bit to compete with Lucha Underground, which is cool and not unprecedented. It’s something WWE has been doing since day one. They take a very proactive stance on competition.”
Mundo hopes anyone who hasn’t seen Lucha Underground to give a chance. When you watch one episode, you are hooked.
I recommend starting from season one or just jumping in and watching a few episodes,” he said.
“As Lucha Underground defines itself, it’s continued to evolve into season two and into season three. The characters, the mentality to have characters become more layered and multi-faceted. The action has become tighter and the people behind the scenes have become better at their jobs, too. There was a bit of a learning curve, but the production has become tighter.
“Expect everything to become more high stakes and more polished as we head to the end of season two and into season three. I’m becoming increasingly proud of the product we have been putting out there. As far as my character goes, I’ve been able to put out there to do things in the ring and backstage vignettes I’ve always wanted to do. Things I wanted to do as a kid, in WWE. Now I get to be that guy. I’m really excited for the fans and for myself.”
- Watch Ultima Lucha unfold 8 p.m. ET Wednesdays on El Rey Network.
- Follow me on Twitter @smFISHMAN.