Fighting

PRO WRESTLING: Former WWE superstar John Morrison on One Three Media’s ‘Lucha Underground’ on El Rey Network

Johnny Mundo (former WWE superstar John Morrison) cheers actor Drake Bell (right) as he puts Luchadore Prince Puma in a headlock during a break from the tapings of “Lucha Underground” in Boyle Heights, Calif. “Lucha Underground” is 8 p.m. EST Wednesdays on El Rey Network.
Johnny Mundo (former WWE superstar John Morrison) cheers actor Drake Bell (right) as he puts Luchadore Prince Puma in a headlock during a break from the tapings of “Lucha Underground” in Boyle Heights, Calif. “Lucha Underground” is 8 p.m. EST Wednesdays on El Rey Network. Photo Courtesy El Rey Network

Former WWE superstar John Morrison, real name John Hennigan, is proof that working well with others can lead to other opportunities.

Once working for sports entertainment leader Vince McMahon, he now is employed by another company with an entertainment leader. Emmy Award-winning producer Mark Burnett’s One Three Media produces “Lucha Underground” on El Rey Network, and Morrison as Johnny Mundo is one of the featured wrestlers on the action-packed, weekly prime-time show (8 p.m. EST Wednesdays).

“There are some people involved with ‘Lucha Underground,’ who were involved with WWE, some of the writing staff, producers, when I was there,” Mundo said. “A couple of months ago I think they knew they were going to start a lucha wrestling promotion in Los Angeles, which also happens to be my hometown, and they asked me if I was interested. I said, ‘Absolutely, yes.’

“Some of the people involved -- Eric Van Wagenen, Chris DeJoseph, Chris Roach -- who used to work for WWE are great, and Los Angeles, being my hometown, less travel, but most importantly, I’ve been a lifelong fan of lucha. So the opportunity to wrestle in a good arena in front of a good crowd regularly in my hometown and do one of the styles of wrestling I’ve always loved and always wanted to do more of, I couldn’t say no.”

Lucha libre is a fast-paced, often aerial, hybird freestyle type wrestling. It is most noted for Mexican professional wrestling with many of the wrestlers, known as luchadores, wearing symbolic masks -- frequently conveying religious beliefs.

“Lucha, I would just break it down to movement,” Mundo said. “Movement is movement, and I’ve always been a fan of ... when it comes to integrating styles. My whole career I’ve brought hardcore, stunt fighting, kung fu and lucha into my in-ring style as Johnny Nitro and John Morrison.”

Johnny Mundo fits nicely with the character-driven, fast-paced, high-flying, riveting, freestyle pro wrestling series.

“‘Lucha Underground’ is a collision of everything that I’ve been doing my whole life,” he added. “Lucha with a cinematic feel, like a gritty action film type vibe and American pro wrestling all infused into this one show.”

Mark Burnett is a major player in the television entertainment business, also bringing viewers successful programming like Survivor (CBS), The Voice (NBC), The Celebrity Apprentice (NBC) and Shark Tank (ABC).

“I think that’s where the production value for ‘Lucha Underground’ is really set apart from other promotions,” Mundo said. “A lot of people behind the scenes with ‘Lucha Underground’ are coming at this wrestling promotion from a cinematic background or a TV background, and the way they are thinking about pro wrestling is not how WWE or other wrestling promotions run their backstage pre-tapes.

“It’s creating an interesting look, and I think that’s the big benefit. That and they got deep pockets which is good for everybody involved.”

The “Lucha Underground” roster includes former TNA, WCW and WWE superstars and indie talent along with top AAA luchadores from Mexico.

“Fenix, Pentagon Jr., King Cuerno, Miriachi Loco, I have never worked with them before, but I’m familiar with the style that they work,” Mundo said. “They are some of the most talented wrestlers in Mexico. You put two talented wrestlers in the ring. It doesn’t take long for them to workout their chemistry and have a great match.”

See Prince Puma (aka Trevor Mann); Mil Muertes (aka Ricky Banderes); Chavo Guerrero Jr.; B-Boy Benny Cuntapay; Cortez Castro (aka Ricky Reyes); Catrina (aka Karlee Perez); Angela Fong; Son of Havoc (aka Matt Cross); Big Ryck (aka Ryckon Stephens); Ivelisse; Mr. Cisco (aka Lil Cholo); Martin Casaus; Holly Michelle; Blue Demon Jr; Sexy Star; Drago; King Cuerno; Fenix; Miriachi Loco; and Pentagon Jr.

Dario Cueto (Luis Fernandez) as the owner and promoter. Vampiro and Matt Striker are commentators. Melissa Santos is the ring announcer, and lucha libre legend Konnan plays an integral role.

As for Johnny Mundo (former WWE superstar John Morrison), he has wrestled in stadiums and starred in dozens of movies in your Netflix cue. With an array of championships on his mantle, the parkour pro-wrestler has accepted Cueto’s invitation to see if he is the world’s greatest fighter.

So he has returned to the ring to try his hand and quick feet at lucha libre. While his mouth tends to draw the ire of his opponents, nobody can question that Mundo defies gravity and innovates offense at any moment. Cueto might own the arena and Lucha Underground, but nobody can own the moment when you’re in the ring with Mundo.

“Pro wrestling is the coolest thing ever,” Mundo said. “It’s like doing a movie but getting instant gratification from the crowd. It’s pretty much a combination of everything I’ve wanted to do and thought that was cool, ever since I was a kid. It’s action. It’s entertainment. It’s exciting. It’s comedy. All that wrapped up into this one thing.”

Pro wrestling is such a unique dynamic. Pro wrestlers gained the respect of their fan base which includes many college and pro athletes and movie and television stars. To do a live show (no takes) for television in front of a live audience -- with few mistakes and the ability to cover up them -- takes experience, precision and skill.

“That’s why they coined the phrase, ‘Learn to work, brother.’ There are imperfections in every match, movie, sentence, conversation. If you cut and redo your imperfections, like when making a movie, to get it perfect, then it starts to take some of the life out of your actions or your conversations.”

John Morrison, 35, who won WWE’s Tough Enough III in 2002, did a very good job as part of the tag team MNM (Joey Mercury and John Morrison with Melina) in WWE. Striking a resemblance to rock legend Jim Morrison, the WWE superstar then took it to the next level in the ring and especially on the mic with stellar WWE superstar The Miz. They hosted “The Dirt Sheet” on WWE.com, producing some of the funniest moments in the history of the site, which helped make him a Slammy Award winner.

The Guru of Greatness, the Shaman of Sexiness, he also won titles. MNM won WWE tag team gold three times, and Miz and Morrison captured WWE and World tag team titles. As a singles superstar, Morrison captured WWE’s ECW title and won the Intercontinental belt three times. Prior, he entertained as the apprentice and personal assistant of WWE Raw General Manager Eric Bischoff.

“If you learn to go with the flow [like in a live pro wrestling match] and realize that small mistakes and imperfections are part of everyday life, and sometimes they’re the coolest moments. Someone slips, or they land a wild punch or land a sloppy punch inadvertently. Just being in the moment and reacting to what’s happening and then moving forward is pro wrestling, and that’s what people do in everyday life. They just don’t think about it in those terms.

“Learning to do that in the context of putting on a match in front of a crowd is pro wrestling. At its best, there are no mistakes, because any mistake becomes part of the actual match. Every pro wrestling organization teaches that. There’s a lot of people who’ve spent years and years and sometimes lifetimes learning all these things about pro wrestling. That’s what a true master of the art of pro wrestling would teach students.”

From WWE.com about John Morrison

Schooled in the French discipline of parkour, which emphasizes freedom of movement, the 6-0, 215-pound Morrison succeeded in just about any environment imaginable, performing athletic feats previously unseen in WWE. His rigorous training regimen and incredible agility earned this exciting Superstar a wholly appropriate nickname: The Prince of Parkour.

“It’s definitely engrained into the corporate culture of professional wrestling to suck it up and wrestle hurt,” he said. “For me, I developed a training regimen that helped with injury prevention and movement training to work through injuries. My program is called ‘Out of Your Mind Fitness’ [www.outofyourmindfitness.com], and it’s a complete functional training program for anything -- pro wrestling, stunt training, life in general.

“The idea is as long as you’re training, the body is regenerating. You’re going to get banged up. It’s just a fact of what pro wrestling is. You’re going to bang your knee, your ankle. Your calf is gonna hurt. Your neck is gonna hurt. So it becomes about managing your time and staying in the best shape you possibly can. For me, that functional training program is really how I did it.”

Watch Mundo battle for wrestling supremacy on “Lucha Underground,” airing at 8 p.m. EST/PST Wednesdays on El Rey Network. The high-octane original series combines ancient lucha libre tradition, extraordinary athleticism and a flare for theatrics in each hour-long episode. Every week viewers will have a ringside seat as masked villains and heroes battle for wrestling supremacy.

Check DirecTV and Comcast channel listing/number for El Rey Network in your area.

“‘Lucha Underground’ will bring to television some of the most talented and dynamic athletes from the worlds of lucha libre and wrestling,” said Executive Producer Brian Edwards of One Three Media. “It’s compelling on so many levels and viewers of all ages will have something to cheer about every Wednesday night on El Rey Network.”

Diego Gutierrez, executive producer, said: “Lucha is legendary. It’s an extraordinary combination of artistry and athleticism with an explosive combat style that has evolved over centuries, its origins shrouded in mystery. But one thing that is certain is that this intense, high-flying wrestling tradition will bring viewers to their feet and will be like nothing else on television.”

Lucha Libre’s colorful world of freestyle wrestling is a huge draw in its home country of Mexico with over 85 percent of television audiences tuning into the high-flying antics of this popular franchise-the second most popular sport after football. Each week “Lucha Underground” will bring drama, excitement and action to U.S. audiences as the masked heroes and villains battle it out in the ring for wrestling supremacy.

“Lucha Underground” is produced by One Three Media in association with FactoryMade Ventures for El Rey Network. Executive producers are Mark Burnett, Eric Van Wagenen (also showrunner) and Brian Edwards of One Three Media; Dorian Roldán from Lucha Libre AAA; Alejandro Garcia and Antonio Cué Sánchez-Navarro; El Rey Network co-founder Robert Rodriguez; and FactoryMade Ventures and El Rey Network co-founders John Fogelman and Cristina Patwa. The series will be distributed internationally by One Three Media.

Preview of “Lucha Underground” Episode 3

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About El Rey Network

El Rey Network is a new 24-hour English language network founded by maverick filmmaker Robert Rodriguez. Curated by Rodriguez and his artistic collective, the network unites the most culturally diverse generation in history through fearless, badass and original content that awakens the renegade in everyone.

The network's action-packed content is anchored by original signature dramas, feature films, grindhouse genre, cult classic action, and horror/sci-fi. El Rey Network LLC (www.elreynetwork.com) is jointly owned by Robert Rodriguez and FactoryMade Ventures with a minority stake held by Univision Networks & Studios, Inc.

About One Three Media

One Three Media is a joint venture between Mark Burnett and Hearst Corporation which produces television, advertising and web content. Five-time Emmy Award winner Mark Burnett has produced more than 2,200 hours of television programming that regularly air in more than 70 countries worldwide.

Burnett and One Three Media’s recent series include Survivor (CBS), The Voice (NBC), The Celebrity Apprentice (NBC), Shark Tank (ABC), The Bible (HISTORY), and Trust Me I’m A Game Show Host (TBS). Awards show franchises includes the MTV Movie Awards from 2007-11 and the People’s Choice Awards (CBS) since 2010.

About Lucha Libre AAA

Lucha Libre AAA is a media and entertainment company founded in 1992 by Antonio Pena Herrada and manages the IP of the ‘AAA’ brand and another 250 characters in its league. The company produces Lucha Libre events globally including venues such as Palacio de los Deportes, Arena Monterrey, HP Pavilion, Madison Square Garden, Los Angeles Sports Arena and Korakuen Hall in Tokyo, Japan.

In addition to working with sponsors such as Corona, Hershey's, Comex and Unilever, the league has released an animated movie and videogame in the Mexican market. Lucha Libre AAA develops 5 hours of content per week that is aired on three television channels in Mexico: Galavision and Televisa Deportes Network.

About FactoryMade Ventures

FactoryMade is an incubator for entertainment businesses and was founded by John Fogelman and Cristina Patwa. The company builds IP-based franchises and production and distribution platforms by leveraging its strong ties to the Hollywood creative community and partnering with global brands and investors.

Its ventures include El Rey Network and Tres Pistoleros Studios with Robert Rodriguez and a joint venture with the leading Mexican wrestling league Lucha Libre AAA. In addition to working with corporate partners such as Telefonica and JCP, they previously spearheaded the creation of Hasbro's film business (Transformers, G.I. Joe, Battleship) and television business (Hasbro TV Studios, the Hub Network with Discovery Communications), and developed retail's first integrated digital gaming and commerce platform with HSN (HSN Arcade).

PRO WRESTLING ON THE WEB

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