Donald Wood: For the wrestling fans who have not fallen in love with Lucha Underground yet, you can be found on every Wednesday at 8 PM on the El Rey Network. Since Day 1, you have been one of the top stars in the brand. What has the pressure been like on you to help take Lucha Underground to the next level and how much pride do you take in being a cornerstone of the brand?
Johnny Mundo: First of all, it feels really good to be in on something from day one and the ground floor. Being a part of something that is finding its own identity as it evolves is exciting. It’s in my hometown of Los Angeles, and it’s been awesome to be a part of it since day one. That feel really good and I am proud of that. As for pressure, it’s kind of nice to be an upstart since there wasn’t much expectation of Lucha Underground. Wrestling promotions are kind of like new religions, nine out of ten fail in the first year. So the bar was set low, and I think immediately we exceeded expectations. Especially as soon as Lucha Underground started airing on TV and people started seeing what the product looked like, we started having to turn people away at the tapings. Every taping especially toward the end of the season, we had to turn away 1,000 – 1,500 people. The tickets are free to the tapings, so it wasn’t like you paid for a ticket and got turned away, still, it was a case where demand exceeded supply, and that’s always a good position to be in.
Mike Chiari: Lucha Underground signing you was obviously a major coup because of your name recognition and what you bring to the table, but I’m sure there were other companies that showed interest in you as well. So, if you could, take us through your thought process leading up to signing with Lucha Underground and explain why you believe it’s such a good fit.
Johnny Mundo: The first part was just logistics. Los Angeles is my home town, it’s where I live, and so no travel that appeals to me. Secondly, I was a little skeptical until I took a tour of the facility and the facility looked great. It was in this dumpy warehouse in Boyle Heights, where I shot a movie with Danny Trejo two years prior. Melina and I were sexy, underground mole people in the film and I remember we were killing time and hanging with Danny Trejo beneath the subways of New York in this warehouse. So when I went to this warehouse I remembered how it looked two years ago versus how it looked with the Lucha Underground set built and I was blown away. This is a production that cares about the art decoration and is running it like a movie instead of a TV show. Then you add to that the names from WWE that I was familiar with like Chris Roach, Matt Stillman, and Eric Von Wagner from Tough Enough. They started lining up other people that I knew of like Big Rick, Chavo, and a lot of indie wrestlers that I have always been a fan of like Son of Havoc and Prince Puma. Then they went and added huge stars from AAA that I was vaguely familiar with but now am very familiar with. I thought it was a really cool combination of Lucha, which I have always been a fan of, and films with Robert Rodriguez thumbprint and vide. Mix all that with American style pro-wrestling, like the story telling aspect of what we did in the WWE. So adding the psychology of Lucha, with the production value of an action film, is pretty much combining all my worlds or “Mundos” in one wrestling promotion.
Brandon Galvin: We’ve been huge fans of Lucha Underground since the first episode and one of the biggest reasons outside the matches is because of the storylines and atmosphere presented. What do you believe has been the trigger for Lucha Underground’s success so far and what is the atmosphere like backstage among the other wrestlers?
Johnny Mundo: Everybody gets criticized, and sometimes wrestling promotions start catering to the internet and fans. From day one, Lucha Underground had this belief in itself, as an idea, a new promotion, and had a vision of what it was going to be. Ya know, as a kid I was a huge fan of the Undertaker. He rose from the dead, used the lightning, he was an undead force. But now, a lot of the mysticism and mystery has left the WWE and now they are more reality based and going in a different direction. Lucha Underground sees wrestling in that same way. Drago is a fire breathing dragon, Muertes is raised from the dead, Phoenix has been reborn, and they are adding a layer of mystery to wrestling that is refreshing to me as a wrestling fan. I think that is one thing that really added success about it. Staying true to that vision despite criticism from wrestling fans. I think some people criticism and some people enjoy it, but at the end of the day when things are done well, everybody enjoys it. They put a lot of production value into the vignettes, and they hire talented people.
Donald Wood: Early on in your tenure with Lucha Underground, you began a rivalry with current world champion Prince Puma. While you have teamed up recently, many fans are clamoring for another battle between the company’s two top stars. How do you think Prince Puma has handled being the company’s first champion and what will it take for you to eventually defeat him for the title?
Johnny Mundo: I think it’s going to take me one more rematch. I think he handled himself extremely well and like a champion. He is somebody that the promotion can go to and represent Lucha Underground. He is a perfect combination of lucha, acrobatics, and storytelling; he gets it so to speak. It’s cool to see him really embracing his role as a champion of Lucha Underground and he has done great representing the company. He is probably doing almost as good as a job as I would do as champion.
Mike Chiari: In addition to Prince Puma you’ve been interacting with Alberto El Patron a bit lately and you guys have had some interesting run-ins that lead many to believe that you could possibly lock horns in the near future. Alberto’s hugely popular right now and he’s the AAA heavyweight champion, so what’s your interest level regarding a feud with Alberto and how do you think the crowd would react in terms of who they’d support?
Johnny Mundo: First of all, Alberto is extremely talented and I did wrestle him a few times in WWE, but we never had enough time to put on the kind of match that I am looking forward to with him in Lucha Underground. It’s very interesting the way he left WWE I think represents what pro-wrestlers should represent. He stood up for himself and the culture and that’s been resonating with me and the fans of Lucha Underground. You can identify with somebody who stands up for who they are and what they believe in. He is also a very talented wrestler and I am looking forward to getting in the ring with him because I think that people aren’t going to believe the type of match we are going to have. As far as how the fans will respond? I mean, Los Angeles is my hometown, and has been for Lucha Underground since day one, so I think a lot of fans that are going to see that and the hard work I have done, and chant “Mundo” until their faces melt. There are also a lot of fans that will respect Alberto and where he comes from and the talent he has in the ring and chant for him. The true winner is going to be the fans in the temple when Albert and I are in the ring.
Brandon Galvin: You’ve always been regarded as one of the top high-flyers and easily one of the most athletic wrestlers in the business. At Lucha Underground, high-risk maneuvers are seen in just about every match. How competitive is the locker room, is there a sense of one upsmanship heading into each match?
Johnny Mundo: Yes and I think that is one of things that is making it great. It’s a company that is very young in its inception. I have been pushed to new levels and doing things that I have never done in WWE. I have been pushed hard and made to think outside of the box. I think it’s a competitive environment but also supportive. People are in the locker room rooting for each other, and when someone does something new and innovative people are happy. People are hoping the move works out well and that everybody involved is safe, and when someone does something cool there will be a huge pop in the locker room when everybody watches it. I think that’s the kind of environment that breeds the most creativity and it’s another reason why I enjoy being there. It’s a family environment and everybody there is having a good time.
Donald Wood: One critique of your work while in the WWE was your promos. On the other hand, you have shined since making the jump to Lucha Underground and have become one of the better talkers in the company. Do you think your work as an actor has helped improve your mic skills and do you think you’d ever give any thought to another run with WWE?
Johnny Mundo: Yes and yes. I think that my work as an actor has definitely helped. As far as my work with the WWE goes, you can never predict the future with pro-wrestling, anything is possible. I will say I am super happy with Lucha Underground. I’m not planning on going anywhere in the near future except for wrestling for Lucha Underground season 2. The crazy thing about wrestling is as soon as someone says you can cut a good promo, it means you can go cut a good promo. Perception is reality. I think I cut good promos while in the WWE and I cut some bad ones, so the perception was I couldn’t cut a good promo, then that became reality. Now with Lucha Underground, I cut some good promos, and I cut a few that weren’t so good, but most of everything I have done has been top notch and some of my best work. I feel like that has shone through and people identified that and have seen the improvement. That’s why it all of a sudden is perceived differently.
Mike Chiari: Having done some work on the indie scene since WWE, is there anyone you worked with or admire that you would like see come to Lucha Underground?
Johnny Mundo: Right now, Lucha Underground almost has too much talent. They have a packed roster, full of very talented wrestlers, and an hour of TV time to work with. They can bring in whoever they want; it’s just a matter of how much time they have for them on their program. I hope that we start going a little bit longer, like a 90 minute show to give people more time to showcase themselves and longer stories. That is my hope and it’s ultimately not up to me. There is talk about everything right now. There is so much talk about so many things. Every organization goes through growing pains, especially when people are excited about a wrestling promotion, people talk about everything: Action figures, games, endorsements, live tours, two hour wrestling shows. The main thing Lucha Underground needs to do is focus on continuing to produce a very good, one hour show, and grow slowly. Maintain the quality, so far everything I have seen is that, everyone’s head is in the right place, and everyone is excited for season two and everyone is excited about Lucha. Because of all those ducks lining up in an awesome row, Lucha Underground is going to continue to grow and be successful.
Brandon Galvin: What is your vision for yourself and Lucha Underground in the future, where are your sights set on taking the brand moving forward?
Johnny Mundo: I am excited to be along for this ride and to see where it goes. I dig the vignettes; they come off like a gritty action film straight off an AMC TV show. I’m thinking that I’d love to be in one of those and see that happen. I really just am excited to be a part of what comes next. I’m looking forward to it, and glad with the feedback I have gotten from friends in the business and fans and personal friends have been all extremely positive. I am excited, everyone’s excited, and I am thankful for all the fans who are enjoying the product and without that, there would be no Johnny Mundo.