As we’ve written before, announcers are an invaluable part of any wrestling show. They’re vital to explaining stories, helping characters get over with the audience and making the show feel as real as possible. The great ones are able to do that while creating a deep bond with the audience. That crucial connection with the viewers helps with what must be a difficult job: they’re not just telling stories, they’re trying to appear as honest and believable as possible while blurring the lines between wrestling’s performative nature and competitive façade.
In Lucha Underground, the announcer seats are filled by former wrestlers Vampiro and Matt Striker. Striker transitioned to commentary while working for WWE, and although he’s not as universally praised as announcers like Mauro Ranallo or the living legend Jim Ross, Striker possesses an intelligence, wit and poise that sets him apart from most of today’s announcers. His attempts at humor and insight don’t always land, and he’s uttered a few infamous fourth wall-breaking lines that undermine his role as the audience’s truth-telling confidante, but Striker is a unique presence within the world of wrestling commentary, and a perfect fit for the cinematic, hyper-stylized world of Lucha Underground. Paste talked with Striker recently at Lucha Underground’s temple about his career as both an announcer and a wrestler.
Paste: You’ve been the announcer for the entire run of Lucha Underground so far. How’s season two going? What can we expect?
Matt Striker: Robert Rodriguez said it perfectly: “We’re going to stand on the shoulders of last year.” And I think that’s what we’re doing here. With this group, they are so professional and so meticulous in their performance that, when they do something great on a Monday, they turn right around on a Tuesday and want to do something even greater. I think that becomes contagious in the locker room and becomes contagious in the environment with the fans and becomes contagious on the televised product. You start to say, “what the heck are these guys going to do next?” And that’s a good thing to say.
Paste: You’ve announced all over the world. What do you like about Lucha Underground that wasn’t the case in, say, WWE or elsewhere?
MS: Here in Lucha Underground I am left to my own devices. Whether that is a benefit or a detriment remains to be seen, but in other places there is a lot more production, a lot more rigid, strict guidelines and avenues down which you must travel. Here in LU I know where my destination is and I can choose any road I want to get there. I think that’s the main difference for me.
Paste: How’s working with Vampiro?
MS: I think it’s safe to say he might be the most legitimately insane individual I have ever encountered, and I have four sisters. But underneath all that they say that a loyal friend is worth their weight in gold. If Vampire is my only friend in the world, then I’m a rich man. Because there’s just something about having someone so volatile, so unpredictable, on your side that makes you feel good.
Paste: Do you miss getting in the ring yourself?
MS: I still wrestle occasionally, and I think that’s a fire that will always burn in my belly, but you’ve got to realize at some point that you’re not going to be 25 forever, and I can have much more longevity with using my brain, or what’s left of it, as opposed to constantly deteriorating my body. But that fire burns and I do get a chance to wrestle and when I do I make the most of it because you never know when it’s going to end.
Paste: We got to hear you call New Japan’s Wrestle Kingdom the last two years. Can we expect more New Japan work in the future?
MS: Growing up my grandmother used to say, and it sounds a lot better in Italian, “if you want to hear God laugh, you tell him your plans.” I’d love to but no one knows what tomorrow will bring. Right now my concentration and focus is on Lucha Underground and however the clouds part and wherever the suns guide me is where I’ll go.
Lucha Underground airs on the El Rey Network Tuesday nights at 8 PM ET and is available on iTunes.
Garrett Martin is an editor at Paste. He’s on Twitter @grmartin.