The popular Lucha Libre wrestling series “Lucha Underground” will be part of this year’s SXAméricas celebration in Austin, Texas featuring both a panel and a live event on Tuesday, March 15th, 2016. The panel, titled “Importing Lucha Libre: The Creation of El Rey Network’s Lucha Underground”, will focus on how Emmy Award®-winning producer Mark Burnett and El Rey Network Chairman and Founder Robert Rodriguez have successfully imported two of Mexico’s most popular forms of entertainment, lucha libre and the telenovela and combined them to create a new sports franchise taking the world by storm. And for the first time in its history the character-driven television phenomenon will leave the temple in Boyle Heights, Los Angeles for a live event at the Austin Music Hall in Austin, Texas which will feature more than fifteen of “Lucha Underground’s” high-flying, death defying luchadores.
John Randall Hennigan, known by his Lucha Underground ring name Johnny Mundo, came to Austin to help promote the SXSW event. He is an American professional wrestler and actor, known for his tenure with the WWE where he was known by his ring names John Morrison and Johnny Nitro. During his tenure with WWE, Hennigan won nine championships. He is a three-time WWE Intercontinental Champion, a record tying four-time WWE Tag Team Champion, a one-time World Tag Team Champion with The Miz, and a one-time ECW World Champion. Hennigan is also the longest combined-reigning WWE Tag Team Champion at 541 days. We talked to him about the series, which airs on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on the El Rey network.
HOW DO YOU LIKE AUSTIN?
Austin is one of my favorite cities in the United States. I’m partial to Los Angeles, because I was born and raised there, but I’ve been to SXSW twice, I’ve been to ACL once, I’ve wrestled at the Erwin Center maybe a dozen times, I have two cousins that live here, one has kids, and it’s a really great town.
WHERE DO YOU GO TO EAT IN AUSTIN?
Aside from Chipotle, which I love in every city? Specifically I’m not sure, but Trudy’s, The Salt Lick, and the taco trucks.
LET’S TALK ABOUT THE TRANSITION FROM THE WWE TO THE LUCHA UNDERGROUND. CAN YOU GIVE ME THREE MAJOR DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE FRANCHISES?
One: The Style of Wrestling. The roster of Lucha Underground, more than half of them come from AAA in Mexico City. They don’t speak fluent English. The pyschology of Lucha is significantly different from American-style pro wrestling. The collision and combination of Lucha and American psychology is one thing I love about it. It’s something that’s made me passionate about wrestling again, and made me think in a different way.
Two: The vignettes. Every other traditional American wrestling promotion including WWE films the vignettes live to tape. It’s a weird thing where you sometimes break the fourth wall and talk straight to the camera, or sometimes the camera is just hovering there shooting two people having a conversation about someone else. There’s only one camera and it hovers and floats. There are no cuts like there are in familiar TV shows or movies. But Lucha Underground does their vignettes similar to a movie.
Three: I feel like the creative autonomy I experience as a performer on the Lucha Underground roster is more than I’ve ever felt with any other wrestling organization. The ability to have an idea, then talk to the writers, producers and production staff about the moves that I have in mind, that I would look best on the camera. I’ve never experienced that to this degree.
THAT WAS MY NEXT QUESTION, WHO IS WRITING THIS AND HOW MUCH CONTROL DO YOU HAVE OVER IT?
The writers are very talented, Chris Joseph, Matt Stallman, Chris Roach, I had the opportunity to work with them previous to Lucha Underground and WWE. I think that one of the best things that the production staff of Lucha Underground does is that they keep people away from the writers. They let them just write, and make sure that the stories follow through. They make sure the stories have beginning middles and ends, instead of being constantly interrupted by someone with a story idea, or someone who comes in at the last minute and wants to change things. The writers are open to input and ideas, but it’s a matter of making sure that everything makes sense in the world of Lucha Underground.
SO YOU DO GET TO GO IN THERE AND SAY, “HEY, I HAVE AN IDEA, WILL YOU CONSIDER THIS?”
I get to do whatever I want. I’m Johnny Mundo. (laughs)
No, but what I was saying before about the whole roster having that ability? Yes, it’s a smaller promotion and everyone is able to talk to the creative staff about stuff like that.
CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR FITNESS ROUTINE, PARKOUR AND HOW YOU ARE IN SUCH PHENOMENAL SHAPE?
The specific program that I use is called “out of your mind fitness,” it’s a functional body weight training comprised of five levels. It starts simply with body weight, squats, push ups, and planks, and get more and more challenging up until level five, which is frog stands, hand stands, pushups, pistol squats, quadriped push ups, a barrage of super setting plyometrics and drop sets. I believe it’s because of that I can function at a high level, and look the way that I do. It’s the most time efficient way I’ve ever trained, and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to get beefy like a roast with less body fat than a ghost….or in good shape.
SO YOU WAKE UP IN THE MORNING AND START DOING THAT? WHAT’S YOUR DAY LIKE?
That’s the million dollar question in entertainment, because every day is different. I woke up this morning, came here and starting doing interviews. I’m not going to have a chance to train until I get back home to Los Angeles. I’m going to land, go straight to the gym, and do my hour and half when I get home tonight. So having the flexibility to do that is important, but as far as what my day looks like, I just make sure that I get that workout in.
THREE THINGS ABOUT YOU THAT YOUR FANS WOULD NEVER SUSPECT?
I think my fans know me pretty well, but in case they don’t… I do improv shows once a month at least, sometimes more. I love to sing, mostly in the car, but also in the shower, or karaoke. Not in public all the time, because I know that my enthusiasm is far superior to my talent.
Third, Lets see, a lot of stuff I like people know anyway, but…I never miss a chance to go surfing, which is why I live in Los Angeles.
WHAT OTHER PROJECTS DO YOU HAVE COMING UP?
I’ve been working on a movie called Boone The Bounty Hunter for three years now, since I first started writing it. It’s done, just approved the final picture lock. It’s about a reality show bounty hunter, who needs to go after a real criminal to save his reality show from being cancelled. I’m really excited about it, it’s a throwback to an ‘80s style action movie, it’s got some pro wrestling style action and comedy one-liners. At heart, it’s a story about a guy who’s coming to terms with his own identity. I believe we’ll have it out and available for everyone to see sometime in 2016.