Lucha Tributes: Steve Pain and Austin Matelson (Pindar and Vibora)
Here I was, bored on a Saturday night, looking for something to write when Twitter’s John of Xmas Past reminded me of something. This past Wednesday’s Lucha Underground had a lot of things happen, but most of all it involved a whole lot of reptiles. Why? Well Kobra Moon decided enough was enough and it was time for a change…in Drago’s attitude towards him rebuffing her advances to rejoin her tribe. So out came Pindar, a snake dude who looked like the famous Spider-Man villain The Lizard, and Vibora, a tall, lanky Velociraptor with Jeff Hardy tattoos and a move set like the Undertaker’s. Hell it was so much like Undertaker’s that Big Willie Mack named him “Undersnaker” to the delight of almost everyone I know. It was big debut; hell Mike Francesca may even say it was YOOOOGE. But in the midst of all the awesomeness and chants for “Luchasaurus” (what can I say; the Dinosaur got over quickly), I have to imagine some dude or dudette was sitting there and wondering, “who the hell are these two?” Luckily I exist to answer these questions. So tonight I invite you to crack open a cold Pepsi, turn off the UFC and sit down for this Lucha Tribute for the two men behind the Lizard and Raptor mask. These two are unique in that one is well known and liked by lucha audiences while the other is well known and liked by the American wrestling audience AND the reality TV audience. It makes for two interesting stories that I hope to capture here. Hence we shall waste no more time; I give you the story of your two new favorite reptiles, Steve Pain (Pindar) and Austin Matelson (Vibora).
What You Already Know
Let’s start with Steve Pain. The 5’10, 202 lb luchador (according to CageMatch) is well known in lucha circles as one of its most underrated stars thanks to several stints with AAA since 2013. There he developed a reputation as an above average tag team/trios worker as a member of the rudo stables La Sociedad and La Anarquia, where he teamed with Daga, Eterno and the legendary Juventud Guerrera. He also developed a small rivalry with fellow AAA/LU star Aerostar; while they never fought one on one, the two met in numerous trios matches and showed off some of the best chemistry in AAA at the time. Naturally AAA couldn’t have any of that and Pain has yet to appear with the promotion this year (and likely won’t unless something changes quickly.) Sadly he hasn’t gotten much notoriety with the US fan base, aside from being one of the wrestlers Matt Riddle put down when trying to explain why he no showed an indie show a few weeks ago. Hey, I guess at worst Pain can one day look back and say he was an integral part of us learning Riddle was a flawed narcissist, right?
American fans will definitely know Matelson however. Perfectly built for the role of Vibora with his long, skinny frame, Matelson was once upon a time a WWE prospect in NXT. And not just any prospect; he was Judas Devlin, who despite only making one appearance on NXT TV (a handicap match where he and Scott Dawson of Revival fame lost to Neville) was highly touted as a future star in the WWE system. How do we know this? Because at one point it appeared he was supposed to be the fourth member of the Wyatt Family, after he teased joining the group and was flown in to several WWE shows (I can’t find it now but I believe there was speculation he was supposed to join the group at Survivor Series 2013, where he’d help them win their match against Daniel Bryan and CM Punk). That’s right; Austin Matelson, aka Judas Devlin, almost got the gig Braun Strowman eventually wound up with. Obviously that didn’t happen; soon after Matelson suffered a back injury that would keep him out of the ring for a few years and he was released by WWE sometime between 2014 and mid 2015. Naturally he became more famous after leading WWE. First he starred in the 17th season of Big Brother (where he finished 5th) and through all of that still found time to influence the wrestling business when a memo he drafted in 2013 was released to the public. That memo involved Matelson voicing his concerns to WWE higher ups about NXT head trainer Bill Demott, who eventually was revealed to be not a very nice dude. The memo (which WWE ignored at the time Matelson sent it) and Matelson speaking up about his issues with Demott helped lead to Demott resigning from WWE in the spring of 2015. So if you’re keeping score at home, Lucha Underground’s new Velociraptor is a reality TV star, a former potential member of the Wyatt Family and the guy who helped get Hugh Morris canned. He has to be the deadliest Dino since those raptors in The Lost World: Jurassic Park.
What You Didn’t Know
We’ll start with Matelson in this section. Many probably assume that Judas Devlin was Matelson’s first experience in wrestling, which is in fact false. The California native was trained by Californian indie tag team the Ballard Brothers, and wrestled for a few years on the California indie circuit as Austin Draven, Austin Morrison and W. Don’t ask me about the last one; I couldn’t even figure it out. Regardless of the gimmick, Matelson generally used the same nickname, “The Post Modern Phenomenon.” On the nickname scale, that’s right between “El Toro Blanco” and “Sexual Chocolate” if you ask me. He disappeared from the California indies once he signed with WWE and after he left it was assumed, between his reality TV fame and his back injury, he would probably wrestle again. NOT SO FAST MY FRIEND. Matelson would eventually end his inactivity when he returned this year to work Millenium Pro Wrestling in California, which would ultimately serve as a prelude to him joining LU. As for how LU got a hold of him, look no further than the Big Brother stint, where LU writer Chris “Papa” Roach just so happened to be working at the time. How’s that for a coincidence?
Steve Pain meanwhile has an interesting story of his own. For starters, and this may actually surprise people, he’s American. That’s right. I think most lucha fans who saw him in AAA figured he was Mexican (I certainly did), but a look at his CageMatch profile shows he was born in Los Angeles, California (watch CageMatch turn out to be wrong and for this to bite me in the ass). Like Matelson, Pain got started in his home state and was trained by a who’s who of cult wrestling names. Guys like Rikishi, Gangrel, the Kaos Kid and even the late Mr. Cisco all had a hand in training Pain, which makes you wonder how he didn’t wind up with a gimmick of a high flying vampire who gave Stink Faces to people. Alas he avoided that fate and wound up working various California indies, including a brief stop at the New Japan Dojo.
It wasn’t until 2007 that he first got his taste of lucha libre when Ruben Zamora brought him in to work for his promotion Viva La Lucha! Working as Black Machine, Pain was joined on this card by former WWE star Brent Albright, future WWE stars T.J. Perkins (who worked as Cobra II), Karl Anderson and Darren Young (yes, Darren Young worked a lucha show) and legends Psicosis and Rey Mysterio Sr. I guess Pain liked what he saw from the show because he went further and further into the lucha world from that point forward. He would appear at a couple of shows for Último Dragon’s Toryumon Mexico promotion over the next few years and in 2011 worked a show for the revitalized World Wrestling Association promotion, where he advanced to the finals of a tournament to crown a new WWA World Heavyweight Champion (the man who defeated him for the title; El Hijo del Rey Mysterio, aka Rey Horus, aka El Dragon Azteca Jr.). From there it was a steady stream of lucha and California indies for the next year (including shows with The Crash and DTU) before AAA came calling. The rest they say is history, only if history had a lot more dives and ancient astronauts. Since leaving AAA, Pain has kept busy back in the states, primarily working for Absolute Intense Wrestling in Cleveland where he’s currently one half of the promotions tag team champions with Gringo Loco.
This is an easy choice for Pain. Late last year he took part in a trios match where he partnered with Daga and Hijo de Pirata Morgan to take on Australian Suicide, Fireball (The Artist Also Known as Flamita, Night Claw and Octagón Jr.) and Pain’s old enemy Aerostar. I am not using hyperbole when I say this match is a whole lot of fun and you’ll love every minute of watching it. It shows off Pain’s impressive power move set, his ability to work as a great base wrestler and the amazing chemistry between him and Aerostar; they do things in this match you wouldn’t believe. It doesn’t hurt that Daga, Suicide, Fireball and Morgan all rock too of course.
For Matelson it was much harder to find a match for here, not because he’s bad but because there’s legit very few matches of his on YouTube. The best I could find was a match from five years ago, where he takes on former WWE Tough Enough contestant Eric Watts (not to be confused with one half of future WWE Hall of Fame tag team Tekno Team 2000) in what looks like Gold’s Gym. It’s not much and the commentary for it made me want to pull my ears off and fling them like Tom Cruise does Goose’s dog tags at the end of Top Gun, but beyond that it’s actually a pretty good match where Matelson shows off some nice athleticism and movement. Considering it’s been five years and he hadn’t been in the WWE system prior to this, I think it points to good things even with his injury history.
So that’s Pindar and Vibora for you folks, and I don’t know about you but I think there’s reason to be excited. I have no concerns when it comes to Steve Pain and how he’ll do as the lizard. I know Matt Riddle is a popular dude in wrestling these days but he was completely off base to call Pain a bad worker. It takes a special kind of guy to not only keep up with someone like Aerostar (who in my view has the highest ceiling of any luchador out there with what he can do) but make his stuff look great almost every single time; Pain does that every single time while also managing to get some shine himself. The guy is money and it’s great he’s finally getting this opportunity for the big time. The question marks come from Matelson as Vibora and they are deserved. We truthfully don’t know how he’s going to do in the ring due to the limited amount of work we’ve seen from him and we further don’t know how much he’s been affected by that back injury that kept him out. I’m hopeful; he seems to be a likeable guy, his look is great and fits the character (he actually reminds you of a raptor and not just because of the mask) and the limited stuff I’ve seen of him does suggest he has some serious potential. We’ll just have to find out I suppose. As for right now though he and Pain have made a great impression as Vibora and Pindar, and they have the added benefit of Kobra Moon and her wackiness carrying the story load. It’s going to be very interesting to see what they do over the rest of season three, and whether or not there are more reptiles that Kobra eventually plans to bring in.