New to Netflix at the end of January, the Mexican series Contra las Cuerdas (or Against the Ropes), co-produced by Dina Mita Post, La Granja, and with the weight of WWE Studios behind it, features a wild ride for 10 episodes that neatly walks the line between family drama, crime mystery, and a love letter to lucha libre.

In short, it’s set up by the eyebrow-raising premise that Ángela, played by Caraly Sánchez, is released from prison after a six-year sentence to find that her daughter Rocío (Alisson Santiago) seems to be managing without her just fine, and content to have taken on Dulce Caramelo (Scarlet Gruber) as her new mother figure. She’s dating Rocío’s father, Lalo (Cuauhtli Jimenez) and also happens to be Rocío’s favourite luchadora (her name is translated to Candy through the English subtitles or audio).

Ángela’s solution? Well, she’ll just have to get in the ring and become her daughter’s new favorite wrestler – though she’ll do it under a mask and keep it secret until she knows that Rocío really believes in her.

On the surface, it seems a clumsy way to instigate the story, but given time, the show unveils many more layers to Ángela’s connection to wrestling. The strength of the show lies in consistently turning the story in new directions with each episode, while hanging on to some character evolutions that are patiently played out through the whole season.

The wrestling itself is not actually the focal point, and so beyond some theatrical spots and montages of moves, you won’t be treated to weekly matches (that is, if you actually watch it weekly – the entire season was made available at once). During the season’s run, there are really only two full-length matches, and both come near the very end. In that respect, the show certainly gives you a chance to care about the characters first before pitting them against one another in the ring.

The WWE’s on-screen involvement is subdued by comparison to a previous Netflix-streamed effort The Main Event, which had the wrestling company’s merch and performers clogging up the screen in a “Make sure you notice us” manner. In Against the Ropes, there’s a poster here and there, and only one unbelievable conversation between young girls Rocío and her friend Pato about taking care of some schoolyard enemies like they were Undertaker and Kane at the 2001 Backlash. Find me two elementary kids that have ever said that. Even in 2001.

The most notable on-screen contribution is from Rey Mysterio, who appears as himself in the final episode giving advice to Ángela before her big match. Mind you, he mentions that it’s the same advice he gave to his son Dominik, without mentioning that it turned Dom into a mullet-loving, Rhea-Ripley play-thing. Maybe that hadn’t quite happened yet.

Rey Mysterio gives some sage advice in a still from Against the Ropes.

There’s also a WWE contract up for grabs in the story, along with a look inside a Mexico-based Performance Centre. Behind-the-scenes is NXT trainer Norman Smiley as a lucha libre consultant, who made a name for himself in Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre before landing in WCW in the late ’90s. Other than that, there isn’t a strong WWE stamp on this production, which allows the story to breathe and not feel like an infomercial.

The series also swings peculiarly from family-friendly shenanigans to mouthy, f-bomb laden arguments, so it’s hard to say exactly what audience it’s targeting beyond lucha libre and wrestling fans who are bound to at least check it out.

It’s also unclear if the ending is meant as a set-up for a second season – I suppose everything is up for a second season if the ratings are good. There are no loose ends, however, and if anything the conclusion felt a bit flat compared to the build-up.

The ending, which won’t be spoiled in this review, does rely on the decision to treat wrestling as a competitive sport. This is true for nearly all series and movies that use wrestling to drive the story, and while there are hints here and there about character and working together in the ring, ultimately the squared circle is the place for enemies to fight out their problems. With clotheslines. And hurricanranas. And all sorts of moves you generally can’t do without the assistance of your opponent.

With that understood, this series is recommended for wrestling fans, and especially for those seeking to watch something with their non-wrestling friends and family. For those groups, there’s a little something for everyone.

Here’s a quick recap of each episode, with minor spoilers included.

Episode 1: For Every Move, There’s a Countermove 

Ángela is met outside of prison by her mother, Victoria (played by Carmen Ramos). Rocío, though, isn’t there which doesn’t sit well with Ángela. She tracks her daughter down to a sweet looking wrestling venue, where she arrives in time to see super-pink luchadora Candy win a match with a moonsault and bask in the adoration of the fans – and especially Rocío. Lalo, who manages the arena, introduces Candy as his girlfriend. On her first night out of prison, Ángela hears from Rocío that she chooses to stay with dad and will see her mom later.

Ángela spends the bulk of the episode re-connecting with friends and family, primarily her godmother, Refugio, and her friend Malena (who was with Ángela the day she was busted for drug possession, with a backpack she swears didn’t belong to her). Ángela gets a job at The Happy Bride, and ends up back at the wrestling arena where she quickly finds herself in a fight with Candy in the ring.

It doesn’t go well for Ángela, and after the match Refugio offers to train her, reminding her that she has wrestling in her blood. At the closing of the episode, Ángela tries on her departed father’s black luchador mask and becomes the Bride in Black (Novia Negra).

Episode 2: C Show

Ángela reveals her plan to Refugio: she’ll win a few fights, get Rocío to like her, and then reveal herself. While we learn that Rocío has a crush on a kid named Julián, who will be a source of great consternation throughout the series.

Ángela, meanwhile, is hunting the owner of the backpack, but it’s grabbed from her hands and she loses a key piece of evidence for her professed innocence. Malena helps Ángela set up mattresses on a rooftop for wrestling training, which means I think there’s a team of wrestlers brewing. Throw in their friend Josefina, and then Lucia, and yep – there’s a stable coming together.

The Bride in Black storms a wrestling event and takes on one of Candy’s henchwomen, with Malena getting involved too. The cops show up and break up the … illegal wrestling contest? Ah, no, they’re looking for drugs.

As Lalo starts the proceedings for a custody battle, we see someone mysterious burning the stolen backpack in an oil drum.

Episode 3: Sisterhood

While Rocío is having a bad run at school – caught trying to get a pic of her nemesis (Sofia) in the bathroom – the Bride in Black’s Bridesmaids of Horror are getting into pretty good ring shape. Lalo’s lawyer tricks Victoria into signing a notification for the lawsuit, while Candy continues to dazzle the crowds wherever she goes, in this case Rocío’s school (with special guest KeMonito.

The Bridesmaids arrive and temporarily chase off Candy’s gang – at a school function! – but a fight breaks out amongst them all. Interestingly, though, Ángela’s plan seems to be working as Rocío takes a liking to the Bride’s style.

Sánchez as the Bride in Black, with Santiago as her daughter, flanked by the Bridesmaids of Horror in a still from Against the Ropes.

Episode 4: Trust Me 

Rocío and her nemesis Sofia are forced to work on an assignment together, and all seems to be going well between them. So well, that Sofia invites her to a costume party and thinks she should definitely show up as a luchadora.

Lucia, meanwhile, will represent Ángela in the custody battle as she’s just recently obtained her certification.

Oh! It wasn’t a costume party! Holy Bridget Jones! Rocío runs away mortified and betrayed, but it’s okay: Julián liked her outfit and wants to learn how to wrestle.

Both wrestling groups meet up once again, and although Ángela had been thinking of planting something stolen on Lalo (a bauble of her mother’s), she changes her mind and instead goes viral for her hurricanrana.

However, Petunia, one of Candy’s team, picks up the bauble and gives it to Candy without knowing where it came from.

Episode 5: Reprieve

The Bride in Black now unfortunately has the attention of the police as a suspected drug smuggler. That makes it very awkward for Ángela, especially as her parole officer Claudia is trying very hard to believe in her innocence and efforts to stay out of trouble.

So, Ángela says it’s over, and the whole business is getting too close to home. Her friends, though, band up to get her in the ring by using her mask to pose as her and answer another wrestler’s challenge. Ángela is more or less forced to continue to wrestle, and Claudia sets up a trap for her by booking her a mandatory Narcotics Anonymous meeting at the same time as the match.

Through some shenanigans aided by Mauricio, Malena’s ex-boyfriend, Ángela manages to sort of make both events – she sneaks out of the NA meeting and arrives late for the match, but still manages to compete. With Candy helping her opponent, though, Ángela is facing tougher and tougher competition.

Episode 6: Benefit of the Doubt

Claudia is now acting friendlier and more trusting towards Ángela, giving her something for her body aches and asking for more details about the day she was arrested.

We learn details about the testy relationship between Victoria and Refugio, but the source of their bitterness towards each other is unclear.

Julián’s training with Rocío continues – but it’s all theory and watching El Santo movies. Ángela makes some discoveries about the backpack and drugs, and is suspicious of more than one person close to her. She’s also continuing to face off with Candy outside of the ring, as they both show up to a school meeting to discipline Rocío for fighting at school.

To top this episode off, Lalo and Ángela meet and almost kiss – close enough to send Candy into a vengeful mood.

Episode 7: Hello and Goodbye

A rival trainer, The Golden Chameleon, shows up at Refugio’s gym and tries to lure away the Bride in Black. Her Bridesmaids are set to make their official debut, but each of them is facing scheduling conflicts that take some work to get out of.

Rocío, staying the night at Lalo and Candy’s place, misunderstands a conversation and runs away, only to be helped out by the Bride in Black (who’s so much cooler than her mother).

We get the whole story between Victoria and Refugio, which makes a big impact on the eavesdropping Ángela. In response, the Bride in Black heads to the Golden Chameleon for training.

Sánchez (L) as Ángela alongside María Balam as her friend Malena in a still from Against the Ropes.

Episode 8: The Dark Side

While the WWE shilling has been relatively minor, there’s a conversation in this Netflix show that plugs Netflix, which is next-level promotional work. In fact, they have a little fun with the idea of “Netflix & Chill.”

Rocío learns something about how Julián feels about her which changes her outlook, while Victoria and Refugio make peace. The Bride in Black gets in the ring against Lady Apache (who also serves alongside Smiley as a lucha consultant for the show), but her good nature doesn’t allow her to fight dirty like the Chameleon wants.

Episode 9: I Didn’t Expect That Move

Lalo’s not doing so well as “dad” right now, and it has Rocío questioning where she belongs. There’s a WWE scout in town, a masked wrestler named Nahual (but not, it seems, the actual luchador that wrestles under that name) and he has his eye on the Bride in Black.

There are some real Scooby-Doo unmasking developments in Ángela’s search to prove her innocence. With people revealed to be plotting against her, an officer describes much of the plot of the show by crying out “It’s like a f—— telenova!”

There’s a big brawl for a chance at Candy’s title, which comes down to Ángela and one of her Bridesmaids – someone who is now not quite as trusted as they once were. “Friends make the best rivals,” Ángela says as they square off to fight.

Episode 10: Day of the Dead

Ángela ditches the Chameleon, just as Candy is turning on Lalo in their now-troubled relationship (it doesn’t help that she really catches him and Ángela kissing this time).

Obviously, everything comes together in this episode. There’s a marriage proposal, a championship match, and even an unmasking. As mentioned above, the final delivery is a bit lackluster compared to the bulk of the series, but on the whole the run of episodes is still very much worth the ride.

If there is any news on a second season, you’ll read about it on!

TOP IMAGE: Gruber as Candy (L) and Sánchez as Ángela in a still from Against the Ropes.



Slam Wrestling's Hollywood Headlock Rating Scale:

1: Unsafe Worker (Avoid!)
2: Pre-Show Performer
3: Mid-Card Material
4: Main Eventer
5: World Title Winner