What better way to spend a Friday night than to watch sweaty men in leotards throw themselves at each other and slapping one an other in the face. Yes guys, welcome to Lucha Libre, a toned down and far funnier WWE style of wrestling which is known all over Mexico and famous the World over for the iconic masks that are worn, also popularised in Jack Black’s ‘Nacho Libre.’
A few brief facts before I get started, there are over 10 wrestling companies in Mexico and the biggest of them all is ‘Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre’ this one is also the oldest in the World. Their regular slot is on a Friday night at Arena Mexico in Mexico City, it attracts around 3,000 people a week and they have intermittent big events à la WWE where titles are up for grabs. The masks which they wear are a source of power and pride and often at these big events two masked wrestlers quite literally face off and the victor takes the mask from the other wrestler who is condemned to spend the rest of his career mask-less.
I headed up to Arena Mexico on Wednesday as the tickets are significantly cheaper in person, before the event than online or on the night of the fight. This is normally the case but when you get scammed out of £5 due to ‘language difficulties’ it made the early bird trip somewhat fruitless. Anyway for around £10 we managed to get ringside seats which turned out to be next to the entrance ramp, could not have picked better seats if I tried!
The fanfare outside the stadium was brilliant, t-shirts, masks, beer, food and a whole host of random ‘Lucha’ memorabilia. As we walked in we were directed by an energetic little old man to our seats, 4 rows away from the ring. The early bouts had started and the crowd were in full flow, and I was somewhat strangely, bursting with childish excitement, I loved wrestling as a kid, and this brought it all back.
The Mexicans can, and should be commended for their entrepreneurial spirit, something that they really ramp up when they have sitting ducks such as we were in the arena. They sold EVERYTHING, beer, pizza, sweets, crisps, popcorn, masks, t-shirts, hell I’m pretty sure that I could’ve picked up a wrestler on the cheap if I so wished! One of the highlights of the night was the realisation that as soon as you said the word ‘cerveza’ no matter how quietly, the salesman was there like a ninja to fill you up.
The key difference between most of the wrestling that I’ve seen on television and this, is the theatrical side of it, they love it over here and the comedy is better than any of the ‘fights’ on display. Latinas love to display passion in everything they do and they were wild in the Arena Mexico on Friday, cheering, booing and chastising in equal measure, and the wrestlers do a great job of whipping them up into a frenzy.
Strangely the biggest cheer of the night was from the women for an overweight, mincing wrestler who’s entire schtick was to be as camp as they come, his special move was to kiss his opponent on the lips before laying the smack down on him, certainly novel, although I’m not sure it’ll catch on in the playgrounds. Most of the matches involved 4-6 wrestlers in a team style which gives you the opportunity to see more wrestlers in the few hours that you have here and also meant you were in for some spectacular team moves.
I was most impressed by the sheer athleticism of these guys, in truth, very few of them were in good shape and yet they were hurling themselves around like spider monkeys. Many of the wrestlers had ‘mini-me’s’ which were hilarious, I even got my picture taken with one, the guy didn’t even come up to my knees, it didn’t stop him doing a somersault from the top rope though!
I loved this night far more than I thought I would and will definitely be going back before I leave, beer, violence and scantily clad women, need I say more?