Lucha Libre Wrestling in Arena Mexico

…continued from Los Cenotes en la Riviera Maya

HOLY FUCKING SHIT!!! Can anything rock harder than a Lucha Libre fight in Mexico City? This was a whole new level of badass that I had no idea even existed. This was in caliber with the 80’s era Schwarzenegger movies. This was every riff on Slayer’s Reign In Blood album. This was the feeling I got the first time I beat Super Mario 3 and the last time I beat Final Fantasy 6. This was every Andrew WK Party Tip that I’ve shared on Facebook. This was so fucking awesome that I have to take breaks from writing about it just to sort out what it all means in my head.

This is Lucha Libre, the free fighting of Mexico.

I knew about it for a while, but only had a passing knowledge of what it was about before visiting Mexico over the holidays. Here in Chicago, I’ve frequented the Tamale Spaceship for years, a Lucha inspired restaurant and food truck, where the operator wears a luchador mask and sombrero and sells hot tamales to the city streets. More recently, my friend Lauren recommended it when I told her I would be visiting Mexico City for New Years. I looked into it, found the video above, and just about lost my shit.

Obviously, it is much more theatrical in style than anything I was used to. Unlike the American redneck WWE wrestling that we have come to know and love here in the states, which depends largely on hard-hitting blows and aggression, Lucha Libre fighters focus more on acrobatics and high-flying moves to out-maneuver their enemies. They are gymnasts, and they train for years before setting foot in a professional ring.

It turned out that Arena Mexico, the prime venue for Lucha fights and going sixty years strong, was the epicenter of where the scene really took off. And it wasn’t just there – it was not uncommon to find smaller Lucha matches around the working class neighborhoods in the city. Over time, it became a common unifying symbol to the culture and people of Mexico.

Though some of its fighters don’t wear masks, the ones who do often conceal their identities, as to more wholly represent a character or icon fighting for good or evil. Many use their fame to further their efforts in community outreach, and can be seen leading protests, voicing working class issues to local bureaucrats, running orphanages, teaching young kids how to wrestle, you name it. They are more than wrestlers. They are angels, devils, undead, saints, and fighters for the common working man.

It was a fine night in Mexico City, just a few days shy of New Years, and the arena was packed. I sat next to two couples in their fifties, who were apparently on a double date. This would be a great place to take a lady, I thought (honestly guys, if your woman doesn’t want to come to something like this, then you can do better). After saying hi, they gave me a “Salud!” One of them noticed my water bottle and asked “Por que no tienes cerveza?” They’re trying to get me to drink with them.

“Uh, porque necesito agua primera!” The lights dimmed and the first trio of Luchadores came out to the ring. Four animadoras came out in bikinis and Santa Claus hats, and danced while the announcer read off each fighter. The crowd cheered as each of the tecnicos climbed into the ring in blazing glory; and likewise booed each of their opponents – respectively referred to as rudos, or the bad guys.

There were five matches in total. Three versus three in each fight. When they started, two wrestlers would square off in the ring and size each other up with smaller hits. Soon though, it would all break loose in a flurry of fly kicks, flipping off of ropes, acrobatic tackle moves, and choreographed swan dives out of the ring and into enemies. Often somebody would slam onto the mat hard enough for my own back to hurt. Sometimes they yelled back at the crowd and got them even more riled up. When a Luchador got tired, he would duck under the ropes so another could jump in, and the fights went on. All while the lovely animadoras strutted along the walkway in Sexy Santa attire, and vendors went around the aisles selling cerveza, family sized potato chips, masks, air horns, and whatever else.

The most memorable fight of the night was the fourth one. Apparently, these people don’t think very highly of their Puerto Rican rivals. Three tecnicos emerged to fight against “Puerto Rico”, who despite all the negativity, came out waving a Puerto Rican flag. Somebody gave the crowd next to the platform food to throw at them ahead of time. Along with all the booing, flying food, and shit talking, everybody started shouting “Mexico! Mexico! Mexico!” I joined them.

The announcer named each of these guys, and they climbed into the ring in what appeared to be grey sleeveless T-shirts and scraggy hair, amidst a horde of boos and cursing. I think they were trying to look like assholes. Lastly was the manager, the deliberately ugly wife of the team leader. She came out, arguing and throwing food back at the crowd. There are a lot of sweet women in the world, and this is not one of them.

The fight escalated pretty quickly as both of the trios battled in a blur of body slams and spin moves, many of which ended up out of the ring. Close to the end, a Mexican Luchador was just starting to get the upper hand on the leader when his ugly wife came out of nowhere, pinning him on the ropes from behind. The Puerto Rican set up for a flying kick. At the last second, the Mexican Luchador broke free, and the Puerto Rican drop kicked his own wife in the stomach. The entire arena went completely nuts.

After all of this, I had to lay down in the dark for a week. Just to process all of the awesome that I got blasted with, wave after freaking wave.

Seriously, do this. Go to Mexico and do this. We have a big Mexican community here in Chicago, and there are some local Lucha fights in the city. I definitely plan to follow up on it. Especially now that I have a better understanding of what they’re doing and where it all started.

This story continues in Mexico City. For better or worse, this trip was coming to an end.