Words by Dalene Heck / Photography by Pete Heck
“You don’t want to be in the front row,” Miguel stated, “you might end up as part of the wrestling match.” As our guide for the evening, he tossed out gems of advice and facts about Lucha Libre as we sat in traffic en route to the stadium. I glanced down at the blue and white mask sitting in my lap and wondered how well it would fit. Au contraire, I thought to myself, right in the action is where we wanted to be.
We wanted to be in the thick of it, having left lovely Guanajuato earlier than expected in order to attend the event. We donned masks, guzzled down tequila shot primers and entered the arena full of anticipation.
We had no idea what we were in for. We expected it to be embellished, over the top, and just entirely laughable, really. It was ALL that, but much, much, more.
The luchadores put on a true performance from the moment they were announced. They arrived through a dry ice fog and paraded themselves through two rows of scantily clad dancing girls.
Each donned his own significant colours in mask and costume and launched themselves into the ring beckoning the crowd for applause. Light colors meant they carried with them stories of heroism, those in dark were the bad guys, although it was never dictated that the hero came out on top each time. They each came with a mixed bag of supporters and haters, whipping the crowds into a frenzy with each toss or tumble.
The wrestlers took turns being punching bags and throw toys, but all were incredibly acrobatic athletes. They performed front flips, back flips, lunges, kicks, clotheslines, and leaps off of the top ropes with landings that would certainly leave any normal person in agony.
It was fake. It was hysterical and definitely over the top, but it was also endlessly entertaining, so much so that we often didn’t even know where to look. If distracted for mere seconds we would be quickly brought back by a rousing chorus of boos or cheers.
There was never a dull moment.
Most matches were via tag team, and another wrestler is allowed to enter the ring if a teammate is thrown out of the ring and lands on the floor. A wrestler can also be disqualified if they hit an opponent in the groin or tear off the other luchadores mask, and mysteriously that always seemed to happen when the ref wasn’t looking.
The crowd yelled insults at the refs and luchadores whom they didn’t support. We quickly learned some new Mexican slang and unexpectedly came away with a few dozen different ways to insult someone’s mother. The show never ended just because the match did, the athletes usually moving towards the ringside crowd for high fives and fist bumps. (I was able to get a fist bump in with Fuego which brought a kid-like smile to my face.)
And just when we didn’t think there couldn’t possibly be any more cheesy goodness, some sort of Mexico’s-Next-Top-Wrestler reality show was being filmed off the ring. A panel of judges would score their performance and their fate was decided with much fanfare and theater.
The most dramatic of matches came at the conclusion to the evening – a triple threat (three wrestlers per side) heavyweight bout. We cheered on the pink mohawked Maximo who’s patented move was to creep on all fours up to his pinned opponent and plant a big smooch. It ended with Maximo being broad-sided by another opponent and then pinned to the mat in defeat.
Although we were disappointed our final favorite didn’t emerge victorious, we exited the stadium chanting “Max-i-mo! Max-i-mo!” along with the other locals on their way out.
how to do it
Thanks to Viator for our Lucha Libre experience. And no matter how many submission holds, body slams or flying kicks we endured, all opinions expressed are still our own.