Lucha Libre – A very Mexican night out

Some of the many faces of Lucha

What is it?

Lucha Libre or Free Wrestling is a type of pro wrestling with very Mexican tendencies. Perhaps the most politically incorrect sport ever seen (yes quite a claim, I know) the winner must win two out of three rounds to win the match. Inevitably, the luchas go to three rounds each time. The athletic wrestlers, with super human gymnastic abilities, do flips galore and their aerial manoeuvres seem to have formed the basis of modern WWE wrestling’s best moves.

The way it works is that the wrestlers are aligned to the tecnicos or the rudos, or the tecnicals and the heels, and everyone has their own side to follow. I personally like the rudos as they cheat and spoil their way through each match, just like Wolf from the original Gladiators series. For many Mexican youngsters these men are considered heroes with each match showing clashes of good vs. evil until the bell dings. The tecnicos often represent heroic and noble qualities, elements of their character taken from Mexican folklore; the rudos symbolizing many of the negative aspects of Mexico – the gangsters, the dishonest policemen, the drunks, the gangs… cultural commentators in Mexico argue that the fight provides strong stereotypes and a simple straight forward message for Mexico’s young.

The crowds are large with a few thousand there at the arena during the week and on the last Friday of each month, several thousands come together for a night of drinking, swearing and really a very good laugh. On some nights you can see the “mini-estrellas” or mini stars fighting for their honour, dubiously dubbed as “mascotas” or pets when fighting alongside their regular sized version. The minis became popular in the 1970s with stars such as Luke and Arturito (based on an R2-D2 gimmick) coming to the fore. This really is something that shouldn’t be missed on any trip to Mexico.

History of Lucha Libre

Like the WWE in the USA, Lucha Libre has changed its name many times with various owners and guises. Like many professional sports, television proved to be very controversial for the sport by bringing in more money and opponents arguing that it “kills the relationship between the wrestlers and the audience”.

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, lucha libre wrestlers adorned many cinema posters with smash hit movies including Santo vs. the Diabolical Brain (1961), and Santo and Blue Demon vs. the Monsters (1969) to name just a few hitting the silver screen. One lucha who went on to achieve superhero/ superstar status was El Santo, one of the most technically gifted and innovative wrestlers in world history. While the moves that he introduced are commonplace in wrestling rings all over the world today, forty years ago they had never been seen. Apart from the nobility he showed in the ring, his many dozens of feature films became a huge part of Latino culture. It wouldn’t be wrong to call him the John Wayne of Latin America.

Lucha Libre in the North East

Perhaps quite surprisingly, Lucha Libre was one of the main attractions at the Vamos! Festival in Newcastle last year with a sell out crowd at the Sage in Gateshead. Fifteen of Mexico’s top wrestlers graced the North East’s ring with their presences, in Newcastle for the first time ever after who previously in Brighton and London.

On the compeitiveness of Lucha Libre, Vamos! Promoter Andy Wood said, “What I always say is, it’s like jazz. You improvise around a theme but everyone knows what the theme is. In wrestling, you don’t want anyone to get hurt.” What is clear is that these guys are real athletes and wonderful showmen.

Although it’s pretty unlikely that we’ll be seeing a Durham Lucha team performing in the DSU anytime soon, if you do ever have chance to check this out, I couldn’t recommend it any more strongly.

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