Any professional wrestling fans out there? I ask because our family recently went to a lucha libre event with some friends, and boy-oh-boy was it a show!
What is “lucha libre” you ask? Lucha libre translates to “free wrestling” and is characterized by colorful masks, rapid sequences of holds and maneuvers, as well as “high-flying” maneuvers. The wearing of masks has developed special significance, and historically matches were sometimes contested in which the loser must permanently remove his mask, which is a wager with a high degree of weight attached. Tag team wrestling is especially prevalent in lucha libre, particularly matches with three-member teams, called trios.
Now, I grew up watching WWF wrestling with my grandfather, who sadly is no longer with us. I have hours and hours of memories of laughing with him and cheering on Hulk Hogan (against the Sheik!) and Junkyard Dog and Macho Man Randy Savage (with the beautiful Elizabeth at his side), Jessie the Body Ventura, Roddy Roddy Piper (and I’m all out of chewing gum!) etc., etc. I remember the crazy costumes and the flying moves and the spitting and yelling at the crowds and waving of the arms – and that was just my grandfather (I’m kidding…) It was always hysterical and drama filled and my grandpa loved it – it was a soap opera for men. In my early 20s I even went to a live event, but the seats were so far away from the ring I don’t remember seeing much. Anyway, when the opportunity presented itself to go to a lucha libre we decided to check it out – and brought along the kids.
The event was held in a local auditorium, which when filled I would guess could hold probably about 200 people. Our event was probably half full, and after some interesting mix-up on our seats (although we purchased certain seats, they were sold again so we had to move), we still ended up sitting front row in plastic chairs right next to the ring. I’ll add a photo here we took as we walked into the building.
Just like the old WWF wrestling I used to watch with grandpa, here we had loud music, scantily-clothed wrestlers (luchadores) – some in shape, some not (although I’m certainly not one to judge another’s shape in spandex) and of course a shady referee (who, in typical historical fashion was in on the action and traded sides repeatedly). There was a lot of crowd participation, which for us was interesting since we were so close to the action (in fact, our 10 year old daughter flatly REFUSED to sit in the front row, and funnily enough our 7 year old donned-her own mask which we had to buy for her on the way in, of course – and pink, no less) and probably would have joined in on the wrestling action if they would have let her (actually, more on that in a moment – in the meantime, I’ll treat you to a photo of her in her mask posing with a few of the luchadores).
Lots of yelling, thumping chests, finger pointing – all in good fun (it was all in Spanish, and some of it might have been a little inappropriate for little ears as one of our Spanish-speaking friends flatly refused to translate some of it for the kids).
Lots of running and bouncing off the ropes, lots of clothes-lines and full-body slams and those smacks that, just as their hand makes contact they stomp their foot for the noise effect. These guys (and gals – there were a few ladies, called luchadoras) were all very athletic as they wrestled around, picked each other up and threw them around – jumping down from the top ropes into and out of the ring. Speaking of out of the ring, there was a good amount of action on our side of the square, too. Just ask our friends in the front row, one of which who had the pleasure of having a big-sweaty thonged-keister on her lap (yes, I said thong – the other wrestlers pulled down his spandex, turned and aimed him then strategically pushed him towards our seats). I was laughing too hard at this point to get pictures and I really, really wish I had caught a couple because this might have been one of the funniest things I have ever seen in my entire life (I can say that because I didn’t have to come into contact with this sweaty object – maybe if I had it might not have been as funny, but I was huddled behind our friends with my 10-year old, who was laughing as hard as the rest of us).
Yes, there were a few inappropriate moments that hubby and I cringed at that our kids were witnessing (a few offensive slurs, hand gestures and one sweaty bare-man keister in a thong). But fortunately our girls didn’t understand a lot and frankly they haven’t seen many sweaty bare-man keisters in thongs – and so apparently seeing one hasn’t seemed to scar them too much, so I guess we’re OK.
The professional action notwithstanding, I have to share that the before-show might have been the best entertainment of the entire night. Before all the action started several children (in their own masks) had jumped into the ring and were running around, showing off their own wrestling moves (it was obviously some of these little guys had been to these shows before). Not to be left out, our 7-year old daughter (the one in the pink mask), challenged her library director, who then donned his own mask and valiantly joined her in the ring for a before-show one-on-one, mano a mano bout, so to speak. I have to share a photo of our little princess putting him in an arm bar and taking him down. Just such a proud mommy-moment for me, let me tell you. We were laughing so hard that my face actually started to hurt, and a quick shout-out to her library director, who was a very good sport about the entire thing, pretending to do a few flips of his own and taking up our daughter’s challenge, because her 10-year old sister refused to get out of her chair.
Lucha libre has a long and interesting history in Mexico – dating back to 1860s. It’s known for its aerial maneuvers – more so than in traditional U.S. wrestling. But its most obvious difference are the masks, although like I said, a few of the participants we saw didn’t wear them. According to Wikipedia, virtually all wrestlers in Mexico will start their careers wearing masks, but over the span of their careers, a large number of them will be unmasked. Sometimes, a wrestler slated for retirement will be unmasked in his final bout or at the beginning of a final tour, signifying loss of identity as that character. Sometimes, losing the mask signifies the end of a gimmick with the wrestler moving on to a new gimmick and mask. The mask is considered “sacred” to a degree, so much so that fully removing an opponent’s mask during a match is grounds for disqualification. Two of the most famous Mexican wrestlers include The Saint, a wrestler in the 1940s who wore a silver mask and whose wrestling career spanned nearly five decades, during which he became a folk hero while the sport received a degree of mainstream attention; and The Blue Demon, who also starred in many films featuring lucha libre.
Our entire family thoroughly enjoyed the evening at the lucha libre and would highly recommend such an event to anyone. It was certainly different from anything we had ever experienced and a sight to see. I only wish that somehow I could have taken my grandpa – he would have loved it.
And it’s also nice to know that we don’t need to worry about our littlest daughter’s grades anymore, as she so clearly has a very bright career ahead of her as a luchadora, especially considering she’s already got the mask.