Mexican Lucha Libre is Now a Global Phenomenon
By Anthony Zubia
More and more, people around the world are starting to notice the art and culture of Lucha Libre. This form of Mexican wrestling loosely translates to “Free Fighting,” and that’s exactly what it is. This near hundred year old tradition is much more acrobatic and theatrical than its American counterpart. Pro wrestling may be popular in the United States, but not many people know much about the Lucha Libre culture.
While Lucha Libre did gain some momentum in the 90s (above), jumpstart the career of a few luchadores, and reach some international exposure, this style of wrestling has never been as popular as it is now. In the current political landscape, people are starting to bring other cultures to light, and this is one of them. The latest Jack in the Box ad features a Luchador, Conan O’Brien recently traveled below the border to document this culture, and yes, there is even a Donald Trump inspired wrestler in Mexico.
Aside from people seeing this on TV or YouTube, Netflix is bringing Lucha Libre culture to an international audience. With streaming in over 90 countries, now is the time to show what this Mexican tradition is all about. Below are 3 titles you can stream now to immerse yourself in this masked culture.
This TV series is executive produced by acclaimed director Robert Rodriguez. His channel, El Rey Network, features horror movies, Kung Fu flicks, and Lucha Libre. Lucha Underground is changing the game for pro wrestling by doing something that’s never been done before: making it a TV series.
In the era of binge watching, this show took a risk and changed up the way wrestling is watched. Instead of the same old trash-talking promos backstage between matches, this show digs deep into the lore of Lucha Libre. This art form is based off of the battle of Good versus Evil, so these luchadores are portrayed as masked heroes and villains with their own origins and storylines.
The matches on this show are very fast paced and filled with as much action as you can fill in a 45 minute episode. The talent on the show ranges from Mexican luchadores, wrestlers from the American independent scene, women performers who aren’t confined to their own division, little people known as Minis, and Exoticos who are dressed in drag. There is really something for everyone on this show.
This documentary goes south of the border and behind the scenes with some of the top talent in Mexico. The film revolves around the luchador “1000% Guapo” Shocker and other luchadores he crosses paths with such as Sexy Star, Blue Demon Jr, and the late great Hijo del Perro Aguayo. Sexy Star is a luchadora who overcame domestic violence and is not just popular in Mexico, but in Lucha Underground as well. Blue Demon Jr is the son of the legendary Blue Demon who is considered one of the godfathers of Lucha Libre. Hijo del Perro Aguayo was innovative and popularized the violent hardcore style of Lucha Libre through his Perros Del Mal brand, but tragically passed away in the ring a few years back.
There is also an in-depth look at Mexico’s top promotions that present these luchadores: CMLL and AAA. CMLL is the longest running wrestling promotion in the world, and AAA is known for taking Lucha Libre to the next level in the 90s as well as currently through Lucha Underground. It’s amazing to see the spectacle of these brands and how they promote storylines, feuds, and events week after week.
Delving into the psychological aspects, Lucha Mexico also goes beyond the ring by showing what these luchadores go through. From the extensive training and conditioning, to the many injuries and doctor visits, it’s eye-opening to see what these people are willing to do to achieve their dreams. Aside from the physical pain, there is a lot these Luchadores have to endure, whether it’s travelling nonstop away from family, constantly being in the spotlight, losing loved ones that you work with, or even losing your mask, which represents your career, identity, and everything you’ve ever worked for.
TALES OF MASKED MEN
Tales of Masked Men covers the history, culture, and terminology of Lucha Libre; perfect for those who want to learn more about the art form. This PBS mini documentary also makes great points regarding Lucha’s popularity and how it rivals soccer in Mexico, and notes that the idea of wearing masks dates back to pre-Hispanic times. Aside from covering these facts, this film features the tales of 3 luchadores; El Santo, Mascarita Sagrada, and Solar.
When the topic of Lucha Libre comes up, the name El Santo immediately comes after. He is considered an immortal icon of Mexico because his popularity transcended the Lucha culture and made its way into Mexican pop culture. Decades before Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson left wrestling to become a movie star, El Santo was a huge star in the ring, films, and comic books.
The second Luchador featured is Mascarita Sagrada. This wrestler is classified as a “Mini” and gained his fame during the popularity of the American cultural phenomenon that used to be referred to as “Midget Wrestling.” Mascarita Sagrada overcame struggles because of his size and used it to his advantage. With his speed and quickness, Mascarita Sagrada has entertained children all over Mexico and even found a spot on the roster of the TV show Lucha Underground.
Finally, Solar is the final luchador covered. This legendary wrestler was unsure of what he wanted to do for a living until he attended a Lucha Libre show. After that, he trained, had a mask made, and fulfilled his destiny of becoming a real-life superhero. He is thankful to have discovered the culture of Lucha Libre and has been happy ever since. His lifestyle caught the attention of his son, and now tag team partner, Solar Jr. After Solar retires, he mentions it brings tears to his eyes knowing that his son will continue his legacy with the same name and mask.
Aside from Netflix, fans are able to watch wrestling from all over the world thanks to the Austin based FloSlam. Two European companies are showcasing the Mexican style of wrestling through UK’s Lucha Forever and Ireland’s Over The Top wrestling, which dominantly features a Lucha mask as its logo. Also featured on FloSlam is the promotion group Pro Wrestling Revolution, who at their last event scheduled the return of Ultimo Dragon, a legendary wrestler who is from Japan but started his career in Mexico through the Lucha Libre style.
While Japan has been accustomed to Lucha Libre and still appreciates it to this day, with partnerships between New Japan Pro Wrestling and the aforementioned CMLL, it’s great to see this Mexican cultural phenomenon expand across the globe. For an art form that’s been around for decades, it’s finally getting the respect and exposure it deserves. One can only imagine what’s next for this truly global phenomenon.