Its friday and my friend Aaron Mizrahi and I are doing a BBQ catering for the Mexican electro-pop band Motel at one of the members houses in Mexico City. Aaron is good friends with the band so it was more of a backyard hangout than a serious catering. Towards the end of the afternoon Aaron asked me if I wanted to go see the Lucha Libre, Mexican wrestling that goes on every week at Arena Mexico. I instantly thought of Jack Black and his ridiculous costumes in the film Nacho Libre and cracked a smile, “fuck yea I want to go see the Lucha Libre!” So we packed up the event and headed to the stadium
We arrive at the area, working our way past the outside food vendors and stall after stall selling the colorful masks that are the symbol of the sport, each stall worker shouting out “Ray Mysterio”, “Blue Demon”, “Mascara” and Dorada”, letting fans know they had the signature masks of famous Lucha Libre, past and present. We file in with the thousands of excited wrestling fans and find our seats, as well as a few large cups of Victoria beer and wait for the action to begin.
The area had a large ring in the middle with a lower, middle and upper bowl seating, and a large stage at the back with multiple big screens and a long ramp that went down to the ring, acting as a catwalk of glory for some, and a runway of defeat for others. Many patrons were wearing t-shirts and masks, getting rowdy and drunk before the show even began, then at 8:00 on the dot the lights go out and the stage lights up with video and audio displays of previous matches as the wrestlers are introduced and walk down to the ring one by one.
Every match of the night was a flamboyant display of tag team wrestling. So fake and rehearsed it was like watching a live soap opera. But once you get past the fact that its essentially a bunch of grown men (and women… and midgets) bitch slapping the shit out of each other, its actually pretty entertaining. Every round had impressive displays of acrobatics and aerobatics as wrestlers did flying jump-kicks and flips off the top rope to body slam their rivals. It was equal parts gymnastics, theater and comedy as the wrestlers put opponents into compromising situations so their team mates could get a tap out or Brazo de Plata aka "Super Porky" could come sit on their face
Each match had 3 or 4 wrestlers and sometimes a midget or two on each team, which made for a few chaotic rounds trying to keep tabs on who was against who. There were clear antagonists and protagonists in each fight, with the guys in the brightest costumes usually coming out victorious, and the squads dressed in black receiving the brunt of the boos and shouts of "chinga tu madre”
Putting aside the violence and sexually suggestive costumes, It was easy to see by the end of the evening why this was a popular form of entertainment for the whole family. When I looked around I saw three year old boys standing on their seats, screaming at the ring and flipping the middle finger to the wrestler that had their favorite Lucha in a headlock, to ninety-something year old grandmothers cheering and blushing when Marco Coleone flexed on the top rope. It was an interesting look into a sport that is as deeply ingrained in Mexican culture as tacos and tequila.
After the fights were over, as the thousands of fans spilled back onto the street we left the arena and headed for some dinner, but not before I got my souvenir mask to carry with me on my travels, and remind me of the passion and culture that runs so deep here in Mexico.