In the U.S., professional wrestling is classified as entertainment. Lucha Libre in Mexico is more than just that. It is tradition, part of the culture. This isn’t wrestling … it’s Lucha Libre.
Lucha Libre has been popular in Mexico for almost 80 years. Salvador Lutteroth, the 17-year-old son of high society immigrants from the U.S., attended a wrestling match in Texas and subsequently decided to take the sport back to Mexico. He is known as the father of Lucha Libre in Mexico.
Wrestlers are called “Luchadores” and are considered superheroes. Every Luchador assumes a persona; this persona is sometimes based on his past, his beliefs or his personality. The Luchador, or the company he is part of, designs a mask that will represent him in the ring. Once a Luchador puts on the mask, he is no longer a regular person, but turns into a superhero or a villain.
There are two types of Luchadores: the “Rudos,” who are the villains, and the “Tecnicos,” who are the heroes. In this manner, the Rudos represent the evil, corrupt, drunken and ugly bullies who are dirty fighters and don’t obey the rules. The Tecnicos are the upstanding, modest clean fighters who are the pride of the community. It is in this way that a Lucha Libre match reflects the real life of the fans.
The main difference between wrestling in the U.S. and Lucha Libre is that physical appearance is not the main reason a Luchador will secure success. The fans don’t seem to care if he or she is tall or short, good or bad-looking, skinny or fat, old or young. What matters is the connection with the fans, the charisma and the Luchador’s talent in the ring.
High-flying maneuvers and skills make it astonishing to watch. Mexican wrestlers have given Lucha Libre an acrobatic touch, risking their lives in every high-flying move from the very top corner of the ring, appearing to fly down and squash the opponent who might be cowering in front of the audience.
While the maneuvers are thrilling, the main attraction is the mask. There are thousands of masks. The varied styles, colors, materials and designs employed make this not just an exciting sport and thrilling entertainment, but also an art exhibit.
In the 1940s, the first matches were called and promoted as “Mascara vs. Mascara,” meaning Mask vs. Mask. The loser would have to take his mask off, tell the audience his real name and age and could never wear it again to wrestle. This meant the Luchador who had won the most masks in combat became more popular and renowned.
Lucha Libre has seen lots of big names in its history, though not all have been loved, revered and cheered by the fans. As in every sport, there are legendary Luchadors. Among the most famous are El Santo, Blue Demon, Huracan Ramirez, Mil Mascaras and more recently, Rey Mysterio and Mistico.
Both in Mexico and abroad, Lucha Libre has crossed over into popular culture, especially in comic books, movies and television, and has inspired movies like “Nacho Libre” and shows like “Mucha Lucha,”but most recently the 200th episode of CSI called “Mascara.”
It is said that if you visit Mexico and don’t attend a Lucha Libre show, you weren’t really in Mexico. At every show and in almost every arena, tourists from around the world come to enjoy the show and to be a part of the folklore.