¿Lucha Estrella? ¡Bring on the Kids!
I’ve never been a player hater, on the contrary, I don’t hate, I congratulate. On recent excursions to the wrestling however, I’ve found myself slightly bored by the high flying final match on the bill. It seems like it is always the same few sets of stars wrestling with a slight variation between the teams. Usually it plays out the same way as always, someone’s mask gets ripped off, an amazing display of acrobatic skill ends a round, the rudos team up on one solitary tecnico, etc. etc. I am in no way cheapening this, if you go wrestling once a year, this is more than a treat. When you go week in week out, you begin to notice a few patterns, story lines, finishing moves and routines. I am in no way denigrating the ability or show, these wrestlers are at the top of their game and get mad props from me, standard. Recently though, I have been watching the first few matches on the bill with growing interest.
I have found that the first few are high flying, guts-out, ballsy spectacles. The wrestlers at the start seem to be fighting for their lives. It may be due to the fact they are trying to make a name for themselves, I must say I have been rarely disappointed watching these match ups of late. Not only do they provide a more rough and un-honed bout, it seems that there is a real sense of danger. You feel like you are a few minutes away from a real injury, and something nasty and crippling at that. This injects the place with a sort of adrenalin rush and dread sense, I don’t know if this reflects negatively on me, perhaps I’m more suited to a Roman arena with Murmillones going at it.
Maybe they’re just acting it out better, maybe their youthfulness explains the devil may care attitude. I heard a rumour that some only get paid a few hundred pesos and if they are even further down the chain they get paid with a few sandwiches, that’s a shocker right? Are they doing it for the love or just for fun then. Perhaps for some it’s all they know to do. Mexico is no stranger to poverty and some stars of Lucha Libre notoriously come from the worst neighborhoods and are naturally gifted wrestlers. Struggling to survive, wrestling for their lives from day one. Regardless of the social context, these wrestlers are putting on a class A show.
My only criticism is the lack of characterization of these wrestlers. Their personas and outfits are sometimes lack lustre. This obviously comes with time and who knows, in the first match up you could be seeing a future Estrella of Lucha Libre. These young guys really are catching wreck. Personally I would love to see a return to the days of serious wrestling with complex holds, there are many last round Estrellas out there who know the old ways. In the mean time, before this style returns to Arena Mexico, I will be arriving earlier, getting a good seat and enjoying the noices. Next time you go, check the first few matches and see the passion.
Viva la Arena México
The first thing one notices on arrival at the Arena Mexico are the ubiquitous merchandising stalls. Having grown up working on a market stall, this reminded me of the fun we used to have and the commerce and excitement that markets can whip up. The smell of tacos, the raw light bulbs and taught tarpaulin bought everything back to me. It also reminded me of going to Highbury for evening matches to watch Arsenal and the buzz of the people was definitely comparable.
On my way in, I breezed past hundreds of wrestling masks, masks from the future and those of the past. My favorite that evening was of Quemonito, a vertically challenged wrestler whose outfit is similar to that of a fluorescent monkey. In comparison to the majority his mask is special as it is a soft, velvet, purple monkey mask. It was a highly popular, fast selling mask not just with the kids. This is the reason I love Lucha Libre. The urge to own one of these masks starts welling up inside me, however I resist. Squeezing in to the entrance in a bottle neck you see the size of Arena Mexico and for some reason feel its' inherent history. The Arena may have seen better days, however it still seats around 16,000 and the audio inside is excellent, plus part of its shoddiness gives it any amazing sense of history.
As I pushed through the ancient turnstiles and climbed the stairs, you see the almost coliseum like structure, the bare concrete reflects the action in the ring, and you know it's going to get rough. You can hear the noise of the crowd as you climb the stairs and as someone helps you to your seat you can't help but notice the aficionados ring side, getting involved, shouting and almost being involved as wrestlers fly from the ring and land on ladies and gents.
Settling into my seat I ordered two sandwiches, or tortas, they options were ham or cheese, I chose the ham torta, it came with cheese anyway. Cheese and chili. Later I ordered the cheese torta and found it had ham in it as well. No problem, they were sustenance. I had arrived for the second match up and the level of wrestling was high. You could tell that these wrestlers were young and hyperactive with little care to their health. Their hunger for fame and fans matched my hunger for tortas. Their recklessness and energy shone through. Later the beers started flowing and I became more comfortable. I was there to support a friend who was wrestling that night and the more the person in front was shouting for his adversary the more vocal and impassioned I became.
I was truly an excellent experience. The amazing scenario, the drama, the physicality, the pantomime, the art, the binary struggle of good versus malevolent has made me a total wrestling fan. Anybody that likes wrestling or has a vague interest should visit the "cathedral of wrestling". It is an experience second to none and be sure to buy your Quemonito mask early on, by the time I left I had spent all the pesos I had on tortas and cerveza.