Ever since I arrived in Mexico, seeing the Lucha Libre (Mexican wrestling) had been high on my ‘to do’ list.
A few opportunities had arisen over the last year but, each time, I had to drop out either due to timing, my work schedule, or the high prices.
Luckily, one of my good Mexpat friends in D.F., Michelle, started dating a luchador before Christmas last year and, after months of putting off the opportunity to see her man fight, asked me to come with her one night in February.
While most Lucha Libre in D.F. is a haven for backpackers, tourists and locals alike, Michelle’s man was actually fighting outside of Mexico City this night, at Arena Naucalpan in Naucalpan, Estado de México.
With no car to take us there and only the whispered warnings that the arena was in a poor neighbourhood that we had to be careful going through, the two of us made our way with caution, taking three Metro trains and a taxi to get there.
As we pulled up, it was clear we were an unusual sight to behold.
Crowds of the locals hanging around outside, smoking and drinking, stared in wonder as the token gringas exited the taxi and wandered up to the window to buy tickets for tonight’s show.
Grabbing a couple of beers from the kiosk, we made our way into the arena to choose our seats. We were early so I suggested we make our way to the front for a good up-close viewing. However, Michelle pointed at the higher seats at the back and asked if we could sit there instead.
She was racked with nerves and, before I could even get halfway through my first beer, she was necking her second. This would be the first time she’d see her man in full luchador get-up. She didn’t even know what his luchador name was and had no idea what to expect. Her eyes wandered all over the arena, unsure where to look; Her body fidgeted restlessly, eager for the matches to start but somewhat reluctant to dive into her man’s other life.
At 8pm (only 15 minutes late), a group of luchadores-in-training came out to the ring to show off the moves they were learning. Ranging from the ages of 8-30+, each trainee was eager to jump into the ring and practice their special move for a crowd growing bigger by the minute.
Finally the time had come for the real luchadores to appear.
The first match started with two tag-teams; One with a luchador that looked like a demented clown; And the other with a luchador who looked like some kind of 1970s Green Lantern.
Though she still had no idea who her luchador would be, Michelle knew instantly that it was none of the four we were watching and calmly resumed watching the tag-teams beat the crap out of each other.
With the crowd all riled up and ready for more, the next tag-teams entered the arena to a chorus of cheers and the second match was underway.
These tag-teams were made up of three luchadores and, as each fighter took their turn to stand in the spotlight and wave when their name was announced, Michelle’s eyes locked on to one in particular: The Aztec Prince (“Príncipe Azteca”).
“Is it him?” I asked her.
“I’m not sure … ” she replied.
As he stepped into the center of the ring to meet his applause, he looked up into the crowd and spotted us. The moment he saw Michelle, he gave her a special wave in front of the hundred-and-something crowd of people before turning to go back to his team.
Tears rose in Michelle’s eyes and I grinned, giving her a big hug and squealing with excitement.
Unfortunately our grins didn’t stay fixed for very long. His team got their asses royally kicked. In fact, nearly every video clip I got of Michelle’s man is of him getting a complete beatdown.
When the match was over and the other team claimed their victory, all luchadores gave another victory – or losing – wave to the crowd before leaving.
The Aztec Prince, however, took one look back up at his girl and blew her a kiss before leaving the ring and getting flooded with photo and autograph requests from the waiting hyperactive kids.
“It’s like you’re dating a rock star,” I whispered in awe.
Michelle’s face flushed with a mixture of affection, pride and an abundance of joy.
After that it was hard to concentrate on the other three matches. The quality of the fights got better and better as each round took us further to the eagerly-awaited finals but we couldn’t stop talking about what we’d just seen. It’s an incredible thing to see someone you know perform the kind of moves you’ve only seen on TV before; I can only imagine how overwhelming it was for Michelle.
Nevertheless, we tried to turn our attention back to the fights unfolding before us.
A word of warning for those who plan to go to the Lucha Libre with children: This is the place to pick up Spanish swearing. As the quality of the fights get better with each match, the crowd is egged on more and more, and obscenities are thrown around like nobody’s business. Michelle and I could only giggle.
Our giggles soon turned to all-out laughter, though, when, during the fourth match, a tag-team consisting of a Corey Feldman-lookalike and The Flash (who’d apparently lost his trousers and opted for the Speedo look) appeared.
Overall it was a fantastic evening.
While a lot of people make fun of the Lucha Libre for being “too cheesy,” you can’t help but get caught up in the fun and excitement of it all.
Whole families go along and make a night of it and, even though everything’s very carefully staged, the luchadores really put their bodies through a lot to entertain the crowd.
When we caught up with The Aztec Prince later, he showed us the bruises and swellings he’d acquired just from that night alone. Ouch!
Prices can be a little steep in Mexico City if you choose to go with a guided group usually organised by a hotel/hostel/travel company so don’t be afraid to turn up to the arena beforehand and buy tickets at the office.
I’d definitely recommend it. Not only is Lucha Libre unlike anything you’ve ever seen before but the smaller venues give you a glimpse into a part of the Mexican culture most tourists don’t get to see – a working man’s sport that brings the local communities together.
I’m already hoping to get the chance to go again before I leave. Hopefully the Aztec Prince will claim victory next time.