Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Lucha Mexico: Who Are Those Masked Men?
“professional” wrestling is “scripted.” Prep, collegiate, and Olympic wrestling
is totally real and woefully under-appreciated. Lucha Libre wrestling in Mexico
is completely nuts. It is also somewhat scripted, but the constant risk of
injury means anything could happen during any given match. Mexico’s equivalent of
OSHA does not spend a lot of time in the CMLL’s Arena Mexico, but fans regularly
pack the Mecca of Lucha Libre to cheer on the league’s luchadors. Alex Hammond
& Ian Markiewicz take us behind-the-scenes and sometimes even behind the
masks in Lucha Mexico (trailer here), which opens this
Friday in New York.
now, Lucha Libre has penetrated the American pop culture consciousness. For the
mall crowds it was the Jack Black movie, whereas hipper viewers remember MST3K’s riffing on El Santo movies and
those who really like to get depressed probably made a point of seeing Arturo
Ripstein’s Bleak Street. All the
contradictory impressions we might have from those sources appear to be true.
luchadors have achieved great success in the ring, but even a superstar like
Shocker, known to his fans as “El 1000% Guapo” still relentlessly travels the shrinking
Lucha Libre circuit. Evidently, there used to be more venues in border cities
like Tijuana and Juarez, but luchadors stopping appearing there because of the cartel
violence. Shocker will be our quasi-guide through the world Lucha Libre, which
includes the “Technico” good guys, such as himself and his frequent American
tag-team partner, Jon ‘Strongman” Andersen, the “Rudo” bad guys, like Ultimo
Guerrero, Sexy Star and her fellow masked women, and the mascots, such as
also see how Lucha Libre has changed with the increasingly violent Mexican
culture. It seems like the breakaway Perros Del Mal is all rudos, but their
hardcore style has proved popular. The thumbtacks and broken light bulbs on the
mat are as real as it gets and so are the luchadors’ blood and scars.
or no script, the pain meted out during matches is often totally real. In fact,
tragedy struck twice during the filming of Lucha
Mexico, with the deaths of El Hijo Del Perro Aguayo, the founder of the
extreme Perros Del Mal spectacles and Fabian “El Gitano,” a well-regarded
Luchador’s Luchador and gym-owner. While Aguayo Jr’s death in the ring is
described as a “freak” accident, it hardly seems so unlikely given the nature
of Perros Del Mal bouts. For years, State Sen. Roy Goodman kept mixed martial
arts banned in New York State, because he considered it excessively brutal. Can
you imagine if he ever saw Aguayo’s colleagues at work? In contrast, El Gitano’s
fate is more complicated and more tragic in the Shakespearean sense.
are indeed real stakes in Lucha Libre, but the goofy spirit is also a lot of
fun, at least with respects to the traditional CMLL luchadors, such as Shocker
and the Blue Demon, Jr. Hammond & Markiewicz largely take an observational
approach, entirely skipping the talking head sit-downs. Yet, the vibe is more
like a casual hang than a dry exercise in direct cinema, largely thanks to the
charisma of Shocker and Andersen, their primary and secondary POV figures.
Serving as co-editors and co-cinematographers
(with a camera assist from indie stalwart Sean Price Williams) Hammond & Markiewicz
convey a vivid sense of place throughout the doc. Frankly, Old School is the
only term that really fits the seedy grandeur of the Arena Mexico. It makes you
wonder why El Rey or Spike TV haven’t yet been able to build a crossover
following for Lucha Libre. Lucha Mexico is
probably too intimate for the extreme sports audience, but fans of ESPN’s 30 for 30 and HBO’s Real Sports will find it worth engaging with. Recommended for the
intrigued, Lucha Mexico opens this
Friday (7/15) in New York, at the IFC Center.
Labels: Documentary, Lucha Libre Wrestling