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La Lucha Libre

Colour and chaos mash so well in Mexico City that for a tourist, it’s a hard to place to start. There’s the art, palaces and ancient temples. How quickly do you become a Tequila expert? Which of the 16 districts do you visit first? And when do you loosen your belt to start eating? Include the 20 million person obstacle course and you get the drift, it’s a fun and wild place.

However, with all that combined there is still a certain something that gives Mexico City a different flair. Its direct translation is ‘Free Fight’, but you know it much better as ................La Lucha Libre!

The carnival-esque world of professional wrestling has been a pile driving pass time in Mexico for over 80 years. Where football is still considered to be more popular and prominent amongst males, it’s this smash mouth spectacle that has bonded families for generations. Have some fun with it and ask the locals. Whether they are guiding you to Frida’s portraits or pouring your Mezcal, every one of those 20 million will be sure to have an opinion. The high praise in their voice when they speak of El Santo, Blue Demon or current day superstar Mystico, reflects just how larger than life these performers are.

For those unfamiliar with the pageantry of pro wrestling, it follows the simple formula of Cain and Able…. Good vs Evil. The baddies try to cheat and get abused for it. The goodies are admired and cheered. All the while they are both trying to pin each other to the mat for the 1-2-3!

The Luchador mask, a cornerstone of the spectacle, is flamboyantly designed to replicate images of Gods dating back to the Aztecs. So not only are we talking historical and cultural significance, it’s spiritual as well. You’re not playing a God, you are one. It’s serious. Now off with some heads, and on with the show.

I arrive at the ‘The Cathedral ‘ (Arena Mexico) for the weekly television taping which it has hosted since the 1950s, and it feels like a happening! The streets are a buzz and are jam packed with stalls selling all types of merchandise. You’ll be overwhelmed so let me make it easier for you, get a mask and a cape. You can have fun with them.

Inside you’re greeted with colourful murals, food stores and more merchandise. First prize however goes to the cerveza stand selling cold beer. Have one, which really means two. Your super-sized paper cup drowns under a wave of Coronas with the added ingredients of chilli, lemon and salt. Yes thanks. It’s the perfect antidote to be screaming “OUTRA! OUTRA!” (“MORE! MORE!”) in just a few moments.

Once seated, each wrestler is introduced individually with his/her own music, lights and pyro show. Now that’s an entrance! The chichi costumes, from gladiator to acid skeleton clown to name only two, make the overall presentation of the night out of this world. So much glitter, so much lycra.

Like any performer, they itch to play off the crowd and get every opportunity with the 10,000 strong at hand. Whether it’s a child or grandparent, the audience’s voices are constantly heard and the passion is infectious. I give it a try and antagonise one of the female wrestlers who was playing dirty…… and then quickly sit down when she has me believing she’s about to jump the rail and slap the taste out of my mouth! Good times.

From there the card of multiple matches entertains with impressive stunt mastery, panache, circus acrobatics and theatre all combined. The blend of boos and cheers accompanies the steel chairs, snakes, hard hits and bright lights all night long.

Hometown hero Mystico closes the show with a strong win in the main event to send the fans home elated for another week. It’s a smart move by the promoter. I’m really not sure what would have happened otherwise. Before he exists, he stops and conducts some magnificent poses for the snap happy crowd.

This whole gig may be fiction and predetermined, though the joy on the local’s faces tells a different tale. So don’t be too quick to dismiss the fake fight under the spot lights when you’re in Mexico City.

Suspend disbelief, buy a ticket and enjoy the show….violence has never been so glamorous.

Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre (CMLL) is located at the Arena Mexico, 189 Calle Dr. Lavista, Colonia Doctores, Mexico City, 06720

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