I’d seen those masks in the airport shops when I first entered Mexico. Those colourful masks, which I assumed were fancy gift ideas for kids. But a local friend cleared my misconception, and introduced me to Lucha libre – a kind of free style wrestling that is very popular in Mexico.
Lucha Libre, which in Spanish means free-style wrestling, is very similar to the American (staged) wrestling – WWF. In fact, some of the WWF moves have been adapted from this Mexican sport. This Mexican version of wrestling is one of the country’s biggest spectator activities today along with soccer. Colourful masks, flamboyant fighters (luchadores) and a lot of drama makes it a real fun event that shouldn’t be missed.
There’s nothing quite like a fight night at the Arena México. I was fortunate to catch a fight night in this venue. Below is a quick video I put together that will give you a sense of this massively popular sport:
Where to watch
In Mexico City, you can watch the fights at Arena México or Arena Coliseo. Arena Coliseo is the older and smaller venue. Tickets are available at both venues, or via Ticketmaster (www.ticketmaster.com.mx). Fights are usually held on Tuesday and Friday evenings and on Sundays. Do check the schedules in advance as timings could change. We did not book tickets in advance, but landed up at the venue on Sunday at around 3:30 pm (for a 5:00 pm fight) and got front row seats (6th row or so). Try to get the ringside seats if you can for the full effect but be warned that you may end up being part of the action when it overflows into the audience. They dont let you take food and drinks from outside; so do empty your water bottles before entering. They allowed us to take our backpack in (which had some paraphernalia I had picked up from outside the stadium).
The luchadores (fighters)
They are more entertainers and athletes than real wrestlers. The kind of moves they do are spectacular to say the least. The fighters who fight with their masks on will never remove the masks without being forced to. Some of the fights include a de-masking condition for the loser which equates to a loss of status.
And then, the birth of a new fighter…
And finally, here are my ‘before’ and ‘after’ mugshots. The ‘before’ picture shows me wearing a curly hair wig I bought outside the arena, settled in and ready for some action. The ‘after’ picture shows me wearing one of the Lucha libre masks, at home ready for a big fight with my wife and son.