• Matt Dod

Lucha Libre Darkest Days

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Lucha Libre directly translated into English, means free fighting and that is exactly how you could describe Mexico’s version of this universally loved form of choreographed combat.


With its colourful and high-flying characters, hidden behind elaborate decorative costumes and masks the luchadores who battle within the squared circle are as much talented exhibitionists as they are out right fighters. Like many aspects of Mexican life, lucha libre is steeped in tradition and folklore. And in turn, over the past century Lucha Libre has become a part of the fundamental fabric of entertainment for many in this part of the world.


A place to celebrate the outrageous, entertaining and at times emotional, just like in the United States, Mexican wrestling’s history is not without its dark moments. From in-ring incidents gone horribly wrong, to the final days of some of lucha Libre’s most beloved performers. In this video, I want to examine these darker shadows and pay respect to those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our entertainment.



LUCHA DESTROYS 5 YEAR OLD


As children, many of us look up to actors, musicians and athletes as idols and role models. And in Mexico so many young wrestling fans admire their favourite luchadores and revere them as heroes. That is what makes this next horrible incident all the more shocking.


During an unsanctioned wrestling event in Venustiano Carranza in Mexico City, 'Einar El Vikingo' (Einar The Viking) found himself on the wrong end of a defeat at the hands of a fellow local luchadore. Dejected, The Viking slumped down on the pavement next to where his unsuccessful match had just taken place.


Simultaneously, whilst seemingly caught up in the emotions we all felt as children watching pro wrestling, a small boy runs over as if to console the wrestler and wrap his arms around his neck for a hug. However, the young boy, Mateo who at the time was only 5 years old made a huge mistake. One which at that young age, he surely can’t be blamed for. The young attacker tightened his grip around Einar’s neck and began to jokingly choke the downed luchadore.


This is when the wrestler quickly jumped back to his feet and responded to the small boys choke by slinging him round like a wet tracksuit, twisting his arm and sending the poor lad slumping down hard into the tarmac.


The Viking, whose real name is Einar Cruz was arrested shortly after when members of the young boys family informed the Mexico City Police of the incident. However, the 21 year old wrestler was shortly released, with the Attorney General of Justice of Mexico City Ernestina Godoy Ramos explaining that


“Einar Cruz had to be released shortly afterward, because the boy's injuries were minor and not enough to charge him at the time.”

The violent outburst made local news and people were rightly outraged at what they had witnessed on a video which had now gone viral. Mateo's grandmother Sandra Alvarez told a press conference: "I was really upset that he grabbed my grandson. I yelled at him 'what's going on?' and he yelled back at me. Then my nephew and my brother stepped in, and then everybody started crowding around him. As you can see from the video, there was no police there to detain him. That's not right when there's a child involved.


He may not have felt the full force of the law following his attack, but Einar Cruz was ridiculed publicly by his local community and banned for life by the Mexico City Wrestling Commission, forbidding him from ever performing in a legally licenced match in the area ever again.


ENGULFED IN FLAMES


When Sangre Chicana Junior teamed p with Hijo de Centurion to take on the partnership f Heavy Rock and Baby Rap, he couldn’t possibly of predicted how the evening would play out. In Coahuila, in front of a small handful of rabbid fans, the four men wanted to put on a spectacle that the fans wouldn’t soon forget. Sangre China Junior’s actions that day would guarantee that.


As the fight came to its conclusion, a visual spectacle occurred when a wooden table was set on fire outside of the ring. Now this is by no means a rarity in the world of pro wrestling. Sometimes in pro wrestling when a rivalry has boiled over, through the course of many bloody battles, show creators love to represent that heat through the literal introduction of fire. And this day in Coahuila was supposed to follow this same path. But it didn’t.


Fans cheered and gasped as they anticipated what would happen next. As the table continued to blaze high into the air, Sangre Chicana joined the vapours as he was acrobatically thrown from the ring.


As he came crashing down, the lighter fluid used to spark the fire on the table catch his back and explode into a jaw dropping flash of orange and white. An exhillerating moment, which is performed safely would have gone straight into this young luchadores highlight reel.


However, unfortunately the flames proved too hot and the lighting liquid too liberally applied. Leaving Chicana ablaze on the ground as his fellow wrestlers rushed to his aid. But the damage was already done. As the wrestlers carried him away from the match it was clear that he was in serious pain.


The young man had suffered dangerous third-degree burns and attended to by arena staff and a medical team, with the skin on his back and sides severely blistered and singed. A moment which those in attendance and Sangre Chicana Junior will always remember, but for all the wrong reasons.


But… this isn’t the only time a flame related pro wrestling move has gone horribly wrong. Heck, it’s not even the only one featured in this video.



LA PARKA


Jesús Alfonso Huerta Escoboza started his wrestling journey in Senora Mexico in 1987 and the desire and passion which he showed as a young man when he first stepped into a lucha libre ring, continued to burn within him until his last days. Since the early 2000s Escoboza performed as enmascerado or masked wrestler.


The La Parka character was originally conceived by Adolfo Margarito Tapia Ibarra, and is for most American and European wrestling fans, the version you will most likely be familiar with for his run in WCW in the 90s.


When the original La Parka character left Triple A and joined their rivals CMLL, Escaboza took the character and made it his own. Following a lengthy legal battle and a match at Triple Mania, Escoboza won the rights to fight under his now iconic sketelon mask under the now infamous name of La Parka.


The Mask or The Costume, as The direct English translation brought with him to the ring a sense of pure entertainment, spectacle and above all else a light hearted comedic spin on lucha libre.


From his hilarious dance moves and ability to communicate without words, or fourth-wall-breaking offence. La Parka always stood out, and not just because of his legendary escaletto costume.


Loved by so many Mexican wrestling fans, Escoboza would go on to wear the La Parka costume for more than 20 years. In which time he would go on to achieve victories in both the Triplemanía and Antonio Peña Cup, as well as being crowned the King Of Kings by Lucha Libre AAA Worldwide.


PUNCH


One of the fundamental parts of La Parka’s character, derives from the mystery of his mask. A hidden identity is something to be respected in the world of Lucha Libre and an enmascarado must always protect their face with their mask. It is expected that any performer with an ounce of dignity would also respect the masked luchador’s desire to remain anonymous and should never resort to pulling or attempting to remove said mask. So, when during a match La Parka felt his face covering being tugged from behind, he did what was necessary to maintain his anonymity. Turning and delivering a swift punch to the man who was foolish enough to attempt to break this sacred Mexican tradition.


However, it was not one of his opponents in the match which had pulled on La Parka’s mask, but instead a rather dim-witted fan. Who had completely over stepped the invisible boundary between the performers and the crowd and in his attempt to interject himself into the match in the most disrespectful way possible, had put himself into a position of real danger.


Perhaps this was not in fact a lucha fan, but someone who was tagging along with his friends and maybe consumed one too many coronas. It could have been his first show, or maybe he was simply an idiot. Whatever drove this man to such a reckless act in front of a crowd full of lucha fans is beyond me. What I do know however, is that in one moment this fan decided that he wanted to go home with a precious souvenir from the event and instead went home with a black eye and his tail tucked firmly between his legs.


This would not prove to be the darkest moment of La Parka’s carer as this fairy-tale story, as you have probably worked out from it’s inclusion in this video. Came to a horrific and terrible end.


DEATH


When, in October of 2020 during a match in Mexico La Parka attempted a move he had performed hundreds if not thousands of time before. Running across the ring and diving through the ropes, landing onto the unsuspecting opponent who is stood ringside.


But as La Parka flew through the air, his leap proved too vigorous, his dive too lengthy. As he cleared the ropes but also cleared the space outside the ring, his head slamming into the bottom of the guard rail, leaving the luchador slumped on the ground.


The crowd in the arena initially laugh and cheered as if this was just another funny stunt by the career long comedic wrestler. But no. As it quickly became apparent something was dreadfully wrong, the crowd grew concerned as wrestlers and arena staff rushed to La Parka’s aid.


He was rushed to a local medical facility where he underwent emergency surgery and was put onto assisted breathing. However, the damage sustained from the freak accident proved too severe, with Escoboza’s lungs and kidneys shutting down over the next few weeks.


Finally, after 2 months of medical intervention and the fight for his life, La Parka died from cervical and neck fractures he received at the age of just 54.


Following his sad passing, there was a huge outpouring of support from the Mexican lucha libre community. His family and friends were well supported by fans and wrestlers alike as hundreds flocked to pay their final respects to a man who died in an attempt to entertain them.


In classic Mexican style, La Parka’s funeral was a place of celebration for his life’s work and saw many of his wrestling contemporaries turn out to mourn the loss of their masked brother. The funeral was a place of colour, emotion and plenty of lucha masks. A fitting tribute to one of the industries most beloved icons.


Later that year, La Parka’s name was immortalised when he posthumously received an induction into the illustrious Triple A Hall Of Fame. But that wasn’t the most prestigious honour bestowed upon La Parka. For they say that imitation is the highest form of flattery. And in the sometimes insane world of lucha libre, one beloved form of imitation is that of the dwarven variety. With La Parka having his very own miniature version of his character, known as La Parkita. A man who himself had a very sad story to tell…



LUCHA DWARFS KILLED BY PROSTITUTES


Mexico City is one of the most vibrant and exciting mega cities in the entire world. And this struggling metropolis, with its population of over 20 million is also one of the most dangerous. This was made abundantly clear to two masked dwarf luchadores who headed out after a wrestling show in the city to find the company of a pair of street walkers, female company for the evening.


Soon however, the passionate night took a turn for the worse when La Parkita and Espectrito were dosed with a lethal amount of sedative in a robbery turned murder.


Both men’s bodies were discovered in a cheap hotel room in a suburb of Mexico City and autopsies were carried out shortly after to determine the cause of death. When a substance known to police was discovered by the medical examiner, it was clear that this common form of scam had been attempted.2 or more prostitutes would entice men into their hotel rooms. Slip them a sedative in a drink and wait for them to fall harmlessly asleep, before stealing their personal possessions. This was a fact which was cemented when authorities were alerted to a further clue by a nameless bystander.


Mexico City Police said “Two women were seen leaving the men's hotel room before the bodies were discovered.” It has since been speculated by experts that the 2 masked luchadores may have been more easily overdosed as the criminals who doped them may not have accounted for their smaller mass. Prosecutor Miguel Angel Mancera said “gangs of female robbers are experienced at using drugs to knock men out and rob them, but they may have used too strong a dose.”


The two women responsible for this horrid act were both eventually captured by police after a member of the public recognised them via a photo fit. A press conference was held shortly after to announce their arrest and to explain that both women would feel the full strength of the Mexican criminal justice system.


La Parkita and Espectrito were perhaps not the most famous, nor successful of luchadores through their career. However, both men had accrued a dedicated following of passionate fans who would come out to see their unusually small way of performing in the ring. And to those fans, and many others around the world, the death of these two men is surely one of the darkest in the industries history.



AAA/Big Lucha Event In Mexico Canceled By Threat From Drug Cartel


Every year in Mexico, thousands of lives are cut short in relation to the brutal and ever present wars between rival drug cartels. Territory, power and influence are the prize which these ruthless gangs of traffickers constantly fight over.


Huge portions of Mexico are controlled by a handful of these cartels, some of which boast recruitment numbers and military arsenals which rival even the Mexican government. Alongside political corruption, kidnappings and murders, Mexican cartels often resort to extortion as a means of profiteering from the innocent.


One such incident occurred when the feared gang La Familia Michoacana were said to be in the process of extorting money from Mario Garcia a local events promoter. When Mario Garcia was promoting a series of events in Mexico state, known as The Metepec Fair a large part of the festivities was surrounding the upcoming Triple A show which would take place in the middle of the week long event.


However when banners calling for the cancellations of said event begun being hung in the area surrounding the event, The Metepec Fair came to a premature end. The messages read: "Urgent message: We inform all the artists who were going to perform in the Metepec Fair not to perform at that venue, to avoid the spilling of innocent blood including theirs … due to the actions of that bum, the businessman Mario García, they are prohibited from performing. Respect our organization and we will respect your lives. Familia Michoacana."


When, just a few days later a tour bus was hit with a barrage of gun shots, it looked as if this serious situation was about to become deadly. The bus in question was taking a touring band, La Adictiva to their scheduled show at the fair, but this proved to be the final straw.


With police unable to act due to the ferocity and size of La Familia Michoacana the event was cancelled. Promoters and owners from AAA have refused to comment. A position which I fully understand, given the danger they would be posed with it found to be talking out about such a powerful gang.



MACHO


I wanted to explore the ideas of masculinity and sexuality as it is portrayed within lucha libre in Mexico. In my extensive reading, I realised how I was personally unable to speak on these sensitive issues, as I have no first hand experience of my own. So, with a desire to avoid miss-speaking and potentially offending anyone, I wanted to share with you direct quotes from some much more knowledgeable and informed minds.


“In many Hispanic cultures such as that of Mexican culture, masculinity dominates the average household. In Veronica Ortiz’s “The Culture of Machismo in Mexico Harms Women” she describes Machismo as a commonly used synonym for sexism and misogyny and is a word that promotes an attitude and conception that men are by nature, superior to women. Machismo reinforces the idea that women in Mexico are second-class citizens and the expectation is for them to be the “the little lady of the house”. Machismo and the Hispanic Culture Penn State University


So, how does this masculinity manifest in the way characters who are gay, female or transgendered are treated by crowds in Mexico? I’d like to first look at the colourful and glamourous world of the exotico.


EXOTICO


In the world of American pro wrestling, there are stereotypes and tropes which inform the way we watch and enjoy the show. Across the border in Mexico, this idea of archetypal characters is taken even more seriously. From the 1940s, when a character appeared for the first time in the ring before the fans, members of the audience wouldn’t have to wait long to see what type of luchador they would be. It goes 50/50 with half the roster playing the good guy or tecnicos and the other half the villains or rudos. This division is then further narrowed down into sub categories. One of which is the exotico.


“They just can’t get to the word exotico. They were rudos because they were like the clowns in the circus,” says Cassandro. “They were there to make people laugh. They weren’t really gay, unless they were in the closet.”

With the meteoric success of Ru Paul’s Drag Race, over the past decade Drag Queens have become more widely accepted and appreciated in Europe and the US than ever before. The combination of over-the-top queer humour, body positivity and buckets of fun, it’s easy to see why so many have become fans of the Drag culture. But the idea of a man dressing up and acting in a feminine way for entertainment is nothing new. Dressed in sequins, make-up and comically large hair, Lucha Libre in Mexico has it’s Exoticos. But where Drag Queens in the US draw cheers and applause, the way the Exoticos are treated in Mexico is completely different.


“Lucha libre in Mexico is like a religion,” says Cassandro, “and Mexico is a very machista country. Homophobia is everywhere. Wrestling matches serve as pressure valves for the frustrated working poor. It’s like a free therapy session for them. They will go and scream their lungs out, and all the anger about what’s been done to them during the week, they get it out on the exoticos.”


It is interesting to see how Cassandro is happy to be a vehicle for some local men to release their real-life frustrations on, something which I as a straight British man would never have thought about before. I guess, I have to step back and realise that the culture in Mexico is so different to that which I have been raised within and that every person’s world view is simple a reflection of their surroundings.


Mexico is an overwhelmingly Catholic country and most Mexican’s lives are deeply led by religious traditions. Being a homosexual to many Catholics is a sin and Exoticos are seen as flagrantly shoving their gayness on the audience.


“In our society, lesbians and bisexual women are rarely taken seriously by the mainstream -- and the same thing happens in the LGBT community. "They just need some good dick." "They are only confused -- after all, they're women." We live in a phallocentric world that doesn't accept women's choices and desires. It's very easy to get called a "slut" nowadays; all it takes is for a woman to say that she doesn't need a man to be happy.” Frente Feminista Casperiana Lisandra, Contributor


I can see the allure of using this narrative device which is so guaranteed to draw the desired reaction from the baying fans in the crowd. But it still sticks in my throat. I want to live in a world of acceptance. One where everyone is treated equally and fairly. And having a character whose main purpose is to be a place where bigoted homophobes can express their true anger, just doesn’t seem like the sort of light-hearted family fun we so often associate with lucha libre. Okay so a vast portion of the Mexican wrestling crowd do not like the connotation that they are watching a gay man who is dressed up like a woman. So, how does the predominantly male audience treat the actual female wrestlers on the roster?


“In 2011, the Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto was asked during an interview about the price of Tortillas, his response was “I don’t know, I am not the lady of the house” his response was viewed as humorous and quick-witted, sadly it reinforces the idea that machismo and masculinity is king. Domestic violence and femicide within Mexico are on the rise, violent offenses against women have gone up 7.7 percent in 2020. The Machismo mentality has fostered a culture that protects the aggressor by normalizing hyper-masculine conduct.” Machismo and the Hispanic Culture Penn State University


This wide spread view of women in Mexico can be felt in the way in which female wrestlers are presented. Although many of the women athlete are just as fast paced and high-flying as their male counter parts, the focus of their characters are often on their feminine beauty and elegance rather than their masculine power and strength.


Big Mexican wrestling shows often feature ring girls, women who hold up information cards and warm-up their crowd with their mere bikini wearing presence. Male members of the crowd freely shout sexually suggestive slurs towards the women who step in the ring and make comments about their weight and appearance. Something which they rarely impose on the male roster.


But even in the face of such an ingrained set of predujices, some powerful people are still refusing to lie down. With perception and opinion slowly changing across Mexico, there has been a new generation of Exoticos and female wrestlers who have brought about positive, albeit incremental change. Hopefully, as the world’s collective mind continues to expand, we will see more kick-ass luchadores and gorgeous glittering exoticos becoming stars in Mexico in the future.


In many ways, Mexican pro wrestling is one of the most important influences on the way in which popular American companies such as AEW and WWE display their action in ring and out. Not everyone will be a fan of the most high tempo and balletic form of lucha libre often put on display by some of the best luchadores in Mexico and around the world. But surely, nobody can deny the amount of strength, training and skill required to safely and consistently put on matches which involve such a breakneck pace.

That makes these dark moments covered in todays video even the more difficult to relive. As we see our heroes fall, especially in the emotionally charge world of pro wrestling, it can hit us on a deep and almost primitive level. The death of an icon is never easy to forget.

Hopefully we can look past all of the darkness, tragedy and death and remember all of the passion and love that these dedicated men and women had to show to train up and step between the ropes. After all, the whole reason they did that, was to entertain us. The fans.



For more on this topic and other wrestling related videos, check out my YouTube.