LUCHA MEXICO, documentary, not rated, in Spanish and English with subtitles, The Screen, 2.5 chiles
Professional wrestling in Mexico is described by one of the combatants as “a show sport spectacle. If it were real, real, real,” he adds, “fights would last five minutes.”
There may be moments when you would wish the same running time for this movie, and yet the world whose curtain it lifts, and the men and women you will meet behind it, can be strangely compelling.
Fake? Sure. Choreographed? Definitely. And yet the thrills are real. The fame and hero-worship are real. The pain, and the injuries, and the blood, and the deaths are real.
Directors Alex Hammond and Ian Markiewicz, norteamericanos, spent four years putting this documentary together. A lot of it is filled with body slams and head locks and balletic dives that end in crunching body slams — and, if you are an aficionado of the sport, none of this will seem excessive. If you are not, prepare to suffer.
We spend most of our time with an elite cadre of the sport’s superstars, the ones who have made it to the major leagues, the CMLL (Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre). Our main guide is Shocker, an ex-U.S. Marine with a wide stripe of bleach-blond hair, and a mouth full (sometimes) of false teeth, who also goes by the name of 1000% Guapo. Others include Fabian, Blue Demon Jr. (his father, Blue Demon, was a famous wrestler and occasional movie star), El Hijo Del Perro Aguayo (of the team Perros Del Mal), Jon “Strongman” Andersen, Arkangel, and a midget named Kemonito, who remarks with fatalistic philosophy, “It hurts, but you get over it.” On the distaff side, there’s Faby Apache and her archrival Sexy Star, whom she caught sleeping with her husband. Many of them are second generation luchadores, drawn into the game in the hopes of impressing their fathers.
The wrestlers are divided into good guys (técnicos) and bad guys (rudos). Their roles are usually determined as they are learning the ropes — their instructors observe certain physical and character traits, and steer them in the appropriate direction.
Despite its enormous popularity, it is not a sport to get rich in. Many of the wrestlers wear colorful masks; it’s one of the badges of the sport. Blue Demon tells us he spends 18 hours a day in his mask. Getting your mask ripped off in a grudge match can be about as humiliating as it gets in the ring. Behind the scenes, the guys trudge along hauling their own suitcases. They admit to living a very lonely life. They’re very accessible to their fans. They sign lots of autographs, and pose for pictures. They show us their scars, and the blood they have shed.
We’re told about a couple of fatal injuries from the past. And then it happens here. One of the guys we’ve come to know gets killed in the ring. It’s pretty awful.
It’s not all fake.
Who was that masked man?