June 17, 2006
Lucha Libre 101Mexican wrestling brand a lot different than WWE
By TJ MADIGAN - Calgary Sun
This weekend, thousands of Calgarian movie goers -- many of whom couldn't tell a power slam from a piledriver -- will visit their local movie theatre to watch Nacho Libre.
(The movie is a quirky comedy from Paramount Pictures starring Jack Black as a Mexican priest who secretly moonlights as a pro wrestler.)
An understanding of grappling isn't necessary to get the gags but fans who are accustomed to Vince McMahon's vision of sports entertainment may raise an eyebrow at the movie's wrestling scenes.
In fact, if you didn't get the joke in the title of the movie ('Nacho Libre' is a play on the term 'Lucha Libre') the in-ring sequences will probably make little sense.
So, to fully prepare readers for the Nacho experience, here's: 'Lucha Libre 101' -- The Calgary Sun's beginner guide to all things masked, melodramatic and Mexican.
Lucha Libre is the dominant style of pro wrestling in Mexico. It's hugely popular in Hispanic areas of the U.S. and a religion anywhere south of the U.S./Mexico border.
Here in the Great White North, our primary exposure to Lucha comes from stars such as Rey Mysterio and Juventud Guerrera, who successfully made the transition to the U.S. major leagues. WWE's cruiserweight division and TNA's X-division are heavily influenced by Lucha, though the style is watered down to mesh with North American ring psychology and match layouts.
Much like its American counterpart, Lucha action takes place in a ring and pins or submissions end the match. There are good guys and bad guys, just like here at home and the results are just as pre-determined as in WWE.
But that's where the similarities end and, for first time viewers, watching a Lucha match can be a bit like entering the wrestling twilight zone.
While American wrestling is usually based on power moves, Lucha Libre employs faster sequences of theatrical high flying. It often looks less like a fight and more like a dance-off, as Luchadores (wrestlers) backflip, cartwheel and spin around each other at lightening speed.
The familiar one-fall format is rarely used in Lucha Libre, with most matches being contested as two-out-of-three-fall bouts.
Tag team matches are the norm, though the rules are far more complex than what Monday Night Raw viewers are used to. Under Lucha rules, both members of a two-man team must be pinned for the match to end. In a trios (six-man) match, the team captain must pin the opposing captain or at least two members of the opposition to get the win.
Lucha Libre has a ton of other offbeat rules. Piledrivers are illegal and result in an immediate disqualification. Wrestlers who fight between rounds run the risk of having the previous decision reversed. Grapplers are even divided into weight classes, to give the feuds more realistic fight scenarios.
But the biggest differentiator between McMahon's wrestling empire and the world of Lucha Libre is the masks that hide the identities of the performers.
For Luchadores, the mask is a sign of honour. They wear it in the ring, for public appearances and some have even been buried wearing their mask.
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