December 18, 2006
Lucha libre lands in Minneapolis
By BILL FERNOW - SLAM! Wrestling

Mil Mascaras heads to the ring.
- photos by Jessica Davis

MINNEAPOLIS -- At first glance, lucha libre and Minnesota are not a natural mix. Yet a "Luchamania" show Saturday night attracted hundreds of fans to a thrilling card featuring stars from the Mexican AAA promotion. Over the past decade, changing demographics in Minnesota have resulted in many more Latino residents, who view lucha libre every week on Galavision.

Vertigo Promotions presented the card to the grateful fans at the First Avenue Night Club in Minneapolis. SLAM! Wrestling spoke with Juan Valdivia, who brought his son, Juan Jr., to the show. "This is the first time lucha libre has been in Minneapolis," he said. "We don't watch WWE," pointing to Juan Jr., who was wearing an El Santo mask. Valdivia was excited to share part of his childhood with his son, explaining how weekly attendance at the wrestling matches was a part of the culture growing up in Mexico.

With the high-quality sound system bumping with music, the atmosphere for the card was little bit wrestling, and a little bit rock and roll. And considering the many children in attendance being admitted free with their parents, it was also family friendly. At the merchandise table, reasonably priced wrestling masks and luchadore t-shirts sold briskly, while a few Batista and John Cena t-shirts made their way to the bottom of the pile.

The opener pitted Ray Fuego against Golden Star in a match that showcased both luchadors' aerial highspots. They meshed well, warming the crowd up before Golden Star won the match.

The next contest was a tag team match, with the macabre Animal Sam, accompanied by his manager Valkyrie, and Apostle 13, facing off against Black Boy and Eddie Sharkey's latest phenom, Asylum. Many fans in the audience were wondering how the massive Asylum, who resembles a very young Dick The Bruiser, would take to the lucha style; very well as it turned out. He more than held his own, showing a vast improvement in his abilities as a worker. Asylum sold his smaller opponents' offence believably, meshing smoothly with Animal Sam in particular. Black Boy and Asylum came out on top in a match that combined lucha libre with elements of the American style.

The audience was then thoroughly entertained by another tag bout featuring Pistolero and El Justiciero against the rudo team of Maleficio and El Rojo. The two teams worked together very well, with Maleficio and El Rojo injecting comedy into the night's festivities with a slapstick style of taking bumps that had the fans laughing out loud. Pistolero and El Justiciero prevailed, however, winning the match and challenging Maleficio and El Rojo to a mask versus mask challenge in the future. Maleficio told them he need to think about it, and would get back to them tomorrow, which led to everyone in attendance jeering him until he accepted.



Kaoru Maeda
In a match mixing minis and female wrestlers, Japanese wrestler Kaoru Maeda and Mini Abismo Negro took on La Parkita and Xochitl Hamada, daughter of Gran Hamada and former wife of Silver King. The match was incredibly fast paced, with Maeda displaying the hard-hitting style Japanese wrestlers are known for. La Parkita and Hamada were victorious, which La Parkita celebrated by performing an in-ring interpretive dance with two female fans from the audience.

In the main event of the evening, Mano Negra and El Halcon Oriental squared off against Principe Franky and La Leyenda Viviente (the living legend) Mil Mascaras. For days leading up to the event, fans in Minneapolis were abuzz about Mascaras' appearance. In the building before the matches began, the question was raised whether or not Mascaras could keep up with the younger wrestlers, and if he would even sell for them. Adding to the intrigue was a rumor that Mascaras had demanded his own dressing room. True or not, some in the audience expressed anti-Mascaras sentiment, and wondered how much Mascaras was paid in comparison to the other wrestlers.

After Mano Negra, El Halcon Oriental and Principe Franky were announced, it was time for Mascaras to enter the ring area. As the internationally known wrestler and movie actor made his way out of the dressing room, the audience went nearly silent and everyone this reporter observed was standing to catch a glimpse of him. Mascaras stood at ring's edge before entering the squared circle, and looked out at the fans before climbing through the ropes.

The match then began, and Mascaras stood on the apron, awaiting his partner's tag. The fans at ringside were watching him more intently than the match itself. Finally, the tag, and Mascaras vaulted into the middle of the ring, and took a headlock on his opponent. At nearly 70 years of age, Mascaras' physical condition is simply incredible. With his barrel chest, flat stomach, and the arms of a Mr. Olympia, Mascaras looks like a man 30 years younger. The former IWA and WWA World Champion did his thing, performing all of his signature moves, including going airborne and leg scissoring one opponent while headlocking the other, then turning and crashing them both to the mat. Mascaras truly does have loads of charisma, making it clear why he was one of Bill Apter's favorite wrestlers. As the masked superstar did his moves, he won the audience over quickly, and completely, as they showered the legend with applause and cheers.

As the match continued, Mascaras' opponents got in plenty of offense, too, pummeling him and sending him out of the ring, leaving Principe Franky to take over for his team. Principe Franky is a veteran, as are Mano Negra and El Halcon Oriental, and the three combined have over six decades' experience. It showed, as they all put on a great match.

In the end, Mascaras' experience, and perhaps his mythical status, was too much for his opponents, and he and Principe Franky issued them a resounding defeat. Mascaras took the microphone after the match, and expressed his appreciation for the fans, whose attitude had changed to one of reverence for the mat and film hero.


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    Bill Fernow is about as far from a luchador as you can get, but it wouldn't hurt him to wear a mask. He does sent a shout-out to Donn Wingate for his help with the piece. Email Bill at bf1_603@hotmail.com.


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