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  Jan 25, 2001



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SLAM! Wrestling Editorial: In defence of Lucha Libre
By JOHN F. MOLINARO -- SLAM! Wrestling

Lucha Libre:
Loosely translated - "free-fight". Mexican style of pro-wrestling.

A co-worker of mine here at CANOE, who also happens to be a wrestling fan, departed for a ten-day vacation in Mexico City yesterday. Seeing how he was going to be visiting a city that's a hotbed of Mexican wrestling, I told him he should check out a house-show at Arena Mexico, considered the Madison Square Gardens of Mexican wrestling.

Chris Jericho... one of many current superstars that honed his craft for years in Mexico before making it big in the WWF.

His response?

"I can't stand Lucha Libre. It isn't realistic. All that flying around... it isn't wrestling, it's gymnastics."

I can't say I was terribly surprised by his response. I've heard similar comments for as long as I've followed Mexican wrestling. Still, it's hard for me to fathom the pure ignorance displayed by wrestling fans who dismiss Lucha Libre as somehow less legitimate than American wrestling.

Criticisms of Lucha Libre looking unrealistic are simply laughable in light of what passes for wrestling in the WWF and WCW these days.

I've heard wrestling fans besmirch Lucha Libre endlessly for its choreographed dives and series of top rope leaps to the outside where an opponent stands ready to catch and break another wrestler's fall. In the eyes of many fans, that's what makes Lucha Libre unrealistic when compared to American wrestling.

Puh-lease!

Such observations are smug and shortsighted coming from the same fans who have no problem when some 'helpless' opponent positions himself perfectly and lies prone on the mat for the full minute it takes Scotty Too Hotty to perform 'The Worm'.

Lucha Libre unrealistic?

Is it any more unrealistic than HHH surviving a 75 foot crash to the ground at the WWF's Survivor Series pay-per-view, only to return the following week on RAW without a scratch?

Saying Lucha Libre is simply gymnastics displays a general lack of understanding of what pro wrestling is. Pro wrestling isn't simply collar and elbow tie ups, inside cradles, Irish whips and figure-fours. It's a melange of aerial moves, scientific maneuvering and acrobatic displays of athleticism.

What would wrestling be like if it were all just mat exchanges, hardcore brawls with frying pans and stripper matches between female valets?

Another knock I've heard is that there's too much co-operation in Mexican wrestling and that it destroys the illusion of the work looking 'real'.

Come off it!

You don't think there's co-operation involved when Kevin Nash powerbombs some poor stiff? Co-operation is the cornerstone of American wrestling.

I think the real issue here and what bothers most fans unfamiliar with Mexican wrestling is that it is inherently more athletic and physically demanding than American wrestling.

Luchadores are not sports entertainers. They are not action-adventure heros. They are highly-trained wrestlers, continually pushing themselves to always push the proverbial envelope when putting together a match.

Much like soccer is considered 'the beautiful game' among traditional team-sports, Lucha Libre is 'beautiful wrestling'. When it is performed at its very best by trained and experienced luchadores, Lucha Libre is the most aesthetically appealing and breathtaking form of pro wrestling on earth.

With its lightning quickness, ballet like grace, and breath-taking beauty, Lucha Libre succeeds in captivating its audience unlike any other style of professional wrestling.

It is a brilliant dichotomy of precise execution and improvisation. By way of death-defying tope con hilos, spine-tingling quebraduras and perfectly displayed Tapatias, Lucha Libre manages to defy the laws of physics and gravity.

It is poetry. It is sport. It is art.

More than any other style of wrestling, be it Japanese Puroresu, English collar-and-elbow grappling or Australian catches-catch-can, Lucha Libre has helped to expand the repertoires of Canadian and American wrestlers.

Quebrada. Asai-moonsault. Magistral cradle. Gori-special. Huracanrana. Tope suicida. Plancha.

These are all wrestling moves that have become a part of the average wrestling fan's vocabulary. All moves mastered, perfected and originated in the Lucha Libre style.

Furthermore, fans can thank Mexico for developing some of the biggest stars in the WWF and WCW past and present.

Chris Benoit, Chris Jericho, the late Owen Hart, Satoru Sayama (the original Tiger Mask), Ultimo Dragon, Val Venis, Justin Bradshaw, Vampiro, Vader, Too Cold Scorpio, Eddie Guerrero, Tajiri, the late Art Barr, Kaz Hayashi, Norman Smiley... all of these men spent considerable time wrestling in Mexico before masking it big in the U.S.

All of them honed and polished their crafts in Mexico, learning the finer points of Lucha Libre and adding it to their impressive repertoire of moves and unique styles.

Fact is, Lucha Libre provides the perfect training ground for young, hungry wrestlers to perfect their craft. It's long been said by wrestling experts that if you can effectively work the Lucha Libre style, than you can master any style of pro wrestling.

Their can't be any question or doubt that Benoit and Jericho would be the wrestlers they are today if not for the years they spent competing in Mexico. What both of them have done, perhaps better than anybody else, is amalgamate parts of Lucha Libre with aspects of other wrestling disciplines they picked up from around the world into a revolutionary 'potpourri' wrestling style.

The success of Chris Benoit and Chris Jericho is a testament to the legitimacy and value of Mexican wrestling. Anybody that believes the silly notion that Lucha Libre isn't 'real' wrestling, need only look at how much they've accomplished in the WWF.


Reader Notice

Since many readers have asked me in the past about how they can see Mexican wrestling in light of the fact it isn't readily available without a satellite dish, I highly recommend checking out Highspots. It's one of the top Lucha Libre sites on the Net and they sell video tapes of Mexican wrestling at reasonable prices. The god folks at Highspots are very reliable tape dealers and have a vast selection of tapes that would be perfect for any fan interested in purchasing some Mexican wrestling tapes.

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