Mondo Lucha A Go-go
“A Colorful Journey into the Bizarre, Surreal and Honored World of Mexican Wrestling”
The Start of the Journey
By Dan Madigan Good versus Evil…the oldest story in the world…the main event…the final showdown…the basis of all dramatic storytelling…from mythology to the Bible…from legends to movies…comic books and pulp novels. It’s the two gunslingers squaring off on a dusty western town at high noon, ready to blaze into American folklore. It’s a pair of Japanese samurais standing poised with swords drawn, blades gleaming in the setting sun in an apple blossom orchard, ready to die to defend their honor. Every culture has their heroes and villains. And it’s their stories, their mythos and their legends that live on forever and ever. One exciting aspect of the Latino culture plays out its stories and mythos within the squared circle…all the passion, pageantry, emotion, violence, adventure, love and hate play out within the ropes of the wrestling ring. The word is “lucha libre” and its name resonates respect and awe throughout the Latin world. A combination of sport, entertainment and dramatic storytelling all rolled up into one flamboyant history. “Lucha libre” goes from realistic combat to over the top wild high flying insanity. It’s an infectious way of life, a crowd-screaming spectacle and just plain fun. I remember the first time I saw him on the screen of my grandfather’s black and white television, the local UFH station flickered snowy images and at times the reception was so bad that phantom images wavered across the screen (in the prehistoric times before cable television and remote control), the picture wavered between slightly discernable to out of control focus…but he stood there in all of his static-infused glory, the most unique person I had ever seen…El Santo…legend…myth…and hero…a silver masked man who flew around the ring like a dervish of high flying moves, devastating punches and kicks. I had seen American wrestling on Saturday mornings. I was an avid reader of comic books and fanatical fan of horror movies but for the first time everything I loved was rolled into one big mass of righteous Mexican muscle under a mysterious silver mask. Nothing I had seen up to that point was as awe-inspiring as the image of El Santo on that fuzzy 18” screen, even through the snow and static I could tell that this man was something special. The audio was badly dubbed so I couldn’t follow the story. I remember Santo’s friend would keep talking for a few seconds after his mouth stopped moving. At that point I chalked it up to a language barrier I didn’t understand as child. El Santo made such an impression on me that from that moment I was hooked, but there lay the problem, as I said this was the time before VCR’s and cable television pay-per-view, my chance encounter with El Santo was something of a fluke, I didn’t know who El Santo was at time or how to find anything out about him or if I would see him again or if that station would ever play another Santo film. I can’t even remember the film I saw him in but his image was burned into my mind, and my imagination was raging full blown lucha libre before I even knew what lucha libre was.
Cut to several years later and I’m anxious adolescent looking through some second hand wrestling magazines in a comic book shop that was more of a fire hazard than place of business. I come upon a battered issue of Pro-Wrestling Illustrated
magazine and on the cover I saw that face I remembered so vividly on the black and white television screen as a kid staring out at me from the creased and torn cover…El Santo…WOW! That same feeling of excitement I felt years earlier came rushing back. I grabbed the magazine without even looking through it, threw my seventy-five cents on the counter and ran outside…
To be continued…