Lucha Mexico: A Gritty Unmasking of Mexico’s Wrestling Tradition

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<2h>Lucha Mexico Plot Summary:

Alex Hammond and Ian Markiewicz’s documentary looks at the Mexican style of professional wrestling, lucha libre. The film examines lucha libre’s place in Mexican culture, how it was impacted by the demise of the Mexican economy and the rise of drug cartels, and the lives of individual luchadors from various walks of life.

Wrestling documentaries usually find themselves lumped into a specific niche. Some documentaries are about the real lives, the struggles, and successes of the wrestlers themselves. There are others examine the cultural, or historic impact of wrestling. While some document the gritty, demanding, and tragic side of the wrestling business.

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Alex Hammond, and Ian Markiewicz’s Lucha Mexico borrows elements from all three of these archetypes, and presents them in a honest, but respectful “unmasking” of lucha libre. The execution isn’t perfect, but when this film clicks, you find yourself lost in a world of colorful masks, and gigantic personalities.

If you’re a wrestling history buff, and are looking for a grand, Ken Burns-style documentary on the history of lucha libre (which would be amazing), this is not your film. History is used to as a frame of reference, and as a way to further flesh out the luchadors who are being featured. Probably the most fascinating piece of history told in the documentary is about the famed Arena Mexico — which is in essence Mexico’s Madison Square Garden (in regards to wrestling history).

Where the film resoundingly succeeds is telling the stories of the luchadors. There are some stories that I wish they could’ve delved into further like that of luchadoras like Faby Apache, or Sexy Star. It would’ve added a nice wrinkle to learn about women in lucha libre — both from a historic, and modern day perspective.

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The star of the film is undoubtedly “1000% Guapo” Shocker. The bulky, bleached blonde luchador may be known to American audiences for his quick run in TNA, but in Mexico he is a legend. Shocker has an enormous personality for a rather soft-spoken, and too-the-point person. It’s fascinating to see his everyday life unfold before our eyes. He’s a bonafide star, but his home, and his car are modest. When he’s not wrestling, he’s hustling at his steakhouses in Mexico. It’s also insane to see him wrestling in front a jam-packed Arena Mexico with all the pyro and TV production, and then we cut to a shot of him wrestling in a dimly lit, muddy parking lot under a tent in front of maybe 25 people. That’d be like John Cena headlining Wrestlemania one day, and then later that week wrestling at an Elks Lodge in Manasquan, New Jersey. Shocker’s determination, and love for lucha libre really shines through, and his magnetic personality makes him highly enjoyable to watch.

Blue Demon Jr., and Strongman are two of the other “stars” or subjects of the film. Demon’s inclusion in the film illustrates the rich history of lucha libre in Mexican culture, the sanctity of a luchador’s mask, and the price of being a masked wrestler in Mexico. It’s an informative, and somewhat sad story. Strongman, on the other hand, is an American wrestler who is neck deep in the lucha world. He’s a great character, and his finest moments come when he’s at home with his children. However, his purpose for the film, outside of being Shocker’s buddy, really is a bit of a head scratcher.

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There are two luchadors featured in this film that are there to show the dark side of wrestling. Sadly, this was probably not the intention of the filmmakers, as both men passed away during filming. The first is the gym-owning luchador Fabian Gitano who committed suicide not long after loosing his mask in a match. The other was Perro Aguayo Jr., who died in an absolute freak accident in 2015 when a kick to the back caused him to have a spinal stroke. While Gitano’s passing is sad, the Agauyo segments are eerily prophetic. Throughout his interview segments Agauyo, an affable and intelligent man, speaks at great length about his injuries, and how he has to be careful in the ring, or one small move to end it all. These words are chilling to hear, especially since most lucha fans will know of his passing before watching this documentary.

Lucha Mexico is a fascinating look at the world of lucha libre, a world most American wrestling fans only have a cursory knowledge of. You get to go behind the curtain of this revered Mexican tradition, yet the film never disrespects the precepts and sacredness of lucha libre.

Rating: 8 out of 10

Bill Bodkin is the owner, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break. Most importantly, however, he is the proud father of a beautiful daughter, Sophie. He can be seen regularly on the site reviewing The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, and is the host of the site's podcast, The BreakCast. He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @BodkinWrites