The Lucha Libre Boom: Don’t Call It A Comeback.
The following editorial was written by Angel Garcia and does not reflect the opinions of WrestleZone as a whole. We encourage you all to discuss Angel’s thoughts in the comments section at the bottom of this post or by tweeting him @GuerillaJokes
It’s no secret, that we are currently in a period in professional wrestling where it is “cool” again. Never has a pro wrestler been more accessible to their fan. Whether it be merch, appearances, even their daily lives. The last time there was such a surge in popularity for wrestling, the internet was in its beginnings as a medium for wrestling fans to connect. Now more than ever, not only can you see, know, and watch wrestlers from the US that you might love, but international stars as well. This rings true for Lucha Libre.
Lucha Libre has always been popular. In its native Mexico, and in the US. In the internet age, the way we consume media has changed drastically. Streaming, YouTube, and other platforms have allowed for projects, that at one point needed a major network, and a boatload of cash, to thrive, can reach consumers in whole new ways. Pro wrestling has had many failed concepts, whether it be “Wrestle Society X”, or “Lucha Libre USA: Masked Warriors”. Lucha Libre has been part of American television for a long time. Whether it’s the occasional Lucha Libre superstar on WWE in the early 90’s, to WCW cruiserweights in the latter half of that decade. There has been many an attempt, to bring Lucha Libre into the US. Yet, it seems that the one that has had the most impact has been Lucha Underground.
Airing on El Rey Network in 2014, this show has not only given indie favorites, such as Joey Ryan, Ricochet, Shane Strickland, Ivelisse, and many others, a platform to show the world their skills outside of a local independent show, but in working with AAA, gave many luchadores the platform to enter the American Pro Wrestling conscious. Pentagon Jr, Fenix, DAGA, Mascarita Sagrada, Pimpinela, among many others, that have had the opportunity to cement their place in the US, with a fanbase. Lucha Underground relaunched many careers, brought us new indie stars, and gave a true alternative to mainstream wrestling shows. In fact, Lucha Underground has become such a juggernaut, that it even attracted who is considered by most as “The Greatest Mask of All Time” Rey Mysterio Jr.
Unfortunately, when you say Lucha Libre, a lot of people will most likely redirect the question to a Jack Black movie. Once you get past that, they tend to go towards the name, Rey Mysterio. To many fans internationally, and especially the US, Rey Mysterio is Lucha Libre. He alone was the luchador to bring this style of wrestling into the mainstream in his last major run with the WWE. A multiple time World Champion, Rey is an Icon in the sport. So, when he joined Lucha Underground, he used his position to not only elevate the brand, but the wrestlers on the show. His name and influence carry such weight, you can see the effect it has had throughout wrestling. Pentagon Jr, and Fenix, The Lucha Brothers, are mainstays in the independent scene not only in Mexico but in the US as well. Thru Lucha Underground, they got spots in PWG, and through that, caused a domino effect with PWG and other promotion in bringing in luchadores to US markets. The Impact Wrestling main event scene prominently features Penta & Fenix. MLW is bringing in Rush and LA PARK. As fans, we got a DREAM MATCH, between Kenny Omega and Pentagon. Bandido, Fenix, and Mysterio were in the main event of ALL IN. The landscape has changed for luchadores, and it has changed for the better. No more pinata on a pole matches, no more plugging the main event while two luchadores are killing themselves for an apathetic crowd, no more racially insensitive (well sometimes, wrestling still has a long way to go) material for a luchador to wade thru. While it may seem new to you, Lucha Libre fans have been dealing with these conflicts for a long time.
For a very long time, Lucha Libre was something that Mexican fans loved, and that American fans simply knew of. While it is very clever and cool to be into Japanese Wrestling, even before the age of the internet, to be a Lucha Libre fan was almost looked down on. The style is very different, sure the gear is cool, and the fans are wild, but it was looked down upon. I loved Eddie Guerrero as a kid, but I quickly noticed that the only people that loved him as much as I did, where other minorities. It wasn’t till after his death that many people truly appreciated his genius. It wasn’t till Rey Mysterio left, that people noticed that there was no good representation on TV. Many tried, and failed, and fell prey to either terrible gimmicks, start and stop pushes, or an Americanization of the style. Luckily, the times are changing. The smart wrestling fan has grown to appreciate Lucha libre, whether it be because of Lucha Underground, Ring of Honor, 205 Live, Impact, or any other program that showcases Lucha Libre. Lucha Libre is here to stay because just like in the US, wrestling in Mexico is having its own moment.
Platforms such as Twitch and Youtube, fans can watch a simulcast of both AAA and CMLL events. There are two separate documentaries on NETFLIX, breaking down Lucha Libre culture*, (that’s not even including the first two seasons of Lucha Underground that are also available) The independent scene in Mexico, just like in the US, is thriving. The Crash is bringing in top American indie stars and even UK mainstays like Pete Dunne. Lucha Libre has always been thriving in Mexico. It is a religion there. But now, the good word can spread, and its thru messengers such as Penta, Fenix, Bandido, Mysterio, among others, that have allowed the art that is Lucha Libre to reach audiences. The wrestling landscape has changed tremendously. With working relationship i.e. Impact & AAA, CMLL & New Japan etc. That we see more cross-pollination with wrestling. Arguably the most popular faction in Japan, Los Ingobernables de Japon, is a secondary unit within Los Ingobernables, that started in CMLL. Luchadores have been free to work for any company they wish. In one weekend, Rey Fenix wrestled at Guerra de Titanes for AAA, then wrestled in Chicago for AAW, followed by an MLW taping, and finishing the weekend main event arena Mexico for CMLL. All because popularity, and draw, has come from his fanbase both in Mexico and the US. Pentagon was Impact and Lucha Underground champion simultaneously was in the main event of AAA Triplemania, and became MLW tag champion with his brother Fenix, within a three-month period. Rey Mysterio made his long-awaited WWE return, only after working for AAA, The Crash, NJPW, and main eventing ALL IN.
Lucha Libre is here. It always has been. In fact, it is in its own BOOM period.
This new generation of Luchador, in this new world of professional wrestling, can truly showcase what Lucha Libre is, without compromising themselves, their style, or their culture. Growing up, watching American wrestling, there wasn’t a lot to look up to regarding Hispanic stars. So now, when I see kids in the crowd, of all colors and creeds, cheering a luchador, wearing the mask, chanting and taunting. It is, the absolute best. Lucha Libre is another form in the Art that is Pro Wrestling. One that was underappreciated for a very long time, that wasn’t even given a proper go, until it left mainstream wrestling programs. Now that it is being featured again, it is getting bigger than it even many thought it could be.
But don’t call it a comeback.
*Note: If you’re new to Lucha Libre, here are two documentary series that will show you what Lucha Libre is in Mexico. You might even see some familiar faces.
– Lucha Mexico
– Nuestra Lucha Libre