Lucha de Apuestas: Symbols At Stake

Tope Guerilla – Lucha de Apuestas: Symbols At Stake

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

The importance of a mask in Lucha Libre is severely understated. Ridiculously so. In Mexico, Lucha Libre is a religion. The mask means the world to a luchador and their fans. The mask of a luchador is a symbol. As many of may know, a luchadors private life is kept secret. While we may now be connected to out favorite wrestlers via social media and other platforms. Luchadors are very selective with what they present online. The mask is the outward representation of the luchadors pride, but what of those that choose to wrestle without masks? Well, it’s simple, their hair. Throughout most cultures, hair can represent manliness, status, femininity, it basically means the world. In Mexico, better yet, Lucha Libre, a luchadors hair shows character and pride. In wrestling, the idea of high stakes has never been a stranger to the sport. A match can be for a championship representing your status of the best in the world. Who is the best wrestler between rivals? Perhaps something more personal, like criticizing the outright character of a rival, maybe punching their partner in the face (accidentally or not). But in a country, where symbols of power and manliness, but more importantly your pride, are represented by either your mask, or your hair. There are no higher stakes than “Lucha de Apuestas”

Commonly known as Mask vs Hair matches, American fans have been no stranger to them. In fact, my first ever Lucha de Apuestas match that I ever saw, was Jericho vs Juventud Guerrera. Yes, a luchador was involved, but I saw it on American television. At the time as a kid I didn’t really grasp the importance of it, but in my gut, I knew that I saw something incredible (even of the WCW announce team was terrible at selling the magnitude of the event). It wasn’t till I was older, that I truly understood the meaning of these kinds of matches. Whether it be Kurt Angel losing his hair, Kane unmasking, or my personal favorite La Parka vs Cibernetico at Triple Mania XII.

This was the first mask vs mask match I ever saw. I had seen title vs mask, hair vs hair, all in an American style. This was my first exposure to mask vs mask in its home country. Two titans in Mexican wrestling. AAA in a newer golden age. TripleMania XII, the biggest event in AAA for the year. La Parka (the second version, not LA PARK that we know from WCW) at the absolute height of his popularity. Cibernetico, the biggest heel but at the same time anti-hero in Mexico. In a blood feud that started over 10 years before the match. I was hooked. The insane brawling in the ring, the overbook finish were all Cibernetico’s allies attacked la parka, only to be fought by the rest of the AAA locker room, a motorcycle chase, the actual fireballs being thrown from the OWNER OF THE COMPANY towards the heels. A true madness and buzz hit the Torreo de Quatro Caminos. It was absolute mayhem. Right when Cibernetico, had Parka where he wanted him, a roll-up secured victory for La Parka. After cutting a very explicit promo that I was surprised they did not bleep, Cibernetico removed his mask, and the announcer told everyone his real name, where he is from, and his age. That is when it truly hit me. In Mexico, your private life, the one you sought to protect is exposed, just like your face. That power he ad, that mysticism, was gone from him.

We have been lucky that in both the US and Mexico, that we have had multiple amazing Lucha de Apuestas. Last year, after 32 years, Dr Wagner Jr was finally unmasked. An incredibly recognizable mask, even if you don’t watch wrestling. This year, one of the biggest babyfaces, Hijo del Fantasma lost his mask. Faby Apache, on of the most influential women’s luchador in Mexico, lost her hair. Even Americans got in the action. ROH mainstay Matt Taven lost his hair in Arena Mexico. Sami Callihan lost his hair vs Pentagon Jr in one of the hottest feuds in Impact history. Quite literally, as ofa few days from this writing, Jeff Jarrett lost his hair in AAA vs Wagner. Minoru Suzuki shaved his own head in the middle of the ring after a loss at Wrestle Kingdom. To say these matches don’t draw are baseless. A criticism I hear often about Lucha Libre and more specifically about these types of matches, is how silly these things must mean. Hair grows back, luchadors can just put their masks back on. Lucha Libre is spot fest, blah blah blah. Pro wrestling in the US is very much a huge fandom, but in Mexico it is a central part of the culture. It seeps into every facet of daily life, even if you don’t like wrestling. While it may have taken some time for the narrative of wrestlers being actual real-life superheroes to take hold in the US, in Mexico, that has always been the case. 

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