Wrestling with luchador

I was working at my computer when my son asks me: “Dad, what’s a luchador?”

Since he had spent the last week continuously playing Smack Down versus Raw 2010, a pro-wrestling game on his Playstation (and beating up his little brother), I hazarded a guess it was a type of wrestler. I had to make sure so did a bit of googling.

Wikipedia tells me that a luchador (a fighter, from Spanish) is a professional Mexican wrestler, and that lucha libre (free fighting, from Spanish) is the form of wrestling performed. Lucha libre is distinctive from other forms of professional wrestling because of its wide array of wrestling holds and high-flying acrobatics moves. The luchador most often wears a mask.

In Argentina lucha libre is also known as catch, or as catch as catch can. In Peru they call it cachascán and wrestlers are known as cachascanistas.

As in professional wrestling, the luchadores divide into two main categories:

  • rudos, the rude ones (who are the bad guys, and equivalent to professional wrestling’s heels), and
  • técnicos, the technicians (the good guys, and equivalent to pro-wrestling’s faces).

Técnicos play by the rules and have formal, spectacular combat styles whereas the rudos tend to be brawlers.

The luchador’s mask plays an important part. It is grounds for disqualification for a luchador to remove an opponent’s mask. The masks reflect the wrestlers’ characters and are designed to resemble heroes, animals, or gods. The characters tend to be abstractions such as: the Fear, the Horror, or the Nazi. There is also a Médico Asesino (Dr. Death).

Half-comatose on a long-haul flight a few years ago, I found myself watching Jack Black in Nacho Libre. I did not realise at the time that the film was loosely based on the life of Father Sergio Gutierrez, known to Mexicans as Fray Tormenta (Brother Tempest), a priest who financed his orphanage by working as a luchador. There is a very good Sports Illustrated story online about Fray Tormento and the lucha libre which I recommend and from which I also sourced much.