Lucha Libre wrestling has roots in Mexico but is performed in other Spanish speaking countries to include Puerto Rico. In a literal translation, the term Lucha Libre means “free wrestling” All wrestling in these places are known as “lucha libre”. However, in Puerto Rico, it is known as Cachascan (catch as can) and the performers are known as “cachascanistas”. In Argentina, wrestling is known as lucha libre and simply as Catch. The rules in Lucha Libre wrestling are pretty much the same as professional wrestling in the United States except for one thing. If you rip an opponent’s mask off, that is grounds for disqualification. Masks are “hallowed ground” in Lucha wrestling.
The masks of the Lucha Libre wrestlers are creatively colored and designed today as opposed to the earlier days when masks were colored simpler. Masks have been used as far as back as lucha libre wrestling began and the masks also have a historical profoundness that dates back as early as the Aztecs. The masks suggest the images of gods, animals, and other archetypes like ancient heroes that the wrestler is supposed to take on the style of during their matches. In effect, all Mexican wrestlers begin their careers wearing masks and only lose them in matches when they are about to retire, or are changing a gimmick. One of the most popular and well known luchadors ever to wrestle was El Santo. His character literally became a comic book character, an action movie star and a superhero. When he died in 1984, he was buried with his mask on.
Mexico takes their wrestling very seriously there and most of it relies on quick, high flying moves and holds as opposed to American wrestling which relies mostly on power and power moves. Lucha Libre wrestling is now taking on an American style to promoting and using more shoot wrestling moves from Japan but it is still basically a religion in Mexico. Lucha Libre also has their bad guy and good guy divisions as well. Bad guys or heels are known as “rudos” and the good guys are known as “técnicos”.
Some luchadores have found great success in American pro wrestling and bring the lucha style with them. A couple of these wrestlers are Juventud Guerrera and Rey Misterio Jr. The lucha style is in main stream American pop culture now too in the form of a cartoon known as Mucha Lucha and in a movie starring Jack Black called “Nacho Libre” which is about a priest who becomes a pro wrestler and is based on the real life person Fray Tormenta, (Father Sergio Gutierrez Benitez). Lucha Libre style wrestling is very fast paced and extremely exciting to watch. Catch it if you get the chance.