Published on April 16th, 2015 | by Ricky German0
Lucha Libre: 100% real
“I would just like to tell you that two men fighting to exhaustion doesn’t compel me.” I looked at him. However, I still found myself yelling at the ring, “This is something isn’t it?”
He smiled at that. “Bourbon?” My indelicate tactics have never rattled him.
I remember my first reluctant meeting with the tattooed and mohawked luchador at the insistence of his girlfriend. Five years ago, we were in college. I was just starting to design. I remember sitting across from him, completely mesmerized by his capacity to articulate his need to express someone called Ave Rex.
Before long, I was accompanying Rex to practices, designing my first and last equipo, and working out with the wrestler. He obviously got the most out of our workouts, but we both developed an appreciation for the psychological side of performance.
Now, he’s just returned from Mexico after a three-month stint, wrestling with and learning from the best in Mexico City, Tlaxcala, and Coacalco. I sit across from the warmly sardonic communications major and ask him some of the same questions I did in our first meeting.
When I met Rex, he’d been talking about switching from American Pro Style to Lucha Libre. It gave him the chance to pair the physics of weightlifting and partner acrobatics with the cardio of baseball and basketball. More so, the high-flying stunts of lucha gave him the opportunity to express himself as an athlete with panache and debonair.
An opportunity arose to study in Renton with a wrestler named José Luiz Gómez, who founded Lucha Libre Volcánica after training in Mexico in the eighties, and Rex took it.
“Training with Jose was everything. At one point I was spending more time training [with him] then I was with my partner,” his bittersweet laugh filled the room; it was a laugh I’d never heard before. The Rex I had known all those years ago had become a hardened wrestler.
“Jose says ‘jump higher’ and I have to fill in the blanks,” he smiled. At this point in his training, Rex has learned the basics and is refining his technique. His ambition is fueled by Jose’s enthusiasm. He tells me that in some ways, Jose is like a second father.
Learning from the best
For Rex, Lucha has become his lifestyle after what he describes as a series of happy mistakes and wild desire. “[Out of college], I didn’t get the Watson [Fellowship] and I was going crazy.” So, Jose set him up to go to Mexico to train with Pequeño Pierroth and Sepulcro, big names in the Mexican wrestling community. “Going to Mexico was like running away with the circus.”
An artist immerses himself into every minute detail of his work for the love of it. When they start, the only thing you see is their potential, but they train for those details to eventually become invisible, even to the trained eye. They train for finesse. He tells me about watching matches in Mexico. One in particular caught him off-guard:
“In Mexico, we were in the audience and there was this 80 year-old woman shouting the foulest shit,” he laughs. It was the first time that he realized the effect that wrestling could have on the audience. As he watched the match, he forgot about technique and become enthralled in the entertainment.
Connecting with lucha
Now we’re back to my original trepidation. We all know someone like me: an intellectual audience member—appreciative but much too composed to be a die-hard fan of anything. We can go see ten minute long dream sequences in dance and absurdist dramas about existential crises, but upon looking at the scores of wrestling fans we think: do you know that this isn’t real?
At this point, he leans forward. “Listen, we all start at vaudeville. At the end of the day we are performers entertaining the people.”
He explains the transference that happens from the audience to the técnico, or face. The tecnico plays by the rules and represents our ideals valiantly against the rudo, or heel, who plays against the rules. The rudo comes to represent every bit of misfortune or unfairness that play out in our everyday lives. Where it ventures from other stage spectacle is where the audience can participate and change the course of the show.
Rex talks about his chief competitor, a wrestler named Hero. Although they have a real-life rivalry because of their relative skill in the ring, they make good competitors because they put each other over well: they sell each other to the audience by making the fight believable.
The big show
When Rex comes out, he gets to run the first row. With audiences averaging around 1,500 people, he’ll play to a group in the front row and sections on the other side of the floor. He’ll take pictures and sign autographs. Once the characters have been established, the audience takes over, deciding how intense the fight is. The wrestlers react based on how the audience participates.
Rex continues, “That is where lucha becomes real, not just choreography. Forty to eighty percent of every show is improvised.”
When a performance reverberates something deep in your soul—something physically and emotionally real—it compels you to revere it. It commands you to be a fan. I was. I found myself yelling at the ring.
Photos by Kali Raisl
Read more from Ave Rex at his blog, Life of Lucha: behind the mask of a pro luchador and aspiring armchair academic. See Ave Rex, La Avispa and the wrestlers of Lucha Libre Volcánica at the University of Puget Sound, April 18, for Lucha de Sound 4
Lucha de Sound in the University of Puget Sound Fieldhouse
7-9 pm, doors open at 6 pm
$5 suggested donation
All ages welcome