*Note: While this isn’t a film about Southern California, this documentary helps gives an understanding about the world of Lucha Libre, which plays a huge role in the area. The film was also screened throughout theaters in the Southern California area this past summer. There are also a few clips of SoCal deathmatch legend Supreme during some Perros Del Mal footage.*
When I was a kid, my dad took me to the Burbank AMC 6 to see one of the best documentaries about pro wrestling ever produced, “Beyond The Mat.” Nothing like it existed at the time aside from a few TV specials such as “The Unreal Story Of Professional Wrestling” that talked about the history of professional wrestling, an NBC special called “Exposed! Pro Wrestling’s Greatest Secrets” that gave a look at and the infamous “Hitman Hart: Wrestling With Shadows” documentary that followed the career of Bret Hart during his final months with the World Wrestling Federation. After the release of “Beyond The Mat” came “GAEA GIRLS,” a documentary about female professional wrestling in Japan.
While American wrestling has had plenty of documentaries produced on it, Lucha Libre has also seen a good amount of documentaries and features done on it. Many have looked at events in Mexico, and some have taken looks at promotions and Luchadors from right here in Southern California. One documentary, “La Lucha (The Struggle),” being one of them with a look at Martin Marin’s WPW promotion in Anaheim, and a look at the beginnings of Lucha VaVoom. The latest documentary to take a look at the world of Lucha Libre is “Lucha Mexico,” a film by Alex Hammond and Ian Markiewicz. This documentary delves into the lives of Lucha Libre stars such as Shocker, Blue Demon Jr.,Jon “The Strongman” Anderson, El Hijo Del Perro Aguayo, Fabian “El Gitano”, and features interviews and match footage of various wrestlers such as Damian 666, Halloween, Faby Apache, Sexy Star, and more.
The beginning of the film starts off with footage from a press conference angle CMLL held before a show with some “behind the scenes” footage before cutting to an opening montage of highlights from a CMLL event during the opening credits. After that, we went directly into the first part of the film centering around highlights from a match involving Shocker and Jon “The Strongman” Anderson (along with Giant Bernard, a.k.a. Matt Bloom, head trainer at the WWE Performance Center) that segued into a look at Anderson and Shocker’s life outside the ring with footage of them working out at the gym of Fabian “El Gitano” and eating at a local restaurant. Blue Demon Jr. was also profiled early on in the film, discussing the hardships of being a famous wrestler who has to live his life behind a mask all the time. He also talked about his father’s legendary career and reluctance to follow in his footsteps. The film would later takes a closer look into Shocker’s personal life as it went on, with footage of him visiting his mother, him running his businesses in Mexico, and extensive the amount of medical work and physical therapy he goes through.
Throughout the film, CMLL announcer Julio Cesar Rivera goes over the history of Lucha Libre and historic venues CMLL runs at, such as Arena México, Arena Coliseo, Arena Coliseo Monterrey, and Arena Coliseo de Guadalajara. “Lucha Mexico” also explores other parts of the Lucha Libre scene with footage of various fan expos/conventions, small indy shows with rings set up in parking lots and Swap Meets. There is a wide variety of footage from different types of events, from major Arena México shows, to the Lucha Experience Expo in Mexico City, and all the way to a ring set up on a dirt field under a makeshift in Texcoco, Mexico. Along with going over the history of Lucha Libre, Julio Cesar Rivera talked about how social issues in Mexico have influenced modern Lucha Libre, with fans identifying with anti-heroes more, leading into a nice feature on the “Perros Del Mal” brand and the popularity of hardcore matches, with El Hijo Del Perro Aguayo and Damian 666 being featured prominently for a few minutes on the subject.
While the film takes a look at the lives of wrestlers, it doesn’t shy away from the topic of death. As Julio Cesar Rivera discussed the history of Arena Coliseo, he brought up two deaths that had happened inside the ring. Halfway through the documentary, the subject became about the death of Fabian “El Gitano” that included an interview with his brother who talked about Fabian’s death. Later in the documentary, there was a chilling moment where El Hijo Del Perro Aguayo was being interviewed about the dangers of being a professional wrestler, and how a career could be very long or very short. He also commented on how anything could happen, be it an arm, leg, or spine injury. His comment would end up being his last words in this documentary as the film took a look at the night of his death in Tijuana.
Along with the major aspects, “Lucha Mexico” also touches on other elements of Lucha Libre such as the roles of Minis such as CMLL mascot KeMonito, and some female perspective with a look at Faby Apache and Sexy Star as they were preparing for a match. The documentary also gives a good look inside of CMLL’s training school at Arena México, with a look at classes by instructors Tony Salazar and Arkangel. Arkangel talks about running two groups of students, one being a group of students looking to learn “Rudo” or “Tecnico” styles. Salazar discussed the high percentage of students that end up quitting training, as well the difficulties of training to become a Luchador. There is a short segment about AAA, but the amount of time spent on them was very minimal, as well a brief scene talking about the popularity of American wrestling (e.g. World Wrestling Entertainment) in Mexico these days.
While I thought “Lucha Mexico” could’ve benefited from editing out some footage to focus a bit more on how Lucha Libre’s history and growth, this was a great look at the world of modern Lucha Libre. The vast amount of footage and the look at the variety of Lucha Libre was well done. The way the film was presented felt a lot like “Beyond The Mat” without a narrator.This is definitely something I’d recommend to wrestling fans or for people who just enjoy watching documentaries.