Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Hammond & Markiewicz Go to the Mat with “Lucha Mexico”

Playing in Theaters

Hammond & Markiewicz Go to the Mat with “Lucha Mexico”

(from Sag Harbor Express Online 7/14/16)

"Directors Alex Hammond (L) and Ian Markiewicz" Poster with blond wrestler: "Shocker"
“Directors Alex Hammond (L) and Ian Markiewicz”
By Danny Peary
Lucha Mexico fits my category Movies That Should Play in Sag Harbor. I don’t recall any movie about wrestling ever playing at the Sag Harbor Cinema, but Alex Hammond and Ian Markiewicz’s intriguing documentary about Mexico’s cherished Lucha Libre would be an ideal groundbreaker.
It opens in over 25 cities nationwide on Friday, including New York, where it can be seen at the IFC Center. An excerpt from the official synopsis: “The ultimate look behind the mask, Lucha Mexico documents the joyous spectacle of Lucha Libre, which has thrilled fans in Mexico for generations. The film gives the audience the ultimate access to these legendary masked [and unmasked] wrestlers, in the ring and beyond the lights of the stadium….These stars…illuminate the physical and emotional challenges they face in the constant fight to stand between the ropes and thrill every last fan.
With an unprecedented level of access to the top Lucha promotions and performers in the world, Lucha Mexico steps into the ring, pulls back the mask, and reveals the powerful look into the beating heart of Mexico.” I have never regained the love I had for American wrestling in the 1950s–I still think fondly about Lou Thesz, Buddy Rodgers, Pat O’Conner, Antonino Rocca, Johnny Valentine, Verne Gagne, Ricki Starr, Haystacks Calhoun, Freddie Blassie, Mark Lewin and Don Curtis, the Fabulous Kangaroos, Killer Kowalski, Édouard Carpentier, and the Fabulous Moolah–but I have never lost my curiosity about the strange wrestling that takes place south of the border featuring acrobatic wrestlers in exotic masks. That’s why I was eager to see Lucha Mexico and have this conversation with the passionate codirectors.
Danny Peary: Early in your respective careers you two worked separately. But your new film, Lucha Mexico, is the second consecutive feature documentary that you co-directed, and they come after you worked together as editors on a number of films. So, are you officially a team now or will you still do solo projects as well?
Alex Hammond: We have other projects we’re trying to get off the ground. Some are with each other, but we still do our own stuff, too.
Ian Markiewicz: I think it makes sense that for any given project we will decide if we’re interested in doing it together. Sometimes we might work together in a different capacity than as codirectors.
DP: What’s odd is that you two have exactly the same credentials. You’re both directors, producers, editors, and cinematographers.
AH: I know! We’re both hands-on filmmakers and that’s the reason we gravitate toward each other.
IM: We work with very low budgets. To do a documentary like Lucha Mexico, we can’t afford a big crew so it works best that we both do everything.
DP: How did you start working together?
IM: We connected through a mutual friend. I was working for Albert Maysles for a few years. I was about to start a new project with Al and it was one of the few times I needed another editor. Alex was working on a documentary about Haiti. I knew she was a good, fast editor so I thought that was a good opportunity to work together.
AH: We edited a TV documentary about photographers for Albert called Close-Up: Portraits that played on the Ovation Channel. We had a really fun experience and then we were hired by Matador Records to do a short on [punk-rock cult figure] Jay Reatard.
DP: Which you expanded into an acclaimed feature, Better Than Something: Jay Reatard.
IM: We actually did that during the [four years] we made Lucha Mexico. It was a really underground kind of thing.
AH: Jay was super proud of the short we made about him and after he gave us all this footage of his backstory, we said we needed to expand it.
IM: He just really opened up to us. We were just going to sit on it for awhile and whenever he was in the mood to do more we would do it. I don’t know if it would have ended up being a feature necessarily but it would have been an expanded piece that the three of us put out together.
DP: Did he die before it was distributed?
IM: Yes. He didn’t see the full-length film. He saw a version of it, but of course it didn’t have footage of his family and other people talking about his death. After he died, we decided that sitting on it wouldn’t be fair to his fans. We just wanted to get it out there for them. We thought we’d end up selling it ourselves or putting it online.
AH: We made it and cut it in only three months. Nashville Film Festival was really into it and took it right away and then it had a great festival run.   It played in like fifty festivals all over the world.
IM: We did self-distribute for theatrical. We were happy when it got a little traction. The interesting thing for me is that it’s become a point of reference for that kind of music.
AH: The film is out there so people can see it, on Amazon and iTunes. We did a beautiful release with Factory 25 that has an LP soundtrack, the movie, and a book. It’s sort of a tribute to him.
DP: Then you went back to making Lucha Mexico, a completely different subject.
Alex, I know that you grew up in New York but are of Mexican heritage and considered making a film about bullfighting as means to learn and show more about your culture. I read that Ian swayed you into making a film about another significant Mexican subculture, Lucha Libre.
AH: I feel there is a similarity. The Luchadores, like the matadors, get into the ring in an arena or spectacle setting and put their lives on the line, for us, for entertainment. When Ian showed me Lucha the first time, I was totally drawn to that idea. I started reading about Mexican wrestling and watching it online and got increasingly interested. I particularly wanted to know about the role of the mask.   The mask was the biggest part for me. I asked, “Who are these men? Who are these women?” I was hooked. And still am. I’m a huge fan now. Of course, Ian played a big part in making that happen. It didn’t take long.
DP: So he didn’t have to convince you that this was a better movie subject than bullfighting?
AH: No. For many years Ian wanted to make a movie about the WWE. I never thought of being a part of that.   But when he showed me a match of the Lucha Lubre, I said, “You have to make a movie about it and if you do I want to make it with you.”
IM: Originally I wanted to make just a piece in Mexico for the WWE movie. A couple of wrestlers that I watched in the US were not doing as well in their careers so they had gone to Mexico, and I thought that would make a really interesting part of the WWE movie. But it led to our making an entire movie about wrestling in Mexico.
DP: Did you grow up in New York watching wrestling?
IM: Yes, I did. I grew up in the 1980s and ‘90s, when it was all Vince McMahon and the WWF, Hulk Hogan, the Undertaker, and all that. And I will admit Andy Kaufman and his “feud” with Jerry Lawler was a big part of my wrestling interest.
DP: I remember it became celebrity chic. Even Cyndi Lauper was championing it.
IM: Exactly. That’s my earliest memories of wrestling. It was huge in the late ‘90s and early 2000s when I was in school. Everybody I knew was into it. Friends, family, everybody I hung out with. For me, it has always been there, a go-to entertainment. It’s always on TV and always accessible, and I still follow it.
DP: When I was a kid in the fifties and a huge wrestling fan, I did hear about the masked Lucha Libre superstars Santo, Blue Demon, and Mil Mascaras, but it wasn’t on TV and was so foreign to me. At the time you became an American wrestling fan did you hear about Lucha Libre?
IM: I didn’t know about it until the 1990s. We didn’t have cable and one of the few channels we got was the Spanish Channel. I watched Lucha Libre because it was so different from American wrestling. Nobody else was into it, just me. That’s when I first learned that a lot of wrestlers from the US go down there, because their careers were winding down or because they wanted to work their way up and return.   That was always my point of interest.
DP: At the time in America, the top wrestlers were musclemen like Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant who could barely get off the ground.
IM: But that changed big time. The acrobatic aspect of Lucha Libre became really influential and there were a lot of guys stealing the aerial stuff by the mid-‘90s.
DP: I really became aware of Mexican wrestling when I saw some cheesy Mexican wrestling-horror movies on television in the 1960s. Wrestling Women vs. the Aztec Mummy, Santo and Blue Demon movies, and the best, Doctor of Doom.
IM: I knew those movies, yes. A whole other side interest of mine is trashy, bad movies. I was pretty young when I saw Santo vs. The Vampire Woman on television. Mystery Science Fiction Theater showed it.
DP: As a young wrestling fan, did you know of Shocker, who became your main character in Lucha Mexico?
IM:. I didn’t follow Lucha Libre that closely but I knew the bigger names. I knew of Shocker, especially since he’d been in the US as part of the up-and-coming scene. He was on TNA for a year or two around 2004 or 2005. That’s how I got to know him. I learned later that he’d been wrestling forever and was a big deal in Mexico well before I heard of him. He is a star and has been for many years now.
DP: Did you contact him before you started filming in Mexico?
IM: No, because you really have to start with the wrestling companies. If you’re not going to get their permission to shoot, you can’t get inside that world.
AH: The three major companies are CMLL, AAA, and Perros Del Mal. CMLL is the biggest and oldest one and owns Arena Mexico, the country’s most famous wrestling venue. AAA includes the women. Perros Del Mal is extreme wrestling. Shocker is the biggest star in CMLL but nobody told us to go after him. Getting him was organic. We went to a press conference at Arena Mexico in Mexico City…
IM: We had been hanging around for awhile and going to shows and going to their offices and talking to them about the project. I don’t remember if we’d filmed any wrestling shows yet but the press conference was the first time we filmed something behind-the-scenes. That was when they gave us permission to shoot for the documentary but they didn’t say we had to do it with specific wrestlers.
AH: They set up a few interviews later.
IM: Jon “Strongman” Andersen was at the press conference. He’s [a very muscular, unmasked wrestler] from California. We’d seen him around the office and he didn’t realize we were from the US, too. I thought I’d freak him out and start talking to him in English now. It did bug him out for a minute, but then he said, “It’s so interesting you guys are doing this. This looks like fun. Why don’t you come with me and you can watch me work out, and we can have lunch, and you guys can shoot what you want and see if it goes anywhere.” We were like, “Okay!” It was through him that we met Shocker and a few other important people. We followed along and it was cool because soon we realized we had Jon from the US, we had Shocker, who is a celebrity down in Mexico, and we had Fabian “El Gitano,” a teacher who had been a masked wrestler, and they were a great little team. That’s how our feature got started really.
DP: When the two of you spoke to each other then, did you determine what you would try to accomplish when making the documentary? And I’m sure that changed.
IM: It did. Because that world changes so much.
AH: Our goal was to ultimately make a film that would transport viewers to Mexico and give them the chance to experience the culture and be close to these superheroes. Wrestling brings joy to the kids in Mexico so we wanted to capture that and hopefully excite people in the US so they will want to go see it, too. In the movie they will see a side of Mexico they haven’t been exposed to. Ian and I also were excited to make a move that is fun.
IM: So many people are talking negatively about Mexico these days. There are problems but there is also a really good side and we wanted to take viewers in and give them an experience with these people that is very positive. We wanted to entice people to see a show or at least appreciate what the wrestlers do differently than before–because there are a lot of misconceptions.
AH: Part of the shooting was research. That’s always our process. It’s not as if we had a perfect script in mind. We just went in and started shooting as much as we could and found the story through that. First we started asking wrestlers about their lives. Sometimes we’d watch a wrestler in the ring and think he was amazing and then we’d interview him and find that he was not that interesting. Originally we thought we’d have an incredible cast of masked wrestlers and would be very surreal movie. But then you realize that the masked wrestlers don’t want to share much. Even the Ultimo Guerrero [one of the most popular and exciting rudos, or bad guys]. Fabian became close to us but his ring life had been cut short, and by the time we met him he was running a gym. He’s the one in the film who talks about losing his mask. Otherwise the masked wrestlers were supersecretive.
DP: Did you realize your intentions making the movie or did you have to figure it out during the editing process when you had to cut 500 hours of film?
IM: I would say we did. We knew during the shooting what we were heading toward. I’ll be very honest and say that there are a lot of interesting characters and scenes that we shot that didn’t make it into the movie that we hope to put out some day.
DP: For each of you, what was the best experience being in Mexico and making this movie?
IM: It’s tough to pick one thing because we had a lot of really good times. But I will say that there is one scene in the film that I particularly love. That’s when Ultimo Guerrero, who is one of the bad guys, gets into a fight with the crowd. You knew it was going to get rowdy because it was Beer Tuesday and he spills someone’s beer and people are just tossing stuff at him. I remember thinking, “You can never get away with this in the US.” In the film we show people yelling at him, but at the end of it, he was fine, the crowd was fine, everyone was happy. You know it’s all in good fun. I really enjoyed that.
AH: I think we always say that we liked going on the road. I loved being at the small fairs with all the people and the smells of street food. And I was surprised by how close the wrestlers get with their fans. Shocker spent an hour after a match signing autographs and taking pictures with fans. That made this whole experience worthwhile and I am glad we captured all this on film.
DP: Shocker doesn’t wear a mask and goes out into the streets. How much is he recognized in Mexico? Does everybody know him?
IM: Now more than before because he has been on reality shows.
AH: One of the reality shows he was on was The Island, which is kind of like Survivor. and many people know him from that.
IM: And he was on a reality show about wrestlers on A&E Latino. It was called Luchador and was very scripted.
AH: We became very good friends with Shocker while making the movie and we’d go out to dinner and to the movies together. Everybody always came up to him, kids and adults, wherever we were.
IM: We had that happen in New York, too.
AH: At the airport and at restaurants, where the waiting staff would come up to him and take photos. Mexicans do know who he is and it’s not just Lucha fans.
DP: In the movie, you attend Shocker’s matches in different towns in Mexico. Was he the only wrestler you toured with?
IM: We went to different places with other wrestlers but not as much as with Shocker.
DP: Did Shocker ever lose?
IM: Of course.
DP: What do you mean by “of course?” I’d think he’d win every match so that the people who see him only once a year won’t be disappointed.
AH: The majority of times he won, but he did lose. After he did rehab on his knee, he wasn’t strong.
IM: Although more often than not he would win.   It would depend on who he was fighting. A lot of time they’d make up what would happen on the spot. There would be certain nights when Shocker would say he wasn’t up for a huge show.
AH: Right before he had an injury in January they were trying to turn Shocker into a rudo. He had always been a technico, a good guy. When they started pushing that is when he started losing. Usually bad guys lose.
IM: We talked to him about losing matches. The attitude these days of these guys is that it doesn’t matter if you win or lose, just that you put on a show.
AH (laughing): I like to believe it’s real!
DP: There’s a line in the movie by a wrestler who says that if it was for real a match would last about a minute.
IM: If you talk to these guys about the win-lose thing or how they felt about their matches, they’ll reverse it and say, “Well, how did you feel about the match?” If they didn’t entertain you, then they’ve failed. The win-loss thing seems to matter to them only when they reach a certain level, meaning a certain kind of match rather than a level of popularity.
DP: Since the fans know it’s all fake, do they have an alternate reality in regard to winning and losing? I ask because in your film the wrestlers who lost their masks in the ring seem genuinely sad about it.
AH: All we know about Fabian losing his mask is that he was up for it. Wrestlers get paid for losing their masks by their companies, who think they might be more popular without masks.
IM: We think from what everybody said that Fabian was a little ambivalent about losing his mask but did it for his company.
DP: Have wrestlers refused to lose their masks and quit their organizations?
IM: It has happened. And some wrestlers also have gotten in trouble for putting their masks back on. It’s a really serious thing.
DP: I found it bizarre that when Santo would go out at night in the 1950s and ’60s, maybe to a nightclub, he’d still be wearing his mask on the streets. He wanted to keep his identity secret.
IM: A lot of them like the idea that they are a celebrity only when they are wearing the mask in the ring. That was a surprise to me. When I was younger I’d go to “meet-and-greet” wrestling autograph sessions; for instance, there used to be the WWF New York restaurant and I’d go there and it was really funny because wrestlers would be behind the bar serving drinks.   Most of them seemed to like the attention. Whereas in Mexico a lot of the masked guys slip out the back door.
DP: After he had retired Santo lifted his mask on a television talk show. And he died not long after that. Do the wrestlers take it seriously that if they lose the mask they might have bad fortune?
AH: Fabian was young and not as famous as Santo, so it was a different thing for him to lose his mask. Blue Demon Jr. will never lose his mask, even if he’s in a “Mask against Mask” match where the loser must take off his mask.
DP: With Blue Demon and Blue Demon Jr. it’s almost as if they sewed their masks onto their faces.
AH: Yeah! We’ve never seen Blue Demon Jr.’s face. There are many wrestlers whose faces we haven’t seen and I’d like to keep it that way.
IM: Half the time you have this distinct image of what they look like but you see them offstage and they look entirely different.
AH: It’s very disturbing. And you don’t want to pretend you know what they really look like. It’s so crazy.
DP: What did you learn about the mask? It has to do with ritual but there is something mystical about its use.
AH: Yeah, the mask comes from the Aztecs and there’s something about it that feels mysterious.. Of course, the mask is what makes Lucha Libre different from any other wrestling around the world. Kids who want to become wrestlers in Mexico want to be masked wrestlers. Because their idols are Santo, Blue Demon, and Mil Mascares. They get into it because they want to be those superhero characters. Without a mask they’d just be a regular person. And they can have two lives. They can have their ring persona and then go home and enjoy their families, knowing that on the street nobody is going to bother them.
DP: Do all the masks have an Aztec connotation?
AH: They’re all different but they all have some religious symbols on them. There are a few that are Mayan but the Aztecs were warriors so those masks are much more common, especially with the rudo wrestlers.
DP: Do you think any of the masked wrestlers are two wrestlers pretending to be the same guy?
IM: Rarely.
AH: What does happen since more US companies are bringing Mexican wrestlers to fight in the US is that they will wear masks although they don’t in Mexico.
IM: A wrestler may wear more than one mask. Or on occasion a masked wrestler has an issue and someone else takes that mask and wrestles as the first wrestler’s character without telling the audience. That’s allowed.
AH: We’d go to pueblos or little towns and see on the programs that some local wrestler is identifying himself as the cousin, brother, or some other relative of a famous wrestler.
IM: He may be listed as the III or Jr. The original La Parka was a huge star and then he left the company, which just put the mask on a new wrestler. But he wanted to keep wrestling and the company sued him, so he changed his name from La Parka to L.A. Parka. His uncle is a wrestler who basically wears the same costume and they have a cousin–it just spreads.
DP: In American wrestling, there is a moral ambivalence with the good guys and you often can’t tell the difference between heroes and villains anymore. Is that true in Mexico?
IM: No. It’s usually pretty black and white. Wrestlers do heel turns all the time, depending on their popularity—a wrestler might change back and forth over the course of a month practically–but during the context of a match, you tend to know who is the technico and who is the rudo. You know who is who.
DP: In American wrestling, a good guy will lose his temper during a match and resort to dirty tactics, like hitting the villain with a chair.
IM: Yeah, they do, but it’s different in Mexico.   Down there wrestlers really stick to being good or bad.
DP: In your movie, an extreme wrestler named Halloween says, “What I do is for passion and love–the love of my life.” How many other wrestlers feel that way?
AH: Everyone. You don’t do that line of work unless you just love it. It is about the thrill of being in that world and connecting with the fans. They’d all say that.
IM: We really noticed a repeated theme. They’d say, “It’s not just what gets me out of bed in the morning, this is what makes my life, this is what saved my life.” A lot of them have no idea what they’d be doing if they weren’t wrestling. And they say if they were doing something else “it would be bad.”
DP: There seems to be a strong sense of family among wrestlers in Mexico. I think the majority of today’s wrestlers had fathers who were wrestlers, maybe grandfathers, too.
IM: There’s also a lot of that in the US, but it is amazing how much family connection there is in Mexico.
AH: Life in Mexico is hard, so having a family connection to any line of work is helpful. Some fans have been in that world since they were kids and now they bring their own kids into it. Shocker now brings his little girl to matches, and it’s so cute watching her root for her father. A lot of wresters’ children are embedded in it. Even the employers at Arena Mexico have been working there since they were kids. So it’s the staff, too.
IM: Some of those guys who show you to your seat have been there thirty or forty years.
AH: And they say, “My son is going to do this now.”
IM: I will say that with the CMLL, which is the old company, the loyalty there is amazing.  They have a lot of people who have been with them forever and will probably be there forever, doing one job their entire lives.
DP: In your film, one of your main characters states that wrestlers lead lonely lives.
AH: That was Blue Demon, Jr.
DP: You say Shocker brings his girl to matches and we see Jon “Strongman” Anderson with his loving kids, so do they have lonely lives?
IM: I think when they’re on the road it can be lonely, but they also have each other. I don’t know about Shocker. He doesn’t like to talk about things like that because he tries to keep a positive focus. As you see in the film, he also tries to take his family with him on the road whenever he can.
DP: In America, kids think they’re going to make a lot of money when they become a superstar in baseball or with the NBA or NFL. In Mexico, do aspiring wrestlers think that if they become stars in Lucha Libre that they’ll make a lot of money–or just make a living?
AH: I think both. Most of the young men who enter the wrestling schools have that shallow thought: “I’m going to be a star.” Sometimes that’s the reason they get into it. That’s why [retired Luchador] Tony Salazar, one of the teachers, weeds out the students who are there just because they want fame and don’t have the talent, body, or endurance to become great wrestlers who are worthy of fame.
DP: Some of the Luchadors we see in the film are famous, but are most of them rich? We see that when Shocker can’t wrestle while his knee heels, he must go to work.
IM: Not a lot of them are rich.
AH: That’s unfortunate because they risk getting hurt just as much as the rich American wrestlers do. I think more.
IM: Although anybody who is wrestling in the US and is not with WWE and not in a good position with it isn’t making great money either. But, as I said, there’s loyalty so if you’re Shocker or someone else wrestling for CMLL, they know they’ll always have a job. The only thing for them is that they have to hustle. So if any kid comes in with delusions of overnight success and fame, they will be disappointed.
DP: Of course, there’s no pension plan for wrestlers.
IM: Exactly. So they wrestle, every week, until they drop.
AH: Some have to take other jobs. Some of them have merchandising deals–let’s say Blue Demon Jr. and the other big names are fine and live better.
DP: In the movie, you have a section on a growing wrestling organization called Perros Del Mal, which incorporates ultraviolence and has real blood. It’s dangerous. Even to you, Ian, when you got into the ring with the camera to shoot the wrestlers and glass was flying at you.
IM (laughing): Yeah, that was fun.
DP: These wrestlers really do put their bodies on the line and there’s kind of a geeky aspect to it.
IM: That’s a good way of putting it. It’s really fallen out of favor in the US over the last few years, because the companies won’t go for it. Even in Mexico, at Arena Mexico, it’s against the rules to have blood. If it happens, it happens but they’re not going to throw light bulbs into the ring with the wrestlers.
DP: But is it becoming more popular because the fans aren’t satisfied with the traditional and tamer wrestling?
IM: That’s the way it seemed to be going, but within Perros del Mal they were scaling back the violence slightly and saving those kinds of matches for special occasions. When we were in Tijuana with Halloween he was going to go that night to some really grotesque hardcore wrestling show. But it didn’t happen–it got canceled.
AH: Halloween and Damian 666 were the pioneers of extreme wrestling in Mexico. We could have made a movie just about them because there’s so much that happens in their lives. They go for a week at a time where they do four of those shows back-to-back. It’s nuts. But there is a demand to it.
IM: Damian says the extreme wrestling issn’t what he decided to do on purpose. He just stumbled into it. It came out of an audience desire.
DP: So was your reaction to this kind of wrestling not entirely negative?
IM: Because they were such nice guys and had such a positive attitude about what they do, I didn’t feel that negativity. I could feel it in the crowds a little. The thing to remember is that it’s a niche thing and is not everywhere in Mexico. If you go to most regular Lucha shows in Mexico you aren’t going to see that.
DP: I assumed it was growing because in your film we see Perros Del Mal has a very popular clothing line.
IM: No, no. The company is definitely growing. And Perro Aguayo was a huge star–he was really taking off.
AH: He’s the one who died in the ring. That was his company.
DP: Does the same audience in Mexico go to bullfights and wrestling matches? I think there is a projected elegance to bullfighting and wrestling is for the lower classes.
AH: It’s very different. I would say bullfights are certainly upper-class. It’s still like the sun and the shade. The popularity of bullfighting has definitely declined but there is still a dedicated following for bullfighters. There is a line of clothing so the rich can dress up when they go to the arena. Lucha people usually don’t like bullfights.
IM: I don’t know if that’s entirely true, but when you go to a wrestling match you’re talking about a much broader audience.
AH: I think in Mexico people are usually just into one thing. If they’re into soccer, that’s all they are into and they go every week, and the same is true with bullfighting and wrestling fans.
DP: In America you think that the Donald Trump crowd is who you see at wrestling matches.
IM: Yeah, but in Mexico the audience is much more broad.
AH: Everyone goes–kids, hipsters, mas, grandmas.
IM: The bullfighting and Lucha are similar in that for both there is a real ritual. The people who go really do make it a weekly event.
AH: Three times a week. Everyone goes, there’s a real community.
DP: Do bullfighters and Luchadors socialize?
AH: I think they should!
DP: What about masked Lucha Libre wrestlers like Kalisto who come to the United States? Are they welcomed and are they in demand?
IM: We don’t really talk about this in the film, but it’s interesting what has happened. Damian came to the United States in the mid-’90s, when they were first starting to show interest in bringing in Lucha Libre wrestlers. And it didn’t go over at all. But the acrobatic style of Lucha Libre was appropriated. Then in the 2000s, Rey Mysterio Jr. came along and was very popular. [Mysterio Jr. came to the WWE in 2002 and left in 2015 for Lucha Underground.] I think that got the fans interested in what was a little more authentic. And now there are Mexican wrestlers like Kalisto and Sin Cara who have done well in the US with the masks and the Lucha Libre style. Right now it’s pretty popular.
AH: I thinking there haven’t been too many popular masked wrestlers in the US over time because it has been difficult for people to connect to them. There is a distance because of the mask. But they’re trying to push it. Vince McMahon keeps putting them in.
IM: The mask has been in Mexico from the start, so fans are so used to it.
DP: I have read that there are upcoming Lucha Libre shows in cities like Seattle and Toronto. Is this a sign of its increased popularity? Or is it because there is less interest in US wrestling?
IM: It’s a bit of both. We were talking about how Lucha Underground is very successful as an alternative.
AH: That’s on the El Rey Network and it’s very popular. That’s getting to the US audience. The subculture gets out to everywhere. It’s moving all over the world. They are going to England, Brussels, and Paris. There are a lot of companies in the US that are putting on Lucha shows. On the west coast there are shows every other week.
DP: Would the popular travel books tell people they must see Lucha Libre if they visit Mexico City?
AH: When we started our film Arena Mexico was falling apart. Now a lot of money has been put it to renovate it, including with new lighting.   They have gotten a lot of that money from tourists who are bussed in for the matches.
DP: Do the loyal fans appreciate the tourists coming in?
IM: I think that they’re so entrenched in their parts of the arena and know their parts in the shows that they don’t mind at all.
AH: I agree. The Mexicans keep their seats for all three nights they go each week. And they always seem to stick the tourists–the blondes and gringos–on the other side of the arena!
DP: Would you tell someone like me who lost interest in wrestling many years ago to see Lucha Libre?
IM: We always say that even if you’re not a fan, going to Arena Mexico or to a good Lucha show elsewhere is fun because they put on a good show and the crowds themselves usually make it worthwhile. There is a good, fun vibe and a sense that everyone is there to have a good time.
DP: You speak of the wrestling subculture as being a positive in Mexico. Do all Mexicans, even those who don’t watch wrestling, think of it that way?
AH: Yes, it’s embraced everywhere. It is entertainment and people get to go and let loose and get rid of their anxieties. People on one side are cheering the good guys, and the other side is cheering for the bad guys and the scream and yell. It’s a true escape fantasy. Everyone has a good time and leaves happy.
For the trailer, this is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4zLtRtW6J4o
To order my new book “Jackie Robinson in Quotes,” this is the Amazon link: https://www.amazon.com/Jackie-Robinson-Quotes-Remarkable-Significant/dp/1624142443/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1468479309&sr=1-1&keywords=jackie+robinson+in+quotes


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