While researching things to do in Mexico City, we came across Lucha Libre, the Mexican-style free wrestling. As the term denotes, its “free fighting” or freestyle wrestling with the luchadores (or wrestlers) wearing masks and fanciful costumes. The goal is to keep the man behind the mask a secret and get through the matches without getting defeated or worse yet, unmasked.
While it sounded exciting, there were some safety concerns while attending a Lucha Libre match. One was that the area of the Arena Mexico possibly not being safe for travelers. We came across many tours that combined Mescal tasting with attending a match in the company of a former luchadore for a more wholesome experience. But with two kids in tow, that really wasn’t an option for us.
After some debate, we decided to attend the match on our own. Our apartment was only 20 mins away from the Arena Mexico where the matches took place. The start time was 730 pm, so we left an hour earlier by Uber. Despite the fame of this arena, it looked a bit run down and commonplace.
Salvador Lutherott Gonzalez, widely considered the “Father of Lucha Libre” was attracted to the American style of wrestling he watched in Texas. He founded the “Empresa Mexicana de Lucha Libre” in 1933, which continues today under the name of Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre or CMLL. He ordered the construction of the Arena Mexico to host the Lucha Libre matches. The arena opened in 1956 and can house 17000 spectators. The arena hosts matches every Tuesday, Friday and Sunday nights. Tickets can be bought ahead of time on Ticketmaster. Or at the box office with cash on the evening of the matches.
There were several men and women standing at the entrance who blocked our way in. We were directed, instead, to the Taquillas on the left side of the building where the ticket booths were situated. Although there were many people milling around on the street, the lines in the booths were not long. Shortly, we were able to pay cash and choose where we wanted to be seated. We chose Ring 4 which seemed a good compromise between proximity to the ring and cost at 140 MXN per person. Interestingly, the ticket booths were all one-way, we couldn’t see the person on the other side and security kept a close watch.
We were ready to ward off scalpers but no one bothered us. There were small kiosks right outside the arena selling masks of various luchadores as well as food. We each bought a mask and wore them during the match. It felt a bit weird but a lot of people were doing the same, so we joined in.
Bags and cameras were not allowed but cellphones are. Soon enough, we were patted down by security and led to our seats in the arena by blue-vested ushers. Tips were expected. We had a decent view from our perch in Ring 4. As we settled in, vendors in white crisscrossed the aisles selling Pepsi, beer, water, cotton candy, popcorn and pizza. The restrooms were clean but surprisingly, the toilet paper was kept outside the stalls. Not very intuitive!
The whole show was telecast live and lasted two hours. There were a total of six matches. All except two had three luchadores on each team, one was a team of two and the other featured a one-on-one match-up. Our show featured Mistico, Mephisto, Dragon Lee, Atlantis, among others.
The matches were very much staged but very entertaining and chock-full of aerial moves, acrobatics and a whole lot of athleticism. There were some tense moments as a couple of luchadores came close to being unmasked. The arena was nearly filled by the time the show started and the crowd remained vociferous and enthusiastic throughout the matches. Teams were either favored or booed. And while the crowd was on fire, we felt safe at all times with no hint of any violence. It turned out to be a fun experience, overall.
At the end of the match, we joined the throng of fans outside, as vehicles negotiated the crowded streets and the mass of humanity making their way home. We booked another Uber ride back but had to wait for a while for the ride to reach us as the traffic was immense.
Despite not being a fan of WWF or similar sports, we enjoyed this little excursion. For a couple of hours, we were a part of the local culture, joining the fans, and being swept up by the fervor and fever of the Lucha Libre.
- Do not carry bags and cameras.
- Carry cash to buy tickets at the box office, the masks, tips for the usher and for food and drinks in the arena.
- Grab some toilet paper before using the stalls.