Author’s note: With my two-year anniversary with Lucha Libre Volcánica upon me, I find myself thinking back on some of the more memorable experiences I’ve had there. This is the story of one such moment. Short of attending practice for the first time, or finally reaching my debut, it was probably the greatest defining moment in my lucha career. Its something you really can’t forget. Curious? Read on.
If you stick around the gym long enough to reach a certain point in your training, there comes the inevitable query from your maestro (coach): “Have you thought of a name?”
It happened almost a year and a half ago. The first time José asked me, my mind just sort of seized up. “Uh… no. I haven’t thought about it.” This was a complete truth considering I had only half expected to survive the rigorous workouts and reach the point where I even needed a name. Then he asked me again the next week. Now I knew it was a serious query, not just a light-hearted hypothetical question stemming from the fact that I was at that point the only person at the gym without a name. This meant that he was planning to put me in a show in the foreseeable future. It was time. I needed a name.
There’s something presumptuous about picking your own name. You’re assuming an extra identity, creating an alter-ego. It requires a sense of self-awareness that shines a bright light into the dark corners of your brain and makes you ask, “Who do I want to be?” Maybe I was overthinking it. In any case, I was plagued by worry after concern after preoccupation once I started contemplating names seriously.
But where to begin the search? If I recall correctly, it went something like this:
First off, I’m small. That narrowed it down some right off the bat. There was no way I could get away with naming myself after something large or particularly imposing. Nobody would take me seriously.
Next, I’m not Mexican. This is amazingly significant when you’re one of only a handful of white folk who practice the sport. That fact eliminated all sorts of animals and symbols that would’ve made for great names, but would have been too fraught with implications of a national identity that I can make absolutely no claim to. I didn’t want to go there.
Item three: I’m female. Given the nature of gendered nouns in Spanish, I was more or less limited to names that would carry a feminine article. This one was tricky because I didn’t want to choose a name that was traditionally feminine in a girly-girl sort of way. No “princesa,” “diosa,” “chica,” etc. That’s not the sort of character I wanted to portray. However, I did want to make it clear that I was a woman.
And finally, it is generally considered good form to not pick a name that is already being used by some other luchador. This complicated matters even more. It seemed like all the good names had been picked.
I thought long and hard about my ring name. These ponderings crept into my mind when I probably should’ve been doing things like studying for a chemistry exam, or paying attention in calculus lecture. Oh well. This was worth it. Not everyone gets the opportunity to become a luchadora, and it wasn’t a decision I was going to take lightly.
Understandably, I was nervous when I finally settled on a name. Unlike a name you are given, for which other people can be held accountable, selecting your own name reflects directly on you. Moral of the story: choose wisely. So, confident that I had put more than enough thought into my decision, I waited until the next time my coach asked me if I had chosen a name. I now had a response that wasn’t “No. Not yet.”
The moment someone else first calls you by your ring name, you know if you’ve made the right choice. All my fears about presuming too much by picking too grandiose a name or picking a name that didn’t fit were erased the first time during training that my coach shouted at me using not my birth name, but the moniker I had selected:
“Jump higher, pinche Avispa!”