Nobody enters their first semester of college knowing exactly what to expect. That said, I don’t think anyone goes in imagining that they’ll be invited to take up lucha libre. Least of all me. This story just goes to show that life really begins where your comfort zone ends.
I began college in the fall of 2011 and had a lot of free time my first semester. So, not really knowing what to do with myself (and despite having absolutely no circus or gymnastics background whatsoever) I decided to join circus club. That was the first unusual turn of events. My parents joked that they sent me to college and I went and joined the circus.
Surprisingly, I took to partner acrobatics pretty quickly. For the most part I was learning acro with other freshmen, and it was kind of addictive. Then one day a senior member of the club showed up. People had been referring to the most skilled acro base the club had, but I’d never met him. I had also heard that he did lucha libre (mind you, at that point I only vaguely knew what lucha was). Coincidentally, when he walked in I recognized him as a guy from the weightlifting course I was taking that same semester. Long story short, that was how I met El Fénix (2015 edit: he’s now wrestling under the name Ave Rex).
By that point I was quickly turning into one of the most advanced acro flyers, so he and I began working together to prepare for a circus show. This continued on for a couple months. Then one fateful evening whilst working on an acro routine he asked me, point blank, if I wanted to come to lucha practice with him. For a second I was stunned. Was he serious? Apparently so. I guess he figured I was coordinated enough to try my hand at lucha without making a complete fool of myself. I had never considered such a thing in my entire life. Who knows if I was ever going to get such a rare offer again? Without further ado, I snatched the opportunity.
So, after a hasty dinner and a dash to my dorm to get appropriate clothing, I climbed onto the back of his 500 cc motor scooter. Away we went, north on I-5 into the freezing November night.
I really had no idea what I was getting myself into, and in retrospect I’m not exactly sure why I was so immediately drawn to lucha. The first practices are painful. You learn to roll and run the ropes, and my back was so covered in welts after those first few practices that I could barely lay flat to sleep. But I loved it. Maybe it was easy to get into because I already knew Spanish. The language barrier wasn’t as big of a deal for me as for some other new students. Maybe it was because the coach and the other luchadores at Lucha Libre Volcánica were genuinely awesome, welcoming, and encouraging people. Or perhaps I had a leg up because El Fénix helped me learn the basics of lucha during circus practice. Whatever it was, I left the first practice sore, tired, hungry… and completely enamored of the sport.