Brightly colored spandex, closely kept secret identities, powers like flight and super-strength. Sound familiar? Story of my life. I firmly maintain that being a luchador or luchadora is by far the closest anyone can get to being a superhero in real life (…or super villain, in the case of rudos). And for a kid who grew up desperately wishing she was Buzz Lightyear†, being a luchadora is a dream come true. You’d have a hard time convincing me that even the actors who play superheroes get as close to that reality as we do. Their true names roll in the credits. Ours don’t.
In my opinion, that is the one bittersweet reality of lucha libre. If you wrestle masked (as most luchadores do), you will receive no recognition outside of the context of a show or events attended in-mask. Unlike in movies or comic books, the audience doesn’t know the other you. The Bruce Wayne to your Batman. The “you” who lives outside the ring. That’s how highly valued anonymity is valued in lucha. On one hand it’s relaxing knowing that as soon as you slip back into the proverbial phone booth you are unrecognizable, and therefore immune to the jostling mass of fans that only moments before crowded around you for a photo-op. On the other hand, I can’t count the number of times in daily conversations that I’ve had to stifle the urge to point out that I was the one smashing the rudos and performing feats of daring do. For the most part, all bragging rights are revoked when you dedicate your time to performing a sport that hinges on anonymity.
However, I know that this anonymity is the price I pay to keep the magic alive. I think that something in the spectacle of lucha libre would be lost if the audience knew everything. They must already knowingly play along in so many ways, but the mask preserves the one mystery that (short of a lucha de apuestas*) will always remain just that. A mystery.
†Admittedly not a superhero, but awesome nonetheless.
*A match predicated on a bet, where the losing party loses their mask (or if they already wrestle sans mask, their hair).