I’m baaack! Back in the US, that is. Well, my body is back at least. My mind is still roaming the streets of Colonia Guerrero…
Last Wednesday Ave Rex and I flew out of the Portland International Airport down to the Benito Juarez International Airport in Mexico City.
We landed at about 5 in the evening, Mexico time, and Sepulcro (my coach Jose’s old lucha partner) was there to greet us. It was fantastic to see him again after two years. We then went and hung out with Miguel (our mask and gear maker) at his workshop (which is now conveniently located inside the Hercules Moderno Gym… more on that place in a minute). I had a couple pieces of gear for him to modify, as well as my old lucha boots… which after 4 years of almost continuous use quite frankly looked like hell.
In 2014 I barely scratched the surface of life as a working luchador in Mexico City. I was still more of a student than a regularly performing luchadora. Two years later, I am leaps and bounds stronger, faster, and a far more seasoned performer to boot (thanks to monthly shows at eVOLV Fitness and other assorted performances throughout the year). By comparison, my 2014 trip was for tourist-y leisure. This time it was a business trip.
Here’s roughly what my schedule looked like in Mexico City last week: I spent Thursday morning in the weight room at Hercules, took a brief break for pollo adobado and tortillas, then went to train later that evening with Mimo Fantasia. Bat Boy, Gringo Loco, and Profe Jose showed up on Thursday too. Friday was effectively a rest day by; lucha libre related-activities consisted only of going to see a CMLL show at Arena Mexico. (Ave Rex and I got on camera!). Then the chaos started: Saturday we all went as a group and wrestled in prison, and Ave Rex and I immediately turned around and wrestled at the Hercules Gym later that night. On Sunday, we all traveled to Tlalnepantla to perform at Arena Lopez Mateos. The cherry on top? Monday was supposed to be a “just f**k off and do nothing” day… instead Ave Rex and I got invited to train at Arena Mexico with legendary CMLL trainer Tony Salazar. Talk about a dream come true, right there.
Saturday: a Tale of Two Matches
Well, I can now say I’ve wrestled in a Mexican prison. The Reclusorio Oriente, to be specific. It’s apparently (according to its Wikipedia page) the most populated prison in Mexico City. Lucha libre falls under the category of approved entertainment for inmates, and these shows occur with some regularity.
In order to get in we had to give our names well in advance, provide ID, have our gear searched, get a series of blacklight stamps on our forearms, as well as wear a numbered placard identifying us visitors. That was all *before* going through about 3-4 guarded checkpoints. We all trekked in as a group of about 17, and we had to leave the same way. Being inside the prison was… interesting. Imagine a street fair inside a jail. That’s where we wrestled. A courtyard opened up onto what looked like a smallish tent city with a lucha libre ring smack in the center. Some luchadors we performed with were even inmates. Mind you, I have no photos of any of this since we had to lock up all electronics before even entering the compound.
I’m going to take a quick side tangent- The reclusorio has no official uniforms for the inmates, just color dress codes. Visitors can’t wear beige (prisoners wear beige), or black (guards wear black), or white (administrative staff wear white), or shorts. Funny story: Ave Rex, Gringo Loco, and Bat Boy only brought black pants or shorts. The solution? Rex went and bought some sweet joggers, while Bat Boy and Gringo Loco borrowed pants from Sepulcro. It looked like we brought a pajama party to the reclusorio.
Another fun fact: the match in the reclusorio was my official first time wrestling against another woman. Yessirree, all of my matches here in the states have been against men. But on Saturday I went up against a ruda named Sexy Violeta, the only other luchadora to wrestle in the reclusorio that day. We were in a trios match with four other gents, and the rudos bested us tecnicos in two of three falls. I do have to say it was supremely refreshing to finally encounter another woman who is a fairly strong wrestler. I had about 5 inches on her, she had about 15 pounds on me, and she had no problems whatsoever hoisting me in a clean fireman’s carry. Both with roughly 5 years wrestling experience, we were pretty evenly matched, skill-wise.
Then after a few hours it was time for us all trek back out the way we came in. Checkpoints, stamps, ID, and all…
…and practically run to the Hercules Gym! Ave Rex and I were booked for a singles match, and were damn near late. I do have to say that the US indy scene could learn a thing or two from that show. Gringo Loco and Bat Boy had the pleasure of getting to sit back and watch as every match burought down the house time and time again. That was by far my favorite match of the trip, and it was awesome getting to see the other luchadors on the card do their thing.
Sunday: the Big Arena Show
On Sunday we all took a trip to Tlalnepantla to perform at Arena Lopez Mateos. It was almost 2 hours by bus from where we were staying. That bus ride reminded me that traffic rules are merely a suggestion in Mexico City.
We got there about half an hour before bell time, only to find that the show might be cancelled due to low attendance. Fortunately, the promoter decided to wait it out and postpone the show by a half-hour, and by that time there was enough of an audience to go forward with the event.
It’s a Small World After All…
One thing I learned on this trip is that networking is HUGE in the lucha libre community. The connections you make can take you places, and are enduring as long as you take the time to keep in contact. For example, Sepulcro has done a great job of arranging performance or publicity opportunities every time myself, Ave Rex, or anyone from LLV goes down to visit. Evidence? We got all an interview with a local newspaper while we were down this time, as well as having the opportunity to wrestle in the reclusorio.
More evidence? Negro Navarro (the legendary luchador we had up to Seattle for a seminar at LLV this spring) dropped by the locker room at Arena Lopez Mateos to say hi to us. He wasn’t even on the card.
Another piece of evidence? Demus 666, who Ave Rex and I met last month in Woodburn, happens to wrestle for CMLL and got us complimentary tickets to the show. He also got us booked on the show at the Hercules Gym.
More evidence? On Friday at Arena Mexico I spotted CMLL photographer and webmaster Alexis Salazar out in the hallway after the show and took a picture with him. Profe Jose also chatted with him for a bit about LLV. I then tweeted that photo at him. The next day he was following all of my social media, and by the day after that (my final day in Mexico), he had invited us to train at Arena Mexico. How did he manage that? Well… his dad is the legendary CMLL former luchador and current trainer Tony Salazar. Caristico’s uncle. No big deal. (ok, I lied. It’s a big deal.) So, instead of spending the day relaxing and preparing for the trip back north, Ave Rex and I geared up and headed to Arena Mexico.
HOLY S**T. I still kind of can’t believe that happened. That was an absolute dream come true. And I’m pleased to say that, all things considered, Ave Rex and I were definitely able to hang with the training session. We started out with conditioning: 1 full lap of stairs around the top of the area, (LOTS of stairs), then 10 laps running the top level of the arena. That was rather hellish because I’m not sure I’ve run ten laps of anything in my life, let alone an enormous arena. But once the running was over the lucha part itself was fairly easy. We were roundly well-prepared by our training at LLV, Tony Salazar was just good at nitpicking form. I’ve never been more thankful to have a solid foundation of the basics of lucha libre. Yes, there’s a reason you don’t do anything fancy for the first few months after you start training. If you don’t have the basics, you don’t have anything. And getting the nod from someone who works with high-profile luchadors definitely validated the months and years I’ve put into learning the sport of lucha libre.
Oh, and NEGRO CASAS (another legendary luchador) JUST DROPPED THE F**K IN TO SAY HI on his way out of the weight room. The rest of the class thought it was hilarious that Ave Rex and I started wigging out the moment Sr. Casas walked in the room. No shame. I’ll own up to being starstruck. He’s one of my favorite luchadors.
I left the Arena that night feeling simultaneously elated and exhausted. In parting, Tony Salazar let me know that I’d definitely made a positive impression, and that I’m welcome back to train with him any time I come back down.
I think I’ve made my point about networking.
I’d have to say that this time the return to my “normal” life was definitely bittersweet. On one hand, it’s a relief to be back at home and sleep in my own bed. Be back to my garden, my geckos, and my routine. On the other hand, it’s hard to return to work after the adventure of a foreign city and a schedule almost solely composed of lifting, training, wrestling, networking, and spending time with friends (both new and familiar).
I’ll definitely be going back. I feel like this trip opened so many doors that I’d be squandering opportunities by not going back. I don’t have a timeframe for my return quite yet, but as always I’ll make a point to update this blog with any big exciting news.