Colorful ornate masks, unbelievable acrobatic stunts, feuds of epic proportions – if you had a chance to see these attributes of ‘lucha libre’ – the Mexican version of free wrestling – in the ring, you know what it means to wrestle Mexican style. High-flying and quick-paced moves of Mexican luchadores made a profound influence on modern-day American and Japanese pro-wrestlers. Without these impressive actions, the world of WWE would definitely be less exciting, less dynamic, less entertaining.
Let’s get to know five persons who embody the wild Mexican tradition. Their athleticism and daredevil skills brought tons of attention to lucha libre. They were revolutionaries who transformed pro-wrestling into something never seen by international audiences. Their legendary rivalries add a flair of drama to the sport. Considering how these mysterious masked men managed to change the public perception of wrestling as a show, they certainly deserve your undivided attention.
El Santo (The Saint)
The silver-masked giant was the one of the first lucha libre wrestlers who took their popularity to stratospheric heights. He paved his road to five decades of all-Mexican fame and the status of a nationwide icon with dozens of spectacular matches as well as a number of ridiculous, yet extremely successful action and horror movies like Mujeres Vampiro (Vampire Women) as well as best-selling comic strips. El Santo’s legendary feud with another big-name luchador Demonio Azul (Blue Demon) pioneered the idea of antagonistic relationships between two or more famous wrestlers, which turned into an inherent part of modern pro-wrestling shows.
The folk superhero and the local symbol of justice was also renowned for having never been unmasked during his life-time career. He didn’t stop wearing the mask even when eating in private company and had a special ‘mealtime’ version’ of his famous máscara de plata. The first and the only time he revealed his face was when the legend announced his retirement on TV just a week before he tragically died of a heart attack.
Demonio Azul (Blue Demon)
Contemporary of El Santo, Blue Demon is the second-biggest name in the history of Mexican wrestling. As a youngster, he used to be a railroad worker, and his co-workers nicknamed him ‘Manotas’, referring to his huge, powerful fists. The future legend started his career as a rudo – a bad guy. A little bit later, he teamed up with a prominent masked luchador named The Black Shadow. The duo became a national sensation as Los Hermanos Shadow (The Shadow Brothers).
In 1952, Blue Demon made a career-altering move after El Santo defeated and unmasked Black Shadow. Demonio Azul decided to become a tecnico – a good guy – and take revenge on El Santo. Their rivalry rose to crescendo in an unforgettable series of fights, in which Blue was victorious. The super-feud of lucha libre had never abated since then, although the two co-starred in certain horror flicks.
Mil Máscaras (Thousand Masks)
Along with El Santo and Blue Demon, the Man of a Thousand Masks is considered one of the original “Big Three” of the Lucha Libre pantheon. The amazing athlete opened a gate for luchadores into the world of American wrestling when he became the first hooded star who stepped on the WWE home arena – Madison Square Garden – in 1972. For six decades, the masked sensation promoted the Mexican high-flying style having turned into an international superstar just like second-to-none Andre the Giant.
Since his debut in 1965, the Mexican phenomenon fiercely protected his true identity never allowing anyone to see him without wearing one of his numberless masks. With his two brothers Dos Caras and Sicodélico, as well as nephews Alberto Del Rio and Sicodélico Jr., he founded one of the most outstanding dynasties in the lucha libre tradition. The proud son of his country, Mil Máscaras appeared on three of its postage stamps and also was one of the first wrestlers who introduced the aerial staples of lucha libre to Japanese fans. This is why the Mexican’s impact on pro-wrestling earned him an honored place in the WWE Hall of Fame in 2012.
Rey Misterio (King Mystery)
Few WWE stars utilized the lucha libre high flying style in a way as captivating as Rey Misterio did. Although he is only 5 ft 6 in (1.68 m) tall, the incredible Mexican kicked quite a few heavy-weight asses. Moreover the hummingbird’s size (comparing with the rest of WWE Universe’s giants) didn’t shatter his dreams to accomplish unthinkable and win the WWE World Heavyweight Title to become the smallest title-holder ever.
The most popular and successful luchador, who conquered the American league, excited the audience with his trade-mark aerial maneuvers, which made a revolution in WWE. Moreover, his high-flying stunts spawned imitations and daredevil bouts became legendary. His countless masks and equally numerous feuds changed the perceptions of stereotypical WWE champions. In 2015, after switching WWE to Lucha Underground, the veteran superstar got the opportunity to reinvent and challenge himself once again.
Místico/Sin Cara (Mystic/Without Face), Caristico
Under the name Místico, the constantly evolving superstar used to be the main tecnico in Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre (CMLL). Místico played a role of a religious ring protege of the wrestling priest Fray Tormenta. As a perfect underdog, the athlete was considered to be one of the most exciting luchadores of the 2000s and, arguably, in the history of lucha libre.
The wrestler’s ringname-changing saga started when he signed a contract with WWE in 2011. Místico turned into the original Sin Cara – a character wearing a golden-blue devilish mask who teamed up with John Cena and Rey Mysterio. Ironically, the identity-hiding convention played a nasty trick on the star. He confronted an impostor known as Sin Cara “Negro”. Their feud culminated in a Mask vs. Mask match in Mexico City, which resulted in the defeat of Sin Cara Negro and his subsequent unmasking.
In 2015, the wrestler returned to his roots and joined the Lucha Libre Elite league. He announced that he would wrestle under the name “Carístico”, which is a combination of Místico and Sin Cara.