Lucha Libre influences in Pop Culture
For years Pro Wrestling has been fighting an uphill battle to disassociate itself from phrases like “fake”, “low-class”, or “Hulkamania, brother!”.
If only the majority of the world’s population knew how passionate, creative, and ambitious Pro Wrestlers are. I have never experienced a job (Which is what Pro Wrestling is, we get compensated to perform/work, that’s a job!) where it’s employees would literally die for their profession.
How can a industry who has an army of soldiers that are filled with so much passion be looked down at by so many people?
Luckily, Lucha Libre has avoided the mainstream criticism that Pro Wrestling has been plagued with for years. Instead of being classified as “fake”, many look at Lucha Libre as an art form. This might be because of how over-the-top Lucha Libre is – the sport is so lavish that it doesn’t try to give the impression of realism. The masks, colours, capes, and characters also lends itself to a palette of creativity from wrestlers and fans.
Hollywood happily dove into the palette of Lucha Libre and etched the sport into pop culture history forever.
One of the luchadors that paved the way for his fellow wrestlers was El Santo.
In 1952, Jose G. Cruz created a comic book starring El Santo. He turned the legendary luchador into a super hero who battled monsters. The comic book ran continuously for 35 years, ending in 1987.
While Santo’s comic was flying off of the shelf, in 1958, Santo dove into the movie world appearing in his first movie “El Incognito”. Santo played a super hero sidekick, “El Enmascarado”, teaming up with an actor/luchador and good friend, Fernando Osés. The film did poorly during it’s initial release.
Santo’s film career really took off in 1961, when he starred in “Santo vs The Zombies.” He played himself, a professional wrestler moonlighting as a superhero.
At the end of his movie career, Santo ended up appearing in 52 movies with only 4 getting dubbed into English.
Santo’s most successful film was The Mummies of Guanajuato, which co-starred Blue Demon and Mil Mascaras. This movie is considered one of the best Lucha Libre inspired movies of all time.
The success of Santo’s film career ushered in movies starring Luchadors such as: Blue Demon, Mil Mascaras, Tinieblas and more.
Santo’s final movie appearance was Fury of the Karate Experts, shot in Florida in 1982.
2001, Santo’s son, El hijo del Santo, starred in a new Santo movie called Infrasterrestre. The Blue Panther co-starred in the movie as well.
Cartoon Network created an animated mini-series title, Santo Contra los Clones. The series was released in 2004 and was based on Santo’s classic movies where he battled against the evil scientist, Dr Clone.
Lucha Libre was reintroduced into mainstream Hollywood in 2006 with the release of Nacho Libre, a movie inspired by Fray Tormenta, who was a Luchador that wrestled to raise money for his church and charity. The movie was a cult-hit.
A year later, Mil Mascaras starred in another Lucha Libre inspired movie, Mil Mascaras vs the Aztec Mummy. The movie was released to a positive critical response.
Currently, El Rey’s Lucha Underground continues to introduce their flavour of Lucha Libre to a mainstream audience with their weekly innovative TV series.
Looking back at how well Lucha Libre is viewed in the media, there’s no fear of our favourite sport being taken advantage of. Viva la Lucha!