Posted on April 2, 2012

With Immigration Storylines, Lucha Libre Pits Mexican Wrestlers Against American ‘Bad Guys’

Fox News Latino, March 30, 2012

U.S. sports promoters of Lucha Libre — a genre of professional wrestling popular in Mexico since the 1930s, are targeting a growing Mexican immigrant and Mexican-American markets with more overtly political storylines revolving around immigration.

It’s a move akin to what U.S. wrestling promoters did in the 1980s and 1990s, when they took on race and the Cold War, but with a twist — now, the American is the bad guy.

Defiantly waving an Arizona state flag, the self-described American patriot leaps into an octagon-shaped ring amid blaring music and loud boos from an overwhelmingly Latino audience, who hold aloft signs in Spanish supporting his masked Mexican opponents.

“My name is RJ Brewer and I’m from Phoenix, Arizona,” the wrestler proclaims in a video of a recent match provided by the promoter. Taunts from inside the arena get louder.

He proceeds to rail against Mexican beer and to demand that people speak English. Then he points to the message painted on the backside of his red trunks: “SB1070” — a reference to Arizona’s controversial immigration law. The crowd, some wearing masks of their favorite Mexican wrestlers, shrieks ever louder. He then brags that his “mother,” Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, is helping “save” America by pushing policies that limit immigration (he’s not really her son).

When his masked opponent in a red cape appears, the crowd erupts into cheers.

One lucha libre promotion is leading the charge away from the slapstick and simple storylines with a tour in U.S. cities with sizable Latino populations, including events in Reno, Nev., and San Jose, Calif., this week. It’s using the recent events in Arizona as a backdrop while pitting popular masked Mexican wrestlers against American “bad guys.”

“It’s something that we’ve been building in our TV shows and we’ve gotten a lot of positive reaction to it,” said Steve Ship, CEO of Lucha Libre USA, which this week is launching a “Masked Warriors” tour that will also stop in Phoenix, Los Angeles and Houston. “So we are bringing it right to our audience.”


To be sure, politics and professional wrestling often have mixed. Dave Meltzer, editor of the Wrestling Observer, a newsletter that follows professional wrestling, said during U.S. foreign affairs flaps, the “foreign menace,” whether it was the Iron Sheik during the Iran hostage crisis or Russian bad guy Nikolai Volkoff during the Cold War, always played roles in giving hero stars a heel everyone could hate.


Even in smaller lucha libre promotions in Tijuana, Mexico, and south Texas border towns, promoters used American border patrol heels to fight masked good guys to build rivalries, Meltzer said. But usually those storylines remained simple since the smaller promotions didn’t have big television contracts to develop conflicts and characters. {snip}

With Lucha Libre USA, the character of RJ Brewer has been built around promotional videos in which he openly shows disdain for anything “foreign.” In one video, Stagikas is shown “patrolling” the Arizona-Mexico border after his mom tipped him off that some Mexican luchadores were about to cross over illegally.

Blue Demon, Jr., is shown as the protector of immigrants and a wrestler who is fighting for a larger cause.