“It’s the battle between good and evil,” our guide Luis explains as the mini bus transports us to the Arena Mexico where I will watch my first ever Lucha Libre tournament.
More than just a collision of flesh and fist, there’s an almost celestial message that accompanies the sweat-soaked antics. Half of the lycra-clad fighters are “bad”, while the other half are “good” and they form tag teams to try and take the other side down with their blend of aerial and high-flying maneouvres that whip the crowd into a frenzy.
Lucha Libre, roughly translated as free fighting, has no doubt significantly evolved from its early days as a loosely regulated distraction from the ordures of the Mexican Revolution at the start of the 20th century. Now, the fighting is largely choreographed to please the masses with the fighters, or luchadores, sporting bright metallic masks and capes like comicbook superheros. Losing a mask to an opponent is the ultimate disgrace.
And the theatrical elements seem to be doing the trick – it is Mexico’s second most popular sport after soccer with the wrestlers revered.
Mistico, Super Porky, Mr Niebla and Averno are just some of the masked battlers to take to the arena – some tall, some short, some podgy, some chiselled.
Scantily-clad women entertain slack-jawed spectators with their gyrating hips and naked midriffs in between each match, but the place of women in the proceedings is not confined to the sidelines – they take on the arena too.
The action isn’t restricted only to the stage either. Members of the crowd pull on the eery masks and shimmering capes then flap rowdily between the rows of plastic seats while roaring encouragement to their favourite luchadors. They are distracted from their pantomime boos and cheers only by the ushers delivering vast containers of popcorn and beer to their seats.
I visited the Lucha Libre with Wayak.