The Marvel of Mexican Wrestling: A Brief History

Today, Mexican wrestling is well-known the world over for its colorful masks, rapid holds and maneuvers, and high-flying moves; many of which have now been adopted by wrestlers in the United States and elsewhere. Also known as lucha libre, which literally means “free fight” but is better translated as “freestyle wrestling,” you might be surprised to learn that Mexican wrestling has been around since the nineteenth century.

Mexican Wrestling’s Origins

Mexican wrestling started to become popular in Mexico in the early 1900s, but it actually dates back to 1863 when the very first luchadore, Enrique Ugartechea, invented lucha libre. It was inspired by the Greco-Roman form of wrestling.

The Sport Spread Nationally in the 1930s

Until 1933, Mexican wrestling was only big in the country regionally. That changed when Salvador Lutteroth founded the Empresa Mexicana de Lucha Libre, which enabled luchadores to compete nationally for the first time.

Interestingly, the famous brightly-colored masks that everyone today associates with Mexican wrestling also date back from 1933. A luchadore called El Ciclón McKey commissioned Don Antonio Martinez to make a mask for a fight and it proved to be a huge hit. El Ciclón McKey’s idea paved the way for masks to become an integral part of Mexican wrestling’s future. Don Martinez’ original store still exists today. It is located near Arena Mexico in Mexico City. If you get a chance to visit Mexico, you should check out the store. Of course, there are many other things to see and do in Mexico. One thing that should most definitely be on your list is visiting the ancient Mayan temples, such as the ruins of Chichen Itza. If you want to get in the mood, check out the fun and thrilling Book of Maya slot, which is set in a Mayan temple.

The Rise of Lucha Libre in the 1950s and 1960s

While lucha libre had been gradually gaining popularity for decades, it was only in the 1950s and 1960s that it became the phenomenal mainstream sport in Mexico. There were two reasons for the explosion of Mexican wrestling during that time. Firstly, television arrived. For the first time, people up and down the country could enjoy watching Mexican wrestling from the comfort of their own homes. Secondly, the popularity of the sport in the 1950s and 1960s was largely down to one wrestler: the legendary El Santo. He ushered in the golden age of lucha libre, and throughout his whole career, which began in 1942 and spanned nearly five decades, El Santo never revealed his face to the public; until shortly before he died in 1984. He became known for his trademark silver mask and took on superhero status in Mexico. El Santo became a symbol of justice for the common person, due to being immortalized in movies and comic books.

Other luchadores of the golden age that made Mexican wrestling so popular include Gory Guerrero, who developed moves and holds that are now commonplace, Mil Máscaras, who was the first Mexican wrestler to introduce high-flying moves, and Blue Demon, who was El Santo’s greatest rival.

The Marvel of Modern Mexican Wrestling

Today, people all over the world love watching Mexican wrestling on TV, online, or going to live matches. It was in the 1980s that people in the United States were able to view Mexican wrestlers for the first time. From there, the love for lucha libre spread like wildfire around the world. Nearly 160 years after Enrique Ugartechea invented the sport, Mexican wrestling has a larger audience than ever before.