Creative performance is my driving inspiration. As a professional luchador, I become a character through my performance: my very persona is created by the nuances and broader actions within the ring. Ave Rex then is the end product of that which I create: it is the individual words I choose and the consistency of my actions which give shape to my identity and breathe life into the performance. 
As some of you may have noticed on Facebook, both myself and Lucha Volcánica recently expressed support for Washington State HB 2573, which would help to lower the initial costs to host a lucha libre show—for that matter any type of professional wrestling show—in Washington State.
I am in no way a deregulation mongerer, but the rigor of the State’s requirements is as such that opening and maintaining a professional wrestling promotion—both financially and logistically—is nearly impossible. Based upon the requirements, here’s a rough breakdown of expenses a wrestling promotion incurs for a single event:
- A promoter’s license: $500
- 6% of the gross receipts paid for admission must be paid to the state
- …plus $1 per ticket sold
- Protective guardrail around the ring: $100-$170
- An ambulance plus 2 EMTs must be onsite for the entirety of the event (usually 2-3 hours): $110 per hour, plus a minimum charge of one hour of drive time.
- “Adequate” (definition unclear) security staffing, but clearly this could create additional costs.
This of course, is all before the promoter pays any space rental fee, and pays her performers, the emcee, ring announcers, DJs, and so on.
Additionally when a promoter intends to have an event, he or she is required to have an inspection by a state licensed inspector. The DOL site lists only three inspectors: two of whom have expired licenses and one of whom is “pending documentation.” The latter of which illustrates that even if a promoter wants to eat all of the costs to have an event, odds are she would have trouble doing so legally by the State by the sheer inaccessibility of an inspector.
It’s also worth noting that each individual wrestler must be licensed. This Combative Sports License must be renewed and paid for annually by the performer, and requires:
- a physical examination
- an STD blood panel
- a urine test
- a $25 fee to the state
In my experience, the full cost of this exam is roughly $150-$200 to the performer.
A priori these costs alone appear crippling to a small company. This is perhaps best illustrated by the Washington Department of Licensing’s numbers. Of the 27 promoters licenses for the state, only 2—WWE and TNA—are active. Similarly only two Pacific Northwest announces are licensed, with the remaining 10 or so licenses belonging to WWE announcers. Further, of the 200 viewable wrestling licenses listed, the only active licensed belong to WWE wrestlers°. This lacking diversity within the licensure illustrates a system that prevents small companies from flourishing, or pushes them underground often forcing performers to wrestle in less than ideal conditions. In either case the State is not benefitting financially, and the potential for a lucha libre or pro wrestling scene—and all of the business therein—is being squandered. The net gain for performers, local business, and the State alike ultimately lies in changing the current regulations, which are proving to keep lucha libre and pro wrestling in a perpetual chokehold.
° Only A-D portions of the alphabet are viewable on the DOL website.
Licensing statistics: WA State Department of Licensing: http://www.dol.wa.gov/business/athletics/prowrestler.html
EMT & Ambulance Pricing Quote: American Medical Response: http://www.amr.net/Locations/Operations/Washington/Tacoma—-Pierce-County.aspx
Guardrail rental quote: National Barricade Co. 6518 Ravenna Ave NE, Seattle, WA 98115
In theatre the principal goal of an actor is to perform as another person on a stage in such a way that becomes believable to the audience—to become another person via performance. Such is also common in movies and TV, of course.
However in lucha libre, such is always not the case. Despite external forces (promoters, advertisers, sponsors, audience expectations, etc.) some luchadors are merely themselves in the ring. However the vast majority of individuals are hardly charismatic enough to hold an audience’s attention, and therefore even those who choose not to perform a gimmick have to exaggerate something in the ring. Because no person is merely one-dimensional, we then might ask: what aspects of self does one perform on stage?
I, for example—and this is not uncommon—take a facet or two of my personality and magnify them for the stage. If you’ve ever listened to one of my interviews, it’s immediately obvious that my in-ring antics, yelling, and hypermachismo are hardly my modus operandi. Yet my performance as non-luchador, as myself in the world, would hardly make for interesting lucha libre. Thus I take the assumptions and expectations of the audience (male, luchador, champion, muscles, tattoos, and so on) and extrapolate to create a character that is believable within said parameters. Although I try to play with these expectations from time to time, I am keenly aware that should I make a complete break from hegemonic normativity, I will likely lose the interest of the audience. In short, being cognizant can make character creation a bit tricky.
As a luchador enmascarado, I am afforded the luxury of fading into anonymity after removing my mask. For me this separation of character and self is important.
For one lucha libre is a theatre of violence: it’s ontology is constructed of nothing but fierce conflict and the solvency of these battles depends upon its actors being able to destroy each other physically. Historically, of course, this is the realm of masculinity (for the particular challenges this presents to luchadoras—female luchadors—check out La Avispa’s blog) and therefore machismo is presupposed and expected by the audience. Although I am no pacifist, I have no intentions of becoming a person who quickly resorts to violence, and thus this separation provides both an outlet for energy that may have been diverted towards violent behavior. Further this creates distance between said behavior and myself outside of the ring, as I am only “Fénix” in the ring, and I am never “Fénix” outside of the context of lucha libre.
This distance is not an excuse for offensive behavior, however. Although some hacks might argue otherwise (e.g., at a wrestling show last year, I watched a white male “performer” use the phrase “beaners” in attempt to evoke heat from the predominantly Latino crowd), being in character does not absolve the performer from all responsibility for his or her actions in the ring. But this is not to say that the stage cannot be used to explore ideas or for social commentary, for theatre is nothing if it is not exploring some state of the human condition, whether abstract (e.g., existentialism in Samuel Beckett’s End Game) or social commentary (race relations/socioeconomic inequality in Suzan-Lori Parks’ In The Blood). For a modern example of this within professional wrestling, check out the feud between Border Patrol and Blue Demon Jr. Exóticos also have great capacity for criticism via satire and hyperbole, but more on that later.
Secondly, anonymity allows us luchadors to be in the world uninterrupted. While few luchadores in the USA have any fame resembling that of celebrities, I am comforted knowing that regardless of my popularity, I can fade into the crowd and go unrecognized.
Not all luchadores put this much forethought into crafting a persona, and admittedly many of these are a posteriori deductions from interrogating my own performances, which I have put in conversation with my personal values and understanding of lucha libre as performance art. More at a later date on how lucha libre can function as criticism, but for now check out performances by exótico Maximo, and—as previously stated—the ongoing conflict between Border Patrol and Blue Demon Jr.
Some time ago I was asked why I spend 10-15 hours per week training for lucha libre, despite the fact that it is physically taxing, exhausting, and not exactly lucrative. The short answer?
I’ve been kicking around the idea of starting a podcast for some time, and as of today, I have officially ordered a microphone…which at the very least illustrates a modest financial commitment to recording things. Continue reading “A Podcast Draws Near!”
Yes, a prison.
No, this was not a gimmick match.
I actually wrestled in a Mexican federal prison. In front of resident prisoners. Against a resident prisoner.
How did this happen? Apparently funciónes de lucha libre are a regular occurrence in some non-maximum security prisons in D.F.—at least this one particular prison has a history of lucha events. Beyond the yards and yards of razor wire, and packs of strangely nondescript, free-roaming (guard?) dogs, the El Reclusorio Oriente Varonil features sports facilities, a theatre, and classrooms. Despite the setting, everyone we met was exceptionally nice, including every resident, and stone-faced, M16-equipped prison guard.
I witnessed two accidents, which are both the first from any event in which I have participated. One luchador separated his shoulder after landing a plancha incorrectly; another luchador accidentally split his head open, covering himself and all of his opponents in blood. Both of these accidents happened right before my match, which is—as one may have guessed—not at all nerve wracking. In the main event, I teamed up with a luchador dressed as Jack and one other luchador, against Sepulcro, Sepultura Jr., and Sepultura, the latter of whom is a resident of ROV.
On a very different note: the following weekend we descended upon a birthday party for the son of a fellow luchador.
The card featured a two-hour show, during which I teamed up with another luchador to face-off against Mimo Fantasia and Destino in the semifinals.
For our efforts we were rewarded with an appreciative crowd, tequila, and tacos al pastor. The party had roughly 100 people, and although I have wrestled in front of much larger crowds, the level of audience interaction at this event was almost unparalleled. In part, this may have been because of the close proximity to the crowd, wherein audience members had to move when we took the fight outside of the ring. It also may have been due to the prevalence of tequila and mezcal at the event. In any case, good times were had by all.
Then came the day after…
Above? Antibiotics. The doctor I saw three days later blamed the tacos al pastor, but either way I ended up missing an entire week of life—let alone training—due to los tacos. At least it was not as bad as other cases I have heard of, and it afforded me the time to catch up on all the sleep that I have missed since high school.
Fortunately I had mostly recovered by the following Saturday for the Desfile Alebrijes parade!
We were invited to the annual parade, which features a procession of artists, musicians, and—most importantly—huge paper maché beasts. The Museo de Arte Popular hosts a display of the pieces for a month on both ends of the parade before facilitating the epic march through downtown.
We were later tricked into briefly dancing to Gangnam Style in the street with a troupe of 15 year-olds. Fortunately no photos or videos have surfaced.
Until next week…
Authors note: cameras were not allowed in the federal prison, thus the first three photos have been borrowed from other websites and are not my intellectual property. Clicking the images will direct you to the respective original web pages of each image.