They’re dramatic, acrobatic, and a little bit wild. Seeing a Lucha Libre show, you’ll be amused by the drama and impressed by the acrobatic skills of the luchadores. This is one of the fun activities you can do in Mexico City. There are shows several nights a week at Arena Mexico, and you can get your tickets on the same day, so you don't even need to plan in advance. Here’s some background about Lucha Libre and what you should know if you want to see a show in Mexico City.
What is Lucha Libre?
Lucha Libre (Mexican wrestling) involves athletic guys—and a few women—performing wild antics in a ring (as well as on the ropes and outside the ring too!). Spectators get involved by making their voices heard, cheering on, or booing to show their pleasure or displeasure at the antics in and out of the ring. You don’t need to understand Spanish to get what’s going on. They make it all very clear with their theatrical moves. Even if you do understand Spanish, it may be hard to understand the rules, but no one seems to care very much about the rules. Just enjoy the performance.
This wrestling style is similar to WWE in the United States but differs from that and other types of wrestling in that the luchadores (wrestlers) often wear masks and perform high-flying acrobatic moves. They hide their identity and create a special, usually outlandish, persona with a story. A luchador may put their mask into play in a special fight. If the other luchador is also masked, this is called mask against mask and if the opponent is unmasked, it’s called mask against hair. The loser of the match will be forced to relinquish their mask or if unmasked, must shave their head. The stakes are higher for the masked luchador, because once unmasked, a luchador may not don their mask ever again.
History of Lucha Libre
Enrique Ugartechea (1889-1930) is considered the pioneer of Mexican wrestling. He is believed to have brought this free-style wrestling format to Mexico. During the time of the Mexican Revolution, two Italian businessmen residing in Mexico, Giovanni Relesevitch and Antonio Fournier, owned competing theater companies, and they began to host fights between representatives of their companies, which became very popular, bringing them both great success. It was in September 1933, however, that Salvador Lutherott González (1897-1987) founded the Empresa Mexicana de Lucha Libre (today known as the Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre), and he is considered the "father of Lucha Libre."
Lutherott ordered the construction of Arena Mexico in Mexico City’s Colonia Doctores, which was inaugurated in 1956. With a capacity for 17,000 spectators, the building was one of the largest indoor fora in the world at that time. It was used to host boxing and wrestling matches in the 1968 Olympics and is still used as a venue for weekly Lucha Libre matches as well as occasional boxing events.
Probably the most famous luchador of all time is “El Santo.” Rodolfo Guzmán Huerta made his debut in the summer of 1942 with this wrestling name. His silver mask and mysterious identity captured the public’s fascination, and his fighting ability won their admiration. He became a folk hero and a symbol of justice for the common people and appeared in movies and comic books. His wrestling career lasted into the 1980s, and he was never unmasked. El Hijo del Santo (1963- ) continues his father’s tradition and is one of the biggest names in Lucha Libre today.
Where to See Lucha Libre
There are three arenas in Mexico City where you can see Lucha Libre. Arena Mexico in Colonia Doctores is the largest of the three and hosts luchas every Tuesday, Friday, and Sunday night. You can check out the lineup on the website of the CMLL (Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre). Arena Coliseo is an older arena located in Colonia Cuauhtemoc, and it also has regularly scheduled luchas, usually on Saturdays. The smallest arena is the Arena Naucalpan, with a capacity for only 2,400 spectators. It's a much more intimate experience, but it's farther out from the city center and a bit more difficult to get to.
How to Attend
Join a tour: The easiest way to go to see a Lucha Libre show is to join a tour that includes transportation, your ticket, and possibly some other goodies like shots of tequila and a mask. A few different companies offer this service such as Turiluchas, which is organized by the same company that operates the Turibus, Urban Adventures’ Cantina, Mariachi and Lucha Libre excursion and Wayak’s Spectacular Wrestling Tour. They’ll pick you up at your hotel or at a central meeting place, and the tickets come with the package, so there’s no guesswork involved, and you can just focus on enjoying yourself.
Go independently: It’s not too difficult to go to see a Lucha Libre match independently, however. To get to the Arena Mexico, you can take the Mexico City metro to Cuauhtemoc station, and it's about a 10-minute walk from there. You can also take a taxi or Uber, which now operates in Mexico City.
You can buy tickets in advance on Ticketmaster (they usually go on sale about three days before), or at the ticket booth on the day of the show (cash only). There are also scalpers outside the arena selling tickets ahead of the show, but it’s better to buy from the ticket booth so you know you're paying the official price. Look for a sign that says "taquilla" (ticket booth) and they'll have a map of the arena so you can see where the tickets you're purchasing are located. The highest priced tickets are usually less than $20 US, and it's less for seats farther back.
Get to the arena about an hour before the start of the show and walk around to see the stalls selling luchador masks and other paraphernalia. Have some tacos from a street stall, or wait until you get inside—there are vendors walking around offering beer, soft drinks, tacos and other snacks. When you go in, an usher (wearing a blue apron) will show you to your seats and give you a program. They'll expect a tip (20 or 30 pesos is fine), so be sure you have some change on hand.
What to Bring
Note that you’re not allowed to bring cameras, food, or drink into the arena. You may use your cell phone to take photos. Security outside the arena will physically pat you down (there are female security officers to pat down women) and check your bag. If possible, just bring the bare essentials: a sweater or jacket, your phone, and the cash you’ll need for the evening.