Mexican wrestling at the VAMOS! festival is a LOT of fun. A largely young, hip crowd gathered in the afternoon around the outdoor ring at the old Toffee Factory site down in the Ouseburn Valley in Newcastle. The building is now converted into office space for creative businesses and was an ideal site for such a unique event. Spectators queued for PICA PICA street food like bean chilli, meatballs and arepas which are a type of maize dough sandwich. Everyone was drinking bottles of SOL, the Mexican lager, and positioning themselves in anticipation of a few bouts of high octane wrestling with lots of throws, acrobatics, theatrical posturing and good natured throttling of your opponent. You could even see what you would look like with your head on a Mexican Wrestler’s body but I don’t think I convinced anyone.
The combat display is like a cross between pantomime, old school wrestling and gymnastics with the addition of exotic, rather scary, masks. There was lots of hurling of bodies, clattering each other assertively onto the floor of the ring and loud ‘nipple slapping’ which can’t have been nice. Our fighters were El Ligero, Mystery Man Tagori, Nathan Cruz and last, but not least Rampage Brown.
We watched the mighty Rampage battle against the agile El Ligero (light and fast) symbolising the conflict of good versus evil and I think good won at the end, but I can’t be sure.
El Ligero gets himself into a tangle
It was a lovely June afternoon with a great party atmosphere. Cool music was playing which might have been Drum ‘n’ Bass but my companion thought was more like ‘Dirty Dubstep.’ We’re not really up to speed with that kind of thing, but there was definitely a bit of twerking going on in the audience. There was some great latin music as well, which was getting everyone in that Mexico mood.
A Geordie MC who was actually the chef, introduced proceedings in a rather random way, but on reflection I think he should really have stuck to serving meatballs.
Street Food fun
Lucha libre, meaning literally ‘free wrestling’ is a term used in Mexico and other Spanish speaking countries for their particular brand of professional wrestling. It is a pretty fast moving spectacle, with complicated holds and high flying manoeuvres for which a high degree of flexibility and fitness is essential. Oh yes, and plenty of muscles. There aren’t many men I know that can do the splits upside down on the ropes of a boxing ring. Well, none, really, come to think of it.
Ligero hits the splits
I vaguely remember that we used to have our own brand of old school UK wrestling, which my Grandma loved to watch on TV. It featured larger than life characters such as Big Daddy, Giant Haystacks and Mick McManus grunting and growling and grappling with each other, but their performances were pretty tame in comparison to the flamboyant Mexican version. At 35 stone it was a wonder Giant Haystacks could walk into the ring never mind catapult himself across it! It never seemed odd at the time that the biggest audience for Saturday afternoon wrestling was old ladies (apparently) but I guess you’ve got to get your fun where you can at that age.
Don’t mess with the mask!
The Luchadors are really very skilled acrobatic fighters and the fact that you could get so near to them at this venue made their abilities even more impressive. I was up close trying to take pictures, but at one point the combat spilled out of the ring and into the crowd and I had to move nimbly backwards out of the way rescuing my handbag in the process.
The masks provide that ‘Zorro’ air of mystery and are quite oriental looking. They really add to the ‘Superhero versus Villain’ comic book feel of the event. In Mexico, top Luchadors are national icons and it is an incredibly popular sport. I loved the Mexican wrestling. It was high energy, exciting and very entertaining in a sort of safely violent way. We know the fights were carefully choreographed but that doesn’t make them any less impressive. It beats a Saturday afternoon trip to the supermarket any day.