The Man Without a Mask, The New Yorker on Cassandro and the role of the exótico within lucha libre.
“It was Baby Sharon who encouraged me to step out of Mister Romano,” Armendáriz said. Baby Sharon was an exótico—a luchador who wrestles in drag. Exóticos have been around since the nineteen-forties. At first, they were dandies, a subset of rudos with capes and valets. They struck glamour-boy poses and threw flowers to the audience. As exóticos got swishier and more flirtatious, and started dressing in drag, the shtick became old-school limp-wristed gay caricature. Crowds loved to hate them, screaming “Maricón!” and “Joto!” (“Faggot!”). The exóticos made a delightful contrast with the super-masculine brutes they met in the ring. Popular exóticos insisted that it was all an act—in real life, they were straight. Baby Sharon was among the first, according to Armendáriz, to publicly say that, no, he was actually gay.[more inside]
The history of lucha libre in Mexico is hard to pin down, some citing the French invasion of 1863 as a origin of modern wrestling in Mexico, with two Italian business men making it commercial in the 1930s, while others take it back to the ancient Mayan and Aztec cultures and credit the modern rebirth with a retired revolutionary army colonel from the United States. But no matter who gets credit as the father of the Mexican sport, El Santo was it's hero for decades, in the ring, in comics, in the movies, and in life. [more inside]
English-speaking fans of lucha libre may have gotten hooked through MST3K's take on "Samson" versus the Vampire Women (prev), or seen the Incredibly Strange Film Show's el Santo episode. [more inside]
Perhaps most famous luchador of all time is El Santo (aka Samson), who starred in, amongst many other things, the MST'd Samson Vs. The Vampire Women (Google Video). He even had his own photo comic and bag figure. However, even El Santo himself would gasp at the phenomenal athleticism of today's luchadores. Skeptical? Well check out some highlights here, here and here (YT + Warning: obnoxiously rawkin' music) and then decide.
Striking photographs of the masked wrestlers of Mexico, Lucha Loco by Malcolm Venville. [via the amazing everlasting blort] [more inside]