A FEW full-blooded bouts of Mexican wrestling should attract an alternative audience to The Sage Gateshead tomorrow night.
Lucha Future is one of the attractions of the current ¡Vamos! Festival celebrating the cultures of the world’s Spanish and Portuguese-speaking nations.
Nothing the festival can offer is likely to generate as much heat as this colourful, one-off event.
Promoter Andy Wood says this brand of wrestling is the second most popular sport in Mexico after football.
“We’ve got 15 of Mexico’s finest wrestlers, and also a live band,” he says.
“They’ve been to London a couple of times before but we were keen to take them further afield. This time, they’re doing five shows in London, then they go to Gateshead and then Brighton. Yours is the only show in the North.”
Lucha, says Andy, is Spanish for struggle. Lucha libre was born in the 1930s and means free wrestling.
“The wrestlers are thought of as having these magical powers.
“Within the show there are elements of what people might remember from wrestling on ITV in the 1970s, but there are different types of wrestlers. The aero wrestlers do a lot of stuff over the top rope.”
Having seen the photos and a YouTube clip, I can tell you that those ITV icons Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks might not have had the agility for the Lucha Future show, with its flamboyant spinning and slam-dunking.
What many people will remember of the ITV wrestling was its questionable scheduling during the sports coverage. How competitive actually is it?
“What I always say is, it’s like jazz,” says Andy. “You improvise around a theme but everyone knows what the theme is. In wrestling, you don’t want anyone to get hurt.
“Among the group of guys you’ve got here are people who have been world champions at various weights. It’s a serious thing as well as being a lot of fun. But I can tell you these guys are incredible athletes.”
Magno, one of the English-speaking lucha libre wrestlers, can vouch for this and also for the competitiveness of a bout.
“It is a real competition and that is why I am in the gym every day from Monday to Thursday,” he says.
“When we wrestle we give 200% and, of course, all of us want to win.”
Magno tells me this is his 12th year as a lucha libre wrestler – he started when he was 14, following his brother.
“I had my first match when I was 14 or 15 and it was a tough, hard match and I was very nervous.”
He didn’t win but he tried again. “A lot of people get despondent if they don’t win, but it gave me a push and I tried harder the second time.”
Character and costume are important in lucha libre and Magno tells me his were developed with the help of his coach, although the impetus came from him: “I started as a good character but I can be both good and bad. If the match is hard I turn into a bad person.”
Magno says he had a childhood ambition to become a vet but he was seduced by wrestling.
He has no regrets. As the father of two young children, he is pleased that he can provide them with a very good living.
Savour the adrenalin rush of luche libre at The Sage Gateshead tomorrow. For tickets call 0191 443 4661 or see the website at www.thesagegateshead.org