Unlike wrestling in the UK and the US, the theatrics of the Lucha Libre are deeply centred around the hidden identities of the wrestlers. Each wrestler strives to protect his real identity via an elaborate costume and mask – the key symbol of strength and empowerment that enables all to compete on the same level.
Malcolm Venville spent six months in Mexico City meeting and photographing several of the country’s biggest names. The resulting portraits are brought together in a book, Lucha Loco.
Venville photographed each wrestler in a neutral studio setting which only serves to heighten the intensity of the outfits on show: tight spandex and lycra abound while there is a whole range of spangly capes, gaudy writsbands and not-so-subtly themed accessories.
Tradition has it that the Luchadore continue their anonymity into public life (presumably on the way to the photographic studio too) and that only at the very end of a successful fighting career may they choose to unmask themselves. De-maskings after a defeat are tantamount to the end of one’s wrestling identity.
With hearty combatants who are part average hombre and part working class superhero, Lucha Libre is a strange and wonderfully unique sport where macho and kitsch go hand in hand. Just don’t mention that to El Gangster; it doesn’t look like he’d see the funny side.
Lucha Loco by Malcolm Venville is published by Therapy Publishing, £45. More details and exclusive interviews with the Luchadore are available at http://luchaloco.com