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The Greatest Spectacle of Lucha Libre

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Image © Rytis Seskaitis

We interview Cassandro El Exotico - the Mexican drag wrestler.

Mexican wrestling is coming to London, and it’s like nothing you’ll have encountered before. Flamboyant costumes, brightly coloured masks and enormous personalities combine for an evening of over-the-top wrestling, crowd interaction and all-round spectacle. We sat down with Cassandro El Exotico, a drag wrestler and key member of the touring troupe of Luchadores, to talk about the competition and life as a Mexican drag wrestler.

Lucha Libre dates back to the early 20th Century, and holds a great deal of cultural significance in its native Mexico. The tradition dates back to the Aztecs, and the colourful masks that are so much a part of the sport are variously based around animals, gods, ancient heroes and other sacred figureheads. “It has always been about good versus evil, or good versus bad, and the referee also plays an important role” says Cassandro El Exotico.

Image Credit: Ambra Vernuccio

There are traditionally two categories of luchadore - rudos, the ‘bad guys’, and técnicos, the ‘good guys’. Rudos use gamesmanship and underhand tactics to do all they can to win the match, whilst técnicos play by the rules and use more complex, spectacular moves. Within these two groups there are numerous other personalities and characters doing battle, based on Christian saints, Aztec warriors, comic book heroes or, in the case of Cassandro El Exotico, drag queens.

“I am celebrating my 30th year as a Professional Luchador. I am called the Embajador de la Lucha Libre [the Ambassador of Lucha Libre] or ‘the Liberace of Lucha.’ It's been quite a journey getting here!” Cassandro is one of the figureheads of the sport - a quick Google will find any number of interviews with him - and he gives a glowing impression of the event. All you need to enjoy it, he says, “is an open mind. You will see humans fly and toss each other - it's a free therapy session!”

Image Credit: Rytis Seskaitis

Cassandro uses Lucha Libre to promote the more diverse aspects of Mexican culture. “Within Mexico, Lucha Libre is now so diverse! There is of course Machismo - men, but also women, mini luchadors and us: the Exoticos”. Although they are now a fully-fledged and accepted part of the show, and wider Mexican society, it has taken a lot of work to reach this point. “Before us, Exoticos were portrayed as clowns in the circus. Then in 1988 I decided, along with Pimpinela and Mayflower, to bring Exoticos to new generations”.

It was a long, hard path. “We represent homosexuality, and although we wanted to celebrate this by bringing bathing suits, pantyhose, makeup, feathers and rhinestones to wear, it was more important to show we could wrestle with anyone. We wanted the labels off, so we started working three times harder than any other wrestler out there. 30 years later all the blood, sweat and tears have paid off. It took discipline, respect, commitment and sacrifice but I am so proud to say we made it.”

Image courtesy of Lucha Libre World

When Cassandro says ‘blood, sweat and tears’ he really means it. “To date I have had surgery eight times, had my teeth knocked out 3 times, and suffered many more hospitalisations for head concussions. Hopefully there won’t be any more, but it's wrestling - not a beauty parlour!”

It’s not something that many would be able to endure - the physical punishment alongside the societal struggle. Was motivation ever an issue? “I honestly believe people should have the freedom to say whatever is in their mind. However, if its something I disagree with, my response is an invitation to a training session - then we take it from there!”

It’s easy to forget, amongst all the glitz and glamour, that Lucha Libre is a deeply personal and spiritual ritual for many of the wrestlers, and Cassandro is no exception. “What keeps me going is my religion and spirituality, alongside passion and love for my blessed Lucha Libre. I have had some very low points, but also some amazing moments. Overall, it’s been a very loving journey, and has helped me discover who I am”.

If all this sounds like an event you'd like to attend, there's an opportunity to win a pair of tickets to one of the shows right here.

The Greatest Spectacle of Lucha Libre is at York Hall on June 23-24. Tickets from £20.