Lucha libre, Mexican wrestling, has long been a fascination of mine. Those masks! That hair! The overacting! The flamboyant dancers! It’s like the WWE on steroids. In fact, American wrestling was spawned by lucha libre, and, as a kid in Cincinnati, Ohio, I grew up obsessed with Hulk Hogan (pre-reality show), Ric Flair, Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka, and Jake “the Snake” Roberts. So when lucha libre superstar Dragón Rojo Jr. offered to meet me in the ring, I jumped at the chance.
Paula Froelich and Dragón Rojo Jr. (Andrew Rothschild/Yahoo Travel)
I arrived at the Arena Mexico in Mexico City on a Tuesday night before the big weekly luchadores matches (think a south-of-the-border version of a weekly smackdown) and … got put in a headlock, spun around, and body-slammed. Not kidding. Watch the video. I don’t think I’ve ever been happier in my entire life.
Related: How to P*ss Off the Locals in Mexico
I came for the interview but stayed for the matches, which included a lot of hair pulling, women in bikinis, screaming, and vows of vengeance. Basically, a bar brawl in Kentucky. But with masks.
Anyone going to Mexico needs to go to a lucha libre bout and scream his head off. Stat. Trust. (Andrew Rothschild/Yahoo Travel)
History: Lucha libre was started in 1863 by Enrique Ugartechea, the first Mexican wrestler, who developed it from Greco-Roman wrestling.
This is what a champion looks like. (Andrew Rothschild/Yahoo Travel)
Fun fact: In major title bouts, wrestlers will compete for their masks. The loser is unmasked and humiliated and can never wrestle with that mask again. Others, who don’t wear masks, will wrestle for their hair. As in the loser gets a shaved head. The Red Dragon claims to have a very long wig made of all the hair he’s won over the years.
Thanks to the Muddy Boot for arranging the backstage tour.