US wrestler and Donald Trump supporter Sam Adonis gets ready to perform in Mexico City, where he is a star villain
Mexico City (AFP) - Deafening boos erupt as Sam Adonis strides to the ring, a mocking smile on his face -- and in his hand, a US flag emblazoned with a portrait of Donald Trump.
There is no mistaking the bad guy in this particular bout of Mexican wrestling, or "lucha." And in times of tension over the US president's immigration policies, this all-American character is milking it.
"Here, representing the United States and loyal to its policies, comes Saaam Adonis!" the host of the bout yells.
Grown men, small children and elderly women yell and middle fingers are raised as Adonis struts by, waving the stars-and-stripes.
"I'm sure Donald Trump knows about me," the 27-year-old Pennsylvanian tells AFP.
"I'd really love to meet him and to get a picture with him and support my president."
- Gringo therapy -
Blond, tall and muscular, Adonis gives the crowd the catharsis they are looking for at the Mexico Arena -- the spiritual home of the nation's favorite fantasy fight spectacle.
The very presence of a smirking "gringo" in the ring at this hallowed venue is a provocation -- let alone one who praises Mexico's national hate figure, Trump.
"When they come to the luchas and they scream what they feel about the United States, or me, or whatever, it's a release. They feel good," he says.
"And they get to go home and say: 'Hey, there are problems in the world, but at least lucha's fun. Let's go back next week. And that's me doing my job."
- Professional provocateur -
Journalists have speculated about how much of Trump's own provocative style is show and how much is substance.
For Adonis, provocation -- along with falling over and pretending to beat up huge men in tights -- is a full-time job.
Adonis is the son of a US wrestling promoter and younger brother of an American former star wrestler.
"I had no choice in life but to be a wrestler," he says.
- Playing the villain -
Trump has raised anxiety in Mexico by rounding up migrants to deport them back across its border and threatening to seize remittance payments sent home by US-based Mexicans.
His stance has driven diplomatic relations between the two countries to their lowest point in decades.
Adonis says Trump is like a wrestling villain: a man fighting his corner and not caring what people think of him.
"I respect him 100 percent," says Adonis -- real name Sam Polinsky.
"I think he is good at what he does. He's a breath of fresh air for the American people."
- Letting off steam -
"Chicken! Out!" yells the crowd as Adonis bashes a prostrate opponent with his American flagpole.
A 48-year-old Mexican watching with his wife and two small children leaps from his chair and bursts into English in his passion, spitting a furious string of F-words at Adonis.
"It makes you feel like you're letting off steam -- that frustration about the Mexicans living across the border," the family man, Victor Hugo Guillen, tells AFP afterward.
Adonis welcomes the abuse. Villains like him, he knows, are what make the show.
Beyond just provoking them, he hopes the role he plays can inspire them.
"I would like to be the aggressor that makes the Mexican people unite," he says.
"To say: 'Hey let's keep together and have this Mexican pride and be strong together and fight this evil."