How Lucha VaVoom turned an L.A. establishment

Watching the mesmerizing, in-ring motion at a Lucha VaVoom present is a veritable expertise. But the wrestling itself is just one taste of efficiency on show. From its very first present on the Mayan theater in 2002, the Los Angeles establishment has fused lucha libre with burlesque — two kinds that require intense athletic self-discipline and infrequently go under-recognized as reputable artwork — and during the last 20-plus years has grown to incorporate stand-up comedy, visible artwork, low-riders, and a number of different artists beneath the identical psychedelic circus tent.

The lineup for LVV’s current Halloween blow-out, “Bienvenido a la Twilight Zone,” featured a motley vaudeville troupe. Alongside dancers and burlesque artists had been wrestlers who, true to the occasion’s title, had been conjured from one other universe: colourful divas and gifted athletes, after all, but in addition postapocalyptic cyborg bruisers and human-size chickens. And on Wednesday and Thursday nights, Lucha VaVoom’s Valentine’s Day spectacular, “Pasión en Fuego,” guarantees to “deliver incendiary burlesque goddesses, twisty contortionists, and death-defying aerialists” along with a cadre of luchadores, together with Magno “The Man Mountain” Rudo and former Lucha VaVoom champion Dama Fina, flexing and strutting their stuff in entrance of audiences.

Dama Fina will likely be within the ring with Lucha VaVoom for a Valentine’s present.

(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

Co-founder Liz Fairbairn got here to wrestling largely by coincidence, however her background in costume design and stage efficiency — particularly because the longtime supervisor of the gleefully camp shock rock outfit Gwar — made the self-described punk rocker uniquely suited to a second life as a lucha promoter.

“I do special effects costuming as well, and I was working on location in Mexico, babysitting some baboon costumes,” she remembers with fun. “Luchadores frequently moonlight as stuntmen, and I actually started a relationship with one of them. I wasn’t really familiar with the local wrestling scene at all, but I became fascinated and I started going to shows in Baja and Tijuana with him, and then convincing my, like, quasi-hipster gringo friends from Silver Lake to go down there with us. Eventually, it became easier to just start bringing the wrestlers up here.” Lucha VaVoom started to run recurring reveals round particular holidays, together with Halloween and Valentine’s Day.

Rudo, a lifelong luchador from El Paso, was an early performer for Lucha VaVoom and has since turn out to be a staple. “I started wrestling when I was 15 or 16, and when I did my first Lucha VaVoom show, I technically wasn’t old enough to get into the Mayan theater,” he says. Because of that 21+ coverage, Lucha VaVoom cheerfully embraces camp and raunch and cultivates a crowd that’s each extra grownup and extra assorted than your common wrestling present.

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“Adults expect a lot more, so you have to hit harder and the matches are even more powerful and explosive,” Rudo explains. “I always say doing one Lucha VaVoom match is like doing three matches on another show. But when you step in the ring, you keep on going because you feel the people and want to do the greatest job for them. It’s a one-of-a-kind spectacle because you don’t just get an audience from the wrestlers, you get an audience from the burlesque dancers and other performers. So many people have never seen lucha libre live, but they enjoy it and they start following it.”

A luchador wears matching red-flame mask and tights.

Magno “The Man Mountain” Rudo is a Lucha VaVoom mainstay.

(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

For years, lucha libre was stigmatized within the United States. Because the American type so typically emphasizes hulking muscle groups and highly effective body-slams, the aerodynamics and acrobatics of lucha had been derided as unbelievable and unrealistic — xenophobia and racism definitely didn’t assist elevate the Mexican-born artwork kind, both. But within the 20 years Lucha VaVoom has been operating reveals, lucha libre has developed an enormous, ever-growing fan base throughout the U.S. Many wrestling followers — and wrestlers themselves — grew up idolizing luchadores on American tv.

In the late Nineteen Nineties, corporations like WCW and ECW launched a worldwide viewers to the awe-inspiring athletic potential of luchadores like Juventud Guerrera, Psicosis and Super Crazy — and particularly San Diego native Rey Mysterio Jr. With entrances and iconic masks impressed by cartoon characters like Spider-Man and the Silver Surfer, Mysterio framed the wrestler as a literal superhero: He turned a Peter Parker-like underdog to followers around the globe, presenting lucha libre as one thing rather more imaginative and dazzling than its American cousin.

Now among the most beloved wrestlers worldwide are luchadores, like former AEW tag group champions the Lucha Brothers, Rey Fénix and Pentagón Jr., who lately opened the lucha libre museum Republic of Lucha in Pasadena. Luchadores like Bandido, Laredo Kid and Black Taurus frequently seem on American tv wrestling reveals like “AEW Dynamite” and “IMPACT!,” and Mysterio continues to be at it over in WWE.

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It isn’t simply the masks that made the wrestlers. As Rudo explains, it’s that sense of awe that makes lucha libre so interesting to each hardcore wrestling followers and unfamiliar eyes. “What really draws people to lucha is seeing someone do something unexpected, like jumping off the top rope and doing a flip and twisting in the middle of the air and then landing on your feet.”

When Lucha VaVoom started 20 years in the past, the indie wrestling scene in Los Angeles was largely separate from the lucha libre scene, a extra family-friendly atmosphere nearly solely in Spanish. Sacramento native and Lucha VaVoom common Jack Cartwheel, whose jaw-dropping gymnastics have earned him immediate love from followers in each the United States and Mexico, has skilled the rising alternate between professional wrestling and lucha libre firsthand. “Now you have a lot of high-flying American wrestlers at lucha shows, and you’ll find a lot of luchadores at American wrestling shows.”

Rudo agrees. “American wrestling is evolving,” he notes. “It’s not the usual style of punching and kicking, it’s a combination of power moves and flying around the ring.”

A luchadora locks an arm around a luchador.

Magno “The Man Mountain” Rudo and Dama Fina show the Lucha VaVoom type.

(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

But as any wrestler who’s labored internationally can attest, no two audiences are the identical, and you need to fairly actually be in your toes to adapt to the vitality and response of the group. “American wrestling fans are looking for certain things about your style and psychology and character work,” Cartwheel says. “I feel like lucha crowds just want to come and have a really fun time and support the wrestlers. It’s a much more giving audience.”

For so many wrestlers, lucha libre and Lucha VaVoom particularly supply a laboratory for experimentation and a way of inventive freedom that’s liberating in comparison with the frequent self-seriousness of American professional wrestling. “In lucha libre, you regularly find people spanking each other or falling on their nuts on the rope, where sometimes American wrestlers are too prideful for things like that,” says Cartwheel. “At the end of the day, you’re doing a pretty silly thing to begin with, so it’s fun that Lucha VaVoom is able to embrace the silliness.”

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Taya Valkyrie, some of the adorned champions in ladies’s wrestling at this time, has turn out to be a face of Lucha VaVoom — on the Valentine’s reveals, she’ll sq. off in a tag match in opposition to her husband, former WWE famous person John Morrison. “Lucha has influenced so much of the style happening in the States,” she says. “You even watch TV shows and Marvel movies and they’re doing lucha moves and you’re like, ‘Oh, my God, did they just do a Canadian destroyer’?”

Before she lower her enamel working for AAA, one of many two largest lucha libre promotions in Mexico, Taya Valkyrie educated as a ballerina in her native Canada, and she or he continues to deliver the mindset of a dancer each to her hard-hitting physicality within the ring and her flamboyant costumes. “I’ve always taken the road less traveled when it comes to fashion, so I’m influenced by a lot of artists and pop culture icons outside of pro wrestling,” she says. “I’ll look to the Met Gala for inspiration, or iconic looks from people like Lady Gaga, Gwen Stefani, Rihanna, Cher, even Elton John, and how they present themselves onstage. I want to create a visual moment for our fans because wrestling is about creating emotions and telling stories, so you have to have a visual representation to complete that experience.”

As a Canadian outsider who spent years in Mexico and now calls Los Angeles dwelling, Valkyrie took to lucha libre due to the inventive versatility and expressive potential it supplied her as a multitalented performer. But for her, lucha libre is as a lot concerning the individuals watching as herself, a efficiency decided extra by the spirit and emotion of the group greater than any single type or set of strikes.

“Lucha libre is much more theatrical and over the top than professional wrestling, but people try to put lucha libre in a box,” she explains. “They think it’s just wearing a mask and doing a bunch of flips, but it’s not. It’s the way that the fans react. It’s the way that lucha libre is part of Mexican culture. So people have such a respect and passion and love for it. The second you walk through the curtain at a lucha libre show, everything means something.”