From the archive: Mexican wrestling and me
Number two of my articles from the Time Out archive is this (highly embarrassing) colour piece I wrote on Mexican wrestling cabaret troupe Lucha Britannia. Still, I'm proud of it, mainly because there I am, aged 20, jumped on the back of a grisly wrestling bear in shiny pink tights.
It first appeared in Time Out in October 2007 and the Luchas are still going strong. They now hold proper training sessions for genuine new recruits at the Resistance Gallery in Bethnal Green every Monday evening.
Mexican wrestling and me
’We‘re stuntmen for the theatre,‘ the promoters of renegade Mexican wrestling outfit Lucha Britannia tell Time Out
Catapulting through the air was not what I’d signed up for when I met Mexican wrestling troupe Lucha Britannia. I went to interview them during one of their top-secret training sessions but, before I knew it, I was in a bright red balaclava and two beefsteaks in Spandex trunks were bending my body in unthinkable ways.
Little did I know that I had stumbled across one of their recruitment schemes and I was being sneakily assessed for their United World Lucha Resistance legions, assembled to destroy the American evil they call the Yankee Bosch.
Ten minutes on and somehow I'd graduated from rapid roly polys to the potentially paralysing move the Boston Crab. This leaves me in a decidedly uncomfortable squat-like position over one of the wrestlers, so I release myself and leave them to engage in a dizzying routine of slapping, locking, tossing, flopping and grabbing. And women do this too? I glance at my drooping bicep; this is definitely not a performance one can take lightly.
Shiro Yoshida, the drunken yet endearing Japanese Sunfire, and crooked English gent Sir Thomas Chamberlain, are two professionally trained masked men who run meaty variety rendezvous Lucha Britannia (they're Mexican in spirit rather than citizenship). They have been concocting their renegade events since January at Bethnal Green Working Men's Club. This Friday, however, they are upping the stakes to clubbing monolith SeOne and looking to convert more revolutionaries for their alt-entertainment cause.
‘The point of a variety show is to have music, singing, magicians and burlesque acts set around a focal point – and that's our story,’ explains Yoshida on the cartoon-like reality he has created. With every show he and his merry muscle men bring to life the ‘Retrofutureverse’ where the wrestlers are superheroes like they were in 1950s and ’60s C-movies. A comic book, TV show and a show at Glastonbury are even being discussed. According to Yoshida, it ‘utilises politics and history with current events. Everyone hates the Yanks and their political agenda is basically like the Nazis, so I’m lampooning them by making my villains American’.
Wrestling is more popular now than at any time since its ’70s heyday. There may be no WWF-size budget here, but Lucha are taking it underground instead with their truly subversive shows. Is their performance as bogus as their US counterparts? ‘WWF wrestling is like a soap opera ,’ sneers Chamberlain. ‘But we’re stuntmen for the theatre with only one shot at getting it right. We’re all trained, but if you land incorrectly you can break your neck.’ Yoshida chips in: ‘I love seeing the crowd’s shock reaction when they think we’re fake and then they see us weighing into each other.’
Part variety show, part circus rave, part fight club, part fetish club, Lucha Britannia smacks down with a plethora of performers including Vivid Angel, The Firetusk Pain Proof Circus and Gawkagogo, who will bewilder in-between four Lucha wrestling battles. Don’t miss the never-before seen four-way where the aim is to hold down your opponent long enough to scuttle up a ladder and smash a piñata. Thumptastic stuff.