Lucha libre expo brings international stars to San Diego wrestling fans
The crowd favored rudos, or the bad guys, in early matches on Sunday in a day of lineups that culminated in Mexico versus the world.
Lucha libre fans from both sides of the border gathered in San Diego on Sunday to mingle with their favorite wrestlers and watch the stars body slam each other in a series of match ups that pitted tecnicos against rudos, good against evil and climaxed with Mexico against the world.
Expo Lucha, in its second year and held for the first time in America’s Finest City this weekend, featured a slew of wrestlers from Mexico’s famous masked bouts. The event allowed attendees to spend time with their favorite luchadores to snap photos and get autographs before they entered the ring later in the day.
The expo brought a bit of the idea of what events are like in Mexico, said Demus El Demonio, a luchador from Mexico City. He fights on the side of the rudos, or the bad guys, against the tecnicos, or good guys.
Many of the wrestlers worked their own merchandise tables. Spending time with fans before a match is part of lucha libre, Demus El Demonio said.
“That’s missing here in the United States,” he said.
For fans like Dean Walch and son Carlos of Portland, Ore., that interaction means everything.
Walch’s son is autistic, and the two bonded over watching Lucha Underground, a Mexican wrestling television show. Now they spend most of their weekends at wrestling events.
Walch recalled meeting Rey Misterio and getting to introduce his son to one of his favorites.
“It was really special,” Walch said. “He was amazing, how much he wanted to meet my son — so caring.”
They have a lucha libre mask that they’re working to get signed by everyone from Lucha Underground. They were only missing three names by the time they arrived at San Diego City College’s Harry West Gymnasium 15 minutes before the expo opened on Sunday. They settled down in their front row seats to wait.
Nearby, a group of fans posed with a luchador named Solar while holding figurines of him that they bought from Super7, which specializes in retro-style toys inspired by comics and other pop culture and had a booth at the event.
A young boy spotted one of his favorite wrestlers from across the gymnasium.
“Look! That’s Chavo Guerrero!” he said excitedly to his parents, bee-lining for the table where Chavo Guerrero Jr. stood.
Guerrero, a third-generation professional wrestler whose career began in El Paso, Texas, said some people criticize wrestling as fake, but he disagreed.
It’s predetermined and it’s entertainment, he said, but it’s not fake.
“We’re the only sport that admits we’re entertainment,” Guerrero said.
Damian 666, a Tijuana resident who has been a luchador for 37 years, said Mexican-style wrestling is different from the American version.
“For Americans, it’s entertainment. For us, it’s lucha,” he said. That means more hits, more physical contact.
Sunday’s crowd apparently favored the bad guys, frequently heckling tecnicos when they appeared to be winning the fight.
When Damian 666, who fights on the side of the rudos, whacked his opponent with a belt, the audience yelled “Otra!” (Another!) When he pinned a luchador in a pink mask, winning the match for his side, chants of “Tijuana!” broke out in the crowd.
For Tonga Kid, who is known for his time in American professional wrestling and made a surprise appearance in one of the early matches on Sunday, wrestling above all else is about reaching the youth.
He and Warlock, a luchador who came up in Tijuana, give motivational talks to children. Their fame as wrestlers, they said, helps get kids’ attention when they come to speak.
“Wrestling saved my life,” said Tonga Kid, whose real name is Sam Fatu. “If we could change one kid, it’s well worth my time, well worth my energy.”
Tonga Kid and Warlock will also be part of Lucha Fest, put on by the World Wrestling Organization, at Viejas Casino in October.
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