Rey Mysterio, Kalisto, Sin Cara - fans of wrestling might be familiar with these top-flight wrestling stars. However, for the first time ever and for one night only on Saturday 11 July, the mythical forerunners of the Lucha world will be taking over the Royal Albert Hall for Lucha Future's 'Lucha Libre' to showcase their dangerous, acrobatic and heroic domain (tickets here). No less than sixteen of Mexico's finest, led by the legendary Blue Demon Jr will be performing their acrobatic stunts whilst legendary UK referee Steve Lynskey will be keeping things under control.
For the uninitiated, Lucha Libre translates as "free fighting" and for those that saw the Jack Black film 'Nacho Libre', you'll have to somewhat recalibrate your expectations. The stars will be gracing the Albert Hall draped in spectacular ring gear and all manner of masks and the top turnbuckle will likely be worn out by the end of the evening.
Although there are various interpretations of the history of Lucha, Mexican wrestling is said to date as far back as 1863 and to have been influenced by the Greco-Roman tradition. The foundation of the 'Empresa Mexicana de Lucha Libre' (EMLL) by Salvador Lutteroth, took Mexican wrestling from a regional to a national base and as television was rolled out, Mexican wrestling continued to grow. That EMLL promotion, founded by Lutteroth was, in fact, the forerunner to today's hugely successful CMLL.
Some, point to 1942 as a breakthrough year, when Rodolfo Huerta aka El Santo made his debuted. Masked in a silver, 'the Saint' became something of a national hero and symbol of justice. His son, known as El Hijo del Santo (The son of the Saint), still wrestles to this day. As mentioned, another Lucha legend, Blue Demon Jr will be leading the troops in battle at the Albert Hall this summer.
Fans of WWE or TNA needn't worry as Lucha storytelling translates quite seamlessly. There are 'tecnicos' who are the fan favourites and the 'rudos' who have little regard for the rules. However, as with American wrestling there is a basic code of honour and one might see a losing lucha suffer an unmasking rather than risk a dishonourable reputation. That unmasking would however be a very serious punishment. Luchas stay true to their in-ring personas and it is not uncommon to find a Lucha star walking around masked in public. To have their identities exposed is a very serious matter.
As for the masks themselves, they are both a helpful disguise but so too have historical and character-related significance. They have evolved from basic colours to wonderfully intricate and carefully designed masterpieces. Be it a representation of an animal or superhero, the mask is an identifier for the character which a Lucha talent seeks to embody in the ring. In some cases, the masks have been passed down through the ages, so its not inconceivable that, say, Rey Mysterio Jr's junior might one day be wrestling under his mighty cowl.
As for what you'll see, look out for a range of matches but as fans that saw Chikara in the UK recently will know, the 'trios' bouts are likely to be great fun. Three on three matches of this type are fast moving and keep you on your feet!
Lucha Libre takes place on Saturday 11 July at the Royal Albert Hall in London. There will be live music from Tijuana's Bostich & Fussible (Nortec Collective) and although fifteen of the performers have been announced, there is still a surprise mystery big star luchador to be revealed. In addition to all of this, there will be 'Mini-Estrellas' (mini-stars) and female Luchadoras. 2015 marks the year of Mexico in the UK, so why not get yourself along and see some 'Lucha Libre'. You can see further announcements on Twitter @luchafuture or on Facebook here.