On Thursday night, the spectacle of Luche Libre arrives at Manchester’s Albert Hall, which transforms itself into our own version of the Arena México, which coincides with Mexico’s grand celebration of 100 years since the birth of one of their most famous wrestlers, the legendary El Santo (The Saint).  Yes, you know him, he the wearer of the iconic silver mask.  El Santo appeared in over 50 adventure films fighting such cinematic foes as the Wolfman, Vampire Women and the Mummy, so clearly he was not to be messed with.  He has also appeared in a series of cartoons and even a long running comic book series and of course like all true Luchadores, he NEVER removed his mask, not even to his crew! All of this became legend in a career spanning nearly 50 years and went together to make him a cult hero in Mexico and beyond. 

As a new Sports Correspondent I set myself the challenge to go along to the weird and wonderful sporting events that travelled to the North West.  This surely fits the bill.  My knowledge of Mexican Wrestling, or Lucha Libre, is patchy – Masks to hide their true identities like so many of our modern super heroes, bright coloured outfits, occasionally glitter, epic theatrics, some cheating, lots of acrobatics, and sometimes for the poor loser a demasking revealing who really toils under the mask. The action will be frenetic, high tempo and unpredictable but without the obvious choreography and endless loudmouth baggage that seems to go hand in hand with the more modern WWE. 

Expect to pick your team, either the ‘good guys’ or the ‘bad guys’.  The latter will try to cheat, distract the referee and goad the crowd from inside as well as outside the ring and of course there will be lots of pantomime badness.  Most of the rules are as you’ll remember from Saturday afternoons with Giant Hastacks and Big Daddy – pin your opponent for 3 seconds, plenty of time out allowed out of the ring – but also expect tag teams, or surprise additions part way through which makes Lucha Libre ideal for the uninitiated and the more experienced.

The line up at the Albert Hall and later in the week at London’s York Hall features epic battles between a mixture of Mexican and British wrestlers including Silver King, the flamboyant UK based Cassandro (at 47 years old this may be the last opportunity to see him), Laredo Kid, Mascarita Dorada and Octagoncito as well as newer stars Bandido Luchador, El Hijo de Fishman alongside Cassius The Neon Explosion and two female wrestlers Mũneca de Trapo and Diablesa Rosa – I’m breathless just typing that lot out.  

By Michelle Nicholson