How Lucha Libre Is Different Than American Wrestling (& How It’s The Same)
Lucha Libre might be the most energetic and entertaining form of pro wrestling in the world. Its roots in Mexico date back to the mid-1800s with the first fully-fledged promotion being established in 1933. The history of Lucha Libre is not only important to the cultural identity of Mexico, it’s important to the evolution of pro wrestling worldwide.
While there are more than a few similarities between Lucha Libre and pro wrestling in the United States, the differences can be even more stark. It’s actually kind of amazing how two things that are supposedly part of the same profession can be so different.
10DIFFERENT: Super Fast Paced
Fans of wrestling in the United States are used to a very deliberate pace to the matches they watch. These matches generally start off pretty slow, picking up a bit of speed, building to the finish. Even the faster, smaller wrestlers often end up slowing their matches down, particularly in WWE.
Anyone used to that style who watches Lucha Libre for the first time needs to be careful because they might get whiplash. This is a lot faster pace than a lot of American wrestling fans are used to, but it’s incredible and amazing.
9SAME: Family Business
One of the biggest similarities between American wrestling and Lucha Libre is that both styles are multi generational family businesses. Each of them has dynasties that have produced several wrestlers over the years.
In the US, names like McMahon, Rhodes, Flair and Hart are obvious and familiar, with each one of them having huge influence on the business. Lucha Libre has its own major families, like the Alvarados, the Mendozas, the Garzas and the Guzmans. Some dynasties, like the Guerreros, have built names that are famous around the world.
8DIFFERENT: Referees Can Be Heels Or Faces
Wrestlers being heels or faces are the core of the business. Building a story between a strong villain and a hero is the entire crux of most feuds. It’s how legends are built. Plus, a wrestler turning heel or face can be an incredible way to reenergize a declining gimmick. Look what that move did for Bayley throughout 2020.
But in Lucha Libre, referees can be faces or heels too. They even participate in angles accordingly. Fans have gotten a bit of that over the years in American wrestling, but nowhere near as much as in Lucha Libre.
7SAME: Elaborate Ring Gear
A big part of pro wrestling, no matter where it happens, is all the pomp and circumstance that surrounds the performers. That doesn’t just refer to “Macho Man” Randy Savage’s entrance music.
Wrestlers in the US and in Lucha Libre both generally have elaborate ring gear, music and entrances, all of which is a part of their overall gimmick. The bigger the wrestler, the bigger the pageantry. Both Ric and Charlotte Flair are prime examples of this, as are Kenny Omega and Cody Rhodes.
6DIFFERENT: Much Less Brawling
In the American wrestling scene, there are a lot of styles in the ring. That includes technical wrestlers, high flyers and more. But most wrestling matches tend to devolve into outright brawls pretty quickly. In the cases of Jon Moxley and Eddie Kingston, they start out with brawls and end up in some kind of festival of barbwire.
Lucha Libre matches, on the other hand, rarely seems to become brawls. Their bouts stick closely to the high flying, fast paced style that typifies it. Rarely do their matches turn into two people just punching each other, though it does happen on occasion.
5SAME: Hardcore Wrestling
Hardcore wrestling is a pretty broad term at this point. It can be used to describe anything from two people with kendo sticks, to something akin to a full-on Japanese deathmatch. But it usually means someone’s going through a table and every party involved is getting busted open, from the wrestlers to the time keeper.
Hardcore matches get used in every part of the wrestling world, including the American wrestling scene and Lucha Libre. It’s not everyone’s favorite style of wrestling, but it definitely has some ardent fans.
4DIFFERENT: Dramatic In Different Ways
Drama is a huge component of professional wrestling. Fans come for the action, but they get hooked in by the drama, storylines and characters. Both American wrestling and Lucha Libre revel in all of these aspects of the business.
In some ways, Lucha Libre is actually more dramatic than American wrestling. There’s a lot more emphasis on the drama inherent to the characters, and what that conflict between both ego and personality brings to the ring. In American wrestling, the drama tends to come from story.
3SAME: Big Spots
Good wrestling matches are always structured around a big buildup with a payoff at the end. It’s honestly hard to watch a match that has no proper conclusion, which is why finishes with double count outs are so incredibly unsatisfying and maddening to fans. Big spots are often a great way to punctuate a match.
Both Lucha Libre and American wrestling love the big spots. Even the most technical match is often a buildup to a barn burner of a spot that surprises fans. It can feel a little formulaic at times, but it works.
2DIFFERENT: The Sacred Masks
There are plenty of masked wrestlers working in the American system. It’s quite commonplace and respected by most promotions. But there have been issues in the past with American companies not understanding the importance of the mask in Lucha Libre. A prime example is Eric Bischoff insisting Rey Mysterio give his mask up in WCW.
In Lucha Libre, wearing a mask is far more than a gimmick or a piece of a costume. It’s sacred. It’s a lifestyle choice. It cannot be understated how big a deal it is for a Luchador to take their mask off, because once it’s gone it rarely comes back.]
1SAME: Larger Than Life
Both Lucha Libre and American wrestling excel at creating characters who can sometimes feel bigger than the business itself. Ric Flair, ‘The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, The Undertaker and “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels all built legends that fans will be talking about for decades.
The same is true in Lucha Libre. El Hijo del Santo, Mil Máscaras, El Santo, Blue Demon and many more have built iconic reputations around the world. They have become synonymous with Lucha Libre in the minds of fans.