CMLL luchadoras interact with the audience at the famous Arena Mexico in Mexico City.

Photographer: Luján Agusti/Bloomberg

CMLL luchadoras interact with the audience at the famous Arena Mexico in Mexico City.

Photographer: Luján Agusti/Bloomberg

Mexico's Masked Wrestling Superheroes Are Going Global

The Luchadores  and their fans are readying themselves for the Eighth Annual Fantastica Mania festival in Japan.

Eighty-five years ago, a property inspector named Salvador Lutteroth Gonzalez founded the first Mexican wrestling organization, the Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre Co., formerly known as Empresa Mexicana de Lucha Libre, in Mexico City. Today, the CMLL is the oldest active wrestling federation in the world and—together with the World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. (WWE) and New Japan Pro-Wrestling Co. (NJPW)—one of the world's biggest wrestling organizations. The broadcasting of lucha libre, as this genre of  professional wrestling is known in Mexico, on national television and in digital media has brought the sport to an audience that extends beyond  Mexico's borders. The CMLL and NJPW will kick off the Eighth Annual Fantastic Mania (FM) lucha festival, an eight-day tour, in Japan on Jan. 12. Twenty CMLL luchadores (wrestlers) will travel from Mexico City to compete in six Japanese cities for one of the biggest wrestling festivals. Bloomberg News photographer Luján Agusti captured lucha libre mania in Mexico City.    



Luchadora Sanely (left), known as La Dama del Guante Negro (The Lady of the Black Glove), debuted with the CMLL in 2015.;  Luchador Pólvora began working with the CMLL in 2005 with his brother Vaquero (not pictured).

Photographer: Luján Agusti/Bloomberg

Arena Mexico, often referred to as "the cathedral of lucha libre," is the largest arena built specifically for wrestling in the world. Financed by CMLL founder Lutteroth, the building was completed in 1956 and is still used today.

Photographer: Luján Agusti/Bloomberg

A distinctive feature of lucha libre is the masks worn by the luchadores. Fans tend to wear the masks of their favorite luchadores during the shows.

Photographer: Luján Agusti/Bloomberg; Animation: Marisa Gertz/Bloomberg

A vendor sells popcorn at Arena Mexico.

Photographer: Luján Agusti/Bloomberg

Luchadora "Metalica" (left) ties her mask before entering the ring. During a match, un-masking an opponent is grounds for disqualification.; Referee "Tirantes" began his career in 1978 as a luchador known as Mr. Peligro (Spanish for danger).

Photographer: Luján Agusti/Bloomberg

"Tirantes" referees a tag team wrestling match at Arena Mexico on Jan. 2. More than half a million people attend CMLL shows annually, with tourists contributing at least 20 percent of Arena Mexico's attendance.

Photographer: Luján Agusti/Bloomberg; Animation: Marisa Gertz/Bloomberg

Canelo Casas (left) comes from a legendary wrestling family that began with his grandfather Pepe Casas in 1964. In addition to wrestling, Casas is a Mascarero (mask maker) and works out of his home producing the iconic luchador mask for his colleagues. 

Photographer: Luján Agusti/Bloomberg

Authorized and informal sellers can be seen selling masks and lucha libre souvenirs throughout Mexico City. 

Photographer: Luján Agusti/Bloomberg

A child (left) poses outside Arena Mexico after purchasing a luchador costume; a promoter sells tickets outside it before a CMLL event.

Photographer: Luján Agusti/Bloomberg

On Friday nights, CMLL matches at Arena Mexico draw an average of 8,000 to 10,000 spectators, according to Hugo Monroy, communications director of CMLL.

Photographer: Luján Agusti/Bloomberg

Luchadora "La Jarochita," 2017. In the late 1950s, Mexico City's mayor, Ernesto P. Uruchurtu, banned women from wrestling there. The ban was lifted in 1986.

Photographer: Luján Agusti/Bloomberg

Lucha libre is one of the most popular live events in Mexico, after soccer. Audiences often include families and span the socioeconomic spectrum.

Photographer: Luján Agusti/Bloomberg

The luchadores' colorful masks symbolize identities and reflect their personalities in the ring.

Photographer: Luján Agusti/Bloomberg

A vendor sells luchador masks inside Arena Mexico during an event.

Photographer: Luján Agusti/Bloomberg

Luchadores are traditionally divided into two categories: Rudos (the bad guys) and Técnicos (good guys). The division creates a good-versus-evil dynamic in the ring, with Técnicos adhering to the rules of the game while Rudos doing whatever it takes to win. 

Photographer: Luján Agusti/Bloomberg

Lucha libre tends to be more aerial and acrobatic than professional wrestling styles in the U.S. and Europe.

Photographer: Luján Agusti/Bloomberg; Animation: Marisa Gertz/Bloomberg

Luchadora "Metalica" (left) fights for the rudos while Luchador "Drone" fights for the tecnicos. Today, many luchadores are children of former luchadores. "Drone," the son of a retired luchador named "Hombre Bala," is sometimes referred to as "Hombre Bala Jr." 

Photographer: Luján Agusti/Bloomberg

A vendor sells luchador masks after an event outside Arena Mexico. Masks are often used to hide the true identity of a luchador from the public. Some luchadores wear their masks outside the ring while making public appearances.

Photographer: Luján Agusti/Bloomberg

"The history, the colors and the magic that surrounds the lucha libre keeps the industry attractive to fans throughout its history. Luchadores are ordinary people who do extraordinary things. They are considered the superheros of flesh and Blood."
—Hugo Monroy, communications director of CMLL.

Photographer: Luján Agusti/Bloomberg