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Lucha Libre Excites Hailey Crowd
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Tuesday, March 19, 2024
 

STORY AND PHOTOS BY KAREN BOSSICK

The crowd went wild as seven masked men made their way into the Wood River High School gymnasium.

Two high fived those seated around a wrestling ring in the middle of the floor, prompting an eruption of cheers. Another rolled into the ring jumping onto the top rope as he preened, egging the crowd on. One brandished a big trophy belt above his head as the crowd roared.

And then there was the midget, who performed some slinky dance moves to the approval of the 300-plus in attendance.

Lucha Libre met the Wood River Valley on Saturday night as Mexican wrestling came to the Sun Valley area for the first time. And those in attendance couldn't get enough of it.

The luchadors, or wrestlers, included such professional wrestlers as Tinieblas Jr. Alusne, Hijo del Solitario, Electroshock, Mascara Sagrada and Pirata Morgan. They were brought here by  Hailey's Herbert Romero, founder of PROJECTOOLSUCCESS, and Julio Cervantes, founder of Juol Productions.

Arriving early Friday morning, they spent Friday in the Magic Valley, including presentations at Jerome High School, in addition to the big match Saturday night in Hailey. With the slogan, "Mask or No Mask--Fight for your Mental Health," part of the proceeds went to the Crisis Hotline in the Wood River Valley and the 5B Suicide Prevention Alliance.

Many adults and children in the crowd wore traditional Mexican wrestling masks that they purchased at the event, which got underway with the American and Mexican national anthems, songs from two women and a short performance by a Mexican saxophone-accordion band.

Posing and preening were in full force as a couple of the lycra-clad wrestlers stood on the ropes of the wrestling ring egging on the crowd. One boomeranged his opponent into the ropes. Another flew across the ring smacking into another wrestler. And, when it looked as if one might take on the dwarf, the smaller wrestler fell to the floor before he could get hit and performed 10 pushups followed by 10 side pushups to the delight of the audience. He then bounced up and whacked his attacker in the knees.

One flipped his opponent to the ground, while another slapped his, then took his opponent's slaps.

The jousting was mostly coordinated, sometimes unscripted, with the wrestlers spilling out of the ring onto the floor on occasion. Takedowns in the wrestling ring sounded hard, but the floor was bouncy.

One wrestler jumped back to the floor on the midget, but his leg could be seen an inch above the smaller wrestler, who emerged unscathed. Another wrestler attacked a compadre with a folding chair he grabbed from the front row of the gym.

The lucha libre, or freestyle wrestling, culture was popularized in Mexico in the 1900s and has grown to have a fan following equal to that of the United States' football and basketball fandom. Wrestling is a family thing for many of the wrestlers.

El Hijo del Solitario, for instance, followed in the footsteps of his father Roberto Gonzalez Cruz.

Known as El Solitario, Cruz rocketed to fame  when he defeated wrestling superstar Tony Reyna in Mexico City in 1966. He died of a heart attack at 39 twenty years later, and his son donned his distinctive gold mask and his gold and black colored costume.

On Saturday night there was no one-on-one in the ring as Americans have become accustomed to with the likes of Joe Louis and Muhammad Ali. It was a free for all with each wrestler taking on whoever happened to be handy, sometimes all at once.

None of it was real. But the crowd loved it.

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