For those lucky to have never seen “Nacho Libre,” lucha libre is the Mexican form of professional wrestling.
With its fluid motion and high-flying emphasis, the translated “free wrestling” features masked athletes known as luchadores often competing in tag-team action.
Traditionally limited to major Hispanic markets like Los Angeles and Dallas, lucha libre has barely established a presence in the United States aside from Rey Mysterio and Sin Cara matches.
But Kleinrock plans on bringing this colorful, frenzied style to America – specifically to the former ECW Arena on April 27.
“Philadelphia has a strong Hispanic population yet has never hosted a lucha event,” Kleinrock said. “We know hardcore wrestling fans will love the rare opportunity to see this action live. But we also hope to achieve crossover appeal from hipsters who would never be caught dead at a WWE event.”
A Los Angeles native, Kleinrock grew up on World Wrestling Entertainment, citing “WrestleMania VII” as his inspiration into pursuing a career in sports entertainment.
“I quickly learned about tape trading,” Kleinrock said. “AAA held big arena shows around my area and then the World Wrestling Peace Festival got me hooked on different styles.”
Breaking into the business by reviewing a Slammers Wrestling Federation show from a villain’s perspective for the company’s program, Kleinrock gained the owner’s attention and soon handled time keeper and ring announcing duties. Juggling management roles in Southern California Championship Wrestling, Extreme Pro Wrestling and Wrestling Society X, the veteran producer incorporated the Mexican style in each of the defunct promotions.
Realizing the wrestling landscape was ripe for an alternative to the jacked showbiz product of WWE, Kleinrock sought out a new avenue to popularize lucha libre.
“Masked Republic originally sold masks and other wrestling merchandise,” Kleinrock said. “Now we work with live event production and distribution. We’re developing a secret animated series with Emmy Award-winning producer Fred Schaefer. We’re also developing our ‘Little Lucha’ concept, which started as a toy line five years ago, but now has evolved into an animated series.”
Masked Republic’s latest production, “MaskedMania,” consists of seven scheduled matches with a 5 p.m. bell time.
The main event pits two lucha legends, Dr. Wagner Jr. and L.A. Park, “mano-a-mano” or one-on-one to determine the greatest luchadore of the past 30 years. You may remember Park from his World Championship Wrestling days as the chair-swinging, air-guitar-strumming skeleton in the cruiserweight division. As for the good doctor, you’ll notice his Wagner Driver is quite similar to the Michinoku Driver-and equally as effective.
In the first of three title matches, 40-year veteran Solar defends his Campeonato de Maestros against arch nemesis Negro Navarro. Their classic battles have often compelled fans to throw money in the ring after the match, which is a traditional token of appreciation in lucha libre.
Mixed martial artist Sumie Sakai challenges Christina Von Eerie for the Pro Wrestling Revolution Women’s World Championship title. Von Eerie has appeared in Total Nonstop Action Wrestling as Toxxin, the tattoo artist turned valet of Ink Inc.
And you can’t have lucha libre without the little people.
Pro Wrestling Revolution World Minis champion Mini Mariachi tangos with Pequeño Pierroth, and who cares about their backgrounds? Midget wrestling is fun for all ages.
The Mexican culture spotlights another group of athletes known as exoticos, which somehow translates to “gay luchadores in drag.” Affectionately called the “Liberace of Lucha Libre,” Cassandro competes with “Spartan” Matt Cross, a former WWE “Tough Enough” contestant.
Tag team bouts may have originated in Australia, but they’ve been perfected south of the border.
Damien 666, Bestia 666 and Philly’s favorite lunatic Sabu take on Luke Hawx, Blk Jeez and Ruckus in a “trios match” or six-man tag.
Not exactly authentic luchadores but still delivering that acrobatic style, local grapplers Ophidian the Cobra, Madjai Amasis and Green Ant combat the “3 Live Gringos” – Chuck Taylor, Orange Cassidy and the “Greek God” Papadon.
The historic event will be broadcast live via Internet pay-per-view service Highspots.tv for $9.95. VIP ticket holders will participate in an autograph and photo session with the Mexican megastars starting at 3:30 p.m.
Tickets can be purchased through MaskedMania.com or in person at Bizarre Bazaar on 720 S. Fifth St.
With Extreme Rising revitalizing the hardcore scene and now Masked Republic ushering in international flavor, this has been a great year for wrestling fans in Philadelphia.
Whether or not the hipsters approve of lucha libre, I couldn’t care less.
After that 17-hour drive to New Orleans, I’m just glad to be taking SEPTA for wrasslin’.
John Corrigan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.