Lucha Libre: Sangre y Melodrama on the Westside

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Universitario kicks Karla Maria into Referee Cementa. Photo by Scott Ball.

Universitario kicks Karla Maria into Referee Cementa. Photo by Scott Ball.

A right of passage for every boy during the 90s was an experience with professional wrestling.  I often fantasized about the title championship fights between wrestling greats such as Shawn Michaels and Bret ‘The Hitman’ Heart.

I would stay up late Monday nights to catch the weekly dose of televised drama, yet never summoned the courage to ask my parents to purchase a pay-per-view event of the season’s biggest thriller, the night in which every match was a title fight of some sort.

My father was a corporate manager for an office supply company, and didn’t exactly share my passion for wrestling.  I remember one occasion when he told me that the WWF ordered hundreds of pre-cracked tables and chairs so they will break easier on impact.  That was obviously his attempt to break the news to me that wrestling is fixed, an entertaining but orchestrated performance. As  a 10-year-old boy who had developed an unhealthy obsession with Stone Cold Steve Austin, I didn’t believe him.

Mexican-American wrestlers who had hit the big time, guys like Rey Mysterio and Eddie Guerrero, gave me a small taste of lucha libre, south-of-the-border wrestling that has migrated north. After Sunday night on the city’s Westside, however, I’ve now gained a full appreciation of the spectacle.

I attended the Mexican-American Wrestling match at Olga’s Bar and Grill Sunday night, a local event that takes places once every two weeks on the city’s Westside. The bar itself is the very definition of the word “dive,” with a cash-only policy and a bar covered with Bud Light, which must be the national beer of lucha libre al norte.

I arrived with only vague expectations. Whatever I expected, my expectations were exceeded. Follow the page below as I documented the night through my chosen medium of photography.

Olga's Bar and Grill. Photo by Scott Ball.

Olga’s Bar and Grill. Photo by Scott Ball.

Universitario poses for a photo before the event. Photo by Scott Ball.

Universitario poses for a photo before the event. Photo by Scott Ball.

A man walks through the parking lot of Olga's bar. Photo by Scott Ball.

A man walks through the parking lot of Olga’s bar. Photo by Scott Ball.

Two spectators watch a wrestling match. Photo by Scott Ball.

Two spectators watch a wrestling match. Photo by Scott Ball.

Referee Cementa walks across the street before the event. Photo by Scott Ball.

Referee Cementa walks across the street before the event. Photo by Scott Ball.

A sign advertising the event. Photo by Scott Ball.

A sign advertising the event. Photo by Scott Ball.

A pole cemented into a bucket is hit with a screwdriver acting as a bell. Photo by Scott Ball.

A pole cemented into a bucket is hit with a screwdriver acting as a bell. Photo by Scott Ball.

A luchador emerges from the dressing room. Photo by Scott Ball.

A luchador emerges from the dressing room. Photo by Scott Ball.

Two luchadors grapple each other. Photo by Scott Ball.

Two luchadors grapple each other. Photo by Scott Ball.

Spectator Lisa Saenz smies as she watches a match. Photo by Scott Ball.

Spectator Lisa Saenz smies as she watches a match. Photo by Scott Ball.

A luchador slaps another to start the fight. Photo by Scott Ball.

A luchador slaps another to start the fight. Photo by Scott Ball.

A rosary hangs ringside during a fight. Photo by Scott Ball.

A rosary hangs ringside during a fight. Photo by Scott Ball.

A woman feeds popcorn to her boyfriend. Photo by Scott Ball.

A woman feeds popcorn to her boyfriend. Photo by Scott Ball.

Chief Battu walks to his introduction music. Photo by Scott Ball.

Chief Battu walks to his introduction music. Photo by Scott Ball.

A man shouts at a luchador. Photo by Scott Ball.

A man shouts at a luchador. Photo by Scott Ball.

A snake slithers down a ringside pole.  Photo by Scott Ball.

A snake slithers down a ringside pole. Photo by Scott Ball.

Chief Battu holds his hand up as Lemus II continues the fight. Photo by Scott Ball.

Chief Battu holds his hand up as Lemus II continues the fight. Photo by Scott Ball.

A boy looks through a hole in a fence to see the wrestling match. Photo by Scott Ball.

A boy looks through a hole in a fence to see the wrestling match. Photo by Scott Ball.

Chief Battu lays on the ground after being hit by a chair. Photo by Scott Ball.

Chief Battu lays on the ground after being hit by a chair. Photo by Scott Ball.

A luchador waits for his opponent. Photo by Scott Ball.

A luchador waits for his opponent. Photo by Scott Ball.

Luchador Karla Maria interacts with the audience. Photo by Scott Ball.

Luchador Karla Maria interacts with the audience. Photo by Scott Ball.

Universitario walks to the the ring. Photo by Scott Ball.

Universitario walks to the the ring. Photo by Scott Ball.

Universitario kicks Karla Maria into Referee Cementa. Photo by Scott Ball.

Universitario kicks Karla Maria into Referee Cementa. Photo by Scott Ball.

The main event at Olga's Bar and Grill. Photo by Scott Ball.

The main event at Olga’s Bar and Grill. Photo by Scott Ball.

Karla Maria poses for a photo. Photo by Scott Ball.

Karla Maria poses for a photo. Photo by Scott Ball.

A luchador takes a break after being thrown out of the ring. Photo by Scott Ball.

A luchador takes a break after being thrown out of the ring. Photo by Scott Ball.

Universitario pulls the hair of a luchador. Photo by Scott Ball.

Universitario pulls the hair of a luchador. Photo by Scott Ball.

A child takes back her grandfathers cane from a luchador. Photo by Scott Ball.

A child takes back her grandfathers cane from a luchador. Photo by Scott Ball.

A luchador lays on the ground. Photo by Scott Ball.

A luchador lays on the ground. Photo by Scott Ball.

A broken chair lays on the ground after the event. Photo by Scott Ball.

A broken chair lays on the ground after the main event. Photo by Scott Ball.

 

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