"I'm a rich Mexican. Doesn't that piss you off?"
Pro-wrestling promotions have never been above anything in the quest for fans to love or hate their wrestlers. Nationality has always been a factor to bring in crowds to either cheer or jeer the particular wrestler representing a particular nationality.
For example, Pedro Morales appealed to the Puerto Ricans of New York back in the day. Bruno Sammartino, the Italians. Vince, Sr., would put the titles on these guys because members of these cultures would pay money to go see this guy whip up on people. The fans would live vicariously through these cultural representatives.
But wrestling promotions would also put up representatives of cultures or governments America was at war with. Traditionally speaking, anyone not distinctly American would be the bad guy. Japanese and Russians were a big draw back in the day. Sgt. Slaughter and the Iron Shiek made a lot of money taking their battles across the country. Even one of the baddest men alive, Abdullah the Butcher, was booked as "The Madman from the Sudan". He was actually a Canuk.
Today, a former lucha libre and mixed martial arts pro-wrestler named Alberto Del Rio won a prestigious WWE event. In truth, it was a suprise to me. I didn't think he would win it.
But in a way, it makes sense. For the purpose of this blog, I will not talk about how lucha stars were 'used' in WCW.
Alberto Del Rio is a departure from the way the giant WWE portrays lucha libre style wrestlers. A fair amount of respect was paid to Rey Mysterio. However, perhaps in a show of disrespect to the sport, Rey was given his mask back after having lost it (twice, once in the US, then in Mexico). Rey and Vince made a lot of money on his return.
Then there were "The Mexi-Cools", who were lucha style workers who came out to the ring on riding lawn mowers. Great. Thanks, Stamford, Connecticuit.
Eddie Guerrero is a legend of the sport. But he eventually fell into a character that had him working hard to earn his GED, call his escort Mamacita (because all Latinos are lovers), and eventually become a WWE champion by "Lying, Cheating, and Stealing". He would show up in low rider cars to the cheers of the fans.
Alberto Del Rio is a departure from these stereotype. He is a rich Mexican who shows up to the ring in very nice cars, has his own personal announcer who announces him in Spanish, and an arrogance reserved to aristocrats. Here we have the classical foreign enemy archetype in an era of "Arizona Immigration Laws", "Machete", and "The DREAM Act". The heated political climate in regards to legal and illegal Mexicans has been pulled into WWE. Del Rio, by the way, means 'from the river'.
Quick back story. Alberto Del Rio used to be the legacy to Dos Caras. He was Dos Caras, Jr. He wore a mask.
"Three guesses why he used a red, white, and green color scheme with an eagle pattern."
He also fought in MMA in Japan and did alright for himself. He even broke a guys arm after throwing him with a belly to belly suplex. He has a strong amateur background, in truth.
"Representing lucha libre in MMA"
All this guy has to do is show up and the crowd goes wild, booing like crazy. It's reminicent of those Nikolai Volkoff/Iron Shiek days. In essence, Del Rio is playing those classic "foreign bad guy" roles as a successful and rich Mexican. Because, in pro-wrestling, the silly Mexicans riding in on the lawnmowers can be cheered. But if you are a Mexican with money who is successful, then you should be boo'd. At least, if you're a fan from Stanford, Connecticuit. I wasn't the only one that cheered when Del Rio won. But I live in San Antonio, a few miles away from Connecticuit with far different attitudes and opinions of rich Mexicans.
Which, ironically enough, isn't any better, I guess. If a super rich Mexican like that walked in, I would be very nice. A general perception is that he is probably with one of the 'carteles'. I wouldn't want him to have someone cut off my head.
Who's opinion is worse, right?
Well, it was pretty cool to have such a heel that actually could have a following with the Latino population. I for one, support him because of my cultural background and appreciation for lucha libre. So its a weird dynamic when I'm in the middle of a manufactured cultural divide. I'm having fun, but is everybody else?
It will be fun to see how this all plays out. In the meantime, I lift a can of Corona to Alberto Del Rio. From masked lucha star, Dos Caras, Jr., to main eventing Wrestlemania. Well played.
OTHER BLOGS YOU MIGHT ENJOY
The origins of the Sin Cara rivalry
The Sin Cara I vs. Sin Cara II Mask vs. Mask match
BOWIE IBARRA IS THE AUTHOR OF THE 'DOWN THE ROAD' ZOMBIE HORROR SERIES. HIS MMA THEMED BOOK, 'PIT FIGHTERS: BAPTISM BY FIRE', INCLUDES A MEXICAN LUCHADOR WHO CROSSES OVER TO MMA DURING THE EARLY DAYS OF MAINSTREAM MARTIAL ARTS. IT IS AVAILABLE IN PAPERBACK AND KINDLE.
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