On September 21st, 90 years will have passed since wrestling arrived in Mexico from the United States, where the sport’s considered father, the late Salvador Lutteroth González, stumbled upon it by chance.
Lutteroth, a former member of Álvaro Obregón’s Army during the Mexican Revolution, was invited in 1929 by some friends to watch a wrestling match in El Paso, Texas, and immediately saw the potential of this sport in modern Mexico.
“Don Salvador understood that Mexico, after the Revolution, was entering a modern era in which the population had more and more possibilities for an active public life and was eager for other types of activities. Before the Revolution, public life was intense but reserved only for the upper classes,” explained Hugo Monroy, historian of the Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre (CMLL).
After seven years of fighting in the Mexican Revolution, Lutteroth realized that the country was changing, and after failing with his first venture, a furniture and billiard table factory, he invested his capital to found the Empresa de Lucha Libre Mexicana (EMLL), now CMLL, which institutionalized this sport in the country.
He did this by partnering with two businessmen, Mike Corona and Francisco Ahumada, who were familiar with the wrestling business in the United States and allowed him to bring to Mexico two wrestlers, and that is how it all began.
“He found out that some wrestlers like Jackie Joe or El Charro Aguayo were being banned in the U.S. because they were really good and made American wrestlers look bad. There is an anecdote in a match with El Charro Aguayo, someone got into the ring and pointed a gun at his head to make him stop fighting, they hated him,” Monroy recalled.
At first, the wrestling matches were led by foreign gladiators from countries as distant as Syria or China. The first Mexican competitors were trained at the EMLL School, which still exists today, where they are taught the Mexican “Lucha Libre” technique, one of the best in the world.
“The difference between a wrestler trained by CMLL and others is the quality of the training. There are poorly trained wrestlers, and deficiencies in their movements and evolutions are noticeable. Those from CMLL demand 100% performance because people pay to see a show,” said Último Guerrero, one of the company’s most important wrestlers and a professor at the EMLL school.
For 90 years, CMLL has taught Olympic wrestling as the basis of Mexican wrestling, as well as how to engage with the audience, according to Salvador Lutteroth Lomelí, director general of CMLL and the grandson of Lutteroth González.
“The classic style we practice never goes out of fashion. It’s something that remains. People still enjoy the holds, the counter holds,” said the company’s leader, advocating for maintaining traditional matches without the use of objects for wrestlers to hit each other or extreme modalities, as most of their competitors do.
Another legacy of CMLL is the Arena México, known as the Cathedral of Wrestling, where some of the greatest legends of Mexico, such as El Santo and Blue Demon, were forged.
“I’ve been wrestling for 30 years, and in this arena, it’s different because the audience is different, very knowledgeable, and the audience knows who can wrestle and who is an amateur,” said Tiffany, one of the female division’s stars.
CMLL will celebrate its 90th anniversary on September 16th with a match featuring a mask vs. mask showdown between El Templario and Dragón Rojo.