Wrestling Series ‘Lucha Underground’ Passes The Bechdel Test With Flying Colors: BUST Interview

by Isabel Sophia Dieppa

The crowds of C2E2 were roaming the floor dressed as some of their favorite superheroes, meanwhile, I was upstairs at a press conference with some real-life superheroes who just happen to be the biggest names in lucha. If you are unfamiliar with lucha, lucha is a form of wrestling that brings in all the theatrics of WWE with a dash of Latino culture, and El Rey Network’s Lucha Underground is king of lucha TV. Launched by Robert Rodriguez and producer Mark Burnett in 2014, Lucha Underground is one of the fastest growing wrestling television shows. The show can be seen on El Rey Network, and the first two seasons were recently released on Netflix. What makes Lucha Underground special is its marriage of Latino culture, empowered women, and good old cinematic storytelling.

“Lucha libre is actually being showcased for the first time in the correct light,” said Lucha Underground ring announcer Melissa Santos. “The show educates the non-traditional lucha libre fans. There are professors, and people who were hired to make sure we showcase the lucha libre art in front of a large audience. It’s great for everyone to really see it”

Sitting in the room with all of these artists and creators of Lucha Underground, it is obvious the creation of this show is noteworthy. It is not just about fights and theatrics, it is about community, working together and good storytelling.

20170423 140155Left to right, Johnny Mundo, Taya, Rey Mysterio, and Melissa Santos. Photo by Isabel S. Dieppa

Lucha Underground is not a wrestling league right now, it is just a TV show, we are a series and we are shooting in seasons,” said General Manager Dorian Roldan. “The way that we are shooting the vignettes is in a much more cinematic way, and the mythology we are trying to create with all of these characters is totally different and totally apart then what other programs are doing, like WWE or Impact.”

That artful and respectful approach also shines through in the representation of women in lucha. The wrestling world has had a bad rap of representing women as decoration or as objects. Lucha Underground strives to make both men and women equal. They achieve this through cross-gender matches and the continued story development of their characters.

“Lucha puts us on the same page as the guys,” said wrestler Taya.  “I know we push the envelope and do crazy things but that’s what it is, we’re entertainment, and a TV show and we are meant to make you uncomfortable. You don’t want to watch something that is bland, you want to watch something that makes you think and questions your beliefs!”

Taya explained how during one of her cross-gender fights between a male luchador, Cage, she received a lot of backlash. People even questioned how she could fight with a man, especially since it can give off the impression of domestic violence. But Taya reminds us that these are characters, and just like any action movie where a man and a woman fight, luchadores and luchadoras face off for championships.

“We are constantly as women in wrestling and in sports and in all workplaces fighting for respect fighting to be treated like men,” said Taya. “I think that we are getting there and I’m going to constantly be an advocate for that gender equality, but we are getting there.”

And the men are not uncomfortable with these fights either. Santos said that Lucha Underground is not only giving women a voice, but it is also changing how men, the predominant audience for lucha and wrestling, are seeing women.

“It’s really cool seeing the rest of the industry follow suit with the precedent that we have set in Lucha Underground,” said wrestler Johnny Mundo, “by treating men and women like superheroes in the ring it’s just like everything Taya was saying, they are equals. This isn’t like a man and a woman fighting on the street. We are talking about two larger than life characters on a TV show in a ring.”

I wasn’t just curious about women in wrestling when I was interviewing this group of amazing super humans. With the one-year anniversary of the death of Chyna this past week, it was important to ask what precautions the organization and the wrestlers are taking in order to take care of each other in the ring.

“In any contact sport, there are injuries, that’s the nature of the beast,” said Mundo. “Professional wrestling is a contact sport and performance, and part of my job as luchador is to talk, perform, and train. It’s each wrestler’s individual job to train themselves. It’s about risk management. You train yourself to be the best performer you can be and in the top athletic condition, you do that more, and the stuff that is risky, you do that less.”

Manager Roldan has stated the safety and health of the wrestlers are what is most important, and they work hard in order to ensure they have all the proper resources should an accident occur.

“We are a TV show, and wrestling has always been a risky business; it’s part of the nature of our industry,” said Roldan, “but we are really careful about the integrity and the health of all our wrestlers. The insurance we have as a production, we have a doctor, and ambulance at the temple. We need to be really careful and protect all our wrestlers.”

 Empowerment, safety, and gender equality: Lucha Underground passes the Bechdel test with flying colors. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have two seasons worth to binge-watch on Netflix.

Top photo via Lucha Underground

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Founded in 1993, BUST is the inclusive feminist lifestyle trailblazer offering a unique mix of humor, female-focused entertainment, uncensored personal stories, and candid reporting that tells the truth about women’s lives.

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