In Mexico and many other Spanish-speaking countries, the “sport” of wrestling has been going on strong for decades. Known as lucha libre (meaning “freestyle wrestling”), this style of wrestling is akin to American professional wrestling.
Lucha libre is divided into two principal camps: (1) technicos (“technicians”) who are basically the good guys and use intricate maneuvers to achieve their submissions and (2) rudos (“rude dudes” or heels) who use cheating and other bad techniques to win their matches. Tag teams and three-member teams are popular in the sport. A match is divided into three “faults,” with the wrestler(s) who win two out of three of these faults declared the overall winner.
One popular type of wrestler is an enmascardo, or the masked wrestler. Some of these wrestlers have achieved superstardom in their home countries and are even known in places like Japan and the United States. Many of these early enmascardos achieved stardom through movies. Although some of the movies dealt with crime, later movies moved toward the genres of horror and science fiction.
This list assembles the top-five enmascardos who have done battle with the likes of Dracula, Dr. Frankenstein, wolfmen and wolfwomen, and mummies.
Perhaps the most popular enmascardo ever, El Santo (“The Saint”) always wore a signature silver mask, so much so that he became known as “The Man in the Silver Mask” (el enmascarado de plata). El Santo wrestled for nearly five decades. Born in 1917 under the name Rodolfo Guzman Huerta, he died in 1984.
During his movie career, El Santo fought many types of adversaries, thus becoming a folk hero and a symbol of justice in Mexico. El Santo also had a long-running picture-book series in which he battled all types of menace, from the contemporary to the supernatural.
Supernatural adversaries of El Santo include Dracula, Dr. Frankenstein (or rather, his grandchild), vampire women, infernal men, wolfmen, Satanists, and even Martians. Perhaps the best adversaries were those derived from Latin America. These supernatural menaces include la llorona (the crying banshee) and the mummies of Guranajuato.
Although El Santo has since passed, his youngest son, El Hijo del Santo (“The Son of El Santo”) has donned the silver mask and has continued with much success, even making movies of his own.
Born in 1922 under the name Alejandro Munoz Moreno, Blue Demon was a dynamic wrestler whose signature mask was bright blue with white accents. His nickname was “Manotas,” referring to his large hands, which became unusually strong while working on the railroad as a young man.
Blue Demon made his movie debut in 1961 in the movies The Killers of Lucha Libra and Fury in the Ring. He worked with El Santo on nine films, although the two were never good friends in real life. Blue Demon also anchored an elite group of wrestling crime fighters in the movies known as Los Campeones Justicieros (“The Champions of Justice”).
Monster adversaries of Blue Demon include Satanists, infernal spiders, diabolical women, Frankenstein, werewolves, Dracula, zombies, and of course the mummies of Guanajuato.
Although Blue Demon has since passed, his son, Blue Demon Jr., has donned the blue-and-white mask and embarked on a wrestling and movie career of his own.
Born in 1942 under the name Aaron Rodriguez, Mil Mascaras (“1,0000 Masks”) has made inroads in professional wrestling in Mexico, Japan, and the United States. Mil Mascaras was inducted into the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2010 and the WWE Hall of Fame in 2012.
Mil Mascaras began his movie career in 1966 and has continued making movies in 2014. He is the last of the Big Three (the other two being El Santo and Blue Demon) who is alive and is making movies. He returned to the United States and made Mil Mascaras vs. The Aztec Mummy in 2007 and is making a sequel, this one titled Mil Mascaras: Aztec Revenge.
Monster adversaries include vampire girls (the movie featured the great John Carradine), the mummies of Guanajuato, and vampires.
Born in 1939, Tinieblas (which means “Darkness”) began his career as a bodybuilder and stuntman. He became a luchador in the 1960s, at first serving as a rival of Mil Mascaras. In the 1970s, he became one of Los Campeones Justicieros (“The Champions of Justice”).
Like El Santo, Tinieblas also had a comic-book series. The original series went from 1976 to 1979, with a second series lasting until 1995. A third series was launched in the year 2000.
Unlike the Big Three, Tinieblas had only a few monster enemies, such as mummies and Satanists. As of this writing, Tinieblas is retired and is 74 years old.
Rayo de Jalisco
Born in 1932 under the name Maximino Linares Moreno, Rayo de Jalisco (“The Lightning from Jalisco”) was an amazing wrestler who is now retired. He began his movie career in the 1970s, often appearing with the Champions of Justice. He worked with the Big Three, as well as noted wrestlers like Tinieblas and El Medico Asesino.
Retired at age 81, Rayo de Jalisco now has a son in the business. He is known as Rayo de Jalisco, Jr. Rayo’s grandson is also a wrestler, going under the name “Rayman.”