Deep in the heart of Melbourne, a fiesta is brewing. The city streets house many sights and smells – during the day, trams bells ring out and the wafting aroma of coffee fills your nostrils. At night, you can feel the thud from passing nightclubs under your feet. The rain won’t dampen the spirits of the hundred plus party-goers here for a good time.
Nightlife in Melbourne takes on a range of shapes, but the best-kept secret is the spectacle of Lucha Libre here at Brown Alley Colonial Hotel. I’m familiar with this venue as Rats Nightclub, the go-to for students in search of five dollar jagerbombs and shitty pop music remixes. But tonight, it is transformed. And by transformed, I mean there’s a wrestling ring on the ground floor next to the DJ booth. It’s a vast improvement from the norm.
The night promises Mexican folkfare, a range of fighting styles, “chicas calientes” and “mini” wrestlers. A Norteno Mexican duo keep the crowd warm, the guitarist riffing to some classic pub rock tunes as well as traditional Mexican Mariachi music to get your toes tapping. House reboots of Mexican Polka and Pasodoble wriggle their way into my feet and through my body, and I can’t help but submit to the jive.
A Mexican ring announcer in pointed cowboy boots steps into the ring and hypes up the night in reverberating prose, and his unrelenting enthusiasm is reciprocated by the average late-20’s crowd. Looking out over the balcony above the ring, a sea of sombreros top the heads of dancing men and women, chatting and laughing the night away. A woman in gold leggings bops across the ring, hoisting a cardboard sign printed with “aplausos”, to which spectators are happy to oblige.
Lucha Fantastica – run by Essendon promotion Melbourne City Wrestling – Cantina Brawl, is one of the few multi-faceted Lucha Libre events hosted as a subsidiary event by MCW. I expect to see a couple of familiar faces, but I’m pleasantly surprised.
The first match on the card, is MCW living legend Mr Juicy, versus the phenomenal Josh Shooter. Shooter and others are decked out as enmascarados, a nice touch. I feel as though I’m in an alternate universe, where everyone is much happier and open to the idea of choreographed combat.
Juicy is the clear favourite, as chants of his name bellow through the warehouse-looking rafters. There’s no need to sit when the party doesn’t stop – Spectators surround the ring packed to the apron, beating it in a synchronicity that echoes through the building.
Juicy is able to pick up the win with a Stunner, although I couldn’t see much of the match past the unfortunate positioning of the ring in the building’s design. But the multiple sensory exposure available tonight has compensated somewhat.
The next match sees our first and only competing female luchadore of the night, La Loca. She flies down the stairs from the balcony and into the ring with such composure. Her bright dyed red hair – unmistakeably the same as Aussie wrestler Kelly Ann – falls comfortably from her mask, and she is ready for a fight. She will compete in an inter-gender match. There’s something about female luchadores that makes my heart sing. This is real feminism.
If only I had a clear view. I watch the majority of the match out of a long mirror on this side wall that captures the centre of the ring from the opposite direction, with the addition of fleeting glances through the gaps of shoulders. The immense pillars surrounding the ring are of no assistance to my plight. At least the line for the bar isn’t long.
From what I can see, there’s a theme of sexual dominance woven into this match, her opponent toying with La Loca by performing a perverted Lou Thez Press and various sexually suggestive pins, much to the displease of Loca. With all this fidgeting to catch a glimpse of the action, I feel as though I’m at a peep show.
Justice prevails and La Loca triumphantly earns a pinfall. This is before she is interrupted by the self-proclaimed “Trump Alliance”. A round man saunters to the ring, with an American flag cape fitted egotistically to his tailored suit. He is followed by a masked Cousin Ali, a mysteriously villainous woman in a glittery eye mask, and quite frankly, a gimp in a white shirt and slacks. His gang pursue a beat down of La Loca, while Trump rambles on in a very Trump-like manner about the need to build walls around Brown Alley.
Shortly after, a woman next to me asks if it’s okay to laugh, as “mini” valet Mascarita Diabla accompanies a wrestler in a leather crop vest and fishnet arm sleeves to the ring. I tell her that it’s wrestling, and it shouldn’t be taken too seriously. She laughs in agreeance. He will face off with the mystique that is El Zorro. The plethora of characters and personalities on display tonight makes me feel giddy, like a kid in a candy store spoiled for choice.
In between matches, our favourite announcer invites people from ringside onto the mat for a dance off. A skinny man, probably in his late 20’s to early 30’s, is encouraged to strip tease, as he unbuttons his shirt to reveal a grey crew neck t-shirt lightly drizzled with his own perspiration, while a short young woman puts everyone to shame. Chico, a guy in slacks and a mask resembling “Anonymous”, shares the contents of a bottle of liquor with people at ringside. People from all walks of life, laugh and chant in good spirit.
The main event sees Chupa Cabras (Syd Parker) take on Muteki in a two-out-of-three falls match, and it is a thriller. I manage to get a good spot up against the railing of the balcony, with an overhead view of the bout. They hit a sunset flip powerbomb, and dare to take to the air, with a 450 splash and shooting star press.
But the match is cut short by the Trump Alliance, who look to send a clear message of dominance. But fear not, the Sherriff is in town, and ready to restore order. Mr Juicy perpetrates every curse word in the dictionary before a schmoz breaks out, leading to a Fatal –Way: Juicy, Cabras, Muteki and Chico vs Ali, Shooter, Spandex leather guy, and the gimp; and it is so much fun.
To finish the match, every man from Team Juicy hits their finisher before barricading their opponent for the pin. To top it off, Trump cops a Stunner and a round of Stink Faces, sending an eloquent message about America’s political climate. Team Juicy pay a little homage to Shinsuke, and it’s all class.
Half-past midnight, and the night is far from over. DJs take to the decks, and acrobatic burlesque performances add a touch of spice to this caliente sensation. The fiesta rages on.
Beautiful story-telling, good triumphs over evil, people coming together to celebrate culture in every sense of the word. An experience. Just as promised.