“So, who’s your favourite wrestler then?” A difficult question to answer for most wrestling fans, but when it is given to you as the subject of an article, it takes on a new level of trickiness. It’s also a very personal thing, the evaluation that we make. After all, one man’s prince is another’s pauper; there always has to be a reason but it may be difficult to put your finger on.
I automatically start going through the heroes of my youth: Steamboat, Sting, Bulldog or Brian Pillman. Living in a Sky-TV-free house in the 90s, I used the family’s discarded Betamax to record late-night offerings of WCW Worldwide from ITV or Channel 5 rather than the WWF my friends enjoyed, barring the occasional WrestleMania or Rumble tape I could find. Superb competitors to a man, and would be in contention for a lot of people, however the haze of time and videotape tracking is too much for me to make the personal connection required, as was my decade-long disconnection from mainstream wrestling in the wake of WCW’s demise.
This disconnection from entertainment I used to find compelling but became disillusioned with, was broken by accident one night a few years ago by one, solitary but singular, athlete. El Ligero. I can’t even remember his opponent, but I recall the high-flying, high-paced action, and the childish excitement and exhilaration flooding back. I was hooked again. His Youtube appearances were scoured and devoured, the box of old videos was retrieved from the attic and friends’ DVD collections were ruthlessly pillaged.
“So,” you might say, “you might just have needed any good wrestling match.” Well, that moment was pretty catalytic personally, but I’ll come back to that. My general reasoning is a lot deeper. ‘The Mexican Sensation’ is a luchador enmascarado, who’s iconic be-horned mask has become a renowned symbol of British Wrestling, but that might be due to his residency in Yorkshire, belying his moniker. His perfect mix of the high-flying Lucha style and that of the more technical end of traditional British combined with a phenomenal work-rate that few, if any, can match, has led to this extraordinarily talented gentleman being in demand at a huge percentage of UK promotions and wrestling hundreds of matches per year.
From the seaside entertainment of a family-friendly show to the black tee-shirted hordes of the ‘Indie Scene’, he not just entertains the fans, or tests his competitors, but often elevates the whole show. The jokes at promotions such as PROGRESS, that he “…is the most in-demand masked wrestler since Kendo Nagasaki,” or “…wrestled 4 holiday camps before coming here today,” whilst being slightly exaggerated to draw a reaction from the crowd, are not that far from the truth.
Starting out in 2001, El Ligero wrestled through the noughties heydays of FWA and 1PW, he’s wrestled throughout Europe and in America for many notable companies including Pro Wrestling Noah, even competing in the second edition of TNA’s British Boot-camp. He’s won a fair amount of titles along the way too, his Wikipedia championships section requires some scrolling, but it is his involvement in British Independent Wrestling’s resurgence over recent years that deserves the most plaudits. Many will have their own favourite Ligero matches, but if you are unfamiliar with his work, I would refer you to his run as champion in the nascent PROGRESS, his No-DQ series with the underrated and versatile Mike Bird in Pro Wrestling Chaos, and his work either against, or tagging with Martin Kirby as Project Lucha all over the UK.
Outside of his superb execution, exciting style, experience and iconic look, I want to draw your attention to his physical acting. For a wrestler who rarely is verbal, and has limited range facially due to his mask, it is amazing how communicative El Ligero is. Every nuance expresses something, conveying the narrative of the match or feud just as well as any red-faced bellowing or mic-drop promo, and may even be better for its subtlety. Physically, and despite his less-than-giant size, his muscular vascularity means that he can take on all but the biggest of opponents without it looking like a mis-match. He even manages to find the time to maintain a fantastically well written ‘On the Road’ blog of his bouts.
For my clinching proof however, I have to go back to my pheonix-like return to wrestling fandom. If it were not for that moment, not only would I potentially not be a fan, but I sincerely doubt that I would be in the role of wrestling writer today, a role that has brought me a creative fulfilment that I’d not had in years. If Mick Foley cites seeing Superfly Snuka in the Garden as his inspiration to become involved in wrestling, then seeing El Ligero is mine: the only wrestler I ever watch with my jaw firmly on the floor and my notebook empty.
Photo Credit: Copyright (c) Jim Maitland/Turning Face.