Lucha Libre Wrestling Comes to Phoenix's Crescent Ballroom on Saturday

Charlie Levy has a simple philosophy when it comes to the Crescent Ballroom, his venue in downtown Phoenix.

"We always try to do things at Crescent that are fun and different all the time," he says.

That's why you'll see such diverse events as comedy shows, movie screenings, spoken word gigs, fashion shows, and the weekly LGBT night, "Life's a Drag. Party Like a Queen" at the place in addition to its usual slate of music. However, on Saturday, January 10, that list will expand to include something completely different: lucha libre wrestling.

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For the uninitiated, lucha libre is the Hispanic-oriented and Mexican-born style of professional wrestling that offers a decidedly different vibe than the WWE or the more American style you've probably seen on television.

For instance, the good guys in lucha are called "technicos" while the villains are referred to as "rudos." Many of the wrestlers wear masks, which is a huge deal in lucha libre and a hallmark of the practice, and the action taking place in the ring is entirely more colorful, high-flying, and action-oriented. There is also a great deal more physical comedy and pratfalls involved.

Professional wrestling, Mexican-oriented or otherwise, is something that's never been staged at the Crescent before. Regardless, it's something that Levy and his staff are looking forward to having there.

"Brett [Kellett], our bar manager, is a huge fan of luche libre and he had the idea a few months ago of having it here," Levy says. "I was like, 'Why not?' It sounded like fun. We have a house draft is called Luche Libre draft lager and a have T-shirts with lucha masks on 'em, so we thought it would be fun to kind of have it."

Crescent Ballroom and Levy have both receptive to Latino culture since the venue opened in 2011, from its hamburger named after famed Chicano music pioneer, Lalo Guerrero, to hosting indie Latin bands and dance nights.

It stems from Levy's philosophy of cultural inclusion. "Other places where I've lived, being in New Orleans or living in Tucson for a while, you learn to embrace all cultures," he says. "And I think that makes a great community when you do that."

For the first-ever lucha libre event at the Crescent on Saturday night, the ring and the luchadores will be supplied by Tucson-based Rockstar Wrestling Alliance, a promotion that puts on matches and events throughout the Southwest, including a gig at Tucson's Rialto Theatre on New Year's Eve.

A total of seven matches will be held during the event using a total of 14 wrestlers, including such stars as Pakal, Lord Drako, The Prophet, Awesome Andy, Los Foxstars, Alexander Hammerstone, Chris Evans, Ave Dragon, and Pali Prince.

Meanwhile, Levy will supply the musical guests, who will hit the stage after the matches and include Tucson band The Pork Torta (performing under the moniker "Los Pork Torta") and local DJs Borisimo and Maclovio spinning mostly cumbias and rock en Español.

Both DJs are huge lucha libre fans who attend local matches held around the Valley, and will also play the role of announcer during the event, calling the action in the ring and getting the crowd cheering and booing along.

"We can both say we grew up watching the golden age of lucha," Borisimo says. "By that I mean watching luchadores like El Santo, Mascara Sagrada, Tinieblas, Mil Mascaras and the list goes on and on. [Maclovia] is more of a technico fan. I might have to do plancha on him."

When asked what he thinks make lucha libre both cool and fun to watch, Borisimo says it's a little bit of everything:

"To me there are a few things. The masks for one. The high flying moves. The never-ending rudo versus technico grudge," he says. "I grew up loving the technicos but, you know just like your taste buds change so did my admiration for the rudos."

Personally, he hopes Saturday's event is a success and that it helps the Valley's lucha scene keep growing.

"It's a hidden gem [of Phoenix] mostly known by the Hispanic community," he says. "I mean these guys wrestle in little Mexican mercados or at the swap meet. Hopefully with this event we can shine light on it and help it grow."

Lucha Libre Wrestling takes place at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, January 10, at Crescent Ballroom. Admission is $10 in advance, $20 at the door.

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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.