Recapping the high-flying 8th annual Mondo Lucha at Turner Hall Ballroom.

Professional wrestling often gets derided as lowbrow entertainment. Snobbish critics chastise the event a brutish side-show that deceives easy marks into believing the “action” inside the ring that’s obviously choreographed. But really, nowadays, it’s almost impossible to find a fan that doesn’t recognize this deception and embrace its illegitimacy (there are exceptions, of course). Anyone that sneers at wrestling for being “fake” doesn’t truly understand the allure.

Wrestling excels when the performers tell a good story. It harkens back to the oldest form of live storytelling, Greek theater, where an actor needed to sell facial expressions to the back row of large arenas. In an age when subtlety is key in most contemporary art, wrestling works in broad strokes. This lets wrestlers tell big, epic stories, involving age-old subjects of friendship, adultery, a desire to be the best.

Mondo Lucha sets out to indoctrinate those unfamiliar with wrestling’s grapple hold by showing its guests a really fun time. The show is billed as a variety show that includes burlesque and live music, but its main product remains luchador-style (the masked, high-flying variety from Mexico) wrestling. The performers aren’t just brutish muscular beasts; they’re an assortment of comic-book-like characters ranging in size and appeal.

Now in its 8th year, Mondo Lucha started things off at a packed Turner Hall Ballroom in comedic fashion. A long opening credits sequence listed all the many character actors (Bronson Pinchot) and former sitcom stars that would be included in the show. When the list grew tiresome, its welcomed conclusion was faked out a few times before continuing with even more names.

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Whips provided the musical accompaniment, performing a handful of cuts throughout the night and closing with an enthused rendition of usual set closer “Right On.” The song felt particularly special for a wrestling show. Mere minutes before singer Ashley Smith extoled the daredevil mentality of Evel Knievel, wrestlers flung themselves out of the ring, performing front flips onto their opponents below.

While the opening matches were bloated tag team affairs, the last two bouts offered some eye-catching moments. A match was booked in-ring between two tag team partners, who brawled outside the ring and into the bar in extreme fashion. The tag team initially worked as bad guys, but all one wrestler needed to do to set himself apart was to show his love of PBR by chugging a couple.

The main event, a triple threat title match between Zema Ion, Matt Cross, and Isaias offered by far the best technical wrestling, and gave the crowd the best show as well. The current Mondo Lucha champion Isaias was accompanied to the ring by characters from Mad Max: Fury Road, including leader Immortan Joe. Before performing his finishing maneuver, Isaias even sprayed his mouth with chrome, like the War Boys from the movie do when in battle. If nothing else, Mondo Lucha proved that professional wrestling can be wild fun.

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