Mexican wrestling makes a move

  • Venganza, right, has a hold of Samuray during lucha libre practice at Robles Gym in Villa Park.

    Venganza, right, has a hold of Samuray during lucha libre practice at Robles Gym in Villa Park. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Yakuza, left, and Samuray practice lucha libre moves at Robles Gym in Villa Park.

    Yakuza, left, and Samuray practice lucha libre moves at Robles Gym in Villa Park.

Published: 1/11/2008 12:26 AM

By day, he's a pleasant-looking graphic artist who sports wire-rimmed glasses and a mellow demeanor.

By night, he wears a frightening yellow-and-silver mask and a tight black costume that reveals his bulging physique, and he faces menacingly his opponents in the ring.

"Yakuza," 35, is a "lucha libre" (free fight) wrestler with the new suburban-based, Mexican-style wrestling company Gladiadores Aztecas de Lucha Libre (GALLI).

His signature move, the "Yakuzita," entails flipping his opponent upside down and vertically on his knee, his head bent at a painful angle.

"You hurt him but you don't want to knock him out," said Yakuza, a native of Mexico who now lives in Cicero.

The contrast between Yakuza's real self and his lucha libre persona is such that those who know his double identity call him "Peter Parker," after the Spider-Man character, Yakuza said.

All the wrestlers interviewed refused to disclose their real names, saying they never reveal their identities to the public.

In the United States, many were first introduced to lucha libre by the movie "Nacho Libre," starring Jack Black. In Mexico, the sport is highly popular, and children grow up watching famous masked wrestlers duke it out on TV.

Just like in the style of U.S.-based World Wrestling Entertainment, lucha libre features plots, alliances and rivalries between "good guys" and "bad guys."

But while WWE-style wrestling is aggressive and raw, Mexican wrestling is characterized by fast moves and high-flying acrobatics. The basic rules are the same -- don't hit below the belt, don't use weapons and release the opponent when he calls defeat.

"The only difference is that everything is opposite, so a 'lock up' for example is on the left side in the American style, but on the right side in the Mexican style," said Samuray, 21, of Chicago, who wrestles both styles.

In lucha libre, wrestlers don't spend as much time posturing and trash-talking, he added.

Though most lucha libre wrestlers are Latino, shows also attract non-Latino and even Japanese fans, said GALLI founder Carlos Robles, of Addison. The company, which numbers about 40 wrestlers, is the first one in the suburbs, Robles said. There are several in Chicago.

Robles, a licensed Realtor and former amateur boxer, owns Robles Boxing gym in Villa Park, which offers Mexican wrestling classes in addition to boxing training.

"The hardest thing for wrestlers, even young ones, is going in front of audiences for the first time," said Robles, who formed GALLI in July. He organizes monthly lucha libre shows with eight to 10 matches each throughout the suburbs, including Addison, Elgin and Harvey.

Brian Wittman, of Stone Park, co-owner of XWC wrestling company, has partnered with Robles for a couple of shows in the suburbs.

"WWE-style is a lot of talk and not a lot of wrestling, but Mexican style has a lot more wrestling," he said. "The story line doesn't take away from the action (in lucha libre)."

GALLI's next show on Sunday will feature well-known Mexican wrestlers "Huracan Ramirez" and his son "Huracan Ramirez Jr.," both out of Mexico City. The original Huracan Ramirez was a legendary movie character.

In February, tournaments will begin to pave the way for the first-ever GALLI champion, Robles said.

"A lot of companies just give the championship title to the most famous guy to attract people, but we want to have a tournament and give it to the best guy, to someone like Yakuza or Samuray," he said. "This is the whole point, to let the people know about local wrestlers."

If you go

What: Lucha Libre Internacional (International Mexican-style Wrestling)

When: 6 p.m. Sunday (doors open at 5 p.m.)

Where: Addison Community Center, 120 E. Oak St., Addison

Tickets: $15 general, $20 ringside, $10 children


Huracan Ramirez, Huracan Ramirez Jr., Charly Manson Jr., Yakuza, Amenaza del Siglo, Pentagon del Infierno and others

Info: (630) 563-5219 or