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Middle-Finger Theater 

Richmond Lucha Libre is wrestling from another world … one with a lot of face paint and folding chairs.

click to enlarge art31_lede_wrestling_148.jpg

Richmond Lucha has been kicking around backyards, public parks and the more spacious nightclubs for more than five years — 20 friends inspired by the mythology of masked Mexican wrestling from the '30s. And by the American style, too, seen mostly in the use of implausible items as weapons.

The luchadores forge their skills during weekend practices and training with professional instructors. They adopt personas for the ring, from the blue shorts of El Sucio to The Horrorshow's death's-head mask. They endure concussions, trouble with state wrestling regulations and, most recently, the death of one of their own, George Bullock, in an auto accident. They endure all this because they enjoy the physics of it.

"Physics" being the kind of staged fighting that plays out over four or five matches in a night, theatrical, acrobatic and visceral. A jump kick to the head is simple and brutal, but in the next moment, a fighter may take a running leap over the ropes, flip in the air and land on another fighter on the ground.

They seem to defy reality, because where they should come up bleeding and concussed, or not get up at all, these fighters spring back into the ring. Why? Because they are immortals, or at least living cartoon characters, brought into the third dimension to sweat for our joy.

Two bands, Gojira-X and Black Cash & The Bad Trips, keep energy high between matches. It's all quite organized, even as the luchadores aim boots at noses and heads at the mat. The audience gets very World Cup about the whole thing, bellowing a range of chants, mostly obscene, or just yelling "Lu-cha! Li-bre! Lu-cha! Li-bre!" Middle fingers take to the air like jerk birds in flight.

In the final battle, the Six Man Suicide, two teams of three get in the ring and it's a pageant of elbow chops, flying kicks, and so on. One fighter climbs a ladder onstage, only to be knocked out of the ring into a stack of wooden tables. Another two throw themselves off the pitched roof over the bar. That's the beauty of this kind of violence — it's innocent because, even though the impact of fighters hitting the concrete is felt 10 feet away, it's not our world. Death doesn't exist here. War, yes; pain, always. But never death. It's glorious.

And after it ends, some of the fighters come out and hang around, looking on ground level like regular guys bound by the laws of physics, moving slowly. One of them, Adrian Blaze, shuffles through the crowd, receiving praise and handshakes. He smiles wearily and, already disappearing into the real world, says by way of explanation, "Those goddamned tables." S



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