For most fans in the punk rock music world summer time brings to mind the traveling summer camp that is the Warped Tour. Once again for the thirteenth consecutive year the Warped Tour will bring together veteran and upstart punk rock, emo, indie rap artists and extreme sports enthusiasts to blow the doors off fair grounds, parking lots and amphitheatres across the country. This time however, there will be an added twist to the mayhem and madness. The tattooed and body pierced set will be rubbing elbows with masked men who fly threw the air, land dropkicks to the face and who are more inclined to body slam than slam dance. This year the Warped Tour will feature the stars of the Lucha Libre USA/AAA Wrestling League. At each stop on the tour a ring will be set up and the masked Mexican superstars will hit the squared circle and put on a textbook display of Mexican sports entertainment. Although Mexican wrestling and its American counter part have much in common there are many subtle differences and this summer, punk fans will bear witness first hand to the pageantry and style of Lucha Libre (Mexican wrestling). I had the pleasure to sit down with Steven Ship, the CEO of Lucha Libre USA and I was able to get a first hand look at the tradition, popularity and the history of Mexican wrestling.
Associated Content: Steven, talk to me about the history of the AAA Wrestling League.
Steven Ship: AAA Wrestling is part of Lucha Libre USA. It is a family run business. For over 15 years AAA Wrestling has been the premier wrestling league in Mexico. The league was started by former wrestler Antonio Pena. After he passed away in October of 2006, his family took over the organization. Currently AAA does about 40 matches a week throughout the country and it is the second most popular sport in Mexico behind soccer. Our matches are broadcast on Galavision TV and on any given day our events are front page news in the papers in Mexico.
AC: In your opinion what are the differences between American wrestling and Mexican wrestling.
SS: Mexican and American wrestling share the soap opera and storyline aspect of the sport, but Mexican wrestling is rich with cultural traditions. Much of the tradition has to do with the masks worn by the wrestlers. These are not just costumes. The masks are handed down from generation to generation. When a wrestler is un-masked their career is virtually over. In Mexican wrestling your mask is truly your badge of honor. Another difference is in the style of the wrestling. The wrestlers in AAA Wrestling/Lucha Libre USA utilize a more acrobatic style in the ring. You are more inclined to see our wrestlers flying into and at each other than having one opponent press slam another.
AC: How did Lucha Libre USA/AAA Wrestling get involved with the Warped Tour?
SS: It was really as simple as just talking to Kevin Lyman (Warped Tour founder) about it. We wanted to really tap into the US market this summer and I have known Kevin for a while. He was familiar with it and when we started talking about it we agreed this would be a great way to really introduce US fans to AAA wrestling.
AC: Who are some of the stars from AAA Wrestling that have gone on to the US promotions?
SS: Two of the more well known wrestlers to come out of AAA Wrestling are Rey Mysterio Jr. and the late Eddie Gurrero. Both got their start in the AAA organization.
AC: Two of the major concerns in pro-wrestling in the states has been the use and abuse of steroids and the untimely deaths of some of the major super stars. How has your organization dealt with steroid use?
SS: This is yet another example of how we are different from the US wrestling organizations. The emphasis for our athletes is not on becoming huge and looking like body builders. The emphasis is on the athletes perfecting their acrobatic, high flying moves. Any type of bulking up, either natural or otherwise would run counter to what the Lucha Libre style is all about.
AC: How about the safety of the wrestlers? What is being done to make sure they are safe when pulling off these spectacular moves?
SS: Our wrestlers have to work their way up the ranks. At the AAA school our athletes are well trained and they spend many years practicing and perfecting their moves. They spend a lot of time on smaller regional cards before they make it to the bigger matches.
AC: So tell me then is this truly a sport or is it entertainment?
SS: Simply put, it’s both!
AC: What can punk rock fans and wrestling fans alike expect this summer from AAA Wrestling on the Warped Tour?
SS: We will be bringing a full ring to each tour stop and some of our biggest names in Mexico will hit the ring each day. There will be multiple matches in different weight classes. Folks will definitely get a chance to experience the traditions, culture and high flying action of AAA wrestling.
AC: With this type of introduction to the states are you hoping to turn AAA Wrestling into a type of feeder organization for a bigger company like the WWE?
SS: Actually the goal is to keep our talent and compete with the big wrestling associations in the states! We have the talent and a very unique style and the Warped Tour will be just the beginning.
If the idea of punk rock combined with extreme sports and high flying ring action appeals to you, get yourself to the Warped Tour and check out the luchadores (wrestlers) of the AAA Wrestling League this summer.