Happy birthday, Rey Mistero! No, not the popular ECW/WCW/WWF wrestler that practically everyone thinks of when they hear Rey Mysterio, but his uncle! Rey Misterio Sr! Star of The Wrestlemaniac!
This popped up on Hulu, presumably because I watch a lot of wrestling and my roommate Jessica watches a lot of horror movies. This was a much better “YOU MAY ALSO LIKE” than say, Bratz Babyz: The Movie or The Only Way is Essex, two other recent recommendations.
I don’t think Jessica would call The Wrestlemaniac a good movie, but she has some nice things to say about a few of the decisions they made and how they relate to the horror genre. I really don’t know anything about horror movies, but I understand how when you like a thing you may find something enjoyable even in the weaker examples of that thing. I say that at someone who has deliberately and knowingly consumed both an episode of TNA Impact Wrestling and an issue of The New 52: Futures’ End in the past forty-eight hours.
There may well be something there for the horror fan, but these guys know even less about wrestling than I do about horror. And this isn’t some sort of jerky “ehh ehh ehhh, but Randy Savage didn’t jump to WCW until early 1995!” nitpicking. I’m not entirely sure they’ve actually seen a lucha libre match.
That’s not entirely fair: the film’s credits are over three minutes of old time lucha libre footage with some iMovie effects over them. This is as close to wrestling as the film gets.
I don’t even want to waste time on the set-up, but it’s six young Americans cruising down to Mexico to make a pornographic film. When they appear to get lost, their leader (the most obnoxious cast member, who spends at least a minute lovingly explaining a Dirty Sanchez to his fellow pornographers who have apparently never heard of it) throws their map out of the window, because he is obnoxious. They stop for gas at an abandoned gas station with no gas, where a crazy old man gifts them what has to be be an ounce of cocaine1I am not an expert on cocaine weight/volume, but it looks like a racquetball’s worth in a gunnysack. That’s A LOT of cocaine, right? And the jerk bogarts it all, obviously. and gives them explicit directions to avoid Le Sangre de Dios2Spanish for “Le Blood of Gods”, an abandoned town on their route.
One of the Americans flips his lid over that, because of “the old Mexican legend” of El Mascarado3Spanish for “The Mask-ado”. You see, El Mascarado was “the best Mexican wrestler of all time”, but the old legend claims that he was banished to Le Sangre de Dios because he “gouged a man’s eyes out with his bare hands.” The scuzzy leader, now cartoonishly shoveling piles of cocaine into the general region of his nostrils, decides this is the perfect place to film a pornographic film.
On the way there, the second most prominent cast member, a Hurleyesque dude who is referred to almost exclusive by “Fats” and various ethnic slurs, goes into further detail on that “old Mexican legend”:
He came out in the early sixties. See, the president of Mexico loved wrestling, was obsessed with winning gold at the 1968 Olympics. Now the problem was, Russia was kicking major ass at the time and Mexico didn’t stand a chance.
Let’s just accept that this is a world where professional wrestling is a pure competition. Even in real life, there’s plenty of overlap between ‘pure’ and ‘pro’ wrestling: from Danny Hodge to Kurt Angle, plenty of people have made the transition, and some of them even went to the Olympics. So fine, whatever, the President of Mexico was recruiting Olympic hopefuls from lucha libre, and they were going to get around the amateur requirements somehow.
Out of the blue, El Mascarado appears. And man, was the guy a badass. “Around the same time he appeared, three of the best Mexican wrestlers disappeared. They just vanished. Now legend goes they all ended up in the hands of these scientists hired by the president. These guys created the perfect wrestler out of the missing dudes’ body parts, man!
Here’s the thing4Jessica would like to point out that this is not the thing at all, the thing is that they kidnapped athletes and then sewed them together to make a superathlete. And that it worked. That is the real thing. Obviously I disagree about the thing.: there are two different divisions (Greco-Roman and Freestyle) in Olympic wrestling, each with eight weight classes. There are sixteen gold medals awards every time for “wrestling in the Olympics”. Horror movie logic aside, The President of Mexico gave up three chances at Olympic Gold to get one chance. Also he killed three men, but whatever.
Anyway, right before the Olympic trials, something snaps. El Mascarado starts killing his opponents in the ring. After that details get a little bit sketchy, but rumor has it they brought him to this small town out in the middle of nowhere to fix him up.
This is where the “old Mexican legend” part starts to fall apart. We’re not talking about some old misty village in the time before mass media. We are talking about a major sport in a major city in 1968. There aren’t a lot of details that are sketchy about this. We know exactly who the “President of Mexico” was at the time. There were television cameras and journalists at most lucha libre shows. And the Olympics are a situation where literally the entire world is watching. I realize it was a couple decades later, but the names Ben Johnson and Tonya Harding are still remembered, and all they did was do steroids and get someone to kneecap an opponent, respectively. El Mascarado apparently murdered multiple opponents. People still remember a couple of dudes doing a Black Power fist at the 1968 Olympic Games, which caused a huge scandal, but I guess repeated in-ring murder was covered up very effectively.
This sort of “dark secret” works well enough when it’s a rural setting and/or it’s hundreds of years ago, but late 20th Century mid-match Olympic murder in front of a live audience and video cameras in a city of several million people would have surely merited a cutaway in the middle of Green Acres. People would remember it. There would be books about it. There would be a 30 for 30 about it. Details would not be sketchy. Are details about the old German legend about terrorists killing people at the Munich Olympics sketchy? Hell no. Spielberg made a movie about it.
But this is a horror movie, so naturally they go to the little abandoned town and shoot some really lazy softcore porno and immediately begin getting murdered by El Mascarado. He murders the first couple of people before anyone else notices, and when they find the corpses their faces have been ripped off.
That’s what Mexican wrestlers do when they win a fight, they rip their opponent’s mask off. It’s the ultimate humiliation.
If you’re feeling really generous, you can pretend the filmmakers got confused by the existence of Luchas de Apuestas matches, which are basically just stipulation masks. Some of the highest profile ones are Mask versus Mask, though different wrestlers can wager their mask/hair/title/career against whatever their opponent is putting up. These are infrequent and are often the culmination of years-long rivalries. They’re unquestionably a big deal, and if a wrestler loses his mask he can never wear it again, but he can still compete unmasked.
In the world of The Wrestlemaniac, they behave as if this is the finish to every lucha libre match. No pinfalls, no submissions, just a mask-rip. This would also require literally every Mexican wrestler to compete in a mask, which even the stock footage they use in the credits disproves. In an actual match, if you try to rip the mask off prior to winning the regular match, you’ll get disqualified. But even putting that aside, can you imagine the turnover involved if at the end of literally every lucha libre mask, one person was forced to leave the sport after getting his mask ripped off? It’d be like the horse fighting ring run by the Calvins Twins, and millions of ex-wrestlers/horse corpses would be stacked in the countryside like driftwood.
Another guy is stabbed and curbstomped and gets his face ripped off, while the Mexican Wrestling Expert character finds some reel to reel tapes dated 1968-1971, featuring a doctor describing their efforts to rehabilitate El Mascarado. Why are they trying to rehab him? They rounded up three athletes and murdered them to build a Frankenstein’s Monster once, why not try it again? Why let him keep murdering folks? They give him “fifty lobotomies”(?)5Seriously, I don’t know that much about lobotomies but isn’t this like saying “we gave him fifty vasectomies” or “we took out his tonsils fifty times!” but he just keeps killing, until he kills everyone in the entire town. The last message is “His only objective is complete destruction. Do not enter the… cuadrilatero?”
Yes, after pretty easily translating a long stream of Spanish pretty fluently, our hero gets tripped up by “cuadrilatero”, a word that is practically a cognate to its English translation. I guess this is to make the audience feel smart? Except lucha libre refers to the ring with the loanword “ring”.
The takeaway from these tapes are they El Mascarado “follows the rules of wrestling” and that if they can just get him into a ring, he can be stopped!”
We’ve got to take his mask off. The rules of Mexican wrestling state that when a wrestler’s face is revealed to the public he must retire in humiliation forever and never show his face to the world again. If we take his mask off, he’s done. He’s finished.
Now, for the first 2/3 of this movie this masked wrestler who follows the rules of the ring has been stalking people all over town, smashing them with lead pipes, curbstomping them, impaling them on rebar, pushing sheet metal off roofs onto them, setting traps of broken glass, and all sorts of things that do not follow the rules of the ring at all. He hasn’t even set foot in a ring. Also, he is straight up murdering everyone he can. Why would you trust a forty year old recording of some scientist who probably got his face ripped off in 1971 over the evidence right in front of you? Why do you think he would stop murdering and retire if you took off his mask?
Unfortunately, the movie never explores this, because he kills everyone before anyone even makes a real effort to take off his mask. So we may never know what would happen if he took of his mask, which he has apparently worn 24/7 since the early 1960s. We’ll also never know what he ate from 1971 to 2008, or what he did in his spare time, or when he learned to drive, as he does at the end of the film, casually cruising off in the dead Americans’ van. That last question at least might be addressed if the director gets to make the Wrestlemaniac II.
I definitely have some ideas for a sequel … there’s just so much more we could do with the Mexican Wrestling concept. You know, put him on some motorcycles, have some midget fights. there’s a lot to do with it.
I felt a little bad just ending the post, but if it was good enough for the film, it’s good enough for the review. Happy birthday, Rey Misterio! I’m sure none of this was your fault.
Footnotes [ + ]
|1.||↑||I am not an expert on cocaine weight/volume, but it looks like a racquetball’s worth in a gunnysack. That’s A LOT of cocaine, right? And the jerk bogarts it all, obviously.|
|2.||↑||Spanish for “Le Blood of Gods”|
|3.||↑||Spanish for “The Mask-ado”|
|4.||↑||Jessica would like to point out that this is not the thing at all, the thing is that they kidnapped athletes and then sewed them together to make a superathlete. And that it worked. That is the real thing. Obviously I disagree about the thing.|
|5.||↑||Seriously, I don’t know that much about lobotomies but isn’t this like saying “we gave him fifty vasectomies” or “we took out his tonsils fifty times!”|