Luchadores assemble!

Heroes vs. villains at the University of Puget Sound

By Christian Carvajal on April 14, 2015

Very soon, a team of costumed heroes will reunite. The world at large may never know their true identities, but these supermen (and one superwoman) wage a never-ending battle against absolute villainy. Their muscles flexing proudly, brows furrowed 'neath colorful cowls, they stride forward, shoulder to shoulder, fists raised to defend the values of truth, justice and the Mexican way.

Wait ... was that a misprint?

Nope. It's that time again, when the masked vigilantes of Lucha Libre Volcánica stage their fourth annual Lucha de Sound show. The contest benefits a University of Puget Sound organization called LUCE, Latinos United for Culture and Education. Specifically, it helps fund LUCE's Latino Leadership award. The Renton-based lucha libre squad was founded and trained by José Luis Gómez, a luchador (professional wrestler) in Mexico for more than 20 years. Each bout includes commentary in both English and Spanish. The rules are simple: the third time a luchador pins his or her opponent, he or she wins. And that's about it, which is why the sport, second only to fútbol in popularity in Mexico, is called "free wrestling." (The sport does forbid certain moves including the piledriver and faul, or punch to the groin. Well, that seems only fair, really.) Lucha libre has heroes (técnicos) and villains (rudos), plus special categories for exóticos in drag and "Mini-Estrellas," unusually short wrestlers.

Thanks in large part to a growing Hispanic population in the southwestern states, lucha libre is increasingly popular in the U.S. It reminds many of the archetypal costumed roles and over-the-top theatrics of American professional wrestling. Indeed, such Mexican stars as Eddie Guerrero, Rey Mysterio, Jr., and Franciso Islas Rueda (aka "Super Crazy") have achieved name-brand recognition here, often in crossover with American wrestling. In the Pacific Northwest, Lucha Libre Volcánica remains the sole lucha libre troop, but it boasts beloved técnicos El Fénix, El Hero, and Rey (King) Jaguar squaring off against (boo, hiss) rudos Chicano, Peligro (Danger), and Prófugo (Fugitive). We even have our own técnica, or heroine, namely Vancouver, Washington's La Avispa (The Wasp). Unlike a certain cinematic supersquad, Lucha Libre Volcánica performs its feats of derring-do entirely without CGI. So take that, Captain America. Your vibranium shield and computer-generated six-pack have nothing on a well-executed flying cross body press.

LUCHA LIBRE VOLCÁNICA, 7 p.m. Saturday, April 18, University of Puget Sound Memorial Field House, 1500 N. Warner, Tacoma, $5 suggested donation, 253.879.3555