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April 16th, 2014 MATTHEW SINGER | Headout
 

Headout: World Warriors

Wrestling Church is spending Easter Sunday preaching the Gospel of the Squared Circle. Here’s a primer on the real global game.

headout_4024ILLUSTRATION: Chris Danger
Professional wrestling isn’t a sport. I’ll give its detractors that. It’s something much more interesting—a form of physical theater, misunderstood in the United States but with deep cultural roots elsewhere. This Easter, a group of grappling aficionados will gather at the Jack London Bar for Wrestling Church, a sermon on the art of the squared circle, with video clips of matches from around the world. If you don’t want to look like a total rube, here are nine historical wrestlers from outside the U.S. and Canada that you should know.

El Santo

An icon of Babe Ruth proportions in Mexico, El Santo not only established the modern lucha libre form but also bravely defended his country in its war with supernatural ghouls (see the documentary Santo and Blue Demon Against the Monsters).

Fun fact: He revealed his identity a week before his death, then died with his mask on. Hank Williams has nothing on this dude.


Antonio Inoki

Inoki founded New Japan Pro Wrestling, Japan’s biggest wrestling promotion, and, for better or worse, was the archetype of the unbeatable figurehead.

Fun fact: He once fought Muhammad Ali by lying on his back and kicking his legs. Why didn’t Sonny Liston think of that?


Mil Máscaras

Máscaras popularized the acrobatic lucha style internationally, most crucially in Japan.

Fun fact: He’s kind of a dick, according to wrestlers Mick Foley and Chris Jericho.


Tiger Mask

Literally a cartoon character come to life, Tiger Mask pioneered Japan’s junior heavyweight style with speed and combinations that would make Ip Man dizzy.

Fun fact: The persona has been passed down to five different wrestlers, making it a franchise on par with Batman, or at least Dr. Who.


Dynamite Kid

Before ’roiding himself beyond recognition in the World Wrestling Federation—where he teamed with Davey Boy Smith as the British Bulldogs—the Dynamite Kid combined lithe athleticism with an English soccer hooligan’s love of head butts.

Fun fact: Went so hard during his career he’s now confined to a wheelchair. Wait, that’s not fun.


The Great Muta

The Great Muta blew the corn dogs off Southern wrasslin’ fans in the ’80s with his innovative moves, aloof exoticism and ability to spew blinding mist from his mouth.

Fun fact: He bled so much during a match, Internet wrestling geeks began ranking in-ring blood loss on “the Muta Scale.”



Jushin Liger

The evolutionary Tiger Mask, Liger has a highly varied skill set and a mask that makes him look like a Brundlefly-esque mash-up of a bull, a mosquito and a hair-metal guitarist.

Fun fact: He fought (and lost) a legit mixed martial arts bout in 2002, while still wearing his mask.


Mitsuharu Misawa

Misawa was the best of All Japan Pro Wrestling’s “Big Three,” who in the ’90s brought an epic “big fight” atmosphere to their main events, often pounding the crud out of each other for up to an hour.

Fun fact: Died from injuries sustained in a match five years ago.



La Parka

More a Mexican cult fave than an important figure, La Parka’s signature move is braining opponents with a chair, then using it to play air guitar. That deserves an honorable mention, if nothing else.

Fun fact: Didn’t you just read the thing about the chair?


GO: Wrestling Church is at the Jack London Bar, 529 SW 4th Ave., on Sunday, April 20. 5 pm. Free. 21+.

 
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