(Spanish for "free wrestling" or "free fighting") is a term used in
Mexico, and other Spanish-speaking countries referring to a form of
professional wrestling involving varied techniques and moves.
Mexican wrestling is characterized by rapid sequences of holds and moves, as
well as "high-flying moves", some of which have been adopted in the United
States, and colorful masks.
The rules of lucha libre are similar to American singles matches. Matches
can be won by pinning the opponent to the mat for the count of three, making
him submit, knocking him out of the ring for a pre-determined count
(generally twenty) or by disqualification. Using the ropes for leverage is
illegal and once a luchador is on the ropes, his opponent must release any
holds and he will not be able to pin him.
Disqualifications occur when an opponent uses an illegal hold, move (such as
the piledriver, which is an illegal move in lucha libre and grounds for
immediate disqualification, though some variations are legal in certain
promotions), or weapon, hits his opponent in the groin (faul), uses outside
interference, attacks the referee, or rips his opponent's mask completely
off. Most matches are two out of three falls (dos de tres caídas), which had
been abandoned for title bouts in North America and Japan in the 1970s.
A rule unique to lucha libre applies during tag team matches, which is when
the legal wrestler of a team touches the floor outside the ring, a teammate
may enter the ring to take their place as the legal competitor. There is
essentially no need for an actual tag to a team mate to bring them into a
match. This often allows for much more frenetic action to take place in the
ring than would otherwise be possible under standard tag team rules.
Masks (mascaras) have been used dating back to the
beginnings of lucha libre in the early part of the 20th century and have a
historical significance to Mexico in general dating to the days of the
Aztecs. Early masks were very simple with basic colors to distinguish the
wrestler. In modern lucha libre, masks are colorfully designed to evoke the
images of animals, gods, ancient heroes, and other archetypes, whose
identity the luchador takes on during a performance. Virtually all wrestlers
in Mexico will start their careers wearing masks, but over the span of their
careers a large number of them will be unmasked. Sometimes, a wrestler
slated for retirement will be unmasked in his final bout or at the beginning
of a final tour, signifying loss of identity as that character. Sometimes,
losing the mask signifies the end of a gimmick with the wrestler moving on
to a new gimmick and mask. The mask is considered "sacred" to a degree, so
much so that fully removing an opponent's mask during a match is grounds for