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By Mike Johnson on 2021-06-07 14:35:00

Many, many years ago, I sat on the living room couch of my parents’ home and flipped through channels, trying to find something to watch.  In the era before everything was a few clicks away to stream, I was going through the usual tradition of that era, just clicking up and up and up, going through every channel on the cable box.

As I flipped, I heard a ring announcement in the brief nano-second that I saw a wrestling ring.  Even though I had flipped past it already to other channels, the name mentioned in the announcement caught my attention and I will remember forever.


I paused.  What the hell is a Fishman?


Creature from the Black Lagoon?

Seriously, what the f*** was a Fishman?

I decided to find out and flipped backwards until I found a channel, Galavision and there was professional wrestling, although nothing like I had seen before.  In the decades before multiple dives would become a thing on every wrestling show, there was a masked cavalcade of characters flying through the air and putting on all sorts of crazy submissions I had never seen.  Everything was a six man (or person) tag  but the rules were completely confusing as I had never seen the Captain’s Rules deal.  There were full sized wrestlers fighting minis, Exoticos, and a guy with horns who had to be a Jushin Liger rip-off I thought, except he was pretty awesome too - Psicosis.  There were two referees, but one was obviously not on the side of just officiating.  It was as much spectacle as it was sport and for the fans live, it was just as much a spiritual awakening.

Who was Fishman?  My introduction to the world of Lucha Libre.  

In the weeks that followed, I learned all sorts of other names.  Blue Panther.  Rey Misterio.  Heavy Metal.  Konnan.  Cien Caras.  Octagon.  Perro Aguayo.  Fuerza Guerrera.  La Parka.

It was a different, glorious world with different, sometimes confusing rules and I remember watching it thinking it was awesome and I needed to one day see this live (I was able to do that a year or so later, when AAA ran the Paramount Theater in NYC) but I also wondered, quite a lot, what was the story behind this?

Remember this was a few years before I found my way online and many years before I was writing about professional wrestling in any way, so all I knew was Konnan was the Hulk Hogan type with big muscles, strong promos that I barely understood and multi-colored hair extensions that WWF would soon swipe for Max Moon.   I knew Rey and Psicosis were insane flyers.  I knew Heavy Metal was going to scare the hell out of me, taking feet-first bumps through the ropes and landing on his back in a way that I knew, somehow, was going to result in the end of his career.  I knew I loved all this stuff, but I had no idea of the context of who these performers were, what made this tick and what a cultural influence this all was in Mexico.

While I would learn a lot about lucha in the years to come and many of those stars mentioned, plus others like The Villanos and Juventud Guerrera, would make their way Stateside to ECW and/or WCW, there was no immediate place for me to dive down into a rabbit hole of all things Mexican wrestling.

I thought about all that as I flipped through the brand new book from Running Press publishing, Eat Like A Luchador.  The claim is that the book is the official cookbook for the “Legends of Lucha Libre'', written by Monica Ochoa, whose family has worked in the lucha realm for generations, but that’s a lie.  This book is so much more than a simple cookbook.

While yes, there are recipes a plenty to cover everything from appetizers to entrees to desert, the book is as much a bible of who and what makes lucha libre so much fun crossed with the type of quirky coffee table book you’d find sitting smack dab in the middle of a living room that catches your eye and makes you wonder, as I did all those decades ago, what is THAT?

The strength of the book is that Ochoa brought her unique eye and access to the world of lucha and was then able to transfer that to the written word without diluting any of the importance or flavor that makes lucha history unique when compared to everything else in the wrestling genre.  The book features so many profiles on lucha stars from yesterday to today that it should be considered more of a textbook than just a cookbook.

Over the course of putting the book together, Ochoa sat down with stars of lucha, but also those who were responsible for creating the DNA of that lucha pageantry, costume designers who cultivate and create the masks and looks that become forever embedded in our brains, branding these talents forever as much as their signature moves would inside the squared circle.  

Then, Ochoa goes above and beyond, even tracking down restaurant owners related to lucha for recipes.  When you consider that some of the recipes involved are the types of generational ones that have been passed down from parent to child, in some cases, over decades - the fact they worked as hard as they did to try and break down ingredients, measurements, etc. as well as they were able to is a fear in itself.

However, even if one was not a foodie in the least (or even a lazy one who doesn’t want to cook for themselves), Eat Like A Luchador is very much the best produced book on the lucha genre in many, many years.    

This is the type of book I wished had existed back in 1993 when I discovered AAA, with in-depth bios of many of the major names who populated the last few eras of lucha, breaking down their careers, quick facts, their debuts and more.  For venerated veterans like Psicosis, there are multiple pages but for younger stars like Hades or Demus, the bios are a bit shorter.  To say there are dozens of stars profiled is quite the understatement.  If you ever needed a reference tool for lucha stars, where they are from and what makes them tick, Eat Like A Luchador fills that niche nicely and I’d be shocked if announcer for major wrestling companies here in the United States weren’t using it in the years to come for exposition on talents.

It should find itself being seen regularly in the hands of autograph hounds at Expo Lucha and other conventions in the same way the WWE Encyclopedia is.  If there was ever a book perfectly crafted to collect lucha autographs in one place, it’s this book, especially since it is filled with color photos all across it’s 300+ pages, especially since so many up and coming stars from lucha are included well before they have had the chance to break out.  In the years to come, when the next Rey Fenix arrives internationally, chances are they will be Eat Like A Luchador, since Ochoa and her team had the foresight to dig so deeply into the nooks and crannies of all things lucha.

I suspect this book, much like lucha itself in the early 1990s, will drill itself into the psyche of the diehard wrestling fan who wants something unique, special and fun.  After all, those are the three tenets that brought lucha libre to its international explosion to begin with, and now, this book will help guide those who want to dive down deep and go spelunking into this strange, madcap world the way I did as a teenager all those years ago.

You can order Eat Like A Luchador at this link.


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