What It Means For a Lucha Libre Wrestler To Be Unmasked

Photo: Angeloux, Flickr

Unlike most sports, pro wrestling is unconcerned with numbers. Nobody seems to have a win-loss record. In lucha libre, the truly important matches, the bouts that make up one’s official record, are not even world championships. They are, rather, Mask vs. Mask matches, or Hair vs. Hair, or Hair vs. Mask. Luchadores wager their masks or their hair on the outcome of a fight. The mask is the more serious wager. When a wrestler is defeated and unmasked, his face is seen by the public for the first time. His name and his birthplace are published in the papers. His mask, which symbolized his honor, is retired and cannot be used again.

The loser in a Hair match is publicly shaved and humiliated, but lives to fight again. Hair grows back. Cassandro, whose hair is resplendent—it is currently dark blond and swept into what he calls his “Farrah Fawcett look” (“I’m so stuck in the seventies”)—has fought and won many Hair vs. Hair matches, as well as a couple of Hair vs. Masks. He has also lost a couple of Hair matches, including one to Hijo del Santo in the Los Angeles Sports Arena, in 2007. Videos of his public haircuts make for painful watching. Cassandro cries inconsolably and, with his cropped hair, seems to turn into a small, unhappy boy. Of course, unmasking Hijo del Santo was never going to happen. And the payday for losing that match—twenty-five thousand dollars—was a comfort.

William Finnegan writing in the New Yorker about Cassandro, the drag queen star of Mexican wrestling.

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