Meet Lucha Libre’s New Superstar: The Openly Gay ’Queen of the Ring’
The world of professional athleticism is regarded as a homophobic one, and though wrestling, with its dramatic presentation, burly men, and scanty outfits, may be a titillating sport for gay viewers, wrestling itself is not overtly gay-friendly.
Except for the Mexican tradition of free wrestling, known as Lucha Libre, which has included gay wrestlers since the middle of the 20th century--the more flamboyant, the better.
The British tabloid The Sun reported on the sport's so-called "Exoticos" in its Dec. 5 edition, in an article about Cassandro, a Mexican wrestling star who is openly gay, and who has won over legions of the macho sport's fans.
Cassandro is famous for taking the flamboyance of gay Lucha Libre wrestlers to new heights, going to battle dressed in a woman's bikini and billing himself as "The Queen of the Ring," the article in the Sun reported.
The Sun interviewed Cassandro, who was quoted in the piece as saying, "I am what's known in Mexico as an Exotico--a gay man who wrestles in drag."
Continued Cassandro, "Exoticos have been in Mexican wrestling for a long time, since the 1950s, but I gave them a new touch. I brought the pantyhose, the bathing suits, the feathers, the rhinestones and the glitter--all the glamor."
Reckoned the wrestling star, "I made it more fun for the people and they responded by taking me into their arms and under their wings."
Added Cassandro, "The fans love it!"
But not all fans love it right away. Noted the Lucha Libre star, "I get both cheers and boos from crowds. When I first walk down the aisle, to go to the ring, people start whistling at me, calling me names and saying, 'What is that?'"
But even the most skeptical fan is won over after a few rounds: Cassandro declared that, "once they see me doing my Lucha Libre, they forget about the gay thing. In fact, after the match they bow at me and even ask for kisses and hugs!"
Cassandnro summed up, "It proves that you should never judge before you actually meet somebody."
According to the article, Cassandro has dusting it up in the ring with his flamboyant costume for two decades now. His professional lineage claims trainer and star Rey Mysterio Sr., whose nephew, Oscar Gutierrez, has emulated as a Lucha Libre star named Rey Mysterio, Jr., formerly a World Championship Wrestling and Championship Wrestling figure who is now associated with World Wrestling Entertainment.
Cassandro's training at the hands of El Mysterio, Sr., has stood him in good stead, taking him to the top spot in the UWA for world lightweight champ.
Still, his accolades and accomplishments notwithstanding, it's not easy being gay in professional sports, even gaudy ones.
Said Cassandro, "It was very hard to be gay in the wrestling business. I had to go through a lot of discrimination and rejection.
"Mexico is a very macho country."
Added the Exotico, "There were many times backstage where I felt uncomfortable and other wrestlers felt uncomfortable around me."
Cassandro continued, "When I first started in 1988 I wore a mask, like most Mexican wrestlers, as I wanted to hide behind it. But I soon decided to take it off and just be me. And I demonstrated why I was there and I respected everybody."
Added the wrestling pro, "So in the end, it didn't matter if I was an Exotico or not, all that mattered was what I did in the ring."
Cassandro is in England currently as part of an event called Lucha Libre London, which will take place Dec. 6-9 at the concert and performance venue the Roundhouse.