Lucha libre dates back to the 1930s, when Don Salvador Lutteroth Gonzalez, sometimes called the Father of Lucha Libre, started the first Mexican wrestling league, Empresa Mexicana de Lucha Libre (EMLL). He had been inspired by wrestling matches he saw in Texas, and he initially brought in many wrestlers from the United States. As the league's popularity grew, more Mexican wrestlers joined the league, often splitting their time between Mexico and Spain. The Spanish Civil War shut down most Spanish leagues, so most lucha libre wrestlers ended up in Mexico [source: Bondurant].
Today, the EMLL continues to thrive as Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre(CMLL), which translates to "worldwide wrestling council." Rival league Asistencia Asesoría y Administración (AAA) and a number of smaller, independent ones, such as International Wrestling Revolution Group (IWRG), compete in the space as well. The two big leagues own several arenas designed specifically for wrestling and have forged agreements with the major American wrestling promotions, allowing Mexican wrestlers to gain important exposure in front of a new audience and giving the American leagues increased interest in lucha libre hotbeds like Los Angeles.
Lucha VaVOOM, a variation on lucha libre, has enjoyed great popularity in the United States in recent years. The Lucha VaVOOM events have been billed as "Sexo y Violencia," (sex and violence), since the night's festivities include not only lucha libre matches, but also burlesque stripteases and comedy routines.
Next, we'll look at the rules and moves used in lucha libre and learn about famous luchadores.