Image courtesy of Annick Donkers. All rights reserved.

Sitting Ringside at a Secret Lucha Extrema Match in Mexico

by Annick Donkers

A Mexican magazine asked me to cover Lucha Extrema, the ultra-violent hardcore style of wrestling that is prohibited in Mexico City. I went to Tulancingo in the state of Hidalgo (also the birthplace of El Santo, Mexico’s most famous pro wrestler), where a wrestling company turns a local car wash into an arena and offers hardcore style matches to the locals once a month.

I had heard that it existed but didn’t have contacts or I didn’t know where to go. So I asked wrestlers and wrestling promotors I knew if they could help me, and they put me in contact with a Lucha Libre Extrema organization. But it is very difficult to be allowed to take pictures because they are suspicious about outsiders, they are afraid photographers and journalists only want to give them a bad reputation. I could only go there because we had mutual friends who would recommend my work. I didn’t want to show anything bad, I just wanted to see what is happening and although it is difficult to understand why they would do this, I want to show respect and hope this shows in my work.

The hardcore wrestlers all have had a professional wrestling training so that is the basis — but the hardcore style means that they can beat each other with chairs, thumbtack, wire, fluorescent lights so basically there are no rules. It is quite a dangerous sport and the ring at the end of the match looks like a war zone.

Catch the full interview here.

Annick Donkers is an award-winning photojournalist based in Mexico City. Check out her work and follow her on Twitter.