Video: Bethnal Green Mexican wrestling hub taking Europe by storm
PUBLISHED: 18:05 13 November 2014
copyright alistair veryard photography 2014
The thought of masked Mexican wrestlers with outlandish stage names might sound lightyears away from the backstreets of east London, but the sport’s European hub is closer than you may think.
The London School of Lucha Libre – the continent’s biggest freestyle Mexican wrestling training centre – is based at Bethnal Green’s Resistance Gallery, in Poysner Street, with professional stars putting on monthly shows under the banner of Lucha Britannia.
Much more than just a simple fight between athletes, each performance tells a storyline with music, comedy and cabaret.
Lead trainer Greg Burridge, 33, who funded his early wrestling education through his family’s Columbia Road flower market stall, insists the East End setting is a key part of the school’s identity.
“You couldn’t replicate this anywhere else – it’s a cultural part of east London,” said the professional wrestler-turned-stuntman, actor and director.
“Wrestling’s an art form and we want take it out of the ring and into other arenas, to show anyone can take part if they’re willing to work for it.”
Watching the pros flying into each other from across the ring is physically impressive enough, but only by experiencing some of the basics do you get a feel for just how technically demanding the sport is.
Slightly questioning my eagerness, the incredible acrobatics of the recent Halloween show still fresh in the memory, I went down on Monday for a special session led by legendary wrestler Cassandro, real name Saúl Armendáriz, the sport’s first openly gay world champion.
Beginning with a thorough warm-up to the sound of club anthems, things soon moved into the ring as the riffs of Metallica began blaring through the speakers.
After taking it in turns to practise a series of dives, rolls and flips, the night concluded with a session of close-combat manoeuvres, something much more challenging than I first imagined.
Even learning a simple arm lock made it clear just how much thought is required for each move.
“Wrestling should be on the national curriculum,” said founder Garry Vanderhorne, 43.
“It greats for fitness which increase happiness and builds confidence, plus it really helps to quicken brain responses.
“You’re carrying out extremely dangerous moves and keeping to a storyline while your body’s under incredible anabolic stress the whole time. There’s nothing that can quite compares to it.”
Lucha Britannia will next perform at the Resistance Gallery on Friday, from 8pm. Visit luchabritannia.com for more information.