News

A Lucha Libre Wrestler Beloved by Children


Among Súper Muñeco’s many accomplishments was his transition from a Heel to a Face. This was no small thing. Lucha libre, Mexican professional wrestling, divides its contestants along very specific lines: either you’re a Heel, or rudo—a tough guy, meant to be booed by fans—or a Face, or técnico, who is handsome or funny or heroic. It is not easy for a wrestler to transition from one to the other, or to do it with Súper Muñeco’s flair.

Súper Muñeco, whose real name was Hebert Alejandro Palafox Montiel (1962-2022), began his career as a Heel, in 1982. His wrestling name at that time was El Sanguinario, Jr., which is Spanish for Bloodthirsty, Jr. (His father, who was also a professional wrestler, was the original Bloodthirsty, fighting under the name El Sanguinario.) But Palafox was a good-humored, gentle guy—in other words, not very bloodthirsty—and it bothered his girlfriend to see him posing as a rudo. She convinced him to cook up another persona. Inspired by Cepellín and other well-known Mexican clowns, Palafox came up with a character he named Súper Muñeco (Super Doll), a cheery, golden-faced clown with large stars for eyes, a pert red nose, a brushy fuzz of black hair, and a bouncy vibe. This new persona was an instant hit, especially with kids. His wrestling opponents, though, were convinced that he was mocking the sport, and took the occasion to hit him a little harder and flip him a little more forcefully. In time, Palafox won them over, and he went on to be one of the most successful Mexican luchadores, prevailing in more than a hundred high-stakes matches known as luchas de apuestas, in which each rival wrestler wagers something, during his career.

Not much is known about Súper Muñeco’s life, which is exactly as he intended. Even uncovering his real name took some doing. Some masked lucha libre stars take pains to remain unknown beyond their stage identities. In fact, one of the potential penalties for losing a wager match is that the winner gets to unmask the loser, revealing his face and forcing him to retire his mask permanently; from that point on, he either has to fight without a mask or concoct a new masked identity. (Wrestlers who don’t wear masks have their heads shaved if they lose; this is known as a “hair match,” as opposed to a “mask match.”) What we do know about Súper Muñeco is that he was from a wrestling family (in addition to his father, his three brothers were all wrestlers); that he stood five feet seven and weighed two hundred and sixteen pounds; and that he inspired a generation of clown-themed wrestlers, including such current stars as Monster Clown, Murder Clown, Dave the Clown, and the most popular luchador at the moment, Psycho Clown. Palafox’s wrestling style was “very comedy-oriented,” according to Dave Meltzer, the founder and editor of Wrestling Observer. “He loved to clear the ring and then make his moves.” If you watch the film of Súper Muñeco’s 2018 match against Ricky Boy (it’s on YouTube), you’ll see exactly what Meltzer means. After a series of flips, flops, beatdowns, and potato-sackings, Súper Muñeco pauses, squares off in a crouch, plants his hands on his thighs, and then suddenly swings his head around repeatedly in a tight circle before pouncing full force on Ricky Boy. The audience—and in particular the throng of kids crowding around the ring—screams in delight.

Súper Muñeco’s wrestling career slowed down as health problems began to dog him, but his heyday was lucha libre’s heyday. He was a huge star in the late nineteen-eighties and early nineties when, according to Meltzer, the sport was “like a religion in Mexico,” second only to soccer in popularity. In Mexico City alone, there were as many as twenty or thirty wrestling matches a day. (By then, women had joined the sport, and luchadoras such as Mystique, Baby Puma, Magic Girl, and Vulcana became regular figures.) Súper Muñeco performed in the United States, and occasionally played big venues in Mexico, once selling out an eighteen-thousand-seat arena. But his sweet spot was the small- to medium-sized venues in Mexico’s secondary cities. For a while, he teamed with two other wrestlers (Súper Pinocho and Súper Ratón, who based his look on the cartoon character Mighty Mouse). They performed as El Trío Fantasía, a sort of wrestling supergroup, but Súper Muñeco was still the main attraction.

El Trío Fantasía was best known for doing elaborate comedy bits between moves and waging a long-running mock war with another wrestling group known as Las Tortugas Ninja (which styled itself as a version of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles). The trio’s matches, which were often televised, drew enormous audiences. Lucha libre has always been an all-ages sport, and typically, in Mexico, at least one match a week is held on Sunday at 5 P.M., to make it family-friendly. Palafox, though, was one of the first wrestlers to specifically play to youngsters, and they became his faithful fans. They cheered his victories over such opponents as Wizard Blink, Dr. Torture, Captain Fury, the Blue Ant, Mr. Kramer (twice), Red Coconut, Ultra Tiger, and King America.

Even when Palafox was finally defeated in a wager match, in 1999, against a wrestler named Halloween, he remained one of the sport’s most popular figures. That event was a hair match, so he was permitted to have his head shaved rather than undergo the punishment of giving up his clown mask, which by then was one of the most recognizable and beloved in the sport. As a courtesy, when Palafox’s head was shaved, his face was covered with a towel, so it remained concealed, and he never lost the curious blend of fame and anonymity that came with being Súper Muñeco.



Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.