Viva Vavoom! Extravaganza blends Mexican masked wrestling, comedy
BY Dave Hoekstra firstname.lastname@example.org May 2, 2012 5:52PM
Emanuel Rodriguez aka Samuray Del Sol.
CINCO DE MAYO
♦ 8 p.m. May 5
♦ Park West, 322 W. Armitage
♦ Tickets (18+over): $25 general admission; $50 ringside seats;$150 VIP ringside booths (includes 2 ringside tickets)
♦ ticketweb.com or
Updated: May 3, 2012 7:14PM
Lucha VaVoom is a traditional masked Mexican wrestling ensemble that combines the theatrical Lucha Libre antics with American burlesque and comedy. It has more twists than a worm in a bottle of mezcal.
The Los Angeles-based troupe will throw a Cinco De Mayo Spectacular (or “A Super Sexto Y Violenca Fiesta !”) at 8 p.m. May 5 at the Park West. The jumpy troupe has sold out 1,000-seat venues in Amsterdam, San Francisco and previous events in Chicago.
And even in the darkest corners of the Park West — a former burlesque house — there will be warmth from the sun generated by rising star Emanuel Rodriguez aka Samuray Del Sol. He’s a 25-year-old independent wrestler from Chicagowho grew up in Little Village and Pilsen.
Rodgriguez and Matt Classic are the only two Chicago grapplers on the evening’s card of a dozen wrestlers, which also includes the Aztec Dancers, five ring girls, and burlesque stars Michelle L’Amour of Chicago and Peekaboo Pointe of New York City.
Outside of his throwdowns, Rodriguez has followed in the uplifting footsteps of his mother, Carmen, in working with developentally disabled youth. He worked at Community Support Services and now tutors at Whittier Grammar School in Pilsen.
“I love kids in general,” Rodriguez said during a Saturday evening conversation at the La Colombe coffee shop in the West Loop. “I love to see the expressions on their faces when I do a move. One of my hobbies is drawing for the kids I tutor. Helping them with their homework is like creating the same great feeling for me I get in wrestling.”
He stopped the conversation to put on his new silver-metallic wrestling mask, custom-made in Mexico. Rodriguez then turned around to look at a child who was with a group of tourists. The child smiled at the masked marvel.
Rodriguez designed the mask, which features eagle-eye sockets accented by lightning bolts. Each side is highlighted by wind vapors, since Samuray Del Sol spends so much time soaring in the air. A large “M” at the front of the mask denotes his nickname of “Manny.” Rodriguez owns 20 different masks.
Rodriguez has been wrestling for eight years. He blends three wrestling styles — Mexican Lucha libre (free fight), American and Japanese — into his own style. Last summer he spent three months honing his craft in Mexico City. He was chosen by Mexico’s AAA (their version of WWA) as a finalist for their “Quien Pinta Para la Corona” tournament, which features 120 wrestlers from Mexico. Rodriguez was the only U.S. representative. He was noticed for his agility and ability to fly off the mat. Rodriguez is 5-foot-5 and weights 175. He is well-sculpted and bench-presses 285 pounds. He squats 385 pounds.
“I am a fan of Japanese art,” he said. “And the sun is always shining at me, like the spotlight. Lucha VaVoom is one of my favorites to wrestle in because it is so entertaining. It isn’t like any typical match. There’s laughter from the start to the end. I’ve worked as a [bad guy] and a good guy and either way I have fun.”
Rodriguez likes to have fun. On his days off, he spends time with his fiancee, Abigal, and his dogs Khloe the Chihuahua and Gordis the Maltese. And while Rodriguez is regarded as the best Mexican pro wrestler in Chicago, he does have one weakness: chewy Mexican tamarind candy.
With representatives from all around the country and Mexico, patrons can expect different styles of wrestling at the Park West.
“[Lucha Libre] is all high-flying and acrobatic,” Rodgriguez said. “In Mexico, there are three falls; in the United States, there’s one fall. Every style has it’s own little art, which is a beautiful thing.”
Lucha VaVoom is partially inspired by frentic Mexican lucha cinema of the 1960s that featured crime-fighting, lucha libre and of course romantic dancing. Mix that up with the American blend of wrestling and music, which also dates back to the early 1960s. As rock ’n’ roll was exploding out of Memphis, the city’s wrestling scene had parallel energy with wrestlers such as Sputnik Monroe (the family of Sun Records founder Sam Phillips were fans). Wrestler Jerry Lawler recorded an album (on Barbarian Records, of course) with the Memphis Horns and Elvis Presley guitarist James Burton. Presley was a big wrestling fan.
“The Crazy Chickens have this awesome beat when they come out,” Rodriguez said. The masked flying duo arrives to the song “El Gallinero” by hardcore electronica artist Ramirez.
“They flap their wings,” Rodriguez continued. “The music gets the people going. They bounce on their butts. I’ve been recently coming out to rock music and people go ‘Lucha! Lucha! Lucha!’ People keep going with me and it brings out my character. The saumari represents a warrior. Samuray Del Sol represents the art in me and inside the ring.”