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Phoenix Family Of Lucha Libre Wrestlers Tries To Widen Audience

lucha libre wrestling
(Photo by Annika Cline - KJZZ News)
Bad guys Chucky and Krazy Fly put Thundercat in the trash.

There are all kinds of family businesses. Some kids take over the family restaurant, others the family gardening company. One family business in Phoenix relies on cheers and boos to stay running.

Javier Escobedo and his brother Tony fight a lot. They slam each other into the ground and jump on each other’s backs.

Sometimes their cousins join in and even their dad. And it’s all perfectly normal — It’s actually the family business.

Lucha libre is the Mexican style of professional wrestling involving high-flying heroes and comical villains. The losers often have to remove their masks and reveal their true identities, or sometimes shave all the hair off of their heads.

The Escobedo brothers, both in their twenties, have been in the business almost their whole lives.

"I’ve been training since I was 4 years old," Javier Escobedo said. "My father, he’s been in this business for 38 years. He’s a really big wrestler in Mexico."

The family puts on a weekly show in Mesa under the name Club Deportivo Coliseo, or CDC. They’ve had to move between venues across Phoenix, landing at the Arizona Event Center just a few weeks ago.

The constant moving around has been tough.

"We usually get up to 700 or 800 people a week," Javier said. "But since we keep moving around it’s been kind of hard to, you know, for them to keep track of us also."

On this particular Sunday, there are a few hundred fans — cheering, booing and teasing the wrestlers who don’t always play by the rules.

One wrestler takes a break by sitting in the lap of an audience member.

But it’s likely they already know each other. Many audience members, like Arytza Meza and Jose Sanchez, are friends or family members, regulars around the ring.

"I started going because my uncle is actually a wrestler," Meza said. "And I have cousins here actually wrestling."

"We’ve been fans since we were little," Sanchez said. "And I have my cousins here wrestling too."

That leaves a challenge for the Escobedo brothers as they take on the family business — how to appeal to a larger audience so that they can draw in bigger crowds and book more venues.

It’s a problem Rockstar Wrestling Alliance in Tucson has experienced as well. The man who runs that operation is known as The Prophet. We won’t disclose his real name here because it’s that important to some of these wrestlers to hide their identity.

The Prophet said he’s encountered plenty of venues wary of the profitability of lucha libre.

"If I can guarantee a real good turn out and this and that then there’s no hesitation," he said.

But that guarantee is not always there. So The Prophet tackled this issue by starting a show at the Crescent Ballroom, a music venue in downtown Phoenix. The idea is to mix a concert with the wrestling show, to attract a wider audience.

Some wrestlers from CDC will join the next show at the Crescent on June 6. They’ll be branching out from CDC and hope to attract new fans there. And that’s what it all comes down to.

"Well without the fans there is no business," Javier Escobedo said. "There is no lucha libre, there is no CDC. We don’t exist."

Annika Cline was a producer for KJZZ's The Show from 2014 to 2019.