Cinco de MONDO LUCHA! Milwaukee’s alternative variety show celebrates five years of masked mayhem
Andrew Gorzalski ranks the top five moments from five years of lucha libre insanity.
Go back to the autumn of 2008. It was a different time in our city. The Brewers were in a fight for their first postseason appearance in 26 years. A little-known talent named Danny Gokey was set to take America by storm. Milwaukeeans were forming lines for Twilight in the absence of a film festival. And something called MONDO LUCHA! was about to erupt in the middle of Turner Hall Ballroom.
Flash forward to today. While much has changed, MONDO LUCHA! remains a reliable source of unabashed fun and escape for at least one night each year. How will history view the Milwaukee of 2013? Hey, as long as we can say we stood together as one and cheered when a guy in a goat mask clothes-lined a robot, we were doing something right as a community.
We’ll get our chance to do just that this Saturday, November 2 at Turner Hall, as MONDO LUCHA! creators and executive producers Andrew Gorzalski and Jay Gilkay celebrate five years of treating us to raucous lucha libre variety-show chaos, melding comedy, burlesque, live music, and—of course—old-school pro wrestling that has all the athleticism of the WWE, and none of the god-awful pomposity.
So what’s kept the guys going for five years? According to Gorzalski, it’s simple. “Just seeing people laugh, scream, and be rendered speechless all in the course of 90 seconds is a pretty good motivator.”
While the concept seems like a surefire winner in any city, Gorzalski knows of only one other kindred act in the nation, Los Angeles’ Lucha VaVOOM. “They’ve been a great part of this new wave of alternative vaudeville that’s been building over the last five to eight years. There’s a movement that’s a throwback to pure showbiz-type entertainment, but skewed and rethought.”
So what can we expect this year? “Many of the fan-favorites (El Chivas Blanco, Shockwave the Robot, Mustafa) seem to be on a collision course that could finalize that story arc,” Gorzalski says, adding, “I promise it will be better than when that kid saw dead ghost Bruce Willis at the end of The Crying Game.”
For now, we’ll count on the aforementioned wrestling superstars, a roster of world-class burlesque dancers, and this year’s house band, Tigernite (performing “with the ferocity of a TIGER and by the power of NITE”).
Of course, there will be surprises. For past examples of the expected unexpected, The A.V. Club asked Gorzalski to rank the top five moments from five years of MONDO LUCHA!
5. El Chivas Blanco saves Turner Hall from the bad guys on 9/11 (2010)
“With the odds stacked against freedom on 9/11, El Chivas Blanco raced in to save a local Cub Scout group from a tag team of bad guys out to ruin everyone’s fun. Chivas clears house, wins hearts, and then inspires the ‘We can all change’ speech from the end of Rocky IV.”
4. Maritime performs live in front of a wrestling ring (2009)
“Since there’s no Muppet Show or Merv Griffin anymore, we’re the ones left to bring Milwaukee’s best bands as guests into this weird world for a night. Maritime brought the house down.”
3. Kid Millions and DNA jump out to close the show flanked by the Super Force B-Boy Squad (2009)
“Burlesque girls, pro wrestlers, breakdancers, roller-derby girls, fans, and MCs all got down on the busiest shopping day of the year, kicking off the holiday season in Milwaukee.”
2. The Mighty Mustafa levels Turner Hall with his gravity-defying “Moonsault” off the top rope (2012)
“A 400-pound man backflips off the top rope. Milwaukee loses its mind. One of the purest screams of joy I’ve ever heard from a crowd. We’re still speechless.”
1. Our love letter to Milwaukee, re-imagining the 1977 WISN classic, “Hello Milwaukee” (2012)
“It was the cold open to last year’s show on the Mondo-Tron video screen. We can get you our lawyer’s contact information.”
MONDO LUCHA! celebrates five years at Turner Hall Ballroom Saturday, November 2, at 7 p.m. For tickets and details, go to mondolucha.com.