Everyone has their way of letting off steam after a long day at work. Some people binge on Netflix, others hit the gym, and some hunt Pokemon. VICE visited a place in the Bronx where everyone from lawyers to construction workers slip on some tights and throw each other around while strangers watch, enthralled by their every move. Daro’s Extreme Fitness, a gym housed in an unassuming brick building, doubles as the home for the Bronx Wrestling Federation. Founded by Frank Segundo, a Dominican who fell in love with Mexican lucha libre, the BWF has become a neighborhood institution where amateurs can get a taste of pro wrestling and where fans see it go down from up close. By day, Segundo is the founder of BWF, by night, he wrestles as Bronco Internacional. VICE took a tour of the BWF from John Torres, a budding filmmaker who also wrestles to carry on the tradition his father, “Lighting” Johnny Torres, passed along to him in his youth.
Wresting or lucha libre is a cornerstone of Mexican popular culture. The ring is a symbolic battlefield where issues such as morals (good vs evil, rudos contra tecnicos!), gender identity, sexuality and class are solved through punches, kicks, voladoras and plenty of melodrama. Legends such as El Santo, Blue Demon and Tinieblas have become important icons in Mexico and overseas, and lucha libre remains a multi-million dollar business. Luchadores come out of every corner of Mexico and often travel as far as Japan to showcase their athletic prowess and histrionic skills.
So when a beloved luchador passes away thousands, if not millions, of fans mourn him or her, remembering all the high drama that they gifted us. So when news broke that popular wrestler La Parka passed away, many were left brokenhearted.
La Parka, aged only 54, died as a result of injuries sustained in the ring.
His real name was Jesús Alfonso Huerta Escoboza and he was a force of nature full of charisma. He adopted a ring persona that resonates with millions of Mexicans: he personified Death itself, with whom Mexicans have a peculiar relationship that verges on the religious. La Parka reminded us of the religious figure of La Santa Muerte, patron saint of many in the most vulnerable sectors of the population.
La Parka sustained injuries in the ring back in October 2019 and these injuries ultimately led to his untimely death. The fall was horrific, as TMZ reminds us: “La Parka — aka Jesus Alfonso Escoboza Huerta — did a leaping dive through the ropes at an opponent in Monterey, Mexico … but tragically hit his head on a guard rail before falling to the ground.”
La Parka was born in the northern city of Hermosillo in the state of Sonora. He had a long and successful career, as CNN reports: “He won titles including the Triplemanía Cup and Antonio Peña Cup. He was also the top winner of King of Kings, an annual tournament produced by Lucha Libre AAA Worldwide.” Rest in peace, legend!
There needs to be a serious discussion about combat sports and potentially deadly injuries.
His kidneys failed. He was put on assisted breathing when he started presenting issues, and he died the next day when his lungs and kidneys failed. The wrestling association for which he worked, Lucha Libre, AAA said on Twitter. “We are very sad to report that our friend and idol of Mexican wrestling Jesús Alfonso Escoboza Huerta ‘LA PARKA’ has passed away. We extend our support and condolences to his whole family and raise our prayers so that they may soon heal from this.”
There are some who think that wrestling is not dangerous, but fighters often end up disabled in their old age or, as in the case of La Parka, die as a result of injuries sustained in the ring. There has to be some serious debate around the risks involved in professional wrestling and in other contact sports such as boxing. It is a long, difficult conversation that needs to be had sooner rather than later.
Wrestler Latin Lover, who retired while still in good health, released a social media message lamenting his friend’s passing and saying that he left wrestling to avoid a similar fate: “They don’t know how it hits me that this happened, so I retired, so I wouldn’t end up dead. I quit that job because the only way I could be home was to be hurt.” Professional luchadores often fight well into their 50s even though reflexes deteriorate, which can lead to fatal injuries. Lucha libre is like a well-coordinated dance with the only difference that a misstep can leave you disabled for life or even dead.
People are sharing their memories of him.
Thousands of fans enjoyed his work inside the ring for more than three decades, so whole generations saw his evil antics and funny moves unfold. He was one of those luchadores that people love to hate.
And even pictures of his actual face, which was hidden under the now iconic mask.
Wow, he looked totally badass even without his mask on. He was a sort of rock and roll cowboy biker dude kinda guy! This photo was released by his family by mistake, but now fans are using it to honor the man who dared to become Death.
Today marks 14 years since the untimely passing of Latino wrestling icon Eddie Guerrero. Many fans can remember the exact moment when they heard the news that the 38-year-old wrestler was found unconscious in his hotel room. It was untimely and it came out of nowhere.
For me, it was the first huge celebrity death I could recall that emotionally affected me. I was just 10 years old at the time but it felt like I lost a family member that I never met. Guerrero was one of the few wrestlers that embraced his background and spoke Spanish in the ring. He turned stereotypical Latino gimmicks like his ‘Lie Cheat & Steal’ persona into his own. More than a decade after his death, his legacy shines brighter than ever and is an icon not only in the world of wrestling but for Latinos.
Eddie Guerrero passed away on November 13, 2005. It was a day many wrestling fans can remember as an end of an era for a star that left way too early.
To understand the importance of Eddie Guerrero you must start with his humble beginnings as a young wrestler. As part of the legendary Guerrero wrestling family, Eddie followed in the footsteps of his brothers and father and went to Mexico to wrestle. After a few years in the indie wrestling scene, Eddie would make his way through New Japan Pro Wrestling ( NJPW), Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) and World Championship Wrestling (WCW), wearing multiple championship belts along the way.
It was in WWE that Eddie made that big leap to wrestling stardom. He enjoyed success in the company in the early 2000s but that would come to an end when he was arrested for drunk driving on November 9, 2001. The company would release Guerrero just three days later. He would use this as motivation to make an eventual return to WWE, who rehired him a year after his arrest. This second chance was an opportunity for Eddie to not only prove to himself but to fans that he could live up to his name that for years followed him.
Thanks in part to his unmatched charisma and lovable personality, Eddie quickly became a fan favorite in 2003. Teaming up with his nephew Chavo, they formed the tag team Los Guerreros and became a force in the company. The duo embraced common Latino cliches and produced skits that showcased their unique personalities. Whether it was the “Latino Heat” persona or him coming out to the ring in a shiny low rider, Eddie became a star in just a few years in the company and Latino fans like myself connected to him. Maybe it was that he sounded like us or that he looked like he could have been your uncle. Either way, he was becoming a star right before our eyes.
Eddie reached the pinnacle of his wrestling career on on February 15, 2004 when he defeated Brock Lesnar to become WWE champion.
Eddie became WWE champion by defeating Brock Lesnar in what would become the signature match of his career. It’s a day that stands alone in the world of wrestling and a moment that you can argue stands up there with other Mexican-American sport achievements. It was significant because of how far Eddie had fallen just a few years earlier and how he was a heavy underdog entering the match. While his title reign would only last a few months, Eddie had become a household name and was revered like no other Latino wrestler was in years.
Unfortunately, things would change over the next year for Eddie as his role as a main event wrestler changed. In 2005, Eddie become tag team champions with another rising Latino star in Rey Mysterio and even later feud with him. By the end of the year, his dark past would return. Eddie was found unconscious in his hotel room by his nephew Chavo. When paramedics arrived at the scene, Eddie was already declared dead. It would later be known that he had died due to the result of acute heart failure.
The wrestling world was left with a huge void that many argue is still being felt today. Fans pay tribute every year to the legacy of one of the greatest wrestlers of all time.
At the time of his death, Twitter didn’t exist and the only place where wrestling fans could find out about his passing were blogs. I logged onto WWE.com on that Sunday afternoon to see the words “Eddie Guerrero October 9, 1967 – November 13, 2005.” Like other fans, I couldn’t believe the news that one of the greatest wrestlers in the sport was gone. More importantly, Eddie was one of our own and he represented Latinos every time he took to the ring. That’s why 14 years later the name Eddie is relevant to so many and is celebrated annually.
Many took to Twitter to pay tribute to Eddie and speak about the impact he had on their lives. One person wrote “I am not who I am without you. 14 years and I still remember you like you never left. To the man that gave me purpose, gave me hope – I can never repay you. Rest peacefully, always.”
“I remember Eddie beating Brock Lesnar for the championship belt. One of the happiest moments in my childhood. The day Eddie died, I cried. One thing he always did was represent our heritage and culture. My favorite wrestler of all time. #VivaLaRaza“, another fan wrote.
There is no further proof of the impact that Eddie Guerrero has had on the lives of many people still today. In a day and age where Latino representation is needed more than ever, Eddie represented the best of us. He showed the power of second chances and the ability to resonate with fans who weren’t like him.
He was and will always be a legend in our eyes. Viva La Raza!