Sunday, Sunday, Sunday! The Lovely Ladies of Cholitas wrestling are bringing the pain to LA PAAAAAZ! If you’re not there, you’d better be dead, or in jail! And if you’re in jail, BREAK OUT!
Murphy still feels like shit but it sounds like he’s game for cholitas nonetheless. My hangover diminished I go on a hunt for a Bolivian electrical adapter, haven’t had electricity for my laptop in a few days now and the blog’s falling behind as a result. The neighborhood around the hostel’s fairly nice, several cathedrals and restaurants and a large market containing just about everything just down the hill. Unfortunately, it being Sunday, much of the market outside the food stalls is empty and finding an adapter is too tall of an order. I buy a kebab of cherries dipped in chocolate and have a look around at a lot of other food stalls but come up short on electricity.
We’re supposed to be in front of the hostel shortly after 2 for the bus and the 3 pm start time, so with two hours to spare Drisdelle and I start filling up on booze. Strangely it sounds like they won’t serve beer at the match. Never been to wrestling sober before and I sure don’t intend to begin now. As we gather outside the tourist office Drisdelle and I are looking at a ticket upgrade – another $8 or so and you get a Lucha Libre mask, a Cholitas Wrestling t-shirt and a “souvenir”. Hells yeah, we are in.
A bit of a buzz on and we jump on the bus. There are quite a few people loading on, so many they need a second mini-bus. Head a little across town to the Wild Rover hostel and pick up a bunch of people there, now it’s REALLY packed. Some people are sitting on the floor of the bus as it heads up the switchbacks and under the cable car’s path to a higher neighborhood of La Paz. We pull over and we think we’re unloading but we’re actually picking up MORE people… We’re passing the usual site of the Cholitas but tonight it’s been relocated so we’re picking up a handful of people who didn’t get the memo. Now there’s about 40 people packed on to a bus that should sit 25 max. The stereo blasts classic get-you-pumped-at-sporting-event tunes like Another One Bites the Dust and various AC/DC anthems.
Everyone rolls out and into a windowless arena lined with chicken wire. Before entering the area with a ring we have to battle our way through a haunted house gauntlet, a darkened temporary hallway made of tarps and cobwebs. Monster-masked actors are jumping out, grabbing and screaming at us. Pretty funny stuff.
Entering the ring there are two sets of seats, several rows of ringside “VIP” seats for gringos and seats in the stands for locals. As we’re among the first there we grab front-row seats. No beer after all, was hoping that was a dirty lie. Snacks like fries and hot dogs look mediocre but me and Drisdelle grab our masks and our shirts, and discover the souvenirs is a mystery bag – we both get postcards. Hoo-wee, let’s get it on!
More of the gringo crowd rolls in and some of them are pretty rowdy. A group that sounds like Israelis and who seem to be regulars start getting chants going and two of them rush the ring, jumping in throwing a few clotheslines around. Somehow they manage to snap one of the ring’s cables and quickly get out of there, trying their best to look innocent. The ring crew come out looking pissssed and try to put the ring back together.
Here we go! Lo-fi Spanish announcements and music starts, two refs come around the sides of the ring and a Cholita walks down the aisle. Apparently she’s a good guy as the locals and the Israelis are cheering for her. She’s clapping and getting the crowd going. She just looks like a regular lady, not sure what a “bad” Cholita will look like.
Her opponent comes out and… it’s a clown. Not only clown, but a male clown. WHAT?!?!?! This doesn’t seem to draw much surprise from the home crowd. I’ve seen some outrageous matches on TV before (i.e. watching King Kong Bundy beat up midgets at Wrestlemania III) but this is out there. The match begin fairly even, maybe the clown coming out slightly on top, until the in-ring ref (also male), out of nowhere, starts kicking the cholita in the ribs while she’s down. Hahaha, WHAT IS THIS!?!? The crowd goes crazy, booing the “bad” ref while the “good” out-of-ring ref missed the whole thing. Bad ref jumps on the ropes facing the home crowd and yells at them while they let him have it. The ref + clown smackdown continues unabated for about five minutes while the good ref is oblivious. In typical 1980’s good guy fashion the cholita turns it around, first beating up the clown then beating up the ref. The ref refuses to tap out the clown – either tapping superslow or just kicking the cholita in the head – so the cholita throws bad ref out of the ring and then taps out the clown herself. Apparently this is legit as music plays and she walks off victorious.
Match two kicks off. Two guys walk out dressed in mostly black with skulls on their tights. Definitely bad guys. As they approach the ring, our seats are the closest VIP seats to their entrance, so we immediately let them have it for being bad. BOOOOOO!!! The first guy is enraged yells “Clap your hands!” while we toss him thumbs down. The second guy takes it a little more personally, leaning over the fencing and into my face while I’m letting him have it. He’s yelling in Spanish, I’m yelling back in English, faces inches apart and since we can’t understand each other it devolves into “ARRRGHHH!!!” and “BRAAAOOAOAAO!!!” from both sides before he storms off. Holy shit wrestling is so much fun.
The good guys come out. One guy is built like a fucking tank, twice the size of anyone else, while the other guy – The Prince – is dressed in all white and kind of looks like a pussy. Goddammit, I should’ve rooted for the bad guys but it’s too late now. The match follows a similar pattern as the first one, with the bad guys dominating, partially on account of ref assistance and partially because of the introduction of a piece of metal (maybe the lid of an oil drum?) that they keep cracking the good guys in the head with. As expected, the good guys turn it around though, taking out the ref, using the bad guy’s oil drum lid against them, and then culminating when the huge dude picks up both bad guys on his shoulders at once and slams them down on top of each other. Holy SHIT, that’s impressive! The crowd is going apeshit! Both good guys tap out both bad guys at the same time. The bad guys crawl away but they seem to have won the gringo crowd over, several lean over the fence to high-five them on their way out.
Next is a normal-looking cholita lady. What kind of weird thing will she be fighting? Assuming she’s a good guy I cheer for her, as does much of the VIP crowd and the locals as well. She’s jumping on the ropes, clapping her hands over her head, the place is getting loud. Then out comes her opponent – another cholita, but this one looks to be about fifteen years old and she has cat make-up on, she looks like a little kid. She CANNOT be a bad guy, she looks adorable. The older cholita rushes her and kicks the shit out of her and the bad ref jumps in to help her! Oh shit, the regular-looking cholita is a bad guy! There are way more subtleties to this than I anticipated. Then I’m blown away a second time – not only is the 15-year old beat on by the cholita and the ref, she’s tapped out within a minute of the match starting. A bad guy actually won a match, damn. Or did she?
The good ref gets involved for one of the first times and appears to wave off the victory. The bad cholita runs to the PA system, taking over the mic and (I think) tells off either the crowd, the 15-year old, or both. People aren’t pleased. They change their tune when two good cholitas rush out of the gates and into the ring though! OH MAN! Ref gets it! Bad cholita gets it! The 15-year old and her two helpers are just laying into them! They throw the ref into the turnbuckle then throw the bad cholita into him! Grab the bad cholita by the hair and toss her to the mat! One grabs the ref and the other lifts the bad cholita’s skirt, and they throw the ref’s face into the bad cholita’s ass! The crowd goes fucking berzerk! The roll the cholita over and the ref on top of her and the 15-year old pins both, with her helpers raising and lowering the semi-conscious ref’s arm three times for the pin! BOOM! The place blows up!
Judging from the clock it looks like this is the final match of the night. Two people in Halloween costumes, one male one female, stagger out. Hard to describe the costumes – fairly regular clothes but with weird zombie/monster masks. They slowly move toward the side of the ring and toward the fence separating the crowd from the ring. The woman leans toward us and lets out this hideous scream. Hahah, ugh, wasn’t ready for that. That was a good scream. Out of the gate come the good guys, a regular-looking wrestling dude and a cholita. The cholita and monster-chick square up but wait… Monster-girl has a bag of white powder near the turnbuckle… She’s grabbing a handful of it… How does the cholita not see this?!?! Look out!!! POW!!! Right in the eyes! Monster-chick’s laying into her and before long bad ref is back in the action. Good guy wrestler and the good ref are taken out so both monsters and the ref all beat on the cholita, hitting her in the eyes a few more times with powder.
I step out to hit the head at this point but when I return the good guys are continuing to get beat on, but now the action’s spread all over the place. Monster-dude has dragged good-dude out of the ring, past the crowd and to the corrugated-steel back wall of the arena, slamming his head against an I-beam. Fake blood is gushing everywhere to the crowd’s delight. The Crazy Israelis can’t control themselves, and several of them jump out of their seats and start throwing each other against the walls and stomping each other (not for real though). Most of the crowd is standing on their seats watching both the “real” match and now the simulcast Beasts of the Middle East. Security comes and tries to calm them down and successfully pull them apart but don’t kick anyone out, showing impressive restraint.
Back in the ring the tables turn accordingly to formula with the cholita getting her hands on the monster’s powder and hitting them with it. At one point the cholita is on the mat and the bad ref makes an almost-unseen move to loosen his belt and I think “Jesus, this just took a dark turn” but then the motive becomes clear – the good guy throws the ref against the ropes and while he’s hanging there the monster-chick is thrown behind him. Reaching for the ropes she grabs only his pants, dropping his pants to the mat. His face crumbles in embarrassment, the crowd goes crazy and he runs off while the good guys finish off the monsters, winning Halloween for the forces of good.
All of the competitors come out so we can meet them so we get some pics:
The gringo buses roll out and we’re back to our hostels shortly. For really the only time in our three days in La Paz to this point, we venture outside the hostel to try to find some food. A fifteen minute walk from the ranch we find a place that claims to sell traditional Bolivian food; Murphy and Drisdelle grab some nice-looking soup while I get a plate of fries covered in meat and eggs. Delicious but waaay too much food for one person, probably too much food for three. I eat less than half the plate and struggle on the walk back.
We go upstairs for a nightcap but decide to cut ourselves off relatively early – the Death Road is tomorrow and we should probably be somewhat on-the-ball for that. Drisdelle feels mostly okay but has the bad feeling he might be picking up Murphy’s bug, while Murphy’s still struggling with his. I’m healthy but I haven’t really ridden a mountain bike in fifteen years, and now I’m about to do so at high speed with thousand-plus foot drop-offs next to me. Everyone has told us it’s pretty safe but I’ve got a bad track record with mountain bikes and have a bad feeling I’ll be the one to eat it, so the last thing I need for the way down are shaky nerves.