'They didn't just see a wrestler die, they watched a superhero die'

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Marco Werman: I’m Marco Werman and this is The World. That’s a song “Perros” by the Mexican group Cartel de Santa. In Mexico, the tune is now bittersweet. It was walk-on music for professional wrestling superstar Perro Aguayo Jr. He was wrestling royalty, the son of another superstar wrestler from the 1970s. Both were known for “La Lanza,” a double-footed stomp that devastated opponents. But we’ll never see La Lanza again, at least not by Perro Aguayo Jr. He died recently in the ring. There’s video of that match and Aguayo slumping on the ropes. For fellow luchador, Marco Corleone of Mexico City, it is very hard to watch.


Marco Corleone: It was something very, very tragic, and it made it more tragic because we actually saw--all the cameras were right there in front of his face. The whole world watched him die in front of our eyes, and I think that’s the weirdest part of it all because there’s not one move that I saw as a professional wrestler, and I’ve been wrestling for 17-18 years, that looks out of the ordinary there. It’s just a sad, sad situation on so many levels.


Werman: One of the levels that we have to talk about is the fact that it happened to Perro Aguayo. He’s a really important wrestler in Mexico. Tell us about him, who was he?


Corleone: If I had to choose a list of the top five wrestlers based on skill, popularity, and success in the ring, I would definitely put Perro in the top five for the past nine years that I’ve been here. He knew how to provoke the people. It was very difficult. Also, his character was what we call “rudo,” which means the “bad guy.” In every wrestling match, there’s the good guy and there’s the bad guy. The thing about Perro is although he was a bad guy and he played the character of a bad guy, he was very beloved. If you were a good guy wrestling him, it was very hard to steal the show from him because he demanded so much attention because he had so much charisma and so much knowledge that I think sometimes can only be passed down by a father like he had, a legendary father.


Werman: Considering what he represents, or what Perro Aguayo represented in Mexico, how did people there take the news?


Corleone: Very hard. Like I said before, watching this guy die in front of our eyes--that’s the thing that makes it hard too because, I’ll tell you something about wrestling and the WWE in the United States: it’s popular obviously, but me growing up, WWE or WWF wasn’t an important thing to me. In the United States, there’s basketball, there’s football, there’s baseball, hockey, soccer, golf. Lucha Libre, or pro-wrestling, isn’t considered a sport sometimes in our country. Here in Mexico, we’re heroes. Lucha Libre is so much culture. When kids grow up here, they want to be soccer players or they want to be wrestlers, luchadors.


Werman: And it’s not just limited to one kind of strand of society. It seems pretty democratically embraced in Mexico.


Corleone: It’s culture. I simply believe that on some people’s mantles there’s pictures of Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary and pictures of Santo. He was that beloved. So, the thing that makes the Perro Aguayo thing so tough is the thing that makes wrestlers and luchadors so respected here--they didn’t just watch a wrestler die, they watched their superhero die. They watched Spiderman die in front of their eyes. We’re looked at larger than life, untouchable, unable to hurt, like metal. But in this case, we saw that a big star died in front of our eyes and fell victim to an accident and death. That’s the tough part.


Werman: Mexican luchador Marco Corleone telling us about the late Perro Aguayo Jr.