AS I SEE IT 10/1: Thoughts from a trip to Tijuana?

Bob Magee
Pro Wrestling: Between the Sheets

Imagine going on vacation, walking over a border, and entering a culture where wrestling is not only respected, but is a major part of the culture that you are visiting.

Walk across the border by walking through two turnstyles separated by a LONG walkway, an incredibly easy and totally uneventful process that takes five minutes. Walk through Plaza Viva Tijuana. Go over yet another bridge over Rio Tijuana....aka the Tijuana trench with a trickle of, Tijuana River.

Look for the stands where you exchange dollars for pesos. Avoid being hit by a local driver or a taxi. Imagine looking around the "tourist trap" type merchandise stands, and ask about lucha libre. You then get a look like you're not just a typical tourist, but receive a look of respect from a vendor who you've met only once, and will likely never see again.

Welcome to what happens when you visit Tijuana.

I'm on vacation in San Diego as I write this column, and visited Tijuana as! part of that vacation. I hit one of the places where you change your dollars into pesos, got my bearings, and somehow survived crossing the street (people drive worse than even Philadelphia) and found out where Avenida Revolución was. Walk through some tourist traps, go past the Tijuana Arch, and you're at Avenida Revolución; Tijuana's main tourist destination containing everything from a hundred or more vendors to strip joints/sex shows...oh, and "pharmacies".

HGH is openly sold in every and I mean, every "pharmacy" on this street...and there are a lot of them. So is pretty much every pharmecutical drug that is legal, or not legal in the United States. After the massive HGH bust this past week, I get the feeling that some people will be making Tijuana a travel destination very, very soon, while they can. These phramacies are not especially interested in the legitimacy of the prescripcion you hand them. If you have the pesos, or the dollars, they have what you desir! e.

If that's not bad enough, I had some guy come up to me from one "pharmacy" at the corner of Avenida Revolucion and Emiliano Zapata; and offer me oxycontin. Besides the fact that I have no interest whatever in "hillbilly heroin", all I could see was a Federale coming up to me and offering me the opportunity to give him $2,000-$3,000 to stay out of a Tijuana jail. If that wasn't enough, there are the strip joints/sex shows both on and near Avenida Revolución; with the adjacent full-blast La Coahuila/Zona Norte red light district that features everything from full contact strip clubs to legal street prostitutes.

Anyhow, after getting past all that...I have a brother who's as much of a wrestling nut as I am. So, given that his birthday is coming up two days after you read this column; I bought him a Blue Panther mask and a Mistico mask, as well as a Super Luchas 2000 and Box Y Lucha magazine for his birthday from two of the more legitimate vendors on Avenida Revolucion.

I've seen enough lucha on TV to know how much of a rol! e that lucha libre plays in Mexican culture. A lot of you that read this column already know as much.

When I went to the vendors, who fight like a momma kitty in heat for your converted dollars...I mean, they hustle like HELL for your, pesos, they seemed surprised to see an American who knew who Blue Panther was. They saw an American, and figured I was looking for a Rey Misterio mask. Telling them that I had a friend who indeed had Rey Misterio, Jr.'s cell phone number, but that I had a brother who watched CMLL, and who wanted a Blue Panther mask; I got a knowing look that made them go in the back of their small stores and make sure to find me a Blue Panther mask.

Most Fridays, there are lucha shows at the Auditorio Municipal Fausto Gutierrez, east of the downtown area. When not hosting lucha shows, it hosts MMA events (one took place this past weekend), concerts, basketball and volleyball games. If you drive, its about a seven-minute drive from t! he San Ysidro/Tijuana border. Ticket prices usually start at about $5 for kids to $7.20 for normal shows all the way up to $35 for adult ringside seats for a major show. I happened to come on a week where there weren't any shows, unfortunately.

I would love to have seen a show, especially given the reputation of Tijuana fans within lucha libre circles; one that reminds me an awful lot of the reputation of old school ECW Arena fans. The fans were referred to as "passionate and knowledgeable" by Robert Castillo (aka longtime lucha star Misterioso) in a 2003 San Diego Union-Tribune interview. Castillo said "You can't go into the ring and do nothing...If you don't give a good show, they'll ignore you. Or they'll boo you if you're not doing your job right."

Sounds like the Bingo Hall to me...even today.

Until next time...

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