The crises that the covid-19 pandemic has unleashed have also crept into the ring. The way of life of the fighters of the seventies and eighties used to be related to fame and economic prosperity. The only thing that could stop the neighborhood heroes was a fatal injury. The paralysis of activities forced by the spread of the virus in the country has left an entire union unemployed that recognizes that in the de-escalation it will be the last to return because this sport does not know the healthy distance. In each key or blow, the exchange of fluids such as sweat, saliva and even blood is inevitably present.
Canek, one of the legends of wrestling, has remained secluded at home. His last performance was in March during a tour of the Mexican State of Chiapas. “I have no other business or occupation: wrestling is very jealous. I like to save money for difficult times, I am not in opulence, but I know that I am going to hit rock bottom, ”he tells EL PAÍS. It has become clear to Karma I, a young 21-year-old fighter, that he cannot live on this sport alone. “I want to keep fighting, but what do you think? This situation opens your eyes, ”he says. In recent weeks, he found a job in a warehouse where they offer him health insurance, something that you can’t get as an independent fighter.
Octagon, one of the most recognized wrestlers on the circuit, has raised funds to support all the personnel involved in wrestling and boxing with his campaign A coup for help. With the auction of masks he seeks to shelter his colleagues. “Day by day the shortcomings of the fighters become evident. You no longer live from wrestling as before, ”he explains. El Fantasma, who runs the Wrestling Commission, has distributed pantries to his teammates to try to alleviate inactivity.
In Mexico, at least 12 million people stopped working in the formal or informal sphere last April, according to data from the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (Inegi). Since March 16, the authorities of Mexico City canceled all the mass acts. The World Wrestling Council, one of the main sports companies, has maintained payments to its professionals despite not receiving income, according to a spokesperson to this newspaper. “When we get back? It does not depend on us. Nor can we do events behind closed doors as they have done in the United States. We are not going to expose people, ”he adds. The Mexican authorities have established a traffic light divided into four colors to determine the reopening of activities: red, orange, yellow and green. Professional sporting events may return in orange, but without an audience. And that is unthinkable for wrestling that depends on the income of the box office in each function.
However, economic desperation has led some promoters to perform wrestling performances without an audience to broadcast on the Internet and receive donations from the public. On June 14, the Arena Naucalpan, in the State of Mexico, organized one of these functions and ended everything with the cancellation of the license of the place and sanctions to the fighters who participated. Triple A, another of the great wrestling companies, held a closed-door tournament with 28 wrestlers in April. There was no type of penalty for the company.
One of the concerns within this sporting event is the age of its idols. Within the broad spectrum of Mexican fighters, the most popular are close to 60 years old, an age that identifies the population at risk from covid-19. Among them are the charismatic Blue Panther (59), Atlantis (57), El Hijo del Santo (56) or Octagón (59). Canek, for example, is over 68 years old and does not see retirement on his nearest horizon. “I do not have chronic diseases, I have taken care of myself and I like sports. I have only had surgery on my knees four times. I don’t have cartilage in my knees, I can’t run or carry like before, but I feel fine, ”he explains. “There are colleagues who do cross their minds to retire, not only the elderly, but also colleagues who due to the economic situation will not return to the rhythm of wrestling,” says Karma I. The outbreaks of covid-19 also represent a challenge for older professionals.
Inside the wrestling ring, they are still debating whether the pandemic will cause a new normal. “This is a contact sport. The wrestlers could wear a full, closed mask to compete with each other and not get infected, but what about those who do not wear a mask? ”, The World Wrestling Council spokesman questions. “It is not going to change wrestling. We will have to live with this situation ”, considers Octagón. Arena México, the main venue for the show and essential in Mexico City’s tourism, outlines its plan to open with 30% of its capacity.
In the last two months, up to 30 fighters have died, although not all as a result of covid-19. One of the confirmed cases of the virus was that of Mathematician II who died of respiratory failure at the age of 54. The physical consequences of the ring accompany the fighters and they try to see the pandemic as the great injury of their lives. “I had a detached shoulder, a broken collarbone, a cracked rib. I was out of circulation for a year and it was quite exasperating, ”says Octagón. “When my knees were rebuilt, the doctor assured me that I would not walk again and look at me!” Adds Canek. The optimism of the fighters, however, falters without making money above the rough ring.