By Haley Sawyer
By Haley Sawyer
Penta El Zero Miedo was 7 years old when he saw his first lucha libre show in Mexico.
“It was like magic for me. It’s like Disney, but in wrestling,” said Penta, clad in a sport jacket and a black patent leather mask that revealed one white-irised eye.
On Friday morning, Penta and fellow luchador and younger brother Rey Fenix — per custom, they withheld their real names, only to be revealed when they wager identities in a high-stakes match and lose — gathered with talent agent and Javier Robles to unleash the magic of lucha libre on Mission Street at the grand opening of Republic of Lucha.
“When I was 7 years old, I said, ‘Maybe one day, I want to be a professional wrestler,’ but it was just a dream,” said Penta, who performs in AEW and Lucha Libre AAA Worldwide. “Now, this is my dream. But here in L.A.”
Robles, a South Pasadena resident, had been mulling over the idea of creating a store and gallery dedicated to lucha libre — the masked style of Mexican wrestling known as much for its showmanship as it is its athletic prowess — for some time and was considering multiple locations.
When a space in the middle of Mission Street opened, Robles had to seize the opportunity to showcase the robust athletic battles of good versus evil featured in lucha libre matches in his own signature way.
“I was very familiar with the space and I was like, this would be perfect,” Robles said, “but what are the odds this is available and affordable? And then we inquired and we’re like, this is everything that we’ve been talking about just out of nowhere opened up here.”
Upon entering Republic of Lucha, visitors come face-to-face with two mannequins wearing the shining ring attire of Penta and Fenix. Immediately to the right is a one-story-high wall plastered with a photograph of the two in full lucha libre garb.
Beyond the entrance, there’s a photo gallery that includes photos of Penta and Fenix, as well as various other luchadores. Also in the space are masks, t-shirts and a room full of lucha libre paraphernalia all for sale.
Republic of Lucha held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday morning in conjunction with the South Pasadena Chamber of Commerce and members of the City Council to officially welcome the business here.
Prior to the ceremony, Mayor Diana Mahmud examined ornate lucha libre masks on display in glass cases, while Councilman Jon Primuth gazed at original lucha libre photography that lined the walls.
“It’s indescribable. I knew a little about the lucha, but just a little, and it looks like it’s going to be a lot of fun,” said Mahmud, who is half Latina. “And I think it’s going to be the kind of shop that is unique, and it’s a destination shop. I think people will come to South Pasadena because of this shop. I think it’ll help surrounding businesses as well.”
As Mahmud and others explored the inside of Republic of Lucha, a line of people began to form and wind around the building. Each was waiting to see the store and gallery as well as have the chance to meet Penta and Fenix, some showing up as early as 6 a.m. to get in.
“This is incredible. I don’t have the words,” said Fenix, who wrestles in AEW. “We want to show more of the lucha because, in Mexico, lucha libre is more like a tradition. It’s part of our culture. The lucha libre culture is really, really magical. It’s not only the luchador in the ring. It’s a really big culture behind lucha libre.”
As Fenix and Penta signed autographs and posed for photos with fans, Robles was considering the possibilities of Republic of Lucha.
He has goals of sharing the culture with the rest of the country. Once the brand is established in South Pasadena, Robles would like to expand across California and beyond.
“It’s pretty crazy, but ideally, hopefully it can become kind of like a franchise,” he said. “It’s someplace that’s very unique. Maybe someday we can do an East Coast Republic of Lucha, Japan Republic of Lucha. This can, hopefully, grow.”
For now, though, Republic of Lucha is open Tuesday-Sunday for indoor viewing and shopping from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
The space displays the loud, sometimes sequined, extravagance of the performance entertainment, but it also is physical proof another key element of lucha libre wrestling:
“I have advice for my fans, I have advice for every person,” said Penta. “If you want to get to wrestle — everything you do, do it with passion and discipline.”