How to check out a lucha libre show while in Mexico

Photo from CMLL

Hello! You are one of the many people who’ve asked me “How do I go to a lucha libre show while I’m in Mexico?” Instead of repeatedly writing whatever I can remember off the top of my head, I’ve finally put everything I suggest in one spot.

This is as much detail as I can think to include, based on my own experience going to shows and other people have suggested to me. I’ll try to update this from time to time. (This is the first draft, posted March 2017.)

I don’t have the patience to read all of this, give it to me quick

CMLL runs shows every Tuesday, Friday and Sunday night in Arena Mexico. CMLL always runs shows on those days, but they don’t announce who will be wrestling on those shows more than a week in advance. The shows are inexpensive, fun, and about 150 minutes long. CMLL’s website has the times and lineups. You can buy tickets thru Ticketmaster or at the building. There are always tickets available on the day of the show. Any cab driver will be able to get you to Arena Mexico if you tell them “Arena Mexico Lucha Libre”, or you can use the address here. There will be plenty of places to buy masks outside the building. Bring small bills and change. You don’t need to know Spanish to enjoy the show.

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General Mexico City lucha libre tips

The easiest lucha libre shows to check out in all of Mexico are the CMLL shows at Arena Mexico (map), in the Colonia Doctores neighborhood of Mexico City. The promotion runs three shows a week at their home building. The biggest show is the Friday night show, taking place at 8:30 pm local. There are also shows on Tuesday nights at 7:30 pm and Sunday night at 5:00 pm. CMLL runs 52 weeks a year, running those same three shows. If you’re looking for one lucha libre show to go to while you’re in Mexico, plan to go to the Friday night show.

(They may move the shows around if it’s Christmas week or Mexican Independence week in September, but those are rare occasions. They’ll always run the day of the holiday, not the night before. This affects about 1% of the shows, you’ll probably never need to worry about this.)

You don’t need to follow CMLL or speak Spanish to enjoy a lucha libre show. Most of the matches will have no great history and are simple battles between good and evil sides, who will make themselves very clear. CMLL matches are mostly under idiosyncratic lucha libre rules with three falls and captains, but the matches are more about the performance than the outcome. It’s not hard to figure out who’s winning or losing, but you don’t even really need to know that to get a lot of out of the matches. There may minimal talking moments after the matches, but those are always to set up matches for some future show and you don’t really have to understand them to enjoy the show.

There’s a few different ways to attend a lucha libre show:

I want the easiest possible experience and I don’t really care how much it costs

The Turiluchas bus. Even if you don’t use it, you’ll see it around during the day – it works as a regular tourist bus until night time.

Mexico City & CMLL have partnered on a special tour bus program “Turiluchas”. You can read more about here. The bus takes passengers from the Reforma 222 Mall to Arena Mexico on Tuesdays & Fridays. (It also goes to secondary CMLL venue Arena Coliseo on Saturdays, but more on that much later.) You can buy a ticket at the mall before getting on the bus, and some hotels will also help you purchase in advance. If you buy a ticket, you get a seat at the arena from the 11th row and back, a ride back and forth from the arena, a Turiluchas mask, and a (Spanish language) Q&A with whichever CMLL luchador is onboard that night. The bus leaves about an hour and half before the show, and you’ll get to the arena in plenty of time. The bus starts it’s return trip soon after the show ends.

Turiluchas bus tickets cost 500 pesos. You can assemble a cheaper package of tickets, masks, and transportation on your own, especially if you’re going as a group that can squeeze into one taxi. Still, you are a tourist, you are on vacation, and the Turiluchas bus is a convenient way to go to lucha libre, drink, and not have to worry about how you’re getting home. It’s your best bet at getting a photo with a luchador too, though you’ll have no idea which one until you get on the bus. I do not have first hand experience with the Turiluchas bus, but I’ve only heard good things about the trip. (I’ve been on the equally pricey daytime sightseeing tourist buses run by the city, and they’ve seemed well run.)

I want to do it all myself, or I want to save a little money

It’s pretty inexpensive to go to a lucha libre. Tickets are always available, even at the biggest shows, and cost less than ‘major league’ wrestling elsewhere. There’s a couple of recommended ways to get tickets

  • CMLL tickets can be bought via Ticketmaster Mexico. CMLL usually lists shows on Ticketmaster ahead of time, with a month a shows going up at the same time. You can order tickets online, or thru one of the many Tickmaster box offices around Mexico City. (Check with your hotel, who will be able to point you in the right direction.)
  • You can also buy the tickets from the Arena Mexico ticket windows. The tickets can be bought earlier in the day, or just before show time when you arrive.  Look for the word “Taquilla” (Ticket Office) posted near the entrances on each side of the building. The prices for the tickets will be posted next to the window, and they’ll have a map to point out where the seats are located if you don’t understand.
two of the ticket windows (Taquilla) – there’s two more on the other side of the gates, and another bigger area on the other side of the building. The paper next to the Taquilla lists that show’s prices, which change from night to night.

Make sure you’re going to a window, not a guy standing around offering tickets (“boletos!!!”) Those guys are scalping tickets. Scalping seems legal, or at least the police officers standing two feet away don’t seem to have a problem with it, but the scalpers are usually marking up the tickets they’re selling.

CMLL ticket prices change from show to show, depending on the day of the week and the importance of matches. The Tuesday & Sunday shows are usually no more than $15 USD for the best possible seats, and much cheaper the farther you go back. Normal Friday shows can be closer to $20 USD max, but there are again plenty of inexpensive ticket if you don’t mind sitting a little ways back. There appears to be a markup on the tickets if you buy them prior to day of the show. You can find good seats at showtime most days, and you shouldn’t ever need to buy tickets in advance.

CMLL does run a few major shows a year, almost always on Friday nights. If you happen to show up on those days, tickets can be much more expensive. Even then, though, CMLL will open up much more the arena and you’ll still be able to find an affordable price to get in (and probably will get a much bigger presentation as a tradeoff.)

Taxi service to Arena Mexico is usually safe and affordable. It’s not a long ride – a half hour from the airport on a good day (or an hour on a long day), and shorter if you’re staying in the tourist areas of Zona Rosa or on Paseo de la Reforma. You may want to make it clear that you want to go to “Arena Mexico lucha libre” or “Arena Mexico Colonia Doctores”. There is another newer venue in Mexico City casually refereed to as “arena mexico” (Arena Ciudad de Mexico) which also holds big events, but is a different area of the city.

Uber, Lyft and other ride sharing apps work in Mexico City. Those rides are often cheaper than official taxis and locals believe the rating systems effectively makes them safer than the regulated taxis. Getting taxis and other rides home can be more difficult after the show. CMLL does have designed ride sharing meeting areas around Arena Mexico, but I’ve had occasionally issues with Uber drivers being able to find me near Arena Mexico. It’s also the classic issue of many people leaving at the same time after shows, so simply flagging down a taxi might take some time. It may best to walk a few blocks away first to help people find you or to wave down a taxi.

It’s also possible to take the Metro to Arena Mexico or even drive and try to park in their parking garage. However, if you are reliant on a guide to figure out how to get to a lucha libre show in Mexico City, you are strongly advised to not actually try either of those things. Mexico City car traffic is chaotic and unpredictable, even by big cities standards, and there’s not that much room to park a car most places. (I strongly recommend against renting a car, whatever your plans are in Mexico City.) Mexico City’s Metro is also usually jam packed on the way to lucha libre shows, and shuts down shortly after the Arena Mexico show ends. It’s possible to make it on Metro, but your best bet is to let someone else drive you.

On the outside, Arena Mexico looks like a normal city block away from the entrances. It doesn’t stick out from far away if you don’t see the Arena Mexico signs and posters, so keep an eye out for those. The Televisa building across the street, with satellite dishes and a giant glass window, has more distinctive look.

I want to go one of those big CMLL shows, in the best seat possible

This is tough! CMLL doesn’t announce it’s big show calendar far in advance, and the best tickets are usually snatched up by people who are there all the time or held back by the promotion themselves. The most expensive tickets could be a few hundred dollars on those biggest shows, many times more the normal shows. Here’s what we know:

  • CMLL’s biggest show of the year is always in September, usually around the September 16th Mexican Independence holiday but not always. CMLL’s second biggest show of the year is always in March, most often the third Friday of the month. CMLL has begun to special shows around Dia de Los Muertes (November 1st), and the winter holidays (December 25th, January 1st, January 6th.) , though they’re more often themed events and not the big matches of other shows. There’s also a few other big shows in between March and September, but they’re rarely announced more than a few weeks in advance and sometimes only a week ahead of time
  • The pattern for those big shows is a press conference to announce the main event and maybe full card on a Wednesday, then the tickets go on sale on Ticketmaster the next couple of days. If CMLL does a contract signing, then the ticket release date/time is probably already on the Ticketmaster site. If you try right away, you’ll have the best shot at getting a good ticket – but your shot at the first few rows is still pretty minimal.
  • Those first few rows, on big shows and for most Fridays, are usually held back from public sale. Some go to regulars who have the equivalent of a season tickets. Some are kept by CMLL to give out as comps to friends. Some end in up the hands of those scalpers around Arena Mexico. The scalper tickets are usually legit, but expect to pay more, sometimes significantly more, than the listed price. (It is possible to haggle over prices, but having a knowledge of Spanish helps for this.)

What To Do When Going To A Show

Bring small bills and coins. Arena Mexico and the vendors do not take cards and getting change is rough. Do not bring outside food or drink, it’ll be confiscated before you get in the building anyway. It’s best to leave any cameras at the hotel. CMLL’s seemed to relax it’s no cameras policy in recent years, but it’s a safer bet to photos with your phone. You may want to bring a small bag if you know you’re going to buy merchandise, but be aware CMLL inspects all bags and purses before letting you in the building.

Come to the building show around 30-45 minutes before show time. You don’t need to go in the building until just before the show, but you’ll want to wander around outside Arena Mexico for a while. Two sides of the building have sidewalks full of vendors with masks, shirts and other lucha libre merchandise. It’s busiest on Fridays, and there’s a greater variety outside the building than at CMLL’s offical stand inside. The outside vendors will also include items with non-CMLL stars (including WWE stars.) The stands usually are open a couple hours before the show starts and start to pack up within a half hour of the show ending.

“Cuánto cuesta?” is Spanish for “How Much?”; prices will vary by stand and quality. They’re prices are usually not posted, and are worth negotiating if you’re getting more than one thing. A lot of the same shirts and masks will be seen in many booths, while some vendors will specialize in a few unique things like stickers or plush dolls.

Most masks are cheap fan masks, but higher quality masks can be found if you look around. If you can’t tell the difference, stick with the inexpensive ones. Specific merchandise for luchadors in the midcard on down will be hard to find – you will be able to find plenty of Mistico masks, and even for famous luchadors who are not in CMLL, but you may need to ask around and hope if it’s a newer or less important luchador. The DVDs sold around the building appear to be region unlocked, and should work in any player.

This booths only pop up a few hours before the shows. There are also two permanent lucha libre stores which are open even with their aren’t shows. On the backside of Arena Mexico, the opposite side of the main entrance, there is a small Blue Demon shop. Most of the merchandise is Blue Demon related. (He, or others, are very occasionally there to sign autographs on Fridays.) On the other side of the street from the Blue Demon shop, across a multilane road, is the Deportes Martinez shop. This business is credited with making the first lucha libre masks and makes many semi-professional and professional quality masks today, but are often pretty pricey.

Arena Mexico Etiquette

Before you can go in, you have to be checked by security. Go to the entrance, find a security guard the same sex as you, and they’ll pat you down and check your bag. Someone will scan your ticket, and someone else will take part of your ticket as you go thru the turnstile.

You’re in Arena Mexico! Congrats! The very first thing that will happen is a person in a blue bib will come up to you and ask to check your ticket. These are the ushers, and they’ll help you find your seat. This is great, but they’ll also be expecting a tip afterwards. (5 pesos per person works; this is why you needed change.) You can also wait until later for them to help you, and instead check out CMLL’s merchandise stand on the right. It will have some of the items outside, strange items that you might not able to have elsewhere, but also slightly higher prices than outside. The stand is open from the time the doors open until about 10 minutes after the show ends. You can also get food while you’re there, and there may be a luchador standing up front to take pictures with fans. Once your inside the seating bowl, there will be vendors walking around offering food and masks during the show as well.

CMLL shows start on time. (They may be the only punctual events in all of Mexico.) There’s no intermission and the breaks between matches aren’t long, but the entrances can eat up some time and the early portions of matches are usually the sanest. If you need to get up, get up between matches to visit a restroom (bring your own toilet paper) or the concessions, you’ll be back without missing much.

Otherwise: Yell, scream, and have a good time. Cheer for the tecnicos, or the rudos, or whatever mask you bought on the way in. You can sit quietly and just enjoy the show, but lucha libre’s meant to be catharsis, a place where you can just let your emotions out. You won’t be out of place if you’re hollering at the tecnicos or heckling the rudos. Just make sure to keep an eye on the show, especially if you’re in the first few rows – it’s not uncommon for the action to spill (or dive) over the barrier.

There’s only a few rules. Do not go across the barriers to get to luchadors. They may be willing to take photos if they walk your way during the show, but don’t go over to grab them. The security will get antsy if you spend too much time standing and blocking someone’s view. Don’t forget to tip the vendors. And you’re not allowed to throw things at the ring – mostly.

There’s a lucha libre tradition of rewarding a great match by throwing money (usually coins, bills don’t fly throw well) to the ring. The luchadors love this, it’s a free payoff, and will sometimes try to encourage fans to throw when the match may not actually be all that great. The Arena Mexico security hates this, they understandably don’t want people to throw anything. As a first time Arena Mexico visitor, definitely do not throw money until the match is over, and probably don’t do it unless you see plenty of people around you doing it. If you do throw coins, aim for the ring – you don’t want to hit the people in front of you (or the people at ringside), and you don’t want to actually hit the wrestlers, you want the coin to land on the mat so the wrestlers can safely pick it up.

After the show ends, there’s a little time to come to the ringside barrier for a picture. Security is usually pretty tough about letting you move away from your section, but you may be able to get to the front row for photo with the ring in the background for a few moments. Security tries to get everyone out of the building within fifteen minutes of it closing, so you have time to visit the merchandise stand one last time, but not a lot of time. The stands outside usually stay open for about a half hour after the show before they pack up and go home for the night.

What if my only free day in Mexico City is Saturday? What about Arena Coliseo?

Arena Coliseo is an 80 year old lucha libre venue in Mexico City also run by CMLL. It’s a much smaller building and often a stripped down presentation (not even entrance music!) that creates an intimate and classic environment. Everyone uses the same entrance/exit, so it’s easier to get a photo with your favorite luchadors before or after the show. (Some luchadors purposely wait until the show starts for that reason.) I like the building better than Arena Mexico in many ways.

Going to Arena Coliseo is just a little tougher, and not as easy to recommend. The neighborhood is presently considered less safe than Arena Mexico. CMLL now only runs the building on Saturdays, and those shows are more likely to be pre-empted by other events. (Boxing events are held there from time to time, and they sometimes shut the building down during the holidays.) There’s fewer merchandise stands outside, and no vendors inside. The location is away from Arena Mexico and father from the main portion of the city. You pretty much need a cab ride there, and finding a ride back out may take more itme.

I always point people with a casual lucha libre interest towards Arena Mexico instead, it’s just better set up for tourists. If you do go the Arena Coliseo, the set up is pretty much the same – there’s Turiluchas bus service (best bet) and you can buy tickets thru Ticketmaster or at the building’s box office. The shows are starting at 7:30 local right now, but that may change – you’ll definitely want to check CMLL’s site a few days before the show just to confirm they’re running.

What if I want to specifically see AAA while in Mexico City?

There’s presently no great answer for seeing AAA, in Mexico City or elsewhere, if you’re just in Mexico City for a vacation. They do not own buildings like CMLL and do not run weekly scheduled events in Mexico City like CMLL. AAA does come to the city from time to time for smaller shows and TV tapings, but it’s tough to know in advance and they’re usually not in as venue as well recognized as Arena Mexico. You can keep an eye on AAA’s upcoming schedule on their website and hope the dates line up when you’re in town.

Really, if you want to go see AAA in Mexico City, you should plan to come to town for TripleMania. It’s always in Arena Ciudad de Mexico and AAA usually announces the (summer) date months in advance. Not ever TripleMania has been a successful in-ring endeavor, but it’s still one of the biggest shows of the year. It means you’ll have to go on a specific weekend, but it makes the most sense if you specifically want to see AAA.

What if I want to go to [insert indie promotion] around Mexico City?

Covering indie promotions is kind of outside the scope of this post, you know a bit of what’s going on if you’re asking about them, but there’s some general ideas:

  • Contact the promotion in advance (best bet is Facebook) if you want to reserve a ticket for a show, and for a specific location at the show. They may be willing to put them aside for you and allow you pay when you arrive. Otherwise, you should be able to buy tickets if you get to the venue by show time.
  • Map out where you’re going, and talk the drivers at your hotel. They’ll know the part of town where these places are located, but may not be familiar with the exact address. Having your own map or GPS fed directions is a good backup in case they get lost.
  • Figure out some way back before you go – you’ll probably need a uber/lyft for that, don’t assume there will be taxi service. Even if there is a taxi, many indie shows take place just outside the borders of Mexico City, and there are confusing laws about taxis not being able to cross back into to those borders which don’t seem to apply to uber/lift people currently. Ride sharing app is the best.
  • Indie shows are safe places, but still be careful. We’ve gone to a lot of indies shows, including places listed on US lists of towns to avoid, and have had many good experiences with no real bad ones. Still, as an outsider, you are best going as a group and not wandering around strange neighborhoods.

What about lucha libre in other big cities around Mexico?

It really depends on what city you go to, and I don’t have much first person experience with other locations. I know a bit about some places.

Guadalajara: CMLL owns a building here (map) and runs twice a week. The Arena Coliseo Guadalajara Tuesday night show is the big show featuring stars from Mexico City, with a young rowdy & loud audience. The Sunday show has local wrestlers only and is billed as more of a family atmosphere.

The set up is similar to Mexico City – you can buy tickets via Ticketmaster or at the building. They’ve experimented with Turiluchas bus service, though I’m not sure if it’s still running. At least one bar around the area has also run a bar->lucha->bar bus service as well. Check with your hotel for more information.

Puebla: CMLL’s also owns a building here (map). They run every Monday night at the very late starting time of 9pm, with locals and Mexico City stars. CMLL won’t advertise who’s working these shows more than a week in advance, but they’ll run every Monday unless there’s a holiday. There’s some lucha libre vendors set up outside the venue. Same deal with tickets: Tickmaster, in person, or with the Turiluchas service.

Tijuana: there are small indie venues which host lucha libre, but the building you want is the Auditorio (map). There are shows many weekends, either on Friday or Saturday. The problem is the exact promotion and day of the week changes. Promotions are starting to get better at announcing their cards about in advance, so you may able to figure it out as much as a month ahead of time. The building lacks a central location where you can find upcoming events; this local ticket site will list some of them and I’ll post them in my own events database once a full card is announced.

Tijuana has a dangerous reputation, but the venue itself feels safe nowadays, and looks like any middle-sized sports venue that just happens to be in Mexico. You can get tickets at the door – occasionally online, but that’s not as smooth as CMLL. There’s no parking at the venue, but there is paid street parking around if you search for it. One important tip: the bathrooms here (and many other places in Mexico) are pay per visit, so have some change handy.

If you’re in other locations, follow the same advice as for Mexico City indie shows.

What if I’m going on a resort vacation in Mexico? What if it’s like three months from now?

You’re mostly on your own. There’s no big promotion currently running regularly in places like Acapulco, Cancun or Cabo San Lucas. Of those three, Acapulco has the most active and known indie scene for historical reasons, but I don’t know much about the venues except they look small and change locations over time.

You’re going to need to question the locals to have a better idea, they’ll have much better information than I can provide. There do appear to be shows, but they’re much smaller and unconcerned with advertising on the internet. “Where can I see lucha libre” is not an uncommon question and it’s likely the people at the hotel will have an answer. (I’ve even heard of rare situations where hotels themselves will host lucha libre shows, because they know it’s a thing tourists like.)

I get asked a lot about these places from people planning their vacations, and there’s really not much I can tell you in advance, especially far in advance. There’s lucha libre throughout Mexico, but the shows closest to Mexico City get the most attention and the most information about how to attend.