WRESTLING NAME: Mil Mascaras (The Man of a Thousand Masks--since 1965)
OTHER ALIASES: Ricardo Duran (1964)
REAL NAME: Aaron Rodriguez
BIRTHDATE: July 15, 1942 in San Luis Potosi, Mexico
WEIGHT: 245 Pounds
FINISHER: Top rope plancha (cross body press)
DEBUT: April 1964, Gudalajara, Jalisco, Mexico
TITLES: Mexican National Light Heavyweight Title (2)
Los Angeles: NWA Americas Title (4)
Los Angeles: NWA Americas Tag Team Title with Alfonso Dantes
Los Angeles: NWA Americas Tag Team Title with Ray Mendoza
U.S.: IWA World Title
Guatemala: ALLL World Champion
Los Angeles: Continental Title
Dallas: WCWA World Tag Team Title
Mexico: WWA World Title
Martin Marin of WPW - A Rudo
Mike Frigeria - A jovial man who loves Lucha
Robin Young - An innocent bystander
Mil Mascaras - A great man
ROBIN YOUNG: This is Robin Young, WBAI's roving wrestling reporter, coming to you from Middletown, N.Y. and Rock Fantasy, a very unique heavy metal specialty shop that is playing host to one of the greatest wrestlers of this century. He has been a movie star, a trend setter, and an inspiration to countless others. His name is Mil Mascaras. Mil, say hello to the WBAI audience.
MIL MASCARAS: Well, hello to everybody, and thank you for hearing my voice.
RY: We also have a couple of other guests. Introduce yourselves, please.
MARTIN MARIN: My name is Martin Marin, and I'm the president of World Power Wrestling based in California.
MIKE FRIGERIA: And I'm Mike Frigeria from A.P.P.L.L.E. - Atlantic Pro Power Lucha Libre.
RY: Now Mil, you started in 1964 I believe.
MM: Almost . . . '64 or '65. I don't really remember. (everyone laughs)
RY: Tell us how you began.
MM: Well, I really suppose it's like yesterday I started wrestling. I feel the same. No difference.
RY: You had a background in amateur wrestling as well as martial arts I believe.
MM: Before wrestling, I was in Judo, and what is called Shalin-Qua, which the Japanese teach to us. But I call it the Chinese Dance of Defense. It's very special.
RY: So that undoubtedly contributed to your incredible grace in the ring. And fluidity.
MM: Well, I don't know. Maybe. After starting wrestling, and becoming National Champion they selected a team to go to the Pan-American games, but I didn't go, because I was trying to be an actor. And an American movie was being done there. They offered me a part. Nothing important, but at the last moment they didn't give it to me, so I didn't go to the Pan-American games. A year later I was selected to go with the team to Tokyo. I had a training coach from Turkey who was seven times World Champion. He was Olympic Champion of Berlin, and he was my teacher. I was with him for 2 1/2 years, 4-6 hours a day. But I didn't go to the Olympics because the government of Mexico tried to keep me in their training camp like a soldier, and this was not interesting to me. I needed money for food, and to take care of myself, because if I didn't, who would? And this was the time that Mil Mascaras appeared in the wrestling magazines, and they started looking for someone to play him, so I said, "This is the moment." And I went to Guadalajara to train. I met El Diablo Velasquo who was the best trainer they had for "shoot" in Mexico. And I stayed 10 months with him, two hours every day to train, closed door.
RY: And you learned submission moves from him.
MM: Well, I stayed ten months. I think I learned something. And then I trained professional for two weeks, just two weeks.
RY: That's incredible.
MM: And I started in the main event on Friday night, and I've been in the main event for all these years.
MARIN: He also left out that he was Mr. Mexico.
RY: I was going to ask you, Mil, about your bodybuilding career.
MM: I never talk about that, it was another life. (everybody chuckles) I have family there. I love to workout. Mil Mascaras never competed in bodybuilding contests. I try to be the best, you know I stay training the same. Before starting the wrestling matches I train when I have the chance three or four times a week. I run five kilometers. And I work out for one hour and a half, two hours sometimes when I have the chance training hard. I keep in shape and sometimes when I need it, I use it. That's all.
RY: Martin, you can vouch for the fact that he still trains hard, because your recent experience with him left you still smarting I hear. . . .
MARIN: Oh yes, I'm still sore. I've known Mil for about ten years, and I've been his friend for about four years. I know a lot of athletes, especially the athletes from Mexico, all the great wrestlers, and I can say that Mil is the most disciplined athlete I ever met. I've met a lot of baseball players, I used to play baseball myself, and football and Mil has been the only truly dedicated and disciplined athlete I've ever known, and he's the best.
RY: And it shows. He lives it everyday of his life. Everyday of his life he is committed to being the best. And he is.
MM: Well, this is the price to pay. You are at the top. I don't care what profession you're doing. You know, you're a lawyer, a doctor, a writer, or anything. If you're trying to be the best, you need to train to be the best. You know, to stay in shape, to stay at the top. You need to work more than anyone. This is the only way. Maybe I'd like to be too lazy to train or to stay home.
RY: I think that's a very admirable ethic, and one that's lacking in a lot of athletes today. Mil, when did you start making films?
MM: I started making films in, oh, 1965-66.
RY: Mil Mascaras was actually the name of your first film.
MM: The name of the first film, and I don't remember how many I made right now.
RY: Around thirty?
MARIN: More than that!
MM: Just films, that's all. The last two films I was producer, and I think they were the best films, because I directed, too! (everybody laughs) I see today's wrestling . . . I don't like to see TV myself. And today Mike put on one of my films.
MARIN: Yeah, we watched one of his films. When Mil saw himself in a wrestling scene. . . .
MM: And I look at this movie, and I think, God, this is the best wrestler in the world, this guy? Hah, hah, hah. . . . (everybody laughs)
MARIN: It was Vampiro of Coyacoan, and he's watching himself wrestling, and he says: "That guy's really good. He's good." (Mil breaks up. We all do.) And I started laughing, and I asked him how come you've never seen your films?
MM: Let me tell you this is part of why I don't like to see other people wrestle. A lot of people copy me. I know. But I don't like to to copy anybody.
RY: You like to be an original.
MM: Yeah. I try to make something new myself. I try to go to the gym and "Look for something." That's all.
RY: Right, and you just brought up an interesting point. Your style has been copied by so many wrestlers in Japan, Mexico, and the U.S. Names that come to mind are Tiger Mask, Rey Misterio, Jr.
MM: I know. All those guys come back to tell me, "You're my hero" and "I copy you." Many, many guys.
RY: How does it feel to be so influential? To have inspired a generation. . . .
MM: I don't think nothing! (everybody laughs) I am a human being like anyone. I have my legs here (stamps his feet on floor) you know. I never flaunt it!
RY: Until you're diving off the top rope. Then you flaunt it.
MM: Yeah, but to be popular, to be famous, means nothing. A complete nothing.
RY: That's a very healthy attitude.
MM: It's nothing for me, I don't have a big head, I'm a human being just like anyone else. My philosophy is this: If somebody needs me, needs help, I do it because I like to do it. This is all. I don't want to talk about it.
RY: Just do it.
MM: Just do it. Same in wrestling. If I can help someone to learn something . . . like Martin. He didn't know how to train to be in shape for wrestling. With weights it's different, I mean, the bodybuilder is just pumping his arms to get big arms. I train my arms because I need them for some moves. This is a part of the game, you know? I said today, you know, the position, like this (Does imaginary curls while leaning back on each rep, as if he were going to do a suplex) for balance. You need for suplex. All my training, everything I do is to help me with my moves.
MARIN: That's probably what happened today. I mean I lift weights, I do everything, but he says, "You're doing everything wrong." And he says, "You don't know how to train for wrestling."
MM: That's why you blow up! (laughs)
MARIN: And I go: "What! What do you mean?" He says, "You're training to build up your muscles." But he says, "You need to train your muscles so you can use them as a wrestler." And I said, "What do you mean?" And he started telling me, "Well this is what you gotta do." I'd be doing an exercise, and he'd say, "Wider stance, open up your legs more, do this and that. . . ." You know. And I'm like, "Wow! Great!" Because you need to do it in case you need to do a suplex. This is the way you gotta do it. Makes sense.
MM: Balance. Like when I did the squats. I make a squat like this (again he leans back, as if doing a suplex) so I can go into a suplex.
RY: So I would guess that when you do an exercise with weights, you want to use as many muscles as possible. You want to bring the whole body into it.
RY: So, in other words, you don't really like to isolate a muscle the way bodybuilders do. You do the opposite where you basically bring the whole body into it.
MM: Yeah, because years ago I trained like a bodybuilder. But this is completely different to the kind of shape you need to wrestle.
RY: That's interesting. . . .
MM: It's completely different shape to be a bodybuilder, or to wrestle. You use different muscles. Like the people running. I'm running, I'm running. Different. You see today (glances at Martin) people walking and moving. "Pow-pow-pow-fast." Run. Maybe a hundred meters, then fast another 100. But this is how wrestling is, fast moves, then slow. Same in amateur wrestling. Same in Judo. You need fast for explosion. Boom. Then go slow for a hold on the mat.
MM: This is the kind of shape you need in the wrestling profession, and amateur wrestling and Judo, in any martial arts. You need to be in this kind of shape. If you don't have good condition, you lose easy. You need two things. "Guts." I call them guts. And shape. You don't have these, forget it.
RY: And you've invented, I'm sure, a lot of movements that you use?
MM: Well, I do.
RY: You get very creative with your training.
MM: Yeah, I go to the gym and I do what's good for me, and if the people copy me, it's terrific. I don't care. They see I make some move, and next day other people do it.
RY: So you're an innovator in wrestling. You're an innovator in training for wrestling, an innovator in action films. . . .
MM: I try my best in life. You know, to find a reason to make it work, otherwise don't do it.
RY: Tell me some of your memories of working with the legends like Freddie Blassie, Tolos, Ken Patera, Killer Kowalski, Dory Funk, Jr., etc.
MM: Oh, well. You're talking about the old-timers. I say old-timers because I'm young, you know. (laughs) I stay in the same shape the young guys are in. Maybe better. I don't know. But at that time [70's] everybody had the best shape. This was most important. Because regular matches would go more than a half an hour to an hour, 45 minutes. The guys needed to be able to wrestle. Sometimes go to more than an hour. You needed more than 10 minutes, 15 minutes, like the main-events today. And Freddie Blassie or Killer Kowalski or Dory Funk, Terry Funk. . . .
RY: Brisco. . . .
MM: Yeah, Brisco, Billy Robinson, all the big stars of this time . . . what can I say?
RY: Great technical wrestlers.
MM: Great technical wrestlers, yeah.
RY: Some were great showmen, like Blassie.
MM: Blassie and I have a record in the wrestling business, in boxing, in any sport, the first closed circuit TV, Freddie Blassie and I in California.
RY: At the Olympic.
MM: Right, they sold out when they announced the match, Blassie and I. They opened five different theaters to send the TV there, you know, and all those people came to the first closed circuit.
RY: Actually, the Labell Brothers came up with the idea. Particularly Mike LeBell. First one ever done in wrestling.
MM: In any business, not just wrestling, any one. And we sold out completely. And we had another, maybe five hundred people outside the Olympic trying to get in.
RY: Mike and Gene's mother Eileeen Eaton was involved.
MM: Yeah. 1968.
RY: Tell us a little bit about your relationship with Martin and working for the WPW.
MM: Well, you know, I'm wrestling in California most of the time, for years, and Texas, close to the border. Also, Arizona, New Mexico, it's more easy, and I wrestle in Mexico maybe five or six times a year, three days, on weekends for WPW, and I'm happy. I don't need to work too much.
RY: Well, Martin, tell us what having Mil on your cards means to you and to the fans.
MARIN: Well, to me, I grew up adoring Mil Mascaras just like everybody else. In Mexico and also the United States. And having Mil Mascaras on the shows has brought a lot of quality to WPW.
RY: And prestige.
MARIN: Right. Quality and prestige. Exactly. The name Mil Mascaras on any card makes it a prestigious card. Mascaras along with some other great names like El Hijo Del Santo, and Blue Panther, and so on, other great wrestlers. We keep trying with WPW to bring the best of Lucha Libre to the United States. And that's what our goal is, just keep on bringing Lucha Libre, the "cultural act" to the Hispanic community, actually.
RY: I've found that a lot of today's American fans barely know who Bruno Sammartino was. Do the Latin fans have a better sense of their own legends? Like Mil?
MARIN: This is why Mil Mascaras is Mil Mascaras. 'Cause it's a phenomenon. Even little kids, five or six years old, they know who Mil Mascaras is. And grandpas who are sixty years old know who Mil Mascaras is. Guys that are 20, 30, 40 they know who Mil Mascaras is. Everybody, not just in Mexico or the U.S., but all of South America and Japan and maybe the whole world.
RY: In fact, Mil has been more international than any wrestler in history. He's traveled more, and he's been booked in more arenas, he's simply been on the go for 30 years. Which is not true for most wrestlers.
MM: Well, I think only Andre the Giant and I. . . .
RY: The only two. . . .
MM: Yeah, the only two that traveled together all over. Sometimes together, sometimes alone, you know, but we didn't stay in just one place. Traveling around to different companies, different territories, different parts of the world.
RY: And you've learned about all these disparate cultures all over the world.
MM: Oh yeah, I've been in Europe 28 or 29 times. I've been in Egypt, Greece, maybe five times in Greece, two times in Egypt. I've been in Africa, Zimbabwe, Kenya, South Africa, Coast of Ivory, and Japan, Thailand, India, Pakistan.
MM: I've been there but never wrestled there. I wrestled all over the Islands--Trinidad, Tobago, San Juan, Kurasow, all the islands, Puerto Rico, Santo Domingo. I wrestled all over America. I wrestled in Anchorage Alaska, Argentina, Peru, all the places that have wrestling used me, maybe once or twice, but I went there.
RY: Which is why you could pack your bags if a promoter double-crossed you, right? (Everybody laughs)
MM: I try to take care of myself.
RY: Nobody else is gonna do it.
MM: This is the truth. And I try to change my outfit, I have many different outfits. I never repeat the outfits in the matches. And I never repeat the masks. Different masks. So I have maybe something different than the other guys.
RY: What are your memories of the IWA, which was the first attempt to go national? It sort of preceded McMahon's attempt to do that by 10 or 15 years.
MM: Well, I think that Eddie Einhorn, the President of the IWA, and Pedro Martinez had a terrific idea, and tried to send their TV all over the country. I don't know what happened, something went wrong. But then McMahon did it. Just wasn't his idea. It was Eddie Einhorn's. He was the man with the idea.
RY: Well, you made a great IWA champion, there couldn't have been a better one.
MM: Well, I stay the same, you know. The public in the United States, or Japan, or Mexico, Central America, Europe, they give me the support, and that's important. I think the public is more important than Mil Mascaras.
RY: How much longer would you like to wrestle?
MM: I have no idea. (everybody laughs) I have no idea, because I'm not tired of training.
RY: Obviously. We've heard that from Martin. Martin's tired from your training, but you're not tired from it.
MM: It's part of my life, and I will try next year to run in politics in my country.
MM: And I expect Mil Mascaras to do something for his country's people, to help a little bit now. Before, the Democrats were not doing too well, you know. Now things have changed, and it's possible to compete right now, and I will try to do it too, you know. I've gone back to school the last five years, and read so much, and try to help my country where needed. Everything you know, to try to help.
RY: Well, you're a great man in every conceivable way.
MM: I try, I try.
RY: A lot of people try, Mil, but you do it.
MM: Well, I'll try and do it, but it all depends on whether the people vote for me. This is the idea. (laughs)
RY: Well, Mil, we're going to bring this to a close, because I know you want to get out and eat. You're all hungry, and I want to thank you on behalf of WBAI. And I want to thank Mike and Martin. And wish the best for the WPW. It sounds like a great promotion.
MARIN: Thank you, we're going to keep on trying, like I said before, my goal is to eventually bring Lucha Libre to the United States nationally.
RY: That's a great goal.
MF: Be sure you put the Web sites in there, WPWLUCHALIBRE.COM and VINTAGETOYDEPOT.COM.
RY: Terrific! And, Mil, once again I want to thank you on behalf of WBAI, you are one of the greatest athletes of all time. And its been a great pleasure.
MM: Thank you. What can I say? You say too much to me! Thank you, thank you very much!
The above interview originally appeared in the tenth anniversary of Wrestling- Then & Now- PO Box 640471, Oakland Gardens Station, Flushing, NY 11364. Sample current copy $2 US/$3 overseas. All checks payable to Evan Ginzburg. www.wrestlingthenandnow.com