LUCHA TEOTL Elevates Pro Wrestling At Goodman Theater – Editorial

Spoiler alert: this is going to be a very positive review. Walking into Goodman Theater, you know you are somewhere important. The landmark venue in the heart of downtown Chicago is iconic and has hosted many great stage shows in its 101-year history. On the night I attended, it was for something I never thought I would see presented on one of its stages: Lucha Libre. Written and directed by Christopher Llewyn Ramirez and Jeff Colangelo, in association with the Chicago Latino Theater Alliance (CLATA) and National Museum Of Mexican Art, LUCHA TEOTL is currently running at Goodman Theater and has been extended through November 5.

Before you enter the Owen Theater, the Goodman space hosting the production, you are invited to create your own poster to hold up during the show. Sharpies and poster boards are provided, and you are encouraged to get creative. As you enter the theater to take your seat, you are immediately blown away by the massive Aztec temple that has been constructed on the main staging area. Hanging next to it is an equally impressively sized Aztec calendar that overlooks a traditional wrestling ring in the middle of the room, surrounded by a Globe Theater-esque three-tiered balcony. If you were a fan of Lucha Underground, you may get some flashbacks.

LUCHA TEOTL production photo
Photo Credit: Goodman Theater

Once my wife and I were seated, we immediately noticed the variety of patrons that were attending the event. Among your typical, older theater-going crowd were groups of college students drinking beer and families huddled together, leaning over the barricade like they were at a WWE live event. It was the kind of eclectic mix that I had never seen at a pro wrestling event before, let alone a major Chicago theater.

Much like a traditional pro wrestling event, the audience is greeted by a ring announcer, or Maestro de Ceremonia, who sets the stage for the night, letting everyone know the latest cycle for the Aztec calendar is coming to a close. In lieu of traditional luchadors battling it out for the fans’ approval, lucha stars representing Aztec Gods will face off to determine the order of the universe once the calendar comes to its end. An ominous “ritual” is teased for when the calendar comes to a close, and later on, when it happens, it is breathtaking.

“We knew we wanted the story to center around Huitzilopochtli, the Sun God, and Coyolxauhqui, the Moon Goddess, and kind of one of their central myths, which is about how the Moon God attempted to kill the earth,” co-creator Jeff Colangelo told me in a Haus of Wrestling exclusive interview. “And Coyolxauhqui kind of was birthed out of the Earth to defeat her and cast her body into the stars. So we were like, ‘That’s an awesome myth to kind of start off as a build-off of, and then as we started building the show.”

LUCHA TEOTL production photo
Photo Credit: Goodman Theater

Colangelo, along with fellow co-creator Christopher Llewyn Ramirez, hit a roadblock as they started putting the show together when the pandemic hit. Live theater came to a screeching halt, and the two men all of a sudden had plenty of time to flush out their concept.

“Jeff and I were writing this during the Black Lives Matter protests and in the midst of the pandemic,” Ramirez recalled, also in a Haus of Wrestling exclusive interview. “So, a lot of the questions that we were asking ourselves as people on the Earth as Americans, is our system is clearly broken, and we are sitting in a time of contemplation. And what in the hell do we do now? How do we move forward? And Jeff and I didn’t intentionally say, ‘This is what we’re going to say in this piece.’ But it was in us, and it bled onto the page.

“So this idea of, how do we move forward? How do we fix a broken system? How do we yadda yadda yadda? Became an essential part of the piece, and with that comes pro wrestling. Where is the pro wrestling industry evolving to? How is the wrestling industry moving on from intergenerational trauma from its problematic nature of the carnies?”

As layered as the messaging and symbolism of LUCHA TOETL is, it comes across effortlessly and is easy to digest. The show does a great job of moving along at the clip of a traditional wrestling event, complete with matches throughout that frame the main storyline between Huitzi, a young, brash talent representing The Sun God, and Coyol, a more tenured luchador representing The Moon God. The promo exchanges from the actors are filled with the kind of passion and conviction that is more akin to a Tenessee Williams play than something you may see at Arena Mexico.

“We’re actually really lucky in the fact that Paloma Starr, La Sriarcha Muchacha, is a well-known independent wrestler in Chicago,” Ramirez beamed. “So she auditioned, and she is a very successful and incredible wrestler; I can’t believe she hasn’t been signed by GLOW or Impact, but that’s her, and then, I don’t know how we found this unicorn. Joey Ibanez is a classically trained Shakespearean actor. You literally look at his resume, and dude was trained in England, has done national tours, has done global tours of specific Shakespeare works, and he just so happens to be a trained professional wrestler.”

“Romeo and Juliet is basically a wrestling setup,” added Colangelo. “Let’s let’s be honest, right? Tybalt and Mercutio? They spend the whole time building heat between them, and then they get them in the room together to fight, and then Shakespeare is like, ‘Okay, here’s this badass match. Oops, it’s ended early. F-ck you guys!'”

LUCHA TEOTL production photo
Photo Credit: Goodman Theater

Ramirez also noted to me that AEW star Nyla Rose was at one point in discussions to audition for the role of Coyol, played by Starr, but due to her schedule, was unable to commit. He also went out of his way to praise Amanda Huber, Brodie Lee’s widow and current backstage AEW producer, for being so supportive of the project and helping to get the word out.

While the show is filled with emotional exchanges, montages, and other more traditional theatrical elements, it does deliver in-ring action, as well. As Ramirez noted, some of the actors already had pro wrestling experience, while others were having to pick it up for the first time. Regardless, this show runs eight times a week, and anyone taking bumps on a regular basis like that will tell you it can take a toll. To help ensure the safety of the talent, veteran pro wrestler and actor Aski The Mayan Warrior was hired to work with the performers on a night-to-night basis. On any given evening, you may see a slightly different show as moves are changed to accommodate how the performers are physically feeling.

The production uses every inch of The Owen Theater space they are given to present the show. While the spectacle is rooted in Aztec mythology and Lucha Libre heritage, the wrestling itself is done in a more Von Erichs or Memphis style, which is more popular in the United States. Because of this, the audience is treated to wild brawls taking place through the crowd, with some spilling over into the backstage Goodman hallways where actors not involved with the show prepare for plays written by Mamet and Pinter.

The audience is able to follow the action throughout the space and outside of it due to the clever use of live streaming. Much like a high-end pro wrestling event, atop the Aztec temple sits a big projection screen, and around the ring stand two camera operators throughout. What the camera operators catch through their lenses is cast up onto the screen, giving fans the sensation of being at a real, live, pro wrestling TV taping. The screen also flashes to backstage fights and promos for various characters.

LUCHA TEOTL production photo
Photo Credit: Goodman Theater

I’ve tried very hard not to give away major plot details for the show because I really feel it is something pro wrestling fans should see and experience for themselves. I will say this, however: the final two minutes of the show had me on the literal edge of my seat, with my jaw on the ground. It is a powerful experience that unifies the attention of everyone in attendance, regardless of their familiarity with pro wrestling.

“I want our wrestling community to also come into that space and challenge themselves and allow themselves to be introduced to another form of art,” Ramirez asserted. “Yes, there are times to boo and cheer, and also there’s times to sit and listen. And that is the beauty of LUCAH TEOTL and why it is the first of its kind because it allows you to be in the moment and allow yourself to consume art the way it is being presented.”

Tickets for LUCHA TEOTL can be purchased by clicking HERE

Haus of Wrestling has partnered with Inside The Ropes to present An Afternoon With Kevin Nash And Sean Waltman on November 25 at Joe’s Live in Rosemont, IL, ten minutes from the All-State Arena. Tickets are now available at