There’s a certain level of disdain around wrestlers, especially in WWE, who can’t cut a decent promo. Botchamania picks up the funny mistakes, when someone fumbles and trips over their words, and we all have a groan when someone comes out and quite clearly reads a script they had no hand in, and talks like an automaton at us for five minutes. Bad talkers don’t build heat, bad talkers don’t get themselves over, and bad talkers can’t make it in the industry. We know exactly who I’m not naming here.
So I thought, instead of looking at good talkers, which the industry gives us a barrel load of, I’d talk about one guy who specifically isn’t a good talker. Actually, he’s not a talker at all. I had the luck to head to WCPW in Newcastle, this past week, which is why Jess has been running the site, a chance to watch my wife’s favourite wrestler in action: El Ligero. (Photo credit, incidentally, goes to my lovely wife, @Thirteenthesia)
Now, this guy has quite seriously done it all over a fifteen-year career, and you can wiki as much as you like, but I want to talk about what makes him special to watch, what makes him so thoroughly different from many others in the ring. Watching WCPW in recent weeks, you’ll have seen him in action against Martin Kirby, someone he’s feuded with previously, for a long, long time. Kirby is… a talker. Kirby’s whole thing is his mouth, motoring away, screams and yips and noises as he moves, constantly complaining to the t crowd, to the ref, to anyone who will listen that something isn’t fair, that he didn’t get beaten, that things should have gone his way.
Placing El Ligero against that makes for a gorgeous contrast, because Ligero… doesn’t speak. Kirby is a rich cavalcade of sound, his personality drawn in front of us in noisy shapes, but Ligero plays off that, with his silence infuriating Kirby. In this sense, El Ligero’s silence is not just a personality, but part of his offense, a way to frustrate and annoy opponents who are used to having speech to play off, something to respond to. When the response you get is a shrug, a talker gets to respond in anger, and watching Ligero coax laughter out of the crowd at his lack of reaction… it’s golden.
We could talk shades of El Generico here, but having watched the footage of the two men wrestling in 2007 – go and see it, it’s bloody wonderful – the two don’t have a lot in common in their styles. Generico is all extraneous movement, all limbs and fast-paced, the same way his “good friend” Sami Zayn is, too. El Ligero, on the other hand, is deft, controlled movement, not a single shrug an accident. You can draw parallels between Generico’s ‘olé’ chant and Ligero’s ‘ariba’ chant, just as you can break kayfabe and say they’re two non-Mexican guys billed as being from Mexico and working in a typically Mexican style – but Lucha suits them for two different reasons. Generico made his home in the Lucha libre style to use his speed, size and flexibility to their best. Ligero has these same attributes, but his masked silence is the one which makes him stand out, his silence, and how he lets his body speak for him. You can over-complicate having a covered face with needing to speak more, to maintain a stamp of personality, but Ligero’s silence is simple, beautifully used, and somehow conveys more of a sense of the man than a thousand words could manage.
El Ligero controls the crowd with shoulder and hand motions that somehow say more than words, and keeps his opponents at bay with similar movements. He’s a precise worker, no energy wasted, and to watch him against guys who talk, you feel like you should be missing something, like you shouldn’t be able to connect with Ligero. This could not be further from the truth; El Ligero communicates with movement, tells his story through wrestling and the small, succinct hand-motions and shoulder shrugs. Meeting him outside the ring is no different, his communication held to the movements of his hands and a tilt of the head. The best mimes have it, too, the ability to convey expression and emotion through movement, but even they tend to need their faces uncovered in order to manage it.
To convey personality with a mask and no words is a hell of a skill, and that’s without even touching on the fact that the triple threat match he put on with Noam Dar and Will Ospreay this week was second to none. We might say that a wrestler needs three things to succeed – the look, the mic skills, and the ring skills – but El Ligero proves that silent doesn’t always mean bad, and that, often, his silence can speak louder than words.