In Mexican lucha libre — professional wrestling known for its masked fighters and cartoonish style — the bad guys rule. They’re known simply as rudos.
“Mexican lucha libre is for rudos. We welcome any rudo who wants to come in here and be badder than the others,” says Marco Espinosa, a fan, from beneath his souvenir lucha libre mask.
So it made sense for Sam Polinsky, a 27-year-old wrestler from Pittsburgh, to try his luck south of the border. He came to Mexico about nine months ago and branded himself as Sam Adonis, “El Rudo de las Chicas” or the “Ladies’ Bad Guy.”
When Donald Trump won the presidency after a campaign that regularly scapegoated and insulted the Mexican people, Polinsky saw an opportunity to turn up the heat on his bad-guy character.
“I had a perfect idea: Why not come to the arena with [an American] flag, but I’m gonna take this to a whole other level,” he says, unfurling a flag and grinning. “I have a 4-ft. flag with the face of Donald Trump on it.”
With this prop, he became the surrogate of Donald Trump in Mexican lucha libre.
His over-the-top, absurd style blends well into the sport. It is a wacky, colorful show punctuated by amazing acrobatics and always following the same script: The good guys, known as técnicos, the equivalent of “babyface,” line up across from the rudos in a battle of justice.
On a Friday evening in Mexico City, Polinsky is getting ready for his latest fight at Arena México, the holy site of Mexican wrestling, which regularly draws 10,000 fans. His girlfriend blow-dries and straightens his long blond mohawk. She helps him spray tan his face and body, using a mini-paint roller to smooth out the streaks.
For Polinsky, being a baddie — especially one who generates such immediate, enraged reactions from Mexicans — is exhilarating.