Mexico's lucha libre in shock over wrestler's death

Laurent Thomet

Mexico City (AFP) - The flamboyant world of Mexican wrestling reeled in shock as the tragic death of a star fighter sparked a debate about safety in the beloved national pastime.

Pedro Aguayo Ramirez, known as "Hijo del Perro Aguayo" (Son of the Dog Aguayo), collapsed and hung over the middle rope late Friday after receiving a flying double-kick to the upper body from Oscar Gutierrez, "Rey Misterio Jr" in the lucha libre bout.

It took almost two minutes for the fight to stop and for Aguayo, 35, to get medical attention at the arena in the northwestern border city of Tijuana. Medics said they had been treating three other people in the dressing room.

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He was taken to a hospital where doctors tried to revive him, but he died early Saturday with a neck trauma, the Baja California state prosecutor's office said.

Prosecutors spokesman Jose Manuel Yepiz told AFP that the death may be treated as manslaughter but investigators have yet to decide. Gutierrez will be asked to make a statement.

The tragedy involved two stars of the pro wrestling circuit in a country where luchadores -- wrestlers -- are venerated as heroes, with fans buying their colorful masks in street stands.

The late wrestler was the son of the popular luchador Pedro Aguayo Damian, "Perro Aguayo." After a weekend wake, masked wrestlers joined a mass Monday in the western city of Guadalajara.

- Quicker medical aid -

Aguayo's death made the front pages of sports dailies, which raised questions about the risks wrestlers face amid high-flying acrobatics.

"Medical attention should come a little quicker," the 54-year-old retired wrestler Daniel Lopez Lopez, known as "Satanico," said at Aguayo's funeral.

"Above all, promoters should limit the action in the ring a little bit because right now they are risking lives with terrible spins," he said, adding that wrestlers are in bad shape within five years.

Yepiz said that while the death appears to be a case of manslaughter, the fact that it happened during a sporting event must be taken into account.

"Every luchador knows the risks of this type of sport," Yepiz told AFP.

Cancha, the sport pages of the national daily Reforma, quoted wrestlers saying that most arenas in Monterrey, Mexico's third largest city, lack medical services, unless famous wrestlers compete.

- Lucha promoter sees accident -

A spokesman for the lucha libre organization AAA, whose roster includes Aguayo, said the bout was organized by an independent promoter and that AAA was unaware of its medical protocol because it was not involved.

AAA has two doctors specialized in sports medicine during its own fights, the spokesman said, adding that Aguayo's death was an accident after a "completely normal move" that both fighters had done before.

"This could have happened to him with 50 doctors in the arena," the spokesman, who declined to give his name, told AFP.

Aguayo's mother, Luz Ramirez, said the family was "not in condition to make any statements about his death."

Meanwhile, videos of the deadly match have gone viral online and are already being sold as pirated DVDs in Mexican markets.

Gutierrez lamented his ring rival's death, saying they had forged a "friendship of brothers that began years ago."

"But on this occasion, I ask myself why and I don't understand. I will miss you and will take you with me for the rest of my life, rest in peace Hijo del Perro," he wrote on Twitter.

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