Next to Soccer, the national sport of Mexico, lucha libre is the biggest form of sports or entertainment in Mexico, with dozens of events taking place 7 nights a week throughout the country.

A recent survey found that in a nation of 100 million people, 90% of all Mexicans could identify two of the most adored and revered iconic images in their country's history: The beloved "Virgin of Guadalupe" and the silver mask of luchador El Santo.

In the early-90s lucha exploded in the United States and by the mid-90s, both Vince McMahon's WWF and Ted Turner's WCW had capitalized on the extremely colorful and highly acrobatic form of the entertainment which they promoted.

Even today, one of the WWE's most popular stars is Rey Misterio, Jr. In fact, in 2005, while Rey's downside guarantee in his contract was a mere $75,000/year, due to the run away success of his merchandise, the Hispanic superstar personally grossed over $1 Million dollars. Rey has been credited with being the driving force behind WWE's Smackdown program being the #1 show for Hispanics on TV when the program was the crown jewel of the CW television Network. Noticing his ability to deliver TV ratings, box office sales, and a merchandise bonanza, in 2006, the WWE made Rey the first ever masked WWE World Champion. Over the past decade WWE has continued to push Rey and now is preparing to bring a new generation of luchadors to their TV programming, a true testament to the power of lucha in the U.S. and worldwide. In January 2011, the WWE signed one of the most popular luchadors in Mexico today, Mistico, to an exclusive contract. They renamed him Sin Cara, enabling them to create a new trademark and own/control 100% of the merchandise rights. While the WWE can create new stars, they do not have the rights to any of the big name Mexican Megastars. Masked Republic will remain the only company able to license the true legends, superstars, and next generation of main eventers - and in all product categories.

In addition to crossover superstars, Americans are exposed to lucha "directamente" from Mexico as U.S. television broadcasts 8-10 hours of original lucha libre programming a week on Galavision, Fox Sports Español, ESPN Deports, Canal 52MX, and LATV.

But, lucha libre is not just for Hispanics anymore, as the colorful world of masked grapplers has transcended cultural boundaries and become part of pop culture in the United States.

From the WB's successful Mucha Lucha franchise to the Cartoon Network's current hit El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera, to blockbuster Hollywood movies including Nacho Libre and the upcoming Mil Mascaras: Aztec Revenge set for release in 2012. Additionally, a number of U.S. based networks are currently negotiating for their own lucha shows.

Multiple live lucha events take place throughout the U.S. weekly with crowds regularly exceeding 5,000 fans in markets including Chicago, Atlanta, Las Vegas, and multiple cities throughout California and Texas.

Rey Mysterio Jr

Blue Demon, JR