Luchador Johnny Idol a Pin-Up Star in Mexico
New Zealand professional wrestling buff Niwa McIlroy, aka Johnny Idol, 24, took a leap of faith and flew to Mexico to make it in the high-flying sporting phenomenon that is lucha libre.
Now as Johnny Idol, he is a pin-up star surrounded by fans, performing to packed venues and pay-per-view audiences, and featuring in TV and radio shows and magazine articles.
“It’s pretty cool. I go to a lot of places and people will notice me,” McIlroy said. “Even before the shows, in the parking lot there’ll be loads of fans waiting to get photos.”
Audiences of up to 16,500 a time include travellers from his homeland. Lucha libre in which wrestlers, often masked and costumed, perform spectacular aerial moves is hugely popular in Mexico and frequently included in tourist packages.
“There will be a lot of Kiwis in the front row. I’ll hear them cheering for me,” said McIlroy, who wears the silver fern on his wrestling outfit.
Of Ngati Porou and Ngati Kahungunu, he believes he is the only Maori competing in lucha libre in Mexico.
McIlroy, a tecnico (the “good guy” role), competes in individual matches to three-man tag teams using such signature moves as the moonsault – a backflip splash.
At 183cm and 100kg, he is often bigger than the Mexican luchadores, who propel themselves in the air in demanding acrobatic manoeuvres.
“It’s pretty much like watching superheroes fly around; masks, capes,” he said.
He is aiming to wrestle in Japan and Europe in the future, and one day try for the professional World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) company.
Original article by Lee Umbers, New Zealand Herald, January 9, 2018.
Photo by Brett Phibbs.