One of the most famous lucha libre vignettes featured the trios team of Los Brazos sleeping comfortably in three single beds, all lined up next to one another like the set up of a fairy tale. One by one, we see what each of them dreams about. El Brazo dreams of adoring crowds and bright lights as he plays an electric guitar, soloing like Eddie Van Halen. Brazo de Oro dreams of a corner office and high pressure business decisions, like he would later in life as head of the luchador union.
Brazo de Plata, at once mischievous and cherubic and content, dreams as well. He dreams at first of being alone with a torta, whispering to it like a lover. At the moment he goes for the first delicious bite, his brothers come in and stop him short. They slap him and yell at him and beat him. He dreams of his family.
It’s easy to claim that memorable and easily digestible moments like the one above are the legacy of Brazo de Plata (born Jose Luis Alvarado Nieves), who died Monday evening at the age of 58. Truly, Alvarado was one of the last great special attraction wrestlers in the world; a presence so bizarre and otherworldly that his appearance on a card was enough for tourists and casual families to be marveled, even as he physically slowed down. They would laugh at his oversize gut and his sad eyes and they would be awed by his still nimble feet and even with no context or knowledge they would be able to understand his role and why he is loved and what he means to people. In some ways, this presence was to his professional detriment, as it in all likelihood prevented him from being featured in as many major singles programs as someone as popular and talented as he should have been.
To only mention this would be to sell Porky immensely short, for his true legacy lies inextricably connected to the men beating him in his dreams. As Los Brazos, along with another brother based team, the Villanos, and the Misioneros de la Muerte, Porky helped popularize the trio as a viable match type within lucha libre in the early 80s. The influence of this cannot be overstated or summed up or compared to anything. It’s truly absurd in scope, being part of a sea change that is still reverberating today. Again, just describing Los Brazos as an influence sells them and their work short, Porky especially. Their matches were revolutionary, fast-paced and wondrous affairs, with Porky often taking center stage, his antics and love of the spotlight a never ending source of consternation for his more serious minded and stoic brothers.
A moment that stands out, late in the decade long feud against the Villanos: Porky repeatedly show boats and gives advantage to his opponents. When he retreats to his brothers for comfort, they slap him in the face and yell at him, frustrated in the way that only family can be. And finally, after years, Porky has had enough! He sobs and wails and wanders slowly into the crowd like a portly Charlie Brown, freeing himself of his abusers. He pouts like a child, crossing his arms and turning away from their pleading faces. He relents, finally, after they apologize again and again, and before he returns to the ring, he demands a kiss on the mouth from each. The crowd is wild throughout, a pantomime that many have experienced in their youth on some level being played out in front of thousands, in the middle of what until that point was an athletic and closely contested affair.
Wrestling is often boiled down to wish fulfillment. Steve Austin is popular because he can punch his asshole boss, Daniel Bryan because he refuses to be told he isn’t good enough. Yet there is another level, and it is present in these moments with Los Brazos. Wrestling is the conflict of our everyday writ large. It isn’t so much seeing ourselves in the winners and losers, the all-conquering heroes or the conniving villains. We see ourselves when a brother is consoled and stops crying. We see ourselves when a heavy set man dances badly and makes a beautiful woman laugh and tilt her head back, her hair catching the light. In truth, most people don’t get a WrestleMania moment, but they do get opportunities to matter to someone every single day. Moments that seem small as they happen but we find ourselves thinking about on long, solitary car rides and in the shower, moments when we do something just slightly beyond ourselves. Super Porky was a wrestler who showed people these little moments again and again. He dreamed of them.