Monday, May 20, 2019     Volume: 20, Issue: 11
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Santa Maria Sun / Art

The following article was posted on May 15th, 2019, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 20, Issue 11 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 20, Issue 11

Planet Lucha applies comic book storytelling to lucha libre while showcasing local wrestlers

By CALEB WISEBLOOD


INCOMING
Santa Maria-based wrestler R.J. Cruz performs a missile dropkick during one of his many Planet Lucha matches.
PHOTO COURTESY OF DOMINICK BALSAMO

Imagine an alternate universe where pop culture ceased to evolve past 1987, a world entirely populated by costumed characters with intimidating nicknames. Sounds like the plot of a graphic novel, but it’s actually a story thread within a local wrestling show. This is the nostalgic landscape that Dominick Balsamo—one of the founding directors of Cen-Cal Professional Wrestling—envisioned when creating Planet Lucha.

“The show is a mix of wrestling, comic books, and Saturday morning cartoons, all tied together with an ’80s-inspired vibe,” Balsamo told the Sun. “Planet Lucha is basically my brain baby. It’s the type of wrestling promotion I’ve wanted to run from the beginning.”

Since 2015, Planet Lucha has strived to incorporate “a little something for every wrestling fan,” Balsamo said, including high production values and long-format storylines that crossover between different matches, all while maintaining a family-friendly vibe suitable for all ages. In other words: a Marvel Cinematic Universe for local wrestling.

“What sets us apart from other companies is that we add a certain fantasy element to what we do,” Balsamo said. “Most companies just drop a ring in a building, put some chairs around it, and say, ‘Here’s some wrestling.’ We want to create more of a concert atmosphere, with lights, sound, smoke, and other tricks to appeal to all of the senses.


Welcome to the planet
Planet Lucha presents Lucha Alpha at the Santa Maria Fairpark Convention Center on Sunday, May 19, from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. All ages are welcome. General admission starts at $15. A portion of the show’s proceeds will benefit the All-American Elite Athletics’ youth wrestling program in Santa Maria. Tickets are available in advance at my805tix.com.

“But we don’t hide behind that,” Balsamo clarified. “At the core, the matches are all about storytelling and athletic display. The pageantry and showmanship is just the cherry on the sundae.”

The storytelling aspect will become even more essential to an upcoming side project Planet Lucha has in the works. For the past several months, Balsamo has been compiling footage of various Planet Lucha matches for a wrestling series set to be released through Amazon Prime, ideally by next October, he said. Balsamo is both producing and directing the series himself, which will consist of 13 30-minute episodes.

“I have a very specific artistic vision for how it’s going to come out,” Balsamo said. “I’m in the process of editing the live show footage. Once that’s done, I’m going to string it all together with some vignettes to help push the narrative and create an overarching story.”

The premise of Planet Lucha’s next live performance—Lucha Alpha: A Showcase of Legends, on Sunday, May 19, in Santa Maria—entails an epic rivalry pitting Central Coast-based wrestlers (including Kadin Anthony, Sledge, Louie 54, and Zicky Dice) against some visiting WWE heavy-hitters (including Katarina Leigh, Ultimo Dragon, and Swoggle).


SUIT UP
Diablo Azteca is one of the luchadores set to face off against WWE superstar Psicosis during Lucha Alpha on Sunday, May 19, in Santa Maria.
PHOTO COURTESY OF DOMINICK BALSAMO

“We aren’t just showcasing these stars to make a quick buck. We are letting our homegrown talent share the ring with them,” Balsamo said. “Many wrestling companies will book a ‘name vs. name’ match, but when we started our company, we made a promise to ourselves that we would provide up-and-coming talent every opportunity we can to better themselves as performers. Lucha Alpha is an extension of that promise.”

Santa Maria-based wrestler R.J. Cruz—one of Planet Lucha’s featured fighters—said he’s been a wrestling fan since he was 4 years old, when his dad and uncles introduced him to the sport.

“I used to host backyard wrestling in my backyard when I was growing up,” Cruz told the Sun. “We were just dumb kids doing dumb stunts, but I wanted this as a life.”

Only two weeks after graduating from Nipomo High School in 2009, Cruz was on a plane heading for U.S. Army basic training. Even while deployed in Afghanistan, Cruz never forgot about his dream of landing a career in professional wrestling.


FREE RIDE
Alexander G. Bernard, aka The Superior Man, takes fellow wrestler Kadin Anthony for a ride during a Planet Lucha performance.
PHOTO COURTESY OF DOMINICK BALSAMO

“As soon as I got out of the Army, I made it a goal to start training to become a wrestler,” said Cruz, who returned to Santa Maria in 2014. He joined the ranks of Cen-Cal Professional Wrestling a year later.

“Working for Cen-Cal has been nothing less than an adventure,” Cruz said. “This company has given me nothing but the best opportunities anyone in this business can ask for when they are barely starting out.”

As for the upcoming Lucha Alpha event, Cruz couldn’t be more excited to face off against WWE superstar Psicosis, one of his favorite wrestling icons growing up.

“His feud with Rey Mysterio Jr.—who is my hero and the reason I’m a pro wrestler today—shot them both from wrestling in little churches in Mexico into stadiums across the globe,” Cruz said. “I have shared the ring with pro wrestlers, but nothing compares to May 19. This is my destiny. This is my chance to get my name out there. I want to leave a legacy like he did.”

Arts Editor Caleb Wiseblood’s favorite wrestler is Hulk Hogan. Send fighting words to cwiseblood@newtimesslo.com.




Weekly Poll
How should the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District improve its A-G completion rates?

Align graduation requirements with university entrance requirements.
Ensure that students and parents are well aware of A-Gs and what they are before high school.
Improve support services and summer school classes for students who fall behind.
Completion rates are fine as is. Not everyone wants to go to a four-year college!

| Poll Results