By Matt Mueller Culture Editor Published Jun 16, 2023 at 1:01 PM

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Tacos won't be the only thing delivering a satisfying smackdown at Taco Fest on Saturday at Henry Maier Festival Park. While the many taco truck in attendance will serve up explosions of flavor throughout the day, local wrestling extravaganza Mondo Lucha will also cook up an explosive one-two punch of flavorful fights and high-flying entertainment – a dynamite complimentary dish to your taco feast. 

One of the most notable and long-tenured cooks in Mondo Lucha's wrestling ring kitchen is known simply as The Beast. Joining Mondo all the way back in 2008, the anonymous wrestling behemoth has gone from heel (aka bad guy) to red-masked face (aka good guy) over the years, now one of the signature figures in Mondo's beloved fights – regularly hitting the ring at Turner Hall Ballroom but this weekend bringing the rumble over to Henry Maier Festival Park for Taco Fest. 

Before he takes to the mat and air above it for not one but two spectacular shows, I got to chat with the masked hero – with the help of a translator and voice-modulator to maintain his secretive identity – about his personal evolution over the years, the mania that is Mondo Lucha and what makes this weekend's Taco Fest fights unique. 

OnMilwaukee: For those who’ve never seen Mondo before, how would you sell or explain it to them?

The Beast: It’s colorful action. It’s high-flying. It’s good guys and bad guys. I can’t guarantee that you’re going to become a life-long fan, but I can guarantee you’re going to be amused at the show you’re at. You’re going to be entertained, you’re going to be drawn in, and you’re going to want to know more. 

You’ve been with Mondo Lucha since 2008, since practically the beginning. What keeps that love and drive going?

It’s been a phenomenal experience. The funniest part is I tell people it’s like “The Muppet Show” gone horribly wrong. Turner Hall is a very old building as you know and some of the floors are not true so there’s a tilt or lean to some of the floors, and backstage, when everything’s going on, it looks like a Batman villain hangout. It is so much fun. People get up for it; local wrestlers are always clamoring about how to get on the big show and who do they have to talk to. And sometimes a lot of us have to remind ourselves how lucky we are to be on top of something like that. Mondo is a very rare organization in that the creativity behind it is matched with production values, which produces a very special and unique product that really makes an impact on the Milwaukee market.

Do you get to bring any of those atmospherics from Turner Hall to an outdoor venue like Taco Fest?

Taco Fest is a slightly different venue, obviously, because we don’t have the control. Taco Fest usually gets a more stripped down show that doesn’t have the music or the burlesque, but has all of the wrestling action – and then we turn that up a little bit so it becomes a memorable event. 

Taco Fest is unique in that it’s not a specific wrestling crowd. People aren’t there to see wrestling; they’re there to get tacos and, “Oh, here’s a show; let’s see what’s going on.” That becomes a challenge to every performer in the show to reach out to that person and try and ignite a spark in them that makes them a fan who wants to come back and find out more. So it’s really an opportunity for us to advertise our wares to a new crowd and try to get them in. The matches have to be constructed and wrestled in such a way that it draws in that casual fan; you don’t want to get too self-referential and do the Spicolli Driver Number 6 because they’re not going to know what it is. People out there want to see good guys, see bad guys, see action and see The Beast get his hand raised at the end.

Are you excited about this weekend’s upcoming battles?

The Taco Fest shows are always very good, simply because the park is very good to us, the people are very good to us and nobody leaves with an empty stomach. The Taco Fest shows are also good in that there’s an AM and a PM show, so we get two matches in one day which leads to an element of surprise since the matchups have not been published yet. It’s just general training, hitting the gym and hitting the track – there’s no offseason for wrestling, so you’ve got to be ready to go when the phone rings.

How did The Beast come into form?

I was approached in another identity and the local booker said, “I have this idea for you: I want you to train a group of roller derby girls to have a series of matches with you for this big show that we have.” I asked if the gig paid, and he said yes – so I was on board. I did approach the whole deal with a very cynical attitude, and for the first two shows, The Beast was very definitely a bad guy. But luckily I was able to develop friendships and relationships, and see the guiding light – and by the third show, I was firmly in the good guy camp, and it’s been a fun ride ever since.

What’s more fun: to be the good guy or the bad guy?

It’s better for your ego to be the good guy, but it’s definitely more fun to be the bad guy.

Wrestling wise, they are opposite sides of the same coin, and there are different things you can do in each position in order to convey your storytelling and generate the desired response from the people. Now, it’s a lot easier to be hated than to be loved, to say “You people stink!” It’s even more difficult to become hated in such a way that you’re respected when something changes. In my case, it boiled down to a standoff between my wife and my manager, and who I was going to go with. It was with that one punch to my manager that suddenly all of that emotion that had been generated against me suddenly flipped 180 degrees and the people were behind me. It’s all in the storytelling and when you do things.

Do you have a favorite or signature move you like to bust out?

I have been using what’s called a driver – which is a fireman’s carry into a flip into a back bump. I’ve also been using the running power slam – but I’ll take that roll-up if it gets me the three-count. 

Obviously this is a Taco Fest performance – so what’s your favorite taco?

Personally, I’m a big fan of the Mexican street taco. I enjoy mine on corn with onions, cilantro, a little bit of cheese if you have it and a little bit of guacamole if you have it. I’m basic like that. Give me four to six of those, and I am set. 

Matt Mueller Culture Editor

As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.

When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.