In character and continuing, with dignity

The man behind the Blue Demon mask is as human as you, me and his legendary luchador father. Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images

Editor's note: Blue Demon, an icon in Mexican wrestling and culture, kicked off his career without the use of a mask in Laredo, Texas, wrestling under the names El Tosco and El Manotas. He started to forge his legend in September 1948, designing a blue mask with silver trimming near his eyes, nose and mouth, and fighting under the name that to this day is known in Mexico and various parts of the world.

His career took off in 1952 when he avenged a loss suffered by his tag-team partner, Black Shadow, against The Saint -- El Santo, a figure widely recognized in the Aztec country and with whom he developed a fierce rivalry. Blue Demon beat the silver-masked man for the National Wrestling Alliance World Welterweight title, which increased his popularity among wrestling fans. Eventually, the rivalry and popularity of both grapplers transcended the ropes and reached the movie studios. Although they were athletic rivals, they starred together in about 10 films, transforming themselves into authentic movie stars and icons in Mexican culture. Blue Demon died in 2000 at the age of 78.

His adopted son Blue Demon Jr. continued the legacy by building his own successful career in the squared circle, where he currently is the NWA World Heavyweight Champion. Blue Demon Jr. also has found success outside the ring. His character is that of a villain, but his selfless charity work, especially with children stricken with cancer, shows that not all demons are bad. He wrote this first-person account of his father and his craft in Spanish for ESPNdeportes.com. It is translated into English here.

October 2009 in Mexico City …

This is your friend Blue Demon Jr., and before anything, I would like to thank all of you for your awareness in the celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month. It's my duty and honor to continue the legend that my father, Blue Demon, built in Mexican wrestling.

Talking about my father is like talking about 1,000 things and would take up a lot of time. But I will be brief in telling you about my dad as a human being, the part of him least known. He was a calm person, quiet and very dry in his way of life. As the years satisfyingly went on, I tried to adopt that aspect of my dad; thus I came away with a tender part of his personality, if it can be said that way.

I feel that as an athlete, he was one of the best figures in the world of wrestling; and I think the way he handled his skills, and the way he handled his image and his trajectory were simply very admirable. He isn't with us any longer, but I can tell you he's one of the most complete wrestlers in the history of wrestling.

The story of how I found out my dad was a wrestler is simple. When I was five years old, we were in the car on our way to Cortijo in Romero Rubio colony. My mother, Goyita, was driving and my dad was in the front seat as the co-pilot, while I was in the back, distracted; and even though I knew we were on our way to the wrestling match, I really didn't have it in my mind what was going on back home. I saw masks and magazines, but I couldn't imagine anything else. And by sheer chance, I liked watching the Blue Demon wrestle. Of all the wrestlers, he was the one who got my attention, without my ever imagining he was my dad. But that day, specifically, I was thinking about other things, playing, and all of a sudden as we approached the arena, the fans started pounding on the car and screaming, "Blue Demon! Blue Demon!"

I saw that my father already had the mask, and in that moment, I got the picture that my idol was my dad, and I'd had him there for so long without noticing.

I can tell you that what I admired most about my dad as an athlete and as a person was his sense of responsibility. Most people know wrestling can cause injuries and traveling from one place to another will get you tired. Add both together, and they will cause a great level of physical exhaustion. But even at that, my dad made sure never to miss a show. And in his time, the life wasn't like it is now. Now, you travel more comfortably, but he traveled in trucks and in uncertain conditions, and being in it for a long time was really grueling. Nonetheless, his sense of responsibility always made him comply with all his commitments.

As the years passed and as I inherited his image, I knew there were a lot of responsibilities and I learned how to situate where I am. Feeding the ego is very important for most people, and it was even more important to me, being the heir to the Blue Demon. I didn't want to tell anyone I was his son, but fortunately, the wrestling magic makes us overcome the obstacle of not being able to say who we are, feeding that ego. People see a mask, and it's simply a mask. The person under it, whoever it is, doesn't matter. The mask and the character -- not the person -- are the motor that drives the people's passion. And I think a lot of us, deep inside, want to say, "I am so-and-so," and be recognized.

The biggest responsibility in keeping with my dad's legacy is staying in that line, with the trajectory and the tradition. You have to follow a line as far as carrying yourself in society. You are a role model to a lot of people, and many will follow your example. You need to have a good path, a good image. Be honest. You can't be a person with scandals … that's what was instilled in me to keep up with this dynasty. Not only is it jumping into the legacy and seeing what happens, but it's working it, too, not only physically but also mentally, so you can bring out a sense of being in all meanings.

Since I took on the continuation of the legacy my dad forged, I've known that a lot of people say wrestling isn't a sport, and I respect everyone's opinions -- those of the true expert and those of they who think they know.

It's obvious that the less knowledgeable always will say, when the wrestling is real and there is a maneuver and maneuver-breaker on the canvas, that that is not real wrestling. They want to see high-flying moves. They want to see blood. But that's not the essence of wrestling.

They think the sport is aerial. That's a joke. Well, I consider wrestling to be like a circus, stunts, theater and a sport.

It's a circus because it originates from the Roman circus. It's theater because it involves masked characters. The Greeks did it that way, and to this day, you still see a happy mask and a sad one. Even more, it represents the good and the bad, black and white, cold and hot. It represents the daily fight of the good versus the bad, and it's a sport in which you have to cultivate yourself physically and mentally in order to sustain the physical wear and tear in a match. It isn't just stepping into the ring and jumping around. You have to learn how to wrestle in different styles: freestyle, Greco-Roman, submission and professionally.

You actually have to learn how to fall. You have to position the body when you fall, because even God won't take away the blow if you aren't positioned properly. We learn how to fall as evenly as possible.

But people keep thinking wrestling is fake, that in some fights all you see is ketchup or paint and not blood. People think we don't hurt ourselves. But our sport is the same as any other in that there is a physical risk. Wrestling is a not a contact sport; wrestling is a sport of physical impact.

There always are injuries that disfigure the body to the degree that a majority of old wrestlers carry canes or have back injuries. I think that reflects two things: (1) the wrestlers' professionalism to keep working while hurt and being there for the public; and (2) their love for this sport.

It saddens me that Mexican wrestling is going through a bad time. I foretold this would happen when American wrestling, World Wrestling Entertainment, arrived via television. I think the sport is being overexposed on television. You turn to a channel, and there is a wrestling show. Two days later, you turn to another channel, and there is a wrestling show. You turn to cable television, and there is another show … . The show is overexposed. Therefore, people won't go to the arenas.

And, yes, to that we add that the WWE has produced mega-shows with lights, fireworks, video, beautiful women, "monsters" in the ring who are physical specimens. Obviously, they attract the people's attention. It isn't like that in Mexico, but that's what we are up against.

I think the problem is with the companies that have the resources to compete with the American companies but don't. They're sleeping on it.

This hurts, because I have seen fellow wrestlers who have dedicated themselves 100 percent to wrestling, and it is putting their way of life in danger.

Wrestling has allowed me to combine my passion for the sport with the mission of helping those who need it. In my case, I consider myself an antihero, since my ring name doesn't allow me to have the image of someone who is good. I'm a demon, and I have to be that way in the ring. But underneath, I don't care about that path. I know I have to follow it to get what I want. That's why I'm happy to have the Blue Foundation -- Fundación Azul -- which helps kids who have cancer by being an intermediary between donors and the sick.

And I help to assemble conferences where we invite college students to develop awareness about health issues. We want to educate people to have a preventative culture with diseases so that they see a doctor before they are sick. They will go when they are healthy or at an early stage of an illness to detect anything that's wrong. We want to make people healthy, and above all, we want to make people smile, because kids shouldn't worry about anything other than being kids and having happy childhoods.

As you can see, I try to appreciate life. I like to help others. I would like my dad's legacy to continue, the character to be maintained, be it by a family member or by someone else, so that it keeps on going with a representative who has dignity. My dad knew how to prepare me to be who I am now, and I prepared myself during certain stages of my life.

Inside, I think I was the person destined to carry on the Blue Demon name, and that's why I got it in the ring. I will definitely do what my father did to find the next person to keep the character alive.