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Wrestling the Devil’s Back: A Chiropractor's Strange Encounter with a Luchador 

Tuesday, Nov 25 2014
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Time seems to move slower down on the Peninsula. For visiting San Franciscans, it feels like it's moving backward. Vast swaths of the place eerily resemble the way the Mission used to look in a grittier and less beard- and tech-heavy era. And yet, a billboard looming over a Redwood City muffler shop harks to a peculiar tale even San Francisco can't touch.

A bilingual ad for a chiropractor isn't that jarring. But the image on this one is. Alongside the sheepishly smiling, white-coated Dr. Joseph Awender is a man wearing an elegant striped blue Oxford shirt that, oddly, matches his blue wrestling mask. The accompanying text reads: El Chiropractico y Amigo de Blue Demon (Blue Demon's Chiropractor and Friend). "Well, it's kind of a long story," says Awender with a laugh.

Do tell. Time, after all, does move slower down here.

It started in 2009 when Awender received a call on a Sunday at 10 p.m. from one of his employees. Would it be possible for him to treat a man in his office, right now? Also, the man's name is "Blue Demon."

For some reason, this didn't register as unusual with Awender. Some 90 percent of his clientele is Spanish-speaking and a goodly number of them work long hours at physically demanding jobs and can't make appointments at conventional times. So, in a way, this trip to meet "Blue Demon" wasn't so unusual.

Until it was. Blue Demon is a Spanish-speaking man with a physically demanding job: He's a 48-year-old dynastic Mexican wrestler, the son of the original Blue Demon, and a Mexican matinee idol. Awender arrived at his darkened Redwood City office to discover Blue Demon's full entourage surrounding the wrestler, who was still wearing his signature mask.

Awender treated Blue Demon's aching ankles. He has, in the years since, treated him half a dozen or more times for ankle and back problems. Blue Demon has never removed his mask during treatments. Blue Demon, in fact, pretty much never removes his mask, period. "The only time they do that is if they lose a match," says the doctor.

In the countless films starring the masked luchadores of Mexican wrestling, the oversize men battle vampire women, Martians, and mummies while interfacing with regular society as their masked, wrestling alter-egos. Even for the kids scraping together a few pesos for a Sunday wrestling flick, that seemed fanciful. We haven't yet been beset by vampire women, Martians, or mummies — but, as Awender can attest, luchadores really do roam about in their masks, interacting with regular society.

"Super nice guy," says the doctor. But he wouldn't know him if he walked in, sans costume. "I've only seen him in the blue mask."

About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Bio:
Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.

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