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Mexico has taken its share of punches from President Trump. He's accused Mexico of sending rapists and criminals to the U.S. And he's threatened to make it pay for a border wall. Well, all of this has left Mexicans confused, angry and ready to blow off some steam. Mexican professional wrestling is giving its fans that chance. James Fredrick has this story from Mexico City.
JAMES FREDRICK, BYLINE: Sam Polinksy is getting his long, blond mohawk straightened. He's transforming into his wrestling alter ego, Sam Adonis.
SAM POLINSKY: In a few minutes, I have to put on my spray tan. I make sure my tights are in tip-top shape and clean. My boots will be polished.
FREDRICK: The 6-foot-5 American is fighting tonight in Arena Mexico, the holy site of Mexican lucha libre. It's a mix of wild acrobatics, slapstick comedy and a battle between good and evil. Sam's been fighting here as a bad guy for several months. But his career has skyrocketed since Donald Trump was elected.
POLINSKY: So I had the perfect idea. Why not come to the ring with a flag? But I want to take this to a whole other level. And I have a, you know, 4-foot flag with a giant face of Donald Trump on it.
FREDRICK: That's right. Sam plays a Trump fanatic who gets to beat up on Mexicans in the ring. He's using Trump's insults and threats against Mexico to bring real emotions into the show. Backstage at the arena, he pulls on his tights, spray painted an array of neon colors. On his right butt cheek - Donald Trump's face. Now, I have to ask the obvious question. Is he a Trump fan?
POLINSKY: I can't say I support him. But I definitely support him more than Hillary Clinton. But I'm definitely thankful he's in the position because it's putting more money in my pocket.
FREDRICK: It's showtime. Sam is lined up in a 3-versus-3 match - good guys versus villains. You can guess which side Sam's on. He takes the stage under the spotlight. He smiles and snarls, waving his Trump flag.
The fight is about to start. And Sam is down on the ground, saluting the crowd, waving his American flag with Trump's face on it around. And the crowd is worked up. He's being met with expletives and middle fingers everywhere he looks. It's getting rough in here.
With flips and kicks, the fight heats up. Everything hinges on Sam's actions. When he wins a takedown, he taunts the audience, and they yell back.
FREDRICK: When he gets body slammed, the crowd erupts in euphoria.
FREDRICK: In the end, Sam and his fellow baddies lose. He leaves the stage sheepishly as the crowd taunts him. Backstage, Angel de Oro, a masked Mexican wrestler decked out in gold, stays firmly in character as he talks about beating up Sam.
ANGEL DE ORO: (Speaking Spanish).
FREDRICK: "To be honest, it felt good hitting him," he says through his mask. "We returned every one of the insults he threw at the Mexican people with a punch."
DE ORO: (Speaking Spanish).
FREDRICK: But something unexpected happens. I go back into the arena, asking fans what they thought of this Trump-loving gringo. And everyone I speak to reacts like Marco Espinosa.
MARCO ESPINOSA: (Speaking Spanish).
FREDRICK: "He's great," he says. "The important part of lucha libre is to relieve your stress, to yell, for the crowd to get fired up. He's the best."
By being the ultimate bad guy, Sam ignites the crowd and turns the Mexican fighters into heroes. As for the future of the Trump character, Sam says he'd reconsider using it if the situation between the U.S. and Mexico turned violent. But right now he thinks this Trump gag is going to make him a star.
POLINSKY: I want to be larger than life. I want to be a part of the culture, part of everything. I want to be, you know, for all intents and purposes, the Hulk Hogan of Mexico.
FREDRICK: For NPR News, I'm James Fredrick in Mexico City.
(SOUNDBITE OF BRIGHTBLACK MORNING LIGHT SONG, "EVERYBODY DAYLIGHT")
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