Meet the Mexican Wrestler Who Runs a Steakhouse
José Luis Jair Soria opened his Argentine-style restaurant after a knee injury forced him out of the ring.
This article originally appeared on MUNCHIES Mexico.
To understand the history of Guapo Grill, you have to know what happened seven years ago, when a knee injury forced Shocker—the Mexican professional wrestler José Luis Jair Soria—to leave the world of lucha libre and learn how to earn a living outside the ring. Miles away from the applause of his fans, he went to the supermarket every day to buy ingredients for his restaurant, the culmination of his new dream: Create a franchise, launch a line of Mexican salsas, and turn himself into an entrepreneur. That's how Che Guapo (named for the line that's been Shocker's signature in and out of the ring: "I'm 1,000 percent Guapo!"), a taco shop specialising in fine cuts of meat, was born in the Santa Cruz Atoyac neighbourhood of Mexico City.
With his body in shambles, he decided to dedicate himself to running a kitchen and rebuilding himself anew. He'd have more time for himself, for his family and his fans—nearly all of whom are kids and who see in Shocker an idol made of flesh and bone. He enjoyed serving tacos and taking care of diners, who'd always ask for an autograph or a picture, or who'd ask about his feats at the Arena México venue. "I felt like Sylvester Stallone in Rocky VI, when everyone went to his restaurant to hear him tell stories about boxing in the old days," recalls Shocker, who weighs more than 220 pounds, laughing.
But as the months went by, Jair Soria discovered that he needed something more than the presence of Shocker for the place to make a profit. Between the cost of the ingredients, employee salaries, and the rent, the business lasted little more than a year.
But Jair Soria wasn't quite done yet. He started inviting his friends to Arena México on Saturdays, where he'd sell cuts of meat and prep salsas on the spot. Luchadors like Místico, Mr. Niebla, and Dragón Rojo, and the sports commentator Dr. Morales were his VIP clients.
There were personal needs to attend to as well. Shocker wanted to return to the ring. To be the hero of Arena México. To travel to different parts of the Mexican Republic. He missed his glittering outfits and the applause of the public. With his body rested and ready to receive more hits, he convinced himself that retirement could wait.
And while he told himself that he didn't want to be in the kitchen anymore, he met Carlos Echeverría, a local chef who proposed that they partner to create an Argentine-style steakhouse. And so Guapo Grill was born in 2012.
Although there are some occasions when it's hard to distinguish Jair Soria from Shocker, it's clear that one persona can't exist without the other. Both know that to triumph, you have to have hunger for success and hunger for food. For that reason, one of the maxims of Guapo Grill is "make the food just as you'd eat it yourself," says Shocker, a devotee of meat, who, while explaining each plate, salivates with anticipation.
If Guapo Grill functioned like the human body, Shocker would be the eyes or the stomach, while Carlos, his partner, would be the hands and the brain. In this place, the word "guapo" is more than a physical virtue; it's a brand that's exploited even on the menu, where the specialty is the "Che" Guapo salad, in honor of the past: A mix of lettuces, tomato, onion, cranberry, Gouda, and a white wine vinaigrette. If the client wishes, chicken or steak can be added.
The restaurant is known for its meats: rib-eye, the New York strip, cowboy steak, and chistorra (a quickly-cured Spanish sausage), all served on top of a huge block of Himalayan salt. Another classic is the cheese and corn empanada, as well as the citrus chimichurri—for which only Echeverría knows the original recipe.
A meal can cost between $250 and $300 pesos (which is roughly $16 USD), but each plate is so large it can be shared by two people. And the décor? it's much more soccer-themed than lucha libre, just like a good Argentinean restaurant should be.
At Guapo Grill, it's easier to share your table with Latin celebrities Ricky Martín, Luis Miguel, Pedro Infante, or Mauricio Garcés, who appear in the form of cardboard cutouts, than with Shocker himself. His schedule is focused on events at Arena México, and in other venues around the country or the United States.
At age 45, Shocker knows that retirement is approaching. But he's still trying to hang on a little longer, even though his body is pleading for a break: After four operations, and injuries to his jaw, knees, elbows, and hips, he's still soldiering on.
His presence beams out from a mural on the main wall of Guapo Grill. There, below Diego Armando Maradona, Tin Tán, John Lennon, and Cuauhtémoc Blanco—his idols for life—appears Shocker, "the 1000 percent Guapo," with his black leotard, blonde hair, and dark glasses. When asked about the accessory, he explains, "a Televisa executive told me that famous people always wear sunglasses."