Bodies, wrestle and motion

Two professional wrestlers take the issue of illegal immigration into the ring

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High-flying, mat-pounding professional wrestling comes to Reno when the Lucha Libre USA “Masked Warriors Live” tour kicks off at the Reno Events Center on March 23. The tour features legends of Mexican lucha libre (“free fighting”) wrestling, like Blue Demon, Jr., who, in Reno, goes up against controversial, outspoken American wrestler RJ Brewer, a staunch advocate of cracking down on illegal immigration.

As always, the best pro wrestling blurs the lines between fact and fiction, and this fight also promises to blur the line between entertainment and politics. We spoke to both wrestlers. (Blue Demon, Jr., spoke with the assistance of a translator, and some minor grammatical errors have been corrected.)

RJ Brewer

Tell me your feelings about immigration.

Basically, my job in Lucha Libre USA is I have [a] contract. And my contract is as a pro wrestler, but it’s more than just a wrestling contract. It’s more of a job for me. It’s more of a mission to try to weed the bad out of the company, and keep the good. And there’s not much good right now, because, you know, these guys that wear these masks, nobody really knows who they are. Nobody knows their true identities, and nobody has actually ID-ed them to see if they’re legal and they have the proper paperwork to work in the United States. I understand that lucha libre is a culture that’s very rich in Mexico, but here in the United States, it’s not, and the reason for that is because it’s not part of our culture. We don’t wear masks. We don’t have six-sided rings, and we don’t have these funny costumes. For me, it’s insulting that they’re allowed to come into my land and perform without even being checked to see if they have the right documents. So, my job is to go in there, and, one by one, take out all the wrestlers that don’t belong.

So this is something you take pretty seriously …

Of course. It’s my job. You have to take it seriously, especially when you’re wrestling in front of these partisan crowds. You go out there, and these fans don’t care for you. Ninety-nine percent of the fans that go to these shows are Latinos, and they’re going to voice their opinions. So I have to physically do the job, and that’s what you have to focus on to do, because you’ve got these people screaming at you, throwing things at you. It gets a little distracting, so it’s very serious. It’s not easy.

So within lucha libre, you’re kind of the villain?

Oh yeah, big time. There are a couple other Americans that wrestle, but the embrace the Lucha Libre style and they’re fan favorites. I’m definitely the guy—when I come out, they know who I am, they know what I stand for, and immediately let me know that I’m not welcome. I’m definitely the villain, definitely the outsider. I’m the minority in that company, ironically enough.

Do you see yourself as the villain?

No, not at all. Of course not. I’m a proud American. I’m trying to protect my country from these enemies, these guys that haven’t documented themselves yet. For me, I’m a hero. I’m not a villain. But, obviously, when you’re wrestling in front of a crowd that’s made up of Latinos that are going to be biased toward the Mexican wrestlers, I’m a villain. But to my mind, I’m not.

Your opponent in Reno, Blue Demon, Jr., is an example of a wrestler who wears a mask and is anonymous, right?

Oh yeah. He’s a legend in Mexico. He basically represents everything that I don’t represent. So that’s why there’s this big clash of styles. There’s a clash of minds and a clash of mentalities. He’s the proud Mexican wrestler. He’s been doing it for ages. He’s been in soap operas and movies and Dancing with the Stars in Mexico. So he’s a big star there. But he comes over to the United States, and I don’t understand why he’s a big star. Maybe the Mexican stars appreciate what he’s done over there, but he hasn’t done anything here yet. So my feeling is that hey, he has to prove himself. If he can prove himself against me, then maybe I’ll show him respect as a wrestler, but as a person, I still don’t know if he has the proper documentation to work here. That’s a different mission, and that’s what I’m going to try to accomplish in Reno.

Why is professional wrestling a forum for talking about immigration?

Because there’s 50 million Latinos in the United States and they’re very dedicated and very loyal to what they chose to watch, whether its soccer or wrestling, which are the two biggest sports. So in arenas like that, you know you’re going to get thousands of fans, so what better place to spread the message of, hey, this is what we want, this is what’s going on, than somewhere there’s thousands gathering? I’m a professional wrestler, so for me it only fits to go into the ring and battle it that way. If I was a soccer player, then I would probably have the same mentality, just in a different sport. It’s basically, I’m taking my profession … [and] my background in politics, all the tools I have, and I’m meshing it into one that will spell disaster for the Mexican wrestlers.

A lot of the wrestling fans see you as the villain, but you do have fans. What do they say?

Blue Demon, Jr., and RJ Brewer, above, will meet in the ring in Reno on March 23.

A lot of the really, really right wing fans, the real right wing Republican fans kind of appreciate me, but sometimes it’s not the kind of people I want. Those are more just rednecks looking to hate somebody. I’m not about hate. I’m not against legal immigration—I’m against illegal immigration. I’ve got no problem with people coming to this country the right way, and working, getting the proper paperwork, coming here and finding a trade or getting a job and doing well. That’s fine. But the ones who sneak in illegally, come here and hide, and abuse the system, get free health care, those are the kind of people I’m trying to eliminate. If these wrestlers show me the documentation that they’re legal to work, then fine. But until then, I assume that they’re not.

If Blue Demon, Jr., showed you his documentation, would you not want to wrestle him anymore?

No. My job as a wrestler is still my job as a wrestler.

Blue Demon, Jr.

For U.S. audiences who might not be familiar with him, tell me about your father, the original Blue Demon.

Well, he was my teacher. He was my father. He was the best man for me. I have my legacy. He was a great person.

How do you carry on his legacy?

I try to put his name, his legacy on the top. The first ranking of all time. When I went to my school, I was trying very hard and well, I glad my workouts every day two hours and a half, two hours, and I go to teaching in my home for three or four more hours more. … We trained together and he taught me for many, many years. … He supported me. I was a student to him, for his techniques—all the movements, headlocks—he showed them to me, everything for this sport.

When you come here to Reno, you have a bout with RJ Brewer. What are your thoughts on that match and RJ?

Well, I think RJ is a good wrestler, but he has a big mouth. He talk about me many, many times badly. This is the match of real life. Blue Demon is the Latino people, and RJ is the American government in Phoenix. Well, we have a battle. I’m the victim in this moment versus RJ. And I hope I kick his ass.

He says that some of the Mexican wrestlers come here illegally. How do you respond to that?

I have my papers in order. I have my passport, my social security too. I’m not illegal. Maybe the illegal is him, not me. … He talks about many things about the illegals, but I’ve never seen his passport. I’ve never seen anything about him. He tried to show something, but he’s never shown anything.

He complains about the fact that you wear a mask. He says that you’re trying to hide your identity. For you what is the symbolism of the mask? Why wear a mask?

I have my mask. I have my other identity. But I never show my face in public. That is my legacy. My mask for me is my legacy, my everything. RJ wants to show my face. Well, he doesn’t have anything to bet. He doesn’t have hair. He doesn’t have money. Maybe it’s mask versus career.

What’s going to happen in the fight?

I hope I win. … I try to make everything. I have my technique, my mat technique, my sweep, slide—everything.

What’s your strategy against RJ?

I don’t have a strategy. I go to fight. I go to wrestle. I have 27 years in this sport. I have more experience. I don’t believe in strategies. He’s not a government. He’s only a wrestler. … He’s only a human being. And in the arena, I want to see him face to face, and I hope he’s very, very ready for me, but I think I’ll kick his ugly ass.