By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
So I'm sitting there in a bar, talking with a guy I know, and he's complaining to me about his job. This guy works in a furniture warehouse and he says that one of his coworkers is a wrestler.
A wrestler, huh?
Yes, indeed. He is the Drifter. And the Bladerunner. I found out other things about this mysterious man, but when I finally finagled a sit-down with theDrifter, a.k.a the Bladerunner, he himself swore me to secrecy. And I've got to respect that. Wrestling is a strange and guarded world where reality and fiction are wedded in a fog of body slams that don't break backs, and rules that are made to be broken.
It's a place where anybody with a little moxie and showmanship can step into a ring and be somebody until the bell rings, a place with the magical power to allow a guy to forget about stuff like moving furniture for a while. Success in this game can be measured by hatred from the fans, and hatred equals love.
Now, here's what I can tell you.
The Drifter calls the shots. I tell him on the phone we can meet anywhere he wants; dinner, drinks, whatever, I'm buying. He says, "You know the McDonald's at Rural and Baseline? Be there at six."
I'm there at ten minutes to six, but the man has beaten me. He sits alone in a booth, no food, not even a cup of coffee in front of him. He doesn't say a lot, offers intense, terse replies that sometimes border on some form of twisted haiku. I think.
The Drifter got into this wrestling game five years ago, but he'd been a fan since he was small. He was influenced by some of the greats: Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant, Bruiser Brody. Someday, the Drifter hopes he can attain the ultimate power status; he wants a slice of the big money. When I ask him how much he makes right now, well, "That's confidential."
From what I know of wrestling, itlooks rough. But maybe, I suggest, just maybe some of the big moves are--dare I say it?--staged. The Drifter just looks at me.
"Nah, man. It's real, it's real," he says without blinking. "Once a guy kneed me where it counts, kicked me, man. I went off on the guy. I body-pressed him, dropped him, got up on the third rope, did my leg drop off the third rope, got him up again, pressed him again and dropped him on his face. That's really about it. But he was hurtin'; so was I. Singing soprano.
"Another time I got power-drived, and he did it hard. I got hit with a chair over my head, split my head open," says the Drifter, who still has not blinked. "You know those folding chairs? The guy hit me over the head with that."
Is that legal?
"Whatever it takes to win, you do it. If the referee don't see it, you can do whatever the hell you want to."
Seems like it'd be pretty hard for a referee not to see a fellow bringing a metal folding chair into a ring, but the Drifter just shrugs.
"Well, he saw the blood. But the guy knocked the ref down first, and then hit me with the chair. ... But, honestly, I love it. Every time I do it, I want to do it more and more. There's times when I want to quit, but once I get in the ring, I just keep going on and on. It can be hard on you, but I put my mind to it and my heart to it, and I'm there."
Speaking of heart, don't let thisbig galoot (six foot five, 240pounds) fool you; he's tough, sure, but he's got the guts to tip his face mask to honest sentiment. I ask what his mom thinks about all of this.
"She thinks I'm crazy," he admits. "She thinks I'm nuts. It was a dream. I thought I'd never make it. Before my dad passed away, he said, 'You'll never accomplish it.' But I'm doing it."
Doing it he is. The Drifter, sometimes the Bladerunner, says he travels to matches in Texas, California and all over Arizona. Sometimes the fans dig him. Sometimes not.
"I wrestled in San Luis a couple months ago and they hated me over there. They knew I was the Bladerunner, and I wrote USA on me, and they hated me."
Mexico can be a tough gig, he says. "I come in and beat the heck out of their own people, and they boo. They boo and throw chairs. My partner got hit with a chair, and a guy's girlfriend threatened him, and her boyfriend started coming after him, and I was sitting there going, 'Whoa--let's get out of here!'
"And I wrestled an Indian on an Indian reservation. They weren't happy with me at all."
Okay. Talking in a McDonald's is fine, but I figure if I want to know the Drifter, I need to meet him on his turf. I need to see the man in the ring. It just so happens that he's going to Tucson to do what he does best. So am I.