Arizona's controversial immigration law SB 1070 has cause some heated confrontations across the country this week.
In Washington on Wednesday, attorneys arguing both for and against the "papers please" legislation verbally duked it out in front of the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, opponents of the law were arrested by Phoenix police during a demonstration downtown.
And come this Sunday, SB 1070 is going to cause professional wrestler RJ Brewer to engage in battle with masked Mexican luchadores.
As we blogged earlier this month, the 32-year-old grappler (who claims to be the son of Governor Jan Brewer) is a villain on MTV2's Lucha Libre USA: Masked Warriors Live espouses anti-immigration rhetoric and uses SB 1070 as motivation to fight Mexican-born wrestlers.
Lucha Libre USA is staging a live wrestling event at Celebrity Theatre this weekend and Brewer (whose real name is John Stagikas) will take on famed Mexican icon Blue Demon Jr. in the squared circle.
Jackalope Ranch recently spoke with Brewer both in and out of character and learned why he honestly believes in anti-immigration policies, how he enjoys being a villain, and how the Governor's Office has reacted to him
Are you the main villain of Lucha Libre USA?
I would say for sure. Not that I'm the only American, there are a few other Americans [in Lucha Libre USA], I am the only American that stands for the opposite of what everybody else stands for. Everybody there is pretty much embracing the lucha libre style and are there to represent that culture and I'm pretty much on the other spectrum so it's definitely a clash there. So I would say I'm the most hated guy in the locker room, no doubt about it.
So why are you battling against Mexican wrestlers?
Basically, it's not me versus them. It's not the U.S. versus Mexico. It's not bad versus good. It's legal versus illegal. There's not a lot of gray areas when it comes to being illegal. If you break the law, you break the law. In [Lucha Libre USA], these guys have masks. I don't know who they are, I don't know where they come from, I don't even know if they're legal to work here to make the money off of the product so for me, I take offense to that and so my goal is to go in there, wrestle these guys, take their masks off, expose them and send them home if they don't belong here.
Do you hate the lucha libre style of wrestling?
Lucha libre has a very rich, long tradition in Mexico. You go to these predominantly Latino cities in the United States and they've got carts of masks for sale, so obviously it's part of their culture. In the United States, there's a much different style of wrestling. I don't think [the American style] is being appreciated as much now that there's lucha libre is becoming more popular. And it's not so much the lucha style of wrestling that bothers me so much and who these Mexican wrestlers are and the fact that they're coming here and they're profiting here.
What do you mean?
These guys come here and I've asked them countless times to show me their IDs, that they're legal to work here, and they don't. And I have no support from management on this issue. I'm kind of a one-man campaign right now trying to change things. I just don't think there is a place for it in the U.S.
And the fans really hate you, right?
Oh, absolutely, that's become the norm for sure. From the very first show we had it's been that way, a large Latino crowd and you've got a guy in the ring who represents the opposite of what they represent, so there's always going to be a big conflict. Let's face it, this is a Latino promotion and a Latino audience.
Do you enjoy being hated?
Nobody enjoys getting stuff thrown at them, but if they're booing I know I'm getting my message across. The louder they boo, the more I realize they understand who I am and what I stand for, so it's part of the job. For me to not get booed means they don't care. And that would be a bad thing because there's nothing worse than a wrestler, particularly someone like me, who's got a message and the crowd doesn't care.
What sorts of insults have fans used?
There's been signs toward my mother or about how I'm a son of a bitch or the typical "Yes we can" in Spanish [a.k.a. Si Se Puede]. And they tell me to leave in Spanish and chant "Mexico." I've become pretty fluent in all the Spanish curse words.
Have any Hispanics made death threats against you?
No threats, [but] obviously you get people who are pretty wound up. They'll throw beer or food or a Mexican flag in my face and just usually shout and jeer and that kind of stuff. But there's never anything too violent. I think, in the end, people know that wrestling is there to entertain, and regardless of what I say, there's obviously other stuff that's making them happy. So for the most part, I think people are coming to have fun and unwind, but it's a relevant topic that people aren't too happy about. So it might get a little more serious than normal, but so far I've been pretty safe.
Are fans at Celebrity Theatre going to be just as vocal on Sunday?
Probably. The reception I've gotten so far with fans consistently throwing stuff at me and being very loud and very pro-Mexico, and I don't expect anything different because the heart of the immigration issue is in Arizona and continues to be an issue that I think might be a little louder and a little more volatile. It's not going to be anything I'm not already used to, but I think it might be turned up a couple notches.
Have you been embraced by the anti-immigration or nativist crowd?
You get Facebook messages here and there, people saying that they support me. Actually, I was invited to be the guest speaker at a Russell Pearce fundraiser that they are doing and I can't make it because we will be in Texas wrestling.
Yeah, the fundraiser is in May and they asked me to come there but I can't. I might tell them something or write something for them to read off. You get occasional support here and there but for the most part [those] people don't watch and they're not fans, so the nativists are few and far between. It's cool to like the bad guy sometimes.
Do you still patrol the border?
Right now we're in the middle of a very busy tour so I haven't gone every weekend. I've got to have some alone time too. I'll pick that up again soon.
Professional wrestling has frequently pitted evil foreigners against heroic Americans. Is this a merely a reversal of that situation?
Yeah. Normally it's an American hero with a foreigner from Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan or maybe even a Russian. So the roles are reversed and it's the same, but never has it been this political. Never before been geared toward a topic that's so controversial. It's causing the uproar with how relevant the immigration issue is.
Very doubtful. I would hope they would send her an invitation, but so far she's refused to comment on any of this. I don't know if she thinks it's going to make her look bad or what. She's a busy woman, I'm sure she has her own battles to take care of so I doubt she will be there but you never know.
Has the governor reacted to what you do?
No, I haven't heard anything. I know there are plenty of reporters who have contacted her and she refuses to comment. One reporter in California said that her office's words were, "Yes we know about it, we never commented before, we're not going to start now." Sometimes no comment is just as good as anything.
Have you read the governor's book Scorpions for Breakfast yet?
I actually just ordered it. I fly into Phoenix a lot and I look all over the bookstores in the airport and I can't seem to find it. So, no, I haven't read it yet so that's on my goal, it should be coming next week so I'm interested in reading it.
Jan's gotten flack for her controversial positions, not only on immigration but most recently on abortion. How do you feel about your, uh...mom's policies?
You know, there's no perfect politician, obviously. If they were, they wouldn't be politicians. The stance she's taking against immigration is the main one because it's obviously a big problem. You've got four really, really big states that border Mexico and the borders aren't being secured no matter what people think and I just think our government is so obsessive with the Middle East that they forget about our own country. There are a lot of parts of America that have become like the Third World, which is really pathetic when you think that we're supposed to be the superpower. So that's the main issue that she is talking about that I think is most important. Her abortion bill, which I heard briefly about, is more hostile toward women. I really don't know too much about it.
Breaking kayfabe for a moment, what's it been like to play this villain?
Before RJ Brewer was born, I was just a pro wrestler. I was known and I was respected, but it wasn't a voice. Sometimes you can do everything you want to do in the ring and you can look good, work your way up, and get the right connections, but being able to talk and spread your message verbally is more important than what you do in the ring.
So you honestly believe in the anti-immigration message you're spreading?
Yeah, this has really given me the opportunity now that I have a platform, whether it be live shows or through radio or through newspapers, or through TV to spread my message. This is definitely the most fulfilling but at the same time the most work I've done because everyone seems to want to talk to me, but I don't mind it because things have to be said. And I don't think that it's a bad thing that I'm busy.
Are you just milking a timely topic of immigration to get a cheap reaction?
With wrestling, I think that people know that it's theatre and people know that what we do is meant to entertain, but if there's not a little bit of you inside the character, then it's not going to be as effective. The fans are the ones that pay to view it, they're going to know if you're not sincere and they're going to know that you're full of shit, so there has to be a lot of you in the character. Cheap heat only exists if you're not good at what you do. I can go out and be from Boston and say, "Yankees suck," but if I don't have the facts to back it up then it's not as effective.
I know what I'm talking about, I've always been passionate about politics and I have a side and I have a stance here. It would be easy for me to come out and say, "Hey Latinos leave." But when I give valid reasons then that irritates them even more, it really hits home. I think you have to be good at the topic you're given and then it's not cheap if you give it to them that way.
So you're an expert on immigration issues?
I watch the news, I read newspapers, and I read the New York Times. So this isn't something just because I'm on TV now playing RJ Brewer character, so all of a sudden I have to sound smart. We could have had a conversation even two years ago before I started this about where immigration is going. I think every person should follow that stuff because of the world we live in, they're important topics and not watch Jersey Shore every night.
Mick Foley once said that the best wrestling villains honestly believe their cause is just. Do you agree?
Yeah, I agree 100 percent. I am RJ Brewer, that's what I am. How long I'll be him for, who knows? I'm not going to shortchange myself or the fans if I don't honestly believe what I'm doing. You have to believe in the character, you have to believe what you're saying is true.