Longform

Son of Slam

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These days, however, popular wisdom is that you have a better shot at fame and fortune by being on the receiving end of a flying folding chair.

"I guess I'm just starved for attention," says Ron Sutherland III, who, under the name Section 8, has wrestled on the border circuit for more than a decade. In fact, it was Sutherland who originally organized the wrestling franchise that George Crawford now operates.

Like many facets of the pro wrestling world, exact details of Sutherland's career are hard to pin down. Claiming to be a 15-year veteran of the biz, the 31-year-old would have had to have begun grappling in high school to rack up such a lengthy résumé.

Still, Sutherland is considerably more candid about his profession than most of his colleagues, the majority of whom would like the world to believe they're full-time superstars. In reality, only one wrestler from the border circuit has moved up to the next tier -- a character who calls himself Ed "American" Knight landed a contract wrestling on weekends in Las Vegas.

The rest of Crawford's rotating cast of a dozen or so still bring home the majority of the bacon via conventional day jobs: Shitara is a beautician in a Mexican salon, L'il Nasty Boy is a welder and "Pitbull" Patterson is a salesman for a cell-phone company.

"You can make from $25 to $125 a match," says Sutherland, who, when he isn't mixing it up in his gringo loco persona, manages one of his family's Tucson paint stores. "But after 15 years of wrestling, your knees and back start to go. I'm not going to wreck my knees for $25."

Add a C note, however, and Sutherland quickly forgets his aches and pains. Not only that, he'll happily reel off a laundry list of additional injuries sustained in the pro-wrestling fringe.

"I've had jalapeños rubbed in my eyes, I've started two riots and I've had fans stab me twice," he says. "It just comes with the territory."

For all his alleged physical wear 'n' tear, Sutherland still yearns for the wild days before George Crawford took over the operation. "It was billed as 'The Most Extreme Show on the Planet,'" rhapsodizes Sutherland. "You should see these videotapes I'm getting ready to release for sale. There's like 'Fuck' every other word. That was some really brutal wrestling."


Toward the end of the three-hour Wildcat House card, there's reason to believe that the wrestlers had been less brutalized than the audience's collective credulity.

Before the match is even over, Shitara has already slipped out of her grappling Gorgon gear, and, now in street clothes, looks like an attractive young woman ready for a date.

Section 8, who'd been bleeding profusely from a head wound, now has not so much as a scratch.

And, while signing $5 color photocopies for the fans, arch rivals L'il Nasty Boy and "Pitbull" Patterson joke between themselves like the best of buds.

And as a couple of kids in masks chase each other around the bar, no one so much as raises an eyebrow (or a middle finger) when one of the wrestlers reminds them of an upcoming match at another Tucson bar. "I want to see the rest of you little burritos at Wong's!"

Contact Dewey Webb at his online address: [email protected]

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Dewey Webb