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COLUMN ONE

'Crusader' against illegal immigration brings his message to the mat

'RJ Brewer' — real name, John Stagikas — has wrestled his way across the Southwest on the 'Masked Warriors' tour, to almost entirely hostile crowds. His shaved-headed, in-your-face character was created two years ago by the Mexican American wrestling promotion company Lucha Libre USA.

April 10, 2012|By Hector Becerra, Los Angeles Times

Stagikas takes the role seriously. He reads newspapers and watches TV news and political debates to sharpen his declarations on illegal immigration. Stagikas wants his trash talk to sound credible, and he doesn't want to be seen a mere lunatic ranter.

"I'd rather not attract the Ted Nugent crowd," he said.

His father eats up his bad guy role. But his mother — his real mother — worries a little about her son.

Emotions do run high whenever he has a match, and security guards are warned to keep an eye out in case the crowd gets too riled up.

In Stockton, one guard stared out at the roughly 3,000 wrestling fanatics in the arena, many wearing masks and face paint that made them look like extras from a Mexican version of "Braveheart." "What can we do?" he said. "I'm not paid enough to get trampled."

Most matches, however, are trouble-free. There's just a lot of bilingual trash talk and snacks thrown into the ring.

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On this night in Stockton, the voice of the ring announcer bellows through the arena: "He is the Arizona Patriot ... RJ Brewer!"

Brewer takes the microphone and vows to unmask and retire his rival, Blue Demon Jr. — the son of a legendary Mexican wrestler — and "send him with a one-way ticket back to Mexico."

Cheers erupted when Blue Demon Jr. took the microphone.

"You talk about your mother ... and about the Mexicans, but you forgot to tell people one thing," the Mexican wrestler told Brewer in Spanish. "Son of mine, I'm your daddy!"

"Y te voy a regresar a tu casa, a punto de patadas — con tu madre!" he said. I'm going to kick you back home — to your mother!

The bell clanged and the two wrestlers grappled, kicked and slapped. Blue Demon Jr. stuffed a discarded pretzel into Brewer's mouth.

A few cheers of "U.S.A." rang through the hall. When the Mexican wrestler seemed on the defensive, the crowd yelled: "Si se puede! Yes, we can!

Brewer pulled out some "brass knuckles" hidden in a corner of the ring and punched Blue Demon Jr., seeming to pull close to victory. But then the referee discovered the weapon and it dropped to the floor. In the confusion, Blue Demon Jr. found the knuckles and knocked out Brewer.

The Mexican wrestler told the adoring crowd that he knows, undocumented or not, they earn their money with a lot of sweat, blood and hard work.

Then, standing over his prone opponent, he told Brewer: "Go back to your mother, the governor."

The delighted crowd roared.

Defeated, Brewer staggered back to his dressing room, his head hung low. He puffed his cheeks in exhaustion and began to pick away at the wraps around his wrists.

Outside, the crackle of the cheering crowd continued to reverberate through the arena.

"I lost," the wrestler said with a wink. "That seems to happen a lot."

PHOTOS: Wrestler takes his message to the mat

hector.becerra@latimes.com

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