BY JAVIER ORTIZ
Some people, when they graduate high school and it’s time to think about what they want to do in life, follow the advice from a school counselor or their parents. A small number of students follow their dream, and Richard Ignacio is one of them.
After he finished high school he followed his childhood dream of becoming a wrestler. When he was in second grade, Ignacio said “I’m going to be a wrestler,” and now, at age 38, he proudly says, “I said I was going to be a wrestler, and I did it”.
Ignacio was born in Oxnard, California and came to Holtville when he was 1 years old. He attended local schools and watched wrestling matches in Mexicali with his grandma.
His grandma was a big fan of wrestling, and she would attend local meets in Mexicali or watch wrestling television. Richard liked to watch Hulk Hogan on television. The Hulk was one of Ignacio’s favorite wrestlers.
Ignacio has been used to being around wrestlers since they would live in his grandma’s house while they worked in the fields during the week and on the weekend they would get ready for their shows. He learned how to do some basic moves and to rolling and conditioning training.
He recalls watching Bret Hart on television and wanting to imitate some of his moves. When he graduated from Holtville High School in 1996, Ignacio quickly decided what to do after high school. He wanted to become a wrestler.
He searched for a wrestling school in Mexicali and then began training as a wrestler. At first he hid the fact that he was training to be a wrestler because he was afraid his family wouldn’t support him.
Initially, he would tell his parents that he had joined a basketball league in Mexicali to cover up his scratches and bruises from training at the wrestling school. When his parents saw him with stitches on his head, he had to admit to the truth. His family was reluctant about the fact that he wanted to be a wrestler, but they were supportive nonetheless about his career choice.
In October of 1999, he made his professional debut as a wrestler. Ignacio’s original name was going to be “Conde Negro” (The Black Count) but immediately it was changed by a request of his trainer. He changed his name to “American Rebel” since he was an American. He knew perfect Spanish, but as part of his persona, he pretended to be American who didn’t understand Spanish.
When Ignacio started wrestling in the Los Angeles area, he changed his name to “Maximo” and pretended to be a Mexican wrestler who didn’t know English. His matches were mostly in Mexicali, and Ignacio was getting paid between $50 to $150 dollars depending on the venue.
When he was training and studying wrestling, most of his influence came from wrestler “Tiger Mask”, a wrestler from Japan. As his career grew he got to fight with big name wrestlers in Mexicali and in the United States including Cybernetico, Super Porky, Ari Romero, Electroshock, El Zorro, El Hijo del Fantasma, Tejano, Negro Casas, Felino and Conan. Some of Ignacio’s memorable matches were doing tag team matches with the Ego Boys which he recalls to being “really fun”. Not only did he fight professional wrestlers, but Ignacio was featured in the Mexican magazine Guerreros.
Some of his matches were televised on Mexican television, and some of his fights may be found on YouTube if you search for his wrestling name “American Rebel”.
Ignacio remarked that some of the arduous training that comes along with being a wrestler is going into the gym and doing a lot of cardio as well as weight lifting. He said, “it helps to stay active playing some athletic sport to keep in top shape.” Some of the nuggets of wisdom that Ignacio shared with me about what is required to be a wrestler is to have a lot of dedication as well as have good conditioning to stay strong.
There are many wrestlers trying to become pros or “make it big,” and everyone is waiting to have a chance. As more people leave the wrestling scene others are ready to take your spot. “There are not a lot of friends in this business,” Richard said. He also stressed, there is also a lot of people trying to tell you that you can’t do it or that you are not good at it, but you must have a strong will and do it to follow your dreams.”
To any aspiring wrestler some of the advice that Richard gives to people is that they should have their family support if they are seriously considering a career in wrestling because that really helps as a moral support. He recommends watching wrestling not only on television and watching local shows to study wrestling moves and to have a lot of patience because it takes around two years to become a wrestler.
One of the changes that Ignacio has seen in his wrestling career is
that with the internet more, of the business is exposed.
Each wrestler has his own “persona” and has his own little back story, but now everyone can find out anything about that person on the internet once you know their real name, so they try to keep those identities a secret in order to keep part of the fantasy alive.
In September 2014, Ignacio had his last fight as a professional wrestler, and his career changed from being a wrestler to becoming a manager/promoter for other aspiring and upcoming wrestlers as well as some other well-known professional wrestlers.
One of the reasons that Ignacio became a promoter is that when he participated in wrestling matches, there were many errors that could have been solved with better management. He told himself that if he was a manager, he would do things differently.
That opportunity came to him one day when he was asked to promote a show in Mexicali. He took the challenge of setting up the venue, and he received a lot of positive reaction from wrestlers and the crowd on how he ran things. From there he started his career from wrestler to promoter.
One of the things that Ignacio likes about being a promoter is that he gets to enjoy setting up his venues and planning how the stage is set up before the event. This includes from where the lights go to
where the cameras are going to be. He enjoys being in the back directing everything and enjoying seeing the crowd either cheering or booing for their favorite wrestlers.
Some of the challenges that Ignacio faced early on in his career as a promoter was that he had to learn the different “territories other promoters have and respect them” because that’s what causes feuds between companies. He said “You have to find a place where they are not doing wrestling events”. Another early challenge that he faced was trying to find loyal and dedicated staff that would help him with the logistics and planning of the events as well as working with the local authorities to get required permits for the venues.
One of the biggest matches that he promoted locally was at the El Centro PAL where over 400 people attended the show. Fans from all over the valley as well as Mexicali came to see the show where the main event featured Hijo de Rey Misterio. Many big companies gave prizes. Flipz performed a half time show for the event.
As a promoter, Ignacio met and promoted some famous wrestlers from the United States as well as Mexico side, including Volador Junior, Shocker, Atlantis, La Sombra, Bran Kendrick, John Morrison, Joey Ryan, Psicosis, La Mascara, Extreme Tiger, Dragon Rojo, Rey Bucannero, Super Porky, Hijo de Rey Misterio. A memorable meeting he remembers is with Mando Guerrero who is the older brother of Eddie Guerrero. Richard Ignacio’s company, Desert Pro Wrestling (DPW) wants to be recognized locally as a professional wrestling company. He wants to have a permanent location to be able to have bi-monthly shows for his fans.
Ignacio is currently running a wrestling school hosted at the Sparta Boxing Gym in El Centro on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 8:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. for $30 per month. He is also working as a promoter for a few events.
There is a show coming on October 7th and another November 18th at the Sparta Boxing Gym in El Centro. Anyone is welcome to attend. The shows are family friendly and the cost is $10 for and adult and $5 for kids. Family packs are available for $25 for 2 adults and 3 kids. Richard Ignacio said “It’s cheaper than the movies.”