by Daniel Johnson
Interviewer’s Note: RJ Brewer is arguably one of the most innovative characters in wrestling to come along in years. Speaking in favor of anti-illegal immigration policy and in particular the Arizona SB 1070 Act, Brewer made an impact that went beyond Lucha Libre USA (LLUSA), where he had been performing most often at the time. Brewer was covered by major media outlets throughout the United States and perhaps unsurprisingly went on to win the LLUSA Heavyweight Championship. Previously, Brewer had wrestled for ROH where he held the ROH Pure Championship and was known as “Hurricane” John Walters. Most recently Brewer has performed for Big Time Wrestling (BTW) in the northeast. Brewer has an official website, can be followed on Twitter @rjbrewer1070, can be found on Facebook here and can be found on YouTube here. This interview was completed on October 15, 2013. In this interview Brewer and I focus on his anti-illegal immigration character.
Daniel Johnson: In a nutshell how would you describe yourself as a performer?
RJ Brewer: Well the thing that is unique about me is I don’t have to go out there and convince the crowd who I am. My persona is clear cut and the Latino fans know who I am and what I stand for. This takes a lot of the guesswork out of my performances. A lot of non-established indie guys who don’t have the benefit of a TV show or mainstream media attention have to spend time during their match establishing themselves. When they see the Arizona flag, SB 1070 and the minute I open my mouth and talk about the dangers of illegal immigration, I have established who I am. It makes things a lot easier. As a wrestler, my job is to win, spread a message and prove that American wrestling is superior to lucha libre.
Daniel Johnson: I also had some background questions before we get into the meat of the interview. For those unfamiliar with you where and when were you born and how long have you been wrestling?
RJ Brewer: I was born in Boston, Massachusetts, and then traveled around a lot. Lived in Connecticut, Arizona, New Jersey, etc. I started trainining in January of 2000 while I was a junior in college. This winter marks my fourteenth year.
Daniel Johnson: Correct me if I’m wrong, but you trained in Killer Kowalski’s wrestling school directly under Kowalski. How did this opportunity come about and what are your thoughts looking back on the experience?
RJ Brewer: I was going to college in Worcester, Massachusetts and I had sent letters out to several wrestling schools. My goal was to wait until I finished school and then begin training. When I stopped playing college football my junior year, I decided to pursue wrestling. Obviously, I was going to finish school so I needed a local wrestling school. Kowalksi’s was about an hour and a half drive from my school, so I went there, checked it out and enrolled. I was a huge fan growing up but I was small. When I bulked up for college football and then lost the love for it, I decided I could balance my studies and wrestling, so I joined. His name spoke for itself and he had produced some great talent, so it was a no brainer.
Daniel Johnson: How long did you train before having your first match. Also, do you remember it all? If so then what stands out from it for you?
RJ Brewer: I trained about four to five months and then did a few battle royals. My first singles match came in August of 2000, so seven months or so after I started taking my bumps. I remember how nervous I was, how fast it went and how bad it was. It is a humbling experience when you train for half a year and think you have things mastered, to only go out there and have a completely horrible match. It’s what you take from those experiences and how you improve that really matter.
Daniel Johnson: Getting into your more recent work how did you first get the idea to make anti-immigration policy the focal point of your character?
RJ Brewer: Well the opportunity was more or less presented to me. Lucha Libre USA had signed a deal with MTV2 to bring lucha libre to the US. I wasn’t really doing anything except independents here and there, so I figured why not. I have always been passionate about the things I talk about and care not to waste my breath on stuff that doesn’t matter. Illegal immigration is very dangerous to our country and is one of the biggest economical strains on our nation. So when I had the chance to talk about it in front of thousands of Mexican wrestling fans, I knew it would work. People expected me to go out there and beat my chest and yell that I hate Mexicans, but that is not me. Instead, I present compelling statistics, and am very convincing, which angers them even more. It works so well because of who I am wrestling and who I am wrestling in front of. I am very political so it has allowed me to combine my love of wrestling and my love of the USA. It has been natural.
Daniel Johnson: What has been the most hostile reaction you have gotten as RJ Brewer and how did you deal with the situation? Also, has it ever gotten scary?
RJ Brewer: Surprisingly enough, it has never gotten too scary. I get food thrown at me, flags and t-shirts thrown in my face and had a full beer can hit my knee once, thank God for knee pads. Other than that, it is exactly what you would expect. A lot of boos and jeers, but nothing physical. When I go to states like Arizona where the meat of the immigration battle has been taking place for years, the reactions are a lot louder. To me, this means I am doing my job. I welcome reactions like this.
Daniel Johnson: With the strong emotions some people have on illegal immigration do you set a line for yourself at all when working in front of a particular hostile crowd about how far you’ll go in saying and doing things that may offend them? Also, if so have you ever crossed that line?
RJ Brewer: I guess since I am here doing this interview with you, the line hasn’t been crossed. The things a lot of people would be surprised about is that I don’t just go out there and lie to try to evoke a response. I always speak the truth, present facts, so as bias as I may come across, it’s all true. So, as much as my rhetoric offends people, it’s the truth so there is only so much anger they can rightfully show.
Daniel Johnson: Ever get a surprising positive reaction? If so then what was the circumstance like?
RJ Brewer: Yes, a few times, but the negative reactions always outweigh the positive ones. You have to really be paying attention and surveying the crowd to find supporters. One time in Dallas when I was speaking in the ring, I was being booed very loudly. I said, “You should never boo an American hero like myself, but I shouldn’t expect less from a city that killed JFK.” There were about five Americans in the front row that stood up and clapped. Again, though, there are more “RJ Brewer blows” signs than there are “RJ Brewer for Governor.”
Daniel Johnson: Cool, Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe the place where you have wrestled as RJ Brewer the most has been LLUSA. Do you think LLUSA crowds respond to RJ Brewer more than anywhere else? Was LLUSA the perfect place to really launch the character?
RJ Brewer: You’re right and yes, of course. When I wrestle in front of a lucha libre fan base, the response is clearly going to be a lot stronger than if I was wrestling in front of American fans. So, when I do smaller independent shows, I don’t go into my anti-illegal immigration stuff. It’s really not worth it because the fans will not really get too emotionally invested and because it may get my positive reactions. The reason RJ Brewer is so effective is because of who I am wrestling and the fans who are watching. They have an emotional tie to immigration. Look at what happened when WWE tried to do the same thing. Exactly what I predicted. Nobody cared.
Daniel Johnson: There has been a lot less going on with LLUSA as opposed to previous years since there has been a lack of shows. How has this affected you? Also, do you believe LLUSA will come back in full swing in the near future?
RJ Brewer: The only way it has affected me is that I am wrestling less. At 34 years old, I don’t look at this as a negative. Sure I would love to be going out and wrestling every weekend, but when I can get paid the same and be relevant by just doing press appearances and save my body in the process, I am not going to bitch. The Mexican market is growing more and more so hopefully LLUSA lands a TV deal and gets back on track. That is not my department so whether or not that is going to happen is not something I know. I will just continue to stay in shape, study up on immigration and be ready if and when that happens.
Daniel Johnson: This is kind of a little off topic, but you mentioned wrestling less not necessarily being a negative. I was wondering given how long you have been wrestling how has your body held up and what advice you would give to any young wrestlers wanting to have similarly lengthy careers?
RJ Brewer: There is a fine line between getting exposure and experience and whoring yourself out. The key is finding that middle ground. When guys first start, getting exposure and working with different people is excellent and of course that should be the goal. Once you reach a certain point though, you need to focus on quality shows and shows that will benefit you financially or professionally. There are only so many bumps in your body. If you make your appearances special and meaningful, you don’t have to work every single show all the time. This is something people need to discover on their own, yet so many vets of 10 years will break a leg on a show with 15 people on it. That is tragic. Again, for me, making my matches mean something and being in high profile matches instead of just some guy on a show helps me stay relevant.
Daniel Johnson: What was the first piece of mainstream media attention RJ Brewer received? Was it the article in The Los Angeles Times or was there something earlier? Also, once your character started getting attention did you think the media focus on it would blow up as much as it did?
RJ Brewer: I don’t quite remember which media piece came first. I know I did a bunch of TV and magazine interviews. I then did a bunch of mainstream newspapers which ended up creating the LA times story. Once one outlet reports something, so many of the others follow. I didn’t expect this kind of reaction to a wrestler. Being on Fox News, CNN, Nightline and so many others without overdosing was pretty cool. It gave me credibility, instead of just being some goofy wrestler.
Daniel Johnson: You mentioned LLUSA being on MTV2 earlier. How much do you think this helped in drawing these media outlets to you? Do you think you still would have gotten at least some mainstream publicity without the MTV2 exposure?
RJ Brewer: I don’t think MTV2 had anything to do with it whatsoever. LLUSA has a good publicist who presented me to so many media outlets and they wanted to do a story. Since immigration is so topical and the Brewer name and SB 1070 were so controversial within the Latino community, the media jumped all over it. MTV2 was just a station that played our show, that’s it. They didn’t set us up for anything good at all. In fact, most of the mainstream press I got came after we were on the air. So, that shows that they did not have a hand in my press opportunities. Again, the media watches other media. That domino effect is what created my buzz.
Daniel Johnson: Speaking of the extent of how much press you got, what interactions have you been able to have with Governor of Arizona, Jan Brewer?
RJ Brewer: Jan Brewer is a busy lady, refuses to comment on me. I think maybe associating herself with a wrestler would not be the best move for her, so she stays clear.
Daniel Johnson: I thought that might be the case, but thought I’d ask just in case. Anyway, most recently you have been wrestling for BTW and working a lot more in the northeast. You kind of touched upon this earlier, but how has taking the focus off of illegal immigration affected you as a performer? Would you prefer going back to it or would you prefer to stay in front of crowds in the northeast where it is a little less of a hot button issue, at least in a lot of towns?
RJ Brewer: I actually enjoy wrestling outside of the crowds in the border states. When you don’t have an obvious agenda and clear cut character, it makes it more challenging to get a reaction from the audience. I welcome that challenge, so getting to change the pace a little is actually good for my progression. Of course, I have an easier job wrestling in front of Mexican fans, but wrestling in front of a different fan base gives me the opportunity to try different things that may not work for LLUSA.
Daniel Johnson: Taking a little step back in talking about your career before you worked for LLUSA you worked for some other notable promotions including ROH where at one point you were even the ROH Pure Champion. Have you ever thought of going back to ROH? How do you think ROH fans would respond to RJ Brewer?
RJ Brewer: I never say never, but it is very doubtful for me that I would go back to ROH. If LLUSA doesn’t materialize into something bigger with a TV deal or if they end up closing, my guess is I will be done wrestling. I have been planning on transitioning into something else so going to another company would probably be doubtful. Of course, you never really know until you reach that point, but highly unlikely. At my age, I want to focus more on my future and wrestling for ROH would really not help me in what I want to do. I had fun working there but that is in the past. But again, I won’t say never.
Daniel Johnson: Similarly are there any other promotions you have yet to work for with fans you think would act particularly strongly to RJ Brewer? Even if for just a one-ff or occasional appearances? Ever thought about working one of the major lucha libre companies?
RJ Brewer: I have had some offers to go to Mexico, but I turned them down. I think for sure I would get a strong reaction there, but maybe too strong. My whole goal is to protect the United States from the dangers of illegal immigrants. Going to Mexico to earn money and perform there would be hypocritical and would do nothing to further my agenda. I think any lucha libre company would react strongly to me. Otherwise, it’s just another wrestling show on a Saturday night.
Daniel Johnson: You kind of touched on this a little earlier. Earlier this year the Zeb Coulter character debuted in WWE and a large part of the character revolves around being anti-illegal immigration. What were your first thoughts after learning of this character and do you feel it was directly inspired by RJ Brewer at all?
RJ Brewer: I heard about it before I saw it. I do not watch wrestling on TV, in fact I don’t watch much TV at all so it wasn’t something I would have seen, but I sure heard about it. I was at my house in Florida that night, reading a book and had my cell phone in another room. When I went to get it, I had a bunch of texts saying that WWE was ripping off my character. Facebook messages said the same thing. By that time, it was too late to see it so i watched it on YouTube a few days later. My first thoughts were, I can’t believe it took them this long, and it won’t work. As for whether they took it from me, absolutely, I know this for a fact. First off, it was exactly two weeks after I was on ABC News Nightline, which millions of people saw. Second, I have friends who work for WWE who told me that Vince McMahon was irate that a non WWE guy was getting that kind of attention so they needed to do something about it. I was not mad, it was expected. They do not like anybody getting attention outside of their guys. It didn’t work for the reasons I stated. 12 year old John Cena fans don’t care about immigration.
Daniel Johnson: Winding down I also like to ask five non-wrestling related questions just to bring a little uniqueness to the interview. I know you just mentioned you don’t watch a lot of television, but when you do what do you watch?
RJ Brewer: I usually watch the news at night, and that is about it. I really can’t stand TV nowadays. I have heard from friends there are a lot of good shows out there, but haven’t brought myself to watch them yet. I watch Law and Order: SVU quite a bit and documentary stations like Sundance Channel and Al Jazeera America.
Daniel Johnson: What was your favorite movie that came out this year?
RJ Brewer: I went to the theater and saw the movie Prisoners. It was one of the best movies I have seen in a long time.
Daniel Johnson: Have you tried any foods for the first time this year? If so what food did you like best that you tried for the first time?
RJ Brewer: No. My diet has been pretty much the same for years. I eat very bland and clean, but try to make it as fun as possible.
Daniel Johnson: What is your favorite song to come out this year?
RJ Brewer: I listen to old music, I am an old man in a young man’s body. I wouldn’t know the latest hit from the next to be honest.
Daniel Johnson: What is the last book you read and would you recommend it?
RJ Brewer: The last book I read was Muzzled by Juan Williams. I am not a huge fan of his but always want to balance out my reading with conservative and liberal stuff. It was very good and I recommend it to anybody who is sick of left vs. right and non-honest debate.
Daniel Johnson: I then just wanted to wrap up the interview with a few more brief wrestling questions. What is the weirdest part of being a wrestler?
RJ Brewer: I don’t think there is anything weird about it. It is a business that has been around for a very long time. The people in it are weird for sure. Like the circus, it draws a certain type of person to it. Lots of degenerates and entitled brats, but at the same time, I have met some of the best people doing this. I guess it doesn’t really mirror real life, but at times, it does. Nothing in the world is perfect but you become who you surround yourself with.
Daniel Johnson: I’ve heard many, many times some variation of, “The best characters in wrestling are people who use their real personality with the volume turned way up.” Do you think this is true? Why or why not?
RJ Brewer: 100 percent but not always. I know for me personally, the most success I have had has been the past three and a half years because I have been myself. It comes more naturally when you can turn yourself up a bit and be convincing. However, some of the best characters are also acts that have nothing to do with someone’s real life persona. I guess it all depends on the person and how far they are willing to go.
Daniel Johnson: This is kind of a random question I like to ask, but I always like to hear ribs and road stories. Do you have any that you would be able to share?
RJ Brewer: One I like to play with a lot of the newer guys is you tell them that another wrestler’s brother holds the record for most pushups and you encourage the rookie to go ask him about it. When he does, the other wrestler cries and throws a tantrum and threatens to kill him saying, “You think it’s funny that my brother has no arms?” Then you convince the green guy that he better leave because he is about to get pounded. Seeing them nearly piss themselves is great. I know it’s cruel, but pretty damn funny.
Daniel Johnson: Haha, I just have three more questions left. Who is one wrestler 25 or younger that you think readers should know about?
RJ Brewer: Most of the wrestlers I know are a bit older. I honestly don’t know too many people’s ages so I can’t answer. The wrestling industry is always breeding great young talent. It’s the big companies’ jobs to identify them and give them a shot. I can’t name one.
Daniel Johnson: Is there anything you would like to promote?
RJ Brewer: People can always follow me on twitter @rjbrewer1070, Facebook and on my site www.rjbrewerusa.com. I also have a YouTube channel on which I try to put a new vid out weekly.
Daniel Johnson: Cool, is there anything you would like to add?
RJ Brewer: That’s about it. we are working on a fence building project down the line where I am going to buy land and build my own border fences. Story and vid here. It was a 10 minute interview with Fox.
Check out RJ Brewer in action! His LLUSA Heavyweight Championship win can be found here. Also, the below clip features Brewer wrestling Blue Demon, Jr. at a LLUSA show:
Categories: Wrestling Interviews