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    Marvelous Marco Mania!

    By John Chen–

    I remember watching Hulk Hogan and pro wrestling on TV as a kid, mimicking their spectacular moves on my bed. Thank goodness I wasn’t dumb enough to try aerial splashes or drop kicks on concrete. I absolutely loved the athleticism of the wrestlers, the choreography of the bouts, and the pageantry of the sport. But, would I ever get in the ring? Probably not. My friend Marco Rodriguez, on the other hand, would and did, since becoming a pro wrestler was his dream.

    Born to Peruvian parents and raised in the East Bay, Rodriguez was a closeted pro wrestling fan because his mother forbade him from watching the sport due to the visual violence. “My mom didn’t understand the ‘magic’; she was absolutely appalled by what happened in the ring,” Rodriguez told me for the San Francisco Bay Times. “I dreamt of being a pro wrestler, making a grand entrance and doing aerials and double teams, but it was just a dream.”

    Rodriguez’s childhood was a split between following his mother’s strict Roman Catholic path and taking on his father’s carefree, go with the flow attitude. He explained, “My mom was very conservative and taught me if I didn’t do things a certain way or followed rules, I’ve sinned. My dad was the complete opposite. He was progressive and more forward thinking. The divergent views actually gave me balance.”

    He continued, “When my mom found out I was gay, she freaked out and told me I couldn’t be gay in her house. She was scared, but more for my safety than anything because I was a person of color and gay. Those were two big strikes against me. She eventually accepted my sexual orientation because she loves me and just wants to see me happy. For that I am grateful.”

    Fast forward to early 2019 and Rodriguez’s friend, local drag queen Pollo Del Mar, invited him to attend a pro wrestling event for charity. The wrestling matches rekindled his childhood love for the sport. Rodriguez said, “I would start dressing up and going to more pro wrestling matches. Eventually, an old friend Rik Luxury, a well-known wrestler, who taught me some basic ‘for show’ moves a while back, encouraged me to start training with East Bay Pro Wrestling and get in the ring. Although I had doubts, I knew it was now or never. I am 36 years old and my window of opportunity was closing fast. So, I took the chance and went for it!”

    But, before going into training, Rodriguez had a major concern. “If I do this, I don’t want to be a parody. I don’t want to be that ‘sissy’ wrestler, and I don’t want to be put in a derogatory situation. Maynard Skynyrd, the owner of East Bay Pro Wrestling, assured me that they are all inclusive and have zero tolerance for such thinking and behavior. There’s no body shaming, no age or sex discrimination, and no intimidation.”

    Rodriguez added, “Since posting and chronicling my journey to professional wrestling on Facebook, I’ve discovered that there’s a strong interest from the LGBT community. Many of my friends and followers didn’t know this was possible for a gay man and I am proud to increase the LGBT visibility in pro wrestling.”

    He is now the namesake star of Marvelous Marco Mania, a new feature at East Bay Pro Wrestling. Rodriguez uses many of the moves I saw Macho Man do when I was a youngster.

    I asked Marvelous Marco why people should go to see pro wrestling. He told me enthusiastically, “Unlike the traditional Greco-Roman wrestling, where your goal is to pin your opponent as quickly as possible, pro wrestling uses athleticism and technique as theater, a form of entertainment. We tell a story within the ring and the story continues from show to show, like a soap opera. My wrestling story arc has just begun, and I recently became a member of the hottest bad-guy, villain group, the Glamorous and Fabulous Enterprises. We love that people ‘boo’ us. We provoke that. It’s what we do.”

    Marvelous Marco wants you to come watch and “boo” him at East Bay Pro Wrestling. No clapping or cheering, or he’ll get in-your-face nasty. “We put on an amazing show virtually every Saturday,” he said, “and for a mere ten bucks, the audience gets treated to a thread of six to seven story lines performed as wrestling matches.” Although the story arc of Marvelous Marco the pro wrestler just started, Marco Rodriguez is rewriting his own story arc and living his dream.

    For more information on East Bay Pro Wrestling, Marvelous Marco Mania, and their upcoming shows, please visit their Facebook page:

    John Chen, a UCLA alumnus and an avid sports fan, has competed as well as coached tennis, volleyball, softball and football teams.

    Published on January 16, 2020