This piece was published in the Miami Dade College student newspaper, The Reporter. It’s part of a series of articles I wrote for them between August 2013 and May 2015, now being uploaded in whole to ElMonzon.com.
On a regular afternoon, you’ll find Dash Ruiz, 31, sitting at his cubicle in the Media Services wing at MDC-West dressed in a button-down dress shirt, blue jeans and a Space Invaders-themed tie.
Ruiz is stout, with a red beard and short black hair. His desktop is adorned with a big landscape picture of the World Wrestling Entertainment Arena and an array of superhero figurines from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to Guardians of the Galaxy.
Together, these hint at Ruiz’s after-hours life as Dash Maverick.
In that role he calls himself a brawler who can do some damage.
Ruiz, a full-time media coordinator at MDC-West, ditches the business casual attire and takes on agitated and angry opponents at arenas throughout South Florida, from Miami to Naples, from Fort Pierce to Tampa.
“I love that rush when you come through the curtains and get a reaction from the crowd,” Ruiz said. “I love the reaction I get from people when I tell them I’m a pro-wrestler.”
THE THRILL OF BEING ON STAGE
At a U Know Pro match posted on YouTube, Maverick danced in the ring dressed in a dark wrestling singlet bearing yin and yang symbols going up against a lighter opponent, Vinnie Ramagucci. Hoisting Ramagucci up over his head, Maverick mercilessly backflipped, drop kicked and pinned his opponent. The crowd matched the adrenaline and drama in the ring, cheering and chanting for the wrestlers. Men in pink and Arab costumes entertained the audience.
“When I’m on stage it feels incredible,” Maverick said. “There’s no way to really explain it. It’s a huge adrenaline rush, and it’s not unheard of to watch a video of your match later and not remember parts because you were so in the moment.”
With nearly 900 friends on his character’s Facebook page, Maverick thinks of wrestling as a small sample of fame.
“Those people, the fans, look up to you because you’re doing something they will probably never do,” Maverick said. “For those few minutes you’re in the spotlight, you’re larger than life.”
The physical contact of wrestling is a big contrast to the 5’8”, 265 pound brawler’s everyday work life at MDC—but the adulation carries over.
In his College job, Ruiz coordinates the staff at the Media Services Department, attending committee meetings and managing media requests.
“He’s kinda like our fearless leader,” said Nathalie Galde a part-time photographer on the Media Services staff. “I think it’s awesome that he does it. I’ve never met anyone who wrestles locally before I met him. I’ve seen him wrestle, he does some really great characters.”
Galde saw Ruiz perform as Bane from Batman recently at Magic City Comic Con. She also performs with her boss in an improvisational comedy troupe called Society Circus Players.
HEAVY LIFTING INVOLVED
Ruiz devotes 40 hours a week to his job at the College, he spends at least three days a week at a Planet Fitness gym to keep in shape.
“For my type and style, I do a lot of heavy lifting, a lot of squats, a lot of dead lifts, a lot of shoulder presses,” Maverick said. “For a high-flyer style it’s more important to be slim and trim so their workouts are more cardio based.”
He also runs the equivalent of a 5K every morning.
When he started his formal wrestling training, he studied wrestling moves numerous times as well as the psychology of a match. He also practiced performing and cutting a promo in front of a camera.
“Ideally you should be able to perform an entire match with someone you’ve never met without even talking to them ahead of time,” Maverick said. “That level of expertise takes years of training and experience. For a workout, different styles of wrestling require different body types and different routines.”
AN EARLY FASCINATION
The catalyst behind Maverick’s wrestling interest was a move from his native New Jersey to Hialeah at age 14 in the late ‘90s.
“All the kids in the neighborhood where we moved to liked wrestling,” Maverick said. “We would get together for pay per view nights and watch WWE.”
Ruiz graduated from Barbara Goleman Senior High School in May of 2001 but did not practice wrestling during high school. He transferred to MDC’s North Campus to work toward a bachelor’s degree in television production.
Cable-TAP, a Miami-Dade County community access television channel, which came under the management of the College in 2008, gave Ruiz the opportunity to come onboard as a student assistant while also getting his tuition financed. Following Cable-TAP, Ruiz began working for Kendall Campus’ Media Services Department before joining MDC-West as a media coordinator in September of 2012.
Maverick met Jorge Portuondo, who runs the independent wrestling promotion Independent Championship Wrestling (ICW) in December of 2002. Both men had goals they sought to fulfill—Portuondo wanted more people to join his independent promotion, and Ruiz wanted to win a heavyweight title, be featured in Pro Wrestling Illustrated’s Top 500 and be granted a tryout with the World Wrestling Entertainment.
Of those three, the only one he hasn’t accomplished is the last.
UP FOR THE CHALLENGE
The accomplishments didn’t come easy. Local wrestling schools were hard to find in Miami, until veteran wrestler Rusty Brooks opened his wrestling School of Hard Knocks in Hollywood, Florida.
“Rusty is like a father to all of us,” Portuondo said. “He’s a legend in Florida. He’s wrestled Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant. When you think of wrestling old timers, he’s up there.”
Maverick started training three times a week, garnering the attention of other indie promotions such as National Wrestling Council and Uproar Pro Wrestling. Throughout the years, he would engage in tag team fights with other wrestlers such as Shawn Prime and Aron Agony and even his brother, Speedy Ruiz, 25, who began photographing his training sessions and matches and now does photography for multiple wrestling events.
LIFE IN THE RING
A set of matches that Maverick is fond of is the storyline he carried out with wrestler Shawn Prime, a now four-time champion for ICW. Over a year’s worth of matches, Shawn
Prime and Maverick built up beef with each other that culminated in a February 2012 match entitled: “Total Meltdown.”
Across multiple independent promotions, Prime and Maverick would show fans a little piece of a developing storyline, which involved Maverick’s own girlfriend at the time turning on him and joining Prime’s team and Speedy being forced to wrestle his own brother. Maverick even went to such lengths as to pretend his brother had hacked his Facebook and was posting nasty comments.
Indie wrestling typically complicates efforts like this because since wrestlers aren’t bound by contract to a specific promotion, a supposedly disabled wrestler may be seen wrestling in another city the next week.
“When it comes to indie wrestling, you have a storyline that starts here and then you’re not gonna see the next part of the storyline for a month,” Maverick said. “So, if you took my girlfriend as part of the storyline, you’re not gonna see the fallout of that until a month later and am I really still pissed that you took my girlfriend?”
Profit isn’t the motivating factor behind Maverick’s wrestling involvements—often times, the profit from wrestling at an event is enough to cover food and gas expenses.
“I wrestle because I love it,” Maverick said. “I love performing. I love being out of the ordinary. I love that rush when you come through the curtains and get a reaction from the crowd. I love the reaction I get from people when I tell them I’m a pro-wrestler. I want to be able to tell my future kids that their dad was once a pro-wrestler and a former heavyweight champion.”
Maverick is preparing for the Division One Pro Wresting “Orange Brawl” show on March 7 at the Davie Police Athletic League Gym. 4300 SW 57th Ter. Ft. Lauderdale, FL http://www.d1pw.tv/events.htm