Express Train to Pain

By day, Ryan Cruz and Darin Corbin are mild-mannered young men emerging from adolescence. But put them in a wrestling ring in front of screaming fans, and they transform into their shirtless, full-contact alter egos in matching green and purple spandex pants: pro wrestling tag-team Northstar Express. Tonight at F1rst Wrestling Presents: The Return 08, the duo will take on 6% Body Fat Rob James and a mystery partner.


City Pages: Do you have day jobs?

Ryan Cruz: I'm a telefundraiser. Basically I call people and ask them for their money. It's a very exciting job.

Darin Corbin: I just graduated and I'm looking to go to grad school in Chicago at Northwestern for performance studies. The funny thing about performance is that it crosses over to wrestling.

CP: How did you get into professional wrestling?

DC: I still remember the first match I saw. I was four. It was the Million Dollar Man and the Ultimate Warrior. I remember just being hooked right away. From that point on, I would wrestle myself against an invisible man in the living room in front of my grandma, who was my biggest fan. Ever since, I wanted to pro wrestle. In college, I was doing intramural sports, and a guy suggested that we go to Midwest Pro Wrestling.

Express Train to Pain

RC: When I came to college at St. Cloud State, I found out about a training guy in Maple Grove. So I called Midwest Pro Wrestling. The first day of training was free, to see if you were into it, and if you were you could pursue it. I have never set in a pro wrestling ring before. It was kind of a surreal moment, and obviously I was hooked from the first minute. When Darin and I were training, it was (local wrestler) Arik Cannon who took us under his wing and paid special attention to us. He taught us so much stuff and continues to teach us. It was through him that we made a lot of connections, he put in a good word for us with various promoters, and now we're traveling all over the country wrestling. We have him to thank for it.

CP:What is the appeal of professional wrestling to you?

DC:One of the best things about pro wrestling is the fact that you can play anything from a superhero to a super villain. You can be the guy who gets to save the girl and be the hero in front of a bunch of people, or the guy who ticks everyone off and is just there to make everyone mad. You can be the ultimate bad guy and get away with it. All this stuff would be illegal on the street. Sometimes you want to be the good guy and get cheered, and sometimes you want to be the bad guy.

RC:I grew up idolizing the wrestlers in WWF. Everybody knows who Hulk Hogan is; he's a larger than life character. For the 10 or 15 minutes you're out there, you have all eyes on you. You’re performing for people, and doing what you love. It's such a rush. The adrenaline is going, and for those ten minutes you're on top of the world.

CP: What are some of your trademark moves?

DC:Our finishing move is called “Cruz Control.” I'm sitting on top of Darin's shoulders, and I lean back so I'm facing away from wherever he's walking, and he pulls on my legs like a see-saw effect and I come swinging around and splash down on an opponent lying prone on his back. We have weird names for our moves. We named a couple moves after candy in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. We have a series of moves we call the “Everlasting Gobstopper” where we have a guy prone in the turnbuckle and Darin runs in with a battering ram to their gut, which bends the opponent over a little bit, then I come and drive my knees into their face. Then while I'm lying on my back, near the middle of the ring, Darin runs from the corner opposite where the opponent is in the turnbuckle, I stick my legs up in the air as Darin approaches, and my legs catapult him into the opponent in the corner, pretty much crushing them between Darin and the turnbuckle. It always seems to get a really good reaction.

CP: What do your families and significant others think of your wrestling?

RC: Actually, when I had my first match I sent out e-mails and letters to my family and friends. My uncle called and left a voicemail that was basically a three-minute rant of him saying how crazy I was, and don't I know the potential injuries that could happen, and how when I'm 40 or 50 I'm going to have pain that I can't even imagine. I just kind of took all in stride. He's probably the only family member that was being realistic about it. My brother used to live in Des Moines and always came to my shows there. He was the big brother, and growing up I wanted to be like him or impress him. The first time he came and saw me wrestle, I looked out to him about three minutes into the match, and he had the biggest smile on his face. It was a bit of a surreal moment, because you're always trying to impress your big brother, and when you finally do it it’s pretty cool.

CP: How is your bout with 6% Body Fat Rob James and his mystery partner going to go on Friday? DC: I know Rob James pretty well, I've had a couple encounters with him in the past, and I'm not going to take him lightly. We've both beat him in the past, so there's no doubt in my mind that as a tag team, whoever he finds, we'll beat them too. Maybe we'll knock another pound of fat off him and have him down to 5 percent or 4 percent. On the 20th, I can chalk up a 'W' for us.

The Northstar Express do battle tonight at F1rst Wrestling Presents: The Return 08. 18+. $8. 7 p.m. 701 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.332.1775.

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