A gargantuan fair-skinned man with a grungy, sandy-blond beard breathes heavily. His gruff voice crackles to life: "War." He wears a Halloween skull mask over his massive face, his razor-blue eyes fixed on a video camera. "War is coming," the 400-pound giant declares. Around his bulbous neck, the six-foot-four ogre sports a prize: a thick leather belt with an audaciously big platinum buckle. "As you can see by this beautiful medallion around my neck, war is here," he rattles. "Waaaaaarrr!"

Joey Saint tears off his disguise. Blood streaks his chin, cheeks, and forehead. His golden hair is soaked in sweat. On his chest is a tattoo of the number 666. "War doesn't stop," Saint grunts. "War keeps on going, like the Portrait of American Horror will never end." Saint holds up his belt in front of the camera. The buckle is inscribed with the words Professional Wrestling International Brass Knuckles Champion. The 28-year-old mangler caresses the polished metal. "War will continue as long as this is on my shoulder," Saint vows. "As long as this belt is around my neck, as long as there are lungs in my body..."

He pauses for a second and leans closer. "As long as no one has carved them out of my chest!" he roars, then turns the volume down to a whisper. "As long as I can breathe, war is coming."

Pablo Marquez gets his head pressed against the ropes by Ricky Young.
Michael McElroy
Pablo Marquez gets his head pressed against the ropes by Ricky Young.
Michael McElroy

Saint steps off-camera and disappears.

On a recent evening, Saint and his mom are manning the cash register of their family-owned restaurant, Hot Stuff Grille, at 4300 W. Broward Blvd. in Plantation. Born in Hartford, Connecticut, the self-anointed "Portrait of American Horror" is the oldest of Francine Saint's four children and the only one pursuing a profession that involves bashing opponents with folding chairs and drop kicks. Although most moms and dads would scoff at their children's dreams of becoming a wrestler, Francine never discouraged her boy, who is a polite, self-deprecating fellow when not wearing his leotard and skull mask.

"As a single parent, I raised my kids to be outgoing, optimistic people," she says. "Positive thinking yields positive results." When Saint was 17, the family relocated to Fort Lauderdale from Las Vegas, where as a teenager he was a member of his high school wrestling team and drama club. "My first play was Almost, Maine," Saint notes. "I used to be able to sing."

A few weeks after the move, Saint attended his first wrestling event. "For seven bucks, I got to sit in the front row," he recalls. "I was blown away by the entire spectacle. Pretty soon, I was asking the promoters if I could help out any way I could."

While working menial day jobs most of his young adult life, Saint volunteered at local shows, working security, manning the soundboard, putting up the ring — anything the promoter asked him to do. "I just absorbed everything about the business," Saint says. "I finally started training and doing matches in 2008."

Working at Hot Stuff five days a week from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. allows him to train four nights a week and do gigs on weekends. "I only attend his PG-rated matches," Francine says. "Last year, he got hit with a chair. He had to get staples to close this big gap in the back of his head."

On a recent evening after one of his gigs, Brian "The Beast" Brody is in the parking lot of Saint's Hot Stuff Grille, where he works part-time as a delivery driver for his tag-team partner, Saint. Together they formed "Scum of the Earth." When he is not stomping around, screaming at no one in particular, and scaring children, Brody is a soft-spoken guy with a pretty keen sense of humor. "If one kid isn't crying when I'm out there, then I'm not doing my job right," Brody attests. "If people are going to boo you, then give them a reason to. What better reason than scaring children?"

Brody emphasizes that even though he was raised in Hialeah by a Cuban father and Ecuadorian mother, he is an American. As a kid, his parents frowned on wrestling. "I wasn't allowed to watch it," he says. "My parents only let me watch shows like America's Funniest Home Videos." Brody had to get his wrestling fix at a friend's house, where wrestling wasn't banned.

At 16, when he was a sophomore at Hialeah-Miami Lakes Senior High, Brody's puberty kicked into overdrive, turning him into a teen wolf. "People made fun of me for sure," Brody admits. "My friends picked on me a lot, and I didn't have a sense of humor. Wrestling helped me realize you are not living if you are serious all the time."

After graduating high school in 2005, Brody signed up at Body Slam, but he wasn't fully committed to the wrestling gig until three years later, when he met Saint while doing a show for Fort Lauderdale-based Independent Championship Wrestling. "Joey was recruiting guys to do a wrestling show for an anime-comic book convention," Brody recollects. "We started talking and hit it off." At that time, Brody had not yet taken on his Cro-Magnon alter ego.

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