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Dreams of WWE Stardom Motivate Broward Wrestler Ernest Valdes

Ernest Valdes stands on top of the ring's ropes and uses his championship belt as a mirror. He primps into the gold plastic's reflection, making sure his hair -- oil-spill slick with leave-in conditioner -- is perfectly in place. Lil Jon's "Turn Down for What" blasts through the speakers of the Port St. Lucie Civic Center.

The svelte Cuban wrestler has defended his title for another evening, meaning he's still considered the most popular entertainer at Championship Wrestling Entertainment (CWE) -- one of 14 independent wrestling leagues in Florida.

The smooth-chested grappler has highlighted, Fabio-like tresses he wears in a bun. He is very shiny. In the ring, he wears red spandex shorts emblazoned with the letters "ERA" on his ass. It's the acronym for his stage name, Ernest Randall Alexander, and also a nod to the idea that he represents "the next era in professional wrestling." If you ask him for an introduction, he'll turn around, wiggle the logo, and quip that he also goes by the nickname "Your Girlfriend's Favorite Wrestler."

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Allie Conti was a fellow at Miami New Times and a staff writer for New Times Broward-Palm Beach, where her writing won awards from the Florida Press Club and the Society of Professional Journalists. She's now the senior staff writer at Vice and a contributor to the New York Times, New York Magazine, and the Atlantic.