“Don’t offer me excuses, offer me solutions,” reads the sign hanging on Matt Roblez’s office wall at McNeil Group, Inc., speaking volumes about the Salt Lake City native living life with the amp set on 11.
He’s the first to tell young people his degree in civil/structural engineering from the University of Utah – and a career that saw him named the 2017 Engineer of the Year by the American Society of Civil Engineers’ Utah Section – makes everything else possible.
Then, wearing O.J. Simpson’s Bruno Magli shoes, Roblez indulges in his true passion, talking smack behind the scenes at the Destiny Wrestling Organization, climbing into a barbed-wire cage to pull his extreme wrestler out of a headlock and loving every minute of it. Since 2007, DWO has been New Mexico’s only professional wrestling organization, drawing the best among Southwestern wrestlers to year-round bouts at the Cesar Chavez Community Center in Albuquerque.
As one of the extreme wrestling association’s owners and resident bad guy, Roblez has made his mark in just about every aspect of the business. And his growing role in the hard-core circuit has him traveling around the country 47 weekends a year to places like WrestleMania in New Orleans, the House of Hard Core in Philadelphia, the Main Event in Texas and the Future Stars of Wrestling in Las Vegas. Think of them, including Destiny Wrestling, as the professional wrestling world’s version of major league baseball’s Double-A and Triple-A teams, minor league independents that allow players to work their way up the ladder.
“I even fought a few rounds myself,” Roblez admitted, “but I’m not good at it. I want to be the best at everything I do, so I manage, I announce, and I keep my gear in my bag, ready for whatever they need.”
Simpson’s shoes are packed away for the most part these days, Roblez said, joking that he hopes the recently released former football running back doesn’t coming looking for them. But the memorabilia Roblez has collected through the years, including a gold record he bought from KISS drummer Eric Carr’s sister; a baseball signed by Pete Rose, who added “Sorry I bet on baseball”; and a picture of baseball legend George Brett signed by Brett around the time of the pine-tar bar incident, isn’t measured by its monetary value.
“It’s the stories behind them that make this business great,” Roblez said, his interests spanning cars, vintage video games and Coke products, as well as sports and music. “It can be very subtle or broad, but each has special meaning to me.”
What you’re not going to find are photos and autographs from his wrestling heroes; asking for them to pose for a selfie would label him a “mark,” just about the worst thing you can be in the business. It can get emotional – Roblez is one of their biggest fans – but these days, he’s more interested in keeping them in the ring and learning from them what makes people greet him like a long-lost friend.
You’ll never see him kissing babies or anything that strays far from the role he perfected in M.K. Bandit. While he doesn’t use that name much anymore, he makes sure that nothing he does in any sector breaks the kayfabe of an unscrupulous attorney who will do anything for a buck.
“In the weirdest cities, they come up as if they know me, shaking my hand like we’re buddies,” Roblez said. “It’s a hard line to follow, but I’m living the gimmick. It all goes back to the heyday, the wrestlers we loved growing up. When I was a kid, we had three channels on TV and then UHF. My brother really got into professional wrestling and we’d watch it every Saturday morning. In the 1980s, I saw Hulk Hogan and Jerry Blackwell, and I was hooked.”
Not everyone shared his vision, especially when it came to extreme wrestling. But he did it his own way, and now he’s working with the likes of WWE Hall of Famers Bubba Ray Dudley and Jeff Jarrett as he lives out his dream.
Today, it is his turn to help others suspend their belief for a short while and get caught up with the story being told in the ring. Anyone who’s caught an event knows the Destiny Wrestling Organization is a whole different animal. As part of the extreme circuit – Roblez calls it “Anti-PG-13” – it pits crowd favorites such as Hobo Hank, Chad Thomas and Johnny K in an intense bout that has ladders, chairs and more flying in the ring.
“There’s something for everyone in the independent wrestling groups,” Roblez said. “It’s like having one of every animal in the zoo. The trick is to do whatever you’re doing good enough to stand out and get a chance in WWE.”
There’s no substitute for hard work, he added. And the intense lifestyle isn’t always easy. When he was married, his growing collection of collectibles were relegated to a corner in the family home. Later, staying in touch with his children meant grabbing a flight and heading across a few states for lunch.
“To me, my life is interesting,” Roblez said. “I don’t do anything half-assed; there’s no downtime. A prime example, one day, I’m at a Pathways to Profit seminar and the next, I’m in Las Vegas. There’s always something to do.”
It’s like, when you go to Los Angeles, the waiters bringing you something to eat or the bartender pouring the sangria are actors paying the bills. But the Salt Lake City Public Library, where his crews supplied the concrete panels, is a testimony to his professional expertise. And his many accomplishments as a published technical author, an engineering lecturer and, most recently, an advocate for safer portable school classrooms.
Roblez comes by it naturally. His father was a structural engineer, as well, “and I wouldn’t be anything without my father,” he said. “Everything since the University of Utah has been a dream. But once I got licensed and had gone professional, what else was there for me? I didn’t have a plan after that.”
Fortunately, the fundamental financial base it gave the three-time president of the American Society of Civil Engineers’ Utah Section allowed him to run the gamut, as he puts it, on his own dime. When a wrestling opportunity opened in Texas as he was building a reputation in the business, he had the money to fly down “and I made sure I did the job well enough to get called back,” he said. Another time, it was holding a sound dish at the University of Utah games for ESPN, a gig that lead to joining the broadcast team in the booth. (Don’t ask him how he feels about BYU!)
“Never say no to a challenge,” Roblez said. “Here’s my secret: Fake it until you make it. I’d never be where I am today if I was afraid to try.”
So, what are his plans down the road?
“If I can get to WWE – no, getting there isn’t as hard as staying there – if I can be more than a flash in the pan in WWE and stay there, I’ll know I’ve made it,” Roblez said. “I have a passion for everything; I’ve put everything I can into this job.”
Still, he added, “I’ll be there with (pro wrestler) Tommy Dreamer, the guy I would watch any time I could, and I can’t believe I’m right next to him. Dreams do come true, but every time I’m in front of the crowd, I think they’re going to know I’m not supposed to be there and it will come to an end.