Des Plaines Public Works Department employee Ron Hagen wrestles with some tough jobs during the week, but nothing compares with the abuse he takes on the weekends.
Hagen, of Wauconda, is known in wrestling circles as Dice Man Ronnie Vegas. He has been involved with professional wrestling for 25 years and has the injuries to prove it.
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"I've ruptured my back disc, broke my cheek bone in seven places, had my nose caved in," Hagen says, "I can't get up some mornings, but I love what I am doing."
Hagen became interested in professional wrestling when a neighbor took him to a match at what is now the Allstate Arena in the 1980s. As a talented football player at Niles East High School, he was preparing for a promising career when injury caused him to miss part of his senior season. During his rehab, Hagen met Sergio Oliva, Mr. Olympus from 1975 to 1977, who encouraged Hagen to enter bodybuilding. But again, injury cut Hagen's dreams short. Hagen then starting working for the city of Des Plaines, repairing the water system infrastructure, painting fire hydrants, planting grass seed and plowing snow in the winter.
"We're the water department, we do everything," said Hagen.
As Dice Man Ronnie Vegas, he wrestled in the World Wrestling Entertainment and Windy City Wrestling for more than a decade. Vegas established his own league, the Intergalactic Wrestling Federation, in 2001 to bring family-style wrestling back. "You know, wrestling you used to see on TV," said Hagen. He runs the business with his partner Carolyn Gararo, who promotes local matches and autograph sessions on social media sites. His daughter Dana wrestles as Dana Barbie, and his son Ronnie wrestles, and assists with setup for the shows.
And of course, Hagen wrestles. During a recent match, as he lies in a pile of bent metal and crushed wood after being thrown through a table, Hagen's co-workers whoop it up as they cheer on his opponents. In true wrestling style, the match descended into chaos with as many as five wrestlers in the ring at once, including former WWE wrestlers The Barbarian and 350-pound Rikishi.
You could say he's just an average, hardworking guy during the week. But on the weekends, especially Saturday nights at the Wauconda American Legion Hall, Hagen is the main event.