STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
It's Friday, when we hear from StoryCorps. And today's conversation comes from the Bronx where John Torres Jr. grew up watching his father, John Torres Sr., moonlight as a professional wrestler. His dad died in 2011, and John recently came to StoryCorps with his father's best friend and fellow wrestler Abraham Guzman to remember him.
JOHN TORRES JR.: My dad - he would always tell me to put him in a chokehold and he will easily break it. And I was always so impressed by that strength. He was my hero, man. I remember he had the white boots, the white mask with kind of like a red beak.
ABRAHAM GUZMAN: He was the Falcon.
TORRES JR.: He was the Falcon. Yes. And my dad was a neat freak. So he'd fold things a certain way, and everything was in this giant gym bag. And every day, I would look at that bag and say, man, there's stardom in that bag. But he would discourage me when I was young. He always said you could be something better than that - doctor, lawyer. And then our relationship collided. There were a lot of absences from him growing up. But the thing that always brought us back was wrestling. Over the phone, we will talk about wrestling for, like, hours. And I remember he said, I want to tag-team with you one day. And so you started training me.
GUZMAN: I learned that you wanted to start wrestling. So I said, well, let's see what I could do.
TORRES JR.: And I trained almost every day. I told my dad, and he said, I'll be there Saturday for your debut match. That Thursday, I get a phone call from my cousin. And he's like, did you hear? And I was like, no, what? And he's like, your father. And when he said my father, I already knew. And I said, my dad died? And he could barely say yeah over the phone. I remember leaning against the wall and just breaking down crying. And on the day of my debut, I was at the cemetery burying my dad. That's when I decided that wrestling was my legacy. One of the things I think about - if he was still alive today, like, how would he feel?
GUZMAN: I think he'd be proud because I see a lot in you and him. Your certain wrestling moves - I'm like, I've seen that before. And sometimes when I talk to you, I feel like I'm talking to your dad again - even the laugh.
TORRES JR.: (Laughter).
GUZMAN: People don't know it. But when you laugh, I hear him all the time.
TORRES JR.: You know, I want to keep his name alive. And that's what I've been doing ever since.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
INSKEEP: That's John Torres Jr. and Abraham Guzman remembering John Torres Sr. Their interview will be archived along with hundreds of thousands of others at the Library of Congress.
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