Gilbert native Steve Islas

Gilbert native Steve Islas, giving a headlock to an unlucky opponent, has been a professional Native American wrestler for 30 years.

As the Navajo Warrior, Gilbert native and wrestler Steve Islas traveled the world for major individual and tag-team matches.  

This year, he celebrates his 30th anniversary as a professional wrestler with a special event at Sun Studios of Arizona Nov. 21. 

The main event will be a six-man tag-team match with three wrestlers on each side, including the Navajo Warrior.  

With VIP tickets, patrons will receive a chance to see a special VIP wrestling match and take part in a Q&A with Islas. 

Islas said his 30th anniversary evokes feelings of nostalgia and pride in what he accomplished as a wrestler and teacher. 

“I’m feeling like the time flew by,” Islas said. “It doesn’t feel like it’s been that long. It’s a good feeling to see the guys and girls who I’ve wrestled with and traveled with, do their thing, branch out and have their success. It’s a really cool feeling.” 

To build his wrestling career, Islas said he has lived a healthy lifestyle and continued to work out, including weight training and Strongman lifting. 

“It is a lot of taking care of yourself. You really can’t avoid injuries, but if you can minimize the number of injuries you get, it helps with longevity,” Islas said. 

In his career, Islas sustained major injuries such as torn ligaments in his knee and a broken leg. He returned to wrestling the same day his cast for the broken leg was removed. 

Islas continues to occasionally wrestle through companies such as Impact Zone Wrestling, which he cofounded. 

Islas still lives in Arizona and travels for work, handling licensing for wrestling video games.

During his wrestling career, Islas won major tag-team as part of the Tribe with his student, Hawaiian Lion, and heavyweight titles with organizations like the World Wrestling Federation, now known as the WWE. 

He worked with the Hawaiian Lion since 2004, when they went to Japan to wrestle together. 

The two had a strong rivalry with fellow tag teamers the Ballard Brothers, whom they wrestled in 15 countries. He enjoyed the experiences he had in Japan, Spain, Germany and England. 

“In Japan, it is treated like a sport,” Islas said. “You would get the newspaper, and in the sports section, you would have the results of the baseball games and also the results of wrestling matches. In the United States, it’s looked at as entertainment.”

As a Native American wrestler, it was important for him to be a positive role model.

“I wanted to represent our culture in a way where if a young Native American boy or girl happened to see me on television or see me live, it would give that feeling of ‘somebody who looks like me is doing this,’” he said. 

Islas used to operate an Arizona wrestling school. 

“I would always remember the guys who came before me who would take the time to teach me something, even if it’s just a small lesson of how to do something in the ring or the etiquette of how to carry myself,” Islas said. 

“If I can pass on the knowledge that was given to me to the next person, and they could find success in it and pass it on to the next person, that was one of the things I did because I wanted to keep the wrestling business full of new, fresh faces.” 

He was inspired by wrestlers like Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant, Wahoo McDaniel and Tito Santana. He wrestled through junior high and high schools. 

His persona evolved with him. 

“The persona went from as the Navajo Kid, it was the youthful good guy that was full of fire, full of energy,” Islas said. “As it has developed, it is the seasoned veteran who is not afraid to take a shortcut here and there to get a win but still fights with that fire.”

IZW NAV30: 30 Years Brother! Navajo Warrior 30th Anniversary Celebration 6 p.m. Saturday, November 21  Sun Studios of Arizona, 1425 W. 14th Street, Tempe, $20 to $30