TEXT BY SARA ANNE DONNELLY
PHOTOGRAPHED BY JASON FRANK
I designed this place mostly on napkins,” Curtis Hussey says, standing in paint-spattered Carhartt overalls in a two-unit in Portland’s Bayside neighborhood that he’s in the middle of drywalling. “A lot of my ideas come from hotels I’ve stayed in all across the world. I take pictures of things I like or draw them on napkins.”
Hussey, known to pro-wrestling fans as the WWE wrestler Fandango, bought the Bayside lot with a rundown Victorian-era home on it in 2019. Deciding it would cost too much to fix the place up, he and some friends tore it down by hand. Then Hussey rebuilt it, mostly by himself, in between weekly flights to Orlando, where he enters the ring playing a short-fused ballroom dancer, part of a duo known as the Fashion Police, and puts the screws to nemeses like the Legado del Fantasma crew.
The building, one of five Hussey owns in Greater Portland and Tampa, is a mash-up of classic and modern styles, with slate-gray clapboards, bright-white trim, and an asymmetrical shed roof dotted with recessed fixtures that conjures a hovering UFO at night. “I’m like the pig who built his house out of bricks,” says Hussey, who grew up in Standish and lives part-time in a two-unit he rehabbed in SoPo. “There’s a lot of my friends right now enjoying their new pools down in Florida and just hanging out, but when the money stops coming in, it’s like, what do you do now? So I’m up here just grinding, and hopefully when I’m in my 40s, I’ll have supplemental rental income.”
After predawn weight training at a local gym, Hussey toils 12 hours a day on the house, setting high standards for his work. He presses on a stretch of drywall, the frame of which has bowed to some imperceptible degree, rubs his palm over a faint seam in a curved wall — “I think I’m just going to wallpaper it; wallpaper’s back in” — and grouses about the price of a good can of paint. “It’s frustrating leaving here a lot of days thinking, man, I’m really bad at doing this,” he says, perhaps a touch too critically. “But you always come back and try to improve.”
In a second-floor studio, he points to a window with a view of the Portland Observatory. “I put this window here because it reminds me of where I started,” he says. It was 2006 and he was a struggling amateur wrestler working construction near the Observatory. One day, he decided to pack up everything he owned and drive to Atlanta to go “100 percent in” on wrestling. He cooked in a restaurant at night and auditioned for WWE by day. He slept in his car. Eventually, an agent noticed him and launched his career. “It was a very liberating time in my life because the only thing I worried about was wrestling,” he says. “Now, I have so many different things and distractions coming into my life.” Like finding land for his next project: a house and barn he plans to build to host weddings — “and wrestling shows.”