If you would have asked me just a couple of years ago about my thoughts on wrestling I probably would have laughed and shrugged the question off. Although I’ve always liked the imagery of some wrestlers, I just never got into it because, well, it was fake (spoiler alert!). If you asked me my thoughts on wrestling today, I could probably hold my own in a conversation if it was about local wrestling. There’s something amazing about the local wrestling scene here in the Twin Cities and F1rst Wrestling is absolutely killing the game. They somehow get people who had never been interested in wrestling to fall head over heels for the game by bringing in elements of music, burlesque, beer, and everything in between. Go ahead. Ask me about local wrestling and I’ll tell you all of my opinions and my thoughts on the story lines currently swirling around the scene.
F1rst Wrestling took over First Avenue’s mainroom for sold out Wrestlepalooza shows on both Friday and Saturday night. I was fortunate enough to be there for both and although that equates to six hours of wrestling, it wasn’t enough. Going to Wrestlepalooza at First Avenue (it typically happens twice a year, once in winter, once in summer) is definitely a trip. Whether you like wrestling or not, there’s something for you there and, by the end of it, I guarantee you will be into wrestling. Quirky characters are the highlight for me. Although I was bummed that Wildcat never made an appearance (one of my personal favorites), watching Atomic Super Thunderfrog in the ring definitely had me laughing just from his outfit and mannerisms. The way that this event fuses both comedic wrestlers and the real deal is a magical thing and keeps the night light-hearted and fun.
Not only are there local favorites at this event every year, there are also stars that travel across the country to fight in this event. Some come back year after year and others seem to come just once and steal my heart. Both Joey Ryan and Orange Cassidy fell into the latter category this year. From Orange Cassidy’s nonchalant performance which has made him famous to Joey Ryan’s over sexualized time in the ring, both of these wrestlers seemed to be absolutely honored to have had the experience of performing at this local event. After his match on Saturday night, Joey Ryan took the time to thank the crowd before leaving the stage. It was a super small moment of the night but it was a moment that I caught and loved with all of my heart. Sure, some of Wrestlepalooza is all fun and games and, at times, a little ridiculous, but what we have up here from the wrestlers to the crowd is something truly special and I think that Joey felt that.
Beyond the wrestling is the music factor of this event. Friday night featured a local favorite of mine, Tightwire. Saturday was Gully Boys– a band that is truly making waves in the local scene. Tightwire’s pop-punk sound is completely different than the indie-rock vibes that Gully Boys put out there but somehow both acts were the perfect act for the event. Both band played up the fact that they were playing at Wrestlepalooza. From the outfits that the women in Gully Boys were wearing to the banter that Tightwire had with the audience, I’m not sure that there could have been anyone better to play either of these nights. Do I still not have you sold with the wrestling and music? Let’s throw the burlesque in there. Every time one of the dancers took the ring, they had a creative song and even more creative outfit which made their performance much more that just a “shrug off” moment of the night.
All in all, Wrestlepalooza really doesn’t change from year to year. You see the same faces for the most part and shout the same chants (my personal favorite is “This is Awesome!” shouted over and over again) but that’s not a bad thing. Wrestlepalooza has somehow stayed the same while, at the same time, changing the game of wrestling. From the introduction of Devon Monroe (a local LGBTQ+ wrestler) to Priscilla winning the Uptown VFW belt and announcing that the next match there would be an all female night, I feel like F1rst Wrestling gets it and strives to be all inclusive. It’s dramatic, I know, but F1rst Wrestling is Minnesota and they are making these cities and this state so damn proud with every event they host both here and on the road.
To be honest, I had to much fun to keep track of exactly who fought and won in each match. (although I will mention that Thunderfrog’s hammer being snapped in half during a match was definitely upsetting). Go for the wrestling, go for the music, go for the dancing, honestly, go for whatever you want but Wrestlepalooza (and any F1rst Wrestling event for that matter) is worth you going to. What an amazing organization with brilliant events. And the crowd’s chant after the last match summed it up perfectly “Thank you, Arik!”