Photos by Nikhil Kumaran
Words by Langen Goldstien
While most of the world spent their Sunday night watching football and preparing for the work week, hundreds of wrestling fans spent their night at First Avenue with giant smiles. Chances are the majority of those people woke up with sore throats and maybe a wee bit of a hangover, but it was all worth it to experience night two of Wrestlepalooza this weekend.
The crowd at this same event on Saturday night was rowdy, and with the second one falling on a Sunday night, I figured it would be a bit more low-key, but I was wrong. The feeling I had walking up to the venue in downtown Minneapolis on Sunday was the same as I had on Saturday. There was excitement in the air, and as I walked into the iconic First Avenue main room, I was quickly greeted with chatter all about wrestling. Whether it was friends preparing first-timers about what to expect or how to boo announcer John Maddening the second he made his entrance or just chatter about the excitement of having a massive name like Orange Cassidy on the bill. There was chatter, and I tried to eavesdrop on all the conversations around me.
Per usual, I won’t give everything that happened on Sunday night away. Part of that is because it ruins the fun, and the other part is because, as a fair-weathered wrestling fan, I don’t know all of the storylines’ intricacies or the feuds battled out in the ring in front of me. That being said, some highlights need to be mentioned. The first one was the dancers.
Many moments had me laughing, and others had my jaw on the ground. I mean, come on, I saw an opossum wrestle. Big O. Possum came complete with his son, Joey, in his “pouch.” It reminded me of my all-time favorite Wrestlepalooza wrestler- Wildcat. It was quirky and campy but oh-so-perfect at the same time. I would be remiss not to mention Orange Cassidy– the man who is too cool for wrestling and spends most of his time in the ring with his hands in his pockets. Many moments throughout Orange’s match had me laughing, but it was when referee Clark Feldman was gifted Orange’s signature sunglasses after the match that made it for me. Although just a ref, Clark had the chance to body-slam one of Orange’s opponents during the match. Knowing Clark through wrestling and in real life made this one of my favorite moments of the weekend, hands down.
I’ll be honest: the burlesque dancing is not my favorite part of this event, but I get it. It works with the demographic and adds the feeling of this being a “show.” The dancers are always gorgeous and come with a quirky skit, which typically catches my attention. That said, Deeva Rose and Petty Treason doing a burlesque skit based on Wayne’s World finally had me falling for this portion of the event. There was just something so creative and so fun about it. On top of that, seeing women who look a bit like me (I’m a plus-size kind of gal) do what they did and get such a roaring response from the crowd was a confidence booster. Obviously, I was not in the ring doing what they were doing, but they were just so gorgeous up there and did such a great routine. I won’t get super deep into my thoughts on this, but what a perfect addition to an already perfect night.
On top of all of this was the music. Wrestlepalooza is known for having fantastic band performances, and Sunday night was no different as they welcomed Tightwire to the stage. It had been years since I last saw Tightwire. It was back in October of 2019, but that doesn’t quite matter because this band is still just as solid as I remember them. Although there has been a slight change-up in their line-up since my last time seeing them, Tightwire brought the same self-deprecating sense of humor to the stage and their distinct punk-leaning pop-punk vibe to the speakers– the way it has always been. With the audience booing the band (at their request because that’s just the kind of band Tightwire is), I felt that, although people may not have been familiar with the band, everyone loved what they brought to the night.
Sunday night was the twenty-fourth Wrestlepalooza and the twentieth consecutive Wrestlepalooza that has sold out First Avenue. Please think about that for a second. It has been nearly a quarter of a century since this event started, and instead of fizzling out and fading, it only continues to get bigger and bigger year after year. This was the theme of the night for me. As I stood there watching familiar and unfamiliar faces in the ring, I couldn’t help but look back at that first time I experienced a Wrestlepalooza. Although it has been years, the event still hits me the same. I may not be one of those ultra-fans who follow the storylines or know all of the current belt holders, but I look forward to this event time and time again. Whether I’m going with friends or solo, I know I will have a hell of a good night.
Organizer and local wrestling God Arik Cannon touched on this after he fought a round. He talked about how people come to this event because Arik and his production company, F1rst Wrestling, care. It’s as simple as that. They care that people get an experience and a good on at that. They care that wrestlers who travel far away are treated as well as the staff working the events they put on. They care that F1st Wrestling and events like Wrestlepalooza come with a sense of heart and passion. Those are just a few reasons that events like this do so well. It was a touching thing for him to say and something new. Arik always has a moment with the microphone at Wrestlepalooza’s. Still, he typically uses that moment to thank everyone for their support and explain that this wouldn’t be happening without the fans. Hearing him switch it up and talk about why this event works thrilled me, but what thrilled me more was that he gave his speech with the same amount of passion and a feeling of choking back tears.
I told myself I would stop covering Wrestlepalooza. I will not stop going because I will never be able to resist such a fun event, but I have always thought about discontinuing writing about it. This is because I tend to repeat myself in these reviews. That being said, even if one person is reading this and has never heard of Wrestlepalooza of F1rst Wrestling, it’s worth it. This is an event and an organization that deserves all of the love and praise they can possibly get, and if that means writing about the event until the end of days, fine.
Seriously, kudos to Arik Cannon and the rest of F1rst Wrestling, all of the wrestlers, the musicians, the dancers, the staff of First Avenue, and everyone else involved in making this event what it is. Twenty-four Wrestlepalooza’s down, a million to go!