I told myself that I would stop covering Wrestlepalooza. It’s a fantastic event put on at First Avenue by F1rst Wrestling, but I say the same thing every time I cover it. It’s an event I never thought I would get super into but has turned into one I refuse to miss. I said I wasn’t going to cover it anymore. Still, as the time inched closer to the event, something didn’t feel right, so I panicked and got the credentials to cover it again.
A familiar feeling was in the air when I walked up to First Avenue on Saturday night. Although it was absolutely freezing and a few snowflakes were flying, you could feel the warmth radiating from the venue. This wasn’t your typical “just another concert” kind of warmth; it was the kind that only comes when Wrestlepalooza takes over the venue. It’s full of excitement and anticipation, but, more importantly, it’s full of passion. People were scattered throughout the venue, with the wrestling ring perfectly centered on the floor. The prime spots around the ring had been claimed long before I arrived, but I was surprised to see so many other great viewing points still open. That’s when I saw the lines for the merch.
People were lined up to get the first ever F1rst Wrestling trading cards (which sold out nearly instantly) and other merchandise from F1rst and the various wrestlers. Sure, this was just another night on the town for me, which has become more than the norm, but, for other people, this was their event– the one time they go out– the one thing they really look forward to and the way that feeling seeped into the atmosphere before the event even got started was my first clue that I had made the right choice in covering this event yet again.
It wasn’t long before announcer John Maddening appeared from behind the screen, hiding the stage set up for the night’s musical performance (more on that in a bit). John’s entrance came with a cascade of boos from the audience. This is the usual thing. People don’t like John. He gets booed. He taunts the crowd, and the crowd taunts back. To an outsider, this would be a very bizarre and uncomfortable moment. However, to the Wrestlepalooza fans, this is just part of the show, and the way the audience has made this a moment is part of the magic of Wrestlepalooza.
Beyond booing John nearly every time he takes the ring, there are many other moments that the audience has really made their own. One of those moments is the chants that happen throughout the event. Everything from “This is awesome!” to “Holy Shit!”. These moments wouldn’t happen without the passionate fans. Still, it’s those moments that keep me coming back time and time again, even when I have promised myself that I’m done.
I would be remiss not to bring up the wrestling. In classic “me” fashion, I’m not going to tell you who won what match, kept their belts, or lost them. Watching all of the fantastic wrestlers do their thing is amazing. The true talent, strength, and sportsmanship that every human who entered the ring on Saturday night showed left me stunned, as it always does. From four-way fights to one-on-ones to an epic six-way fight at one point, there could be many people in the ring, but regardless, your eyes never left those wrestlers. Even the refs were getting into it at times. Watching them perform, you knew you could never entirely do what they do, but part of you wanted to leap into the ring and join in. That’s the vibe of Wrestlepalooza and one of the many truly unique things about this event.
Another fantastic thing about this event is the music. Full disclosure: the fact that Dillinger Four was the musical guest for Saturday night was a huge reason I decided to go back on my word and cover this event again. Dillinger Four is one of my all-time favorites. Living in the same town as the members is a dream, especially when I walk into a bar and see one of them there (shout out to Grumpy’s in Northeast), but seeing them perform at a local wrestling event is something I never thought I would experience.
Their two sets between matches were short and sweet but came with the classic Dillinger Four attitude. That’s the attitude where they are clearly playing their songs and making sure the audience gets what they paid for while having fun when doing it. With plenty of jokes mixed with the reality that this was their second time playing this event and how, as kids, this would have been a dream, seeing Dillinger Four was definitely one of my favorite moments of the night.
Paddy, the bassist, suggested switching it up a bit since this was their second time playing a Wrestlepalooza. He brought up the idea of playing while the wrestling happens. Honestly, this would be such a cool thing. Still, I also understand that, for the announcers who were live streaming the event. This would be a nightmare for wrestlers who use audible cues in their matches, so it is probably not a plausible idea. I liked this moment more because you could see ideas flowing through the air to keep this event going and evolving. That shows you how much the music community, punk community, wrestling community, hell, the entire Twin Cities community (and even London, as one fan flew across the pond for this event) loves this event.
I thought about skipping out on Wrestlepalooza this year. What a silly idea. Not only did I get to cover it on Saturday night, but I will be returning on Sunday for a second helping. Will I see you there? If so, come find me. Let’s cheers over the fantastic work that F1rst Wrestling has done in putting on this event and to the First Avenue staff for continuing to host!