On March 7, F1RST Wrestling was on top of the world. The premier independent wrestling organization in all of Minnesota had managed to draw over 500 screaming fans to the show that night, taking place for the first time inside of Rosedale Center.
The group had a full slate of sold out events scheduled to take place throughout the summer, and the buzz surrounding F1RST Wrestling had never been louder.
A week later, everything changed.
Once the COVID-19 pandemic hit, local wrestling disappeared. All of the shows, including its hugely popular, bi-annual mega-show at First Avenue, Wrestlepalooza, were cancelled.
This Sunday, F1RST Wrestling makes its triumphant return with two back-to-back shows at the Temple of Aaron Synagogue in St. Paul.
While F1RST Wrestling owner and performer Arik Cannon is excited about getting back into the ring, he says the shows this weekend are going to look and feel a lot different than they did pre-pandemic.
“I feel like we’ve been given an opportunity that I feel safe and comfortable with,” says Cannon. “The people we’re working with at the Temple of Aaron feel the same way, and we want to ensure the safety of everyone including the performers and the fans in attendance.”
Some of those new safety measures, Cannon says, include a limited capacity of fans, required masks for all attendees, and mandatory COVID testing for all performers.
“Everyone on our side of the guardrail with F1RST Wrestling is required to take a test and provide the results to me, in order to be sure we’re doing our part to keep each other safe,” he explains. “Masks are going to be required start to finish for fans in attendance; we’ll be operating at about 20 percent capacity; there will be distanced seating.
"Our message is if you want to be there, we absolutely want you to be there. But if you can’t be bothered to do things like wear a mask, then this event is not for you."
The event itself will feature an incredible mix of local breakout stars like Devon Monroe and Air Wolf, as well as out-of-town headliners like ACH and Priscilla Kelly.
As for Cannon the performer, he says he can’t wait to be back in the ring.
“I’m going to be 39 by Christmas, and I started wrestling when I was 19,” Cannon explains. “Professional wrestling, more or less, has been the only thing I’ve done for the majority of my adult life. I’m really excited about it. I’m excited, nervous, anxious, all of those things to get back in there.”
Beyond this weekend, Cannon says he and F1RST Wrestling are in a wait-and-see situation when it comes to committing to more shows.
“These shows are kind of a test,” he says. “I need to know that we can do this and that we can do it safely. I also need to know what our local scene and the F1RST Wrestling fanbase is willing to support.”
With tickets for the first show already sold out and the second show nearing capacity, it feels like a safe bet that fans are just as ready for wrestling to come back as Cannon.
“I truly believe that the safest show is the show that doesn’t happen,” Cannon says plainly. “That being said, I believe that F1RST Wrestling is taking more precautions than anyone else in wrestling right now.”
There are still a few tickets left for the event. Get yours here.