MINNEAPOLIS -- Arik Cannon wasn't at the Mall of America on Sept. 4, 1995, when WCW wrestlers tussled in the rotunda for the first episode of "Monday Nitro." He was at home, wishing he'd gone.
"I was on the floor watching it live on television, and I just kept telling my mom, 'We could've been there. It's at the Mall of America. Come on, let's go,'" Cannon said. "But in '95 I was like a 13-,14-year-old punk kid that just wanted to -- wrestling was everything."
After high school, Cannon went straight into professional wrestling training. He had his first pro match in 2001, and he's been working in wrestling full-time since 2007. And now, 27 years after the first episode of "WCW Monday Nitro," he's finally going to get to see wrestling at the Mall of America. In fact, he's in charge of the whole event. Cannon'sin September.
Cannon describes F1RST as "an independent professional wrestling company of men and women that strive for bigger and better things."
"We are sort of like minor league baseball," Cannon said. "We are the St. Paul Saints to the Minnesota Twins."
F1RST hosts events at breweries around the Twin Cities, a yearly "Wrestlepalooza" at First Avenue and has even held matches at St. Paul's Temple of Aaron synagogue. In March 2020, Cannon connected with MOA's director of experiential, Chris Grap, who is himself a wrestling fan. The two started talking about bringing the ring back to the rotunda.
The 1995 event is "almost folklore at this point," Cannon said. "So fans have been clamoring for professional wrestling to return to the Mall of America for years, decades even, but it just seems like the right pieces to that puzzle weren't found."
Both Grap and Cannon felt F1RST Wrestling was that missing puzzle piece. They planned for two years before announcing "Saturday Night Nitro" at this year's Wrestlepalooza.
"I've wrestled for WWE and I've wrestled for AEW. I've traveled the world doing this. I've had over 20 matches at First Avenue, but that was the most nervous and excited that I've ever been," Cannon said.
The fan response has been fantastic, Cannon said, with tickets selling fast. He's hoping the event draws F1RST followers and wrestling neophytes alike.
"I think that we are going to put all the right spices and all the right faces on this event that wrestling fans who are familiar with what we do want to come, but also wrestling fans who don't know who we are or what we do want to come," he said. "A little bit of something for everyone. And that's a real big thing with F1RST Wrestling, is our lineups are always diverse, they're always representative, because it's important that everyone knows that they can come to these events."
Even non-wrestling fans can find something to like at a F1RST Wrestling show, because Cannon said "it's not just professional wrestling. We do live music, burlesque, drag. We've done standup comedy. It's a party, and it's a good time."
It'll be a good time for all ages and all kinds of fans on Sept. 10 at the mall, Cannon promises.
"We're going to do all ages, live pro wrestling, fun for the whole family," he said. "There's going to be some fun, some surprises, some nostalgia for those people that remember that first wrestling event that was at the Mall of America in 1995. It's going to be a party, just like Wrestlepalooza, just a different flavor."
For Cannon, who said wrestling was "a part of life, it was a part of childhood, it was a part of my upbringing," getting to bring it back to the Mall of America is almost unbelievable.
"It's still a little like, 'Wow, this is really happening.' And I think the fans feel that same way," he said. "It's something that we've all been kind of waiting for for a while, and to say that F1RST Wrestling is going to be the one to do it, it's pretty surreal. It's pretty amazing."
Limited tickets are still available for Saturday Night Nitro on Sept. 10. F1RST will be at Whiz Bang Lakeside in Robbinsdale July 8 and has more events planned this summer. You can follow all of F1RST Wrestling's events on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
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