First Wrestling’s “WrestlePalooza XXIII” Results (1/13 & 1/14): Dehnel’s report on match results and overall nightclub even experience with Top Flight, Orange Cassidy

By Joel Dehnel, PWTorch contributor

Orange Cassidy (photo Joel Dehnel © PWTorch)


On May 9, 2009, I experienced my first independent wrestling show. I was 14 years old. I took the city bus along with a friend at the time who had no interest in seeing professional wrestling, let alone the “minor league.” But the prospect of sneaking into a nightclub was intriguing. Being that the event was 18+, we asked patrons in line if they would act as our guardians to get through the doors. Luckily, someone who was already intoxicated agreed. We were in the home of Prince’s “Purple Rain,” First Avenue Danceteria. Hence, “F1rst” wrestling.

We were able to sit on a ledge within a few feet of the ring. Something I could only have dreamed of. The action was intimate, and the wrestlers were accessible. From the beginning, they were creating a unique connection with the roughly 300 people in attendance.

The show featured ECW alum and Minnesota native Jerry Lynn, Erick Rowan/Redbeard (then known as Thoruf Marius), Silas Young, and current AEW wrestler Ariya Daivari in the main event. A piece of the table Daivari dove through rests somewhere in my mom’s basement.

F1rst Wrestling was and is promoted by Saint Paul native Arik Cannon. Cannon was known for competing in Chikara, Dragon Gate USA, IWA Mid-South, and even MTV’s Wrestling Society X. Fast forward: Cannon has grown his promotion to 20 consecutive sold-out shows at the nationally famous First Avenue as announced Sunday by longtime ring announcer John Maddening.

Fifteen years after my first show, Cannon has drawn inspiration from his experiences around the world to feature a promotion with the tagline “Is for Everyone.” Welcoming and attracting a wide audience and featuring wrestlers with varied styles and backgrounds. They’ve expanded around the Twin Cities, including various breweries, the Uptown VFW, and an annual show at Bloomington’s Mall of America, home of the original WCW Nitro.

Wrestlepalooza has become the name of their First Avenue shows, which routinely feature punk rock bands and burlesque performances in between matches. Sunday’s 24th Wrestlepalooza show was highlighted by the return of current AEW International Champion Orange Cassidy. For years, he wrestled for F1rst Wrestling before becoming the star he is today.

He debuted as Fire Ant before the Wet Hot American Summer-inspired Orange Cassidy character. Cassidy quickly became a fan favorite and a draw for the promotion. Nowadays, Cassidy rarely performs on independents. After a social media tease of the hand-drawn thumb, the show sold out shortly thereafter, leading to two consecutive sold-out shows in the same venue on the same weekend.

It wasn’t clear if Cassidy would be wrestling, but he was a surprise competitor in a four-way match that included Arik Cannon, as well as young, homegrown talent Rylie Jackson and JAH-C. Cassidy won the match and cut a promo afterwards. It may have been more words spoken than I’ve seen in any singular AEW promo.

He thanked the crowd and, more specifically, Arik Cannon for creating an environment that welcomes different styles and characters. He thanked Cannon for allowing him to be himself. He credited F1rst for helping him achieve where he is today. He emphasized how much he wanted to be there in front of this crowd.

Mind you, the temperature was negative-7 degrees in Minneapolis, and he had just wrestled on Battle of the Belts the night before. Although he isn’t from the Midwest, it felt like a homecoming with Cassidy sort of breaking character. He shook hands, hugged, and even kissed Cannon before the show went to the main event.

It was a true homecoming for Top Flight who are Minneapolis natives. Dante and Darius Martin were known as Air Wolf and Angel Dorado before coming to AEW. The “Flip Bros” were homegrown F1rst Wrestling talent as teenagers. They’ve routinely made appearances as their schedules permit.

Their success has made F1rst a place to see rising talent. Cannon has booked several AEW stars before they “made it big,” including Swerve Strickland, MJF, Darby Allin, Chuck Taylor, Colt Cabana, Ethan Page, and many more. In recent times, Skye Blue and Bryan Keith have had their names called.

Cannon has put an emphasis on the younger local talent to carry the shows. Oftentimes, they receive bigger reactions than the well-known names brought in. Brandon Gore has developed a conspiracy theorist character complete with the trailer mustache and mullet look, along with tin foil hats. Fans proudly wear the aluminum in support throughout the venue.

Devon Monroe, the F1rst Wrestlepalooza Champion, has developed a Prince-inspired “Black Sexellence” persona where fans can feel the contagiousness of his self-confidence. Darin Corbin has been the promotion’s longtime heel since he broke from his original babyface tag team, The North Star Express. He and Ryan Cruz came to the ring in Minnesota North Star hockey jerseys, a logo and colors that hold a special place for Minnesotans of that era. Along with his jerk persona, ripping away the North Stars like Norm Green has irredeemable heat.

More recently, F1rst Wrestling has put an emphasis on booking true Lucha Libre talent. They’ve main evented several shows with Mexican luchadors, including El Hijo Del Vikingo, Aramis, Arez, and Chicago-born luchador Gringo Loco. The Lucha matches have proven to keep fans coming back for more, as they’re typically the main event.

After the first night, Cannon said he didn’t know how much longer they would be doing these shows, but he can assure everyone that more lucha libre is in their five-year plan.

F1rst Wrestling’s “Wrestlepalooza XXIII”
First Avenue
Minneapolis, Minn.
January 13, 2024

(1) Brandon Gore (c) defeated Rylie Jackson to retain the F1rst Uptown VFW Championship

(2) Dark Sheik defeated Free-Range Kara

*Dillinger Four Set 1*

(3) Devon Monroe (c) defeated Warhorse via DQ to retain the F1rst Wrestlepalooza Championship.

(4) Top Flight (Dante & Darius Martin) defeated Lorebin Cometh (Darin Corbin & Heavy Metal Lore)

*Dillinger Four Set 2*

(5) JAH-C defeated Arik Cannon, Badger Briggs, Super Thunderfrog, Shane Black, and Rob Justice

*Dick Von Dyke Burlesque Performance*

(6) Arez defeated Gringo Loco, Aramis, and Latigo

F1rst Wrestling’s “Wrestlepalooza XXIV”
First Avenue
Minneapolis, Minn.
January 14, 2024

(1) Jordan defeated Shane Black Heavy Metal Lore, Ryan Cruz, Matt Honey, and Big O. Possum

*Deeva Rose and Petty Treason Burlesque Performance*

(2) Badger Briggs defeated Dark Sheik, Free-Range Kara, and Zamaya

*Tightwire Set 1*

(3) Darin Corbin & Warhorse defeated BUSSY (Effy & Allie Katch)

(4) Dante Martin defeated Bryan Keith

*Tightwire Set 2*

(5) Orange Cassidy defeated JAH-C & Arik Cannon & Rylie Jackson

*Phoenix De La Rosa Burlesque Performance*

(6) Darius Martin & Devon Monroe & Brandon Gore defeated Gringo Loco & Arez & Latigo


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