Fans of pro wrestling should have been focused on Florida this week.
Tampa was originally set to host Wrestlemania, the biggest event of the year for wrestling fans and wrestlers alike. In addition to WWE’s stadium supershow, there were hundreds of independent wrestling events scheduled to take place throughout the week, with some of Minnesota’s favorite pro wrestlers -- including Darin Corbin, Arik Cannon, and Devon Monroe -- right in the thick of it.
Instead, Wrestlemania is taking place in a closed training center in Orlando, and the buffet of wrestling scheduled around the area was COVID-19’d.
“Mania week is huge for the independents, as fans from all over the world are there,” says Arik Cannon, owner and operator of F1RST Wrestling. “It’s a huge opportunity to cast a wider net for yourself and your brand.”
Less than a month after packing nearly 1,000 fans into Rosedale Center for a massively successful F1RST Wrestling show, Cannon was scheduled to wrestle a staggering eight matches over the course of this week in Tampa, and estimates that he likely would have cleared around $3,000 before merch sales.
While he has other ways of gaining exposure and recouping some costs, including his online T-shirt shop and F1RST Wrestling’s YouTube channel, Cannon says that he’s more concerned with the health and safety of the world around him.
“I should be doing more; I should probably be trying harder to recoup lost wages and such,” he says. “But… there’s so much more scary and important shit happening.”
Devon Monroe, one of the newest sensations carving out a reputation both in Minnesota’s wrestling scene and beyond, was going to be making his first Mania week appearance.
“I had three matches booked for Mania week; my first outing,” he says. While the money is important, for a new star like Monroe missing out on exposure and networking is far more disappointing. “I lost opportunities that in the future could have been more money, stuff like that... Now it’s back to square one.”
Darin Corbin was set for six matches in Tampa. While losing those bookings has been tough on him, he also lost out on his honeymoon.
“I was lining [Wrestlemania week] up with my honeymoon,” he says. “We were supposed to head to Orlando on Friday, do Universal and Disney, and then head over to Tampa for the shenanigans.”
Though he can’t physically step in the ring at the moment, Corbin has found creative ways to keep building his following while we’re all stuck inside.
“I’ve been uploading new web shows to my YouTube channel,” he says. “I have a weekly series, and have added a brief quarantine-based show. I upload new episodes every weekday.”
Corbin has also created a Patreon account, where fans can subscribe for as little as $1 a month and receive perks like exclusive Q&A’s, merchandise discounts, shoutouts on his videos, and more.
“It’s given me the outlet that I needed while being limited to outside entertainment and my normal means of business,” Corbin says.
There’s no telling how long it’ll be before wrestling fans can see their favorite stars back in the ring (F1RST Wrestling’s April event at the VFW Uptown has already been postponed). The wrestlers are just as anxious as the rest of us.
“I’m trying to focus on and concern myself with the things I can control.” says Cannon. “And make the best of this shitty situation.”