Rosedale Center has entertained with drag queen fashion shows, Sunday dog walking and "Haunted Christmas" performances. Next up: professional wrestling.
"We always look at where our customers are spending their free time, and I was shocked at how many people watch wrestling," said Sarah Fossen, a marketing executive at Rosedale. "We kept hearing about F1RST Wrestling. They've done shows at the VFW in Uptown, First Avenue and Grand Old Day in St. Paul."
On March 7, F1RST will take over the main floor of the former Herberger's space for a family-friendly show called "Saturday Night Nitro at Rosedale."
"Rosedale feels like the right team for us," said Arik Cannon, 38, a professional wrestler, founder and owner of F1RST Wrestling. "They're doing really cool stuff in their space."
Besides Cannon, other local wrestlers at the event will include Air Wolf and Darin Corbin as well as national performers.
Pro wrestling has ebbed and flowed over the years, but Cannon says it's been on the upswing since 2013.
"We have no trouble selling out 300 seats at the VFW or 850 at First Avenue," he said.
Part of the contemporary appeal may be that the audience no longer has to wonder if the wrestling is real or fake. "When I was a kid using the word 'fake' was like a swear word," he said. "Now the wrestlers refer to themselves as actors or artists. We want our fans to be in on the joke with us, not try to pull the wool over their eyes."
Although the Rosedale show will feature only wrestling, F1RST's other shows include live music, burlesque, and drag performers. "We believe what we do is for everyone, regardless of race, religion or whom they love," he said.
One F1RST fan interviewed outside First Avenue as he waited to get into a show described it as "the best party you can ever go to. There's wrestling, burlesque, live music and the beer is always flowing. The amount of energy is off the charts," according to a YouTube video
F1RST has performed in one location even unlikelier than Rosedale. A wrestling fan who also happens to be a rabbi at Temple of Aaron in St. Paul asked Cannon to hold a wrestling match at the synagogue. Two events have already taken place and a third is coming in June.
Details for the Rosedale event are still being determined, but tickets will go on sale later this week on Rosedale's social media outlets. Prices at other F1RST events range from $12 to $27.
This isn't the first time that a professional wrestling event has been held in a Twin Cities mall. In 1995, Mall of America held a Monday Night Nitro featuring Hulk Hogan, who had recently opened Hulk Hogan's Pastamania restaurant there.
The wrestling show won't be the last event before the Herberger's building is razed to make way for new development. On March 28 and 29, the space will be taken over by the Women's Expo, which was held at the Minneapolis Convention Center last year.
John Ewoldt • 612-673-7633