What began as a passionate appreciation of professional wrestling from the perspective of a fan turned into a full-time career for Wyoming resident and 2000 Forest Lake Area High School graduate Arik Cannon.
Cannon will wrestle Scott Story for the Minnesota Independent Championship belt in the main event of Forest Lake Fights 2 at 8 p.m. April 22 at the American Legion.
“I was a total nerd for wrestling back in the day,” Cannon said. “I was all about it and I knew it was something I wanted to do.”
Luke Greenwald, Cannon’s friend and classmate at FLAHS, happened to have a sister with a connection. Cannon was eager to get the hook up.
“Luke had a sister named Norah who graduated from Forest Lake a few years before I did, and she worked in professional wrestling as Molly Holly,” Cannon said. “Luke gave me an introduction and said this is my sister and this is what she does, and I took it from there.”
Cannon used his Molly Holly connection to get some advice and also a shove in the right direction. She told him what do and where to go to get properly trained. Cannon began training with Midwest Pro Wrestling in St. Louis Park (since relocated to Maple Grove) on April 9, 2001. After spending several months learning the ins and outs of performing in the ring and working as a referee, Cannon performed in his first match on Sept. 22, 2001, at Grumpy’s Bar and Grill in downtown Minneapolis. Getting to that match, however, was not as easy as it reads.
“When I started, they didn’t want me to be a wrestler because at that time there was no call for someone my size (5 feet 7 inches and 210 pounds), and guys like me really weren’t often given a chance,” he said. “They tried to convince me to be a referee full time, but I just said that it was my money paying for the training and they should let me do what I want to do, and if I fail, then it’s on me.”
Cannon took his career into his own hands and became not only wrestler, but also manager, promoter and agent for the Arik Cannon brand. As with any successful sports entertainer, he knew he needed some kind of a gimmick.
“I wanted to create a character, but I didn’t want it to be too far removed from who I really was because I wanted to be able to pretty much be myself in front of fans both inside and outside the ring,” Cannon said. “I have always been a punk rock kid and so I wondered what I could do with that to make a character that was understandable to anyone. I decided to go with The Anarchist because I knew it was something vaguely related to punk rock and it was also something that had been commercialized quite a bit and would therefore be something people could relate to.”
Arik “The Anarchist” Cannon was born and his career began to take off as he took matches wherever he could squeeze them in.
“Wherever there is money and a wrestling show, I am willing to be a part of it,” he said. “First off, it helps me to get paid, and secondly it keeps my name out there and gets me in front of as many people as possible.”
Getting paid, although a nice perk, was not a top priority to begin with for Cannon.
“My goals when I started were that I hoped to have a good match and then eventually I did think it would be cool to make some money,” Cannon said. “As things progressed, my goals changed to making enough to pay my bills and maybe even wrestling in a different country.”
Eventually, Cannon would meet those goals. He has wrestled in Europe, Japan and Australia. He is also making real money as a sports entertainer. Some of that cash came from a completely unexpected source.
“My dad always drank Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, and so when I got old enough and started drinking myself, that was my preferred brand as well,” Cannon said. “That was pretty much the only beer I drank, and so fans who would see me out started asking me about it on Instagram and eventually Twitter and Facebook as well.”
Cannon’s steadfast affinity for PBR had fans wondering if there was some sort of a sponsorship deal between the wrestler and the company. There was not, and Cannon often had to explain that it was simply a brand that he personally enjoyed.
“One day out of the blue I got an email from some guy’s personal email address telling me that he worked for PBR and my name was coming up in marketing meetings,” Cannon said. “He wondered if I wanted to become the official pro wrestler of the PBR brand. I wrote it off as a joke, but it actually turned out to be legit.”
Cannon said that he was so elated at the title of official pro wrestler of PBR that he would have been happy to receive a dollar and a can of beer and nothing more.
“It did turn out to be more than I ever expected,” Cannon said. “They started sending me promotional materials like hats and can koozies and I would hand them out to fans at shows and they would thank me on social media and it would help promote the brand. One day I got a call asking where they should send the sponsorship check. It was unexpected and I was floored, but I have been getting a check each month ever since.”
One highlight of Cannon’s career was working on the MTV television show “Wrestling Society X.” The program featured pro wrestling matches and live music.
“I came home from filming that show and I had a pile of money and I knew I wanted to use it enhance the local wrestling scene here in Minnesota,” Cannon said.
He began promoting his own shows under the First Wrestling banner. That endeavor eventually morphed into what is now known as Wrestlepalooza.
“We put on Wrestlepalooza shows two or three times a year at First Avenue in Minneapolis,” he said. “It is basically an 18-plus party featuring wrestling, music, burlesque and stand-up comedy. People actually love it and we’re looking at branching out to do some dates in Iowa and some other places.”
Professional wrestling, as most know, is a scripted form of sports entertainment. However, that does not mean that the action isn’t hard-hitting. Bumps and bruises do come with the territory, and Cannon is certainly not immune. A few of his injury highlights include several concussions, a broken collar bone and torn tissue in his foot.
“When I tore the tissue in my foot, it was because I was on a ladder in the ring and someone tipped it over and I went crashing through a table and my foot hit the floor a bit harder than expected,” Cannon said. “I couldn’t get my doctor to quite understand the scenario when he asked me how it happened. Eventually I just had to tell him I was changing a light bulb in the garage and fell off a ladder. That he could understand.”
Wrestling all over the world, making money, coming back from injury and promoting his own shows has been a dream come true for Cannon, but arguably the biggest moment in his career to date came in March when he was emailed by the biggest wrestling company on the planet.
“I got a message from somebody who worked with the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) and they wanted to know if I could be available on certain dates,” Cannon said. “I cleared my calendar and I showed up.”
Cannon traveled to several WWE shows and hung out backstage waiting to be called up. On March 7, it happened.
“They gave me a tryout match before the cameras were running and they said I did good and then later that night they said that they needed me for a spot,” he said. “They used me in a match against Akira Tozawa and it was filmed for the WWE show ‘NXT.’ All the feedback was positive and I can only hope that I get called up to do some more.”
Although the call from the WWE would be ideal for Cannon, he does have other plans for his future in the business. Currently, he is a trainer at a wrestling school in Minneapolis called The Academy and has plans to stick with it for the foreseeable future.
“I will stay in the ring wrestling for as long as I feel I can positively contribute to matches,” Cannon says. “Other than that, I have show promotion and the training to keep me busy. I have no plans to slow down any time soon.”