It’s a brisk Saturday evening on First Avenue, and there are bodies lining the sidewalks, waiting to push their way into one of the bars and nightclubs. While the booming of music and people screaming is enough to cause sensory overload, there is something happening inside of Mill City Nights that is more insane than anything you’ll find at the light rail station.
On this night, Crushed Pro Wrestling is bringing a bone-smashing, blood-spilling, high-flying lineup of the very best wrestlers from all over Minnesota, along with some former faces from WWE and ECW. In the ring, Detroit Lakes native Darin Corbin, aka Ginger Snap, has the unenviable task of doing battle with Ariya Daivari, aka Sheik, a long-time local mainstay who looks like he’s been chiseled out of stone.
While it becomes quickly apparent that the Ginger Snap won’t be able to overpower the Sheik, he does have the ability to outwit him. His combination of practical jokes, humor, and physicality have made Corbin one of the most popular stars of the night, and a favorite amongst fans throughout Minnesota.
Corbin looks like a guy who was built to be a professional wrestler. With a mop of bright-red hair and a mile-long smile, he is insanely charismatic and flies around the ring like a guy half his size. And though he may not have the traditional look of the professional wrestlers of yesteryear, Corbin says that there is more opportunity as an independent wrestler today than there was when he started 12 years ago.
“There are different hotbeds of wrestling now all over the country and internationally, and it’s awesome to see certain styles on display,” he says. “There’s more opportunity now to get noticed than there ever has been before.”
Through local shows like the aforementioned Crushed Pro Wrestling, and the semi-annual spectacle known as Wrestlepalooza that takes over First Avenue for a night of wrestling, music, burlesque, and mayhem, Corbin has established a niche for himself as someone who is equal parts comedy and wrestling.
“When I started wrestling, I was really comedy-based,” he says. “WWE was always a place for bigger guys, and being 5’10” I’m probably not going to be on their radar. That means I need to go out and have to find new ways to get noticed.”
One of those ways has been as a tag-team specialist, partnering up with another wrestler named Ryan Cruz to form the North Star Express.
“Tag team wrestling is all about chemistry, and how one partner complements the other,” Corbin explains. “Ryan and I are high-energy and we aren’t overly complicated. When we’re in the ring together, we know what each other is thinking. That’s what makes it work.”
North Star Express vs. Zero Gravity at the 2015 Wrestlepalooza
Together, the North Star Express have won numerous championships across Minnesota, and have competed against some of the biggest and baddest wrestlers from all over the world. And while Corbin says it’s great to have someone watching his back, his toughest and favorite matches of all time were when he stepped through the ropes solo.
“I wrestled (former WWE/ECW superstar) Tommy Dreamer at the Jerry Lynn retirement show a couple of years ago, and that was amazing because he’s such a legend and was a turning point in my career,” he explains. “It was when I realized that I could have any kind of match, and didn’t need to stick to a certain type of match.”
Another foe who Corbin says has been a favorite is former WWE superstar Gangrel, who is a modern-day vampire.
“Gangrel hits like a tank and just keeps coming,” says Corbin. “The first time I fought him, I wore a werewolf head to the ring to psych him out. I don’t know if it worked, but it was fun and it was an entirely different type of match than the one I had with Dreamer.”
While he always has his eyes on the prize of potentially graduating to the grand stage of WWE, Corbin says he is enjoying blazing his own trail in the local wrestling scene.
“When I started, everyone wanted to be ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin. Just a bunch of guys trying to be badasses and wear black gear,” he says. “So I looked at that and decided that I’d be the dork. I’ll be the butt of the joke, but I’ll be more memorable than other guys on the show.”
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