When someone mentions that he or she is a fan of pro wrestling, others likely envision a large, tan, greased-up man in his underwear slamming another large and equally greased man onto a stretched white canvas. However, there are people who rely on this often-scoffed-at form of entertainment to support their families. Duluth native David Sabick is the founder of the Duluth-based wrestling promotion, Heavy on Wrestling. Sabick’s wrestling promotion does shows around the Duluth and Superior area for general entertainment and fundraising events.
After just a short time of talking with Sabick, it quickly became clear how much he loved wrestling.
“I remember I was 7 or 8, and Ric Flair came down to the ring and beat everyone up,” he said about his first pro wrestling memory. “These two guys in front of me were screaming and spilled their beers all over themselves. That’s when I knew I wanted to get into wrestling. Just seeing those guys going crazy made me want to watch more.”
Many years later, Sabick graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Superior and began wrestling in independent promotions around Minnesota. He quickly realized his dream job was not an easy task.
“Those rings are just a steel frame with some hard, wooden boards and a small pad over the top of it," Sabick said. "Ninety-five percent of people don’t come back after the first day of training.”
Unfortunately for Sabick, he didn't get to live his dream for very long. Less than five years into his professional wrestling career he began to feel the effects of concussions.
“I remember driving to the bank and getting there, but then I had no idea why I was there,” he said.
After a few years out of the ring, in 2007, Sabick decided he would fulfill another life-long dream of his: putting on a pro wrestling show.
“I figured it would just be a one-off thing, and it would be a way for some of the guys around the area to get some work,” he said.
Sabick had originally planned to hold the event in the Encounter Youth Center in Duluth, but it didn't seem fit to hold a pro wrestling show.
Instead, Sabick found a home for his show at his alma mater, UWS. Organizers sold out the arena that night, which was only the beginning.
After Sabick's first show was a success, he figured he would do a few more.
For the first show, Sabick had rented a ring from “Wild” Bill Irwin (known as The Goon in WWE). This led to him getting to know more wrestlers from the Twin Cities area.
Sabick was also able to get in touch with Nashville-based wrestling promotion, Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA), which is one of the biggest wrestling promotions in terms of international influence and production value, right behind WWE.
The second show, which was held in the Duluth Skydome, sold out days in advance. It featured local wrestlers, talents from TNA and legends of professional wrestling. During the second show, TNA talent Christy Hemme went up to Sabick and encouraged him to continue doing shows because she could see how excited the fans were about the product.
Despite his success locally, Sabick's biggest focus remained his family.
As Sabick answered my call, his 15-month-old daughter could be heard fidgeting in the background.
“The spark has gone a little. In the beginning it was exciting to work with all these wrestlers from my childhood,” Sabick said. “I was more of a fan when I started, but now I just see it like another day of work.”
Even as the head of a prominent wrestling organization, Sabick's family is the most important part of his life.
“I hate to use the term ‘super dad,' but that’s what I have to be in (order) to have time for my family.” Sabick said. “It puts strain on the family, but at the end of the day, we have bills to pay. What the family needs is taken care of first, and wrestling comes second.”