More than 100,000 screaming fans fill an arena filled with bright lights, titantrons and pyrotechnics. For many professional wrestling fans, getting to work in the business would be a dream come true.
Heavy on Wrestling (HoW) co-owner Jon Wolford took that leap from being a fan to helping run the show. However, the transition was not quite as glamorous as many fans may believe.
When Wolford was 12 years old he became a fan of professional wrestling and continued to watch on and off for the next few decades. He knew he never wanted to be a wrestler, but as time went on, he had the itch to do backstage work.
Even though Wolford was a huge wrestling fan, he admitted that in pro wrestling, “You better bring something to the table besides a love for the business.”
Wolford was running CW Distribution, the family electric supply company. His father allowed him to move their base of operations from St. Cloud to Duluth when Wolford made the move to Duluth.
“The Duluth job market was bad and this way I knew I could make a living,” Wolford said.
Even though moving the company to Duluth wasn’t the easy way of doing things, Wolford’s love of the Duluth area convinced him he couldn’t live anywhere else,
“My folks own land in Two Harbors, and my family would camp on their land,” Wolford said. “I didn’t want to live in the Cities; there’s not enough room. With Duluth, you get the best of both worlds.”
Wolford first met the founder of HoW, David Sabick, at a wrestling show on the University of Wisconsin-Superior campus in the late 2000s.
“I wish it was more glamorous, but I was just new to the area, and I needed something else to do,” Wolford said.
Inside and out of the wrestling realm, Wolford is trusted and respected. Wrestler Terrance Griep Jr. spoke very highly of Wolford’s commitment to wrestling and family.
“He is very dedicated to his wife and son. The change I have seen since he had his son is profound. He seems so much more laid back,” Griep said. “He makes me feel more like a collaborator. He has a knack for making everyone feel valued.”
Similar sentiments are shared by half of the pro wrestling tag team The Barking Spiders.
Joe “Clutch” Klander said, “It’s nice to see an actual wrestling promoter.” He explained that other promoters are just there to show up and pay the wrestlers, whereas Wolford clearly cares about doing whatever he can to make HoW a success.
Klander also talked about Wolford’s flexibility when it comes to wrestlers who don’t show up.
“I think Jon is good at taking a step back and shuffling the deck to make sure everything makes sense,” he said.
Even though wrestling is not Wolford’s main money maker, he still takes it very seriously.
“Nobody else in Minnesota has the same quality of wrestling; nobody in Minnesota can touch us,” he said.
But in the end, it’s family that matters most.
“Both my wife and I have day jobs. Wrestling is expensive, but I will never take money away from my family," Wolford said. "I hope I can balance all three (family, wrestling and family business), but so, far so good.”