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San Diego's pro wrestling fueled by marijuana

"They think you’re trapping on Instagram"

If local wrestling promoter Norris “Bones” Jarmon gets his way, the sport may get another sort of substance as its sponsor: cannabis.
If local wrestling promoter Norris “Bones” Jarmon gets his way, the sport may get another sort of substance as its sponsor: cannabis.

Perhaps you know that the official beer of the National Football League is Bud Light. The NBA has Michelob ULTRA. Major League Baseball’s official beer is Budweiser, but its official cerveza is Corona. And wrestling? Well, the WWE has Victoria as a sponsor for SummerSlam, but if local wrestling promoter Norris “Bones” Jarmon gets his way, the sport may get another sort of substance as its sponsor: cannabis.

“For this industry, it’s not like boxing, where you are going see Corona’s logo in the middle of the ring,” Jarmon explains. “You’re gonna see stuff like an ‘XYZ’ cannabis brand.” Jarmon aims to emblazon the sponsors’ logos onto the same spots pro boxing matches would hit, including the wrestling rings’ aprons, turnbuckle pads, and mat. Then you can move on to venue signage and to the outfits sported by the wrestlers, managers, and commentators. Instead of TV, he can stream matches on YouTube, complete with narration and storylines.

“We wanna have that full-on wrestling promotion like it was built for TV, so when you get those backstories, cannabis storylines are going on,” Jarmon continues. “Like, ‘Hey, you stole my Cannabiotics, dude, that’s my favorite XYZ weed, and we have to go settle this in the ring.’ You are going to see a wrestler hit an XYZ, and you’re going to see him hit a guy, and you’re going to hear the commentator say, ‘Whoa, that XYZ hits hard.’ Ideally, the people in the crowd will say, ‘Oh, I gotta get an XYZ.’ So there are a hundred different ways we can promote brands.” If the videos go viral, “you can’t help seeing the brands on the videos,” and the sponsor’s fame spreads.

LUCHADOR — SUPER FUERTE CANNABIS

On February 25, Jarmon — an IT technician and a wrestler in his own right — brought students from his Level Up Wrestling School to grapple with visitors from Los Angeles’ Santino Bros. Wrestling Academy at the first-ever Green Thumbs Up event, held in the parking lot of the Dr. Greenthumb’s Dispensary on Campo Road in his La Mesa hometown. (It seemed like a promising location: La Mesa is only 9.1 square miles, but According to a Cal State University-San Marcos study, in the first two quarters of 2020, City of La Mesa records showed more than $10.16 million in adult-use cannabis sales within city limits, yielding over $400,000 in taxes.)

What followed was a three-hour “high-flying madness” wrestling show, with a side of comedy skits, complimentary agua frescas for any incidental cottonmouth, and tacos to sate the fans’ munchies. The event started right before 5 pm, as tag-team wrestlers James ‘Mr. Attitude’ Brady and Savanna Stone stomped their way to the wrestling ring as the sun set behind the 94 and 125 freeway changeover overhead.

The St. Louis-based wrestling duo high-fived the fans, and then Stone stopped mid-stride and gazed at a group sitting ringside as they passed around a joint. One fan got the hint and gave the marijuana stick to Stone, who pinched it with her index finger and ‘green thumb,’ brought it to her lips, took a long drag, tilted her head back, and held her breath.

“There you go, smoke it up, Stone, smoke it up,” yelled Terex, one of the live commentators at the event, which streamed on YouTube’s Canna Pro Wrestling Show. (The show is another part of Jarmon’s Full Spectrum Promotions company.) Stone exhaled a substantial cloud of smoke while simultaneously opening up her arms in triumph.

Terex yelled, “Don’t bogart the plant; let James Brady hit that.”

“I try to become cocky,” says Hopkins (left). “I show out. I show my athleticism; that’s who the ‘Main Attraction’ is. That’s who he portrays himself to be.”

Stone handed the joint over to her partner. Brady then ascended into the 18x18 wrestling ring with its apron reading “LUCHADOR — SUPER FUERTE CANNABIS,” joint in hand. He stood on the top turnbuckle and puffed away, illuminating the cherry at the end of the joint. The crowd cheered.

“I’ve smoked and wrestled before at the same time,” Terex commented. “Let me tell you what, it is tough to do.”

Barry Sweeney, the second commentator, replied, “I imagine that’s why you are the professional. I can’t imagine taking a hit from that is gonna mellow out either of these competitors, though.”

“No, definitely not,” Terex agreed before hitting his own Georgia Peaches indica joint and coughing a little. Sweeney grinningly passed his own joint toward Terex and asked, “Take a hit of this?” Terex declined.

By now, Brady and Stone were feverishly pacing the ring — loosening up, stretching their bodies, utilizing the turnbuckles in the corners as pivot points. The tag team, who double as a couple outside of the ring, also heaped abuse on their opponents below: Guy Cool and El Primohenio Trebeca from Los Angeles, and Michael “Main Attraction Wrestler (MAW)” Hopkins from San Diego. The five were set to compete in a five-way scramble match; the winner being the wrestler who scored a three-count-pin or a submission before the allotted time limit.

The bell rang twice to signal the start of the match. Guy Cool, a small-framed wrestler in pink and black spandex pants, yelled through his megaphone at Brady. MAW Hopkins then punched Cool while simultaneously stomping on the wrestling mat.

“Straight dick punch!” Terex yelled as Hopkins tossed Cool over the top rope and Cool fell eight feet to the pavement below.

Stone and Brady then simultaneously flung Hopkins and Trebeca into the ropes. When they bounced back, the couple performed a synchronized big back body drop, sending Hopkins and Trebeca “straight up and straight the f–k down,” as Terex put it. The couple then tussled in the ring in a lovers’ spat while the three other wrestlers remained momentarily incapacitated outside. But only momentarily. Soon, as Sweeney noted, the action was “spilling out into Dr. Greenthumbs’ audience here. Not only does every competitor in this match have to be careful, but so do these fans, because their reflexes gotta be awfully slowed by now,”

Terex clapped back, “That’s a misconception there, Sweeney. Potheads can do just as much as non-potheads; we’re very motivated.”

A three-hour “high-flying madness” wrestling show at Dr. Greenthumb’s, with a side of comedy skits, complimentary agua frescas for any incidental cottonmouth, and tacos to sate the fans’ munchies. In this photo: Ju Dizz and Darren Troy Fable “DTF” Down to Fight.

Hopkins picked up Stone, spun her around, then sidewalk slammed her to the mat. Brady made it back up to the ring, and he duked it out with Trebeca. The couple “shitcanned” Hopkins and Trebeca over the top rope, and then Guy Cool rejoined the match, ready to deploy the Stunner. It’s one of his favorite finishing moves, in which he reaches back to grab the opponent’s head, then abruptly drops to his buttocks in a seated position, forcefully dropping his opponent’s face into his shoulders. The sound of the wrestlers hitting the mat was tremendous.

“Guy Cool, apparently he was out taking a little weed nap; he f–king woke up from that shit,” Terex said.

“That’s the strategy,” Sweeney replied.

At that point, Hopkins finally snapped out of his daze, grabbed Cool with a double underhook, lifted him by the inside of his elbows, then plowed him into the mat. The ref counted, “One, two...three,” and the bell rang.

“Here is the winner of the match!” yelled the ring announcer. “The MAW, Michael Hopkins.” The fans cheered for their San Diego hero.

Level Up

A few months before the February event, I drove out to the Level Up Pro Wrestling School at 7323 El Cajon Boulevard. Three guys, including MAW Hopkins, were in the wrestling ring, practicing moves. The ring — the same one they would use at Green Thumbs Up — was in the middle of the space. Some of the fold-up chairs and tables surrounding the ring had battle scars, as they had doubled as projectile weapons in previous bouts. The place felt like a theater: curtains, a matte-black interior with high ceilings, and a truss system overhead holding various colored spotlights.

A loud boom echoed from underneath the ring as Hopkins body-slammed the other wrestler. “Then you cusp the head like this,” he explained — then he looked at me as I snapped photos. “My bad,” I said, before scurrying back outside to await Jarmon. The wrestling school shares a wall with the NAPA Auto Parts store on one side; on the other is a medical plaza, home of Urban Leaf, a recreational cannabis dispensary. Jarmon, the co-founder of Level Up, pulled up, and I asked what his landlords thought when he told them he was opening a school for Lucha Libre pro wrestling.

“They were like, ‘Uuuuuhh, what?’” Jarmon answered. “But before I signed the lease... well, let’s back up to 2016. That’s when I got back into professional wrestling training after a 14-year hiatus.” In 2016, Jarmon linked up with his buddy, Benny “B-Boy” Cuntapay, the head trainer at the Battle-U Pro Wrestling School in Chula Vista. Known as “Bones” in the local pro-wrestling circuit because of his slender, 6-foot 1-inch, 160-pound body, Jarmon started training exercises with B-Boy as refresher courses. The two had previously trained in the early 2000s.

Battle U is also where MAW Hopkins got his start: “I remember seeing B-Boy in the Lucha Underground TV show,” he said, “so I signed up with him in the summer of 2016. Plus, I live in Oak Park, and Chula Vista is a lot closer than North County, where the only other open pro-wrestling school was at the time.” Hopkins, who had just gotten out of the U.S. Army, was an established fitness trainer. But in the world of pro wrestling, he was a total newbie. “When you start training, it’s all about the rolls,” Hopkins explained. “Like tumbling, basically, trying to break your fall, so you are not hitting your head or breaking your neck. There’s a lot of neck conditioning, like doing bridges and flexibility stuff and opening up your hips. Stuff that you wouldn’t get at a normal gym facility.”

Jarmon added, “You prepare your body for the worst, like almost a car crash. For example, we were out playing football one time, and I slipped on a rock. The only thing I remembered was tucking my chin in, and when I landed on the other rocks, luckily, I didn’t hit my head. I would’ve been a lot worse shape if I had.”

Hopkins agreed: “It’s all about just trying to protect yourself, because wrestling is an extreme, theatrical sport. So, when we do things, it’s one take, so we gotta make sure we don’t mess ourselves up in that take that we’re doing it.”

Early in the program, students learned a few collegiate wrestling techniques. “Because Benny has done that in the past,” Hopkins said. “So he put all that training into us as beginners to have at least the general basics. When you wrestle, you have to make it look believable, and his big thing is making everything look legit.” Athletes have to be in tip-top shape, and flexible enough to perform myriad fast-paced maneuvers.

Jarmon continued: “In class, we talked about ‘What is the best-conditioned athlete?’ and I believe it’s a pro wrestler. When wrestling and grappling on the mat, sometimes that oxygen level is restricted; you gotta have a different level of conditioning.” After the aspiring wrestlers learned the fundamentals, they got into the moves, the different holds, and pins. “For the first three or four months, that’s all we did; it was all technical wrestling,” Hopkins said. “And then submissions. B-Boy is big on submissions.” At the Green Thumbs Up event, Hopkins employed different submission moves: “a reverse front facelock or the inverted front facelock, and after that, a scorpion death drop.” The scorpion death drop is when a wrestler applies an inverted facelock to the opponent, then drops backward, plowing the back of the opponent’s head into the mat.

Jarmon added, “And this is why you have to learn how to fall at the beginning of the courses, because if you are not prepared, you can get hurt.”

Sexy Fabrizio, Osiris Mittens and THE REBEL STORM.

Once their in-close work is solid, students can learn the more freewheeling stuff: how to hit and bounce off the ropes, how to jump off of the turnbuckles. “Getting your footwork right is probably the biggest thing to learn there,” Hopkins added, “in terms of taking the right steps and making sure that we collide in the middle of the ring. You want all your impact and bumps — which is when you fall — to be right in the center of the ring.”

“Falling in the center — is that being theatrical?” I asked.

“That’s just being safe.” Hopkins responded.

After you get all the fundamentals down, you should be ready to structure the match. “And basically, that’s all psychology,” Hopkins explained. “You work the crowd. First, you have to establish your character to the crowd.” This is where you differentiate between the good guy wrestler and the bad guy wrestler. Hopkins’ character at Green Thumbs Up was more of a bad guy; the fans rooted for him because he was local. “I try to become cocky,” he said. “I show out. I show my athleticism; that’s who the ‘Main Attraction’ is. That’s who he portrays himself to be. I’m that guy in the gym just curling in the mirror, being the loudest one there. Not that I am that guy in real life — that’s the character.”

Once character is established, the action can commence. “The good guy,” said Hopkins, “he does all his cool stuff in the beginning: the arm drags, the hip tosses, and dropkicks. That’s their opener. And then it’s the bad guy’s turn; now the bad guy has to inflict pain on the good guy, cut him down and get sympathy from the crowd; you have to build up the sympathy, making everyone in the crowd feel sorry for the good guy.

"And then there are those little hope spots in between when the good guy fights back, but then the bad guy cuts him down again. And it’s just a back and forth battle until both opponents are down for a minute. And then you have the good guy shine back up, and he works his way back into the fight, and then finally hits the bad guy with a big move. And it’s just a back and forth, big move after big move, then who’s gonna win or who’s going home with a submission or a knockout.”

Hopkins trained with Benny/B-Boy for a year, then wrestled in his first pro match in April 2017. But around November 2017, Battle-U closed its doors. “So did the promotion associated with the school — FCW, Finest City Wrestling,” Jarmon continued. “One month later, we started a new promotion/show called Ground Zero. But we had no school, no building, no home.” What Jarmon did have was a ring. “I initially bought the ring for Battle-U, with money I made from selling weed. I would spend about $10,000 on a new ring. Some people were saying, ‘Oh, you’re overspending,’ but I wanted to get the right ring with the right ropes, the right aprons, the right canvas, foam, and wood, and make it perfect — with the little wraps on the turnbuckles and the stairs.” In August 2018, Jarmon found a home for his wrestling ring at Level Up. And three years later, it’s still in tip-top shape.

That’s life inside the ring. Outside, said Jarmon, the school can teach and lead wrestlers up to a certain point. After that, “You’re pretty much out in the wild, and you take your bookings as they come. You have to learn how to market yourself and organize your calendar.” Jarmon said that students must be 18 years old or older to attend the school. As for pricing, “B-Boy charges students per base; there are opportunities to do monthly, full-tuition upfront. Those things I let him handle.”

Medic!

Amy Jarmon is Norris Jarmon’s wife. An infection nurse by occupation, she’s an essential component of Level Up: the official ringside nurse. When a wrestler is injured during a match, she’s first on the scene. “I’ve been doing this for almost five years now with Norris,” she said. “It took me a while to know if these guys were selling that they were injured or actually injured. They’re not injured most of the time, so it’s really part of the show. It took me until last year to realize that it’s part of the theatrics, as there’s a lot of drama involved in the whole storyline.”

Anyone who remembers seeing the late Miss Elizabeth backing her then-hubby, the late Randy “Macho Man” Savage, during WWF championship matches, or John Cena when he proposed to Nikki Bella at WrestleMania 33, understands how significant a strong woman can be in the predominantly male pro-wrestling business. “I know wrestlers or wrestling promoters might say, ‘Dude, this guy legit hides behind his wife,’” Jarmon said, “but hey, I’ll say it right now, you gotta have that type of relationship where you acknowledge who does what well. We can’t do it all. We can get shows every day of the week with this wrestling stuff. Where she comes in is with the liability, the insurance. Especially when there was covid. She’d tell them, ‘Hey, this is what I do for a living,’ and make everyone feel good about what we were doing. My wife helps out a lot in approaching these businesses.”

One day in 2021, Jarmon was on the Clubhouse social media app, talking up his cannabis wrestling events. Someone close to The Budtender Awards organization who had caught one of Jarmon’s audio posts connected with him. “The Budtender Awards is a business-to-business cannabis event that recognizes the best budtenders in the country,” Jarmon explained. “We talked, and they thought wrestling would be a great fit.” When they spoke, the 2021 award ceremony was slated to be at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas on May 22-23. Pandemic precautions were still in full effect in participating Las Vegas establishments. Further, “MGM, the parent company, hadn’t hosted a pro wrestling event before. And with the pandemic still lingering, there were no contact sports with crowds allowed.”

Amy picked up the story: “My role in the organization was to make sure everybody was tested for covid and healthy. Mandalay Bay was very hesitant at first, but I said, ‘We own a wrestling school in San Diego that I actually was able to keep open through covid by adjusting class size, doing testing, and working with the CDC in San Diego.’ I explained my mitigation plan at the school, and I went over exactly what I would do for a wrestling show. They gave us the OK, and they took my plan we used in The Budtender Awards, and they kind of adopted my craft.”

Jarmon looked at his with pride and said, “The Budtender Awards ended up using the covid infection prevention protocols we had in place for the wrestling show, for the entire event. That helped the entire event get approved. After the mandated closures, the Canna Pro Wrestling Show was the first approved in-person contact sports event in Las Vegas. It was approved by the MGM, Mandalay Bay, the Public Health Department of Clark County, and the Gaming Commission.”

Wrestling with weed

The relationship between cannabis consumption and pro wrestling could not always be as public as it is today. However, many pro wrestlers from the ‘80s and ‘90s are now talking about their marijuana use. The Godfather — who made a guest appearance at Jarmon’s Canna Pro Wrestling Show at the EMBR Dispensary in La Mesa in June 2021 — said in a recent Table Talk interview in that he smoked a “one-hitter” inside Undertaker’s coffin before a WWE show. “I swear that’s true,” he said, “I smoked in the coffin.” The Godfather, now 60, also said he started using cannabis at 27 in an effort to wean off painkiller pills.

“He has not taken a narcotic pill since he was introduced to cannabis,” Jarmon said. “I watch these wrestlers, these older wrestlers, and they’re all banged up. There’s not an old wrestler who doesn’t have some ailment, or something wrong with their knees. And they take painkillers and other things to block the pain. Pills mess with your brain’s bottom line; they tell your brain not to feel that pain. Cannabis isn’t doing that; the pain kind of goes away because you’re distracted. So it’s definitely great to smoke a joint and then have a little bit of relaxation after beating your ass.”

Then there’s Rob Van Dam (RVD), who wrestled with the WWE, Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW), and Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA)/Impact Wrestling leagues starting in the early ‘90s and on and off until 2019. RVD is a longtime user and proponent of cannabis products. Now 51, he has parlayed his pro-wrestling career into RVDCBD, a cannabinoids company specializing in CBD and cannabis paraphernalia. Jarmon is a licensed affiliate. “RVD allegedly had difficulty with pro-wrestling management because of weed,” Jarmon continued. “But obviously, they got over it, because now RVD is in the WWE Hall of Fame.”

Even so, some professional wrestlers are hesitant to discuss cannabis, and understandably so, as it might affect their coaching or teaching careers. When I asked MAW Hopkins, the winner of the Green Thumbs Up match, if he consumed marijuana, he paused before saying, “The theme may be cannabis, but when I get the belt, it’s a wrestling belt. It represents me, and I represent a winner. So my character would say that he doesn’t do it for the weed; he does it because it’s a championship belt. He wants the gold.”

Wrestling has always had its heels, its villains who spoil things for everyone else. In this case, it’s the bots that shadow ban or delete accounts containing cannabis content. “I had an Instagram account, and it got deleted with 12,000 followers,” Jarmon told me. “I’ve had accounts deleted for using the wrong hashtags. They think you’re trapping (selling illegal bulk) on Instagram, and they don’t like cannabis content. So many companies are afraid to advertise on social media with cannabis. So basically, I just want to do a wrestling show. That way, even if they see we’re smoking, whatever it is, it’s [hopefully] going to go underneath the radar because the show is about wrestling. The big, established wrestling companies are doing their marketing the right way, and that’s what we’re trying to do. They wouldn’t promote cannabis, but at the same time, as far as business practices go, as far as credibility goes, as far as just the track records they have — I ask, how can we do anything similar to what they’re doing?”

Similar, but not the same: Jarmon’s niche businesses are blossoming, as marijuana dispensaries around town are booking him and his wrestlers for upcoming shows. “Who knew something as simple as 4-2-0 would turn into what it is today,” he asks, “with festivals in every city and town, bringing people from all walks of life together because of this plant?” For Jarmon, “it’s always 4:20 in San Diego.”

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If local wrestling promoter Norris “Bones” Jarmon gets his way, the sport may get another sort of substance as its sponsor: cannabis.
If local wrestling promoter Norris “Bones” Jarmon gets his way, the sport may get another sort of substance as its sponsor: cannabis.

Perhaps you know that the official beer of the National Football League is Bud Light. The NBA has Michelob ULTRA. Major League Baseball’s official beer is Budweiser, but its official cerveza is Corona. And wrestling? Well, the WWE has Victoria as a sponsor for SummerSlam, but if local wrestling promoter Norris “Bones” Jarmon gets his way, the sport may get another sort of substance as its sponsor: cannabis.

“For this industry, it’s not like boxing, where you are going see Corona’s logo in the middle of the ring,” Jarmon explains. “You’re gonna see stuff like an ‘XYZ’ cannabis brand.” Jarmon aims to emblazon the sponsors’ logos onto the same spots pro boxing matches would hit, including the wrestling rings’ aprons, turnbuckle pads, and mat. Then you can move on to venue signage and to the outfits sported by the wrestlers, managers, and commentators. Instead of TV, he can stream matches on YouTube, complete with narration and storylines.

“We wanna have that full-on wrestling promotion like it was built for TV, so when you get those backstories, cannabis storylines are going on,” Jarmon continues. “Like, ‘Hey, you stole my Cannabiotics, dude, that’s my favorite XYZ weed, and we have to go settle this in the ring.’ You are going to see a wrestler hit an XYZ, and you’re going to see him hit a guy, and you’re going to hear the commentator say, ‘Whoa, that XYZ hits hard.’ Ideally, the people in the crowd will say, ‘Oh, I gotta get an XYZ.’ So there are a hundred different ways we can promote brands.” If the videos go viral, “you can’t help seeing the brands on the videos,” and the sponsor’s fame spreads.

LUCHADOR — SUPER FUERTE CANNABIS

On February 25, Jarmon — an IT technician and a wrestler in his own right — brought students from his Level Up Wrestling School to grapple with visitors from Los Angeles’ Santino Bros. Wrestling Academy at the first-ever Green Thumbs Up event, held in the parking lot of the Dr. Greenthumb’s Dispensary on Campo Road in his La Mesa hometown. (It seemed like a promising location: La Mesa is only 9.1 square miles, but According to a Cal State University-San Marcos study, in the first two quarters of 2020, City of La Mesa records showed more than $10.16 million in adult-use cannabis sales within city limits, yielding over $400,000 in taxes.)

What followed was a three-hour “high-flying madness” wrestling show, with a side of comedy skits, complimentary agua frescas for any incidental cottonmouth, and tacos to sate the fans’ munchies. The event started right before 5 pm, as tag-team wrestlers James ‘Mr. Attitude’ Brady and Savanna Stone stomped their way to the wrestling ring as the sun set behind the 94 and 125 freeway changeover overhead.

The St. Louis-based wrestling duo high-fived the fans, and then Stone stopped mid-stride and gazed at a group sitting ringside as they passed around a joint. One fan got the hint and gave the marijuana stick to Stone, who pinched it with her index finger and ‘green thumb,’ brought it to her lips, took a long drag, tilted her head back, and held her breath.

“There you go, smoke it up, Stone, smoke it up,” yelled Terex, one of the live commentators at the event, which streamed on YouTube’s Canna Pro Wrestling Show. (The show is another part of Jarmon’s Full Spectrum Promotions company.) Stone exhaled a substantial cloud of smoke while simultaneously opening up her arms in triumph.

Terex yelled, “Don’t bogart the plant; let James Brady hit that.”

“I try to become cocky,” says Hopkins (left). “I show out. I show my athleticism; that’s who the ‘Main Attraction’ is. That’s who he portrays himself to be.”

Stone handed the joint over to her partner. Brady then ascended into the 18x18 wrestling ring with its apron reading “LUCHADOR — SUPER FUERTE CANNABIS,” joint in hand. He stood on the top turnbuckle and puffed away, illuminating the cherry at the end of the joint. The crowd cheered.

“I’ve smoked and wrestled before at the same time,” Terex commented. “Let me tell you what, it is tough to do.”

Barry Sweeney, the second commentator, replied, “I imagine that’s why you are the professional. I can’t imagine taking a hit from that is gonna mellow out either of these competitors, though.”

“No, definitely not,” Terex agreed before hitting his own Georgia Peaches indica joint and coughing a little. Sweeney grinningly passed his own joint toward Terex and asked, “Take a hit of this?” Terex declined.

By now, Brady and Stone were feverishly pacing the ring — loosening up, stretching their bodies, utilizing the turnbuckles in the corners as pivot points. The tag team, who double as a couple outside of the ring, also heaped abuse on their opponents below: Guy Cool and El Primohenio Trebeca from Los Angeles, and Michael “Main Attraction Wrestler (MAW)” Hopkins from San Diego. The five were set to compete in a five-way scramble match; the winner being the wrestler who scored a three-count-pin or a submission before the allotted time limit.

The bell rang twice to signal the start of the match. Guy Cool, a small-framed wrestler in pink and black spandex pants, yelled through his megaphone at Brady. MAW Hopkins then punched Cool while simultaneously stomping on the wrestling mat.

“Straight dick punch!” Terex yelled as Hopkins tossed Cool over the top rope and Cool fell eight feet to the pavement below.

Stone and Brady then simultaneously flung Hopkins and Trebeca into the ropes. When they bounced back, the couple performed a synchronized big back body drop, sending Hopkins and Trebeca “straight up and straight the f–k down,” as Terex put it. The couple then tussled in the ring in a lovers’ spat while the three other wrestlers remained momentarily incapacitated outside. But only momentarily. Soon, as Sweeney noted, the action was “spilling out into Dr. Greenthumbs’ audience here. Not only does every competitor in this match have to be careful, but so do these fans, because their reflexes gotta be awfully slowed by now,”

Terex clapped back, “That’s a misconception there, Sweeney. Potheads can do just as much as non-potheads; we’re very motivated.”

A three-hour “high-flying madness” wrestling show at Dr. Greenthumb’s, with a side of comedy skits, complimentary agua frescas for any incidental cottonmouth, and tacos to sate the fans’ munchies. In this photo: Ju Dizz and Darren Troy Fable “DTF” Down to Fight.

Hopkins picked up Stone, spun her around, then sidewalk slammed her to the mat. Brady made it back up to the ring, and he duked it out with Trebeca. The couple “shitcanned” Hopkins and Trebeca over the top rope, and then Guy Cool rejoined the match, ready to deploy the Stunner. It’s one of his favorite finishing moves, in which he reaches back to grab the opponent’s head, then abruptly drops to his buttocks in a seated position, forcefully dropping his opponent’s face into his shoulders. The sound of the wrestlers hitting the mat was tremendous.

“Guy Cool, apparently he was out taking a little weed nap; he f–king woke up from that shit,” Terex said.

“That’s the strategy,” Sweeney replied.

At that point, Hopkins finally snapped out of his daze, grabbed Cool with a double underhook, lifted him by the inside of his elbows, then plowed him into the mat. The ref counted, “One, two...three,” and the bell rang.

“Here is the winner of the match!” yelled the ring announcer. “The MAW, Michael Hopkins.” The fans cheered for their San Diego hero.

Level Up

A few months before the February event, I drove out to the Level Up Pro Wrestling School at 7323 El Cajon Boulevard. Three guys, including MAW Hopkins, were in the wrestling ring, practicing moves. The ring — the same one they would use at Green Thumbs Up — was in the middle of the space. Some of the fold-up chairs and tables surrounding the ring had battle scars, as they had doubled as projectile weapons in previous bouts. The place felt like a theater: curtains, a matte-black interior with high ceilings, and a truss system overhead holding various colored spotlights.

A loud boom echoed from underneath the ring as Hopkins body-slammed the other wrestler. “Then you cusp the head like this,” he explained — then he looked at me as I snapped photos. “My bad,” I said, before scurrying back outside to await Jarmon. The wrestling school shares a wall with the NAPA Auto Parts store on one side; on the other is a medical plaza, home of Urban Leaf, a recreational cannabis dispensary. Jarmon, the co-founder of Level Up, pulled up, and I asked what his landlords thought when he told them he was opening a school for Lucha Libre pro wrestling.

“They were like, ‘Uuuuuhh, what?’” Jarmon answered. “But before I signed the lease... well, let’s back up to 2016. That’s when I got back into professional wrestling training after a 14-year hiatus.” In 2016, Jarmon linked up with his buddy, Benny “B-Boy” Cuntapay, the head trainer at the Battle-U Pro Wrestling School in Chula Vista. Known as “Bones” in the local pro-wrestling circuit because of his slender, 6-foot 1-inch, 160-pound body, Jarmon started training exercises with B-Boy as refresher courses. The two had previously trained in the early 2000s.

Battle U is also where MAW Hopkins got his start: “I remember seeing B-Boy in the Lucha Underground TV show,” he said, “so I signed up with him in the summer of 2016. Plus, I live in Oak Park, and Chula Vista is a lot closer than North County, where the only other open pro-wrestling school was at the time.” Hopkins, who had just gotten out of the U.S. Army, was an established fitness trainer. But in the world of pro wrestling, he was a total newbie. “When you start training, it’s all about the rolls,” Hopkins explained. “Like tumbling, basically, trying to break your fall, so you are not hitting your head or breaking your neck. There’s a lot of neck conditioning, like doing bridges and flexibility stuff and opening up your hips. Stuff that you wouldn’t get at a normal gym facility.”

Jarmon added, “You prepare your body for the worst, like almost a car crash. For example, we were out playing football one time, and I slipped on a rock. The only thing I remembered was tucking my chin in, and when I landed on the other rocks, luckily, I didn’t hit my head. I would’ve been a lot worse shape if I had.”

Hopkins agreed: “It’s all about just trying to protect yourself, because wrestling is an extreme, theatrical sport. So, when we do things, it’s one take, so we gotta make sure we don’t mess ourselves up in that take that we’re doing it.”

Early in the program, students learned a few collegiate wrestling techniques. “Because Benny has done that in the past,” Hopkins said. “So he put all that training into us as beginners to have at least the general basics. When you wrestle, you have to make it look believable, and his big thing is making everything look legit.” Athletes have to be in tip-top shape, and flexible enough to perform myriad fast-paced maneuvers.

Jarmon continued: “In class, we talked about ‘What is the best-conditioned athlete?’ and I believe it’s a pro wrestler. When wrestling and grappling on the mat, sometimes that oxygen level is restricted; you gotta have a different level of conditioning.” After the aspiring wrestlers learned the fundamentals, they got into the moves, the different holds, and pins. “For the first three or four months, that’s all we did; it was all technical wrestling,” Hopkins said. “And then submissions. B-Boy is big on submissions.” At the Green Thumbs Up event, Hopkins employed different submission moves: “a reverse front facelock or the inverted front facelock, and after that, a scorpion death drop.” The scorpion death drop is when a wrestler applies an inverted facelock to the opponent, then drops backward, plowing the back of the opponent’s head into the mat.

Jarmon added, “And this is why you have to learn how to fall at the beginning of the courses, because if you are not prepared, you can get hurt.”

Sexy Fabrizio, Osiris Mittens and THE REBEL STORM.

Once their in-close work is solid, students can learn the more freewheeling stuff: how to hit and bounce off the ropes, how to jump off of the turnbuckles. “Getting your footwork right is probably the biggest thing to learn there,” Hopkins added, “in terms of taking the right steps and making sure that we collide in the middle of the ring. You want all your impact and bumps — which is when you fall — to be right in the center of the ring.”

“Falling in the center — is that being theatrical?” I asked.

“That’s just being safe.” Hopkins responded.

After you get all the fundamentals down, you should be ready to structure the match. “And basically, that’s all psychology,” Hopkins explained. “You work the crowd. First, you have to establish your character to the crowd.” This is where you differentiate between the good guy wrestler and the bad guy wrestler. Hopkins’ character at Green Thumbs Up was more of a bad guy; the fans rooted for him because he was local. “I try to become cocky,” he said. “I show out. I show my athleticism; that’s who the ‘Main Attraction’ is. That’s who he portrays himself to be. I’m that guy in the gym just curling in the mirror, being the loudest one there. Not that I am that guy in real life — that’s the character.”

Once character is established, the action can commence. “The good guy,” said Hopkins, “he does all his cool stuff in the beginning: the arm drags, the hip tosses, and dropkicks. That’s their opener. And then it’s the bad guy’s turn; now the bad guy has to inflict pain on the good guy, cut him down and get sympathy from the crowd; you have to build up the sympathy, making everyone in the crowd feel sorry for the good guy.

"And then there are those little hope spots in between when the good guy fights back, but then the bad guy cuts him down again. And it’s just a back and forth battle until both opponents are down for a minute. And then you have the good guy shine back up, and he works his way back into the fight, and then finally hits the bad guy with a big move. And it’s just a back and forth, big move after big move, then who’s gonna win or who’s going home with a submission or a knockout.”

Hopkins trained with Benny/B-Boy for a year, then wrestled in his first pro match in April 2017. But around November 2017, Battle-U closed its doors. “So did the promotion associated with the school — FCW, Finest City Wrestling,” Jarmon continued. “One month later, we started a new promotion/show called Ground Zero. But we had no school, no building, no home.” What Jarmon did have was a ring. “I initially bought the ring for Battle-U, with money I made from selling weed. I would spend about $10,000 on a new ring. Some people were saying, ‘Oh, you’re overspending,’ but I wanted to get the right ring with the right ropes, the right aprons, the right canvas, foam, and wood, and make it perfect — with the little wraps on the turnbuckles and the stairs.” In August 2018, Jarmon found a home for his wrestling ring at Level Up. And three years later, it’s still in tip-top shape.

That’s life inside the ring. Outside, said Jarmon, the school can teach and lead wrestlers up to a certain point. After that, “You’re pretty much out in the wild, and you take your bookings as they come. You have to learn how to market yourself and organize your calendar.” Jarmon said that students must be 18 years old or older to attend the school. As for pricing, “B-Boy charges students per base; there are opportunities to do monthly, full-tuition upfront. Those things I let him handle.”

Medic!

Amy Jarmon is Norris Jarmon’s wife. An infection nurse by occupation, she’s an essential component of Level Up: the official ringside nurse. When a wrestler is injured during a match, she’s first on the scene. “I’ve been doing this for almost five years now with Norris,” she said. “It took me a while to know if these guys were selling that they were injured or actually injured. They’re not injured most of the time, so it’s really part of the show. It took me until last year to realize that it’s part of the theatrics, as there’s a lot of drama involved in the whole storyline.”

Anyone who remembers seeing the late Miss Elizabeth backing her then-hubby, the late Randy “Macho Man” Savage, during WWF championship matches, or John Cena when he proposed to Nikki Bella at WrestleMania 33, understands how significant a strong woman can be in the predominantly male pro-wrestling business. “I know wrestlers or wrestling promoters might say, ‘Dude, this guy legit hides behind his wife,’” Jarmon said, “but hey, I’ll say it right now, you gotta have that type of relationship where you acknowledge who does what well. We can’t do it all. We can get shows every day of the week with this wrestling stuff. Where she comes in is with the liability, the insurance. Especially when there was covid. She’d tell them, ‘Hey, this is what I do for a living,’ and make everyone feel good about what we were doing. My wife helps out a lot in approaching these businesses.”

One day in 2021, Jarmon was on the Clubhouse social media app, talking up his cannabis wrestling events. Someone close to The Budtender Awards organization who had caught one of Jarmon’s audio posts connected with him. “The Budtender Awards is a business-to-business cannabis event that recognizes the best budtenders in the country,” Jarmon explained. “We talked, and they thought wrestling would be a great fit.” When they spoke, the 2021 award ceremony was slated to be at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas on May 22-23. Pandemic precautions were still in full effect in participating Las Vegas establishments. Further, “MGM, the parent company, hadn’t hosted a pro wrestling event before. And with the pandemic still lingering, there were no contact sports with crowds allowed.”

Amy picked up the story: “My role in the organization was to make sure everybody was tested for covid and healthy. Mandalay Bay was very hesitant at first, but I said, ‘We own a wrestling school in San Diego that I actually was able to keep open through covid by adjusting class size, doing testing, and working with the CDC in San Diego.’ I explained my mitigation plan at the school, and I went over exactly what I would do for a wrestling show. They gave us the OK, and they took my plan we used in The Budtender Awards, and they kind of adopted my craft.”

Jarmon looked at his with pride and said, “The Budtender Awards ended up using the covid infection prevention protocols we had in place for the wrestling show, for the entire event. That helped the entire event get approved. After the mandated closures, the Canna Pro Wrestling Show was the first approved in-person contact sports event in Las Vegas. It was approved by the MGM, Mandalay Bay, the Public Health Department of Clark County, and the Gaming Commission.”

Wrestling with weed

The relationship between cannabis consumption and pro wrestling could not always be as public as it is today. However, many pro wrestlers from the ‘80s and ‘90s are now talking about their marijuana use. The Godfather — who made a guest appearance at Jarmon’s Canna Pro Wrestling Show at the EMBR Dispensary in La Mesa in June 2021 — said in a recent Table Talk interview in that he smoked a “one-hitter” inside Undertaker’s coffin before a WWE show. “I swear that’s true,” he said, “I smoked in the coffin.” The Godfather, now 60, also said he started using cannabis at 27 in an effort to wean off painkiller pills.

“He has not taken a narcotic pill since he was introduced to cannabis,” Jarmon said. “I watch these wrestlers, these older wrestlers, and they’re all banged up. There’s not an old wrestler who doesn’t have some ailment, or something wrong with their knees. And they take painkillers and other things to block the pain. Pills mess with your brain’s bottom line; they tell your brain not to feel that pain. Cannabis isn’t doing that; the pain kind of goes away because you’re distracted. So it’s definitely great to smoke a joint and then have a little bit of relaxation after beating your ass.”

Then there’s Rob Van Dam (RVD), who wrestled with the WWE, Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW), and Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA)/Impact Wrestling leagues starting in the early ‘90s and on and off until 2019. RVD is a longtime user and proponent of cannabis products. Now 51, he has parlayed his pro-wrestling career into RVDCBD, a cannabinoids company specializing in CBD and cannabis paraphernalia. Jarmon is a licensed affiliate. “RVD allegedly had difficulty with pro-wrestling management because of weed,” Jarmon continued. “But obviously, they got over it, because now RVD is in the WWE Hall of Fame.”

Even so, some professional wrestlers are hesitant to discuss cannabis, and understandably so, as it might affect their coaching or teaching careers. When I asked MAW Hopkins, the winner of the Green Thumbs Up match, if he consumed marijuana, he paused before saying, “The theme may be cannabis, but when I get the belt, it’s a wrestling belt. It represents me, and I represent a winner. So my character would say that he doesn’t do it for the weed; he does it because it’s a championship belt. He wants the gold.”

Wrestling has always had its heels, its villains who spoil things for everyone else. In this case, it’s the bots that shadow ban or delete accounts containing cannabis content. “I had an Instagram account, and it got deleted with 12,000 followers,” Jarmon told me. “I’ve had accounts deleted for using the wrong hashtags. They think you’re trapping (selling illegal bulk) on Instagram, and they don’t like cannabis content. So many companies are afraid to advertise on social media with cannabis. So basically, I just want to do a wrestling show. That way, even if they see we’re smoking, whatever it is, it’s [hopefully] going to go underneath the radar because the show is about wrestling. The big, established wrestling companies are doing their marketing the right way, and that’s what we’re trying to do. They wouldn’t promote cannabis, but at the same time, as far as business practices go, as far as credibility goes, as far as just the track records they have — I ask, how can we do anything similar to what they’re doing?”

Similar, but not the same: Jarmon’s niche businesses are blossoming, as marijuana dispensaries around town are booking him and his wrestlers for upcoming shows. “Who knew something as simple as 4-2-0 would turn into what it is today,” he asks, “with festivals in every city and town, bringing people from all walks of life together because of this plant?” For Jarmon, “it’s always 4:20 in San Diego.”

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