North Dakota has never been considered the mecca of professional wrestling. Even in the golden age of the territories, even before Vince McMahon was siphoning talent from everywhere and everyone, the plains didn’t have a wealth of options. Fans were forced to travel to Minnesota. 

Currently, there are two independent promotions in the Peace Garden State. The family-friendly Below Zero Wrestling, and the adult-orientated Timebomb Pro Wrestling. The latter was conceived five years ago by a then 22-year-old Eric Morrison. 

“I literally had the idea four or five months before it happened,” Morrison said. “It was also a bare-bones production, like no ring, just two matches with two guys. The thing was, I was booking music shows before that, so I had experience promoting.” 

Morrison runs TPW’s daily operations from his Grand Forks, ND apartment. He manages and oversees every facet of the promotion, save for graphics which he outsources. In the infancy of TPW,  Morrison relied on promoting no-ring matches, just as the name suggests, matches were performed on mats placed strategically onto the floor of dive bars. When COVID happened, Morrison reimagined his promotion, eventually renting a ring from Minneapolis. 

His impetus to start a promotion came from the now-defunct Extreme Championship Wrestling,  which in the late 90s was pioneering in its casual violence and overt sexuality. Its product inspired a  generation of aspiring promoters. Bigger promotions, like AEW and MLW, have adopted many of ECW’s nuances. 

“I grew up in the Ruthless Aggression Era,” Morrison said. “But I mostly grew up watching ECW  stuff on YouTube. Honestly, ECW is the biggest inspiration, so it’s trying to learn from that.” Paul Heyman’s brand of ultra-violence taught Morrison how to balance the simulated violence with more traditional matches, while creating a unique atmosphere in the smattering of venues that dot the plains.  

“It’s interesting to see how that operated on a shoestring budget. That’s basically the same thing we’re doing,” Morrison said. “We’re working on almost no budget. We have a very interested fanbase and a very invested locker room. Everyone just wants it to succeed.” 

While fleshing out the details for TPW, Morrison looked to Casanova Valentine, a death match wrestler he found through a VICE documentary. Valentine performs in Mad Max-esque leather and a large beard with perfectly coiffed hair, his body more fleshy than the stereotypical guys in the major promotions. Valentine’s Instagram features him bound to a hospital bed, hooked up to an IV as the result of a death match. 

“I saw videos of Valentine, and I thought that was something I could do, so I started doing shows as a side hobby,” Morrison said. “Casanova ever since has become a good friend of mine. He works  Timebomb every once in a while.” 

Timebomb’s roster is made up of wrestlers who come as far as Texas and Chicago, but mostly from Minneapolis. Morrison says that his lineup is committed to his promotion’s success. The recurring characters work angles and feuds at the major shows in Fargo, which is North Dakota’s hotbed for independent shows.

Promos cut on TPW’s Facebook page features a noticeably youthful “Big Hungry” Shane Black, a slightly ectomorphic, but muscular in the midsection grappler. Black preens and his voice fluctuates from soft to loud on a video shot with an iPhone in someone’s backyard. The shaky video gives it a cool DIY, indie aesthetic. Black taunts former ECW roster member Bill Fonzie Alphonso ahead of their match in Fargo. 

“Not every match on a show will have specific angles,” Morrison said. “I try to make sure every match has some sort of storyline. There are about two or three feuds I really focus on.” 

These feuds culminate in shows once or twice a month in an ornate, former church called The  Sanctuary Events Center. The Sanctuary is locally known for housing weddings and receptions; sometimes, rock bands will perform there. Chris Jericho’s retro metal band Fozzy has an upcoming date in the venue. Morrison comments on how it’s deafening when 150 people chant “TPW” reverbs throughout the structure’s wooden façade and stained glass. 

“Five years ago, I didn’t imagine we would be doing shows at a venue I always wanted to do shows at,” Morrison said.  

TPW is supported by Morrison’s primary income from his day job as a lawn care worker, but ultimately, Morrison wants to quit his day job to focus solely on his promotion. “At the end of the day, that’s the goal,” he told me. “I don’t want to live a lavish life. But if I could pay my bills with it, I would be turning my dream into something I could make a living of.” 

The morning of a Timebomb show in Jamestown, ND—located roughly 60 miles West of Fargo, most recognized as being home to the world’s largest facsimile of a buffalo—Morrison texted me that morning to tell me that the show was canceled due to logistics. He didn’t specify what this meant, but his entrepreneurial spirit still makes a staggering impression.

Most people in their early 20s aren’t building promotions from the ether. 

Timebomb Pro returns to Fargo and the Sanctuary Events Center on October 12, 2023.