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Former WWE wrestler Goldust (Dustin Runnels) will be at Black Bear Casino in Carlton today for the first day of the two-day "Jokes, Pokes and Chokes" comedy, tattoo and wrestling convention. (Photo courtesy of Dave Sabick)

Three-for-one at Black Bear

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Three events.

Two days.

One venue.

The cleverly and aptly titled "Jokes, Pokes and Chokes" comedy, tattoo and wrestling convention comes together in a three-way dance of hilarity, pain and mayhem today and Sunday at Black Bear Casino Resort in Carlton.

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The event, the first collaboration of Duluth-based organizations Tattoo You Minnesota and Heavy on Wrestling, will feature live music, stand-up comedy, burlesque dancers, more than 75 licensed tattoo artists and piercers, and professional wrestling matches. The concept was born out of friendship, Tattoo You Minnesota founder Dave Nelson, of Duluth, said.

"I've always wanted to do something in conjunction with these guys," Nelson said, referring to his longtime friends, Dave Sabick of Heavy on Wrestling and Ron Houk of Northern Lights Burlesque. "Tattooing is so mainstream it goes with everything. Sports figures are tattooed, and tattooing and entertainment go hand in hand."

The combination of tattoos and professional wrestling is a throwback to the days of carnivals and freakshows featuring inked-up oddities and strongmen. Add comedian Dwight York to the weekend lineup, and jokes complete the trifecta.

The wrestling card will feature six matches each day as well as meet-and-greets with wrestlers for autograph signings and photo ops. Some of the wrestlers scheduled to appear are former WWE talents Goldust, Honky Tonk Man, Trevor Murdoch and Shelly Martinez. The main-event match of the weekend -- fittingly -- is a triple-threat title match between Heavy on Wrestling champion Ben Sailer, Arik Cannon and Arya Daivari.

Nelson returns to Carlton in August for his annual Tattoo You Minnesota convention, which is in its 22nd year. Sabick would like to see "Jokes, Pokes and Chokes" become an annual event if the weekend is successful.

"If it rocks," Sabick said, "we'll get it rolling and do this every year."

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