As the title reads, this is part two of my “Historic Arenas” min-series. I highly encourage you to read the first article, if you haven’t already, which you can do so here: http://wrestlingrambles.com/2011/11/22/historic-arenas-part-1/
Like I stated in the first article, there are some very special venues out there, that deserve to be recognized. Instead of writing out a nice little intro here, though, if you don’t mind, I’d like to just jump right into this.
North Carolina has a rich professional wrestling history. From the performers who call it home, to the promotions they and others competed for, in the state. Greensboro may play second fiddle to Raleigh and Fayetteville, but the Greensboro Coliseum most definitely does not. Located almost smack dab in the middle of the crucial Mid-Atlantic territory, the Coliseum was the region’s mecca; it’s Madison Square Garden.
The National Wrestling Alliance controlled the territory, and had for many decades. Jim Crockett Promotions, who had been running shows throughout the Mid-Atlantic since it’s creation in 1931, joined the NWA banner in 1952, and would become one of it’s flagship promotions. The Coliseum would be built seven years later, and would eventually become one of JCP’s home arenas.
In the 1970s, media mogul, Ted Turner, became interested in professional wrestling, as it was cheap entertainment, that he could easily gain advertising money off of. Georgia Championship Wrestling was the promotion he originally chose to back due to it’s location, but in 1984, Jack and Jerry Brisco, who were part owners of the company, sold their shares to Vince McMahon, for just shy of a million bucks and employment. The WWF show, though, wasn’t nearly as popular as the NWA bannered GCW, and in 1985, Vince would sell the television time slot (but not GCW) to Jim Crockett Jr.
Crockett and JCP would become instrumental in combating McMahon and the WWF. Seeing the WWF gobble up other promotions, becoming larger and larger, Crockett attempted to do the same, by grouping a handful of other promotions, including JCP, together, creating Pro Wrestling USA. That would only last until 1986, however. Crockett would go on to purchase more time slots from Turner, which he filled with programming under the “World Championship Wrestling” name. The programming was quite successful, and Crockett went on to purchase (or make working arrangments with) other promotions of his own. JCP shows began taking place all over the country, and in 1987, they aired Starrcade as a ppv.
The first Starrcade event in 1983, emanated from the Greensboro Coliseum, as would the following three. The first Starrcade to not air from the Coliseum, was the 1987 event, which took place in Chicago. Unfortunately, this first JCP ppv, was a buyrate disaster, due to threats made by a certain prominent wrestling promoter. This would happen on more than one occasion, each time severely hurting JCP and the NWA financially. This coupled with Crockett’s spending spree over the past couple of years, would nearly bankrupt JCP. Crockett sold the fledgling company to Ted Turner, in 1988, who turned it fully into World Championship Wrestling.
Constructed specifically to house wrestling cards, Arena México can hold over 16,000 fans, making it the largest venue built just for professional wrestling. It’s often regarded as the, “Cathedral of Lucha Libre,” and unlike the vast majority of arenas around the World, the promotion who operates shows here, Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre (CMLL), actually owns the building.
The original structure, built sometime between 1910 and the 1920s, was called Arena Modelo. It was built for boxing events, but by the 1930s, was deserted. Enter professional wrestling promoter, Salvador Lutteroth Gonzales, who began promoting shows at the arena in 1933. Gonzales owned Empresa Mexicana de la Lucha Libre (EMLL), the precursor to CMLL. He would continue to book shows here for ten years, until Arena Coliseo opened up. At the time, Arena Coliseo was larger than the Modelo, and due to the vast growth of the lucha libre fan base, EMLL shifted over to the new venue. However, it wouldn’t be long until the fan base out grew this new arena, as well.
Gonzales commissioned Arena Modelo to be renovated, to hold a larger capacity, and the new structure was completed in 1956- now named Arena México. Ever since, E/CMLL has called it home; running both regular shows, and ppvs out of it.From El Santo, Blue Demon, Dos Caras, Mil Mascaras, to Mistico, some of Mexico’s most legendary figures have graced the halls of this arena. Take note that I said “Mexico’s most legendary figures,” not “wrestling’s most legendary figures,” because lucha libre has transcended the country’s popular culture. Several luchadores have had their own comic books, have starred in movies and television series’, have their own sponsors, clothing lines, and so forth. It’s not sport, it’s not entertainment…it’s a religion.
Recently this year, the WWE aired it’s first live show from Mexico. Arena México held the RAW event. I was hoping fans would be seated according to what side they back. Meaning, if they cheer for the Técnicos (good guys), they sit on one side of the building, and if they side with the Rudos (bad guys), the other, such is a tradition at the arena. I don’t believe they did, though.
Located in Los Angles, California, the Olympic Auditorium was built in 1924, originally to hold the 1932 Summer Olympics. When it was completed, it was the largest indoor arena in the entire country, having a capacity of over 15,000. Wrestling would become prominent here in the 1930s, and shows would be ran here all the way up to the 2000s.
When the invention of the television came about, wrestling became the thing to watch. Stations big and small all wanted to air it on their channels, because it was easily produced, cheap, entertainment, that was well suited for television. Oh yeah, and Americans freaking ate it up! Television ratings were through the roof, attendance across the country soared, wrestling even surpassed “America’s pastime,” baseball. At one point, wrestling was broadcast seven nights a week.
Why is that important to know when talking about the Auditorium? Well, simply because the Olympic Auditorium was one of the very first places wrestling was broadcast from. The top draw during this time period, not only on the West Coast, but the nation, was the “Sensation of the Nation,” himself, Gorgeous George. While he competed country-wide, the West Coast was where he made his name, and the Olympic Auditorium was his home base. The Auditorium crowd assisted in making him the superstar he became, and this was the venue he felt most comfortable.
George wasn’t the only legend to hone his craft at the Auditorium, though. To name a few top names….: Buddy Rogers, Freddie Blassie, Roddy Piper, Bobo Brazil, The Sheik, Fritz von Erich, Andre the Giant, and Mil Mascaras.
In the early 1980s, the wrestling scene veered from Los Angeles, to Dallas.Promoters, Mike and Gene LeBell, ceased holding shows at the Auditorium due to low attendance, which led to the venue being temporarily shut down. It would re-open in 1993, but it’s capacity had been significantly decreased.The last major wrestling event the venue held, was Extreme Championship Wrestling’s Heatwave ppv, in 2000. This was the first occasion that ECW made an appearance on the West Coast, and the final time as well.
Today, the building is owned by a church organization, and wrestling cards are no longer promoted out of the venue. Hey, at least it’s still standing. In fact, all of these arenas are still intact, unlike most of the less fortunate buildings in part one.
-Manhattan Center – More than deserving, however, like MSG, I felt it’s history is pretty well known.
-Mid-South Coliseum- The home of the United States Wrestling Association, and Memphis Championship Wrestling.
-St. Paul Civic Center- Home arena of the American Wrestling Association
-Boston Garden- Has held numerous wrestling events throughout it’s history.
-Hamburg Arena- This is where Vincent K. McMahon first got his start at promoting shows.
Maybe someday I’ll make a part three in this series, for as you can see, there are still plenty of historic arenas out there. For now, though, this will have to tide you over. I really enjoyed writing these articles, so I certainly hope you enjoyed reading them. I also hope that you have a new found respect for an aspect of the wrestling business that often seems to get over-looked.
Thanks for Reading,
This week’s “J Classic”- http://wrestlingrambles.com/videos/jclassics/j-classics-episode-6/