Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Venues I Missed Out On

Madison Square Garden (1984)
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter

Growing up in St. Louis, I consider myself lucky as a wrestling fan.  The NWA and WWF visited town on a regular basis, holding most of their matches at The Kiel Auditorium.  It's no longer there, but today's fans can catch WWE events at the Scottrade Center.  I remember seeing the likes of Ric Flair, Bruiser Brody, Hulk Hogan and the Junkyard Dog live and in person at these events.  

Over the last several years I've ventured to Wrestlemanias in cities like Chicago, Orlando and New Orleans.  Along those trips, we've attended indy matches at smaller, more intimate arenas and venues.  I love going to wrestling events in different settings.  I've been to shows (and even wrestled at one) in a motorcycle warehouse, high school gym and VFW Hall.  But there are three arenas that come to mind that I would have loved the opportunity to have seen some wrestling action.

Madison Square Garden is no doubt the mecca of professional wrestling.  I remember watching shows on the MSG Network and through Prime Time Wrestling when I was in high school.  I always wanted to be a part of that experience.  I loved the way the microphone would drop from above and Howard Finkel would begin his announcements after a series of clanks of the ringside bell.

Outside MSG before the Hall of Fame Ceremony in 2013

In 2004 I attempted to get tickets to Wrestlemania XX.  I failed, but was excited when we booked our tickets from the 2013 Hall of Fame Ceremony.  It's the year Bruno Sammartino was inducted and appropriately the event as at MSG.  I remember walking to the building with a sense of excitement.  Even if I wasn't going to see any wrestling action, it was still a wrestling event with some of the biggest names in the business.  As I made my way to my seat, I imagined the ring in the center of the building and the sites and sounds of past superstars battling it out.  I could hear that bell clanking and The Fink's distinct voice as I daydreamed for a few minutes.

I haven't given up on attending a show at MSG.  I think there will be other chances to make it there.   It's still high on my bucket list.  Meanwhile, you can relive 50 years of MSG shows in the new book Holy Ground: 50 Years of WWE at Madison Square Garden by our friends at The History of WWE.

Kerry Von Erich vs. Ric Flair, Freebirds standing by

Unfortunately though it is too late to catch a show at the Dallas Sportatorium.  The arena made famous by The Von Erich family in the 1980's closed its doors in 1998 and was demolished in 2003.  I remember watching World Class Championship Wrestling on Sunday mornings and how insane the crowd would go when Kerry, Kevin, Mike and David Von Erich would make their way to the ring.  It was comparable to the Beatle-mania craze from two decades earlier.  The fans loved that family and the wrestling action that was a part of each show.  Conversely they were quick to jeer The Freebirds, Kamala and The Missing Link.

The Von Erichs
I can only image teenage me at one of these shows, popping for Kerry who remains one of my all-time favorites.  I did get to see him wrestle Flair once for the NWA Title at the Kiel in 1985, but I would have loved the opportunity to have been in the crowd in Kerry's home town.  Even one of WCCW's big shows at Dallas Stadium would have been epic.  More than 30 years ago when Fritz Von Erich was booking shows at the stadium, I'd never seen outdoor wrestling (I know WWF did it and others too, but I was new to wrestling at that time).

The Pitbulls, 911 and Tommy Dreamer
ECW Arena
Finally, who wouldn't have loved the chance to chant E-C-Dub! E-C-Dub! in the ECW Arena in Philadelphia?  The company was white hot when I was in college and if I'd been more adventurous or had friends who liked wrestling back then, I would have made a road trip to the Arena.  There always seemed to be an element of danger associated with those matches.  The chair pileup on Terry Funk comes to mind.  I also remember watching as fans would hand various objects including ball bats, toasters and even a toy dinosaur to the wrestlers to use as weapons.  Tommy Dreamer, Raven, Shane Douglas, Sandman, Sabu and of course Beluah all left a big impression on me.

Those are just a few of the places I would have liked to seen a wrestling show.  What arenas or venues do you hold near and dear to your heart?   

1 comment:

  1. The reason I liked here is that this place so intimate and personable and while having astounding atmosphere! Really more suited and perfect for experiencing great events in NYC and having a good time.