AS I SEE IT 3/21: Another classic wrestling venue gone...
AS I SEE IT
Before I say anything, I want to to give major public thanks to PWBTS webmaster Paul Nemer for getting things transferred to PWBTS.com's new webhost, Tera-Byte, in such short order after the major server problem with our former webhost Smarthosting last week.
Pro Wrestling: Between the Sheets
Another historic wrestling venue is being demolished as the Philadelphia Civic Center/Convention Hall is being demolished. Wrestling history was made here as the first shows to compete with the WWF juggernaut in the Philadelphia market were held there beginning in 1985.
The venue, as Convention Hall, featured shows from the National Wrestling Alliance/World Championship Wrestling spanning both the Jim Crockett and Ted Turner eras from 1985 to 1996.
The first show in the modern era was held on January 26, 1985; despite a snowstorm, with a main event of NWA World Champion Ric Flair against Ricky Steamboat.
The Civic Center also featured three WCW PPVs.
These included the October 28, 1989 'First' Halloween Havoc featuring the Thunderdome Cage Match: Sting and Ric Flair beat Terry Funk and Great Muta (with Special Referee Bruno Sammartino); the October 25, 1993 "Halloween Havoc: Spin The Wheel/Make The Deal" PPV.
The final WCW PPV was the May 22, 1994 Slamboree: Legends Reunion PPV which honored Ole Anderson, Penny Banner, Red Bastein, Tully Blanchard, The Crusher, Don Curtis, Terry Funk, Verne Gagne, Hard Boiled Haggerty, Larry Hennig, Killer Kowalski, Ernie Ladd, Wahoo McDaniel, Angelo Mosca, Sr., Harley Race, Ray Stevens, Lou Thesz, Mr. Wrestling II, and Tommy Young. The PPV also featured the first national attention given to ECW and its fans, as Terry Funk climbed into the stands with John "Hat Guy" Bailey and many of the Philadelphia independent wrestling regulars.
The final wrestling show was presented in the venue on June 22, 1996. After that time, WCW moved its shows to the Corestates Spectrum.
The adjacent Pennsylvania Hall (seen in the process of demolition in the picture on the right) featured shows from Joel Goodhart's Tri-State Wrestling Alliance in 1990 and 1991.
The Tri-State Wrestling Alliance was the indirect predecessor of ECW with many of the TWA local wrestlers and TWA money man Tod Gordon starting the earliest version of ECW in 1992; including Johnny Hotbody, Tony Stetson, Rockin' Rebel, JT Smith, "Mister" Sandman (doing a surfer gimmick), DC Drake, Jimmy Jannetty.
The most widely known matches of the promotion featured the first east coast match of Sabu in 1991, and the historic independent series between Eddie Gilbert and Cactus Jack beginning with the March 2, 1991 Winter Challenge II "falls count anywhere" match, the May 18, 1991 Spring Spectacular II barbed wire match that approached anything done in Japan or elsewhere in barbarism... concluding with the August 3, 1991 Summer Sizzler II best of three falls (done in separate matches) with falls count anywhere, stretcher match, and steel cage match.
In 1993, when Terry Funk, Paul Heyman and Eddie Gilbert joined with Gordon to begin the ECW most fans know today with the first TV taping of ECW TV taking place at Cabrini College.
Well beyond professional wrestling, Convention Hall has hosted several national political conventions since its 1930 opening, with the Democratic National Convention held there in 1936, the Republican National Convention in 1940, and the Democratic National Convention, Republican National Convention, and the Progressive Party Convention all held in Philadelphia in 1948.
World figures spoke at the venue, including Martin Luther King, Jr., Pope John Paul II, and Nelson Mandela.
The venue also housed the Philadelphia Flower Show for 30 years, as well as University of Pennsylvania commencements, Beatles, and Grateful Dead live shows; Philadelphia Warriors NBA, Philadelphia Blazers WHA, and Atlantic Ten college basketball games...Mummers post-parade "Show of Shows" events, and countless other entertainment and civic events.
In other news...most long time readers know that Brian "Mark Curtis" Hildebrand was a friend of mine and may have read the columns devoted to his struggle against cancer and to his passing in 1999. Accordingly, I'd like to plug the following show...
The Mark Curtis Memorial Wrestling Reunion will take place on May 7, 2005 at Freedom Hall, Johnson City, TN with a 7:30 pm belltime.
Tickets go on sale on April 4. For ticket information, call the Freedom Hall Box Office at (423) 461-4884.
Ticket prices are $21.00 Ringside Seats/$16.00 Adult General Admission/$6.00 Children General Admission (a $1 building surcharge is included in the price of each ticket)
Proceeds are to be donated to the Children's Miracle Network.
Scheduled to appear:
Dr. Tom Prichard
Referee Scott Dickenson
Also present will be Chip Kesler, Sandy Scott, Lord Zoltan, Roger Anderson, KC Thunder, The Duke Of New York, Preston Steele, Count Grog, Ring Announcer Tommy Noe, and many more names to follow.
For more information, contact: Pam Hildebrand-Clark at Pjclark@xtn.net, by telephone at (423) 384-5039, or at Brian Hildebrand.com.
Until next time...
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