Summer is upon us, and I find my mind wandering back to the days when the hot temperatures would bring the WWF around to some of the smaller buildings for live action here in New England.
I hit most of the big arenas back in the day for house shows and TV tapings, such as the old Boston Garden, the Worcester Centrum (the DCU Center)today, the Providence Civic Center (now called — ugh — the Dunkin’ Donuts Center), the Springfield Civic Center (MassMutual Center currently), and the Hartford Civic Center (XL Center).
But I also fondly recall squeezing into sub-par stadiums to get a more close-up experience with pro wrestling, including these spots:
- Lowell Memorial Auditorium: Before the Tsongas Center was built in Lowell, MA, the WWF played the Auditorium, which was a unique setting because the layout consists of a large stage surrounded by a semi-circular seating plan. When wrestling came, the ring was put in the center of the floor, which gave you some great vantage points. The WWF held cards there at least from the 1970s through the late 1990s (this was the building in which Shawn Michaels famously said he “lost his smile” back in 1997).
- Tully Forum: For local wrestling fans, this college-style hockey rink in my hometown of Billerica, MA, was most famous for hosting a Sgt. Slaughter-Iron Sheik match during the height of their great feud in 1984. I remember driving to Forum with my father and a neighbor and hitting a one-mile traffic jam caused by the wrestling card, which was not a normal thing for the roads in that area.
- JFK Coliseum: The WWF used to come to this hockey rink in Manchester, NH, once or twice a year in 1980s and early 1990s. I only visited this place once to see a steel cage match between Dusty Rhodes and Randy Savage in September 1990 (Rhodes won). I don’t think wrestling has been to the coliseum ever since the way more modern Verizon Wireless Arena opened in 2001.
- Wallace Civic Center: Man, this was a memorable night in a lot of bad ways in Fitchburg, MA. The Wallace Civic Center is a nasty old hockey rink that the WWF ran cards in for many years. My one time in the arena was in 1996 for a standing-room only show that I bought a general admission ticket for, never thinking I would stand for the entire night. I suspect the fire marshal would have ended the card had he been in attendance. What a hot, sweaty mess this building was. I swore I would never go back. To make matters worse, the parking lot was so tight coming in that my friend, Jason (who later became indy wrestler Kirk Roberts) hit a car with his own vehicle and just kept driving because we were all desperate to get into the arena before bell time.
I’d love to hear what small arenas and theaters you saw the WWF in. I know someone is going to mention the annual “C show” summer tent tour the WWE does each year in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, which I’ve never been to.