Summer has me thinking of the old small-arena shows on the WWF circuit

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.

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8 comments

  1. Joe Lowry

    Its funny, I do recall the smaller venues like the providence civic center and the Worcester Centrum house shows, but other than that my memory is not gathering the closed circuit stadium shows. Either way summer time was always special at the old Boston Garden. If we do recall the old Boston Garden did not have air conditioning. So the house shows during July and August always proved to be a hot one. Some of the proverbial men whose respiration were clearly defined were The Iron Sheik, Greg Valentine, Sgt. Slaughter, Hulk Hogan and Paul Orndorff. These men once covered in perspiration were glistening like ice cubes in a pool. I remember one match between Hogan and I think it was Kamala, neither could hold onto one another because the amount of sweat on each of them. Too funny!

  2. Anonymous

    I remember my first show in summer of 82 at JFK in Manchester. Main event was Backlund vs Orton…great memories. Another venue once in a blue moon was Skate 3 in Tyngsboro.

    • Frank

      The New Haven Coliseum hosted a monthly show as did small high schools throughout CT, NY, NJ, PA, & MD. New Haven hosted many sellouts (11,000 capacity) I can also recall monthly shows (or 6 week stretches) in some smaller high school gyms in Waterbury, Meriden, Danbury, Norwalk, Bridgeport, Westport CT & in NY monthly shows in White Plains (Westchester county center), Bronx (Hunts Point Ice Rink), Brooklyn (St. Finbar & Our Lady of Guadalupe schools as well as a K of C hall), Staten Island (Wagner college Gym), Queens (Sunnyside Garden), Poughkeepsie (Mid Hudson Civic Center…TV taping venue after the move from Hamburg, PA circa 1983) and all throughout Long Island. In NJ Convention Hall in Asbury Park, Ritz Theatre in Elizabeth, NJ, Convention Hall in Atlantic City, and High schools in Newark, Trenton, Montclair & Englishtown to name a few. All of which had its regular crew of fans in attendance each month. In the metro NY,NJ, CT area there were up to 3 to 4 small house shows on some nights. I remember paying $5.00 ringside in these venues. Many of these places did not have interview segments (with McMahon announcing the card and interviewing the wrestlers for their matches) but had voice over announcements during a televised match for the smaller venues. Yes, I also miss them

      • CT

        The New Haven Coliseum in CT was great for shows. This was the place I saw Andre the Giant for the first time in person. I literally counted the days until the event. It was June 1982 and he took on Adrian Adonis in the main event. The arena was packed. The crowd erupted when Blackjack Mulligan called out Andre after winning his match against Steve Travis. Andre actually came out and Mulligan ran back to the dressing room. The two were in a hot feud at the time and it was great how they teased the audience. Seeing Andre in person was amazing. He and Adrian put on a great match, which Andre won. The Strongbows took on Fuji & Saito also. Howard Finkel was the ring announcer, this is the place in the 1970s he was discovered by Vince McMahon. Awwwwww, the memories of the early 1980s! Yes, Frank, 5-7 bucks for tickets! For those who have not discovered the site of history of wrestling…Highly recommend it, brings back memories and is awesome….here’s the WWF 1982 page: http://www.thehistoryofwwe.com/82.htm

  3. J.Cee

    Two other venues worth mentioning is the old Worcester Memorial Auditorium and Jack Witchie’s Sports arena in North Attleboro. My dad never took me there as it was a bit of a drive and money was tight for us back then. But my Uncle Barlow who had better re$ource$ sent me to the Bank Street Armory and the Lincoln Park Ballroom in North Dartmouth. That said, the Worcester Memorial advertised some great matches on channel 27 and you could do a whole blog entry on anecdotes from Jack Witchie’s in North Attleboro who had bouts just about every week.

  4. geoff bingham

    went to a show in 1999 at the south shore music circus. a great time and funny enough kane vs. big show was the main event and I am pretty sure they have wrestled each other in the past year 15 years later. i remember there being a hardcore match (wanna say al snow vs. bob holly) but there was practicaly no outside of the ring so it was not very hardcore. Bob Backlund was in the cr0wd fundraisng for his campaign. Good times

  5. Irish22

    I just found your site and it is really bringing back a lot of childhood memories. My first WWF show was in the Scranton CYC maybe in the summer of 1983. My mom (who I think was reading a book the whole time) and I sat in the very last row with the Main Event being Snuka Vs. Murraco for the IC Belt during their hot feud. The first match of the night involved S.D. Jones and I rememberthe ring ropes broke when an Irish Whip was executed. I wondered then if Snuka would have the chance to fly. I remember he came off of the 2nd rope with a fist, but never did the patented leap.
    I also saw a few matches at Bishop O’Reilly High in Kingston, and Nanticoke high School gyms.
    A family friend was a teacher at Bishop O’Reilly and took me to the locker room hallway before the matches where I met the Iron Shiek, JYD, and a not yet “Hitman” Bret Hart. Hart eliminated Mr. Wonderful to win the 20,000 dollar (I think that was the sum) Battle Royal Main Event. Definitely some of the cooler evenings of my childhood.

    • Anonymous

      Great memories, I also remember the Lowell memorial auditorium. I went to a house show there in the summer of 1993 and was able to meet many wrestlers. My buddies mom dated one of the undercard wrestlers so we sat backstage where they filmed. Razor Ramon, the headshrinkers, irs, Adam bomb, the late yokozuna, and tatanka were there to name a few. The cape cod melody tent and the Hampton beach casino ballroom were two other small venues the wwf frequently made stops at. Another was the Loring arena in Framingham mass where captain Lou albano was said to have punched a young fan, the story appeared in local newspapers. I loved the wwf at small venues!

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