The City of Brotherly Love
August 7, 2004 by David Frederick
A name that has not really had meaning in just over 300 years when William Penn
chartered the city in 1701. Philadelphia, being the former capitol of the United
States during the colony years and site of the creation/signing of the
Declaration of Independence, also has tons of historical sites. There is just
too much to talk about Philadelphia as a part of American history. Philadelphia
has also been among the most historical places in professional wrestling
What I meant by "City of Brotherly Love" not having meaning is its definition,
though there is a lot of love, obsession, respect and history as a pro wrestling
city You do however constantly hear from politicians, reporters, sportscasters,
the term City of Brotherly Love. The first NWA World Wide Wrestling TV taping
back in February 1988, Bob Caudle opened the show "Welcome everyone from the
City of Brotherly Love". The city is best known by the term. But Philadelphia is
known for having one of the most historical backgrounds in wrestling history
probably only second to New York's Madison Square Gardens. The Garden wrestling
dates back to the last 19th century, Philadelphia goes way back to the 1920's.
The old Philadelphia Arena, originally known as Philadelphia Auditorium and Ice
Palace opened Valentine's day 1920. In historical World Championship records
many of title changes possibly took place at the arena (most are listed as
Philadelphia only, the arena during dates listed was the major sports facility
of the city). Though the WWWF began in 1963, it's possible with vague arena
results that, Vince McMahon Sr's Capitol Sports (cooperating with the NWA) were
running shows in the arena before the name change and McMahon Jr's involvement.
When McMahon Sr and Toots Mundt started their own company leaving the NWA (due
to the Buddy Rogers-Lou Thesz match), the WWWF named Buddy Rogers the first
The reign of McMahon's territory outside New York traveled down to Philadelphia
following Bruno Sammartino dethroning Buddy Rogers for the title (although
records state Rogers defended at the arena). But it was not until December 1,
1973 that a WWWF title changed hands when Stan Stasiak became a transitional
champion removing Pedro Morales as champion. McMahon talked Bruno into becoming
world champion once more but did/could not have two baby faces trade the belt.
The days of the old arena had it's golden age well before Sammartino. It did
prosper with him as champion and a few others. Philadelphia became hot spot for
wrestling under the McMahon's thru the 1970's with several tv tapings and tag
team title changes.
But with all buildings, age takes it's toll and just like ballparks they either
need renovation, expansion or a just a new state of the art building. The
Spectrum in South Philadelphia on Broad Street opened back in 1969 but did not
host a WWWF show till August 3, 1974. For some reason the WWWF continued to use
both the Arena and new Spectrum from 1974 thru 1977. The Spectrum became the
main arena in Phila by 1978. And just like the constantly overstated name City
of Brotherly Love, "The Spectrum" was to Philadelphia as Madison Square Gardens
was to New York.
The Spectrum became one of the hottest wrestling arenas around the world thru
the 1980's and mid 1990's. When pay per view brought wrestling superstars into
the living rooms Philadelphia was no exception except it was slow. First, when
Jim Crockett Promotions expanded from the Mid Atlantic area into Philadelphia,
using the Civic Center from 1985-1996 gave Phila's it's first wrestling pay per
view Halloween Havoc in October 1989. And like the Spectrum years, JCP ran shows
in Philadelphia that would be far exceed some WWF pay per views. A competition
began, that was a predecessor to the RAW-Nitro wars, when JCP and WWF ran shows
the same day in the Spectrum and Civic Center respectively.
Upon the opening of the new Corestates Center (later First Union and now
Wachovia) next to the Spectrum, both WWF and WCW (formerly JCP) ran shows in the
new state of the art arena. Yes even the Spectrum finally ages as the old Arena
But unlike the old Arena (which deteriorated by the late 1970's and destroyed
by a 1983 fire), the Spectrum still exists but only for some sports. In 1993, a
new age of pro wrestling arrived in the United States known as hardcore or
extreme. Starting in early 1992, ECW a small independent group, which followed
after a failed promotion TWA, (which hosted shows in the Civic Center) expanded
to a banner of violent wrestling with a mixture of weapons, tables, chairs, and
anything they picked up. After using a few night clubs for arenas Todd Gordon
and Paul Heymen began hosting shows in early 1993 in a small building in South
Phila, which was legally called Viking Hall (used for midnight bingo) became
known as the ECW Arena.
The wildest, hardcore and scientific wrestling matches ever in U.S. history
would took place from 1993-2001 in the ECW Arena. But it also produced many
young rookies which must admit got their start in the most famous bingo hall in
wrestling history. The late 1990's and early into the 21st century saw
financial changes in the world of wrestling. We saw the end of many promotions ,
though WWE (formerly WWWF/WWF) traveled thru just by the skin of their teeth and
continue today, ECW fell victim to a term that many a business face, bankruptcy.
Being birth of hardcore promotions, a few independent groups began and using the
ECW Arena hoping to succeed where ECW ended. The small building is still being
used today (2004) as well as the Wachovia Center, where WWE continues to use
Philadelphia as a taping capitol.
Next: A look back at Philadelphia's TV History of Wrestling.
by David Frederick..
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