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Bob Magee
Pro Wrestling: Between the Sheets

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band will do a four show series of concerts over the next two weeks, followed by Leonard Cohen on October 22; Hall and Oates/Hooters/ Todd Rundgren on October 23; and a final four show series by Pearl Jam October 27-31 at the…forget the latest corporate name that no one ever referred to it by….the PHILADELPHIA Spectrum.

Why does any of that matter in a wrestling column unless you’re a fan of those acts?

Because these are the last entertainment shows of another local classic wrestling venue, the Philadelphia Spectrum… which is to be torn down for a retail/hotel combination, perhaps as soon as New Year’s Eve. The Philadelphia Spectrum has 26 years of wrestling history, and a total of 31 years of sports history to be remembered before it comes down.

W/WWF house shows and PPVs took place at the Spectrum for 21 years, with the first W/WWF show at the Philadelphia Spectrum took place on August 3, 1974 and the final show taking place on May 18, 1996.

The first match at the Spectrum had Larry Zbyzsko defeating Pete Doherty on that August 1974 show, with the final Spectrum match on that May 18, 1996 show being a title defense by then WWF World Champion Shawn Michaels defeating Diesel in a steel cage match.

Inbetween, the Spectrum hosted 2 PPVs, hosted 3 WWF tag team title changes, one Intercontinental Title change, and WWF world title matches involving Bruno Sammartino, Superstar Billy Graham, and Bob Backlund.

Title changes saw:

April 12, 1980 – The Wild Samoans defeated WWF Tag Team Champions Tito Santana and Ivan Putski when Afa pinned Santana with the Samoan Drop after Santana missed a top rope crossbody block

June 20, 1981 – Don Muraco pinned WWF IC Champion Pedro Morales to win the title at around the 15-minute mark after hitting him with a foreign object as the referee was “knocked out”

August 24, 1985 – Brutus Beefcake and Greg Valentine (with Johnny V) defeated WWF Tag Team Champions Barry Windham and Mike Rotundo (with Capt. Lou Albano) to win the Tag Titles after Valentine pinned Windham when Beefcake stuck Johnny V’s lit cigar into Windham’s eye.

PPVs saw:

Summer Slam 1990 took place on August 27, 1990 with a crowd of 19,304. 18,703 paid; sell out) featuring a Tag Title change that saw Bret Hart and Jim Neidhart defeated WWF Tag Team Champions Demolition (Crush & Smash) to win the titles; with talent appearing including Paul Roma, Hercules, Shawn Michaels, Marty Jannetty, Kerry Von Erich, Mr. Perfect, The Warlord, Slick, Tito Santana, Bret Hart, Jim Neidhart, Demolition (Crush/Smash), Jake Roberts, Bad News Brown, Jim Duggan, Nikolai Volkoff, Orient Express, Mr. Fuji, Randy Savage, Dusty Rhodes, Randy Savage, Sherri Martel, Hulk Hogan, The Big Bossman, Earthquake, Jimmy Hart, Dino Bravo), Ultimate Warrior, Rick Rude, and Bobby Heenan

King of the Ring 1995 took place on June 25, 1995 with a crowd of 16,590 that saw Mabel as King of The Ring winner, with talent including: Savio Vega, Razor Ramon, Yokozuna, Jim Cornette, Mr. Fuji), Owen Hart, The Roadie, Jeff Jarrett, Bob Holly, Shawn Michaels, Kama, Ted Dibiase, Mabel, Mo, The Undertaker, Paul Bearer), Bret Hart, Jerry Lawler, 1-2-3 Kid, Diesel, Bam Bam Bigelow, Psycho Sid, and Tatanka.

World Championship Wrestling also ran a number of events at the Philadelphia Spectrum including house shows in July 1997, December 1998, and May 1999; as well as WCW Monday Nitro shows in April 1997, November 1997, March 1998, and a Nitro in October 1999 that saw a Tag Title chance that saw Rey Mysterio Jr. and Konnan defeated WCW Tag Team Champions Harlem Heat), as well as WCW Thunder tapings in June 1998 and February 2000.

WCW’s time in the Spectrum also featured a notorious incident where Scott Hall disrupted the February 2000 WCW Thunder taping, starting with a backstage threat to legitimately attack Terry Taylor in the ring. I was at this taping that night and sat through a 35 to 40 minute delay in the Spectrum before Thunder was able to start taping. As all this went on backstage, WCW announcer Dave Penzer was left to kill time (since he’d gone out to the ring to begin what he thought was the start of the taping), actually forced to telling jokes to fill time, causing the crowd to give Penzer a helluva lot of crap for a delay he had nothing to do with.

Other events that The Spectrum hosted included concerts by The Grateful Dead (who played the Spectrum 53 times), Bruce Springsteen, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Queen, The Who, Guns N’ Roses, Frank Zappa, David Bowie, Bob Marley, and Peter Gabriel .

The Spectrum housed the Philadelphia Flyers NHL and Philadelphia 76ers NBA teams, with the Flyers winning their first Stanley Cup at the Spectrum on May 19, 1974. The Flyers also became the first NHL team to defeat the then-invincable Soviet Central Red Army at the height of the Cold War in January 1976. The Flyers competed in the Stanley Cup Finals in 1974, 1975 (winning that year’s Stanley Cup at Buffalo), 1976, 1980, 1985, and 1987.

The 76ers played in the NBA Finals at The Spectrum in 1977, 1980, 1982, and 1983. Four All-Star games were played at the venue, with the NHL playing its All-Star game in 1976 and 1992, with the NBA playing its All-Star Games there in 1970 and 1976.

Other events included the NCAA Basketball Tournament/Men’s Final Four in 1976 and 1981; NCAA Basketall Tournament/1992 East Regional and the Major Indoor Lacrosse League Championships in 1989, 1992, 1994, 1995.

For those of us in Philadelphia of a certain age, we remember the Philadelphia Spectrum and professional wrestling because of the 10 year series of WWE house shows televised the day following the actual show by PRISM, a Philadelphia area sports/movie channel that aired on regional cable TV from 1976 to 1997. WWE house shows were normally held on Saturday nights and were aired on Sunday afternoons.

PRISM was shut down in 1997 by Comcast and replaced by Comcast SportsNet.

As a side note, the sister sports station of PRISM was Sports Channel Philadelphia, which televised ECW from its first shows at the ECW Arena in 1993 to 1997. This, in turn brought another connection to more modern days as local announcer Dick Graham served as announcer of PRISM/Spectrum Wrestling until the end of televised cards. He also briefly did commentary on the earliest days of Eastern Championship Wrestling shows held at Philadelphia’s Chestnut Cabaret on low-power Channel 7 from 1992 to 1993.

Send me any of your memories. I’d be curious to hear what anyone from the Philadelphia region remembers from the Philadelphia Spectrum.

More importantly, please remember to give to the American Red Cross’s International Response Fund to help the victims of the recent tsunami and earthquake disasters in Samoa and the Pacific, which can be done via the following links at here and here  both of which direct to secure links allowing for online donations.

Until next time….

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