Philadelphia: The Greatest Wrestling City In The World

The sports fans of the great city of Philadelphia have always been very passionate. Whether it’s the Eagles, Phillies, Flyers, Sixers, Smarty Jones, or the Taney Dragons, the fans eagerly...

The sports fans of the great city of Philadelphia have always been very passionate. Whether it’s the Eagles, Phillies, Flyers, Sixers, Smarty Jones, or the Taney Dragons, the fans eagerly pack arenas and stadiums, rooting them on to victory.

Professional wrestling is no exception to the rule.

The Philadelphia faithful flocked to see NWA legends like “Nature Boy” Ric Flair and “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes collide in the old Civic Center. That same crazed fanbase filled the Spectrum, to watch WWF (now WWE) superstars like Hulk Hogan and “Macho Man” Randy Savage throughout the 70s and 80s. I personally have had so many awesome memories going to wrestling events in Philadelphia.

In 1988, the NWA and WWF held sold out events at both the Spectrum and the Civic Center on the same day. I remember my friend Jon and I begging to go to both.  I went to WCW’s first Halloween Havoc in 1989 at the Civic Center. I recall being ecstatic seeing the Road Warriors destroy the Skyscrapers, and Sting and Flair teaming up against The Great Muta and Terry Funk. Another great memory of mine was being a few feet from the beating “Stone Cold” Steve Austin was giving The Rock in the crowd at Wrestlemania 15  at the First Union Center in 1999. Philadelphia fans have always loved professional wrestling.

Philly’s love for wrestling only intensified when Tod Gordon’s Eastern Championship Wrestling made it’s debut in the city in 1992. In 1995, Gordon sold the promotion to Paul Heyman, and Extreme Championship Wrestling was born. ECW really brought national attention to Philadelphia wrestling fans, and how their love of the sport was taken to a whole new level.

Banners hanging in the ECW Arena (Credit:

Banners hanging in the ECW Arena (Credit:

In an interview with, “ECW original” Tommy Dreamer stated, “Thomas Laughlin, which is my real name, was born in New York, but Tommy Dreamer was born in Philadelphia.” I loved going to the ECW Arena. I basically lived there from 1995 to 1999. I have fond memories of those nights at the Arena.

Blatant bribery attempts of the ticket lady, Edie, with Tastykake.

The Dudleys causing near riots with their heel promos.

Dopes waiting outside after the show for Bubba and Devon, looking for a fight.

New Jack nearly killing someone.

These memories are just some of the many forever etched into my brain. Nothing beat going to the Dollar Store down the street from the Arena, buying various “weapons” in hopes that Dreamer, Sandman, or Raven would grab my baking sheet to use against one another.

Following ECW’s closure in 2001, many independent wrestling promotions were started in Philadelphia, including Ring of Honor, Dragon Gate USA, Chikara, Combat Zone Wrestling, Extreme Rising and Xtreme Pro Wrestling. All of these promotions have been welcomed with open arms by the City of Brotherly Love. Many of today’s top superstars on WWE and TNA programming got their start right here in Philadelphia.

CM Punk, Samoa Joe, Daniel Bryan, Cesaro, Dean Ambrose, Austin Aries, and Seth Rollins all made their mark with one of these promotions. CM Punk, during his Philadelphia Comic Con Q&A in 2012, talked about coming to South Philly with Colt Cabana to tryout for ROH.

Punk said that Philadelphia fans were “extremely passionate about wrestling.” He compared Philadelphia to other wrestling towns, praising Philly as “the first to cheer the bad guys,” and for “turning Midnight Express babyface, which is pretty funny.”

In an interview with The Philadelphia Inquirer, Ambrose revealed that he lived in Manayunk and said he “really fell in love with the city. I liked the vibe.”

The wrestlers may have changed, but what has never changed is Philadelphia fan’s intensity. They are a special breed. They understand the sport of professional wrestling perhaps, in my opinion, better than any other city’s fans. They expect the best from the wrestlers, and show their appreciation with chants of  “This is awesome!” I know this happens in plenty of other cities, but only because the fans in other cities have seen it emanate from where it originated—the greatest wrestling city in the world, Philadelphia. content producer Rob Thomas can be reached at . Follow him on Twitter at .

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Rob Thomas has been an avid pro wrestling fan since the dawn of Hulkamania. Thomas has the privilege of being happily married to a wonderful woman who tolerates his wrestling passion. He is also the proud father of two little girls who are budding wrestling fans.
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    17 June 2016 at 12:46 PM
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