The first known professional match in Cleveland was in 1870 and the second not until 1875. There were likely other matches, but they were not covered by newspapers.
Starting in 1881, matches would be held more regularly with occassional appearances by nationally known wrestlers. Until World War I, one or two match events were held at theaters, small halls, and gyms. There were also occasional multi-match shows at one of the armories, usually featuring two national stars. Several times per year, a nationally known wrestler would have a week long stay at a theater taking on all comers. The opponent would receive payment if the star wrestler couldn't gain a fall within a short time limit. It's believed that most of the matches were legitimate competitions. Occassionally the star carried the local challenger with the inent of building a rematch. And there were instances where the match was likely a complete worked match.
The mid and last half of the 1910s saw few wrestling shows in the area. The majority were promoted by Charley Marotta at his gym with a handful of shows at other locations.
In the 1920s, several theaters were booking wrestling matches after their regularly scheduled stage shows. The last of these appears to be in May of 1925.
Charley Marotta began running shows at Public Hall in late 1925. He also ran summer shows at the outdoor Taylor Bowl from 1927 to 1930.
In 1931, Walter Taylor began promoting shows at the Equestrium using wrestlers from the Al Haft / Paul Bowser booking office.
Marotta ran an occasional show at the Central Armory starting in 1932 and also ran a handful of shows at Municipal Stadium in the 1930s.
In the early 1930s, several promoters ran shows at various locations, but none were very successful as they only ran a handful of events.
Karl Pojello began running shows at the Coliseum in the fall of 1934. Charley Marotta ran a show or two at Gray's Armory in October before joing forces with Pojello. Late in the year, Taylor moved his shows from the Equestrium to Gray's Armory. The last ever Coliseum show was in December with Pojello moving to the Central Armory in January 1935.
Pojello ran his last show in April of 1935 and when the fall season began, Taylor switched his shows to the Cenntral Armory. He also co-promoted shows at the Cleveland Arena with its manager Al Sutphin and also an occasional show at Public Hall.
1936 saw a handful of people try their hand at promoting wrestling. Local boxing promoter and gym owner rans several shows at his new gym in the spring. Also during the spring, the Verhovay Club ran a handful of small cards at their new building, the Ely Young Men's Club ran a few fundraiser shows in Euclid, and The Cleveland Club ran a single show,a dn a few shows were held at the Berea Armory. Pete Mercurio & Jack Fischer ran a show at Public Hall in April, but must have not drawn well as they were said to have seven dates on the building but no mention of subsequent shows can be found. Late in the summer, the American Legion ran a few shows at the Central Armory.
At the end of 1938, Bob Brickman began promoting shows at the armory (and occasionally Public Hall) using wrestlers from the Toots Mondt / Jim Londos booking office. Taylor was now limited to running the arena.
The end of 1940 saw Sutphin and Brickman co-promoting several shows at the Arena. These would be the last regularly promoted shows at the arena until 1946.
In early 1941 a series of shows were held at the New Coliseum Hall (later known as Pla-Mor Skating Rink) promoted by Aaron Steiger. Later that year it was announced Jack Ganson was given eight dates for shows at the Cleveland Arena starting in November. However, there are no newspaper records of these shows being held. The coliseum shows are the last known shows until 1943.
Ganson promoted shows at the Cleveland Arena, Central Armory, Public Hall, and several outdoor venues from 1943 until his death in early 1957.
From the fall of 1943 thru January 1944, Bob Briackman promoted a handful of shows at Public Hall.
Ed Gemerchak promoted weekly shows at the armory from the summer of 1946 through the end of that year. For the winter season of 1946 and 1947, Ganson promoted exclusively at the Cleveland Arena.
In early 1947, Ganson had a falling out with management of the the Cleveland Arena and until late 1948 promoted exclusively at the Central Armory. During this time, arena management ran shows of their own.
Ganson and arena management had another falling out which resulted in the arena using Jack Pfeffer's Toledo-based group for the 1949/1950 season. Ganson made peace with the management of the arena and the Pfeffer group didn't return in the fall of 1950.
Ganson left Cleveland for the northwest in early 1951, but returned several months later.
In 1953 and 1954, Henry Gehring promoted a handful of shows at the Association of Polish Women Hall.
The first outdoor arena in the Cleveland area since the 1920s was built in Valley View at the Cloverleaf Drive-in during 1954. Ganson ran shows there during the summers of 1954 and 1955 Ganson ran shows there during the summer in the mid-50s.
Ganson died in February 1957 after battling cancer for a few years. His wife had taken over the promotion during this time, with the final show being in June 1956.
A handful of shows in the fall of 1957 at the Central armory were promoted by John Gibbons.
Pedro Martinez began promoting Cleveland shows on Thursday nights in the fall of 1958. Most cards were held at the Cleveland Arena, with an occasional one at the Public Auditorium, Masonic Temple, or Central Armory.
From the summer of 1962 through the fall of 1968, wrestling was only presented sporadically in the Cleveland area. December of 1962 saw the first show promoted by Larry Atkins' Buckeye Sports Enterprises which was backed by Vincent J. McMahon. These cards ran through the spring of 1964 (with a break for the summer and early fall of 1963). There were no wrestling cards in Cleveland for the next year and a half.
Ed Farhat's (The Sheik) Big Time Wrestling began promoting shows at the Cleveland Arena in December 1965, but they only lasted for several months. A handful of shows in the spring of 1967 promoted by a group of area business men under the Arena Wrestling, Inc banner, also used Farhat's group.
April of 1968 saw Perdro Martinez return to Cleveland promoting a couple of shows. It wasn't until the fall of that year that he would regularly promote shows. In 1970, his promotion would become known as the National Wrestling Federation with Johnny Powers as the Cleveland promoter. The promotion used many of Farhat's Detroit-based wrestlers and even recognized the U.S. and NWA Tag Team Titles. Shows were held on Thursday nights at the Cleveland Arena with shows sometimes held at St. Joseph High school when the arena was booked for another event.
Johnny Powers left Cleveland in the summer of 1973 after filing bankruptcy which was a result of failed business ventures including a health club. At that point, Martinez was the sole promoter at the Cleveland Arena until in closed in 1974. After the closure of the arena, a few shows were run at the Masonic Auditorium and St. Joseph High School gym. Powers was the North American Champion so these were likely still billed as NWF shows.
In February 1975, the weekly shows taped at the Channel 43 studios were replaced with a syndicated show, presumabley from Eddie Einhorn's new IWA promotion. A few weeks later, a live event featuring Ox Baker as the IWA North American champion was held. This is the only know IWA show in Cleveland.
There woud only be sporadic shows in the Cleveland area for the next several years. Most were held in small theater and high school gyms featuring wrestlers from Farhat's group.
Georgia Champiosnhip Wrestling would regularly run shows staring in 1983 with the WWF following in 1984. Note that shows held at the Richfiled Coliseum are listed as Akron area shows.