Historical Summary of Wrestling in Columbus

In 1920, several small athletic clubs would run occasional cards in their gyms. The largest of these was the Columbus Athletic Club whose head trainer was Cliff Binckley. Al Haft only ran a single show that year, in late December. He would regularly run wrestling cards in Columbus until his retirement. His matchmaker in the early years was Hemran Hamer. In later years, the booker was Frankie Talaber.

Haft was promoting cards at the Chamber of Commerce Arena in 1921 with an occasional event at Memorial Hall. When those arenas were unavailable he would run at one of the smaller downtwon theaters.

During the summer of 1921 he ran occassional shows at the Fairmont Outdoor Arena. In 1925 these cards became weekly events. November of that year saw haft purchase the arena. Before the 1927 summer season, Haft razed the arena and built Haft's Acre an outdoor arena that he would run during summers for the next thirty years. The arena was torn down in 1957 to make room for a freeway.

Olentangy Park was also a regular site for matches in the summer. Starting in 1921, the cards generally had two matches with shorter time limits and were free to park visitors. From 1921 through 1923, these matches were held in the latter part of the summer. Starting in 1924 they ran the entire summer. From 1929 through 1932 and again in 1934 and 1935, the matches were held twice per week. The last Olentangy prk matches were held in August 1937.

It was in September 1921 that Haft officialy incorporated the Quality Athletic Club. He did so shortly before promoting his first boxing card. The club was the main promotion in Columbus from its inception through Haft's retirement in 1965. He would build Columbus into one of the strongest wrestling cities in the country and his wrestlers were used by local promoters throughout Ohio and neighboring states. Aside from his regularly scheduled shows in Columbus, Haft also provided talent for cards at fairs, festivals, and fund raising events.

In the fall of 1922, Haft began booking a single match at the Lyceum Theater each week rather than his full cards at the Chamber of Commerce Arena. The match would be held after the night's regularly scheduled enetertainment at no extra cost to the attendees. This would continue for several months. Not so coincidentally, Bill Ellis' Empire Athletic Club ran occassional cards at the Chamber of Commerce Arena starting in late 1922, with his final show being in February 1923. After Ellis' final card, Haft returned to the arena.

In the fall of 1928, the primary indoor arena was switched to the Columbus Auditorium.

Haft created the Midwest Wrestling Association in 1930 with an aim towards naming his own World Heavyweight Champion, John Pesek whom he managed. This was done in 1931. Haft and many of the midwest promoters were trying to establish their own champion in opposition to the East Coast trust. Although he had his own world champion and was a founding member of the NWA, Haft would book other claimants to the World Title.While Haft was involved in creating an alternative World Heavyweight Title, his weekly shows were usually headlined by lighter weight wrestlers, the MWA Light Heavyweight Title was the primary title in Columbus from 1931 through the early 1940s. This title was eventually phased out in favor of the MWA Junior Heavyweight Title which would be defended until 1958. There was also an MWA Welterweight Title with the only champion being Robin Reed from 1931 to 1933. The belt would later be used by Mildred Burke as her title belt. The MWA Junior Middleweight Title also had a single champion, Billy Thom, from 1934 to 1937. Thom would move up a weight class and win the MWA Light Heavyweight Title.

The winter season of 1930 & 1931 saw Haft's shows move to the Southern Theater. In September of 1931, the weekly shows returned to the auditorium.

The summer of 1931 saw some competition for Haft in the form of the South Side Athletic Club. The club ran weekly Monday night shows outdoors at Parsons Plaza located at the corner of Parsons and Whittier. The group only ran a few shows later in the year when cards were moved indoors, but had another run at Parsons Plaza the next summer.

Tim Nolan's Queensbury Athletic Club signed a contract to present shows at Memorial Hall in early 1932. This venture only lasted two shows, but in the summer the group began running shows at Neil Park. At the time, Haft was in Los Angeles with John Pesek trying to establish the MWA World Title siding with Billy Sandow of Hollywood Legion Stadium against Lou Daro running Olympic Stadium who recgonzied NWA World Champ Jim Londos. About the time that Nolan began running, Columbus established a wrestling commission. The war between the promotions peaked in August when both ran shows on the same night. Shortly after Haft returned from California, the newly formed commission suspended Tim Nolan and the Queensbury Athletic Club, the Southside Athletic Club which Nolan had been matchmaker for, and a couple of Nolan's associates. It is likely that Haft was able to arrange this through his polictical influence as he was a well respected Columbus businessman and former head wrestling coach at Ohio State University.

The summer of 1934 saw weekly shows at Buckeye Lake with the ring being stationed on a platform built in the middle of the park's pool.

In 1940 & 1941, the weekly two-match free shows were held at the Columbus Zoo park.

The weekly shows at the Columbus Auditorium moved to Memorial Hall in 1944 when the auditorium closed.

The mid-40s saw semi-regular shows held at the Elks Club. Based on the names on the few cards where line-ups are available, the talent for these shows was not provided by Haft.

Haft was one of the founder members of the NWA. He was elected as the organization's first Vice President at the September 1948 convention and was relected for a second term the following year.

The summer of 1949 saw Haft wrestlers on outdoor shows at various shopping centers around the city. The owners used the wrestling shows to draw customers to their new shopping centers.

Wrestling came to Columbus television on July 5, 1949. Several of the shopping center cards over the next two months would air live on WLW-C Channel 3. In October of the same year, top matches from Memorial Hall began airing live on WBNS Channel 10 for a period of time.

Wednesday October 5, 1949 saw two different shows begin airing live in Columbus. WTVN Channel 6 aired the Rainbo Arena shows from Chicago and WBNS Channel 10 aired wrestling from the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles. Both of these shows aired throughout the country. Several weeks later, WTVN began airing the live Sunnyside Gardens shows from new York on Monday nights.

WLW-C Channel 3 (later Channel 4) was the home of various wrestling shows using Al Haft's talent. The nation's first regularly scheduled studio TV wrestling show from Dayton began airing live on Saturday nights in Columbus in February 1950. The show ran until October 1955.

For several months in the summer of 1950, the live studio show from Cincinnati aired on Monday nights. In September the show switched to a Saturday afternoon time slot. The show moved to Dayton in January 1951 and found it's final home at the WLW-C studio in October 1951. WLW-C Sports Director Joe Hill was the commentator. The show was cancelled in October 1955.

The Friday night live show from Cincinnati's Music Hall and Parkway Arena began airing on WTVN Channel 6 on March 3, 1950, but switched to WLW-C in September. At this point, all locally prodcued wrestling televsion shows aired on WLW stations. The show lasted until January 1951 when it was discontinued due to falling live arena attendance.

One of the higlights each year during the WLW studio run was the annual TV Championship Tournament with both a men's and women's winner being crowned.

Haft began promoting summer shows in Reynoldsburg in 1952 at an outdoor arena behind his motel.

During the 1950s more titles became regular features on Haft's shows. The primary singles titles were the Eastern States and Ohio Title. Also defended were the American and Ohio Tag Team Titles. Newspaper reports of the time often used the wrong name for these titles.

The weekly shows switched from Memorial Hall to the new Veterans Memorial Auditorium in the fall of 1955 and then to the Junior Division Arena at the fairgrounds in the fall of 1956. In September 1957, the shows were billed as being held at the Fairgrounds Arena or Fairgrounds Wrestling Arena. It's unknwon if the is the same building at the Junior Division Arena.

In the summers of 1957 and 1958, independent shows promoted by Bob Rogers were run at Jones Park in Groveport. They were often held on Friday and Saturday nights.

January 1958 saw the indoor shows move to Memorial Hall which had been closed with the opening of Veterans Memorial Auditorium. There was quite a bit of controversy surrounding the shows being held at the hall with supporters of the VMA being concerned it would draw away business from the new building.

January 1959 saw the return of live wrestling to Columbus TV airing Saturday afternoons on WLW-C Channel 4. The show was know as "Lex's Live Wrestling" as it was sponsored by Lex Mayers Chevrolet with Lex as the ringside announcer. The show initially aired from the dealership but would soon move to Memorial Hall due to the Bexley City Council threatening an ordinance to ban the show.

At the end of 1959, Joe Scarpello ran a show using wrestlers from Jim Barnett & Johnny Doyle, but was unsuccessful. Barnett & Doyle had begun a successful opposition promotion at the beginning of the year in Cincinnati and attempted to get into Dayton, but that quickly ended.

From 1966 through 1980, Ed Farhat (The Sheik) would become the primary promoter in Columbus.

Louie Tillet's Ohio Valley Wrestling had a short run in early 1977. The company taped a studio TV show at WCMH Channel 4.

September 1980 saw Columbus become the first northern city run by Georgia Championship Wrestling based on the success of their show on early cable superstation WTBS. The promotion would run regularly until 1985 when it was purchased by Jim Crockett Promotions. The company and its successor company WCW would run occasionally in Columbus until it closed in 2001.

The World Wrestling Federation (now WWE) began running in Columbus in 1985 and still runs occasionally today. Their developmental promotion NXT also runs occasional shows in the city.

Other national promotions have also run occasional shows in Columbus. These included events by ECW, TNA, ROH, and even one by the UWF after it had been purchased by Jim Crockett Promotions.