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.

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. These free events would run through 1933.

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 which was done in March 1931. Although he had his own world champion and was a founding member of the NWA, he would book other claimants to the World Title.

As Haft generally used 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.

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 WLWC 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.

WLWC 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 short lived live studio show from Cincinnati aired on Monday nights. Around the same time, the Friday night house shows from Cincinnati also began airing. Those shows stopped in January 1951 due to dwindling attendance at the arena.

Columbus got its own live studio wrestling show (also airing on WLWC) starting in October 1951. The show aired live on Saturday afternoons until October 1955. WLWC Sports Director Joe Hill was the commentator. The show also aired in Dayton and Cincinnati.

Due to the strength of the TV shows in Columbus, Dayton, and Cincinnati, the WLW-TV Title was created and defended in all of those cities. There was also a WLW-TV Women's Title.

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 would occasional be run at Veterans Memorial Auditorium starting in 1955.

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.