Historical Summary of Wrestling in Dayton


The early and mid 1920s saw little wrestling in Dayton. There were occassional cards at small venues and single matches as part of boxing cards. Several cards were held at Memorial Hall, but must not have been financially successful as they never lasted for more than a few show run. Al Haft was first mentioned as a promoter with a series of cards at Memorial Hall in 1924.

It wasn't until late 1926 that weekly cards were popular enough to become a regular feature in the city. The McCabe Athletic Club promoted cards at their indoor arena working with Al Haft as the matchmaker. The following summer the cards moved the club's outdoor arena and in the fall the weekly shows moved to Memorial Hall.

Forest Park became the summer home for the weekly wrestling cards in 1928. That first year, the cards were free to park visitors with the Labor Day card drawing what is thought to be Dayton's largest crowd of 20,000.

The beginning of the 1929 summer season, saw the first mention of John Collins of the Dayton Athletic Club as the local wrestling promoter.

As of the beginning of 1950, John Collins' Quality Athletic Club was the main promotion in Dayton with weekly cards generally held on tuesday nights. The promotion used wrestlers from Al Haft's Columbus booking office with Haft having an ownership stake in the company. From the fall through spring, weekly shows were held at Memorial Hall which seated 2,800 for wrestling. During the summer, weekly shows were held at Collins Acre an outdoor arena at Ludlow and Barayard (now Auto Club Drive).

Weekly shows from the Eagles Club were aired on Thursday nights on WHIO-TV Channel 13 (now Channel 7). The show was hosted by Don Wayne who would go on to become a Dayton televsion news legend. The cards also featured amateur boxing matches. Newspapers ads never gave names of the wrestlers or and indication as to who the promoter was. A couple of months after Haft's studio show debuted, these shows stopped airing and it appears that only a few more non-televised were run.

On February 4, 1950 the first ever regularly scheduled studio wrestling show premiered. While there had been prior one-off shows in other cities, this was the first to be aired on a weekly basis as a vehicle to promote local shows. The show aired live on Saturday nights from the WLW-D studios in Moraine and was usually 90 minutes airing sometime between 10pm and 1am. From its inception it also aired live in Cincinnati and Columbus. In May 1951, the show began airing live in Huntington, WV. A 60-minute edited version aired on at least 17 other stations around the nation. The show ran until October 29, 1955.

Based on the success of the WLW-D show, a similar show was begun at the WLW-T studio in Cincinnati and aired in Dayton and Columbus. The show was broadcast live on Monday nights and aired from July 3, 1950 through September 5, 1950. After a two week break, the show would begin again on Saturday afternoons. In January 1951, the Saturday afternoon show moved to the studio in suburban Dayton. That afternoon show moved to the WLW-C studio in Columbus in October 1951.

The first WLW TV Tournament began at the end of 1950 airing live from the WLW-D studios. Both a men's and women's tournament were held with the finals being held at a major arena each year. There were tournaments held each year from 1951 through 1954. The winners received a championship belt, but did not defend them throughout the year. Rather than a tradional wrestling title this was more like an annual championship like major sports leagues.

The Friday night live show from Cincinnati's Music Hall and Parkway Arena began airing on WHIO Channel 13 on March 3, 1950. At the end of September, the show moved to WLW-D with the result being that all locally produced wrestling televsion shows being on WLW stations. The show lasted until January 1951 when it was discontinued due to falling live arena attendance.

Jack Pfeffer's crew, based in Toledo, were featured on shows at Troy's Hobart Arena starting in september 1950. The local promoter was Pat Thurkettle who was the manager of the arena. The shows ran most Wednesday nights through the beginning of 1951. Later that year, cards featuring Haft's wrestlers began at Hobart.

The owner's of the land where Collins' Acre was located sold the property in 1952 so the weekly outdoor shows were moved to Sucher's Park. In addition to the Tuesdy night cards, there would occasionally be Saturday night cards at the park.

The fall of 1952, saw weekly Thursday night cards held at the Dayton Gym Club. These were promoted by the club's manager Howard Wagner and used wrestlers from Haft's troupe.

In the early 1950s, the Eagles would hold ocassional shows at their hall using wrestlers not aligned with Haft's booking office. In February 1955 they began promoting weekly Friday night cards featuring wrestlers from the Independent Wrestling Association. In October of 1955, Collins' shows would be held weekly at Eagles Hall due to Memorial Hall being renovated. Shortly after, the IWA cards came to an end. In October 1956 when Memorial Hall was open after the renovations, the management quadrupled the rent for wrestling so Collins moved his shows to the Fifth Street Recreation Building.

Promoter John Collins sold Sucher's Park to real estate developers in the summer of 1958. October would be the last show at the venue as well as Collins' last show who retired due to health problems. Mickey Friedman became the new promoter in Dayton with his first show at the end of October.

The sumer of 1959 saw some promotional infighting. John Collins came out of retirement and built an outdoor arena in Fairborn. He was using Al Haft's crew, but there are only a few known shows. Mickey Friedman ran his first outdoor show at the Montogmery County Fairgrounds using talent from Jim Barnett & Johnny Doyle. Friedman's second card featured a mix of Barnett/Doyle and Haft wrestlers and then all future cards were Haft wrestlers. Barnett & Doyle had began a successful opposition promotion in Cincinnati and Haft likley intervened to avoid competition in a second Ohio city.

At about the same time, Haft's weekly studio show from the WLW-D Channel 2 studio beganning airing again, now in late afternoon.

An independent promotion began running weekly Saturday night cards at the Delco Union Hall. It was said proceeds would be benefiting laid off workers whose unemployment benefits had run out. In November it was announced that the wrestlers on these cards would be from Don Eagle's new Dayton-based booking office. Most were the wrestlers already appearing on the Delco cards and a few that had recently been on Haft's cards. After two shows, Eagle's name was no longer mentioned.

The decline of wrestling in Dayton (and the other cities of Haft's territory) continued in 1962. The mostly weekly shows at the Fifth Street Recreation Center ended on March 1st and the last WLWD studio show was the following evening. In April, Friedman switched to mostly using wrestlers from Jim Barnett & Johny Doyle's Indianapolis based promotion with some of the Haft wrestlers still appearing. However these cards, now at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds Coliseum, ended in June with Friedman no longer promoting.

The Delco shows rans for a couple of months in early 1962 and independent outdoor cards rand uring the summer ar the Eldorado Platt. In the fall, mMajor league wrestling returned for several shows at the Lakeside Park Ballroom promoted by Russ Pfauhl's Lakeside Wrestling Club. An all women's show in November, promoted by Billy Wolfe, was the final card of the year.

The only non-independent shows of 1963 and 1964 were a handful promoted by Haft with John Collins as the local promoter.

In 1965, the Detroit-based Big Time Wrestling promotion owned by Ed Farhat (The Sheik) began running in Dayton. In March, the company ran the first wrestling show at the newly constructed Hara Arena in the Dayton suburb of Trotwood. Only a handful of shows were run at the arena (and at the fairgrounds) in 1965 and 1966.

It was in early 1967 that almost weekly shows returned to Dayton and it was due in part to the return of studio wrestling. On April 28, 1967 Big Time Wrestling aired it's first live studio show from new station WKTR Channel 16. The first hour aired live on Friday nights just a couple of hours before the evening card at Hara. A second hour was taped to air the following week. Ernie Roth (formerly manager Mr. Kleen and the future Abdullah Farouk and The Grand Wizard) was the ringside commentator.

1969 saw the first serious competition for Farhat in Ohio. Mark Lewin and Bobby Davis opened Wrestling Show Classics. In June, the new group took over the Friday night studio show on WKTR Channel 16 and at the same time took over the wrestling shows at Hara Arena. Farhat would move to the Montgomery Count Fairgrounds for summer cards and the much smaller Dayton Gym Club in the winter. His studio show from Michigan began airing on WKEF Channel 22 the next month. However, the competition didn't last long as WSC had it's final house shows and TV programs in February 1970.

Shortly after WSC closed, Farhat's Big Time Wrestling moved it's taped show from WKEF Channel 22 to WKTR Channel 16. It would air another year on the station, when it switch backed to Channel 22 when Channel 16 went of the air due to bankruptcy. The BTW shows stayed at the Frigidaire Union Hall until returning to Hara Arena in 1972 with an occassional event at the union hall. Farhat had a very successful run over the next few years.

An artical in the Journal Herald in 1974 noted the The Sheik was the promoter, had lived in Detroit for many years, and spoke perfect English. Farhat was very unhappy about the expose and cut ties with both Dayton newspapers. Records of shows in Dayton are incomplete after this point. The frequency of cards began decreasing in the second half of 1976 and the TV show was cancelled in March of 1977 with only a sporadic house shows the through the end of the promotion in the fall of 1980. Farhat's short lived revial promotion, National Championship Wrestling, had a card scheduled in late 1980 which was postponed until January 1981 and then cancelled with fans never receiving refunds.

Even before the official closing of Big Time Wrestling, Dick the Bruiser's Indianapolis based World Wrestling Association ran several shows at Hara Arena. The cards were promoted off of the Indianapolis WTTV Channel 4 show which aired on Dayton cable systems.

Wrestling returned to Dayton television with Jerry Jarrett's Memphis based TV show airing on WKEF Channel 22 starting in September 1980. The show ran through 1981 with one card being scheduled for Hara Arena in May of that year. However, advertising for the show stopped several days before the card, there were no results published, and a later article mentioned several wrestling shows having been cancelled in the first half of the year.

Mid-Atlantic wrestling ran a show at the Convention Center in August of 1981. No results were published nor were any follow up shows advertised.

Ron Fuller's Southeastern Championship Wrestling had their shown on WKEF Channel 22 in 1982. They booked a single show at the Convention Center in April.

Off of the strong TBS show airing on cable, Georgia Champiosnhip Wrestling ran cards at Hara Arnea from January 1982 through August of 1983. Shortly after that, the WWF took over promoting monthly cards at Hara.