By Dean Samples
When you think of Cleveland, OH, Professional wrestling may not be one of the first things that comes to mind. Cleveland is well known for its beloved professional sports teams, but you may be surprised that Cleveland is linked to pro wrestling in many ways. Some of the most iconic shows, matches, and historic moments have taken place right here in Cleveland!
Let’s start with the early years, shall we? The first known wrestling event in Cleveland took place in 1870. Wrestling was held regularly at small venues such as theaters, gyms and halls throughout the early 1900’s. In 1972, the NWA and NWF held one the first professional wrestling supercards at Municipal Stadium called the “Superbowl of Wrestling” in which they had 3 rings set up side by side. Since, several big name promotions such as WCW, WWF/WWE, and AEW have held a number of televised shows, and Pay-Per-View events in the CLE.
Photo credit: WWE
If you were a fan of wrestling in the 90’s, you are well aware of the infamous “Monday Night Wars”. WCW and WWF were battling back and forth in a ratings war. Monday night Raw and Monday Nitro were aired opposite each other, battling for the top spot week after week. WCW was dominant in the mid-1990’s but the birth of the “Attitude Era” in the WWF towards the end of the decade helped Vince McMahon and WWF turn the tide.
On March 26, 2001, WCW and WWF held both shows in a simulcast. WCW Monday Nitro was in Panama City, FL, while Raw was right here in Cleveland. This is when Shane McMahon showed up on Nitro and shocked the world, stating he now owns WCW shortly after Vince stated he himself had purchased the company, so he had thought. To this day, this segment is still recognized as one of the most historic moments in wrestling.
Shortly after, WWF began an invasion angle where superstars would battle against members of The Alliance, which consisted of members of WCW and ECW. They held a PPV in 2001 called “Invasion” where WWF champion Stone Cold Steve Austin would turn on Team WWF and join The Alliance. Guess where that took place…that’s right! It was right here in Cleveland!
Some other incredible Cleveland wrestling moments include:
● SummerSlam 1996, where the infamous “Boiler Room Brawl” between Mankind and the Undertaker went down.
● Stone Cold won the WWF Championship from Kane on RAW in 1998.
● The Hardy Boyz and Edge & Christian competed in the first-ever tag team Ladder Match at No Mercy 1999.
● Chris Jericho won the World Heavyweight Championship in a Championship Scramble at Unforgiven 2008.
● The Rock and John Cena had a rap battle leading up to their “Once in a Lifetime (though not really!)” encounter at WrestleMania 28 in 2012.
● CM Punk walked out of WWE in Cleveland in 2014. Then, he returned to the then-Quicken Loans Arena in 2017 for his UFC debut.
● Kevin Owens powerbombed Cleveland’s own Machine Gun Kelly off the stage following a performance in 2015.
Photo credit: WWE
Those may have been some of the most iconic moments from some of the major promotions in the industry. Northeast Ohio also has some of the best Independent promotions around. Promotions such as Absolute Intense Wrestling (Cleveland), Ohio Championship Wrestling (Akron), and Mega Championship Wrestling (Elyria). Some of the best wrestlers in the world have stepped in the ring for these promotions at one point.
Cleveland is home to some of the top names in wrestling. Names such as WWE’s The Miz, Dolph Ziggler, Dana Brooke and one half of the Viking Raiders Erik. Former heart and soul of NXT, Johnny Gargano, ROH’s Shane Taylor, AEW’s Ryan Nemeth and Wardlow are also from The Land. The independent scene is loaded with amazing talent such as Otis Cogar, Atticus Cogar, Greg Iron, Joseline Navarro, EC3, Matt Cross, and so many more.
Cleveland’s rich history in wrestling is undeniable. Whether it is historic moments, incredible local promotions or the talent born and raised here, It is safe to say that as long as professional wrestling is around, Cleveland will always have a place in it.