COLUMN: Offbeat Shenanigans – The Philadelphia Spectrum

Kevin McElvaney


Offbeat Shenanigans #36

by: Kevin McElvaney

First, I have some minor column-related business to attend to. There was a question earlier by a poster on the forums as to whether or not user “wzkevinm” is really me. Yes, it’s actually me. I can’t imagine anyone would want to waste their time impersonating me. If so, I pity them!

Another thing…it’s been brought up a couple of times that my columns are posted on the newsboard, while most of the others are in the Editorials section. You might recall that, prior to their departures from WrestleZone, both Chris Schultz and Sean O’Mac were posting their columns on the newsboard, as well. That’s because, a few months back, the Editorials section was reserved only for wrestlers and wrestling announcers. At this point, the Editorials section is comprised of wrestlers, announcers, and analysts (journalists, documentary makers, etc.).

This seems to leave the possibility open for me to go back to the Editorials section. Would you rather see my columns there or on the newsboard? If you’d rather see them down there, so they can be more easily accessed and archived (although slightly less visible), please drop a line to wzchriscash@yahoo.com and let him know.

Now…the letter of the week.

Good writeup today but I should point out that football has somewhat moved beyond its OJ stigma. I have heard a few instances where comentators commented that a kid ran with the style of the “Juice”. Or they talk about a record that OJ made. Even last year OJ was featured on the greatest college athlete that ABC/ESPN was running last year.

It is perfectly ok to compare someone to another person based on what they did within their profession. Saying someone runs like OJ is no -diservice. The guy was an awesome running back. You wouldn’t want to say they have the same inter-relational skills with women as OJ.

Same with Benoit. His stats, accomplishments, moves, ….everything within the ring should be honored. You dont want to start comparing what he did outside of the ring.

Just my two cents.


— Joshua Cunningham, Dallas, TX

I don’t have too much to add to Josh’s comment, but he raises a very good point about O.J. Still, we’re talking 14 years later with O.J., as opposed to a single year with Benoit. Time will tell whether the stigma lessens and how quickly it does.

THE PHILADELPHIA SPECTRUM

It was announced this week that one of the biggest, filthiest, dankest, most wonderful venues ever in the city of Philadelphia will be torn down in 2009. The Philadelphia Spectrum – former home to the Flyers, 76ers, countless concerts, monster truck rallies, circuses, Disney On Ice, and, yes, professional wrestling – will be demolished to make way for Philly Live!, a huge structure which is envisioned by Comcast-Spectacor chairman, Ed Snider, to become the “ultimate dining, entertainment and shopping experience.” We’ll see. But let’s reflect on the Spectrum, shall we?

It opened in 1967. As an arena, it became home to all of the obvious arena events, such as those mentioned above. If you’re seen a little movie called Rocky, you’d also recognize the place. But, yes, this is a wrestling site, and it was a venue for wrestling.

I think we gave them a real good match in that cage and that stays with me as probably and other wrestling historians, like Dave Meltzer for instance have said that, that event and my drawing power in the Philadelphia Spectrum, having all of the sellouts that I had there was far more impressive than all of the sellouts that I had in Madison Square Garden because of course of the population, you know 10-15 million people in New York and you are going to draw a lot of folks. To sellout the Spectrum the way we did was really in history far more important as far as historians go than selling out the Madison Square Garden. Itâ<80><99>s a great thing, itâ<80><99>s a great compliment, you know?

— “Superstar” Billy Graham, talking to phillyburbs.com’s Eric Gargiulo about one of his famous bouts with Bruno Sammartino.

In the 1980’s, the Spectrum had an exclusive contract with Vince McMahon, Jr. In fact, the NWA (and later, WCW) ran shows at the Pennsylvania Convention Center because of the deal the WWF had. It worked out well, though, for the WWF and its Philly fans.

Matches at the Spectrum were broadcast live on the Prism network, TV home to Philadelphia Spectrum sports for over twenty years. Many classic matches took place, and Philly fans had access to their own “exclusive” local wrestling over a decade before ECW’s rise.

My first show at the Spectrum was back in 1991. My grandfather took me, and we somehow scored 4th row seats on the floor. The first match I ever witnessed in person was Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat taking on Earthquake. Steamboat executed a leaping, over-the-rope hangman on the big ‘Quake, which knocked the big man backwards. The 400 pounder even spit up into the air. Seeing the saliva hurtling upwards in such close proximity was an amazing moment in my childhood which I shall likely never forget.

I drew a picture of Bret Hart on a piece of paper – not even a posterboard – and held it up and yelled for him while he wrestled. (Mind you, this was a house show and no cameras were advertised.) I got so excited during the show that I accidentally kicked over my enormous cup of soda and spilled it everywhere.

I went to, I believe, two more shows that year at the Spectrum. The second one, my older brother took me. We bought tickets day of so, needless to say, they weren’t the quality seats I’d been privy to the first time. The real memorable thing, though, was the featured attraction that night. A dream match: Hulk Hogan vs. Ric Flair!

That’s right. Hogan vs. Flair, in a WWF ring, when they were both still 40ish instead of 50ish. A match that never took place on television, but toured the house show circuit. Who was the “real world’s champion?” It was all a blur but, with some interference from Mr. Perfect (Flair’s manager at the time), FLAIR WON THE MATCH! He was announced the winner, and a horrible thought crossed my little Hulkamaniac brain – “Oh no! Flair won! That means he’s the real world’s champion!”

Before the first tear could roll down my chubby little cheek, I was saved…

BY A DUSTY FINISH!!!!

The decision was reversed. Flair’s cheating was found out, and the match was restarted. I don’t remember exactly what the fall was, but Hogan obviously retained the title. What’s more was, he cleaned house on Flair and Hennig with a chair. It was awesome.

Forgive me for the sentimental reminiscing, Shenanifans. The Spectrum was where some important moments of my childhood occurred. I’m sure I’m not alone. The event was home to many a wrestling event, and there are stories from each of them.

Now, with the Wachovia Center next door, the Spectrum is “no longer needed.” (Hello? Philadelphia Phantoms? Harlem Globetrotters?) No, fellow Philadelphians, we can’t pretend that it’s been Madison Square Garden. But it’s been OUR Madison Square Garden.

Kevin McElvaney is a contributing writer for Pro Wrestling Illustrated and The Wrestler / Inside Wrestling. He invented the Super Pretzel and the giant soda cup.

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