Remembering The Spectrum
#PWHS #Article #RememberingTheSpectrum
January 10, 1981 - It was my birthday and I was now 9 years old. This was probably the first birthday of mine that dismayed my father because I didn't want a party. I wanted to go to wrestling at the Philadelphia Spectrum. My dad hated wrestling, but he put on a brave face as we made our way down to our seats in Section 226. He hated it, but he wouldn't ruin it for me except for some minor grumbling. The human mind always amazes me - I cant remember what happened on Monday Night Raw 3 weeks ago, but I remember vividly walking down those steps to our seats, a wide eyed beyond excited young boy. Those plush red Spectrum seats. The buzz in the air. My dad remarking "Hmm.....there's not many people here". In looking at old attendance figures, the crowd for this show was a disappointing 8,732. My dad openly wondering why the tag team title match between The Moondogs vs Tony Garea & Rick Martel was so long (the match went 25:17). The excitement from the crowd as they always announced the next months card right before the main event. But most of all I remember the crowd heat during the Title match between Bob Backlund vs Sgt Slaughter. Sarge got the better of the champ that night, winning by countout. In the car on the way home, I went over the show in my mind. "Can we go next month, Dad?" I remember my father's slumping dejected shoulders. I smiled.
October 13, 1984 - Three months shy of being 14. By now I was able to go to the shows by myself. It was a different era then. We lived about a 15 minute walk from the Spectrum. This was a big one tonight - a big double main event - Sgt Slaughter and the newly arrived to the WWF Junkyard Dog vs the hated by almost everyone except for me Iron Sheik & Nikolai Volkoff as well as the larger than life WWF champion Hulk Hogan defending the title against Big John Studd. There was some disappointment, as it was supposed to be Jesse Ventura, but an illness had effectively ended his career. I barely remember that title match, but I'll never forget that Sheik & Volkoff tag, a 1980s double juice bloodbath that ended in a wild double DQ, setting up a rematch the following month in a Texas Tornado tag match. You cannot underestimate just how over the Slaughter vs Sheik feud was. 18,000 in the building on this evening. The previous show drew 6,852. Gimmick matches were a rarity back then. I could barely wait.
November 10, 1984 - Two months shy to the day of my 14th birthday. The big Texas Tornado match. Also, the second month in a row that an announced main event wasn't happening, as the scheduled Andre vs Kamala match was changed to Andre vs Studd, eliciting groans from the crowd at seeing Studd again. This show was packed - 19,699 and I don't think you could have fit another person in the Spectrum. Even at 14, I realized the strange double life of these wrestlers. Sheik & Volkoff were hated by the crowd, an intense bitter hatred. These people were incensed at the mere sight of these two. I sat there, confused. Just hours earlier in the parking lot, I had met Sheik & Volkoff. In those days, the Spectrum didn't have a separate private lot - wrestlers parked in the parking lot, same as the fans, but they parked in the back. Was very easy to meet wrestlers. I wasn't the only one that night who met this supposed hated duo. To our surprise, these two were two of the kindest, nicest men you would ever want to meet. Sheik was happily chatting away with everyone, taking photo after photo. He always got a kick out of me whenever he saw me because I had a shirt that said "Shiek-A-Mania" on it. Inside the building, some of these same fans were now on their feet, basically wishing harm on these two kind men. A strange business, I thought as I went home that night. I hadn't missed a live show in almost four years by this point.
July 26, 1986 - After a year and a few months foray of being in Texas due to a dad job switch, we were now back home. Where is everyone here? Only 9,000 to see Hulk Hogan defend the title against the suddenly gay and ridiculous Adrian Adonis. Even more ridiculous was George Steele getting the IC Title match vs Randy Savage in a match that barely went 5 minutes. I remember the highlight being that I met Gorilla Monsoon in the parking lot. Back then, Spectrum shows aired the following day on a local cable channel here called PRISM and Monsoon and an exuberant radio show host named Dick Graham were the announcers, who would frequently shout out "Don't ya love it fans? I mean don't ya really LOVE it?".
January 10, 1987 - Happy birthday to me! I am now 15. And what a birthday it is! Two shows today! This is a matinee show and everyone is excited for this one. Savage vs Steamboat, two months before their Wrestlemania 3 classic. Unfortunately we do not get a classic, as the match only goes 6:10. To make matters worse, our tag title match is also screwy, as Dynamite Kid isn't here so its Davey Boy teaming with the increasingly immobile Junkyard Dog vs The Hart Foundation. One thing I always remember about these old Spectrum cards - no show city! Still, nothing but happy memories. My friend Bob and I zip out of the Spectrum and race to the old Philly Civic Center for the evening NWA show headlined by The Road Warriors vs Midnight Express Scaffold match.
February 14, 1987 - A packed house! 19,416 shoved in here for a Valentine's Day show. A big double main event has sold out the place - Savage vs Steamboat again, plus Hogan vs Kamala. An insufferable 20 minute draw between Paul Roma and Steve Lombardi, who is here to play Kim Chee. Brad Rheingans is on the show. How can Vince sit there with a straight face and say he isn't trying to put AWA out of business? Rheingans,a very good wrestler but a boring personality, is a total waste in this cartoon company.
February 11, 1989 - We didn't know it at the time but this is the last show to ever air on PRISM. Hogan vs Bossman! Boy, Bubba could work for a big guy. I remember turning to my friend after Brutus Beefcake pinned Ted DiBiase and calling it a crime against humanity.
A few more lackluster shows at this grand old building and I was off to Tennessee to further my education. When I returned in 1995, things just weren't the same. The last show I attended at the Spectrum was on May 1, 1999 -a hideous WCW house show headlined by DDP vs Flair vs Sting from a company whose performers had all stopped giving a fuck a long time ago. Idiotic WCW insanity like Rick Steiner pinning Meng after Meng missed a charge in the corner and hit his head on a turnbuckle and was KO'd despite the fact that his gimmick has always been he has a hard head and does many headbutts.
November 30, 2009 - For the past several years I have been working as security at the then Wachovia Center and the Spectrum. Strange to be working in that building where I spent so much teenage time. The Spectrum is no longer in use but our union supervisor gathers a few of his closest friends and asks us if we would all like to go inside the Spectrum one last time and skate around on the ice and just have a good time in the old building. 98% of the staff doesn't know what we are up to. Its just his closest comrades. I am excited to see the old girl one last time. Myself and my friend Carmen Mangini, another huge wrestling fan, wistfully walk around the arena. He and I have now worked together here for 13 years. Its scheduled to be demolished soon. I snap several pictures. A pic of me standing unsteadily on the ice. I snap a pic of Carmen standing thoughtfully in front of the heels old dressing room. While standing on the ice looking around, Carmen and I begin talking about all of those WWF shows we saw in the 80s. He is amazed at my recollection of dates, matches, incidents. We begin talking about an old Hogan vs Paul Orndorff match where Orndorff hit Hogan with a chair for the DQ. We playfully grab a chair and snap a pic of Carmen hitting me with one of those old red Spectrum chairs. It is the last time I am ever inside the Spectrum. I am six weeks away from my 38th birthday.
November 23, 2010 - I am standing in the Spectrum parking lot with a couple thousand other people. They are scheduled to begin demolishing the old girl. The city has come up with a unique but sad way to get rid of her. Instead of imploding it with explosives, they are using a wrecking ball. It will take months for it to finally be gone, and everyone driving past in the next few months will see it slowly whittled down to nothing.
A slow death. But on this day, its a celebration. Dr J, Julius Erving is here. So is Bernie Parent. Everyone is giving speeches reminiscing about all of the memories here. As I stood there, at my home arena's funeral viewing, I thought about all of those wonderful people who made my teenage years so much fun who were no longer with us. I thought about Adrian Adonis and his sad last few years. I thought about Davey Boy Smith. I thought about the Junkyard Dog. Quick Draw Rick McGraw. Captain Lou. Big John Studd. Andre The Giant. The incredibly nice Hercules Hernandez. Like everyone else on that cold November day, I looked back fondly, and sadly. More people up there on the podium making speeches. No representatives from the company who spent over twenty years entertaining people. I wish they cared as much about the place as I did and would have sent someone. I thought about the guy whose familiar voice called all the action on PRISM all of those years and I remembered something that Bobby Heenan had said at his Hall of Fame speech.
I wished Monsoon was here.
Other Articles By Eric
Unique content strictly for the Professional Wrestling Historical Society.
Remembering The Spectrum.
Author: NJPW Gaijin Eric.
Published: May 28, 2015.
Editor: Jimmy Wheeler.
Remembering The Spectrum.
Author: NJPW Gaijin Eric.
Published: May 28, 2015.
Editor: Jimmy Wheeler.