Professional Wrestling History Lives in Dayton

WWE Legend Bret Hart returning to the WWE after 12 years in the Nutter Center. (YouTube/WWE)

Professional wrestling has many historical cities all around the world. Cities like Chicago, Tokyo, Japan, Philadelphia, PA and Calgary, Alberta, Canada. However, what many people do not realize is that Dayton has a significant place in the history of professional wrestling.

Dating back to the 1950s, Dayton has played host to professional wrestling moments from wrestling promotions from all over the world. Many notable promotions such as: WWF/E (World Wrestling Federation/Entertainment), WCW (World Championship Wrestling), ECW (Extreme Championship Wrestling) and many independent promotions both local and worldwide. 

Legends of professional wrestling from all over the world have grappled in the Gem City. Names including Buddy Rogers, Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, John Cena, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Bret Hart. Many more greats all have visited Dayton at some point in their careers.

Big moments and events in Dayton usually take place in the Wright State University Nutter Center. However, before the Nutter Center was built in 1990, wrestling could be found all over the Miami Valley. Notably, smaller promotions held their events in the historic Hara Arena. 

Hara Arena has witnessed many historic moments that will be remembered for an eternity. From legendary concerts from the likes of Guns N’ Roses and hosting numerous wrestling shows through the decades. Just as Philadelphia has the historic 2300 Arena, Daytonians had Hara Arena. It wasn’t the biggest or flashiest, but it was home to history and moments the city of Dayton will never forget.

While it is now abandoned, Hara Arena served as a backdrop to many great moments in Dayton history. (Wikimedia Commons)

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Hara Arena also has tons of wrestling history dating all the way back to the 1960s and 70s with the original Big Time Wrestling and Georgia Southern Wrestling. 

As time went on, Hara Arena would host shows for WWF/E but, predominantly played host to WCW and ECW in which they would showcase PPV (Pay Per View) events. Events for WCW include the 1995 Great American Bash and Souled Out 1998. Also, ECW’s 1997 & 1998 Heatwave events were hosted at Hara.

As wrestling began shifting to a new era at the turn of the 2000s, wrestling began growing outside the major promotions like WWF/E and WCW. Independent promotions like ROH (Ring of Honor), HWA (Heartland Wrestling Association), and Impact Wrestling blossomed. 

The independent scene brought and showcased the future of professional wrestling. The young talents got their starts in the independent scene and would go on to become some of the biggest stars in history. Future stars like CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, AJ Styles and many others. 

The independents also brought talent from right here in Dayton and the Miami Valley to the forefront, such as Chris Hero (Dayton), Sami Callahan (Miamisburg), Dave and Jake Crist (Dayton) and fan-favorite Shark Boy (Dayton).

Talent continues to be produced in the Miami Valley, building the future of professional wrestling. From competing in the old Montgomery County Fairgrounds to the Dayton Convention Center, Dayton is slowly becoming a major blueprint in building the future of professional wrestling with the promotion Rockstar Pro Wrestling. Rockstar Pro currently holds their events at Turnbuckles & Brews, a bar on 638 Watervliet Ave.

 Rockstar Pro helped groom future stars from the Miami Valley prepare for the big time, including several top talents in Impact Wrestling like The Crist Brothers, Desmond Xavier, Trey Miguel and current Impact Wrestling Champion Sami Callahan.  Dayton continues to produce the future of professional wrestling and show that it is “Ohio versus Everything.”

Wrestling in Ohio has traveled all over the Miami Valley. However, we can not look at the history of wrestling in Dayton without mentioning the Nutter Center.  

To Daytonian wrestling fans, the Nutter Center is easily identifiable. From the bright yellow stairs, or the big signs above every section of the arena. If you have ever watched a wrestling event from that arena, you can easily identify what makes the venue so special.

A holiday-themed match from Dayton promotion Rockstar Pro Wrestling. (YouTube/rockstar pro)

The Nutter Center has hosted house shows, multiple episodes of Monday Night Raw and SmackDown and played host to the first-ever King of the Ring PPV which saw Bret Hart win the King of the Ring tournament. It was an event that also saw Yokozuna win the WWF/E Championship, the only time the WWF/E Championship has changed hands in Dayton. 

If you have been to a wrestling show at the Nutter Center, it is fair to say you have possibly seen a big moment in pro wrestling. A moment like Bret “The Hitman” Hart returning to the WWE for the first time in over 12 years or the return of Batista. 

The Nutter Center has also experienced to this date, CM Punk’s last singles match in WWE following his sudden departure from the sport in 2014. 

Professional wrestling has a history book of memories and moments from Dayton that still continue to be written to this day. Ohio is not just a football state anymore. The future of professional wrestling lives in Ohio. Who knows what diamonds will rise next from the Gem City?

David Jacobus
Staff Writer

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