In every sport there are some places that are sacred. Where you can still see and hear the ghosts of the legends that were once there. Other sports have their Yankee Stadiums, their Fenway Parks, and their Soldier Fields. Places where your grandparents cheered their heroes, and your parents cheered theirs. And where today, you too can sit in the same seat the generations before you have felt joy and depression. Where great battles that have become more legend than fact took occurred. Every sport has its legendary arenas where the echoes of the past can still be heard. Pro-wrestling has the Grand Olympic Auditorium.
Built in 1924 it has sat squat on the corner of 18th and Grand in central L.A. ever since. Originally, the Olympic seated 15,300, believed to be the largest structure ever built in this country expressly for boxing. The grand opening of the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles on August 5, 1925 was a major media event, attended by such celebrities as Jack Dempsey and Rudolph Valentino.
Wrestling began to make its mark in the history of the Olympic when in 1932 boxing, weightlifting, and wrestling events for the Olympic Games were held there. Little did anyone know at the time what a true Mecca for professional wrestling the Olympic Auditorium would become.
Lots of great moments in pro-wrestling have taken place at the Olympic. Some of these moments include:
On December 18th, 1947 Gorgeous George made his Los Angeles debut there.
On May 21st, 1952 Lou Thesz defeated Baron Michele Leone to merge the California version of the world title into the NWA World title. The match draws a record $103,277 gate, the first gate of $100,000 or more in U.S. history.
On March 28th, 1962 Rikidozan wins WWA World Heavyweight title from Fred Blassie, and becomes the first Asian to win a world title belt.
On June 7th, 1968 the legendary Mil Mascaras wins his vacant N.W.A. Americas Heavyweight Title.
On August 11th, 1974 “The Golden Greek” John Tolos beats Pampero Firpo to win the “NWA” Americas heavyweight championship.
On July 16th, 2000 ECW held its Heatwave pay-per-view at the Olympic. It was ECW’s first, and only West Coast appearance.
Maybe one of the most memorable events that have been held at the Olympic is the annual battle royal that was held every year in the 70s. It was the only one that was held all year. It was always the first house show of the new year and was heavily promoted. Twenty-two men battling for $10,000 winner-take-all prize. Plus a shot at the Americas’ title. And, if that wasn’t enough, they would bring in big name talent that normally wouldn’t be in the territory. The following is a list of each year’s winners:
1970 Rocky Johnson
1971 The Professional
1972 Bruno Sammartino
1973 Victor Rivera
1974 Black Gordman
1975 Andre the Giant
1976 Java Ruuk
1976 Roddy Piper
1977 Toru Tanaka
1978 Hector Guerrero
1978 Bob Backlund
1979 Victor Rivera
1979 Leroy Brown
1980 Andre the Giant
The epic battles that took place at the Olympic are too countless to list them all. Whether it is Chavo Guerrero and Roddy Piper feuding throughout the 1970’s, or Tommy Dreamer taking on Justin Credible at ECW’s Heatwave pay-per-view, the Olympic holds the ghosts of so many battles.