This Friday night, Pro Wrestling Guerrilla will be running another sold-out event at the American Legion Post 308 in Reseda, CA. September will mark the 10th anniversary of PWG using the venue, which has now become a place that is seen by many fans as the modern-day equivalent of the world-famous Viking Hall in Philadelphia, PA during the 90’s when it was known as the ECW Arena. Some could also say that if you looked at the surface, Reseda could be considered a historic wrestling city here in Southern California.
Not only does the American Legion itself have a history of holding events even before Pro Wrestling Guerrilla began running there, there were also wrestling events taking place right down the street on the corner of Canby Ave. and Sherman Way years before at what is now the site of a Spanish-language Christian church. Before the conversion, the church was the originally the site of a Sav-On Drug store in the 1950s that later became a nightclub and music venue known as the Reseda Country Club after club owner Chuck Landis purchased the site in 1979. When it opened in 1980, the club held concerts and music video shoots with musicians such as Mick Jagger, B.B. King, Iggy Pop, Slayer, U2, Guns N’ Roses, Joan Jett, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Bon Jovi, The Beach Boys, Huey Lewis and the News, Bad Religion, Social Distortion, Motorhead, Nirvana, James Brown, Tom Petty, Megadeth, & Metallica to name a few. The venue is also featured heavily in the movie “Boogie Nights.”
The venue would also host Herb Abrams’ Universal Wrestling Federation and Xtreme Pro Wrestling events.
Abram’s UWF was founded in 1990 and held their first series of tapings at the Reseda Country Club from September through December of that year. These shows would air on a weekly program called the “Fury Hour” that was broadcast on SportsChannel America, was later repackaged as a half-hour program on ESPN 2 in 1995, and later re-aired on ESPN Classic in 2008. These events would feature stars such as a young Cactus Jack, “Dr. Death” Steve Williams, Billy Jack Haynes, Paul Orndorff, Don Muraco, Captain Lou Albano, Ivan Koloff, Ken Patera, Larry Zbyszko, Bob Orton Jr., and Louie Spicolli. They would eventually move on from Reseda going to New York, Florida, South Carolina, North Dakota, and Las Vegas. The promotion never returned to Reseda and folded after Abrams passed away in 1996.
The Reseda Country Club would once again play host to another debuting promotion nine years later as Xtreme Pro Wrestling would hold their debut event at the venue on July 31, 1999 with Big Dick Dudley taking on Damien Steele in the main event. On September 24, 1999, Christopher Daniels made his only appearance in XPW when he took on Donovan Morgan. Damien Steele became the first ever XPW World Heavyweight Champion when he won a Battle Royal on October 29th, 1999 at the Reseda Country Club. XPW would run several shows at the Reseda Country Club until December 21 of that year when the venue had been sold. XPW would eventually begin to hold shows at The Palace in Hollywood and the Los Angeles Sports Arena after running at the Reseda Country Club.
In a 2003 interview conducted by Steve Bryant here on SoCalUncensored.com, Kevin Kleinrock, who at the time was the Vince President of XPW, talked about the efforts to find a place to build their own arena at and the problems surrounding that idea. One potential spot was located a block away from the former site of the Reseda Country Club and down the street from the American Legion Post 308.
“We were in negotiations for buildings numerous times, and that’s what happened with this one, where we had a building all picked out. It is the movie theatre that is on almost the corner of Sherman Way and Reseda. If anyone’s ever been to that Reseda American Legion Hall where there have been some wrestling shows, there is a movie theatre right there that says, I think Reseda on it in lights,” Kleinrock told Bryant, “and the building has been abandoned ever since the Northridge earthquake.
“Well we were in negotiations to take that building over and turn it into what we were going to call Club X. It was going to be a nightclub, it was going to have wrestling every Friday or Saturday night, and it was going to be our own little entertainment complex.”
However, zoning issues would get in the way of that happening.
“The city of Los Angeles, and not just Los Angeles, I guess just government bureaucracy in general, prevented that from happening. We would find a building that was too small to put the number of people that we needed to put in there, in there. I mean if we are going to pay the lease on a building, we have to be able to put at least 1,000 people into the building to bring in the ticket revenue to pay the lease. So we’d find a building that was too big, we’d find a building that was too small. We finally found a building that we thought we could build it up great. There was a stage up front where we could have built a Monday Night Raw type entrance and everything. The problem is, the city of Los Angeles requires that when you have theatre style seating you need one parking space for every five people in attendance. So for a thousand people you need two hundred parking spaces. That was always the hard part. We found over the time we were looking probably twenty different buildings that would have worked but they just didn’t have the parking spaces.”
XPW would return to the San Fernando Valley for the first part of 2001 running shows at what is now known at Birmingham Community Charter High School, which is near the border of Reseda and about three miles away from where the Reseda Country Club was located. A few short years later in 2003, XPW would hold their final Los Angeles area events as an active promotion in North Hills, about four miles away from where they held their first events at the Reseda Country Club. One of the promotions that was consider a predecessor to XPW, Slammers Wrestling Federation, ran events at the Sherman Oaks Center For Enriched Studies during the mid-1990’s. While the address of the high school comes up as a Tarzana address, it edges the border separating Reseda and Tarzana on Victory Blvd. The events were even mentioned in a few LA Times articles.
In 2000, Reseda would again see a new promotion open up as producer, director, and screenwriter of low-budget movies and B-List celebrity Fred Olen Ray, who wrestled under the name Freddie Valentine, would be the first promoter to hold events at the now famous American Legion Post 308 when he ran his All-Star Championship Wrestling events there.. His shows would have crazy main event gimmick matches such as Alligator Death Matches, Barbwire Rope Matches, and Exploding Ring Matches with Fred in the main event. Other B-list celebrities and martial artists such as Cynthia Rothrock and Don “The Dragon” Wilson attended ACW events.
At the time, the majority of promotions in Southern California relied on students and trainers from schools and training centers they were associated with. Fred Olen Ray however used talent from many different promotions to go along with his crazy main events. Olen Ray would rely on the crazy match stipulations to cover for his lack of in-ring talent. Olen Ray would also book himself in matches with wrestlers such as Mando Guererro and Terry Funk, and also featured many SoCal regulars such as Cincinnati Red, Crayz, Eddie Williams, Logan X, Los Cubanitos (later known as the Havana Pitbulls, Ricky Reyes & Rocky Romero), Samoa Joe, Frankie Kazarian, B-Boy, the Ballard Brothers, and Cheerleader Melissa to name a few.
One wrestler who competed on these events was Jason “Primetime” Peterson.
“I worked a tag with Jason Alllgood and myself against B-Boy and Frankie Kazarian, and the last show I worked, I believe, was myself and Allgood against Samoa Joe and B-Boy,” Peterson would say in a conversation we had about his experience working on ACW events at the Legion. “It was just a small building in a little area, and I thought it was a pretty nice building because [the fans] were all on top of you, and they sold liquor, which is always nice.”
When discussing the crowds and atmosphere of the building, Peterson would describe the crowds and atmosphere in ways similar to how a lot of people would describe the crowds at Pro Wrestling Guerrilla events that take place at the American Legion now. He would also talk about how the crowds were the complete opposite of other local nearby crowds he had worked in front of.
“That’s what I remember most about those shows. They were fun,” Peterson said. “I remember towards the end I worked a UIWA show and it was at that place where they use to run in Woodland Hills (the Bernard Milken Jewish Community Center) and I remember one time I was working with Tech 9 and it was just, the crowd was like, they were assholes. And I was like “this sucks” you know? They weren’t cheering, they weren’t booing. It was more like people trying to be part of the shows and being assholes.
“Really, at the end of it (his career) I was like ‘fuck this,’ I was done.”
When going back to the subject of the fans at the ACW events in Reseda, Peterson had nothing but positive things to say about the crowds there.
“They would buy like, anything. They weren’t jerks, they weren’t smart, they weren’t disrespectful. That’s what I remember. Those shows were fun, and they were just along for the ride.”
ACW would end up releasing a nationally distributed DVD called “ACW: Wrestling’s Wildest Matches!” that advertised fire, barbwire, light bulbs, and rattlesnakes on the cover. Every single match also features Fred Olen Ray. The DVD is available for purchase on Amazon for $2.99.
Shortly after ACW stopped running shows, another fledgling company would run at the American Legion in Reseda. This time, Gary Yap’s EPIC Pro Wrestling would promote two events in the building during the summer of 2002. EPIC ran their debut event at the El Rey Theatre in the Miracle Mile area of Los Angeles. After this event, Gary Yap would begin to look for a new home for the promotion and wound up in Reseda after a long search for a venue. “I wouldn’t say we CHOSE the Reseda Legion Hall as much as it was simply one of the best options that remained after we carpet bombed Los Angeles county looking for a place to call home” Yap explained when asked about using the venue. “Personally, I love the venue. Although we ran there only twice, both were great experiences. For me, at least.”
EPIC’s second event would be one of two shows held at the American Legion in Reseda. The event, called Pain And Suffering, and featured a main event Deathmatch between The Messiah and Nick Mondo, along with matches featuring wrestlers such as Sabu, Christopher Daniels, Samoa Joe, Bryan Danielson, Brian Kendrick, Super Dragon, B-Boy, Vampiro, and Nozawa to name a few.
“Of the two crowds we had, both were solid. The ‘Pain & Suffering’ event had fewer folks there than we had anticipated, especially off the heels of something like ‘International Collision’. I remember that was kinda a letdown. They were loud, though, and that card – from top to bottom – was probably the best overall card that year.”
Following an incident where longtime Southern California wrestler The Messiah was attacked in his home, EPIC held a benefit show at the American Legion in Reseda that saw Sabu take on Super Dragon. “The ‘For the Messiah’ event was [standing room only], which was nice” Yap said. “I think we even had to seat folks on the stage. Loved the vibe, overall.”
When asked to share any specific memories of the Legion, Gary shared this story about the late Trent Acid. “[Trent] had sex with a porn star in those bushes in front of the venue. I’m kinda bothered that I can’t remember what her name was now.”
An hour later, Gary would message me after he remembered her name.
“The porn chick’s name was Cassidey.”
After running two events at the American Legion, EPIC would once again move after Dave Marquez joined the promotion in an effort to help EPIC secure a television deal. Gary explained that it wasn’t a move he wanted to make. “We left begrudgingly. At the time, we were trying to settle in a venue where we could shoot TV, which Dave Marquez – who came on board after ‘For the Messiah’ – convinced me to give a shot. He wasn’t feeling Reseda and I relented to him.”
EPIC would run one more event in Glendale, CA at Glendale Studios for a television taping, and would later fold after a series of what can only be described as a series of awful business decisions.
After EPIC, there’s no known or documented results of events taking place in the Reseda area up until the summer of 2006, when wrestling returned to the American Legion in Reseda when a small Lucha promotion held an event in conjunction with a Psychobilly dance. After that, Pro Wrestling Guerrilla would hold the 2006 Battle Of Los Angeles at the Legion after the owners of the venue PWG had been running at (the Hollywood-Los Felix JCC) leased their building out to a gymnastics program for children, forcing PWG to look for a new home.
The American Legion Post 308 would be packed three nights in a row from September 1st through the 3rd. PWG brought in stars from Dragon Gate in Japan along with many top stars form the North American scene. From that point on, PWG would run a few more events in Reseda before spending most of 2007 running events at local National Guard armories in nearby Van Nuys and Burbank. Pro Wrestling Guerrilla would begin to run at the American Legion in Reseda regularly again in 2008, with an occasional show taking place outside of Reseda between 2008 and 2012. Aside from those events, the American Legion Post 308 would end up becoming the home of Pro Wrestling Guerrilla with the company selling out shows at the building for years now, with another sell-out show set to take place this Friday night.
While the names and faces have changed throughout the years, one person has been around to see all these events at the American Legion was the man who runs the building. Legion Larry, as he is called by PWG fans and wrestlers alike, has been a fixture of events at the American Legion Post 308 and would never be shy about making his presence known during shows. He’s most famous for his obsession with Joey Ryan, even giving him back massages during matches and tons of heat for years. Many people have different stories about Larry. The guy is a character. I myself remember seeing him yelling at a woman in a wheelchair to stand up, as well as convincing an overweight woman to show her breasts after an event at the Legion.
“I was watching a lot of old stuff from the 80’s,” said Primetime Peterson, telling a story about an incident he had with Larry during a show at the Legion. “I saw something where Macho Man had come out on [Tuesday Night Titans] and he had a bunch of paper with him and he cut them up in a million pieces, and when they announced his name, he opened the curtain and he throw them up in the air and went ‘Yeah!’ And I thought that was funny and so I decide to duplicate that!”
“I came out against, I think it was Shane 54, and I did the same thing. I walked out, and I threw [the paper] up in the air and he’s like ‘Ah! Who’s going to clean to clean that up?!’ I just thought it was so funny, I was like ‘what the hell, what are you so angry about?’ He kinda killed my buzz, I thought it was funny! This guy’s yelling at me from behind! I was like ‘man, I’m coming out for my entrance right now!’’
Gary Yap also shared some interesting tidbits about Legion Larry, as he used an EPIC event to promote a brand of beer he was selling at his establishment.”Some folks might remember him trying to push that Otra Beer on us to advertise during the ‘Pain & Suffering’ event. Ugh.”
Gary also mentioned Larry’s obsession with thumb-wrestling, and the time Larry faced Sabu. “He also had a thing for thumb-wrestling. He thumb-wrestled Sabu once and Sabu sold his thumb as ‘broken’ after their contest.”
Reseda, California has hosted tons of wrestling events over the years and people from all around the world have flocked to this small San Fernando Valley community to watch professional wrestling for years now. From the Country Club hosting UWF and XPW events, to the American Legion hosting Pro Wrestling Guerrilla shows now, Reseda has seen lots of legends and some of the biggest names in the wrestling industry perform in the area with names like Terry Funk, Cactus Jack, Sabu, Bryan Danielson, Samoa Joe, and many more passing through the area. While this article doesn’t have the complete history of pro wrestling in Reseda, there is still enough evidence on the surface that supports the idea that this suburb in Los Angeles is a historic wrestling town with lots of history behind it that’s still being made today.
Note: While it’s possible more wrestling has taken place aside from what’s mentioned in this article, it was hard to come across information about events taking place before the 90’s, and no records or results of wrestling in the Reseda area before the UWF events at the Reseda Country Club in 1990.
Special thanks to Jason “Primetime” Peterson, Gary Yap, and Steve Bryant for their help with this article.
Most information about dates and results were found at www.cagematch.net, one of the best online resources for professional wrestling. Check them out.