#7 American Legion Post #308
For the last twenty years a small Legion hall on Canby Avenue in Reseda has been the site of some of the greatest (and strangest) matches in independent wrestling. The American Legion Post #308 hall has become one of the true Meccas of professional wrestling.
The Reseda chapter of the American Legion was started in 1927 when 35 local World War I residents living in the San Fernando Valley met with the purpose of forming a local chapter of the American Legion. They were given their permanent charter in March 1928 and began construction on a Legion hall on Memorial Day 1928. Their original Legion hall on Reseda Blvd. opened with a big three day Armistice Day celebration on November 10th through the 12th, 1928.
By the late 1950s the Reseda chapter of the American Legion had outgrown their building and plans were made to build a new state of the art Legion hall. The location selected was 7338 Canby Ave. in Reseda, and groundbreaking began on October 29, 1961. The groundbreaking ceremony was attended by several city councilmen, a couple of congressmen, and area religious leaders. The cost to build the Legion hall would be $200,000 (adjusted for inflation over $1.6 million in 2017).
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Southern California had a thriving wrestling scene with events taking place in large arenas like the Grand Olympic, but the territory would collapse in the early 1980s. With the California State Athletic Commission regulating wrestling, independent wrestling was a rarity in Southern California. That slowly began to change in the early 1990s. In late 1989, the CSAC decided to no longer regulate pro-wrestling and in 1990 the first regular independent wrestling shows began to pop up. By the late 1990s there were at least a half a dozen wrestling schools in Southern California, all with their own promotions. Then Freddy Valentine’s All Star Championship Wrestling came along. Their venue? American Legion Hall Post #308 in Reseda, CA.
Freddy Valentine, who was the wrestling persona of b-movie producer and director Fred Olin Ray, created ACW and since he didn’t have a school, just booked top wrestlers from other promotions throughout the region. Some of the wrestlers who appeared on those early ACW shows include Samoa Joe, Rocky Romero, B-Boy, Super Boy, and Cheerleader Melissa. The shows would then be main evented by some sort of crazy gimmick match, normally involving Freddy Valentine himself.
During ACW’s run at the Legion hall some of the main events featured electrified fences, exploding barb wire, plugged in light bulbs, Terry Funk, the championship being put in a box full of rattlesnakes, and an alligator death match with a live alligator in the ring with the title on him.
After ACW folded in early 2001 the next wrestling promotion to run at the Legion hall (aside from one WCWA show) was EPIC. Started by Gary Yap, EPIC was supposed to be the next big thing in independent wrestling with television and all-star cards, but it fell apart pretty fast. The promotion held their second and third shows at the venue in July and August 2002. The August show was a notable one, as it was a benefit for The Messiah after his thumb was cut off in a home invasion.
While a few independent shows would run on and off over the next few years, it wasn’t until Pro Wrestling Guerrilla held their second Battle of Los Angeles tournament in 2006 that anyone was running at the venue regularly again. With the expansion of the tournament to three days, PWG needed a venue where they could run on three consecutive days, which lead them to the Legion hall. All of the six wrestlers behind PWG had been involved in EPIC to some degree, so they were familiar with the venue from their time there. The tournament was notable for the inclusion of wrestlers from the Japanese promotion, Dragon Gate. This was also the tournament Super Dragon was scheduled to win but was unable to wrestle in the finals due to injury.
Through the next several years, PWG would run regularly at the Legion hall while also running at other venues throughout the region. Starting in January 2009, the Legion hall became the sole home for PWG (aside from two Wrestle Reunion shows in 2010 and 2011). PWG had always brought in some of the best independent wrestlers from around the world, but around 2009 to 2010 they really started building momentum and the promotion started getting the reputation of having some of the best matches in the United States. Stars such as El Generico, Kevin Steen, Claudio Castagnoli (Cesaro), and Chris Hero were regulars. Since 2009, six Southern California matches of the year have taken place at the Legion hall. No other venue has more than two since 1999.
With its limited seating, as PWG became a hotter ticket, sellouts started becoming common and tickets to PWG events have become some of the hardest tickets to get in wrestling. Fans regularly fly to Southern California from all over the world just to go to a PWG event at the American Legion Post #308. The venue has also become the place to be seen in the Hollywood world, from Cynthia Rothrock attending ACW events to Hollywood celebrities at most PWG shows. The venue was even used in the Netflix series GLOW, where PWG co-founder Joey Ryan played Mr. Money.
Despite the cramped space and sweltering temperatures in the summer time, the American Legion Post #308 hall in Reseda has become one of the most important venues in pro-wrestling over the last two decades. All this because a movie director at one point needed a place to wrestle in an exploding barb wire match.