In the annals of wrestling history, fans young and old remember their favorite memories from their favorite wrestlers, matches, moments and where they’re from. Wrestling fans live on nostalgia and Poughkeepsie locals can confirm that their history is…glorious.
So if you’re catching up on Sunday night’s TLC Pay-Per View event or last night’s Monday Night RAW, or preparing for tonight’s SmackDown Live, take a second to read up on the documented history of wrestling in Poughkeepsie, told by those who lived it.
Steve Credo has spent his entire 34 years of life in Fishkill and works in New York City for FOXnews.com. He’s also the creator and host of Another Wrestling Podcast. “I watch the news all day, so when I get home from work I want to watch pro wrestling or cartoons, it’s just my thing,” Credo said.
Credo calls Poughkeepsie a “gold mine” for wrestling history, specifically, the Mid-Hudson Civic Center. “My Mom and Dad used to take me to the Civic Center, if you look it up, the history there is amazing,” said Credo.
From July 1984 until August 1986 the Mid-Hudson Civic Center was home to the WWF television tapings. “WWF Wrestling Challenge” and “WWF Wrestling Superstars of Wrestling” were the television shows that now WWE Chairman Vince McMahon would be doing commentary for alongside WWE Hall of Famer Bruno Sammartino.
WWE Hall of Famer Tony Atlas said on AWP ep. 134, “that’s where it all started; we would go back and forth from there to Allentown, Pennsylvania.”
“The arena was the right size for everything they needed and it still is,” said Credo.
“It’s all about the Mid-Hudson Civic Center,” Lanny Poffo said.
The list of WWF superstars that wrestled in the Civic Center is a who’s who of legends in wrestling: then WWF Champion Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant, Bret Hart, Greg Valentine, Ricky Steamboat, King Kong Bundy, Big John Studd, Tito Santana, Don Muraco, Rowdy Roddy Piper and one of the most prominent names, “Macho Man” Randy Savage.
Savage is one of the most popular names in wrestling to this day and he made his WWF debut at the Mid-Hudson Civic Center in a singles match against Aldo Marino in 1985. After the match, managers such as Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, Jimmy Hart, Mr. Fuji and “Classy” Freddie Blassy all came to the ring to bid for Savage’s services.
“I saw it on TV, I remember the managers trying to get him,” said local wrestling fan Ryan Stewart.
Poffo is Savage’s brother and recalls his debut and another event that happened in Poughkeepsie, “That was good, but was even better was his appearance on Piper’s Pit on another taping,” Poffo said “He got over huge.”
“The thing I always remember is Randy Savage,” Stewart said “He was just in another league compared to everyone else.”
Piper called Savage the “#1 draft choice in professional wrestling today” and instead of Savage choosing one of the bidders, he chose his wife to be his manager, Miss Elizabeth.
Miss Elizabeth’s debut also happened at the Civic Center, “Elizabeth walked down the aisle of wrestling history,” Poffo said.
Savage and Elizabeth would rise to the top of wrestling popularity with Savage breaking arms and Elizabeth breaking hearts.
Stewart attended 4 to 5 tapings at the Civic Center in 1986 and remembers the buzz around the couple, “Elizabeth was there when I went; everyone was really into Elizabeth, of course,” Stewart said.
Poffo vividly remembers his time as a wrestler in Poughkeepsie as well. “Leaping” Lanny Poffo wrestled many times at the Civic Center before Poffo changed his gimmick to “The Genius.”
“When you came to Poughkeepsie back then you knew you were in for a long night,” said Poffo.
Getting in town in the morning, Poffo and other wrestlers alike had to make rounds in the local media before then getting to the Civic Center and getting to work. Often time’s shows wouldn’t start until 7 p.m. but before then, backstage segments like “Pipers Pit” would be filmed in the meantime.
Shows would run late, the main event starting after midnight sometime. Then after the main event there would be a dark match, with a lot of the crowd still there.
“We would get to the dark match and people still wouldn’t leave,” Poffo said.
If tapings were happening on a weekday, which most of them did, Stewart was one of the few who missed out. “We didn’t see a main event until they stopped doing tapings and went to house shows,” Stewart said. “They were doing so many things that it would take so long and the main event wouldn’t happen until midnight.”
That era of wrestling calls Poughkeepsie one of its homes. Other notable things that happened in the Civic Center in that time was Andre the Giant losing a match to Big John Studd which lead him to get his hair cut, Razor Ramon and 1–2–3 Kid continuing their feud in the streets of Poughkeepsie and the only title change in Civic Center history: the U.S. Express defeated the Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff for the WWF tag team titles on June 17, 1985.
But of all of those memorable moments, Credo remembers one thing in particular from his childhood. “One of my earliest memories was Jimmy Snuka vs. Honky Tonk Man in a blue steel cage and all I remember is Honky Tonk Man climbing the cage and Snuka pulling his pants down,” Credo said. “It’s just a flashback, I don’t remember the whole card I just remember that moment. We’ve been to so many shows there, I don’t know why that’s one of the first things that pops up in my head.”
After August 1986, WWF stopped doing their internationally televised show tapings in Poughkeepsie, but they continued to put on shows there from time to time.
WWE’s “Monday Night RAW” is the longest reining weekly episodic television show in history. It launched on January 11th, 1993 and has had 1,228 consecutive episodes including last night.
From 1993 to 1995, the Civic Center hosted RAW over six times. Including RAW episode 53 where WWF champion Yokozuna defended his title against Randy Savage on Feb. 28, 1994.
In 1998, a new era of wrestling came about in Poughkeepsie. Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) found their way to the Civic Center and it resembled the ECW Arena in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
“I went to a lot of the ECW shows too, when WWE died down and stopped coming ECW came in and realized that building was gold,” said Credo.
The first wrestling PPV event was ECW’s “Hardcore Heaven” on May 16th, 1999.
Co-host of AWP Anthony Kuter said, “That is one of the first shows I remember going to at the Civic Center. I still remember the ‘New Paltz Sucks’ sign in the crowd.”
There’s one match in particular that Kuter remembers the most, Rob Van Dam vs. Jerry Lynn.
“The Whole F’n Show vs. the New F’n Show, I’ll never forget that match, they tore the house down,” Kuter said.
ECW made a name for itself at the Civic Center much like WWF before it, but years later when the owner and mastermind of ECW came back as part of the WWE years later for a show; the love for the hottest promotion no-more had not died down.
“It was so great because Paul Heyman was in the ring and the crowd is chanting ‘ECW’ ‘ECW’ ‘ECW,’ and he’s getting emotional and he’s cutting his promo talking about how they have a lot of great memories in this building and he had a lot of respect for all of us fans,” Kuter said. “Then he says, ‘but that company known as ECW was as worthless as a woman from Poughkeepsie!’ and the crowd just turned on him and started booing, it was the most heel thing I’ve ever seen in person.”
The Civic Center is a landmark in wrestling history and WWE/WWF and ECW will forever be etched in stone as part of it.
But that’s not the only place that has hosted wrestling shows and those aren’t the only two companies to make their way to Poughkeepsie.
In the last year Big Time Wrestling (BTW) and Northeast Wrestling (NEW) have held several events here in the last year. Total Nonstop Action (TNA) even made a stop at the Civic Center to film their “One Night Only” PPV in December of 2013, which had a main event of Austin Aries vs. Samoa Joe.
In August, NEW hosted their “Wrestling Under the Stars” event at Dutchess Stadium in Wappingers Falls.
“Doing shows in a baseball stadium is so risky, especially places like Dutchess because it could always rain,” Credo said. “However, Northeast Wrestling, they are the game in this town, you can ask anyone.”
The card for this event sold itself, Broken Matt Hardy vs. Sami Callihan, Jeff Hardy vs. Jushin Thunder Liger, Brooklyn Brawler vs. Jerry “The King” Lawler, with the main event being Cody Rhodes vs. Kurt Angle.
“There was a meet and greet with the wrestlers and I literally stood in line for two hours,” Stewart said. “I was so excited to meet [Cody Rhodes] that I forgot to hand his assistant my phone to take the picture.”
Angle has one of the most impressive resumes of any wrestler in history; Rhodes is the son of a WWE Hall of Famer and wrestling legend and was wrestling in his first match since leaving the WWE.
“That was the first time they even met each other,” said Credo. “It was cool because it was one of those things that you didn’t think you would see and you saw it.”
“There was a lot of talk on the internet about that match, not just locally. It was a really big match,” Stewart said.
Independent promotions make their rounds in Poughkeepsie from time to time and local wrestling talent like Vik Dalishus and Hale Collins “The NOW” are trying to make their mark in the business. However, Poughkeepsie and the Civic Center will always be known for what happened decades ago.
“Growing up for us, that was our Madison Square Garden,” said Credo.
“It’s funny that we don’t think of Poughkeepsie as a destination but at the events I’ve been to this year, there’s been college kids or just young people in general talking about how bad they wanted to see wrestling at the Civic Center again,” Stewart said.
“It’s reliable; promotions know they’re going to have a good crowd when they come here,” said Stewart. “There are very dedicated wrestling fans in the Poughkeepsie area.”