A couple of months ago, I had the chance to finally visit the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
It was a very cool place for those interested in the sport or sports history. In fact, within a few hours of me, there are several Hall of Fames. The closest being the Baseball Hall in Cooperstown. There’s also the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. (about three hours from me), which I haven’t been to.
Then there’s the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame, located in downtown Amsterdam, NY.
As a fan of pro wrestling, I’ve long wanted to check this place out. It’s not a far drive from me and I always wanted to see what it was about. I finally got that chance last weekend when two of us took a jaunt up to visit. The Hall is only open on Saturdays and Sundays, so we went up on a cold Saturday afternoon.
Now, take into account a few things — this Hall is free to enter, is run by volunteers and isn’t that old, compared to other Halls. Therefore, I wouldn’t hold it on the same pedestal as say Cooperstown.
Still, one thing a Hall of Fame should do is tell a story. When you wander through the Baseball Hall, or Boxing Hall — or even when it was still open, the Soccer Hall of Fame in Oneonta — you got a story. The development of the sport, the early days on through to the present. You see artifacts that help tell the story in an organized way.
I didn’t get that as much at the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame.
Don’t get me wrong — I fully enjoyed the visit. And I really understand that this Hall isn’t backed by anything major (say, World Wrestling Entertainment) and it’s likely much harder to get wrestling items to show off.
I still want the story.
The Pro Wrestling Hall is a two-story building in a quaint part of Amsterdam. Surrounding spots look run-down or abandoned, giving the feel of old-time wrestling. The one disappointing part is the two of us had to travel to another part of Amsterdam to find a quick lunch. We had been hoping to find a place near the Pro Wrestling Hall, but we didn’t find anything open.
Once we entered the Hall, we went and signed in. Though no charge, they ask people to sign in.
The first floor was a potpourri of wrestling items. From things like outfits and a belt won by the Fabulous Moolah to turnbuckles eaten by George “The Animal” Steele to outfits and handwritten manuscripts of Mick Foley. The “plaque gallery” of Hall of Famers is also on the first floor, stuck in a back corner and surrounded by memorabilia and jammed in with everything else.
It was a bit hard to move around in that the aisles aren’t wide. It was almost like a sports card store, where you are looking to buy something for your collection. Items weren’t all in cases, and those that were often had other items on top of the cases, so it’s hard to capture a good photo if you’re looking to do so.
Too, things weren’t really grouped in any certain order. A small thing about the Fabulous Freebirds was atop a case and across from many of the women’s wrestling things. Then there were a few cases of things you could pick up at a retail store, such as fake championship belts. Believe me, I feel toys are a massive part of recent wrestling history. The figures and toys kids get are all about brand placement and help the sport. But they shouldn’t be placed with legit wrestling items.
One thing I truly was disappointed about was the lack of championship belts on display. Now, I’m sure these are not easy to procure. But the handful that they do have, are not displayed well enough to allow photos or people to get a feel of them. One — an AWF championship, was in a case about knee level. The case, of course, had other things on top of it.
Robes, shirts and such were out free, in the elements. Some of the things that I thought would be cool to see — such as the shorts Mick Foley wore in his first pro match — were out of the main view and were covered up, for the most part, by an over-sized framed piece of paper telling you what they were. And you couldn’t see much from the top because, well, there were things on top of the case.
The cases many Hall of Fames use are specialty cases. They help the artifacts in regard to air and all the bad things that can age or damage said pieces.
So many things here are left out in the open or in regular cases.
The upstairs was more spread out, but filled with framed 8×10 promotional photos, some outfits, promotional posters and a few really cool artifacts. Alas, the story isn’t fully told, so it seems more like a memorabilia store. I was left wondering about some things and how they fit in with the history of pro wrestling.
I did enjoy many of the items, such as “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff’s ring attire, as well as the attire (and rope) from Stan “The Lariat” Hanson. some of the posters and promotional photos were very cool.
But I couldn’t help but wonder what this place would be like if a story was told. The plaque gallery in the small room in the back of the upstairs wing — all by themselves. A history of the sport spread out throughout the building, starting from the early days to the present. Having the women’s section (which to be fair, they did have pretty much all together), in another section, showing the history of ladies in wrestling.
Again, I realize doing something like this requires money. I hope, one day, the money is there and the vision is to transform that Hall of Fame into something fully special. I was there on a Saturday afternoon and saw three other people the whole time we were there. It is the winter, though, so that’s understandable.
In the end, I’m really glad I went. And, I’m sure, I’ll visit again some day. But I still left thirsting for more of the Hall of Fame experience — wanting the story told and knowing I left understanding why each artifact was on display and how it meshed with the history of pro wrestling. I didn’t leave there with that feeling.
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