The list of names that ran wrestling in Indianapolis reads like a who’s who of promoters: Billy Thom, Balk Estes, Fred Kohler, Jim Barnett, Dick the Bruiser, Wilbur Snyder… these men were powerful and influential. They ran shows in historic venues such as Tomlinson Hall, the Sports Arena, the Expo Center, Tyndall Armory, Market Square Arena, and many others. From the 1920’s to the 1980’s there was a show ran virtually monthly in Indianapolis.
These promoters made sure the fans got their money’s worth. The top talent from the United States came through Indianapolis. The Midwest was a central hub of wrestling action for decades. Many wrestlers would stop for stays while traveling from one territory to another. In the 1950’s Indianapolis television became prominent as a part of the Dumont Network and the lure of becoming TV stars drew talent even more. Indianapolis was consistently treated to the top talent and matches during each era.
Over the course of its’ history the name most synonymous with Indianapolis professional wrestling is Dick the Bruiser. Partnering with Wilbur Snyder, the duo took over Indianapolis promotion in 1964 forming the World Wrestling Association. The WWA title soon became a prestigious championship within the sport and can draw its’ lineage to the WWA in Los Angeles as Bruiser won that title and brought it to Indianapolis to represent his and Snyder’s promotion. The history of the WWA championship, which has become a representation of Indianapolis professional wrestling, is marked by legends and hall of famers: Dick the Bruiser, Gene Kiniski, Blackjack Lanza, Baron Von Raschke, Cowboy Bob Ellis, Jimmy Valiant, Ox Baker, Ivan Koloff, Bruiser Brody, Ernie Ladd, Harley Race, Bobo Brazil, and many others have held the prestigious tile and laid claim as representative of Indianapolis professional wrestling.
With the fall of the territories and the globalization of professional wrestling as, the sport in Indianapolis has been in sort of turmoil. Indianapolis did get a piece of the big picture when WWE hosted Wrestlemania VII in the city in 1992. However, being another stop in the travelling show isn’t what Indianapolis deserves. Local fans and talent wanted something to call their own. Several small companies have attempted to stake claim to the area with some proving to be viable contenders for periods of time. An oversaturation of the product at times has caused Indianapolis wrestling to be further forgotten as a hotbed for the sport. However, in recent years there has been a resurgence within the area as many talented newcomers have risen and shown pride for their city and attempted to resurrect Indianapolis pro wrestling. Companies have invested in the fans and provided high quality shows and matches and once again the eyes of professional wrestling have taken notice of the Midwest and particularly of Indianapolis. With the revived interest in the city is a new love for its’ history and a new pride in representing the city as champion. Everyone wants to be known as the new face of Indianapolis with hopes of etching their name in the history books alongside the likes of Bruiser, Brazil, and Lanza.
Who will be the next hero of Indianapolis? In the future who will fans talk about as the face who lifted Indianapolis pro wrestling on his back and carried it to new levels? There is a list of candidates competing who are hungry to be that wrestler, with an eye towards the future and a respect for the past.