Wrestling at the Baltimore Arena
a.k.a. Baltimore Civic Center
The Baltimore Civic Center (renamed the Baltimore Arena) opened in 1962. It was built on the site of Congress Hall,where the 2nd Continental Congress met from December 1776 through February 1777.
The Beatles played there. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke there. Minor league hockey and indoor soccer games have been played there, as well as NBA games when the Bullets were a Baltimore team before moving to Landover and becoming the Washington Bullets. Elvis Presley played there twice - in 1971 and 1977 a few months before his death.
There also is a wrestling history in the building going back to the beginning as well. In April 1965, WWWF champion Bruno Sammartino defeated Gene Kiniski in a return match for the title (see the full card). Kiniski became NWA champion soon after that. In 1977, Sammartino lost that same belt in the Civic Center to Superstar Billy Graham - which you can watch below.
The NWA (through Jim Crockett Promotions) and WCW ran a number of shows in the building in the 1980s and 1990s. The Great American Bash was held here in Baltimore eight times. Both the NWA and WWE were in town on a monthly basis - as Greg Valentine talked about when I met him recently at a MCW event. Here’s a promo with Tony Schiavone, Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, and Tully Blanchard that was promoting a 1986 event at the Civic Center.
There were other title changes in the arena too. In 1985, Tito Santana defeated Greg Valentine for the WWF Intercontinental title. In 1992, Ron Simmons defeated Big Van Vader for the WCW World Championship. Simmons was the first African-American to hold a world championship belt in a major promotion.
Later in the 90s, the Monday Night Wars came to Baltimore, with WCW Monday Nitro and WWE Monday Night Raw and Smackdown all being held there. Numerous WWF pay per views were in Baltimore including King of the Ring in 1994 and a long list of other pay per views.
In the WWE era, Kurt Angle defeated The Undertaker in 2006 at No Way Out to retain the World Heavyweight Championship. In 2008 at Backlash, Triple H defeated Randy Orton for the WWE Championship. The last WWE pay-per-view at the arena was Extreme Rules in 2017.
The arena sold naming rights to First Mariner Bank and Royal Farms in the past. It is currently undergoing renovations again and will re-open in 2023. In the past several years, other arenas in the area have hosted pro wrestling events. ROH held several events at the arena at UMBC in Catonsville and NXT held events at Harford Community College in Bel Air. AEW is having an event at the arena at UMBC in November this year.
I hope to revisit some of the historic matches at the arena in future editions. I envision a top 5 or top 10 matches at the Baltimore Arena list, and I would appreciate your input in that.
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Bruno certainly lost the title to Superstar Graham, but it was most certainly not in 1997. They were both long retired by 1997, and, at that time, I don't think either of them held Vince McMahon or the WWF in very high regard.