On Saturday night, ECW Legend Tommy Dreamer‘s House of Hardcore is running Farewell to the Fairgrounds, a wrestling showcase at the legendary Nashville Fairgrounds. As the title suggests, this will be the final wrestling card at this historic wrestling venue. This past March, the Tennessee State Fair, which has held its State Fair at the Fairgrounds since 1906 (the venue was opened in 1891 as a horse racing track), stated that the location had become “inadequate” and would be moving to the future renovated home of the expansion Major League Soccer (MLS) franchise, Nashville FC. On Saturday, June 1, the Nashville Fairgrounds will host its final wrestling card.
LAST WRESTLING SHOW EVER at this historic venue.
— Bully Ray (@bullyray5150) May 31, 2019
Prior to the 1960s, pro wrestling in Nashville was regularly held at the Hippodrome, but in the 1960s, promoters Nick Gulas and Roy Welch began to run cards at the Nashville Fairgrounds. From 1965 through 1980, the Fairgrounds Coliseum would be the majesty of NWA Mid America‘s territory, it’s Madison Square Garden. It was in 1965, with a card headlined by NWA World’s Heavyweight Champion Lou Thesz against Dick The Bruiser, that kicked off NWA Mid America’s switch to the Fairgrounds, and it launched a historic journey in pro wrestling lore.
Welch and Gulas ran the Nashville territory until Welch’s health began to fail and he left in 1977. But that wasn’t the only blow to NWA Mid America that year. An eager promoter and member of Mid America’s staff, Jerry Jarrett, departed the company to start the lead promotion in Memphis, Continental Wrestling Association (CWA), alongside his new partner, Jerry “The King” Lawler. Jarrett’s mother, Christine, had begun as a ticket seller with Mid America and had also worked her way into the booking office, and ran shows in Indiana and Kentucky. With his protege and partner now gone, Gulas’ power in Tennessee began to wain.
By 1980, Mid America’s doors had closed, and CWA was now the power in Tennessee. Within a few years, they were using the Fairgrounds as their venue when they left Memphis, bringing in stars like The Road Warriors (Hawk & Animal), Tracy Smothers, Mr. Wrestling, The Fabulous Ones (Stan Lane & Steve Keirn), The Midnight Rockers (Shawn Michaels & Marty Jannetty), a young Jeff Jarrett, and CWA’s megastar, Jerry Lawler. By then, CWA had essentially absorbed Angelo Poffo’s International Championship Wrestling (ICW), a feud that got vicious while active. CWA held one of the first promotional “invasion” angles in the early 1980s when it brought in former ICW talent after it’s collapse to feud in CWA, including a young Randy Savage. CWA eventually became the United States Wrestling Association (USWA), after it absorbed World Class Championship Wrestling (WCCW) in the early 1990s, and though they would still use the Fairgrounds on occasion, it wouldn’t be until the early 2000s, that it would reclaim its spot in wrestling history.
In 2002, Jerry Jarrett and his son, former WWE and WCW Superstar Jeff Jarrett, would join together to launch a new promotion after the dust had cleared following WWE’s acquisition of both main competitors, WCW and ECW. The Jarretts formed Total Nonstop Action (TNA) Wrestling (now IMPACT Wrestling), and for the first few years of the company’s existence, the Fairgrounds, now dubbed the TNA Asylum, became the home of TNA’s TV tapings. The stopped their tapings in 2004, but routinely returned regularly for special events, the occasional taping, and multiple PPVs. IMPACT was last there this January for the PPV, IMPACT Homecoming, where Brian Cage defeated Johnny Impact for the IMPACT World Championship.
But TNA wasn’t the only occupants. From several years, Ring of Honor would also record TV tapings there on there way through Nashville. And TNA wasn’t the only major PPV at the Fairgrounds in recent times. Last October, the rebooted National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) held its 70th Anniversary Show at the Fairgrounds, that saw Nick Aldis reclaim the NWA World’s Heavyweight championship from Cody Rhodes.
So now, the Nashville Fairgrounds will be paying its final curtain call to professional wrestling – ironically, the same week that one of Ohio’s legendary venues, Hara Arena, was destroyed by a tornado (and also began running wrestling in 1965) – this Saturday night, and there’s no better fan of the entire history of pro wrestling than Tommy Dreamer.
Fairwell to the Fairgrounds features some top-notch main events, such as Willie Mack versus former IMPACT World Champion Johnny Impact and a cross-generational dream match of the Rock N’ Roll Express (Ricky Morton & Robert Gibson) against SCU‘s Christopher Daniels & Frankie Kazarian, plus Tennesee legend “Superstar” Bill Dundee, IMPACT Wrestling’s Taya Valkyrie, Moose and Eddie Edwards, an ECW Full Blooded Italians (FBI) reunion of Little Guido and early Fairgrounds legends Tracey Smothers, and much more.
— House of Hardcore (@HouseofHardcore) May 16, 2019