The next time you're in downtown Wichita Falls, these are the exhibits you really need to check out.
Visiting my in-laws last month, I was finally able to check out the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame, and it did not disappoint. The only brick and mortar pro wrestling Hall of Fame in the country, you can get up close and personal with the history of pro wrestling.
Taken on a tour by Brett, the nephew of Jake 'The Snake' Roberts and the grandson of Grizzly Smith, we got a chance to get some great background information on exhibits you definitely need to check out on your next run through the Hall of Fame. The PWHF is full of exhibits worth checking out, like their new wing honoring wrestlers who served in the military, but these are the ones you need to make sure you take the time to see.
Main Sign and Ring Bell from The Sportatorium
This is one that is hard to miss as its the first thing you see when you walk in. "The World Famous Sportatorium" is not just a catchy tagline, its true. The battles of the Von Erichs, the Freebirds, Gentleman Chris Adams, Gino Hernandez, and others in WCCW made the Sportatorium a regular sellout and one of the best known venues in pro wrestling. Now that the arena is no more, its great that some of it still lives on at the PWHF.
David Von Erich was expected to be the next NWA World Heavyweight Champion when he passed away in Japan. With David known as 'The Yellow Rose of Texas', this jacket was thought to have been lost until the PWHF uncovered it among their stock. It was offered back to Kevin Von Erich, the sole-surviving Von Erich brother, who declined its return, saying it belonged in the PWHF.
The Fabulous Freebirds Gear
You can't talk about the Von Erichs without bringing up The Fabulous Freebirds. The feud between the two sold out areas all across Texas, and the Freebirds display has its rightful place in the PWHF right next to David Von Erich's jacket.
Mick Foley is a big supporter of the PWHF, and has loaned several items from his personal collection, including his ring-worn gear as Dude Love, Mankind, and Cactus Jack, along with the handwritten manuscripts from his best-selling books. Foley also donated a couch from his home for the "booking office" at the PWHF.
In the center of the main room you'll find a circular display featuring all of the most recent inductees to the Hall of Fame. The only way to be inducted is to be voted on by previous inductees, meaning that everyone inducted truly deserves to be there (unlike a certain mainstream Hall of Fame). Currently, you can see memorbelia from the 2019 class, including Gory Guerrero, Abdulah the Butcher, 'Rugged' Ronny Garvin, Owen Hart, and the Midnight Express.
*NOTE: As the Midnight Express has had several versions, the PWHF inducted the first two versions of the team, Randy Rose, Dennis Condrey, and Bobby Eaton, making them only the 2nd 3-man team to be inducted after the Freebirds.
This is something that's hard to miss as it takes up most of the rear room. Built in the 1890s, this ring was set up in Madison Square Garden and the ropes could be switched out to accommodate both wrestling and boxing matches. With years of use in the most famous sports arena in the world, just imagine the names that stepped through those ropes.
The Women in Wrestling Wing
With women's wrestling at undeniable heights today, its important to remember what women had to go through for decades to be taken seriously, and this wing of the PWHF takes you through the many women who gave their blood, sweat, and tears to the industry.
Throughout the Hall of Fame you'll see special belts created each year for the induction ceremony. Two belts are created each year, one for display and one to auction off.
George 'The Animal' Steele Display
Many remember George 'The Animal' Steele from his turnbuckle-eating days in the WWF, and this display honors the entire life and career of Steele, featuring ring-worn gear, turnbuckles he destroyed, and his death-mask.
We currently live in a day of mass-produced wrestling belts being available for sale online and at any live wrestling event. Unfortunately, this means the belts aren't made with the same intricacies as the belts worn by superstars on their way to the ring. But the PWHF has reproductions of the WCCW World and Tag Team titles made the same way the real belts were, giving fans a chance to hold the same kind of belt worn by the Von Erichs. There's also a replica of the Big Gold NWA title made in the current mass-production style, so you can compare the two and see what really went into making these belts for wrestling promotions.