When we think about professional wrestling, it’s often the superstars and moments that come to mind. However, without strong reactions from cities steeped in wrestling heritage, wrestlers would struggle to capitalize on their hard work. Today, I present a list of 10 wrestling cities renowned for their boisterous reactions and unmatched heritage.
Please respect that creating such a list remains subjective. Don’t feel disheartened if a city you love didn’t make the cut. Instead, feel free to share your favorite wrestling cities in the comments. But before we dive in, let’s give a nod to some honorable mentions:
Wrestling Cities (Honorable Mentions)
Atlanta – The city is well-known for its years as the central hub for the NWA and WCW. The PPV Starrcade originated there in 1983. Naturally, the city is known for its rich heritage of promoting professional wrestling in the Omni Coliseum and other venues decades ago. Nowadays, it still has events, but it’s not the powerhouse it once was.
Calgary – Known for the Stampede Wrestling promotion and training some of the best wrestlers of all time in Stu Hart’s dungeon, Calgary has a very rich heritage. It continues to influence the Canadian wrestling scene, although it rarely enjoys any major shows from bigger promotions. Still, it is one of the first cities that spring to mind when fans think of Canadian wrestling.
Dallas/Houston – Dallas is mostly associated with the Von Erichs and WCCW in the 70s and 80s. The Sam Houston Coliseum hosted big stars like Ric Flair, Dusty Rhodes and André the Giant. In the modern era, both cities remain prime locations in Texas for WWE and AEW shows, including WrestleMania. They sport solid crowds who know how to enjoy pro wrestling.
Memphis – When we think of this city, we think of the Mid-South Coliseum and Jerry “The King” Lawler. They both helped to make wrestling more mainstream in the United States, notably with the feud with comedian Andy Kaufman. It isn’t quite the hotbed for wrestling as it once was, but its legacy won’t be forgotten.
Minneapolis – Verne Gagne’s AWA promotion ran here and is often overlooked for its contributions to wrestling. Aside from getting a young Hulk Hogan noticed by Vince McMahon, the Minneapolis Auditorium & Met Center drew sizeable crowds with some of the best of the era. It remains a city frequently used by WWE for its events.
Montreal – It has some of the most passionate fans. Other than the obvious “Montreal Screwjob” and rowdy crowds, it inspired generations of Canadian wrestlers. WWE & AEW enjoy hosting events here, because they are always guaranteed receptive crowds.
Orlando – This is a funny inclusion because, like we saw this past week on SmackDown, you don’t always get the best crowd here. However, Orlando has hosted tons of NXT and TNA Wrestling events during their golden eras. When Orlando fans are fewer and regulars, they can really add to a product. I remember how crazy loud TakeOvers and the Impact Zone could get some nights. So, I included it as being one of the best places to host smaller shows.
Osaka – If you go to Japan and want to watch wrestling outside the capital, this is where you go. Osaka is known as one of the birthplaces of puroresu. The legendary Rikidozan had some of his best matches there. To this day, it has some of the most passionate fans you can find in the country. Also, it is a base for promotions like AJPW and Pro Wrestling NOAH, although New Japan Pro Wrestling also goes here. You can’t go wrong by watching pro wrestling in Osaka.
As we reflect on the rich heritage and passionate fan bases of these honorable mentions, it becomes evident that pro wrestling’s legacy is woven into the fabric of cities around the world. Each location holds a unique place in the history of the sport. Iconic moments, legendary wrestlers, and dedicated communities have left an indelible mark. Now, let’s shift our attention to the top 10 wrestling cities celebrated for their fan reactions and illustrious wrestling legacy.
#10. Los Angeles
LA is arguably the best wrestling city on the west side of the United States. Near to Hollywood, it often attracts celebrities to its shows. Wrestling fans flock from neighboring cities like San Francisco, Las Vegas, and many from Mexico, too. We’ve got to look all the way back to 1924, when the Grand Olympic Auditorium began hosting events, and would later be used by the NWA and Jim Crockett Promotions.
With Lucha Libre not being too far away, it crept over the border and was showcased by legends like El Santo and Blue Demon. This would have been the first time anyone in the United States will have witnessed luchadors flying around a ring. Along with its passionate fanbase, LA also has the Staples Center and The (Kia) Forum, which have both hosted events for WWE and AEW in the modern era. Because of its diverse wrestling community from mixed backgrounds, a wrestling show is rarely quiet, as everyone has a good time.
#9. Puerto Rico
Modern-day fans may only know Puerto Rico for Bad Bunny, Damian Priest, and the excellent showing it had at WWE Backlash. However, this city has a deep legacy that cannot be sufficiently shared in just a few paragraphs. Several stars, such as Carlos Colon, Carlito, Primo, Epico, Savio Vega, and others, were developed by World Wrestling Council.
Hardcore wrestling became popular in Puerto Rico, featuring legends such as Bruiser Brody and Abdullah The Butcher. Puerto Rico’s wrestling scene delved into some incredibly intense and daring matches. However, it is also a place of controversy, with the incomplete details behind the death of Bruiser Brody always lingering in the background. Puerto Rico has passionate wrestling fans who would love to see more events held there. Backlash viewers could easily see the fans’ enthusiasm and hunger, and I, as an Englishman, sympathize with them.
Boston is a place where so many memorable moments have happened because WWE loves this city and revisits it frequently. It has played a major role in the growth of the World Wrestling Federation since the Bruno Sammartino era and Rock ‘n’ Wrestling Connection. Also, it served as a significant location for ECW in the ‘90s, along with hosting numerous local promotions.
And then there are the fans, who are some of the best you can find on the East Coast. A Boston crowd rarely disappoints because they simply love wrestling. It has always been a part of their culture, and they know how to truly appreciate it. Boston’s history with venues like the Boston Garden and TD Garden makes it a top destination for sports entertainment.
ECW! ECW! The first chant that springs to mind when we think of Philadelphia. One of the most rowdy fanbases in the history of pro wrestling belongs to the legacy of Extreme Championship Wrestling. Even 22 years after its demise, we may still hear an ECW chant when Paul Heyman walks out.
Extreme Championship Wrestling is deeply connected to Philadelphia’s wrestling culture. I could write a series of articles about their impact and the city’s role in their success. ECW took hardcore to another level and paved the way for WCW and WWF (now WWE) to follow suit.
The Attitude Era, which defined a new era of wrestling, owes much to the influence of ECW’s groundbreaking approach in Philly. They saw how ECW evolved wrestling in the ‘90s, and the smart move was to embrace change and innovation, leaving behind outdated practices of the past. Vince McMahon promised to stop insulting fans and provide more mature content. ECW gave its fans something different and revolutionary, and it all began in Philadelphia.
Philadelphia remains one of the most bloodthirsty and ‘smart’ crowds (and not insulting) you can find anywhere. The city’s passionate and vocal fanbase created an electric atmosphere during ECW events. It continues to be a driving force during wrestling shows hosted in the city to this day.
As a devoted British Wrestling fan, I must acknowledge my bias, but I can’t help but celebrate the sport’s profound legacy. Long before wrestling gained popularity in America, British Wrestling drew tens of millions of fans. The iconic World Of Sport show captivated audiences with legends like: Big Daddy, Giant Haystacks, Kendo Nagasaki, Johnny Saint, Mick McManus, and more. Wrestling became ingrained in our culture until it faced a decline. Upon modernizing the industry, American Wrestling overshadowed it with its global dominance.
As a result, British Wrestling found itself struggling. It couldn’t match the power of established promotions like WWE. Therefore, it was reduced to local independent promotions trying to survive. While some efforts have been made to revive it, they often struggle to compete against the advantages of larger promotions.
Despite the scarcity of major wrestling shows in the United Kingdom, our passion knows no bounds, and we are some of the loudest fans in the world. Whether it’s football (we don’t call it soccer!), darts, or any other event, we know how to enjoy ourselves. We gather with friends, grab a pint, and have an incredible time singing and chanting, sometimes ending up a bit too merry as we leave the venue.
In London, the city that once hosted SummerSlam in 1992 at the old Wembley Stadium, we are incredibly grateful for any wrestling event that comes our way. Europeans even make the trip, as they too hunger for the excitement. The demand is palpable, evident by AEW’s All In selling 75k+ tickets without announcing a single match. London yearns to be a wrestling city, and we believe the future is bright as we strive to claim our rightful spot as one of the greatest wrestling cities in the world.
#5. Mexico City
El Santo, Blue Demon, Mil Máscaras, Rey Mysterio – just a few names that exemplify Mexico City’s profound influence on Lucha Libre and the tradition of wearing masks in wrestling. While the wrestling style may have become more niche globally with the rise of promotions like WWE, the crowds in Mexico City remain fervent supporters of their wrestling stars. The city has been at the heart of Lucha Libre since the 1940s, with iconic venues like Arena Mexico and Arena Coliseo hosting thrilling Lucha Libre matches, a tradition that endures to this day. Although not grand stadiums, these intimate venues exude a sense of history and homeliness, welcoming anyone attending an event.
Few cities in the world can boast such an uninterrupted legacy of professional wrestling held in the same venues for decades. Lucha Libre is so deeply ingrained in Mexican culture that fans bring masks not only to wrestling events but also to other sporting occasions like football and motor racing, showcasing its pervasive impact.
The luchadors of Mexico City have introduced many of the high-flying moves and acrobatics seen in wrestling today, inspiring generations of wrestlers worldwide. The essence of Lucha Libre, represented by its name – “Free Wrestling” – embodies a sense of freedom and creativity in the ring, making it an exceptional wrestling style with a unique atmosphere that captivates fans like no other.
Mexico City stands as one of the world’s premier wrestling cities, offering a style and atmosphere that is both distinct and cherished by its passionate fanbase. Its enthusiasm is infectious, teaching anyone who experiences it to love Lucha Libre just as much.
Puroresu, much like Lucha Libre, is Japan’s distinctive style of professional wrestling. Rooted in a deep appreciation for toughness, technical excellence, and a sense of pride, it ultimately revolves around respect. Japanese fans are famously quiet during events. They express appreciation through subtle gestures like stomping their feet and gasping; but rarely engaging in chants.
To draw a comparison to the Western experience, it’s akin to watching a movie at the cinema. You wouldn’t walk into a cinema and start singing or chanting along with the movie (unless you want to be kicked out), and the Japanese see wrestling in a similar vein. They won’t detract from the show, out of respect for both fellow fans and the dedicated wrestlers themselves. They feel that any distraction might be disrespectful towards the performers, therefore denying them the undivided attention they rightfully deserve.
Embedded within this fascinating wrestling culture is a legacy that spans decades. Japanese wrestling has always revolved around hard-hitting strikes and an unyielding spirit. Only in recent times has it begun to incorporate elements of Western professional wrestling, albeit with a sense of moderation. Foreign wrestlers, known as Gaijin, often find themselves adapting to the Japanese style. They understand that their usual flamboyance might not align well with Japanese cultural norms.
The contributions of wrestling legends Rikidozan and Antonio Inoki are instrumental in establishing professional wrestling in Tokyo and, by extension, the grandest events held in the illustrious Tokyo Dome. Among these events, Inoki’s retirement spectacle stands out, drawing a massive crowd of over 70,000 fans to witness the occasion.
While puroresu has undoubtedly influenced the industry, it continues to hold its position as a niche product on the international stage. Only the most dedicated wrestling enthusiasts already devoting time to American wrestling spare several hours a week in the world of puroresu. Yet, this is far from an issue, as it signifies a shift.
With the internet bridging gaps, fans from various corners of the world now have easier access to experience the allure of Japanese wrestling. There has been a rise in talented Japanese stars like Asuka, Shinsuke Nakamura, Iyo Sky in WWE. So, it shows that Japanese wrestlers can indeed become household names on the global stage. Tokyo laid the foundation by captivating loyal fans who admire the determination of their wrestling heroes.
#2. New York
Referred to as the “Mecca of Professional Wrestling,” New York City boasts one of the richest legacies in wrestling history. When we think about New York, we cannot do so without the world’s most famous arena, Madison Square Garden. Serving as its base, the World Wide Wrestling Federation built its empire here. Bruno Sammartino regularly sold out MSG for years as its champion.
When Vince McMahon took over from his father, he began to lay the groundwork for global expansion with New York as its home. This legacy remains ingrained in the fabric of what makes WWE what it is today. In addition, it became a city that embraced ECW as well. New York fans are diverse, knowledgeable, and not shy about voicing their opinions.
When I think of New York, though, I think of the Hammerstein Ballroom. ECW One Night Stand ‘05 is my favorite wrestling PPV of all time, and its crowd was the hottest I’ve ever heard. And then, who can forget what happened at One Night Stand ‘06 when that crowd took a proverbial dump on John Cena in the main event? It’s clear that New York is on another level compared to other cities on this list. Professional wrestling is so deeply embedded in New York’s culture.
Madison Square Garden hosted the first WrestleMania I, X, XX, and the inaugural SummerSlam. Bruno Sammartino, Bob Backlund, Iron Sheik, Hulk Hogan, and Kevin Nash all won their first World Championships there. It’s tough to beat that, so I wouldn’t blame you for placing this at #1.
When exploring other lists of this nature, one city that often rises to the top is Chicago. But why is that? Why does Chicago consistently find itself mentioned as one of the greatest wrestling cities? Well, it’s not because of a rich heritage, although it has indeed hosted several memorable events. As well as being a place that helped nurture talents like CM Punk, Bryan Danielson, and Colt Cabana in their formative years, Chicago has been a favorable destination for many promotions—NWA, WWE, ECW, AEW, ROH, you name it, they’ve all been there.
Chicago’s prominence in the wrestling world is twofold. Not only has it been a hotbed for wrestling for decades, but its fans have always been vocal and passionate. We can attribute much of this enthusiasm to CM Punk’s immense popularity over the past decade. Even during his retirement, Chicago crowds continued to rally behind their hero. The city boasts an abundance of intelligent fans who remain fiercely loyal and unafraid to voice their opinions.
However, it’s not solely about supporting Punk; Chicago simply appreciates quality wrestling and the unforgettable moments that come with it. Many memorable shows have taken place there, mostly at the Allstate Arena and United Center. Despite any potential disenchantment that could arise, the fans never waver. That’s precisely why wrestling promotions keep returning. They know Chicago fans will consistently show up and react favorably to the product, which is of utmost importance to them.
It’s important to acknowledge that ranking Chicago as #1 on this list doesn’t diminish the significance of other cities. Attempting to quantify the criteria for such rankings is a near-impossible task. In the end, Chicago’s recent history of passionate fan reactions earned it the top spot in my mind. Nonetheless, you should create your own list and recognize the highly subjective nature of this topic. What truly matters is recognizing the robust health of professional wrestling.
Many cities worldwide would love to be known as wrestling cities, and as this mindset spreads, it bodes well for the entire industry. Wherever wrestling goes, it will always feel at home with fans who genuinely care and react to what they see. Personally, hearing the love that fans have for something I’ve been writing about for over thirteen years reinforces why I’m still doing it. We love this sport for a reason. A large, raucous crowd in a city that deeply cares (like when I go to All In on August 27th), is an experience we’d all like to be a part of in our lives. Thank you for reading!