Sleigh The Damn Bell: A History of Christmas And Pro Wrestling

Brian Damage

First of all, Merry Christmas (If you celebrate it)…secondly… this piece on the blog will take a historical look at pro wrestling and the “most wonderful time of the year.”

As we all know professional wrestling once took itself extremely seriously. Promoters, bookers and the wrestlers wanted pro wrestling to be considered a serious sport. As with other legitimate sports leagues like MLB, the NBA, NHL and the NFL…pro wrestling didn’t take off during the holidays. Some of wrestling’s most successful times were during the holiday seasons whether that was Thanksgiving, Christmas or some other special day. Christmas day was the granddaddy of holidays for pro wrestling financially.

Taking a look back, the earliest event that took place on December 25th, was in 1902. It was in Worcester, Massachusetts…where Dan McLeod defeated Tom Jenkins for the American heavyweight title. A few years later, the American title would turn into the World title famously held by Frank Gotch.

As the years went by, countless territories held Christmas day super cards including World Wrestling Association in Indiana, Big Time Wrestling in Hawaii, Mid Atlantic in the Carolinas, Georgia Championship Wrestling, Championship Wrestling from Florida, the World Wrestling Council in Puerto Rico, Pacific Northwest in Oregon and the AWA based in Minnesota. As Jim Cornette put it, it was a tradition for families to exchange gifts, have dinner and then go to the wrestling matches on Christmas.

One of the longest and greatest feuds originated on Christmas night in 1982. World Class Championship Wrestling held an event where ‘The Modern Day Warrior’ Kerry Von Erich challenged ‘The Nature Boy’ Ric Flair for the NWA world title inside of a steel cage. The special guest referee for the match was Michael ‘P.S.’ Hayes of the Freebirds. Flair retained his title after Terry Gordy slammed the cage door on Kerry allowing Flair to get the victory. It would ignite a feud between the Freebirds and the Von Erichs that lasted for years after.

World Class Wrestling’s Star Wars became a big Christmas night tradition for the Dallas, Texas based territory. The super show lasted from 1981 through 1987. The last Christmas Star Wars saw the infamous angle where WCCW owner Fritz Von Erich get attacked and collapse on the arena floor. The angle made local headlines that wasn’t good for the sinking promotion. Too many fans were turned off by it considering all the other tragedies that befell the Von Erichs.

When the 1990’s rolled in and the business saw an epic boom period, wrestlers were getting high paid contracts with creative control and working fewer dates. That led companies like WCW and WWE to do less shows on that particular day. Smoky Mountain Wrestling attempted to reignite the Christmas tradition by holding shows called ‘Christmas Chaos,’ but when that promotion went under…so did the tradition.

Fewer and fewer wrestling promotions were doing live events on Christmas. Instead, they would do pre taped shows to air on television. That way, wrestlers could spend time at home with their families for the holiday.

Many times, the companies would air best of shows or air matches that were Christmas themed, but didn’t really serve a purpose to get 100% invested in the show. Perhaps, the promoters were convinced that nobody was really watching wrestling on Christmas night anymore.

As far as I can tell, the last significant match that took place on Christmas was in 2017. That night, Seth Rollins and Jason Jordan defeated the Bar (Cesaro and Sheamus) to win the Raw tag team titles. Other than that, wrestling on Christmas Day has been nothing but fluff to fill obligated air time. The days of meaningful Christmas wrestling are seemingly long over.

Again, I hope those who celebrate Christmas have a wonderful holiday. For those who don’t have a great day none the less. We will be off tomorrow for Christmas….but will return to action on Saturday!

4 thoughts on “Sleigh The Damn Bell: A History of Christmas And Pro Wrestling

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