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Chicago Film Archives Honors The Golden Age Of Pro Wrestling In Chicago

By Chuck Sudo in Arts & Entertainment on Feb 4, 2015 9:30PM

I'm an unabashed pro wrestling fan—I subscribe to WWE Network—and Chicago Film Archives has made my afternoon after discovering they've set up a channel containing nothing but pro wrestling videos filmed at Chicago's International Ampitheatre during television's early years. Chicago has long been a hotbed for pro wrestling. Verne Gagne's American Wrestling Association (AWA) regularly ran supercards at the Amphitheatre, World Wrestling Entertainment regularly sells out shows at Allstate Arena in Rosemont and fans are attuned to the inner workings of what Vince McMahon now calls "sports entertainment."

The videos are part of CFA's Russ & Sylvia Davis collection. Russ Davis was one of pro wrestling's earliest television announcers. Davis got his start at WBKB and later formed Imperial World Films aka Imperial Wrestling Films (IWF) with his wife. They would film the pro wrestling cards at the Amphitheatre, edit them for broadcast and sell them to television stations across the country. There was little overhead and stations were always looking for content.

CFA worked painstakingly to restore and establish the films.

One challenge in organizing and publishing this collection has been that many of the reels are labeled with identical titles. This means that when two reels have the same title, they could be duplicate copies of the same wrestling match, different production elements from one match (negative, soundtrack, workprint), one long match that continues onto a second reel, or a different match that features the same wrestlers. Another publishing challenge was that many of the reels included multiple bouts or match-ups on a single reel. For ease of viewing on our new channel, we edited down these compiled reels into distinct streaming links.

Here is one short gem of a match featuring Angelo Poffo. Poffo, a Downers Grove native and DePaul graduate, is best known as the father of World Wrestling Entertainment Hall of Fame nominee Randy "Macho Man" Savage.