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December 6, 2010 Wrestling Observer Newsletter: The history of wrestling on Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving in most of the 80s meant some of the biggest wrestling shows of the year. The tradition was at its peak from 1983 to 1987, with the early Starrcades in Greensboro and later Atlanta as well, Star Wars at Reunion Arena in Dallas, the AWA at the St. Paul Civic Center, Mid South Wrestling at the Superdome in Louisiana and the early Survivor Series events. But it’s been largely extinct for almost two decades.

The mentality espoused by the wrestling promoters who had success that night was that families would get together in the afternoon and by evening, wanted to go out and do something. The movie business had its traditional best weekend of the year, that showed that at night, people wanted to go out, often with their families. That meant bigger crowds. It was not just Thanksgiving night, but the Thursday through Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend that, along with Dec. 25-30, became the two best periods of the year for the industry. But those holiday traditions are now long gone, and few modern fans even think of wrestling on Thanksgiving, Christmas or any other holiday.

It’s hard to know exactly what started the tradition, but it was not something that was part of wrestling as long as people can remember. In the 1950s, Thanksgiving was avoided for major shows, thinking you couldn’t draw well on that holiday. Except in Greensboro, it really wasn’t until the 70s that there was really evidence of Thanksgiving being a great date to draw people to shows. Sure, some regular Thursday night cities, like Sacramento, drew well above average, running normal shows, but Greensboro (and later Norfolk as well) for Jim Crockett Sr. would try and build that date for its big show of the year, and by the late 60s, had created a tradition.

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