What states come to mind when you think of the history of professional wrestling? Florida, Illinois, Texas, New York, Pennsylvania, Georgia. Whether it’s the birth of the territories, the rise of cable television, or the heart of ‘rasslin. There is no denying that when it comes to wrestling, these states rule the roost. There’s only a handful of well-known wrestlers to have been “born and bred” in Washington State – notably Daniel Bryan, Darby Allin, Shane Strickland, and Greg “The Hammer” Valentine. And even then, most stars born here have to LEAVE the area due to the lack of training and shows.
Wrestling, especially in the good ol’ days, had a lot of strings hearkening back to the south. Texas, Georgia, and Florida were the places that came to mind when you think of the ‘territories’ in wrestling. You don’t think of the tippy top left hand section of the country; Washington. Why is that? What happened to wrestling in the Evergreen State? A brief Google search can reveal the history of names such as Don Owens, Bob Murray, Eddie Miller, and Virgil Hamlin. The more recent history? That reveals something much, much more interesting.
Beginning in the early 2000s, there were events organized by International Championship Wrestling (ICW) and Elite Canadian Championship Wrestling (ECCW). ICW, touting local names such as Mike Santiago and Richie Magnet. ECCW had Scotty Mac, El Phantasmo, and even WWE’s Daniel Bryan in their midst. ECCW was running in places like Everett, Bellingham, and Vancouver. ICW was mainly running out of Tacoma (roughly 25 minutes south of Seattle).
The mid-late 2000s were the wild west of Washington wrestling. One off shows appearing and disappearing as quickly as they set up the ring. The only shows with known talent was AWA Pinnacle, out of Auburn, who had future stars such as TJ Wilson, Jack Evans, Ethan HD, Davey Richards, and Davey Boy Smith Jr. By the time AWA was done running in Auburn, another company began up north in Tulalip, aptly named Tulalip Championship Wrestling (TCW). This company brought in the likes of Lance Storm, Honky Tonk Man, and featured locals such as Bryan Alvarez.
While AWA Pinnacle and TCW were having bouts inside the ring, another challenger to Washington’s wrestling scene was peering from behind the curtain – a curtain at a bar. Seattle Semi Pro (SSP) was a group that wanted to put their wrestling mettle to the test but didn’t have a ring – so from 2005 until 2014, the SSP group ran wrestling shows out of bars and other event spaces. Starting in 2010, however, the group would move away from a wrestling-heavy event and transform into a modern-day vaudevillian outing – even going so far as to change from SSP to SST – to distance themselves from “wrestling.” 2014 came and so did a new revelation for the SSP/SST troupe; they would start having independent wrestling events at a gym in downtown Seattle. They would once again change their name – reinventing themselves as “3-2-1 BATTLE!”
In the Emerald City, from 2014 – 2017, the wrestling world would light up like a firework. With fervent crowds of die-hard fans and a newly changed legislature, “Legalize Wrestling,” opened the door for more companies. This included the monstrous debut of DEFY in January 2017. The landscape was changing quickly in just a few short years. Washington became a destination for wrestlers and wrestling fans.
DEFY Wrestling brought the “super indie” to Washington with independent stars battling it out in front of a ravenous audience at the beautiful Washington Hall. DEFY focused on the star power and having the poster talent face off against one another. On the flipside, 3-2-1 BATTLE! brought a more punk and underground feel to wrestling in the scene. For their yearly “Battlemania” show, 3-2-1 BATTLE! was even able to sell out the historic Showbox – a longtime Seattle hub for music and the arts – with over 500 fans in both 2018 and 2019.
Supershows and “loops” for wrestlers were becoming a real thing in Washington. Several weekends of Friday, Saturday, and Sunday events peppered the coastal state. This was never more apparent that November 2019 when there were 5 events within 250 miles in 3 days by 4 different companies (3-2-1 BATTLE!, DEFY, Without a Cause, and DOA) that shared a ton of talent, crew, and fans.
Since January 2017 there have been countless new promotions running events in Washington including DEFY, Prestige Wrestling, Without a Cause, 5CC, and Reactivate Pro Wrestling. As times passes, places may shutter or change in their view to the public – but everyone in the great PNW is ready to get back to what we do best; entertain our crowds.