August 16, 2009
Graham Cawthon

Keeping History Alive: The need for an all-encompassing pro wrestling museum

There's a museum outside Camden Yards that recently spurred on a lot of inspiration and imagination in me.

If you're a Baltimore regular you've probably heard of it - Geppi's Entertainment Museum (http://www.geppismuseum.com/). It houses, among other things, the holy grail of comic books: Detective Comics #27 and Action Comics #1.

(For those that never were 10-year-olds enthralled with tales of superheroes, those are the first appearances of Batman and Superman, respectively. The estimated value of either is in the thousands of dollars.)

But Geppi's is far more than a showcase of superheroes. It spans the last century in pop culture - from the heyday of Howdy Doody to the battles between GI Joe and Cobra, and from spaghetti westerns to Star Wars.

For a child of the 80s, it's heaven. And on game days, admission is $1. That's quite a bargain.

All I remember from walking through the hallways - adorned by massive posters of just about every big movie you can think of over the past 70 years - is saying to myself "Pro wrestling needs this."

I realize there are a handful of pro wrestling museums out there. But none begin to compare with the atmosphere and all-encompassing nature of Geppi's.

Collectible items behind glass. Spotlights in an otherwise dimly lit room to give it that professional touch. Background music or audio that puts you in that given timeframe even more.

Just imagine the wall-to-wall comic books replaced by hundreds of wrestling magazines from around the world, spanning the days of kayfabe to today. From Mexico, from Europe, from Japan.

Replace the movie ads with event posters spanning the territory days to the emergence of pay-per-view.

Imagine walking into a room and hearing the "ding ding ding" of a ringbell and roar of a crowd as you peruse a collection of ring worn items from some of the biggest names in the industry.

Ticket stubs from the first Starrcade and WrestleMania. Programs from the Omni, Met Center, Cow Palace, or Mid South Coliseum. Action figures, games, clothing, 8x10s, and anything else you can imagine from the beginnings of pro wrestling to today. ...All under one roof.

Recently, I had the chance to attend the NWA Legends Fanfest in Charlotte. As always, it's an amazing weekend. Lex Luger raffled off his Narcissist cape from his WWF run. And as the guy that won it paraded around the banquet hall wearing it, I thought to myself "That needs to be behind glass."

This is wrestling history. If it's not taken care of, it's lost forever. The same goes for the countless programs, posters, clippings, magazines, and toys that we all wish we had kept in better shape.

Over the same weekend, I spoke with Jim Cornette - who could probably open up a museum with his own collection - about the possibility of having a wrestling museum on par with Geppi's. Having recently visited Baltimore himself, his reply was "Impossible."

The reasoning? You're not going to find a central location throughout America that will draw in enough casual fans to make the museum self-sustaining. And something like that is going to cost a lot of money.

Fair point.

But a sizable number of museums across the country can't lay claim to that either. Instead, they rely on government grants to make up the difference. Throw in a gift shop and the occasional personal appearance. Over time, you might - I repeat might - do OK for yourself.

The reason I wrote this was more or less to see what the general fanbase thinks. While costly, is this concept a worthwhile endeavor? How far would you travel for something like this if it was done properly? And, the most important question, would you be willing to lend your time, money, and your own memorabilia to see something like this come to fruition?

While I don't have the money, I do have more than my fair share of hard to find wrestling items that I would be happy to donate to a museum of this caliber. Anyone else?

If the feedback is lukewarm then I'll consider the inspiration a lost cause. If it's not, maybe this can happen.

Shoot me an e-mail with your thoughts - positive, negative, or indifferent - at thehistoryofwwe@gmail.com. I'm very interested to hear what you have to say.

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