By Graham "GSM" Matthews
This past Thursday was bittersweet. I read that Stone Cold Steve Austin will be inducted into the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame next April, which is widely considered the most prestigious hall of fame for pro wrestlers. In that same article, however, it said they will be moving from their regular location of Amsterdam, New York to Wichita Falls, Texas starting next year.
Since a majority of my family are sports fans, I've been to a number of halls of fame in my lifetime: the Basketball Hall of Fame, the Baseball Hall of Fame, and the Hockey Hall of Fame just to name a few. But as I got interested in wrestling in 2008, I longed for a pro wrestling hall of fame. Of course, WWE's Hall of Fame isn't substantial, and as much as I wish it would be, I've heard from various sources that it likely won't be for a long, long time given it isn't among WWE's current top priorities.
I don't know how I came across it (it could have been something as simple as a Google search), but I discovered the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame in early 2010. The best part? It was located in central New York, which wasn't too far away at all from where I was living at the time. I tossed the idea around with my parents about taking the trip, but it wasn't until the summer of 2011 that it became a reality.
My brothers, my dad, and a few family friends and I were already planning on going camping that August anyway and the camp site we had been going to for years just so happened to be an hour away from the PWHF in Amsterdam, so John Nap and I would have been fools not to take a trip to the single most decorated hall for fans of pro wrestling.
One day after arriving at the camp site, we drove down to the PWHF only to find it was located basically in the middle of nowhere. It was far from a hot spot for tourists, which is why I'm not completely shocked they're changing locations. That said, it was a nice, quiet location for the PWHF as we walked in to find out there was no entry fee, only donations were accepted and appreciated.
PHOTOS: 2011 Trip to the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame
It took close to a half hour to cover the entire building, but John and I were in complete awe. They had just about everything you could ever imagine from every possible era. You couldn't just see the history, you could feel it. It was incredible, and even as someone who had been a fan for three years by that point, I was starstruck to have had the chance to go there. We purchased some merchandise, donated money on the way out, and picked up a piece of pizza at the pizzeria next door. All in all, it was a damn good day.
In the years that followed, we tried to organize another camping trip, but our schedules just didn't match up, so we couldn't go in 2012 or in 2013. By 2014, however, we finally set aside some time one weekend in July to drive up to New York to go camping at the same site and, most importantly, head back to the PWHF. That Saturday, we drove to Amsterdam and had no trouble finding it; it was in the same location and very little had changed.
A few more people had been inducted since we were last there, but most of the memorabilia that was there in 2011 remained. That said, it was almost as if John and I were looking at everything for the first time all over again. Not only had we forgotten the contents of the PWHF, we were wiser fans by three years, so we appreciated everything that was in there that much more.
VIDEO: Why You Should Visit the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame
Before buying more merch and taking off, we spoke with the manager at the front desk named Jon Soto. We asked him a few questions about the establishment before shooting the breeze about everything wrestling-related from the current state of WWE and TNA, their New York City tapings, Ring of Honor, The Shield, Brock Lesnar, and so much more. I was fortunate enough to capture the conversation on my smart phone and air it on the July 22, 2014 edition of WrestleRant Radio.
We vowed we would be back eventually, and although John went camping at that same site this past summer, I couldn't make the trip. Sadly, that would have been our final chance to go considering they're permanently closing their doors in New York at the end of this month and heading down to Texas. At the very least, we were able to attend twice and have an amazing experience each time.
As much as I'll miss the PWHF in my neck of the woods, I hope to check out their new location in Texas someday. Then again, I've never been to the Lone Star state before, so it might be a while. Nevertheless, if it's closer to you than it is to me, capitalize on the opportunity and head on down. If you truly love wrestling, it's the only place you'll ever want to be.