The Top 7 Arenas on my Wrestling Bucket List
Over the years, I've been fortunate enough to visit some pretty great wrestling arenas, but I've always thought about where I'd want to go next. There are a dizzying number of incredible venues on the planet today, so in an effort to keep myself in check, I decided I'd make a list of the arenas I want to see the most.
There aren't necessarily any rules for this list, but I did try to limit the number of Japanese arenas on here, if only because it would be too easy. For instance, places like Budokan Hall, Osaka-Jo Hall, and Kobe World Hall are just a few incredible arenas that could've made it on here. Unfortunately in the states, the major wrestling companies tend to make every arena look exactly the same as the last. And while the sets tend to be really cool, the trade off is that it can get a little monotonous. Add to that the fact that most of the old classic venues like the Dallas Sportatorium and the Atlanta Omni are gone.
Nevertheless, here is MY list of the 7 arenas that are currently at the top of my bucket list!
7) Tokyo Dome
I had a difficult time deciding which arena would be my number seven pick. While I almost went with a few other places like the Globe Theatre in Los Angeles, the Allstate Arena in Chicago, and Tokyo's Budokan Hall, there was something about Tokyo Dome that made it impossible to ignore. And because of that, it won out and made the list.
What "The Big Egg" lacks in the number of events it's hosted since it opened in March of 1988, it more than makes up for in quality. The Dome has played host to All Japan Pro Wrestling, DDT, Pro Wrestling NOAH, and even WWE on a few occasions, but no promotion is more synonymous to this venue than New Japan Pro Wrestling. Every year since 1992, the year I was born, NJPW has run an annual event from the Tokyo Dome on January 4th. While the show wasn't branded anything for the first few years, it was later christened "Wrestling World" in 1996. Over a decade later in 2007, this show was renamed Wrestle Kingdom.
Now going into it's 17th edition in 2023, Wrestle Kingdom has become most well known annual wrestling event outside of WWE. And while there have been plenty of incredible editions in it's history, Wrestle Kingdom 9 from 2015 was actually the show that got me into New Japan, and Japanese wrestling as a whole.
So one day I hope to have the opportunity to venture out to Tokyo and experience a show in this incredible place, because if it wasn't for the Dome, I might not be a Japanese wrestling fan today. And heck, maybe I'll take a ride on the roller coaster right next door as well.
New Orleans, Louisiana
The city of New Orleans has been one of the most respected wrestling cities in the United States for a very long time. Many older fans will remember when "Cowboy" Bill Watts ran massive events in The Big Easy for several years as head booker of Mid South Wrestling, while younger fans who don't remember a time before the Monday Night Wars, such as myself, will most likely remember NOLA as the city that hosted the best WrestleMania since the Attitude Era, WrestleMania XXX.
I might not be a massive fan of watching wrestling in massive football arenas like The Superdome, but there are things about this venue that make it an exception to the rule. For one, every time WWE has run this mammoth coliseum, they've always done a great job making everything look incredibly unique. If you watch either WrestleMania from NOLA, you'll instantly notice just how incredibly colorful WWE makes the stage. In fact, you'll see colors that you wouldn't believe would fit in so well in wrestling, namely purple!
Aside from the look of the show, wrestling in New Orleans simply feels more fun than in most other cities. it always feels like a party whenever WWE in particular shows up in The Big Easy. These reasons might not be particularly strong enough for me to put this in my number six spot, but honestly there are so many cities around this country where the crowds are so disengaged and quiet, that I think a crowd as rowdy as NOLA should be celebrated. Also, I don't want to just have a list of arenas I want to go to and have all of them be from Japan.
5) Sumo Hall (Ryogoku Kokugikan)
Whenever I think about Sumo Hall, which is situated about three and half miles away from the Tokyo Dome, the first thing that comes to mind is just how cool the building looks both inside and out. With it's green roof, symmetrical seating chart, and overhanging ceiling fixture, this venue has always stood out to me as one of the most beautiful places to watch wrestling in the world.
Known best for hosting sumo wrestling, as it's nickname suggests, the Ryogoku Kokugikan has been the site of some of the most notable moments in pro wrestling. Vader famously squashed Antonio Inoki in the main event of a New Japan show in 1987, which riled up the crowd so much, that they went into a full blown riot that resulted in the promotion getting banned to run shows there during 1988. And in the 1990s, it became the host of several of New Japan's G1 Climax finals, including the one in 1992, where Masahiro Chono defeated Rick Rude to win not just the tournament, but the NWA World Heavyweight Championship.
But for me, this place holds a special place in my hearts for what's happened there over the past decade. In 2015, WWE hosted their "Beast in the East" network special, a show that was notable for being the place where Finn Balor beat Kevin Owens in the semi-main event to win his first NXT Championship. I would start working for the fed two months later. More recently, Stardom has become a staple at Sumo Hall, as they ran last year's "Dream Queendom" show, which was one of my shows of the year, as well as the two night "World Climax".
However, none of those could hold a candle as to the ultimate reason why it's on this list. Because it was inside this hallowed ground where on April 9th, 2017, Kazuchika Okada defended his IWGP Heavyweight Championship against Katsuyori Shibata in what has remained my number one favorite match of all time. While I can never go back in time and see that exact match in person, the infectious energy from that night was so powerful that I yearn to one day be inside the halls where that all time classic took place.
Finally, you can't mention Sumo Hall and not bring this up.
Video Credit: Stardom
4) Arena Mexico
Mexico City, Mexico
I'll admit that I don't watch nearly as much lucha libre as I probably should, but if there's any reason I should start it's that they've got some pretty wild arenas over there. But if I had to pick just one for this list, it would have to be the grand daddy of them all, Arena Mexico in Mexico City. Known as the "Cathedral of Lucha Libre", my number four pick has hosted events way back in 1956. What makes Arena Mexico special, at least for this list, is that it is owned by CMLL, which is the oldest continuously running promotion on the planet.
I might not be too well versed in the history of lucha, but the names of those who've competed in this arena are a who's who of Mexican wrestling royalty. Guys like Psichosis, La Parka, Mistico, Gory Guerrero, and the single most legendary luchador in history, El Santo, all performed in this venue, as well as outside talent like Jushin Liger, Hiroshi Tanahashi, and Ultimo Dragon.
The one thing I've heard about Arena Mexico that is unfortunate is that sometimes the crowd is mostly made up of tourists looking to watch a show, and sometimes they don't know that it's up to them to create a loud atmosphere, but I've also watched big shows where you can tell the crowd is mostly made up of locals, because that place can get loud and rowdy super quick. So if I was to ever go, I'd aim to make it to one of those shows instead.
All in all, the Mexican scene is a bit of a blindspot for me right now, but I've always felt that paying my respects at the "Cathedral of Lucha Libre" to see a CMLL show is a must for my travel bucket list.
3) ECW Arena (2300 Arena)
As someone who lives in the Northeast United States, I've been lucky enough to venture out and watch shows inside some of the most legendary venues in the entire world. I've watched WWE at Madison Square Garden, WWE and NXT inside the Barclays Center, and most recently, I watched a Ring of Honor event inside the fabled Manhattan Center, albeit not in the Hammerstein Ballroom. But outside of New York City, where all three of those venues reside, there is one other marquee arena that I have yet to visit, and that's the 2300 Arena in Philadelphia.
Based off the image above, most non-wrestling fans might be confused that a place as unassuming as this could appear on a list like this, let alone above modern marvels like the Tokyo Dome or Superdome. But for those who know, I expect a lot of them were expecting this to appear at some point. Because while "2300 Arena" is about as interesting a name as Crypto.com Arena is bad, it does have another name...
The ECW Arena
Do you know the line, "I have no mouth, but I must scream?" If you do, then that's what the walls of the ECW Arena would say if they had the chance. This little bingo hall in Philadelphia was the site of some of the most legendary death matches to have ever happened here in the States. Not too long after it starting hosting wrestling in 1993, it became a mecca for wrestling fans. ECW ran the venue for it's first ever pay-per-view event, "Barely Legal", in 1997, as well as countless weekly editions of their show. After they ceased operations in 2002, other wrestling promotions like Xtreme Pro Wrestling (XPW), Combat Zone Wrestling (CZW), IWA Mid-South, Ring of Honor, and Dragon Gate USA all ran events as well. Even New Japan capped off their first ever USA Tour inside the ECW Arena in 2011.
While they haven't hosted a wrestling event in around a decade as of writing, I know that when they ever announce a new show, I'll be right there to buy a ticket and finally see a show at the legendary venue.
2) KBS Hall
A little while ago, I described Sumo Hall as one of the most beautiful places to watching wrestling on the planet. The key phrase in that sentence was "one of the most", because there was one other place I'd put over it. That place would be none other than the KBS Hall in Kyoto, Japan, which finds itself as my number two arena on my bucket list today.
KBS Hall is best well known for being the wrestling venue that has the incredibly beautiful stain-glass window that depicts famous stories from the Old Testament as it's backdrop. Not only does it make the venue one of the most recognizable places to watch wrestling on Earth, but it also adds a lot of character to the action in the ring. You know you're in for something special when you a watch from here.
It doesn't really matter what the card might look like, if I see that Dragongate, Stardom, or All Japan are running a show at KBS Hall, I'll probably check it out if only to experience this one-of-a-kind venue. And I think that's more than enough for me to place it this high on the list.
1) Korakuen Hall
If I could only go to one arena on this list and miss out on all of the others for the rest of my life, I would still choose Korakuen Hall in a heartbeat. While this place isn't the biggest, the prettiest, or even remotely close to where I live, what makes this venue so special to me is almost impossible to describe. Korakuen Hall is not just the arena at the very top of my wrestling bucket list, it stands as the end goal of a spiritual pilgrimage I hope to take one day.
I couldn't even begin to guess how many wrestling shows I've watched online that have taken place at Korakuen Hall. In fact, this venue that stands within walking distance from the Tokyo Dome has hosted more wrestling events than any other place on Earth in the modern day. According to WrestlingData.com, over 5,700 shows have taken place there, the arena with the second most, La Arena Coliseo del Occidente in Guadalajara has hosted just over 3,800. That's a difference of over 1,900!
But more than the sheer number of shows that have happened there, the one thing that makes Korakuen Hall special to me is that whenever I imagine the perfect wrestling show, it ALWAYS takes place here. Everything about this place from the wooden bleachers to the cascading rows of orange seats is imprinted into my brain. I've seen wrestlers dive from the top section where fans hang support banners. I've seen Mayu Iwatani roll down the massive steep staircase. And I've heard fans chant, cheer, and boo some of the greatest to ever wrestle.
When I think of pro wrestling, the beautiful sport that it is, I think of Korakuen Hall. And one day, I will attend a show there, and I will probably shed more than a few tears because this place means so much to me as a fan.
Special thanks to WhoScored, Transfermarkt, Baseball Reference, Baseball Savant, Fangraphs, Cagematch, and 1.02.JP for helping make me a more well-informed fan.
Featured Image Credit -
Contact me at either AndrewSoS@protonmail.com or @SoSBaseball on Twitter if you want to collaborate!