Who remembers Detroit’s Big Time Wrestling?

These days World Wrestling Entertainment has made a stop in Detroit in order to prepare us for the most important event of the year for the federation, Wrestlemania. However, in this city wrestling used to be a weekly feature thanks to the presence of Big Time Wrestling and we are ready to bet, perhaps with a promo from Unibet, that many of those who are reading this article still remember it.

Its history began in 1945 and ended in 1980: Big Time Wrestling was also known as NWA Detroit as it was part of the National Wrestling Alliance circuit. From 1953 until the closing year the BTW also had its own belts, the Detroit version of the NWA United States Heavyweight Championship, while its own version of the NWA World Tag Team Championship debuted in 1965.

The federation's most successful moment was in 1964 when professional wrestler Ed “The Sheik” Farhat (incidentally, he was the present wrestler Sabu’s uncle with whom he also fought together) bought Big Time Wrestling with his father-in-law Francis Fleser. Although he was basically at the top of the Federation for about ten years and won the champion title 12 times, Farhat made an important leap forward for the federation by offering weekly house shows at the historic Cobo Arena that was then retransmitted on TV by three different channels.

Big Time Wrestling in the first half of the 70s was also the place where hardcore wrestling was born as it is still understood today. For those who do not know, hardcore is an extreme and very violent style of wrestling in which, during the course of combat, participants are allowed to use any weapon or blunt object that normally would be forbidden. In practice, in hardcore wrestling canonical rules about disqualification, count-out etc. do not apply at all.


The territory of Detroit was therefore dominated by “disturbing” characters such as The Sheik himself and the legendary Abdullah the Butcher, a true icon of hardcore wrestling. Bloody fights were frequent even if the wounds were often self-inflicted by the wrestlers who cut themselves with razor blades to simulate serious injuries and bleed profusely, giving the idea of a furious clash. In Big Time Wrestling Terry Funk was also the protagonist of some matches, becoming another superstar symbol of hardcore wrestling especially in the last years of his career during the 90s when he was a militant in the ECW (Extreme Championship Wrestling).

The fortunes of the promotion began to decline already in the mid-70s for many reasons including the economic recession between 1973 and 1975 and the inability of the promoters to renew the formula of the shows. With the audience declining, events were first moved to the Michigan State Fairgrounds Coliseum, and then back to the Lincoln Center Community Center outside Detroit. In 1980, the promotion closed and was liquidated.

In addition to the names already mentioned, among the students of Big Time Wrestling, over the decades we must remember other big names in show business including Bobo Brazil, Dick the Bruiser, Dory Funk Jr., Killer Kowalski, Dusty Rhodes and Fritz Von Erich.