St. Louis #8 Page #2
1992, St. Louis city officials recognized the size inadequacy of the
9,000-seat Auditorium as well as the need for a new, state-of-the-art
arena. Kiel Auditorium was torn down in December 1992 to make way for
the multi-purpose Kiel Center, while Kiel Opera House remained for
renovation as a smaller venue for more intimate events. Like the old
Kiel Auditorium, Kiel Center adjoins the Opera House to offer a unique
complex capable of hosting diverse events simultaneously.
Observations and Memories of the Kiel
first time I ever saw the inside of the Kiel was in December 1974 – I
went to my first (at the age of 10) Sam Muchnick-promoted, NWA, honest
to goodness pro wrestling card. I can’t remember all the matches or
even the main event, but I do remember seeing Pat O’Connor and Jack
Brisco on the card. What I do remember is vivid images of the building
– concrete steps leading up to the doorways, the huge concrete lions
(I believe they were lions) keeping watch over Market Street.
also remember entering in the building in a side entrance (maybe 14th
or 15th Street side). I recall going thru the big wooden
doors and seeing the old-fashioned ticket windows with the signs above
“Tonight’s Event” and “Will Call”. Once you made it through
that area, you began the long, long walk up the concrete rampway. The
rampway went up, up, and up some more – depending on what level your
tickets were on that night. The level would be on your ticket. The
levels that come to mind were “Floor”, “Mezzanine”, and
During my later events, we would sit on the Mezzanine level.
Eventually I learned how to go to the Kiel box office the days tickets
went on sale and get Floor tickets near the aisle way so we could
torment the heels on their way to the ring. This is where I spent most
of my later cards from 1982-1984.
things I vividly remember about the Kiel – the warm cokes and beers,
the burnt on the outside, cold on the inside hot dogs. The buzz in the
crowd when the lights would go down, the scratchy recording of the
“Star Spangled Banner’ that was played before every card. For the
life of me, I can’t remember who the ring announcer at the Kiel was?
Was it Mickey Garigiola or Larry Matysik? I seem to think it was Larry.
I also remember the one end of the Kiel, the end where the
wrestler’s came out of (via the separate face and heel dressing rooms,
of course, strict kayfabe was observed).
That was the end that had a blue wall – that joined the
Auditorium to the Kiel Opera House right next door. For the uninitiated,
the Opera House was a 5,000 seat venue that was perfect for music,
concerts, etc. It was not unusual to have 9,000 screaming fans in the
Auditorium and another 5,000 people in black tie watching an opera or a
on, around 1981, (once I had a car), I learned to buy tickets the day
they would go on sale at the Kiel box office. This way, me and my
buddies were guaranteed our coveted seats, about 10-15 rows back, on the
aisle. It was funny, I was always very excited to get to the box office
at 9:30 to get my tickets – I was usually waited on by an old lady who
seemed kind of bored. What I also noticed after awhile was that no
matter what I did, I could never crack the first five rows of seats. I
guess somebody had season tickets or some arrangement.
other things I remember about the Kiel that I have not seen in other
arenas across the country……beer vendors who did not ”card” their
obviously 17-18 year old customers up in the “Mezzanine” seats. And,
oh God, the smoking! I vividly remember the haze of smoke in the
building around the ring lights once the house lights went down.
And the old-school, hard core “marks”. Suffice to say there
were many, many people in St. Louis in the early 1980’s who took their
‘rasslin VERY seriously! Ric Flair was hugely booed in St. Louis in
those days. He was a flashy braggart with dyed blonde hair and sissy
sequined robes – not the elder statesman for old-school wrestling that
he is today. And, last, but not least, the seats themselves. I clearly
remember the old, old, wooden seats in that building – the last arena
I was in that had seats like that.
month’s article is off the usual path. The Kiel was a great old
building that brought back a lot of memories in its years, not just for
wrestling, but for rock concerts, political conventions, and the like.
When I think of my best St. Louis NWA memories, I think of the Kiel.
And, perhaps it’s fitting, that like Sam Muchnick and the NWA
promotion in St. Louis, the Kiel is gone forever. Gone, but certainly
An interesting resource I have stumbled onto for a complete history of every NWA title match held (including those in St. Louis) can be found here.
Faces and Heels in St. Louis
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