St. Louis #8 Page #2

In 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.

Personal Observations and Memories of the Kiel

The 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.

I 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 “General Admission”.  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.

Other 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 musical.

Later 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.

Some 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.

This 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 not forgotten.

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.


Legendary Faces and Heels in St. Louis

Back to St. Louis Main