Tampa’s National Guard Armory Preserves Championship Wrestling History

A fundraising event is underway in an effort to raise funds for a commemorative memorial wall to be placed inside the Fort Homer Hesterly Armory. This is a new facility that allows visitors to look back at the history of wrestling.

In the heyday of pro wrestling territories, there was constant competition based on ability, not geography. For Florida, it had everything to do with the talent that came through on a daily basis. From the 50s thru the 70s, the best of the best graced the state with some of the greatest matches, most innovative angles, memorable feuds, and a believability factor that was lost with the times.

Within the framework that made up Championship Wrestling from Florida, there were multiple venues that the wrestlers traveled to, with each holding a vivid memory to the locals in that area. One however, stands out amongst all the rest as the mecca of wrestling halls that were scattered throughout not just Florida, but the entire country!

Fort Homer Hesterly Armory in Tampa, FL was, a National Guard armory that held Tuesday night matches for decades. It was home to all the wrestlers whose names would go into halls of fame for years after, including Eddie Graham, Boris Malenko, Dusty Rhodes, Dory and Terry Funk, Jack and Jerry Brisco, Don Curtis, Wahoo McDaniels, Harley Race, Bugsy McGraw, Danny Miller, and Ric Flair just to name a few. The list is almost endless!

More important than the boys who sweated and bled in this place that had no AC and was full to the brim with thousands of people, were the countless fans who lived for each Tuesday nights drama like the next episode of their favorite soap opera. They came with their dads, moms, grandmas, and grandpas, to help create lifelong memories that still make the way around Tampa even today. What many people don’t know is the even more broad importance that the building played in Tampa’s history, hosting the likes of JFK, MLK, Elvis, Buddy Holly, and more.

The JCC purchased the property a couple of years ago, and just recently approached Jody Simon (Joe Malenko), son of the Great Malenko, to see if they could secure some information on his dad, as one of the few Jewish wrestlers of the time. It was decided that this place needed to commemorate even more nostalgic moments so that people can be reminded for years to come of what this place and these wrestlers contributed to the sport.