The 11 most important American sports-entertainment venues

They weren’t much more than slabs of cement and some corrugated steel. Mostly architectural eyesores in the industrial sections of rough cities — places where you wouldn’t walk around alone after dark. Some were renovated warehouses, others ad hoc bingo halls. One was a ballroom where elegant couples danced on New Year’s Eve before they ripped up the floorboards and put down a wrestling ring.

These were places where fathers took sons to watch the matches after a long week’s work. Where “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Mick Foley and Shawn Michaels — all still children — sat in the cheap seats and dreamt of one day being in the main event. Where Kiniski beat Thesz, Flair beat Race, where Bruno beat ’em all. A few were demolished. Another moved across town. One is now a church, which is almost appropriate. These were holy grounds, sites where wrestlers sacrificed and audiences worshipped.

Empty, they were only buildings. But when packed to the rafters with thousands of rowdy wrestling fans, they became the 11 greatest venues in the history of American sports-entertainment.