Houston Matters

Houston Wrestling In The 70s Was A Spectacle — Both In The Ring And The Stands

Geoff Winningham reflects on his 1971 book of photography, Friday Night in the Coliseum.

Wrestlers Johnny Valentine and Wahoo McDaniel
Wrestlers Johnny Valentine and Wahoo McDaniel from a match in the Houston Coliseum.

For many Houstonians in the 1970s, Friday night wrestling matches were a staple at the now-demolished Sam Houston Coliseum downtown.

And broadcasts of those matches were staples of Sunday morning television, featuring the voice of wrestling promoter and announcer Paul Boesch, himself a former wrestler.

Young photographer Geoff Winningham took in a match in 1970 and was amazed by the spectacle he saw — both in the ring and out of it.

The rowdy, loyal fans were almost as colorful as the flamboyant wrestlers they cheered on each week.

Wrestling Crowd Inside the Houston Coliseum
A Friday night wrestling crowd inside the Houston Coliseum in the 1970s.

So Winningham decided to spend the next eight months attending matches and documenting them with his camera.

His work was published in a critically acclaimed book, Friday Night in the Coliseum, which was originally published in 1971.

Friday Night in the Coliseum Book

Now, nearly 50 years later, a new edition is out with a corresponding photo exhibit by the same name, which is on display through March 20 at the Rice Media Center.

In the audio above, Winningham discusses the bygone days of Houston Wrestling with Houston Matters host Craig Cohen and reflects on his work documenting it.