BEST OF BULLDOG
Whatever Happened to WWE Niagara Falls?
Originally published March 24, 2018
For some strange reason, one of THE most popular features on this website over the years was a blog post I wrote in 2014 called "Whatever happened to WWE Niagara Falls?."
That piece was written three years after the store ceased to exist (and was, at the time, renamed "Retail Store" but still sold lots of wrestling merch; since then, it's been completely renovated and is home to a brewery). Some of the photos are no longer visible on that post... plus, I have actual photos from when the store actually existed (circa 2005), so we're trying this again in hopes that the search engine gods enjoy this entry as much as the previous one.
WWE Niagara Falls (on the Ontario side of Niagara Falls) was created shortly after WWF New York (the Times Square restaurant and nightclub that once hosted a young Criss Angel). I first became aware of the merchandise store in 2002, shortly after the company hosted WrestleMania X-8 in nearby Toronto.
The store was situated in the middle of Niagara Falls' "Clifton Hill" entertainment district. Back in the day, the entire street smelled like freshly-made fudge and was home to a half-dozen wax museums, funhouses and fast food restaurants. The block that this store was on was also home to Marvel Adventure City (no longer in business), an MGM store and museum (no longer in business) and a Rainforest Cafe (can't remember if it's still around, but probably). Once WWE left the neighborhood, things went in the crapper for this complex.
Decorating the store outside was a series of "Hollywood Walk Of Fame" style cement-trapped handprints, recognizing WWE stars and legends such as Bobby "The Brain" Heenan, Trish Stratus, Rob Van Dam and.... uh, Maven.
Inside, there were a variety of autographed items throughout the store, not necessarily for sale, but just being displayed. In addition to those shown above (John Cena, Randy Orton, Billy Kidman), I also recall seeing autographs from Jim Ross, Stacy Keibler and whomever else happened to be sent to the store whenever WWE was in town.
I know.... I know.... I'm not sure why WWE Niagara Falls was obsessed with Maven either.
Beyond the autographs plaqued all over the place, WWE Niagara Falls was the place to be if you wanted to spend a crapton on overpriced and slightly-dated merchandise. For T-shirts, for example, they were hawking shirts including Ric Flair's "Walk That Aisle," Eugene's face and The Big Show's ultra-classy "Chicks Dig It Big" one. I recall these shirts selling for $35 a pop which, even when you factor in inflation and the lower Canadian dollar, didn't seem to make much sense.
The more budget-conscious among us were able to wander through the discount bins and pick up, say, Rikishi or generic SummerSlam T-shirts for under 20 bucks. But you have to figure there was a reason those were discounted... I also remember the store trying to liquidate its "WWF" branded shirts there for a while, as they could no longer sell them as a result of the World Wildlife Fund injunction that happened right around the time the store was opening.
During my entire time as a consumer of WWE Niagara Falls/Retail Store, I remember picking up exactly two shirts: The Hurricane's "I Have Issues" comic-style shirt (a bargain at any price, really) and the classic Rowdy Roddy Piper "Hot Rod" shirt, which no longer fits my expanding waistline.
In addition to the usual array of WWE action figures, posters, books and DVDs that you could pick up at any respectable Wal-Mart, the store also had a few rarities that, while I passed on in 2005, am kicking myself now on missing out on the potential eBay value.
Such as the case with WWE "Bobbin' Head" collectibles and these misshapen coin banks of WWE stars such as The Rock, Triple H, Edge and... Chris Benoit? Oh, wow - sign of the times...
WWE seemed to be going through a serious "teddy bear" phase at the time (well, to be fair, probably a couple of years before they found their way to WWE Niagara Falls shelves). In addition to plush bears of Hulk Hogan, Booker T and a few others, there was also a collection of tiny porcelain bears featuring everyone from Rey Mysterio to Stone Cold Steve Austin. An interesting little addition to the collection.
Beyond that.... really just a collection of overpriced items that you could easily pick up from WWE Shop Zone or a house show. I imagine the primary audience for this store were kids hopped up on fudge and ice cream who could trick their parents and grandparents into buying really expensive Eddie Guerrero DVDs and bottles of JR's barbeque sauce.
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention "The Piledriver," a drop-style amusement park ride that was perched on top of the second floor of the building, just beyond the cardboard cutouts of Hulk Hogan and The Rock. I didn't take any photos of the ride because it was closed for repairs at the time.
The Piledriver is the subject of much controversy. Recently on his Something To Wrestle podcast, Bruce Prichard said that the ride was already built before WWE arrived and that it was only in operation for one day before being suspended due to some sort of accident.
That's not entirely true; the ride was built especially for WWE Niagara Falls and while it did eventually shut down... it was certainly open for longer than a day. Possibly an entire summer season, actually. Having said that... I never rode the ride.
Overall, was WWE Niagara Falls a must-see attraction? Probably not. And that's coming from someone who runs a website literally dedicated to wrestling merchandise! But what it was, was a fun time-waster if you happened to be in the area anyways and a cool place to see what WWE was selling two or three years earlier.
And hey - the entire place smelled like freshly-baked fudge! So there's that.