I’ve been lucky enough to be in attendance for 3 Wrestlemanias. I was only 6 years old when my cousins in London Ontario took me for the road trip to Pontiac Michigan to see Wrestlemania 3 in 1987. I barely remember a thing, mostly slept through it, but I know I was there. It was my first experience as a fan, I’d never watched wrestling before, and wasn’t too interested at the show. But I know I was watching the Saturday afternoon shows on a weekly basis soon after.
Then in 2006, I made the trip to Chicago to see Wrestlemania 22 with fellow LOP columnist Dr. CMV1. It was a great experience, as I was old enough to soak everything in, and actually appreciate the surroundings, atmosphere, and the presentation of Wrestlemania. It was the last of the “arena” Wrestlemania shows, so I know it wasn’t the grandiose and premium version of WM, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.
In 2008, I was a part of a select group of LOP posters (including present columnist Hustle and former MP writer Sheepster) that took part in the outdoor Orlando stadium event of Wrestlemania 24. Now THIS was Wrestlemania. 70,000 packed people surrounding me, chanting along, cheering and booing with my favorite sporting past time. It was an amazing experience that I’ll hope I’ll always remember (as long as Alzheimer’s never kicks in).
But an important part of my trip to Orlando was my return home to Montreal. I took a flight to NYC, and spent 24 hours walking the streets until I took a train to Canada. Out of everything I wanted to experience that day (and night) the first one I needed to see was not the Empire State Building, nor Central Park, or Time Square. All I cared to see was MSG.
Now, I’ll fully admit that MSG is important to me because of growing up a WWF fan. While I respect hockey and used to follow the Canadians in Montreal, I never felt MSG mattered as an arena to hockey fans more than Boston, Toronto or Montreal’s home ice. I don’t follow basketball, so I wouldn’t even know what other attraction MSG is really known for.
But it had been the Mecca of WWF for so long, that I needed to experience it. Over the years, Vince McMahon has had such an undeniable attachment to the arena that sways from both perfect, to a detriment. Recently Survivor Series returned the MSG and sold out in less than an hour. How important is MSG to the WWE?
While a lot can be made of debuting in the WWE as a superstar in MSG, honestly that’s not such a big deal. The real debuts I’m talking about are the innovations WWE has made when performing in MSG.
Hulkamania was born in MSG.
The first Wrestlemania was in the Garden.
The original Summerslam took place in the home of the Rangers.
We first witnessed the Elimination Chamber and Ladder match (on PPV) there as well.
Vince has known that like the lyrics to the song, if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere. He’s been quite smart to display some major changes in the company on the grand display of New York’s finest arena. He knows the NYC market can make or break an idea.
Change of the guard
Is there any shock that it seems the WWE have switched gears to the CM Punk “Era of Entertainment” inside the world’s most famous arena? Flashbacks to Survivor Series 96, when the MSG audience was among the first to give a face reaction to ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin were inevitable. It’s obvious WWE is molding CM Punk to be the ‘Stone Cold’ of the new generation, so having the world who tuned in to see The Rock return, and catch the insane reaction CM Punk received is nothing but a step in the right direction. Punk may have held a World or WWE title belt 4 times before, but it’s obvious that they are treating this reign as the initial real one.
Again, excluding the birth of Hulkamania, this has occurred several times. One of the more recent star making events in MSG was with Brock Lesnar. The Next Big Thing officially turned face in the Garden in 2002 at Survivor Series. Bret Hart was firmly placed as the face of the company at Wrestlemania X, along with 10 years later when Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero had the torch passed to them.
Sign of things to come
In 1988, the Ultimate Warrior won the Intercontinental Championship in record time. Only 2 years later, he was the face of the WWF.
In 1991, Bret Hart won the Intercontinental Championship. Only 1 year later, he was WWF Champion.
In 1994, Shawn Michaels just or almost stole the show in a riveting Ladder match, and launched him to a Hall of Fame career.
In 1998, The Rock and HHH copied the same path with their own Ladder Match into being 2 of the biggest stars still today.
In 2011, Dolph Ziggler, CM Punk, Wade Barrett and Cody Rhodes were put over inside the hallowed halls of MSG. Time will tell if these 4 men see serious career momentum from what could end up being momentous occasions in their careers.
Message to Vince
Vince McMahon takes the crowd reaction from MSG quite seriously. With all the names I mentioned so far, it’s not hard to remember how strong the audience roared when each of them achieved their own level of MSG greatness. I’m sure when Mr. McMahon heard the eruption for Hart in 1991, or the rumbling of fan favoritism of Stone Cold in 96, he knew he had something special for the years to come.
At the Survivor Series, was Vince listening to how wild the place went for Dolph, Cody and CM Punk? All 3 of those reactions surpassed expectations, as well as any reception they’ve received in their careers so far (though this year’s Chicago crowd for Money in the Bank was an obvious exception for CM Punk).
While CM Punk and Ziggler’s reactions were more along the lines of confirmation of what WWE creative already knew about their talents, I’m hoping the insane pop for Cody Rhodes leads to something for the 2nd son of Dusty. He’s not the best midcarder in McMahon-land today, but he’s up there, with a lot more potential than most of the talent WWE thinks deserve a shot (Bye JoMo, you fucking waste of sperm). Things look rather bright with the current angle with Booker T, but here’s hoping it doesn’t stop there.
The only question left after Survivor Series in MSG is how loud they might have been for recent World Title challenger Daniel Bryan had he performed.
Until next time
I’m looking forward to more PPV events in MSG. While the complaint is justified that the NYC audience is a mark for themselves, just trying to get over, I don’t feel it ruins the show. There’s a lot of genuine emotion towards the WWE in that building each and every time, and it’s a refreshingly less PG audience that can help showcase the lines and boundaries that can be pushed. Even if the crowd annoys some, there’s no doubting that WWE attempts to put an extra step into those events, which only pays off in the long run.
And on that note, peace out.
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