Before WrestleMania, there was Showdown from Shea

Before the first WrestleMania ever hit Madison Square Garden in 1985, the WWF ran a series of outdoor supershows over an eight-period that were known as Showdown from Shea.

The venue was the old Shea Stadium in Queens, NY (former home of the New York Mets), and in all three events, Bruno Sammartino was the headliner:

  • September 30, 1972 (attendance 22,508)—Sammartino fought then-WWWF Heavyweight Champion Pedro Morales to a curfew draw in what was a rare babyface vs. babyface encounter. At the time, this match likely seemed as big as John Cena vs. The Rock is today.
  • June 25, 1976 (32,000)—Sammartino beat Stan Hansen by countout. Yes, this was the same show that simulcast the Muhammad Ali vs. Antonio Inoki debacle from Tokyo, but make no mistake, Bruno’s match is what drove Shea Stadium’s attendance that day.
  • August 9, 1980 (36,295) —In what may be Sammartino’s most remembered bout, he defeated the young Larry Zbyzsko in a huge grudge match stemming from Zbyzsko’s turn on Bruno during a “friendly” spar between mentor and student. Anyone who has seen this match will never forget the ending, in which Sammartino, after walking out of the cage, still decked Zbyzsko twice more after the match.

Thanks to the great The History of WWE website for supplying the dates and attendance of these shows.

For the record, the 1980 event also saw Andre the Giant defeat Hulk Hogan. Would anyone back then have thought Andre and Hogan would headline before 78,000 people just seven years later at WrestleMania III? And does anyone remember during Mania III’s promotion how the WWF claimed Andre and Hogan had never fought before?

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2 comments

  1. bostongardenbalcony

    Yes, right, this was also the day that Morales and Backlund, as the two singles champs, beat the Samoans for the tag titles. Back then, I believe you could not hold multiple titles, so Morales and Backlund were stripped of the belts. Which begs the question from a logic standpoint of why they would challenge for the belts in the first place — but either way, it was another big match on the show. Glad to hear Hogan and Andre did not improve their work rate years later, ha.

  2. J.Cee

    There is a Japanese DVD, purchasable independently through the Internet, featuring the 1980 card–minus the Bruno/Zbyszko match–because Inoki & Fujiami appeared in singles matches on the card. This Hogan v. Andre match was very disappointing in how they both lumbered about. Hogan was the heel escorted to the ring by Freddie Blassie and Andre seemed like he was drunk. There was also a tag-team title match on that same Shea card that featured The Samoans & Pedro Morales.

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