With its only 2013 house show coming up, the future of MSG looks bleak for wrestling

I’ve been terrible about updating this blog, due to real life creeping in: new jobs, house renovation loose ends, blah, blah. It doesn’t help that the current WWE product is teetering on boring, too.

The ironic part is I have so much to write about. I keep these little notes on paper or in my email draft folder of topics to post on, and they’ve just been sitting there.

One of the biggest things bothering me these days is Madison Square Garden and just how far this arena has fell in prominence in the WWE. Back in October, we had the 30th anniversary of Jimmy Snuka’s cage match with Magnificent Muraco at MSG, during which Snuka dove off the top of the cage, creating one of the most iconic moments in WWE history.

And now look at Madison Square Garden. As of this writing, the arena has had exactly zero wrestling cards in 2013. There is the annual (albeit routine) Christmas week house show at Madison Square Garden coming up on December 26, and the WWE hosted its 2013 Hall of Fame at the arena. That’s it for wrestling in the house that Bruno built.

Back when I started watching the WWF in 1981, MSG got a house show every month, just like many of the other East Coast cities did. But the shows at MSG meant something more then, as often the big blow-off matches occurred there.

Nowadays, I can’t even argue that Madison Square Garden is a big deal in wrestling. It sure ain’t “the Mecca of professional wrestling,” as Gorilla Monsoon used to call it. And that’s sad, given the history of the building. WrestleManias I, X, and XX were held there, as was the first SummerSlam. Many of the WWE Heavyweight Title changes occurred there in the days before monthly pay-per-views. Sgt. Slaughter had epic, feud-ending battles with Pat Patterson and the Iron Sheik in the arena.

And now we get to see John Cena fight Randy Orton as the main event on December 26. Yawn.

With news earlier this year that officials in New York City are pushing for MSG to relocate so that the city can renovate Penn Station underneath the arena, it’s starting to sound like the setting from which many of us saw so many important matches might be facing demolition within the next 10 years.

If that happens, it just adds the to obituaries of major sports arenas that were WWF mainstays during the 1970s and 1980s. My grieving the loss of the old Boston Garden to the wrecking ball in 1998 was one of my main motivations to writing this blog originally. The Spectrum in Philadelphia faced a similar demise in 2010.

But the possible end of MSG comes across even worse because of how the WWE turned its back on the arena. I get it, there are financial pressures, super-high rent at MSG, and more modern arenas in the metro NYC area. And you can’t cling to nostalgia.

But how is it possible that an arena that played a pivotal part in WWWF, WWF, and WWE history for the first 30 years of the company’s existence is now an afterthought?

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5 comments

  1. Joe Lowry

    Its funny, I do not feel bad about this. As a youngster growing up in the northeast, I was always peeved at the fact that MSG always got the “big matches” and the “title changes.” Meanwhile the Boston Garden seemed like a stepping stone for either the rematches of the big matches or the preludes to the title change matches. One in particular was the Snuka/Muraco cage match. MSG got the best of that fued as Snuka did his historic leap off the cage onto Muraco. A week later at the Boston Garden, we get robbed of this “famous leap” off the cage. If memory serves me right, this match abrubtly ended with the Snuka headbutt in which it sent Muraco out the cage door and onto the arena floor for the win. Then Muraco retreated to the dressing room. Thus ending the match. There was no Snuka being bloodied and angry and dragging Muraco back into the cage for the leap. I remember how upset I was because I finally brought my camera to the event to take pictures. Only to go home without getting one shot of Snuka “high atop the 15 foot high steel cage!” I know there were two title changes that the Boston Garden received and they both involved Tito Santana and the WWF Intercontinental Title. February 1984 Santana beat Muraco for the belt but even that footage was not spectacular. However the WWF made up for two years later when The Macho Man Randy Savage beat Tito Santana for the belt in February 1986. As this was a televised card for the old Boston Garden with NESN. As I said two title changes at the Boston Garden for us Boston fans and thousands of title changes for the New Yorkers. Oh well…

    • Paul C

      I agree with Joe.

      I used to go to the Boston Garden to see WWF/E matches during the early 80’s. It was infuriating that Boston and the smaller arenas were almost always passed over for title changes. The feeling is that MSG was the largest venue in the WWF circuit and had much better wrestling coverage…TV-wise…than the Boston Garden did. Thus, Vince McMahon Sr. reserved MSG as the primary location for title changes.

      I remember that the only Boston evening news sports anchor that gave professional wrestling any sort of time was Zip Rzeppa on channel 7. The results of the night’s matches were relegated to a small paragraph at the back of the sports section in the Boston Sunday Globe.

      But things have changed. The WWE has a much larger footprint today than it did before the dawn of the Hulk Hogan era. Back then, some people speculated that results of matches were pre-determined. Now it is common knowledge. People no longer need to travel to a local arena to view wrestling matches. The sport is well covered on cable/pay-per-view TV.

      I don’t really follow professional wrestling now. I like the parity that Vince McMahon Jr. brought to WWF/E matches, rather than seeing a super “heel” throwing around a “jobber” like he was a sack of potatoes for two or three minutes, which was the norm in the old days. But much of the side stories just got to be too much for me and I gave up.

  2. CT

    Agree with Frank, there was nothing like a thousand people packed into a high school gym to watch pro wrestling. The crowd was HOT for every bump. My first live show experience was at a high school gym…Tony Atlas vs Magnificent Muraco. It was great to see Pedro Morales, Ivan Putski, Superstar Graham, The Strongbows all up close in the early 1980s. They even let us kids go up to the ring and seek autographs from the faces. It was cool to just touch the ring ropes. I then saw shows in the bigger arenas, those were great too, but nothing like the intimacy of the spot shows.

  3. Frank

    How about the small high school gyms that used to get a monthly WWE card from PA to MA. They also had a loyal following of fans

  4. Anonymous

    So sad. And WWE recently released the “Best of MSG” DVD too! So Cena/Orton for the WWE World Heavyweight Title is a yawner main event on 12/26 at The Garden? Really? Guess who’s headlining the Holiday show at XL Center in Hartford on 12/27? How about Cena, vs. Orton! There is scheduled to be a cage match with #TheBrotherhood (Rhodes/Goldust) vs. Real Americans, and Big Show vs. Corporate Kane. Guessing both of those matches are also on the lineup for MSG.

    Glad I’m getting the most out of the last two months of WWE Classics On Demand. Just trying to get my fill of some vintage 80’s MSG and Boston Garden cards before the service ends on 1/31/14.

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