Has the Barclays Center shoved Madison Square Garden aside for wrestling?

Back in the day, Gorilla Monsoon used to remind us that Madison Square Garden was the “Mecca of professional wrestling.” And for good reason: In the 1970s and ’80s, many of the WWF’s singles titles changed hands in the arena, and some of the biggest bouts of that era occurred there.

But it’s been a long time since MSG hosted any major angle or title change, and this past weekend’s SummerSlam extravaganza at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn — three sold-out nights there — has perhaps cemented that building as the new home base of the WWE in New York City.

I’m not sure how I feel about that. Matches at MSG had a certain aura Continue reading

My memories of Rowdy Roddy Piper at the old Boston Garden

Man, it still feels so weird to think Rowdy Roddy Piper is dead. So many of the great times I had with WWF pro wrestling growing up centered on angles and matches with Piper. He was so entertaining at his peak.

Piper has some interesting history in the old Boston Garden. For those who don’t know, the Garden was an arena built in 1928 that was torn down 60 years later to make way for the stadium now known as the TD Garden. By the time I was going to WWF shows at the old Garden in the 1980s, it was run-down place with old, rickety seats that were way too small and the occasional rat scampering along the walls upstairs. It also had an overhanging balcony that gave you a great view for hockey, basketball, or wrestling — thus the name of my blog.

I first saw Piper live sitting in that balcony, taking on Bruno Sammartino in their first match in Boston following a famous Piper’s Pit at Madison Square Garden during which Piper called Sammartino a “wop.” Piper’s feud with Bruno is well remembered in Boston, and in their initial quick meeting, Piper was DQ’d.

After a tag team rematch in January 1986 that included “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff and Cowboy Bob Orton, Piper and Sammartino clashed in a steel cage match that is still talked about today here in Boston. Piper was at his bad-guy best in this bout, even taping posters of the Chicago Bears onto the cage to razz Boston fans who had seen the Patriots go down to the Bears in that year’s Super Bowl.

Sammartino beat a bloody Piper in the match, which drew on of the largest crowds I can ever recall at the old Garden: 16,180. It was the same night that Continue reading

RIP Piper: I grew up with Rowdy Roddy

Hogan. Andre. Savage. Ventura. Piper.

All five of these guys served as the cornerstones of WWF wrestling in the 1980s. Because these guys played such well-known characters during one of pro wrestling’s boom periods, they all ended up transcending their roles to outside the ring.

 

And now three of them are gone, with Rowdy Roddy Piper’s death on July 30 putting him beside Randy “Macho Man” Savage and Andre the Giant as stars who died way too young.

It’s really starting to suck being an old-school fan raised on Saturday morning WWF wrestling. Savage’s death blew us away in 2011, Hulk Hogan just last week got exposed for his terrible racist comments, and Piper now dies out of nowhere of a heart attack at age 61.

I grew up with Piper during middle and high school – and I know a lot of you who read this blog did, too. I can’t believe Piper – who at his peak was one of the most gifted performers on Continue reading

After 38 years, Hulk Hogan’s wrestling career ends with a slur

I begged their forgiveness
I wish I was dead
I hung my head
I hung my head

– As sung by the late Johnny Cash

I feel like I’m writing an obituary for Hulk Hogan. He’s not dead, but his career, which began in 1977 and hit heights no other pro wrestler has reached, seems to be on ice.

The WWE severed ties with Hogan after someone leaked audio or video from a Hogan sex tape — an issue that has left him embroiled with online media site Gawker in court — during which he allegedly used the “N word” multiple times.

This is a fall from grace the likes of which is rarely seen in wrestling. A legend of Hogan’s stature usually rides off when it’s time — or he dies. In this case, however, it seems likely that Hogan will spend the rest of his days on the outside of wrestling, and even if he gets back in, his role will be limited.

Hogan’s career is over. There is no way in this day and age that Hogan could recover from this, nor would anyone in entertainment do business with him,” wrote Eric Gargiulo on the Camel Clutch Blog.

What a shame to see this revelation occur amid reports that Hogan was potentially training for one last Continue reading

WWE announcers’ notes, 1980s style

A lot of people in the Internet wrestling community had a good time poring over several pages of leaked announcer’s notes that the WWE supposedly supplies it commentators with. Being in the hot seat as the lead announcer of Monday Night Raw means not only coming with your “A game” for a live broadcast, but also having to hear Vince McMahon likely yell at you throughout the night on your headset with his idiosynchratic rules about what to say and how to say.

A subreddit on the Reddit site released the notes, and images of them got posted. If you haven’t seen them, it’s worth checking out if a) you’re interested in the behind-the-scenes production involved with commentators on WWE shows b) need some good wrestling humor.

You’ll see instructions such as not referring to championships as “belts,” encouraging announcers to “embellish the status of superstars,” and suggesting commentators read WWE.com all week as a resource on the federation’s storylines.

With all of this in mind, it made me wonder what notes might appears on an announcer’s cheat sheet in 1982. You can just image McMahon or Gorilla Monsoon going over these: Continue reading

Dusty Rhodes threw money to the crowd at the old Boston Garden

What a shock to hear from my coworkers today that the “American Dream” Dusty Rhodes had died suddenly at age 69.

The first time I saw Rhodes in person was at a WWF show at the old Boston Garden in June 1989, when he substituted for Jake “The Snake” Roberts to wrestle “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase. Rhodes rolled up DiBiase for the pin and then proceeded to take some of DiBiase’s money and throw it to the crowd at ringside, which resulted in a huge roar from fans. It was a great scene.

The thing about Rhodes is that no matter what gimmick he had — polka dots, anyone? — and no matter who his opponent was, the guy was able to talk his way into fans’ minds and hearts. His promos should be studied by anyone who hopes to succeed in wrestling, because Rhodes understood emotion, how to connect with the audience, and how to sell big matches.

Sure, Rhodes was goofy in his WWF days. I know many people remember one of his early vignettes where he pretended he was a plumber, and got called to a house to unclog a toilet with shit in. “Is it brown? You talkin’ about sshocolate brown?” Rhodes asked the hilariously bad skit.

Rhodes didn’t wrestle at the Boston Garden all that much — three times in the 1980s, to be exact (thanks to The History of WWE website’s archives for the stats). Ironically, the first of those trio of matches was for the debut card of the NWA in the Garden, which was Continue reading

Killer Khan attacks Andre the Giant with his own crutch

Certain angles, for whatever reason, stick with you from youth. Andre the Giant and Killer Khan had a feud in the 1981 that was based in storyline on Khan breaking Andre’s leg. In reality, Andre likely hurt it outside the ring, and the Khan plot was a nice tie-in to his real-life injury.

But what really set the feud on fire was an simple angle on Saturday morning WWF Championship Wrestling in which Khan attacked a recovering Andre with his crutch.

What I remember most about the incident wasn’t the beating (30:02 into this YouTube clip), but announcer Vince McMahon’s reaction.


McMahon was conducting an interview in front of the live audience with Andre about when the giant would return to the ring. Suddenly, Classy Freddie Blassie, Khan’s manager, came out and claimed Andre was washed up, calling him a “palooka,” which was a classic Continue reading