In his bout-by-bout report from UFC 118 in Boston on the Wrestling Observer’s website, Dave Meltzer made a few mentions about fights taking place in the stands at the TD Garden. “Another fight in the crowd. I think they’re going for the record,” Meltzer wrote.
Wow, have times changed in Boston. When I started going to WWF cards in 1981 in the old Boston Garden, you pretty much were guaranteed to see several real scraps in the crowd during each show.
The reasons for the fights ranged from people just being drunk to arguments about blocking someone’s view while cheering a wrestler, to occasional bystanders getting pissed when a mistimed piece of debris meant for a wrestler instead beaned the fan off the head.
I remember pumping my fist in the air when Hulk Hogan and Bam Bam Bigelow fought Andre the Giant and Ted DiBiase in 1988, and in making a downward move cracked a guy on the top of his head (the dude was sitting down while everyone was standing). I was smart: I just apologized profusely and there was never any trouble.
It was always kind of scary to see people fighting in the balcony of the Garden. If you never stepped foot in the ancient arena, it’s hard to appreciate how steep the balcony was (it hung over the lower stadium section of the Garden and gave some surprisingly close views of the ring). I often worried that two guys beating on each other would fall down the narrow stairs between the seating sections, which would have been a painful accident.
I distinctly remember Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart actually stopping a tag match he was wrestling in to watch a fight between two yahoos at ringside one time. He just left his opponent laying the middle of the mat, went over to the ropes, and leaned on them for a better view of the scuffle. It was probably a smart move, since every time a fight broke out in the crowd, the fans’ attention turned away from the wrestling match.
Some of the kids who used to attend the monthly WWF cards didn’t get into real fights, but still put on a show during intermission. Unless a large sellout was expected, the Garden’s floor crew didn’t set up chairs in the end zones of the arena, so you had a wide open floor space between the entrance from the concessions and the ringside seats. I remember kids doing worked matches on the floor that were so entertaining they got loud cheers from the crowd. Then the police would eventually shoo the kids away, and the poor cops got booed out of the building.
That was the atmosphere of pro wrestling in the Boston Garden.