It was 26 years ago this month that the old Boston Garden finally made the big-time when it came to WWF wrestling: New England Sports Network, or NESN to us locals, began broadcasting the house shows live on cable.
It always puzzled me in the early 1980s why Madison Square Garden, the Philadelphia Spectrum, and the Capital Centre in Maryland had cameras taping their matches, but Boston did not. At the time, the WWF came to Boston 11 or 12 times a year for near-monthly cards.
Attendance didn’t seem to suffer at the shows because of the NESN telecasts. During that period, we saw the two largest crowds I can recall for wrestling at the arena — Bruno Sammartino vs. Roddy Piper in a steel cage (16,180, according to old newspaper records I still have) and Sammartino vs. Randy “Macho Man” Savage (16,441).
Compared to today’s broadcasts, the look of ringside at the Boston Garden was pretty poor. The lights were often on throughout the ancient building, and crappy wood barricades surrounded the ring. And while MSG had Howard Finkel as ring announcer, we had a guy whose full name I still can’t recall who had negative charisma while performing his announcing duties.
For the record, the main event for the first NESN show in Boston saw Hulk Hogan and Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka beat Cowboy Bob Orton and Magnificent Muraco by countout.
NESN continued to broadcast Boston Garden cards for five years, until June 1989.