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?